Eduardo wakes up in an unfamiliar room with the nagging feeling at the back of his mind like he's forgotten something. He sits up, reaches a hand to the string of stones around his neck—just to check. The much-worn leather of his gloves passes through the air where the amulet should be and onto the skin of his collarbone.
He goes from bleary eyed and half-awake to sharply alert in .03 seconds. His eyes open fully to catalogue the room. He's lying on a worn sofa, black and green stripes, one spring digging painfully into the small of his back. The walls are the piss-coloured shade of cream paint that hasn't been touched up in the fifty-odd years since it was new and the light coming through the window is bright.
Beside him is a low wooden table covered in scattered magazines with one leg propped up by folded paper. The string of amulets—six small gray pebbles with holes drilled through so they could be slid onto a leather cord—is sitting on top of a stack of People and National Geographic.
Eduardo snatches it up, pressing the stones to the inside of his wrist—just below the hem of his glove—like they might be able to undo work that's already been done to him.
The charms had been left next to him, atop a single sheet of paper. Eduardo wraps the cord around his wrist—the stones digging into his arm hard enough to hurt—and picks the scrap up. It's a note, written neatly in his own handwriting.
Eduardo has been wary and concerned since he woke up. Now he starts to get scared.
It is mid July 2005 and you have just paid a girl named Alice 30 million dollars to wipe three years from your memory.
In your jacket there are details of a bank account containing a further 500 million dollars and tickets to Singapore.
Go. Don't look back.
The signature at the bottom is his. It doesn't have the additional flourish that means he is only signing under duress. The jacket in question is lying on the sofa by his feet. When he checks the inside pocket Eduardo discovers an email printout with bank details that surely have to be fake, or perhaps have a lot of typos on the balance, and a one-way plane ticket nestled together with his passport.
There's no cash, no credit cards, no other forms of ID. Not a hint at where he's been the last three years.
He was supposed to be going to Harvard. The last thing he can remember is sitting in the back seat of a slick black car, tearing a pair of blue plastic gloves off his fingers. "If I don't get in," he'd said, "you'd better do something about it."
"Stop worrying," his father had snapped, switching his own plastic gloves for a smart pair in black leather. "It's unbecoming. They will hardly refuse entry to a Saverin based on a moment of poor fortune."
Eduardo tries to remember his reply, to remember the car arriving... somewhere. It must have been going somewhere but there's nothing. Nothing but a vague feeling of sleeping and something else—something on the tipoff his tongue but just out of reach—and then waking up here. Now.
The newspaper on the table is dated 17th July 2005. The lead story is about a worker protest in New York City—'organised in part by the worker social networking site, Facebook'. He has no idea what it means but it very clearly isn't from his time.
"No way," he says to the empty room, pushing through the other magazines on the table—May 2005, December 2004, April 2005. "Jesus, fuck, this is not happening."
So let's start with three years ago. Three years ago the Harvard letters are on their way through the postal system, passing from hand to hand—from train to car and back again—with neat polite words to inform geniuses all across the world if their dreams are or aren't coming true.
Three years ago there is once more a fight breaking out in the upper echelons of the country's leadership as to whether hyperbathygammia—call it cursing, call it working—should be legalised. "Only the non-violent types," protests a young, idealistic senator who hasn't yet learned that the world won't be changed. "Luck working, dream working, these are skills which could be used for good." In the corners of the room, mobsters crack their knuckles and slide black gloves off to bare their hands. There are people who benefit from working being illegal and they are the people with money and power enough to change anyone's mind.
Or, almost anyone. Three years ago, Chris Hughes is sitting on his bed with a much-creased letter clutched in one hand. Not the Harvard letter—although that is on its way, currently on a shelf in his local delivery office waiting to be grabbed by a postman on his rounds—this one is written in pen, rough scratching handwriting. The postmark is European, it took three weeks to fly across the ocean. Chris has been waiting much longer than that.
Most of the letter is occupied talking about Europe. The writer is learning French, living in Paris, he loves French food and French women and he's hoping to study in England. Chris's eyes skim over all of this—he's read it before—and focus on the passage he can't seem to stop rereading.
So eight months and a several thousand miles later and I can finally tell you for certain that I'm straight. Maybe one day I'll be secure enough to say that to your face—for now I'm sure you'll understand if I want to keep the distance between us.
You should know that I don't blame you, I know you would never work someone on purpose. Being suddenly and completely in love with you was definitely an interesting experience in life—I'm much more careful with my charms now, that's for sure! (Did you ever wonder if maybe you only loved me because of blowback?—just something to ponder)
Chris closes his gloved hand tight around the letter and resolves there and then that he will change the whole world, to get young workers informed and trained before they ever touch anyone, so that never again will someone have to discover they accidentally worked their best friend.
Chris folds the letter into his 'Introduction to Sociology' textbook and pulls his legs against his chest, blinking tears from his eyes as he stares at his gloved hands. He wishes he could go back in time, wishes he wasn't a worker, wishes working didn't even exist. You can't do anything good with that kind of power.
Except you can. Three years ago, Dustin Moskovitz is sitting in a chair by a hospital bed, bare hand clasping the wrinkled and worn out skin of his grandmother—an old woman with pink streaks in white hair and enough smile lines on her face to outnumber her years. Around the two of them, old machines with trailing wires and digital screens beep a slow heartbeat like a countdown.
Every so often, Dustin's eyes start to drift shut and the elderly woman flinches and whimpers softly—twisting in the bed like she's trying to hide from invisible spirits in the sky.
Then Dustin's jerking wide awake again, blinking three days of tiredness from his eyes and holding her fragile hand tighter as he pushes into her head the most wonderful thoughts and memories and dreams that he can imagine.
He could be arrested on the spot, it's clear enough to anyone passing that there is a dream worker in the old woman's hospital room—his gloves and hers are abandoned at the foot of the bed. But the doctors turn a blind eye, and the nurses look the other way as the beeping gets slower, slower, slower.
Three years ago, a young man with long black hair is wearing a gray suit jacket and dark sunglasses at the races. He's wearing bright blue, industry-standard plastic gloves with the official security seal in place, taping them against his forearms. He ducks into the bathroom, keeping his face turned away from the one other occupant and ducks into a stall. He uses his teeth to tear the stitches in the jacket lining and pull out a long, slender pin.
Three pinpricks to the glove on his index finger then he wraps the tiny metal stick in paper and flushes it. He can feel the cool metal of the handle against the three spots of bare skin.
The bathroom is empty when he steps out. He knocks each cubicle door back to check no one's hiding out, then pulls a cell phone from the pocket of his jacket. It's prepaid, anonymous, with only one number stored in it. He dials out. "I'm set."
"There's been a change of plan," his father says. "The mark is up in the box, you can't get there. We're going for a reverse-switch. Graham Baker, he's by the track—you know what he looks like?"
Eduardo closes his eyes for a heartbeat - taking the phone briefly away from his ear. "Shit," he says, pushing away from the sink and checking no one is coming through the door before lifting the phone again. "I can't, you know I can't. The letters are going out soon, you promised me I'd get good luck from this. We had a deal. I make a guy loose three hundred thousand bucks, what kind of blowback do you think I'm going to get?"
"All you're doing is making one horse slower. That's nothing. You'll spill something or trip over on the way back to your seat and no one will be any the wiser. We don't have time to argue, he's going your way. Get moving." There is the click of the call disconnecting.
"Shit," Eduardo says again, more fervently, slamming the phone shut and back into his pocket. He checks his reflection, adjusts the glasses minutely, then draws himself up to his full height and walks out into the blazing sunshine.
Baker is standing by the concessions stand, holding a large drink of something in one hand. Eduardo walks up to him without faltering, plastering a smile on his face that no one will be able to tell is false behind his glasses.
"Dr Baker," he says. "Right? Dr Graham Baker, Yale, inventor of the most accurate HBG test ever created?"
The man turns, confusion and delight warring on his face. "You know my work?" he says, because every fucker in the world is susceptible to flattery.
Eduardo smiles brighter, glad he did the research. "I read your thesis," he says. "The HBG Neural Reaction and How We Can Track It, you've done some amazing work—really amazing. With your research and the Government leanings, soon registering and tracking workers won't be just a pipe dream." He gives a rueful grin, raising his sealed hands. "We won't need such stringent security at these events, that's for sure."
The man smiles back, confusion and wariness giving into pride. "Of course that's the first step," he says, lifting his own blue gloves in solidarity. "Registering and tracking workers, and then ensuring that children know if they are or aren't from a young age—just imagine, by the time you have children you may well know if they're a worker before they leave the womb. Think of the possibilities."
Selective abortion, Eduardo thinks. Segregation from birth, bullying, harassment, victimisation. "It's a brighter future," Eduardo says, taking a step forward and holding out a hand as though to shake. "I'm looking at going into politics—based largely on your influence—it's such an exciting field for change right now."
He trips forward, knocking Baker's cup and spilling coke over both their jackets. "Oh damn, I'm sorry," he says quickly, helping Baker tug his jacket off and inadvertently lifting the man's amulets with one hand so they're no longer touching skin. "Clumsy as an elephant, my mom always said." His hand brushes the top of Baker's bare arm, the three pinprick holes pressing against skin.
Then Baker is waving him off. "No, no it's fine. The bathroom's just down there."
"Let me buy you another," Eduardo says. "Or pay for the dry cleaning on your jacket, I'm so so sorry."
Baker shakes his head with a smile. "Tell you what," he says—reaching into a pocket and pulling out a slightly coke-stained business card. "You can make it up to me by getting in touch when you're in the government. It's always great to meet a fan." He brushes at the damp patch on Eduardo's jacket. "What did you say your name was again?"
Ten minutes later Eduardo slides into a plastic seat up in the stands. He's ditched the glasses, the wig and the jacket and he could almost be a different person. "It's done," he says to the person sitting beside him. "If I miss out on Harvard because of this—"
"You won't," his father says, folding blue-gloved hands neatly in his lap. "The letters have already been sent, luck can't change anything now."
Down below, the horses start to run. You work someone for bad luck, your blowback is bad luck.
The horse Dr Graham Baker had 300 grand on doesn't even cross the finish line.
Eduardo closes his eyes and hopes to anyone that may be listening that the blowback doesn't somehow stop his Harvard letter arriving at all.
Two years later, he'll wonder if getting into Harvard was the blowback.
Three years later, he will pay a girl named Alice thirty million dollars and name this as the last day he wants to remember.
And Mark Zuckerberg? Three years ago, eighteen year old Mark Zuckerberg is sitting in his bedroom at a laptop, headphones covering his ears and strings of code laid out before him on the screen. There's an open packet of twizzlers and a can of red bull on the desk next to him.
He's wearing an old hoodie and Addidas flip-flops. His hands are bare.
One of the doors to the room opens and Eduardo jolts, spinning on the sofa, dropping the newspaper back onto the table. There's a girl with messy black hair wearing a tank top over low-slung sweatpants standing in the doorway. She's clutching a bit of paper in one hand and looks about as dazed and confused as Eduardo feels.
Blowback, he realises as she stares down, clearly searching for some recollection of his face. Eduardo has known memory workers who lose random moments from the past month just for erasing someone's recollections of one evening. The amount of blowback that would come from erasing multiple years of someone's life is almost unimaginable.
Eduardo once bankrupted an entire fortune 500 company on his father's orders and three days later his mother miscarried what would have been his baby sister. After that, his orders were almost always to give good luck. Then he was at a horse race and he worked a man to lose—that's the last thing he can remember. From the looks of things, it didn't end so well either.
The girl is still standing in the doorway, eyes darting around the room like she's never seen it before. They keep returning back to his face, like she's considering bolting if he makes the wrong move.
He raises both hands inadvertently showing her his scrap of a note in the process. "Alice?" he says.
She blinks quickly, her eyes flashing to the paper then settling on his face. She seems to calm a little—reassured that he's as messed up as she is. "Eduardo?"
Eduardo nods, letting his arms drop a little. "This is your house?"
She looks up, her expression telegraphing a moment of 'is it?' as she takes in the few pictures on the walls and the sunlight coming through the open window. She glances back at the note in her hand, reading something over. "Yes," she says, like she's only just realising. "I mean—I guess so." She takes careful steps into the room, turning to look closer at the photos of the wall. She's in most of them, often accompanied by another girl with long black hair. "Yes," Alice says, more confidently. "I live here." She turns on him abruptly, eyes narrowing. "You. This is blowback from whatever happened to you."
Eduardo doesn't miss her carefully avoiding responsibility. "You wiped my memory," he says, lowering his legs to the floor and pulling his jacket close in case he needs to make a quick getaway. "I couldn't exactly force you to work me."
Alice hesitates for half a beat, then folds her arms. "Who pays thirty million dollars to be worked, anyway?"
Eduardo doesn't answer. It's the question, really and he has absolutely no idea. "More importantly, why did I pay you? My father must have fifty memory workers on payroll, any one of them would work me for a pat on the back and the promise of a promotion."
"On payr-" Alice starts, then cuts herself off, looking back down at the note. "Eduardo Saverin," she reads, sounding like she's regretting her forgotten decision more every moment. "I worked a mobster, how perfect." There's a crack from one of the chairs as she kicks it. "This is not worth thirty million dollars, not getting involved in the mob. I have a note—I have a note with your signature that says you wanted this. They can't come after me for doing a job."
They can, Eduardo thinks, turning away from where Alice is tracking desperately up and down the carpet. They can and they will. "Do you have a phone?" he asks, interrupting her quiet freak-out by the arm chair.
She goes still for a moment, her eyes scanning the walls. Eduardo doesn't say anything, he's seen enough memory workers in blowback to know she has no idea, and doesn't want to admit it.
"It's probably in the kitchen," she says after a moment, with a smile that's maybe supposed to be reassuring but just looks like a plea.
Eduardo checks the pockets of his jacket again when she's gone, pushes his hands through the magazines in case there's a second note hidden somewhere that explains exactly what is going on. There's a cover about logging in the Amazon, something about the ten top new diet tips, a full expose on the latest addition to the pro-working task force. Something about the face on that cover catches his eye and he pulls it out. The man's good looking, blonde and possessing of a particularly photogenic smile.
It doesn't remind Eduardo of anything. No sudden recollections, no memories flooding back. Eduardo traces his fingers across the name—Chris Hughes—and wonders if maybe he was at the back of some business meeting back before the mind wipe.
"Found it," Alice says, stepping back inside with a cell phone held up in one hand. It's impressively tiny, but Eduardo doesn't focus on that, just holds out a hand for her to press it into. "Who are you calling, anyway? Do you have someone who knows what happened to get us here?"
Eduardo types in his home number from memory and prays to any God who might be listening that they haven't changed it. After a moment the line is picked up and there's a familiar voice on the line. "Hello, who is this?"
"Mami," Eduardo says.
There is a long silence from the other end then—hesitant, like she's almost hoping he'll contradict her. "Eduardo?"
"Yes," he says. "Yes, it's me. You have no idea how good it is to hear your voice, mami. You'll never believe what's -"
"Why are you calling this number?" Her voice is short, sharp. "Why are you calling this family?"
"I-" Eduardo feels his good mood falter. From her perch on the arm rest of the other chair, Alice looks up, her brow furrowing into a questioning frown. "Something's happened to me. I need help."
She barks a sharp laugh, with more scorn than humour. "You want more money to throw at ill-advised internet ventures, you want help dragging our name down deeper into the dirt. You made your choice, you turned away from your family when we needed you."
"Don't call me that," she says, venom and disgust warring in her voice. "In fact, don't call me anything. And don't phone here again." Her words choke off slightly and Eduardo realises with a jolt that she's crying even as she spits her next words down the line. "I hope you're proud of yourself, of what you've done. I really hope you're happy."
"Ma-" he starts again, but there's the click of her hanging up before he can even finish the word.
He hits redial, doesn't even think just presses the phone back to his ear and listens to it ring and ring and ring then cut off. No voicemail, no nothing.
Alice reaches out slowly, taking the phone from his hand. He doesn't quite have the strength to resist, his hand drops from his ear into his lap.
Don't look back, the note he had written to himself said—sitting in the centre of the table like it was mocking him. "Something happened," he says, aiming his words at the table and the note instead of looking up into her face. "I don't know if I did something or if it just—something happened." He reaches into his pocket, pulling out the single plane ticket and dropping it on top of the note on the table. The flight leaves in just over five hours. He could make it, easily. "I need to find out what."
Alice hesitates, then leans forward to pick it up, her eyebrows rising when she takes in the destination.
Eduardo pulls out the other paper—the bank account details—and tosses it down after the ticket. "That's an account with five hundred million dollars. I'll pay however much you want if you'll put the memories back."
If Alice's eyes had widened at the plane ticket, it was nothing to what they do now. Her hands are trembling under soft green gloves as she reaches for the sheet of paper, her fingers hovering for a moment above the surface like she can't quite believe it. "Do I want to know why you have this much money?" she asks.
"I don't know if you want to," he says. "But I know I do."
She picks it up slowly, spreading it flat over her knee. "You're a worker," she says after a moment, glancing back up. "What kind?"
Eduardo looks down at his gloved hand, at the string of stones around his wrist. "Luck," he says.
He's never been as private about it as the other workers he knew. Physical workers and death workers never mention their abilities at all if possible. Dream workers, emotion workers and memory workers do their best jobs in secret, when they're unexpected. Luck, though. Everyone underestimates luck which seems like the greatest mistake ever to Eduardo. In a world where money is power, luck is what gives people breaks. Luck is what builds companies and luck is what takes them away.
Alice places the sheet of paper down carefully on the table, like if she holds it too tight or looks at it too long it might disappear. "You're not all that lucky at the moment," she says, pulling her hand slowly—reluctantly—back from the sheet of paper. "I can't help you."
Eduardo feels his hands curl up and forces himself not to panic. "That is five hundred million dollars."
"I know," Alice says, not looking up from the sheet of paper. "But what you're asking for—it can't be done."
"Of course it can be done," Eduardo snaps. "Memory workers can put memories in and take memories away. That's what you do and don't try and tell me it's not because I know more memory workers than you have met in your life."
"Sure," Alice says, knocking the bank details across to him as though she wanted them out of reach. "Sure, I can make you remember things. I can make you remember that time you spent three weeks as a trapeze artist in a circus. I can remind you of that foursome you had with the hookers in Vegas. I can fill your head with three years spent in a county jail for accidental manslaughter and maybe that did happen, maybe it didn't but the point is I don't know." She spreads her hands wide. "I don't know who you are, I don't know where you've been for the last three years and I can't fill your head up with memories I don't have."
"You took them out," Eduardo says, desperation touching the edges of his voice. He pushes the bank details closer, watching the way her eyes keep flicking back to the page. "Put them back."
"Not how it works," she says, sharply dragging her focus back up to his face. "I didn't take them out and put them in some super-secret box inside my mind. That's not what it's like and if it was don't you think I would fill that super-secret box with—say—my own memories?" She swallows, eyes moving involuntarily back to the page, then shakes herself. "You have no idea how much I'm wishing I had fewer morals right now. Fill your head with some story about being in prison, take your five hundred million and get out while you're still disoriented." She leans forward and pushes the page firmly back in front of him. "If you keep pushing, that's what I'll do, but I swear right now on everything I hold dear that I can't bring them back without knowing what they were. I just can't."
Her eyes fix on his and don't waver even as he keeps staring her down. There's no trace of a lie on her face and no reason for her to lie that she can't. More reason—as she so aptly pointed out—to pretend she could. God, if she'd been any other worker... and Eduardo had seriously considered taking off his amulets for a second time.
She can't bring his memories back. Somehow that hasn't hit full force before, but it does now. The last three years are gone, lost, thrown into some gap between the worlds never to be seen again.
"Do you need to breathe into a paper bag?" Alice asks, as he leans forward to press his head into his hands. His parents hate him, he has millions of dollars and a plane ticket to Singapore. Nothing adds up and he's lost three years of his life.
The bag she fetches him smells of grease and salt. Alice's hand rubs slowly across his shoulder blades. "You could pick something," she offers as he keeps breathing and tries not to throw up into the bag. "Anything you like. Make up the wildest story you can think of and I'll put it in. Call it a freebie, something to fill the gap of the last three years." Her gloves are soft cotton against the back of his neck. Eduardo wonders—for a brief crazy moment—what her hands felt like on his skin.
He wonders if anyone else has touched him, in the last three years. If anyone's trusted him enough to let him touch them.
Alice ruffles the hair at the nape of his neck with the ends of her gloves. "What does truth matter, anyway?"
Eduardo closes his eyes.
So three years ago Eduardo's luck holds out and he gets the acceptance letter. His mother gives him a tight hug like he's a child again and says they could get it framed. His father says that he's proud and congratulations and all that and then reminds him that no amount of fancy schooling will remove Eduardo's responsibilities to his family.
Eduardo rolls his eyes and reminds his father—again—that he can be a genius and go to Harvard and become president of a high flying worker association and join a finals club and ace all his exams without letting his Family obligations slide. Then he ducks out of the main room and finds Ti—a physical worker who joined up with the Saverin crime family after his parents got him tested and threw him out of the house for being a worker.
Ti had a bright white smile over coco skin, he wore the brightest most lurid clothes he could find whenever he wasn't off on a covert mission and he liked to remind Eduardo that if he hadn't been kicked out of the house for being a worker, he would've had at most another two years before they kicked him out for kissing boys. They both agree that they're not in love but they are teenagers and the sex is pretty great.
Eduardo is eighty percent certain that his father knows about what they got up to up in the towers and behind the rose bushes. He's one hundred percent certain that the head cook knows, but she just hit them around the head with a wooden spoon and told them if they absolutely had to go at it like rabbits all over the shop, she would prefer if they didn't do it in her kitchen.
"You're still Family first though," Ti says, lying back on Eduardo's king size after they've had congratulations sex and goodbye sex and we're-teenage-boys-who-like-sex sex.
Eduardo can hear in his voice that he means the worker family, the mob family, the Saverin Family that's known all over for their monopoly on the Miami worker scene. "Course," he says, sliding his fingers through Ti's dark hair.
Ti tilts his head up, his mouth already twisting into his teasing Cheshire cat grin. "Fuck the future leader of the free world for me, yeah?"
Chris reads the letter twice. He puts it down, looks around the room, then reads it again just in case the contents have changed.
Of course they don't know. They don't know that he's an emotion worker, they don't know that he found that out when he worked his best friend and the other boy fell in love with him. There's no way Harvard could know any of that.
The fact that they accepted him still feels like cheating. He wonders if he should write to them—explain that it was a mistake, that he doesn't deserve it, that they should give the place to someone else. His parents don't even have to know.
But if he wants to change things—if he wants to really change the world he needs to meet people, he needs connections.
He folds the letter up in his hands and walks downstairs, placing it carefully in the centre of the table where his parents will see.
Dustin is wearing black. He hasn't spoken since they came home from the funeral, just sat at the kitchen table with the program clutched in one hand. His mother had placed the sealed envelope in front of him when they came inside, but now she picks it up and slits it open. The sheet of paper slips out easily for her to skim over. "You got in," she says, soft, like there are still ghosts lurking around them. Perhaps there are.
Dustin makes no indication that he's heard. She sighs, touching a hand lightly to his shoulder. "I'm so proud of you. And she—she would've been proud." She turns to leave the room.
"I saw her dreams," Dustin says. "At the end."
His mother swallows. She's not a worker—none of their family ever were—and she's been looking the other way while Dustin works her one remaining parent. "She's in a better place," she says, echoing the fragile comfort she's been hearing from family all day.
His mother leaves before she has to admit that she doesn't know.
Mark's dad knocks twice before pushing open his bedroom door. Mark's gloves—green, cotton—are rolled up in a ball on his bed, his bare hands flashing across the keyboard on his desk. The letter is lying open next to the computer; its contents hidden beneath a scattering of red candy and a can of red bull.
Mark doesn't turn his head or acknowledge the interruption. After a moment, his father crosses over to tug at the edges of the page, sending red sticks scattering across the desk.
"I got in," Mark says, saving him the trouble of trying to move the can. "I got sixteen hundred on my SATs, they couldn't not let me in."
Of course, technically, schools aren't allowed to factor whether a person is or isn't a worker into their acceptance decision, but Harvard had still insisted on a full HBG test—'for reasons of compatible roommate selection,' they claimed.
Everyone knew Harvard was a worker school. It was one of the many open secrets around working—working was illegal but if you needed it, the worker families could hook you up. Workers were dangerous and their whole existence was practically illegal—before the test the only way to know you were a worker was to work someone—but ninety percent of the one percent are workers. It's illegal to discriminate against workers, but no one's going to hire a death worker or bare skin to a memory or emotion worker, gloves or no.
"Well," Mark's father says. "I'm proud of you."
Mark shrugs, clearly not listening as lines of code fill the screen.
Alice disappears into the bathroom to take a shower. Eduardo folds up the bank details slowly, pushing them and the plane ticket back into his jacket pocket. The bag is still on the sofa beside him, but he feels a little less like throwing up. He's going to fix this, he's going to find out what's happened and set everything back to rights. He is Eduardo Saverin, son of Ricardo Saverin, leader of the Saverin family, the Miami worker central.
"What if I found out what happened," Eduardo says, when Alice emerges in a slightly damp blouse and skirt, a dark towel wrapped around her hair. "You said you'd put in any story, could you put in the truth?"
Alice hesitates in the doorway, then shrugs her shoulders. "I don't know. Maybe it's just another story, maybe your mind recovers and fills in the gaps. It's possible." She walks over to the desk, tugging open the drawers and pushing through at random. "If you lived here, where would you keep a hair dryer?"
Eduardo looks around the room, thrown momentarily by the question. Alice seems to be far more comfortable with forgetting, but then again if she's a memory worker blowback must be familiar. "How much do you remember?"
She blinks, apparently surprised by the question. "I don't," she starts. "It's not like with you. You just have three years gone in, reached in and scooped out. Blowback is more—" she pauses, thinking for a moment. "I remember the bathroom, but not the living room or bedroom. I remember that yesterday I had toast with marmalade for breakfast but I can't remember the plate or where I ate it." She picks a picture off the wall in random. "I got this photo frame for my sixteenth birthday because I'd been dropping hints that I wanted it for weeks. I have no idea who gave it to me, this girl—" she points to the long haired oriental girl in the photo with her. "I don't know who she is."
"Do you know what brought me to you?" he asks. "Aside from the fact that my family aren't talking to me, so I don't know how I would find any worker, let alone one who worked for money."
Alice raises her eyebrows under the towel. "When you have five hundred million dollars in the bank," she says dryly. "Everyone works for money. Oh, hey—" she pulls out a box from under the desk and digs through cables to loosen a hairdryer out of the mess. "Old habits die hard, I've been keeping crap under desks as far back as I can remember."
Eduardo bites back on a scathing comment about how as far back as a memory worker can remember probably stretches to—oh—maybe an hour or two. It's not something he would imagine himself saying before, more the kind of comment that would come from—from—
It's on the tip of his tongue. Someone he knew—someone he'd met somewhere. His eyes flash suddenly to the desk, but there's just Alice crawling under the table to plug the hairdryer in at the wall. "Do people ever just... remember?" he asks.
Alice turns her head. "I haven't heard about it if they do but to tell you the truth—and don't you dare take back my thirty million for this—I am not the greatest memory worker out there. I avoid the families, avoid the government. I have no desire to make money stealing thoughts from people's heads. Maybe I missed parts, maybe with the right clues your mind will just dig everything up from wherever it's gone missing." She flicks the switch and whatever she was going to say next is overpowered by the hairdryer blowing all over her dark curls.
Eduardo presses his fingers against his temples, trying to get back to that moment, to the name that had been on the tip of his tongue. He can almost picture a dark room, light from somewhere—a window or a television screen, blocked by the head of—of—
"Do you want a painkiller?" Alice asks, pushing back slightly damp ringlets. "You look like my mother when she gets a migraine."
Eduardo can't help flinching very slightly—the simple word bringing back that phone call—and then Alice is on the sofa next to him again. "Sorry, tactless. Wasn't thinking."
Eduardo waves her off. I am Eduardo Saverin, of the Saverin family. I am better than this, better than a breakdown in some stranger's apartment, he tells himself, repeating it until his heart seems to get the memo and stops beating a thousand times a minute. "Was she a worker, your mother? Is that how we met, she was in a family and—"
Alice rolls her eyes and stands up again. "My mother was a grocer. My father was an accountant. We found out I was a worker when my pre-school teacher took off my gloves to clear up a mess after we were painting and then completely forgot where she lived. I've kept my gloves on since, kept my nose clean. One or two boyfriends who turned out to be more forgetful than they expected but other than that I was fine, I didn't do anything major and I didn't get blowback." She tugs the hairdryer from the socket with rather more force than is required. "And now my bank account is full of money, my memories have holes like moth eaten curtains and I don't know exactly what happened but all evidence so far suggests it's your fault." She kicks the box under the desk and turns around, leaning against the wood with her arms folded tight across her body. "So why don't you tell me, Eduardo Saverin of the Miami Saverins, luck worker extraordinaire, why exactly I should be helping you at all?"
Eduardo opens his mouth to shout back, then realises he has no idea what to say and closes it again. She's not a mob memory worker, she's not Family. The only thing so far that connects them is the fact that he woke up on her sofa. He's lived his whole life with workers at his beck and call, surrounded by people who make their living from what they can do. People who hang around to do what the Family needs them to do so they can stay strong, stay feared.
So that they can keep people like Alice hiding beneath the law, not risking baring their hands for a moment just in case they make a mistake that gets them locked up for life, their hands taped up day and night in plastic gloves until the skin underneath withers.
Eduardo swallows down everything he can't say, everything that just tells her to get out of his life before he remembers a thing. He pulls out the plane tickets again, the bank details that his former-self must have collected so carefully before going out to wipe all traces of himself away.
He looks up at Alice, still leaning against the desk and looking down at him. If his family aren't talking to him, if the Family have thrown him out, that erases everyone he can remember. Every face in his memory, the people who played with him and raised him and taught him how to use his skills when the Government and authorities would have thrown him into the dark with the rest of his kind.
Alice—Alice with her curly brown hair, patchy memory, untrained working and migraine-riddled mother—Alice who as of yet has given him no surname or hints as to who she is or what she does for money when she's not working young mafia overlords. Alice who has somehow become the only person he knows.
"I don't have anyone else."
It's a little less than three years ago and they put Mark in a room with two workers. He knows about Dustin because Dustin is like a puppy with big eyes and a bright 'forgive me' smile when he shakes Mark's hand in greeting and says, "Hi, I'm Dustin, I'm studying computer science and I'm a dream worker."
He doesn't seem to realise Mark's hand is bare, even when Mark scans the room for his gloves and when he doesn't see them in any of the obvious places, just reaches out to shake the leather clad hand with his own bare skin. "Mark," he says. "Comp sci. I'm on the computer a lot, feel free to pretend I'm not here."
Dustin grins wider in a way that suggests there is no way that is ever going to happen and then bounds to the door to greet Chris. Chris is blond and conventionally attractive and he waits patiently for Mark to find a glove scrunched up under his keyboard before offering his hand to shake.
Mark only knows Chris is a worker because while they were parcelling out sections of the mini fridge and Dustin was saying something about Chris' beer being communal beer in the interests of roommate bonding, Mark went ahead and hacked their admittance records.
Chris' file didn't list what type of worker he was—just that he'd tested HBG positive. Where Dustin had filled the notes box with comments that he would never dream work someone and dream working wasn't that harmful and sometimes people had nightmares and might even need a little dream work, Chris had left the box completely empty.
Mark watches him carefully over the first few weeks. He's forced into their company more than he had intended thanks to Dustin insisting on dragging him along to parties, meet-and-greets, cinema trips and even—in spite of Mark's great reluctance—to a mixer for the Jewish fraternity. In all that time, he never sees Chris' gloves come off. Chris even keeps his arms covered, careful to keep his hands clear of the bare skin of anyone.
Mark's Mom had packed a full string of amulets—bought through the proper channels, she promised, with only the transformation protection likely to be fake—and made him promise to wear them. Two weeks into the year he finally digs them out, passing the cheap gem stones over between his fingers before eventually wrapping them around his wrist, where he can push them up under his hoodie and out of sight.
Eduardo first sees Mark two years and ten months ago, at the third AEPi party of term. Mark is sitting in the corner of the room, picking at his cheap cotton gloves and looking like he'd really rather be anywhere else in the world. Eduardo has a test the next day, his gloves are already prepared with a scattering of holes at the fingertips. It's easy as anything to trip himself up on the steps and fall against the other boy, his fingers landing on bare wrist, where Mark's tugging at the gloves has pulled the fabric up to reveal skin.
Eduardo pushes good luck easy as breathing, flashes a bright smile as he apologises and is only a little thrown by his mark's apparent immunity to Eduardo's boundless charm and grace. Mark disappears from the party soon after, Eduardo takes his accounting test and that would be the end of it except three days later Mark corners him at another AEPi party, holding a string of beads up in one hand.
Shit. Eduardo schools his face quickly into mild confusion. "Hello? Have we met?"
Mark drags him away from the main group—even though the crowd are too buzzed on whatever was in the bottle passed around earlier to pay any attention—and waves the beads in his face again. No, not beads, stones. Amulets. Shit. "You tried to work me," Mark says again, twisting the string to show Eduardo that one of the stones has a perfect crack down the centre.
Eduardo raises both hands quickly. "I'm sorry but I really don't know what you're talking—"
"No one else who came near me that night was a worker," Mark snapped the stone off the string. "I looked up your file, you have a positive HBG."
Eduardo hadn't actually taken the HBG test—no member of the Saverin family would be so insulted, as his father said—but his father still hadn't quite been humble enough to have the admittance tutor he bribed give Eduardo a negative result. The head of the greatest crime family in the southern states couldn't exactly let it leak out that his only son was nothing more than human. "My records are private," he says instead. "You couldn't have seen them and your claim certainly wouldn't hold up in a court of law."
Mark's still up in his face, but for a moment his expression is flashed through with confusion like the thought that Eduardo might send a lawyer after him hadn't even crossed his mind. "I hacked them," he says—proving once and for all that he has no valid evidence that Eduardo has done anything wrong at all. "You're a worker and my luck charm broke so—"
Eduardo glances back at the group then tugs Mark a little further away. "I had a test and I wanted the blowback. It was just supposed to be a little good luck, maybe so that something nice happened to you that evening." Mark's scowl gets a little more pronounced like the thought of someone else causing nice things to happen to him was particularly unpleasant. "You have no case against me, you can't hope to get any kind of compensation and if you want to tell the whole world you can go right ahead. I imagine most people will just laugh at the idea that a member of the Saverin family might not have been a worker in the first place."
Mark stares at him for a moment, like all of this is news. Considering Mark must have known Eduardo's surname in order to start pulling up his personal records either he is very forgetful or impossibly uninformed about the various crime families and their oversized presence on campus.
"So," Eduardo says, pulling out his best closing smile. "You can't sue me, you can't blackmail me. Unless you want me to work you again—more successfully this time—I'm not at all sure what you're looking for here."
Mark looks at him for a long moment, then takes half a step back. "You know workers?"
"I might do."
"I want new charms, better ones, ones that work." He lifted the string of stones, keeping his arms carefully out of reach of Eduardo's gloves. "You can start with a new luck charm."
Eduardo raises his eyebrows. "And what do I get in return?"
Mark shrugs. "You didn't work me, so I guess you didn't get blowback. What's it worth if I hack in and change the results of that test?"
"You must have books," Eduardo says. He's moved to the kitchen counter while Alice rummages through the cupboards looking for anything that could be assembled into some kind of meal. "Diaries or videos or photo albums. All the memory workers I know have books."
"All the memory workers you know do this for a living," Alice reminds him. "Some of us foolishly assumed we might go our whole lives without needing a written account of everything in them."
It's just enough of a non-answer to set him on the alert. "And you're telling me you didn't take any precautions?" he pushes. "Not even after those times you worked your boyfriends, you didn't think it would be worth making a few notes just-in-case?"
Alice pauses a moment too long, eyes flicking towards the sofas of the main room.
"Books?" Eduardo prompts, sliding off the counter to follow where she's looking. She seems the type to have diaries, possibly starting from when she was a little girl. Maybe her mother gave her a notebook and told her to write down anything she wanted to remember after she worked that teacher. "Whereabouts?"
"There's probably nothing about you in them," Alice says, pulling out of the cupboard to push past him into the room. She's trying to be nonchalant, looking determinably at the desk and trying to pretend she doesn't keep sneaking awkward glances sideways at the bookshelves. "I mean for all I know you just showed up on my doorstep with your thirty million. Maybe we don't even know each other."
She's probably been waiting for him to leave before going after the books herself.
"I don't remember you at all," she says, and Eduardo doesn't point out that the walls of her apartment are covered with people she doesn't remember. That, he imagines, would not be the best way of getting on her good side. "Maybe you're right, maybe one of your mob people knew about me and pointed you in my direction. Maybe I have an ailing grandparent and desperately needed thirty million dollars so I created a Facebook page. Maybe we just met online and this was some skeezy internet meet-up which I only went along with because I didn't think you could possibly be serious."
Most of it was her clutching desperately at straws, but part of it made him pause. "What's a Facebook page?"
For a moment her face twists with a confused frown, then she seems to realise that—yeah—apparently this is a less-than-three-years-old subject and therefore Eduardo has no memory of it. "It's a website for workers. Anonymous, private." She frowns a little. "I remember when it was new, I think I had a friend who was keeping track of it. The founder went to Harvard and we were nearby—" her frown gets more pronounced, like she's pushing at the edges where memories cut off. "I don't know if we ever... he had a strange name. Long, hard to remember... Zimmerberg? Zuckerberg?" She looks up at him, shaking her head as though giving up trying to force it. "Something like that, anyway. Mark Zuckerberg."
The name is unfamiliar and alien to Eduardo. It's not a crime family name, he doesn't know any long running worker families with that name but something about it stops his thoughts from moving on. He should go and explore the bookcase or push Alice for more information about the website—it sounds like the kind of venture the mob would highly disapprove of. They dislike the notion of anyone else controlling the flow of worker talents around the country.
At the same time, if this website was really what it claimed to be and one of the Families controlled it. Well, that would be a feather in anyone's cap. Zuckerberg would have to be quite high up to take advantage of it. He should be someone Eduardo has heard of.
Eduardo rolls the name around in his head, looking for somewhere it could fit. Zuckerberg... Zuckerberg... unless Alice meant Zacharov? Zacharov would certainly have the resources for something like this, and she hadn't seemed sure about the name but something was pushing in the back of Eduardo's mind. Zuckerberg, Zuckerberg, Zucker-
Mark doesn't wear gloves to code.
The thought is as sudden and clear as it is alien and unexpected. Just one quick flash through his mind although he's thought it a thousand times until it stuck in his head like a nursery rhyme.
"I could show you," Alice offers. "We could see if you have a page."
Eduardo is one hundred percent certain that if he even dreamed of signing up for something run by the Zacharov's or some other new crime family he would not just be abandoned by his family but there would be death workers knocking on his door or memory workers pushing neatly through his head to remove any thoughts he had of leaving the fold. "Books first," he says. "If you can find out for certain how we know each other, it should be easier for me to trace my way back." She looks unconvinced so he pulls out his best desperate-and-pleading gaze. Years of running point on various business related cons have definitely left their mark on his acting skills, and he's never been more grateful for it as Alice's determined expression wavers. "Please?"
He could pinpoint the moment that she gives in, but he was never one for rolling in self-congratulations or celebrating someone else's defeat. He just turns his back obediently at her gesture and pretends like he can't hear her unlocking the draws underneath the bookshelves and pulling out a small collection of objects.
"Okay," she says after a moment. "You can turn around."
There are a small pile of books on the coffee table. Not diaries in any conventional sense, they vary from spiral-bound college notepads to faded hardbacks decorated in glittery flowers to expensive moleskins of the kind given as gifts when the giver wants to buy something expensive but has few ideas as to what. Alice spreads them out slowly before her, tracing her fingers across the covers.
Eduardo is practically bouncing on his toes with impatience. If it wasn't implicitly forbidden and against every single code he grew up living by, he would grab the books and read them cover to cover right now. Unfortunately, rooting through someone else's life when they don't remember it is considered even worse than reading the diaries of someone not suffering three years worth of blowback.
Alice picks up one of the books, seemingly at random, and flicks through the pages without reading a word. Eduardo just about resists the urge to make loud impatient noises. All he needs is a lead. He needs to know who sent him to Alice and how he knew them (and, more importantly, how they knew that he couldn't go to his own family). He's itching to get out of this apartment but without any kind of clue he'd just end up sitting on the steps outside or catching that damn plane to Singapore. He needs somewhere to go, a point to aim for.
It occurs to him now that he has no idea where he lives. Does he have an apartment or would he have sold it around the same time he bought tickets to Singapore? There are no keys anywhere on his person, he doesn't even know what city he's in. Does he live here or did he just come for Alice?
He tugs the plane tickets out of his pocket again to check the departure airport. New York City. A long way from home, not so far from Harvard. Did he get into Harvard?
Mark doesn't wear gloves to code, he thinks again, the simple phrase floating tantalisingly through his head leaving any hint at context far out of reach.
Alice finally has a book open in her lap, and she's reading slowly over lines and lines of cramped handwriting. From what Eduardo can see it's neat, elegant, about half the size of a normal person's—she's fit in two lines for every one ruled space. It's going to take all night if she wants to sit and read them all. "Have you found something?"
She glances up, like she might have briefly forgotten he was there. "I have a brother," she says, sounding utterly perplexed by the fact. "He's younger than me. He wants to study law." She glances down at the page again. "His name is Charlie. Alice and Charlie."
Eduardo reminds himself firmly that she's new to this and blowback is a bitch at the best of times and he shouldn't expect her to be able to stay focused. That and a bit of deep breathing and he manages to resist the urge to tear the book out of her hands. "Is that how we met, through Charlie? Is he a worker?"
"What? Oh—" her eyes stop skimming over the lines and she flicks forward a few pages. "I don't think so. I was just surprised, I don't remember him at all." She reaches the last page, scanning her eyes over it, then puts that book back down on the table. Only another twenty or so to go.
"Did you say you had a computer?" Eduardo asks, because anything is better than sitting and watching her slowly piece her life back together.
She looks up from where her hands had been hovering over the collection of books—either they're not labelled, or she has no idea what order they go in—and manages a quick smile. "I suppose you could try googling yourself. Search the local missing persons register."
She doesn't quite meet his eyes and neither of them mention searching any police most-wanted sites. If his name is going to be anywhere, Eduardo thinks, the way his luck's going it'll be there. He glances up at Alice again, touching the hem of his gloves. "I could work you—you get luck, I get blowback, everybody wins."
She draws back a little, pulling her cardigan tighter around her—notably covering up the bare skin at her collarbone and where the hem of her gloves didn't quite meet the edge of the top. "That's illegal."
Which is a little pot/kettle considering she just wiped three years of Eduardo's memory, but maybe outside of the mob they're a little less blasé about the fact that there are laws against the very thing the Families deal with on a day-to-day basis. But Eduardo doesn't push, and he doesn't try to get skin contact in spite of the gloves.
He can't imagine he'll be letting any workers near his skin for a long while, so it's not really his place to blame her for feeling the same.
"The laptop's on the desk," she says.
Eduardo nods, and crosses over to start the computer up, tapping his fingers against the wood while the start-up screen loads. It feels familiar—not this laptop so much, but computers. Like he's spent a lot of time at computers or around computers, watching computer screens over people's shoulders. It's strange because Eduardo has never exactly been into computing. He was more into the meetings, forming connections and quietly working people when they least expected it sides of business.
"Eduardo," Alice says, pulling Eduardo out of his thoughts and back into the room. Her fingers are drumming against the cover of one of the moleskins and she's watching him like she's not at all sure of the welcome her next words will receive.
"Alice?" he replies carefully.
Alice glances down at the table—or, to be more precise, at the bank details still sitting on the table—and frowns a little to herself. "Have you considered not looking? Just—I don't know—going to Singapore, letting whatever it was sit in the past where no one has to dig it up again. What if it's something you don't want to know?"
"It's my life," Eduardo says, turning back to the computer because clearly that's stupid and ridiculous. "Of course I want to know."
Then the laptop is fully loaded and he can open the internet up and pretend he doesn't hear Alice's soft, "People don't pay thirty million dollars to forget something they might want to remember."
When people ask how Eduardo became friends with Mark, he laughs and tells some ridiculous story. His smile is warm, his body language welcoming and whomever he's talking to finds themselves laughing and drawn into the conversation. They don't notice until much later—if at all—that the story had nothing to do with the question.
That's how you measure the success of a con, in how long it takes for the mark to realise they've been conned at all.
What actually happens is that Eduardo avoids AEPi parties until he gets his test results, at which point he realises that while, yeah, Harvard may be a school where workers are welcome, but they're still expected to actually do the work. He's torn between calling his father and getting some blackmail material on his current dean—he's always done well with blackmail—or shelving his pride for once in his life.
He sits on the bed in his private room, passing a cell phone from hand to hand and thinking about what his father will say. Previously no one has ever told Eduardo off for resorting to blackmail; it's a legitimate business choice when ninety five percent of your business is illegal anyway. But he's always gathered the details himself. What would he say to his father—'hey, I couldn't be bothered to study so I need to ruin a man's life, give me a hand here?'
Even in his head, it sounds like a particularly feeble last resort for the son of one of the largest crime families in the United States of America. He could call a worker in and generate some blackmail material of his own: a few memory tricks and maybe some dream working and the man could find himself entangled in an affair and relying on Eduardo to keep it secret.
It's nothing he hasn't done before, but his dean will be wearing charms which are always a pain and getting workers up from Miami might cost more than Eduardo is willing to shell out for one test. On the other hand, a small voice in the back of his head is quick to remind him, that there will be other tests and the best blackmail material is the kind which can be used over and over again.
It's still asking for help though, still running back to his father and his father's resources and Eduardo resents relying on other people at the best of times, even more so when he's finally got himself a reasonable distance away and could be setting up on his own two feet. Proving that he could make something of himself.
So he puts the phone down, and looks at his options. If he got really really lucky, the man might accidentally type his result into the system wrong and never notice, but luck work on that scale is hard to focus. He could easily just get a sudden dump of money, or a particularly good round of casual sex. Neither of which would be bad, but they wouldn't fix his current problem.
He's toying with the amulets around his neck the way he always does when he's thinking—letting the tiny stones knock back and forth against each other—when he's reminded of the stones around a certain wrist. Reminded of the cracked stone someone was waving in his face.
Chances are most of Mark's charms are fake—he had a transformation charm and they're all fake so the standard assumption if someone has one of them is that the stallholder lied about all of them. Maybe the luck stone was legitimate—luck workers are a dime a dozen and those that aren't tied to Families can make a bit of cash on the side selling a few amulets to slightly honest market-types.
He picks up his phone again, this time not hesitating before calling James—a second year who Eduardo knows from AEPi and the Harvard Investors Association. James is currently chair of the second, but he has an unfortunate tendency to push his sleeves up when he's meeting people and he's only a few more flashes of bad luck away from losing that position to someone else.
Eduardo is always careful with bad luck. It should be dealt out in tiny enough doses that the blowback is tripping over a carpet or dropping a pile of books across the ground. Even now he's at Harvard, he spares occasional thoughts back to the races and making a man lose the better half of his fortune. That's no kind of mild bad luck and the lack of blowback occasionally keeps him awake at night.
"Hello," James says with the bright cheeriness of someone who has no idea they're being simultaneously worked and conned out of a prestigious role. "I just got out of an investors council meeting where your name kept cropping up. All good things, I promise."
James is the kindhearted but eager type of person who is painfully easy to steal everything from. Eduardo almost feels bad about it. "I hope you put in a good word for me, you know how important the group is to my future."
"Never fear, I am completely in your corner. Now unless you're psychic, that's not what you called to talk about. Do you have questions about protecting your investments?"
Eduardo is fairly sure he knows more about investment protection than the rest of the Harvard Investor's Association put together, although it's possible the methods James wants to teach him about involve more insurance and variable loans and less physical working and thumbscrews. "I did, yes," he says, because it never hurts to show willing. "Is there any chance you could check over some parts of my portfolio?"
"I'm a little busy right at this moment, I have a class and then my study group. Are you free tonight?"
"Maybe," Eduardo exaggerates a put-upon tone. "I borrowed a book from someone in AEPi and they needed it back by tomorrow but I've been missing the meetings so I might be spending all evening trying to track down which room they're in. I'll let you know when I'm finished and you can stop by?" He starts to take the phone away from his ear. "Nice speaking to—"
"Wait," James interrupts, and Eduardo grins, bringing the phone back to his ear with a polite 'I'm listening' noise. "Who in AEPi?" James asks.
Eduardo thinks back to the guys that occasionally seem to be successfully socialising with Mark. There aren't a lot of them to choose from. "He was blond, good looking. Black leather gloves. Chris, I don't know his surname."
"Chris Hughes," James says. He sounds a little more nervous now, but then he's about to give Eduardo information Chris might not want known and he thinks he's doing it all of his own accord. "He's Kirkland, shares one of those three-bed rooms. Number twelve or something." He pauses, trying to sound nonchalant. "You know, just to help you start looking."
"You're a lifesaver," Eduardo gushes. "So I'll bring my stuff over to yours tonight, around seven?"
"Sounds good," James says, Eduardo's gratitude putting him slightly more at ease. "Maybe, if you could not tell Chris I told you? Only I saw it on the AEPi membership sign-up and it's confidential so—"
"Of course, of course. I'll say I got it from the office guys. That's what I was going to do anyway, you've just saved me hours of legwork." Eduardo has no idea which 'office guys' he's referring to or if indeed there's an office on campus that could give you a student's room number if all you know is his first name and that he can hack student records. "I'll see you later, yeah?"
He hangs up, making a mental note to put together some kind of amateur investment portfolio details when he gets back from Kirkland. No sense letting James know where his money is really living. James is far too nice to deal in the kinds of industries the Families like to support.
Mark is the only person home when Eduardo knocks on the door and—after getting no reply—lets himself in. Mark is sitting at his desk with headphones on, apparently dead to the world to the point where Eduardo can steal a beer from the fridge in the kitchen and check the calendar on the wall, which lists dates when each of the three boys in the room are going home for the holidays, all without Mark's fingers hesitating on the keyboard.
SHARK WEEK is written on the calendar in big letters, and someone has drawn a terrible picture of a shark with uneven teeth and a speech bubble reading 'I'm going to eat you up!'
Mark reaches for the bottle beside him and tilts it up into his mouth without looking long enough to notice that it's empty. He shakes it briefly, still typing with his second hand, and Eduardo hesitates before leaning over and switching the empty bottle for his own full one.
Mark takes a long drink, puts the bottle down and types something else before vaguely saying, "Thanks—" and glancing behind him to take in Eduardo for the first time.
His eyes narrow very slightly and his hand moves to his wrist like the string of fake amulets and broken luck charm might afford him some protection should Eduardo choose to strike. "It's you."
Eduardo pulls out his best and brightest smile, holding out a hand. "Eduardo Saverin, luck worker." No harm in telling Mark what he—and half the rest of the campus—already knows.
Mark eyes Eduardo's hand in a 'how stupid do you think I am' kind of way and reaches under his keyboard for a much maligned pair of gloves.
It isn't until he starts to tug them on that Eduardo realises his hands had been bare. Mark's hands—disappearing now beneath dark green fabric—are pale, with tiny hairs on the backs which stick up a little with static as he pulls the gloves on over them. Eduardo finds himself thinking back to the play of muscles under the skin as Mark typed and the marks on the beer bottle that must be fingerprints.
He can feel his cheeks heating up and forces himself to think about other things. He hasn't seen anyone bare handed outside of porn in forever. Ti offered once—but Eduardo wasn't about to let a physical worker in his father's pay get a finger on his bare skin. That was how incidents happened.
Mark finishes tugging the gloves on, pulling his hoodie sleeves down to hide the slice of skin at his wrist, but still doesn't reach out for Eduardo's hand so, rather belatedly, Eduardo pulls it back. He must be sitting on Mark's bed, behind Mark's chair at Mark's desk and he can't stop his eyes flashing away from Mark's face and down to his gloves.
He'd been typing at a rate of knots, every finger flashing across the keyboard and the tendons moving under the skin and Eduardo was letting himself get distracted again.
"Did you want something?" Mark asks pointedly. "I'm guessing you didn't bring me a new amulet."
Oh. Yeah. Eduardo had managed to carefully forget that part. "What kind of worker are you?" he says, casual as anything.
Mark's eyes narrow in a way that suggests Eduardo's 'casual' needs a little more work. "What does that matter?"
"Well," Eduardo says to give himself an extra moment of thinking time. "I need to know what charm to tell my contacts they can leave off. Otherwise when you try to work someone it won't, well, work."
Eduardo had once tried to work someone while wearing a luck amulet. He'd tripped over, broken his nose and it had left a very sour taste in his mouth. The mark hadn't been worked at all.
"How about you get me all of them," Mark says, "and I can take off any I don't need."
Eduardo folds his arms and raises an eyebrow. "That's a high price for one test grade."
Mark shrugs again, spinning his chair back to his keyboard. "You came to me."
Eduardo could try to haggle further and risk losing everything, but to be honest he knows enough workers to get a full set of amulets in an afternoon. He opens his mouth to agree just as the door slams open.
"Hey Mark," shouts the loud, brown-haired boy that Mark occasionally hung out with at AEPi meetings. "Hey Mark, hey Mark."
Mark rolls his eyes at the screen, knocking his chair back so he can see through the doorway where Dustin is peering through at the two of them, grin widening to a point where it fills the majority of his face. "And who is this?" he asks, clapping his hands together. "Mark, have you made a friend?"
Eduardo stands up quickly from the bed to hold out a hand. "Eduardo Saverin, I was just visiting."
Dustin's gloves are cheap and bright yellow. "Dustin Moskovitz," he says gleefully. "I live here."
Mark gives their clasped hands a dirty look. "Eduardo was just leaving," he says.
"No way," Dustin says, kicking the wheels of Mark's chair and not releasing Eduardo's hand. "You have made a friend. He's not allowed to leave until Chris comes back or no one will ever believe me."
Mark's scowl gets a little more pronounced and Eduardo flashes him a completely insincere 'oops, sorry, guess I'd better build connections so I can come back and check you keep your bargain' smile as Dustin pulls him to the couch. "I guess I had no other plans."
Dustin cheers. "I'm coding," Mark says. "I can't focus with too many distractions."
"This calls for Mariokart," Dustin says, speaking right over Mark's sullen protests. "And Pizza. Mark, text Chris and tell him to pick up beer and pizza on his way home. We need to celebrate you learning social skills and making friends."
A GameCube controller is thrust into Eduardo's hands and he's pushed lightly onto the sofa as Dustin scavenges through the mini fridge.
"I have work," Mark says, but he's notably taken his headphones off and is still sitting watching them in the doorway. "I doubt Eduardo has time for videogames. He has people to see, things to pick up."
"I can pick things up tomorrow," Eduardo says, casually, waving his controller in Mark's direction. "Sometimes you just need a night off hanging out with new friends."
Mark glared at him for a long moment, then stood up and snatched the second controller, throwing himself onto the sofa beside Eduardo. Somewhere behind them Dustin cheered. "Playing games against a luck worker," Mark says, in tones that almost sound like he's trying to be quiet, if not for the fact that he's just loud enough that Dustin will certainly hear. "How fair."
Dustin throws himself over the back of the sofa, spilling some beer from each of the three bottles he's holding. "Mariokart isn't luck, Mark. It's skill and talent and you're just bitter because I'm better than everyone in the world ever."
"Yes," says Mark dryly. "That's my problem."
By the time Chris arrives two hours later they're all half drunk and Dustin has beaten Mark and Eduardo into the ground so many times everyone has lost track. Eduardo is pretty sure he had plans for the evening, but he writes them all off when Chris pulls out a bag of microwave pizzas, a twelve pack of some cheap brand of beer and a fourth controller.
It's nice, an evening where he can forget about his family and the mob and his obligations to the worker community. Beyond Mark's occasional suspicious glances at Eduardo's gloved hands, no one in the room seems to care that Eduardo is a worker. No one so much as mentions his Family.
Later in the evening Dustin announces that since they are best friends now, Eduardo should know that he is a dream worker. Eduardo immediately runs through his mental catalogue in case there are Moskovitzes in any of the major crime families, but Dustin follows up his proclamation by stating that he can't imagine any mob uses for dream working.
Eduardo knows fifty standard ones off the top of his head, so that is pretty good proof that Dustin has never been contacted by a Family in his life.
James never gets to see Eduardo's fake portfolio, but two days later he loses his position in the Harvard Investor's Association. Four days after that he gets thrown out of Harvard entirely. Eduardo changes his phone number, ignores a few emails and they never see each other again.
Facebook.com seemed similar in description to MySpace, a faux-anonymous space that emerged a year or so prior where workers could shout about their powers with rainbow graphics and obnoxious music choices, but the website that loads is simple. Blue borders, black text on a white background.
Facebook is an online directory to bring friends together.
Facebook allows you to upload and share information, links and locations with high levels of anonymity.
Facebook connects you to your local circles and events in your area.
There's nothing overtly about workers on the front page, but Eduardo remembers the article about the worker protest ¬'organised via the worker social networking site' and that throws a whole new light on 'circles and events in your area'. He clicks through a few pages. There's a masthead: founded by Mark Zuckerberg.
Mark doesn't wear gloves to code, he thinks, staring at the name on the page like it might give him any more context than that. Maybe he read it somewhere, or there were photographs. He could have been researching this site for his Family.
He gets nothing. None of the founding names ring any bells either—they're not major mob players, or they weren't three years ago. So the controlling power could be laying low, getting some lower echelon workers to deal with running the website and keeping the big names out of the press.
He checks the dates and sees Facebook has been running for over a year. Surely there's no way it could've stayed hidden that long. Surely.
Eduardo turns his head to see Alice still reading through one of her diaries. "Which Family owns Facebook?"
Alice glances up, blinking a little. "Mark Zuckerwhatever," she says, confusion dragging her eyebrows together. "He built it. I don't think it's mob-affiliated."
No one thought that MySpace was Family-linked until workers listed on it started disappearing or doing major work for one of the smaller, more technologically advanced worker families. "Has there been abnormal growth in any of the Families since it started?"
Okay, so that's not exactly the kind of information he would expect a bystander to know, let alone a bystander with holes all over her memories. He searches for the data instead, checking the usual blogs. Some of them have collapsed, others—notably the ones with prominent links to their facebook pages—are going as strong as ever.
They all give the same results. Every single Family is shrinking, losing control of their worker agents. Workers are going freelance like rats off a ship and while working in general is increasing, Family funding is at an all time low.
He checks in on the Saverins, searching the same and scrolling further through the blogs. They're falling apart as fast as anyone else, not helped by a turf war with the Winklevosses.
Eduardo blinks, reading the passage again. The Winklevoss Family is old school, rich and powerful and settled in the US for generations. They'd been Saverin allies since the Saverins left Brazil, and the article could list no reasons for the war beyond 'a supposed dispute over land.'
That would be more plausible if there weren't a thousand miles between Saverin and Winklevoss territory. Eduardo glanced over at Alice again, then hesitated. Inner Family politics wasn't exactly the best thing to start sharing with a girl he didn't know at all.
Anyway, according to the article the Saverins were winning—the Winklevoss family had shrunk down to less than half its original size and the leader had gone into hiding with his two sons.
He clicks back over to Facebook and hesitates over the options for creating an account. There doesn't seem to be many other options—like the whole site is some kind of club that you need to be accepted into before you can see a thing. "If you had an account, would anything between us show up there?" Eduardo asks, leaning over the back of his chair to look at Alice.
She jolts a little when he speaks, looking up from her page and blinking like she's momentarily forgotten where she was. "Christy."
For half a beat, Eduardo wonders if she's forgotten who he is—delayed blowback is rare but not unheard of—then her eyes focus on him properly. "The girl in the photos," she says. "Christy. That's how we met."
Eduardo knows about three Christys. One is a luck worker, one is a girl from his mixed high school and the third changed her name from Christopher when she started wearing skirts. None of them looked like the girl in the photo. "How did I know her?"
Alice skims over the page. "I mention you living with her—maybe you were dating."
It's possible, he supposes. Sure he tends to err on the side of guys but he's dated girls before and she's certainly pretty, judging by the pictures on the walls. But it seems like that's something he should remember, or something that would come back when he's reminded of it.
It's weird, that's all. Because, OK, people forget things all the time but it's weird losing memories and knowing you've completely lost them. Like waking up with a headache, empty bottles and no recollection of anything the night before.
Alice flicks forward a few pages then knocks the pile of books over to pick up the bottom one. "You were living in New York," she says, flicking through it to the end of the worn pages. "I was complaining that it meant I had to find a place on my own—I guess this place." She stops, turns a page back and reads through it before quoting aloud. "'Christy called today. ES'—guessing that's you—'wants a mem worker. Apparently the money is 'too good to turn down.''" She gives him a significant look and turns the page. "Next day: 'moneys too good. Doing it.' Then just reminders to buy milk. The most recent date here is yesterday talking about a knock on the door. I guess you didn't waste any time coming over." She closes the book and looks up at him. "That's all I have. I don't think I ever met you before this, but you knew her and she led you to me."
Eduardo closes out of all his internet windows save Facebook. "Do you have her phone number?"
Alice tears out a page of the book and scrawls the digits across it. "You can come back once, and I'll try to put whatever you find back in your head," she says, writing another number below Christy's. "But other than that, we're done. I'm keeping your money and you're not going to send any workers after me. That's my number—you call it when you're ready to put the memories back and I'll meet you somewhere. You don't call it for any other reason."
Eduardo reaches for the page, but she tugs it back out of reach, eying him carefully. "Okay," he says. "Yes, okay, I won't come back. I won't send anyone—I don't think I have anyone I could send."
"Okay." Her hand stretches out so he can take the scrap from it. "You can use the phone in the kitchen."
Eduardo nods a thank you and stands. Alice turns back to the books, reaching for the first one and opening it at the beginning, skimming over the lines in a desperate attempt to restore her whole life. Eduardo leaves her to it, and goes to find his own.
It becomes a thing. Eduardo has a thousand and one things he should be doing for class, for the associations, for his own budding investment enterprises; but he finds himself more often than not retreating to Mark's dorm room after his lectures and on lazy weekends to slouch on their worn sofa and let Dustin ply him with videogames and alcohol.
For the first few weeks, Mark keeps his distance. Eduardo picked up a string of different gemstone beads at a market so cheaply they had to be fake and then went home for the weekend. Each of the workers he asked was someone he'd known for years and when he told them he'd lost his old set of charms, they were only too happy to work the stones to give them the needed protective properties.
He had used a chisel to break the transformation worker stone off. Firstly: he didn't know anyone who could curse the stone. Secondly: a few rumours of a transformation worker in China and possibly a boy on the run from the Zacharovs were not exactly a major threat. Eduardo had long doubted transformation working even existed.
The luck stone was a golden tiger's eye and he'd rolled it back and forth between his fingers, lying on the bed beside a sleeping Ti's slow breathing. On the one hand: trust, loyalty, honesty and all that crap. On the other... he toyed with it a moment longer, then strung it back onto the cord. His Family had a strong enough reputation that workers would leave his friends alone—and he wasn't naive enough to think no one would notice if he started spending more time in Mark's dorm.
Of course, technically Eduardo should drop the charms off, check Mark could do what he said he could to Harvard's grade system, and then never see any of them again. But every time he closed his eyes he remembered the flash of fingers on a keyboard, the play of tendons across the back of Mark's hands.
So he had handed Mark a string with five working charms and one bead. Mark gave him a suspicious look when he took it, and notably attached it to his arm above the gray-pebble charms he'd been wearing before. If he were being particularly kind, Eduardo might think three of the gray stones weren't fake. More likely only the luck one had been real.
But after that, Eduardo keeps visiting Mark's room. If Mark's alone, wired in and coding, Eduardo can sit behind him for an hour watching the incomprehensible lines appear on the screen and Mark's fingers flashing across the keys before Mark even realises he's there. As soon as Mark does—usually when he glances up and Eduardo is handing him a red bull or a twizzler—he gets that scowl between his eyes and reaches for a pair of gloves like he thinks Eduardo might leap up and work him at any moment.
One night Eduardo is over in their room—sitting between Chris and Dustin on the sofa because Mark is, in Dustin's words, 'wherever Mark goes when he's not here but probably not in class'—Mark bursts in, slamming the door shut. "Wardo," he says, walking past them through to his bedroom.
Eduardo raises his eyebrows. "I'll take that to mean 'Hello Eduardo, would you mind coming through so I can talk to you' should I?" he calls at Mark's backpack.
"Wardoooo," Dustin says gleefully. "You're just going to let him call you that, aren't you? You are so whipped it is actually adorable." Eduardo hits him in the shoulder and then proves his point for him by going through to see Mark throw his bag on the bed and drop onto his computer chair.
"You called?" Eduardo says, leaning against the doorframe. Mark is wearing the same pair of green gloves he always wears. Eduardo is starting to wonder if he even has more than one set and if not then Eduardo really needs to come over on laundry day. He also needs to stop thinking so much about Mark's naked hands. Those same hands are now hesitating over the keyboard.
Mark reaches into the pocket of his hoodie and tugs out two halves of a sapphire bead, dropping them on Eduardo's side of the desk. "Whatever charm that was, it worked and I need another."
His sleeve pulls up a little as he moves, and Eduardo gets a small surge of delight when he realises the gray stone charms are nowhere to be seen. "I can do that," he says, picking up the two fragments. "Who worked you?"
Mark gives him a sideways glance, then tugs his gloves off, tosses them into a corner of the desk and starts his computer up. "Give me five minutes with the Harvard registration database," he says—mouth twisting wryly to the side. "And I'll let you know."
Eduardo emails Ti that evening and gets a replacement bead two days later. Mark codes with one hand while Eduardo fights with the knots holding the bracelet of charms to his wrist in order to string the new one on beside the others. After that, Mark stops giving him the evil eye and starts sitting next to him on the sofa, or taking the offered cans of red bull when he looks up from coding.
Five weeks into the unlikely friendship, he lets Eduardo tug one of his bare hands off the keyboard and trace his gloved fingers across the knuckles.
"You know that's weird, right?" Mark says, stretching up to see his screen over Eduardo's head and typing with his free hand.
Eduardo shrugs, turning Mark's hand over so he can trace the patterns on the palm. He doesn't mention that he grew up in a worker household, that bare hands were next to never allowed out in public. He wonders what Mark would say if he mentioned that he's slept with people without ever seeing the way the skin moves on the back of their hands or the shape of the lines on their palm.
Mark doesn't wear gloves if his hands are itchy or if it's hot or if he thinks the game controllers are particularly slippy that day. Sometimes Eduardo has to grab him before he leaves the room with his hands bare. He doesn't wear gloves to work on his laptop and Eduardo has never once seen him coding with anything other than bare hands.
It's weird and unnatural and Eduardo has all kinds of thoughts that he's not used to. Thoughts about Mark's hands on his skin—his naked skin. Thoughts about Mark's fingers lacing with his, flesh on flesh.
He's called Ti, Rachel, even his mother. None of them can tell him anything about the Zuckerberg family or about what kind of worker Mark might be to the point where Eduardo is starting to have serious concerns on the subject of transformation.
Mark hasn't removed any of the beads from the bracelet. What else could it be? Eduardo has no charms to protect against transformation, and he shouldn't be thinking about letting Mark's hands anywhere near his skin.
That doesn't make the thoughts go away.
If anything they get stronger until one night Eduardo is tired and, okay, maybe he drank his beer—Chris' beer, whatever—too fast, but Mark's hands were flashing across the keyboard and he had seen that the phrase 'birthday card' is written in ink across the base of his thumb. Eduardo keeps thinking about it—about Mark sitting in class and unable to find paper because this is Mark and class and rolling up his glove in the middle of the lecture hall to scrawl the words across his naked flesh.
He doesn't even think about reaching for Mark's hand until he's holding it, his fingertips following the spiders scratch scrawl of the letters across the pale, smooth surface of skin.
Mark stops typing, reaches over, and tugs off Eduardo's glove in a sharp movement that results in Eduardo's bare fingertips pressing against 'birthday'. Mark's skin is a little rough, cool to the touch, totally fucking taboo. "You can't just—" Eduardo starts.
"Can't I?" Mark says and when Eduardo raises his head Mark's eyes are focused entirely on him. It's strange, having Mark's full and undivided attention. Almost stranger than his fingers on Mark's hand running down over the knuckle of his thumb. "I kind of thought I could."
Eduardo couldn't say who moved first but he found that Mark's lips were slightly chapped, his mouth tasted of red bull and he kissed with the same intense focus usually reserved for coding or arguments on the internet.
Eduardo's bare fingers had interlaced with Mark's and held on.
Eduardo couldn't say at what point it stops being 'wary friends' and starts being 'dating'. Maybe it's when they're cockblocked by Dustin for the fifth freaking time Dustin seriously. Maybe it's when Eduardo finally lures Mark into his own single dorm room with the promise of a twice as fast internet connection and tackles him into the bedroom before Mark can plug in his laptop.
Maybe it's spring break when Eduardo hesitates in the doorway and says, "Are we—you know—exclusive?" and Mark looks up at him confused.
"Do I look like I have time to find anyone else?" he says, which isn't actively forbidding Eduardo to sleep with other people but for some reason Eduardo breaks it off with Ti anyway.
He realises they might not be dating the night they're lying in bed looking up at the sky—well, Eduardo's looking at the sky, Mark is tapping something on his leg that might be coursework or the revolution—and Eduardo is flicking the beads of Mark's amulet casually against each other. "So go on," Eduardo says. "What kind of worker are you?"
Mark shrugs. "I'm not."
That throws Eduardo for a moment because they've been... whatever they are for months now and it can't be that big a secret. "Come on, this is Harvard. You have to pass a HBG test just to get in." Or bribe a doctor to lie about your HBG test, but there's no way Mark and his scholarship have that kind of money.
"It's illegal to discriminate based on—"
"Based on the possession or lack of hyperbathygammia," Eduardo parrots back at him, because who doesn't know that tired old rulebook. "Fine, don't tell me."
Mark curls his hand around Eduardo's, creating the now-familiar kernel of warmth between their palms. Before Mark, Eduardo never knew about that. It's the kind of thing that doesn't happen with gloves.
"Don't you trust me?" Eduardo says.
Mark's thumb rubs lightly against Eduardo's wrist. "Wouldn't be doing this if I didn't," he points out, because in spite of Mark's own somewhat carefree attitude towards gloves, he gets jumpy if Dustin or Chris or some other worker so much as bare the very heel of their palm in his presence.
Lots of people don't like being worked and lots of people don't trust workers. That's why there's still a roaring trade in charms even though cursework has been illegal for generations.
Eduardo flicks the fake luck charm with his fingernail. "Okay," he says. He's learned with Mark, it's easier not to push. One way or another he'll find out in the end.
Christy is wearing a white blouse under a black suit jacket and white silk opera gloves. Her black hair is pulled into a long ponytail with a leather tie that drops cords of amulets down her back. She stands in Alice's doorway looking Eduardo up and down in a particularly unimpressed fashion. "I told you this would happen," she says, tapping gloved hands against her folded arms.
Eduardo swallows. He's holding his jacket in one hand, the plane tickets and account details in the other, and with it off and his shirt wrinkled from sleep he feels painfully underdressed. "In fairness, I don't remember that."
"Could've told you that too, not that you'd have listened. I would've left you to flounder on principle, but to be honest Alice is a friend and she doesn't deserve to have to deal with your shit." She delivers all this in the same clipped, even tone, then turns on her heel to walk away. "Come on. Taxi's waiting."
Eduardo glances back to Alice who is standing well back by the sofa, clutching a mug of tea in both hands like it's both a shield and something to throw if anyone attacks her. It's clear a simple thank you won't be anything close to good enough.
Suddenly thirty million seems far too little. "Um, goodbye," he offers, lifting the bit of paper with her number. "I'll call you when—"
Her eyes flash up, sharp as knives as they catch his face. "Feel free not to," she says.
Before he can reply, Christy has dug her nails into his arm and dragged him out the door. "Get your ass in gear, Saverin. We're out of here."
The door swings shut behind him.
See, Eduardo never meant to lie to Mark. He was going to work the luck amulet as soon as he was ready and then Mark would be protected and everything would be fine. That was always the plan.
But the thing is—the thing is—most luck workers, say ninety eight percent, will always work good luck because the blowback is good and no one wants to give themselves bad luck. So, really, getting a luck charm is just cheating yourself out of good luck and no one would work Mark anyway, because Mark is Eduardo's friend and Eduardo is a Saverin.
It's just, so Mark has all these ideas. And maybe they're good ideas because Dustin and Chris who know more about that than Eduardo both nod enthusiastically and pull out white boards when Mark starts gesturing so hard he knocks things off the mantelpiece and spills red bull all over his OS coursework. But Eduardo knows as well as anyone in business that being good isn't enough to be successful. To be successful you need luck.
It starts with Coursematch. Mark is checking the day one sign-ups with a resigned air, muttering that people are idiots and can't they just see that obviously it's the greatest thing since someone twisted two red strands of cardboard together to create a twizzler.
And Eduardo is leaning over his shoulder, running his bare fingertips up and down Mark's wrist because Mark's skin is there and he's allowed and it will never stop being the most amazing thing ever.
It's not even much of a working, really. Eduardo just wants Mark's site to work, and he wants Mark to have all the luck in the world because he kind of desperately needs it and that wanting shivers in his fingertips and working Mark is as easy as working however many thousands of other people.
The number of sign-ups goes up by one, and a moment later the network crashes making Mark roll his eyes, kick back his chair and say "Bedroom?" because luck work goes both ways.
Coursematch increases at a steady rate after that. Nothing phenomenal, but better than any campus-based, dorm room lead start-up has any right to. Mark seems happier at his laptop every day and it's easy enough for Eduardo to fall into a rhythm of touching Mark's arm or his chest or wrapping a hand around Mark's cock and letting the tiny spark of luck flicker between them.
Eduardo's grades go up, Mark's professors occasionally forget that he only completes at most one in three assigned pieces of coursework. Over the summer, Eduardo visits Mark as many times as he can afford and makes $300,000 dollars betting oil futures.
It's just a bit of fun, really. He follows the weather websites and makes predictions based on rough incomplete data and has long nights of sex with touching all over and whatever ridiculous prediction he'd made comes true.
His father says it's good that he's learning, but he should probably try to be more subtle. Ti laughs and says Eduardo should buy him a car so he can fuck his hot boyfriend in the backseat. Eduardo is almost jealous that Ti gets a boyfriend when the most Eduardo can say is that he has a Mark, but not enough to do anything about it.
In spite of much urging from Ti, his mother and anyone with a passing connection to the Saverin family, he doesn't invite Mark to Miami. Mark still won't tell him what kind of worker he is, and Eduardo has visions of him transforming something while he visits and then the Saverin family kidnapping him.
Anyway, Mark's mom always smiles when she picks him up from the airport, and she cooks meatloaf from scratch because she says he needs feeding up, and Mark's bedroom is right up at the top of the house where no one can hear them.
Eduardo doesn't even care that it's common, luck working is the best.
Christy's home is an apartment five floors up. It has a double bed, a tiny kitchen nook and half the shelves seem to be empty, like there used to be another person's stuff living there but it had since been gathered up and thrown away. Nothing about the shape of the walls, the generic modern art paintings or the crowd of textbooks on the shelves ring any bells in Eduardo's head but he still has a vague feeling he's been here before.
Christy kicks off her heels by the door and throws her jacket over a chair. Her feet are bare, which means Eduardo can see the three blackened toes on her left foot.
Every time a death worker works someone, a part of them withers and dies. If a death worker is unlucky with blowback, they might lose a lung or their heart. Eduardo once met a death worker with one dead finger. He was from the same generation as Eduardo, back before the HBG test, when the only way a person could find out they were a worker was to work someone by accident.
Christy looks like she was that age too, but one accident is enough for a worker to learn control. Eduardo wonders who the second and third people were—and then wonders if it's one of the things he used to know.
He tears his eyes away. "Do you know me?"
Christy's slight frown says she knows exactly what he was just thinking, and she slides her feet into a pair of slippers, hiding the three dead toes from view. "I know everything you didn't want to remember," she says, walking through into the kitchen. She has to hoist herself onto the cabinet to pull a wine glass down from the top cupboard. The fridge is open just long enough for him to see four bottles of red in a neat line before she pulls out one that's half empty and fills her glass too full, practically to the brim. "Do you want to start with how you fucked everything up, or should we focus on me?"
It's just under two years ago and they're at a bar—on one of those things that would be dates if they ever dreamed of using the words 'date'. Eduardo is skipping a Young Investor's dinner, but it's fine because he's practically their king after failing to make a single dud investment over the summer. Considering how many workers there are at Harvard—basically every student—and how many of them must be luck workers—roughly sixty percent, according to the national average—he's mostly just amazed no one has accused him straight out of cheating the system.
Maybe they're just having trouble finding people to work. Genuine luck charms are the easiest type of charms to come across. Damn those money-hungry workers ruining it for everybody else.
Mark is tapping his fingers against the wood of the table. When Eduardo asked why they came out tonight rather than just going back to Mark's room and fucking on his bed, Mark had shrugged and muttered something that included 'Dustin', 'girl' and 'so fucking embarrassing I swear to god.'
"Which girl?" Eduardo asks, because their social circle is not exactly full of them and Dustin spends most of his time loudly proclaiming that this is because gay people are the worst wingmen.
Mark's expression sours. "Erica Albright," he says.
Erica is a physical worker for the Brennan family. Eduardo tends to keep a careful distance from her because the Brennans and the Saverins share a border and have thus never exactly been on good terms. He always thought she got on well with Mark though, they shared a kind of fuck the world attitude. "What's wrong with Erica?"
If anything, Mark's scowl gets more pronounced. "She called me an asshole for implying that she only got into Harvard because she's a mob worker."
This is why Mark needs new charms every few weeks in spite of Eduardo's presence in his life. Because he cannot keep his mouth shut in the face of people who are clearly capable of snapping him in half. Mark wears flipflops and shorts all through the year, he has no shortage of bare skin for anyone with a pair of holey gloves and a grudge, but he just can't seem to stop insulting people. "And why would you say that?"
Mark shrugs. "Because it's true. If she wasn't a worker she'd be at BU but she got a positive HBG test so they took her with open arms. I get sixteen hundred on my SATs and have to threaten the admissions office to get a chance, but a worker gets an automatic yes the moment their mob boss puts in a call."
"You had to—wait, you got 1600 on your SATs?"
Mark gives him a strange look. "Yeah," he says slowly. "I had to."
"You didn't have to—everyone knows Harvard's a worker school. You take the HBG test, tell them you're a transformation worker or whatever and they'll let you right in."
Mark stares at him like he's grown an extra head or something. "I'm not—you still think I'm a worker?" He grabs his drink off the table and downs about half in one gulp, throat bobbing as he swallows. "I'm human," he says, slamming the glass down. "I'm completely, 100 percent, bona fide human. I got 1600 on my SATs and called the admissions office to remind them of the old 'can't discriminate based on HBG test scores' law because that was the only way I'd have a chance at a place. I'm not a worker, I got a negative HBG, and if that's not good enough for you then you should probably go find Erica Albright and date her instead."
Eduardo opens his mouth to say 'you're human?' like hearing it again will somehow make Mark not being a worker fit properly in his worldview. Luckily, he thinks better of it because if eyes could curse, Mark would be death working him right at that moment. "I thought you just didn't want to tell me," Eduardo says instead, reaching out to press his leather clad fingers against Mark's worn old gloves.
Mark holds his scowl for a moment, then curls his hand around Eduardo's in return. "You really thought I was a transformation worker?" he says, his voice slipping into light mocking like they never had a fight. "I don't know whether to be flattered or ashamed that my boyfriend believes in fairytales."
Eduardo struggles to keep a straight face while his head skips a beat at the casual use of boyfriend. "I figured you had to be working those twizzlers into something a little more like food, it didn't occur to me that perhaps you genuinely lacked taste buds."
Mark laughs and pulls him across the table to press a quick kiss to his lips. "So I guess you didn't invite me over to your house because you were ashamed of your non-worker friend."
"I thought my father might steal you away into the heart of the Saverin mob." Eduardo knocks his beer to the side kissing Mark again, this time trying to pull him closer like the table might vanish if he pushes into it hard enough. If only Mark was a transformation worker. "My room?" he asks, when they pull away and he has table-shaped markings across his stomach.
Three nights later Eduardo realises he should have paid more attention to the Erica parts of the story. It's stupid o'clock in the morning and he had started up his computer to email his dad about some freshman he'd met in AEPi who has a physical worker brother moving to Miami. He needs to do it now because he's already having trouble spelling the guy's name and by tomorrow he won't remember it at all. He clicks open Mark's blog because it's in his bookmarks and if Mark's blogging it means he's not asleep and Eduardo can call him for drunk phone sex.
Eduardo knows the moment the blog loads that he should have sucked it up and gone over to Mark's room that evening. As soon as Mark said Erica would be coming—apparently Dustin's feeble flirting attempts were winning her over in spite of Mark's general existence—Eduardo had arranged to be somewhere else so as not to cause mob disputes. Now, he thinks he should probably have arranged for Mark to be somewhere else as well.
Billy Olsen thinks I should put pictures of Harvard workers up next to non-workers for people to guess, like they do on 'worker-or-not.com'. I think he's onto something.
Eduardo gets a horrible sinking feeling in his gut because of course Mark can find out which Harvard people are workers, he's been hacking into HBG test results since he arrived. He was the one who persuaded Eduardo to ask around the whole worker community just to find out what kind of worker Chris was.
I like the idea, but the fact is the non-worker Harvard population is too small to have any significance, so it's a choice between type of worker and mob affiliation. I like the idea of worker type because then some people will know and some people will be guessing—the results could be accurate but will trend towards chaos. They say sixty percent of workers are luck workers so that can be our base variable.
Eduardo stops reading, grabs his jacket from the back of his chair and his keys from the desk and runs over to Kirkland.
"I need you," Mark says the moment Eduardo leans around the wall. Eduardo doesn't even think, just steps forward and curves his bare hand around Mark's wrist, pushing luck out like maybe if he tries hard enough Mark won't get lynched by every single worker on campus.
"I'm here for you," Eduardo says, realising as he looks down at his hand on Mark's wrist that he must have left his gloves back in his dorm room. That's all Mark's fault. Back before all this bare-skin relationship nonsense Eduardo would keep them on at all time. "What happened with Erica?"
"No," Mark says, sounding confused. "What? I need the algorithm you used to rank memory workers."
"She punched him in the face," Chris calls from the sofa where he and Dustin are sitting. Dustin looks mournful at this, but then she's probably not likely to date him now. "It was awesome."
"Mark—" Eduardo starts, but Mark waves the concern off with one hand.
"I'm fine, she's a bitch. The algorithm, Wardo."
Eduardo picks up a pen and writes the algorithm across the window. It's pretty simple, mocked up for his father when he needed quick and easy feedback about the five memory workers on payroll. "This is a really bad idea," he says as Mark resumes typing. "If you aren't listing humans as well, that's identifying workers based on HBG test results. Which is illegal, if you didn't know."
"You know what's illegal?" Mark says. "Discriminating based on HBG test results. And yet everyone in the country knows that Harvard is a worker school—it isn't even questioned. There's a collection of mob families and they make enough money from making people pay for their own safety that they can buy the Government in whatever ways they like." He hits the return key with unnecessary force. "If people could pay workers for cursework without having to go through the mob for every tiny charm we wouldn't have this culture of superiority and rich mob bosses who can send their children to the best school in the country just because they can bribe their way in."
Eduardo glances back into the main room. Chris shrugs in a 'you can't deny he's right' kind of way. Dustin just looks morose, distracted from Mark's political drama by the realisation that his choice of roommates means he'll never get laid again. "If they catch you for this, and call you in front of the ad board, I'm not sure a rant about the injustice of the political system will work much in your favour."
Mark shrugs, hitting a few more keys. "The site's live."
Eduardo sinks down onto Mark's bed. "If my father finds out I helped you with this, he is going to kill me."
Christy is halfway down her second glass of wine, sitting on the kitchen counter and watching him pace. "I was trying to recruit you?" he says, not for the first time.
"Something about you seems to make otherwise retired curseworkers suddenly find their desire to start up again rising. Or maybe it's less about you and more about daddy's precious bank accounts." She swings her legs back and forth against the counter. "I didn't take you up on it, if it makes you feel any better."
"Do you use this Facebook thing instead?"
Christy's legs freeze, she stares at him for a moment then bursts out laughing. "You are fucking priceless, Eduardo Saverin." She slides off the counter, tugging casually at one silk glove. "Eduardo Saverin lost in the middle of America with no memory of who he is and what he's done." The glove slides off easily and Eduardo pulls back at the sight of bare skin. "I could kill you now and save a lot of people the trouble."
Eduardo is suddenly struck by the realisation that he was running to Singapore. Singapore which is really long way away and, incidentally, is one of the few countries with no links to the US mob scene.
In Singapore they set death workers' hands in concrete if they ever try to use their powers against another human being. Eduardo inches back further against the wall as Christy flexes her bare fingers. "I thought you were retired, you don't work people."
Christy raises her eyebrows in a momentary challenge, then taps him on the cheek with her one still gloved hand and turns away. "Luckily for you. I'd stay away from any of your old Saverin haunts though, just if I were you. Maybe wear a bag over your head if you have to leave the house."
"Why," Eduardo says, taking half a step forward behind she keeps dancing around this big truth but giving no details. "I decided to run to Singapore, I'm getting threats from death workers, I tried to call home and my own mother hates me and I don't know why."
Christy shrugs her shoulders. "You fucked up, Wardo." She walks past him out of the kitchen to a desk where a laptop sits. Moving the mouse brings up the Facebook homepage. "You fucked up so badly you paid to forget it. Do you really want me to remind you?"
Eduardo really wishes she would stop trying to talk him out of it because he's worried enough just thinking about Singapore and Christy had bared her hand like she actually considered touching him. He hasn't seen a bare hand in years, outside of his own skin in the privacy of the shower.
Mark doesn't wear gloves to code, he thinks again, glancing at the website Christy is logging into. The page that follows is the same style, white and blue. There's a picture of Christy's charms woven through her hair, a few notes about her age and gender.
'Death worker' is listed below 'relationship status: single' like it shouldn't be the most important secret of her life. Like the government and every mob wouldn't be after her if they knew.
"This," Christy says, turning the screen slightly so he can see it better—a list of friend requests and charm requests down one side, someone has written on some kind of wall 'Thank god I met you, I was starting to worry I was the only one!' "is Facebook."
There are no names anywhere on the page. No names and no pictures beyond vague outlines or sunsets or cartoon characters. It looks almost anonymous. "It's a worker site."
Christy smiles faintly. "No mobs, no government, no names. It's the worker site." Her smiles goes a little darker, like she's remembering something. "Guaranteed safety and anonymity. Ninety nine percent of the time."
"That's not a safe percentage." Eduardo traces his eyes across the site, looking for anything familiar or unexpected. Did he have a Facebook page? This website is the opposite of everything his Family stands for—it must have the government and every Family in the country trying to beat down its door.
"No," Christy says, in a way that suggests there's a lot more to this story. "It really isn't." She scrolls down to the bottom of the page so Eduardo can take in the links to terms and conditions, more blue, a small note 'a Mark Zuckerberg production.'
"Mark," Eduardo says, and Christy's face goes suddenly very interested and then switches to a nonchalance which is far too practiced to be anything but forced.
"Yeah," she says, false casual. "He made the site. What about him?"
Eduardo narrows his eyes at her. "How about you tell me. Why did he make this, why isn't he dead yet, why—" doesn't he wear gloves, is on the tip of Eduardo's tongue but that's stupid because how would he know.
Christy smiles a calculating smile, tapping her fingers against the laptop rim. "Mark Zuckerberg," she says, the name coiling easily off her tongue. "Harvard student, Kirkland suite. Gets in trouble with the university for hacking into their top secret worker records, even though as he pointed out they weren't exactly 'top secret' so much as 'sold to the highest bidder.'"
Harvard was a worker school, and workers did best in mobs. It only made sense that Harvard would let a few names slip out every once in a while. The school got money, the students got the best education in the country and the mobs got a fresh crop of workers to bring into the Family. Everybody wins. "What type of worker is he?"
Christy shrugs. "Depends which rumour you believe. I think somebody might have known once, but he never told anyone. I guess if you wanted to know you'd just have to ask him yourself."
Eduardo sighs. "I'm so sorry I don't know what is and isn't public knowledge what with the memory wipe and everything. It was a fair enough question."
Christy grins and hits the logout button. "It was a fair answer," she says, eyes flashing a challenge. "I'm making you a Facebook page."
Mark gets called in front of the ad board. On Eduardo's advice he claims his blog was a joke and the site actually included all people on campus—non workers included—and there wasn't enough evidence that he was lying. The proportion of workers on campus was too high. That combined with Eduardo pressing a bare hand to Mark's cheek before he goes in and the fact that the network crashed before anyone could adequately click through the whole site and work out who on campus wasn't a worker just about gets him off with an academic suspension.
"Six months," Mark says, falling into step beside him. "And apparently I need to work on my attitude. Like it's my fault their security has holes you could drive a train through. I mean it was just a stupid joke, god, they're worse than the Winklevii."
Eduardo stops so abruptly that he's almost pulled off his feet by Mark's hand clasped in his. "What? When did you have contact with the Winklevoss twins?"
Mark stops as well, turning around to frown at Eduardo stopped still in the middle of the snow covered path. "They cornered me after lectures, I'm sure I told you about this. They want a list of all the workers at Harvard who aren't mob affiliated and they seem to think I can get it. Like I'm going to individually track down every person with a positive HBG and grill them on their position towards organised crime." He tugs Eduardo's hand to try and make him walk. "Come on, it's freezing out here. I told them no, it's not a big deal. Anyway you have to see what I'm working on, it's—"
"What did they offer you in return?" Eduardo asks, letting himself be tugged along if only so his mind can run at a mile a minute because the Winklevoss Family is one of the larger ones—it has a huge Harvard presence to say the least—and if Mark has made enemies there Eduardo might just have to lock him in his room for about sixty years until everyone calms down.
"I think they wanted me to do it for the honour of working with a Family," Mark snorts. "Possibly they're also under the delusion that I'm some kind of worker and thought they could convince me to join through condescension." He glances sideways and rolls his eyes at the sight of Eduardo's concerned face. "It's fine, Wardo. They offered me protection if anyone comes after me about the Facemash thing. I said I'm pretty sure everyone's already forgotten about it but I said I'd take a look at the records and see if there was any way to make the list."
Eduardo can definitely understand why Erica punched Mark in the face. If he was a physical worker who could undo any chance of a black eye he would probably also be punching Mark right about now. "And have you?"
Mark shrugs. "I haven't looked into Families. I'm not going to give them the data, Wardo, it's not a big deal. As long as they think I'm looking they won't send people after me."
"And when you don't have any results to show them?"
Mark shrugs again, pushing open the door to Kirkland house. "They took me into the bike room of the Porcellian. The fucking bike room. Like I'm less that whatever dirt on their shoes they track upstairs." He heads up the wooden staircase. "Just because they're Winklevii goons and I'm not. For all they know I'm the greatest transformation worker ever known but until I'm mob affiliated I'm nothing. Chris and Dustin—they're workers, maybe they're good ones but they can't practice without joining in with organised crime. It's one thing for you to say you can think of mob uses for a dream worker, but what about good uses? I bet Dustin has a thousand plans for all the wonderful shit he could do if the law wasn't so stupid that even the slightest hint of a good dream could get him thrown in prison." He kicks open the door to his room, dragging Eduardo through it after him. "But I have this idea. It's like a website—"
"Not again, Mark," Eduardo says as Mark starts his computer up. "You and websites is not a good combination. We literally just got out of your ad board hearing. Six month suspension, remember?"
Mark waves this off with one hand. "So I'll have lots of free time. Anyway, this isn't like Facemash. People provide their own information, they connect in whatever ways they like. You can be completely anonymous to one person and completely open to the next. You can have friends, clients, people to avoid. It's like a Family but you're in control, you get to choose what you do and how you do it. You get to pick who you work with and what you work them to do."
Eduardo has no idea what to think. He wants to hear more and also run away because just saying this would make Mark the enemy of every Family in the vicinity. Including his own. "The Families won't like it. They love the way things are done now, they keep control and the world goes on turning. You can't just—if it's uncontrolled then what's to stop everyone working everyone else. I could help people cheat at tests, you could hire a memory worker to remove all memory of you from the mind of someone you hate."
"You can do that already," Mark says. "You just need mob connections and a small fortune."
"So you're what? A new mob, a better mob?"
"Think about it. A whole network of workers and humans all communicating directly to each other for the first time in decades, and we're in charge. We could run it, we could own it. This would change Harvard, there are so many workers here that can't even talk to each other but just think, what if they were anonymous."
It sounds good. It sounds amazing and Eduardo has to remind himself that this isn't just Mark having an idea, this is Mark putting a grenade in his hand and saying 'pull the pin, see what happens.'
But Mark is looking up at him and Eduardo has never been good at saying no to him. "What's it called?"
Mark smiles wider. "TheFacebook."
The thing is Mark's on a scholarship and Chris and Dustin are in so much debt it hurts which means the money can only really come from one place. When Eduardo's father calls to ask why he felt it was necessary to take a thousand dollars out of his account, Eduardo makes something up about a new laptop.
He tells himself over and over again that TheFacebook is a Harvard thing. Sure the local Families will be affected—the final clubs in particular—but the fallout won't make it that far south. He still doesn't tell his parents about it. He doesn't tell anyone and faster than should've been possible it's live. It's live and out there with Mark's name at the bottom of every single page.
"I had to," Mark says when Eduardo bursts into the room and finds Chris already yelling. "This way they know it's me and they can think it's just me and that's fine. If I put you and Dustin on, they'll go after you in class. If I put Eduardo on everyone will think the Saverins own it. This way is safest."
"Until they lynch you!" Chris shouts. "I know it's hard to believe, but we do actually like you and I would rather not have to spend tomorrow scraping you up off the pavement."
Mark is looking smug like he's thought of something no one else have and Eduardo realises what it is only, what, three weeks too late. "The page has a spot for people to list if they're mob affiliated or not," he says, wondering whether he should kiss Mark or punch him.
Mark fingerguns in Eduardo's direction. Punching is definitely looking more appealing. "So..."
"So the Winklevii will think you're gathering data for their stupid list and since my name isn't on it they'll give you the benefit of the doubt as to whether you're going to give it to me instead." Eduardo settles for collapsing onto the sofa while Chris looks down at him his expression saying if you knew this, why didn't you stop it before. "The Winklevii have the largest Family presence on campus. Tyler will break the legs of anyone who comes after you and Cameron will emotion work them so they don't come after you again."
"All of which works until TheFacebook has enough users that if anyone comes after it, they'll have to deal with the wrath of all the workers on campus." Mark picks up a packet of twizzlers, pointing one at Chris. "It was the best solution, you can't fight me on that."
Chris sighs heavily and drops on the sofa next to Eduardo. "If you had no doubts about it, why did you wait until it was too late before telling us?"
Mark shrugs. "Not everyone appreciates my genius. I need to go send the Winklevii the address so they can spread it around all their high class worker friends."
"You are going to die," Chris says, as Mark retreats out of the room. "You are going to be worked to death and I will just point and laugh." The door shuts and Chris drops his head into his hands. "What will it take to make him understand that workers are dangerous?"
Chris is fond of the 'workers-are-dangerous' line which is kind of hypocritical coming from an emotion worker. Eduardo could never dig out the exact details of Chris's talent, beyond the rumours from a whole army of friends of friends that he had once emotion worked a boy who now lived in Europe. Eduardo didn't know any details, but judging from Chris now it had not exactly gone well.
"I think he understands that they're dangerous," Eduardo says—thinking about how careful Mark is with his charms, in spite of the amount of bare skin he shows and how long it took him to lower his guard around Eduardo. "He just has problems believing anyone else is clever."
Christy sets up a Facebook page under the name 'WS' with Eduardo's date of birth, gender and a picture of a rain cloud. She sets his relationship status to 'it's complicated', his abilities to 'luck worker' and his Family connections to 'unaffiliated'. Eduardo tries not to look at that box. Christy has a landline phone in the hall and he keeps glancing towards the door to catch a glimpse of it, wondering if he could try to call home again.
Maybe if he just tried to explain...
He shakes that thought off. He's been in this situation for all of nine hours and he's already wishing he could run and hide in his parent's house. No way. He's Eduardo Saverin, heir of the Saverin family and he will damn well be better than that.
Christy seems to have mellowed towards him a little, at least. She leaves the laptop running in the corner of the room and fetches a blanket from somewhere. She even pulls two more bottles of wine out the fridge and gives him one of them. It tastes cheap, like someone's chilled it in the naive hope that might make it better. He takes a long swallow anyway, feeling it warm him and make him a little queasy simultaneously.
"God," Christy says, reminding Eduardo that she's already a whole lot drunker than him. "I'd forgotten how hot it is when you do that."
Eduardo lowers the bottle. "Are we—I mean, were we -?"
"Dating?" Christy offers, topping up her glass to the point where Eduardo is just impressed it's not overflowing onto the sofa. "No."
Eduardo wants to ask if they were having sex anyway—he can't see a second bedroom anywhere in the apartment—but the way Christy has drawn her knees up on the sofa suggests she doesn't want to take that topic any further.
Except... it's just a slight shift of position, really, but somehow in the back of Eduardo's head it means don't push it like the link is still there though the context is gone. That combined with this damn thing about Mark and coding is just more evidence that memory work is weird.
The silence drags out to the point of awkward and then slightly further. Christy is holding her wine glass up to the light from the laptop screen—swilling the liquid round and round in circles—and Eduardo finds his eyes following it. The light through the curtains is fading, leaving just the white glow of the Facebook page to light the room.
Eduardo takes another long drink of wine and asks the question that's been pushing at him for the last five hours. "Christy?"
Her eyes flash up from the glass. "Eduardo."
"Do I know Mark Zuckerberg?"
Her red lips twist into a slightly mocking smile. "Well," she says. "You certainly talked about him a lot."
Christy starts off as a name and room number on a sheet of paper pushed into Eduardo's hands by a random Saverin lackey in the corridors. When he calls his father to complain—first, recruitment is grunt work and second if the leader of the Saverin family wants to contact his son why not use a phone like a normal human being—all he gets is the familiar speech about 'not answering your phone' and 'neglecting Family interests.'
"I know you have all these ridiculous ideas about your boyfriend's vanity project but I really can't see it being as good for this Family as you may be hoping."
Of course it was too much to hope that news about Facebook wouldn't get back to Miami. There may have been fewer Saverins on campus than other Families, but it didn't mean Eduardo's father didn't have his fair share of spies ready and waiting to report on Eduardo's every move.
The expansion probably didn't help—Stanford, Yale and Columbia. It's not huge but they're starting to become news, Mark's name showing up in all the wrong places. The Winklevii are impatient and itching for a fight waiting for the website they've been promised. Eduardo hasn't said anything outright, but the Saverins are tapping their feet waiting for the website they think they've been promised and the government sent Mark a Strongly Worded Letter asking him to please take the website down.
"I'm not selling cursework," Mark said when Eduardo eventually found the letter, which had been folded up as small as it could get and used to balance the constantly-wobbling table in the lounge. "It's just a social network, they haven't got anything they can legitimately come after me for."
Eduardo almost asked if there was anything Mark wasn't telling him, then decided that if there was more disaster in their lives he probably didn't want to know.
He curses Mark daily now. He would do it hourly if it wasn't for the fact that there are already a few too many coincidences happening around the Kirkland suite to write off entirely as due to random chance. Eduardo notices Mark frowning down at his string of amulets one day and takes care to brush his hands across Dustin's arms.
It's not that he's afraid of Mark finding out he's been worked. It's just—Mark might not like it, so it's better to just keep it quiet until all the stress dies down and tell him later. Later is better.
Mark doesn't ask if Eduardo actually worked Dustin so Eduardo doesn't have to lie. He does ask about Christy, but Eduardo tries not to lie about that either.
"She hasn't got a page," Mark says, his laptop resting on his bare stomach as Eduardo attempts to fall asleep beside him.
"I thought it was anonymous," Eduardo says, reaching out to curve a hand around Mark's thigh like that could possibly distract him from the computer long enough to get him to sleep. "How would you know?"
Mark shrugs. "I have my methods." He pulls up a black screen and starts typing again. Eduardo groans pointedly and rolls over onto his other side so at least he's shielded from the light. He closes his eyes deliberately and tries to ignore the irregular tapping across the keyboard.
"You don't have a page," Mark says, just as Eduardo is almost drifting off. At least the damn typing stops.
"My father would kill me. Next question."
There's a pause, then the click of the laptop closing and Mark shifts down, resting his arm over Eduardo's waist and his face against the back of Eduardo's neck. "You don't have to do what your father says all the time."
Easy enough for Mark to say. When Mark's father found out about Facebook he said 'I wish you hadn't put yourself in danger like that' and installed a new lock on the door. Eduardo got thinly veiled threats about disinheritance and his name wasn't anywhere near the damn thing. "If I can recruit Christy, it might get him off our back for a little longer."
Mark sighs, a long breath of air against Eduardo's skin. "If you say so," he says, barely loud enough for Eduardo to hear.
Eduardo reaches up, lacing his fingers with Mark's hand against his own ribs. "I love you, okay?"
Mark's hand squeezes his back. "Okay."
Christy wears red leather gloves, a black pea coat and buys a tall cappuccino with a slice of shortcake in the Starbucks where Eduardo managed to convince her to meet him. She refuses to give a straight yes/no about whether she's a worker, she casually mentions that she's opposed to the concept of organised crime and she asks him if it's true he knows Mark Zuckerberg.
After ten minutes when it's clear to her Eduardo wants a straight answer, is in a mob and has no intention of talking about Mark, she pulls a travel mug out of her bag and tips the cappuccino into it. "If you do happen to see Mark," she says, pulling a small pad of post-it notes with hearts and 'a message from Christy' along the bottom. "Tell him Sean Parker wants a word." She tears the top page off, passing it across the table. The number is neatly written along the top, the name below it.
"I'm sure we'll meet again," Eduardo says, standing up to shake her hand.
Christy gives his gloves a faintly dirty look. "I hope not."
Not for the first time, Eduardo wakes up on an unfamiliar sofa with little to no memory of the night before. Unlike the previous time, however, the killer headache and the empty bottles of wine rolling on the floor next to him are very good clues as to why his memories seem to have some somewhat hazy.
He lifts a hand to his neck just in case, but the string of amulets is as secure today as it had been all his life before yesterday morning.
There's a crash from somewhere and he sits up in time to hear someone retching behind one of the only two doors in the apartment. He half climbs, half falls off the sofa and stumbles across the floor to the door, knocking as softly as possible against the wood, just in case he can somehow avoid the sounds going straight to his headache. "Christy?"
"Motherfucking shit for brains fucking useless dick," comes through the door. Definitely Christy. He pushes the door forward slowly, but she's fully dressed—kneeling by the toilet and clutching her hair back with one hand. Her amulets are tied around her wrist—the long cords wrapped around so the stones touch her skin.
"Do you have any advil?" he asks.
"Ha," she says, somewhat hoarsely. "I did, but then I took it. My need was greater than yours. I drank at least twice as much as you."
Eduardo can't exactly remember, but she looks pretty wrecked so he's prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt. "That may have been a bad idea."
"You think?" she says. "Unfortunately I was going through some crap and I needed a drink or ten to deal with it so," she flaps a hand in his direction. "Go stick your head under the tap and make breakfast. You need to be out of the house in half an hour."
Eduardo hesitates, one hand on the door. "Why?"
"Because after you lost consciousness I spent an informative hour drunkenly arranging you a meeting with one Mark Zuckerberg and since he never leaves the Facebook hideout or meets with anyone, you should probably be on time."
Sean Parker is an asshole. Albeit an asshole with a wide smile and an even wider network of contacts and associates in the 'sub-legal, outer-Family curseworker' scene. His gloves are a cheap faux-leather that shines like plastic and crinkles instead of creasing when Eduardo shakes his hand.
Mark had arranged the meeting while Eduardo tracked Christy from one side of campus to another to try and work out if she had any Family affiliations. Death workers usually did, otherwise they ended up in prison. The Families were very good at keeping people out of prison. Mark had cornered Eduardo yesterday night to go on about Napster and Sean 'The Lord Our God' Parker but Eduardo had been tired and his feet had hurt and Mark's eyes lit up when he was excited so Eduardo only actually managed to listen for about a minute before he was pinning Mark up against the wall.
He had worked luck all across Mark's neck, down his ribs, across his stomach. He pushed and pushed until he could barely think any longer just in the hope that it would have some effect on Mark's bull-headed stubbornness. If they were lucky, Parker wouldn't show up or wouldn't be interested or—just maybe—would be exactly the person TheFacebook needed.
Unfortunately it doesn't seem to have worked because Sean Parker is a smarmy asshole who smiles too widely at the pretty waiters and talks right over the other ones.
Mark, of course, drinks in every word like he's spent three months lost in a desert. Eduardo should have taken him to Miami—the Saverin world is positively bursting with men like Sean Parker. Snake oil salesmen with an ingratiating smile and a touch of emotion work the moment things don't seem to be going their way.
Eduardo finds Mark's hand under the table, just so he can rub his thumb up and touch each of the six beads on Mark's amulet. Nothing's broken, not even the tiniest crack. Damn.
"It's the Families that are ruining the workers lives in this country," Sean says, with possibly the hundredth Significant Look at Eduardo of the night. Eduardo gets it, okay. Sean hates everyone and anyone who's ever been in a mob for blah blah mumble mumble reasons that probably boil down to none of the mobs would let him in. "MySpace is dying at this moment, Friendster died way back because they both fell to the lure of the mob. Once you let a Family in—" Significant Look #101 "- you can't get them out. They have names, locations. They can take down your website from the inside out and good luck attracting users then."
"The Families have personnel, money and resources," Eduardo snaps out, because he has spent two hours being patient for Mark's sake but he has had enough. "I mean maybe you think we can run TheFacebook just like Napster but I'm not so sure—I mean I quite like not being in jail."
Sean's look of dislike gets a whole lot less subtle, but he doesn't say anything, just pastes a smile back over it before turning to Mark. "I know it's easy to think you're king of the world but at some point you have to recognise that everyone is coming after you, and I mean everyone. And that's cool—that's the best because that's how you know you've made it, but the Government won't do you any favours. The Families aren't going to shelter you without you handing TheFacebook to them so they can hang, draw and quarter it."
"He can be protected," Eduardo says, inching closer to Mark and resisting the urge to luck work him right there at the table.
Sean laughs. "Facebook needs to drop the 'the', expand into more schools and go into hiding. I know a few sweet spots in Palo Alto so—"
Eduardo kicks back his chair. "Mark, we need to get back to the hotel before they lock the front doors."
Mark frowns a little, but there isn't a clock in view and he's never worn a watch because either he has his laptop clock in front of him or Eduardo's wrist knocking next to his hand.
Sean just smiles faintly, holding out his hand to Mark. "You have my number. Any time you want, just call." He winks. "And I meant it about the 'the'."
Eduardo half drags Mark out of the restaurant, leaving Sean to pay whatever ludicrous bill they accumulated with whatever ill gotten money he has left.
"We don't need him," Eduardo says, the moment the door to the taxi closes and Sean Parker is left out on the curb. "He's a wild card, he's not affiliated with anyone. He knows a few workers from the dregs of society—this isn't the mob, this is below the mob and—"
"So he's not wearing a three piece suit and following the commands of some rich old guy, that's what TheFacebook is about." Mark replies. "People breaking away from the mob. Napster was shut down by the Government because it existed at the wrong time—"
"And because it was making money by charging people to get work done. It was basically a mob just done across the internet and it was found and shut down because the FBI could just follow the money. Parker cut his losses, divorced responsibility, got all his subordinates sent to prison and walked scot free. The only advantage TheFacebook has is that we don't have any money for anyone to track." Eduardo cuts himself off because Mark is staring out the window, clearly hardly listening to a word. "He's an emotion worker," Eduardo says, with the confidence of someone who has met enough emotion workers to recognise an amateur. "You really trust him?"
Mark shrugs, lifting his string of amulets to show that none of them are broken. "If I'm choosing between Sean Parker and the Miami mob? Yeah, I trust him."
"He uses people to get what he wants."
"What he wants and what I want are the same thing." Mark lowers his wrist, reaching across the gap to take Eduardo's hand. "He has contacts who aren't in the Government or the mob."
Eduardo sighs. "I know people who aren't in the Family too, Mark."
"Not like him." Mark squeezes slightly tighter. "We need him."
How much they need him doesn't become apparent for a month. Eduardo knows Mark has stayed in contact with Sean but he's doing his best to simultaneously ignore it and send tendrils out with all the sources he knows in search of that one bit of dirt that will put Mark off Sean forever.
"He's definitely an emotion worker," Eduardo says.
"So get me more charms," Mark shrugs.
"He's bankrupt," Eduardo says. "As in, he has less money than you and I've heard he's going home with girls just for somewhere to sleep."
"So?" Mark shrugs. "We have money."
"None of the mobs want him because he's too much of a liability," Eduardo says.
Mark gives him a sideways look. "You do realise that's actually good for us?"
At the end of a long week, Eduardo drops onto the bed behind Mark and watches Mark's fingers still on the keyboard—his shoulders inching up defensively like he knows what's coming. Eduardo sighs and stands up again, walking over to lean on the back of Mark's chair and massage the points in Mark's shoulders where the tension always builds. "He's a dick," Eduardo says. "And I don't like him."
Mark just sighs, and tilts the chair back to kiss him. "I know."
Eduardo doesn't stop asking around after that, but he stops talking to Mark about it. They settle back into a mostly normal routine except that sometimes Mark leaves the room to answer a phone call and Eduardo knows he's talking to Sean. It seems to be happening less and less as the weeks go by though, and Eduardo is just starting to hope maybe he can actually not do anything at all and Mark will still manage to lose Sean for good when one day he arrives at the dorm room to see Chris and Dustin looking at a newspaper with identical expressions of doom.
When something is bad enough to get Dustin down, it has to be pretty bad. Eduardo lets the door swing shut on its hinge so it slams and they both jolt—Dustin going at least a foot into the air—and turn to see him. "Eduardo," Dustin says too quickly. "Mark is on the phone with... out. Mark is out."
Eduardo tries not to grind his teeth at the thought of Mark being on the phone with Sean again. "I'll wait for him."
"Yes," Dustin says. "Yes you could do that because you do that a lot and I think Mark enjoys it even though we all want to wear headphones." Dustin babbles when he's nervous and it's giving Eduardo a headache. "Although maybe you should go and call your parents unless they already know in which case—um—"
"Dustin," Chris says, calm and reasonable. Dustin's mouth snaps shut and Eduardo is left very confused with Chris looking at him from the sofa, holding a paper in one hand. "It's not true," Chris says quietly. "Right, Wardo?"
He sounds so serious he could be asking if Eduardo had killed a man. "What's not true?" Eduardo asks. "Where's Mark?"
"He's on the phone with the Wink-"
"Dustin," Chris says, cutting him off sharply before turning back to Eduardo. "You don't even know, do you?" His hand falls a little so Eduardo can see he's holding a copy of the Crimson.
Eduardo takes a step closer. "I don't know what you're talking about, no." He holds out a hand for the paper. "Tell me what happened?"
"The Winklevosses and the Saverins are falling into a turf war over ownership of Facebook," Chris says, low and emotion-free. "I know, because I beat it out of Mark, why the Winklevii think they have a claim. Do you want to tell me why your father believes the whole website is the property of the Saverin family and has been since launch?"
Eduardo swallows. "He knows the money came from me—I guess he assumes I negotiated for a controlling share in the company and because I'm the Family, that share goes to him."
"Thirty percent," Chris says, like he thinks Eduardo doesn't know. It hasn't exactly mattered so far, thirty percent of nothing is still nothing however you look at it. "You have thirty percent of the company and none of that thirty percent goes to the Saverin family."
"I know." He knows very well. He just may have forgotten to make sure his father knew. "Legally they have no claim to it. The documents you drew up are all in my name, my signature. Mark made you put in the clause about the site not belonging to the Family. Legally we're fine."
Chris shakes his head like he can't believe Eduardo is so stupid. "Legally we have a contract written by me with the assistance of Harvard Legal Services while the Winklevosses and your family have all the lawyers money can buy. Legally we have no money for a lawyer and the government will laugh a case about ownership of an illegal website out of trial anyway. Legally both mobs can hire physical workers to come and break our legs if we so much as make a move."
That isn't actually legal, but Eduardo gets where he's coming from. Before he can reply, the bathroom door opens and Mark steps out.
"We have twenty-four hours to give the Winklevosses control of Facebook before they send their team of workers to our door. Wardo can talk to the Saverins when he gets -" He notices Eduardo standing there for the first time and seems momentarily thrown by it. "You know?" he says, like it was something that hadn't even crossed his mind.
"Just found out," Eduardo says, raising the copy of the Crimson in his hand. Mark nods as though the world has just righted itself beneath his feet.
"So you can talk to your family and we have 24 hours of respite from the Winklevosses and I'll make a post on Facebook." He stops talking to look around at them, fingers interlacing then pulling apart over and over. "Then we should—" his eyes flash around the room. The games console tower that falls over every other week meaning the GameCube is more dent than actual surface. The mini-fridge that Chris always keeps stocked even though he barely drinks. The random collection of crap that has accumulated somehow on the mantelpiece. "Then we should go," Mark says, with more conviction than shows on his face. "We should—" he hesitates again, eyes caught by the tarnished mirror, the sofa that's been worn in the shape of Dustin's ass. "Sean knows a place in Palo Alto. We can stay there, keep Facebook going, keep expanding."
Running. They're running. Eduardo has never run from a fight before, but then he's always had the might of the Saverin family at his back.
The Saverins are starting a turf war with the Winklevosses. Workers are going to die over this, over a website, and Mark is going to have to go into hiding. It's easy, in a dorm room with mariocart and Mark's fingers bare and nimble, to forget the world outside. It's easy to see 30,000 users as a meaningless number when really that's people who aren't in Families. People who aren't working for secret government programs. People who are breaking the law.
The whole room seems to have frozen after Mark's stumbling speech but to Eduardo's surprise, it's Dustin who moves first. Standing up and walking over to Mark like he feels the need to take sides. Eduardo didn't realise there were sides, and a moment later he realises maybe he didn't notice because he's on the wrong one.
"Okay," Chris says, not standing up but looking at Mark like he's made the decision. "Yes, you're right. We have to go."
They all have to. None of them are mob affiliated. Mark isn't even a worker, there's no one around who would take a bullet for them. They don't have people or protection or any hope of standing up to the Winklevoss Family alone.
Eduardo is the only person here with the choice. He could pretend he never heard this, he could go back to his Family and say Mark and Facebook disappeared before he could get to them. Eduardo could let Facebook—could let Mark—slip out of his fingers once and for all.
Mark looks at him, his expression getting less and less sure as the silence drags on.
"Yeah," Eduardo says—and he knows it's been minutes if anything but his throat feels dry like he hasn't spoken in years. "Yeah. Let's go."
Eduardo ironed his shirt and trousers so they looked a little less like he'd slept in them—he'd asked Christy for anything that used to belong to him but she'd just shrugged innocently and said she burned it all—but he didn't have time to wash them so he feels horribly underdressed as he sits in the front of an overpriced coffee shop sipping a cup of tea and watching the people coming in and out.
Either Mark is twenty minutes late or he's been and gone without Eduardo noticing. Probably the latter, since a person doesn't become CEO of a company Christy had casually informed him is now rumoured to be worth billions without being the pinnacle of organisation.
Most likely, Christy was lying to see if he bought it. Play the rich amnesiac sucker for all he's worth. God, maybe he never knew her at all and this is all some elaborate con run by both girls. He never actually read Alice's book, after all. Christy bundled him in a taxi after breakfast, giving the address and money to the driver. He has her phone number but not her address, if she doesn't reply then he's stuck out on the streets.
He touches his pocket where the account details sit. They're still there—but all she had to do was copy them while he was sleeping.
He never even saw the alleged message from Mark. He's an idiot, a complete fucking idiot led on by two masterminds and a ghost of a memory that Alice could easily have implanted on purpose. He's going to leave. He's going to get up and go, transfer all the money into a different account before Christy can get at it and go back home. He'll talk to his mother face to face, work out whatever she thinks happened and then he'll find a memory worker to put his head back.
He looks up at the door. Christy has had at least an hour, not even counting however much time he spent unconscious last night. Five more minutes can't hurt. There's a dude in a GAP hoodie walking up, hands pushed into the pocket at the front. Eduardo will just sit here until the dude has come in, bought his coffee and left. Five minutes.
The bell rings as Hoodie walks into the shop. He hesitates briefly at the entrance, then walks over to the counter behind Eduardo. Eduardo counts off the time in his head without looking around. Two minutes queuing. Thirty seconds to order. A minute while they make the drink. Thirty seconds to take it and walk out.
Three minutes and forty five seconds later, Hoodie places a mug on the table in front of Eduardo and sits down behind it. He's knocked back the hood of his jumper to reveal a mess of curly hair and a face that he keeps carefully expressionless.
"Sorry," Eduardo says. "I'm waiting for someone."
Hoodie frowns a tiny bit—his brow drawing together about half an inch. "Who?"
"That's not exactly your concern."
Hoodie leans back a little in his seat. "It's just funny," he says. "Because I came here to meet someone too and you look just like him." He speaks slowly, like he's waiting for Eduardo to interrupt and say this was all a joke. Eduardo seriously has no idea what's going on.
Hoodie's—Mark's?—eyes flash up, checking the grandmother on the table beside them, the crowd of teenage girls on the other side of the shop like any of them could be listening in. After a moment he looks back at Eduardo, cupping his hands around the mug on the table. "Wardo."
Eduardo opens his mouth to say 'that's not my name' then realises Mark used it easily, like he's used it before. Eduardo tries to remember if he knows anyone who calls him by a nickname. Nothing comes to mind. "Is that what you call me?" he asks, and it's like once he starts he can't stop. "Do you know me? How do I know you? Are you really Mark—" he cuts himself off, glancing at the grandmother and the teenage girls before leaning forward to finish under his breath. "Zuckerberg?"
Mark flinches a little at his name, slicing one hand sideways in a silent instruction to cut that out. "Maybe I am," he says, eyes flashing up to the CCTV screen over the door. "Maybe I'm not. Shouldn't you know?"
Eduardo is tired, fed-up, confused and so very tired of riddles. "I don't know," he says, in what if half an undertone and half a hiss. "All I know is that I woke up yesterday with three years of my life missing and everyone I've met since seems to have done their utmost to hint at thousands of things that I don't know without pausing to think that maybe they should just say outright what those things are. I am tired of riddles and guessing games and being sent on wild goose chases to meet people who clearly don't even know I exist and I just want some answers as to why I'm estranged from my family, richer than I ever dreamed of and why I decided to wipe three years from my own fucking memory."
Mark stares at him for a moment that seems to drag on and on until Eduardo wants to punch him in the face or leave all over again.
Then, "Three years?" Mark says, his voice strangely small. "That would be—July 2002. Just after the Harvard letters." He sounds so lost at the thought that Eduardo feels his rage disappearing as much as he tries to cling onto it.
"Just before," Eduardo says. "I don't—did I get in?" He remembers Alice mentioning that Mark was at Harvard. Did they meet there?
Mark nods somewhat distractedly, mouthing 'three years' to himself.
"And you were my—what? Roommate? Study buddy?"
Mark opens his mouth, closes it, thinks for a moment. "Friend," he says eventually. "We were friends." He hesitates for a moment, one hand moving to twist something on his wrist—a leather cord with a single tiger-eye gem threaded onto it. "You did some luck work for me," Mark says. "To help the site. If I'm honest, I shouldn't have come—this is a huge risk—but we're having a few issues with Facebook and I was just praying that it was really you and you could work me again." He glances around the shop for the third time, before tugging up the sleeve of his hoodie just enough to expose a slice of wrist above the hem of his glove.
His skin is pale, smooth and Eduardo doesn't need a second invitation to tug his glove up and touch it—just the very heel of his palm showing. Whatever the bead on Mark's wrist is, it isn't a luck charm and it's easy to work him—just a quick brush of good luck and, more importantly, the feel of Mark's skin against his. Mark's wrist is soft, slightly cooler than Eduardo's hand.
Eduardo wants to lick it.
"That's it?" Mark says, as Eduardo pulls his hand away. As much as he'd like to touch Mark's skin forever, they are still in public and people won't turn a blind eye forever. Mark rolls the bead between his fingers, incidentally not covering up the slice of skin.
"That's it," Eduardo confirms, watching the way Mark's fingers roll the bead back and forth, the slight hint of how his skin creases just visible under the stretched cotton gloves. Then in a moment it's gone, the hoodie sleeve pulled back down sharply to hide both the skin and the bead.
"Do you have somewhere to go?" Mark asks, pushing his untouched coffee to the side.
Eduardo thinks about it, about calling Christy and going back to her dim apartment, lumpy sofa and stupid cryptic hints. "I don't know where I live now so—" he shrugs. "Not really, no."
Mark nods, suddenly antsy—eyes darting all over the shop and hands twitching on the table. "Come back with me." His hand darts out to grab Eduardo's, fingers firm and warm between the layers of fabric between them. "Come back and I'll tell you everything."
Eduardo closes his fingers around Mark's hand, stares into Mark's eyes. He has no memories of this face at all. But he wants to make some. "Okay," he hears himself say. "Sure."
Christy opens the door with a Harvard hoodie pulled hastily over pink pyjama bottoms, her string of amulets wrapped around her wrist, the ends held tight in her gloved hand. When she sees Eduardo, she rolls her eyes and starts to shut the door again. "The answer is no, Saverin, and it's going to stay no if I have to get a restraining order."
Eduardo slams his foot between the door and frame before it can slam shut in his face. "I'm not here for my parents. I swear to god I'm not."
Christy slams the door casually on his foot again, hard enough that he winces. "Oh dear," she says. "There seems to be something blocking my door. Maybe if I try hard enough I can break it." She pushes the door out again and Eduardo grabs the frame before she can slam it.
"Christy, please. My parents aren't—" he glances up the corridor to see a group of girls by the window not even pretending they aren't staring. A footballer is leaning nonchalantly at the wall and carefully looking at nothing while clearly listening hard.
He can't talk in front of them. He barely even knows what to tell Christy—how do you explain that you called your parents up to explain a misunderstanding and somehow ended up in a three hour shouting match that ended with them shouting that you're disowned. How do you explain that you've been cut off from your money, your friends, your entire Family?
"I'm not with them," Eduardo says, unable to stop the desperation bleeding through into his voice. "I'm not—" he swallows. "I don't have anywhere else to go."
He doesn't know anyone else. A few faces in AEPi that he can barely attach names to. The Young Investor's Association that he hasn't been to since Mark first mentioned the word Facebook. Somehow over the years his social circle has shrunk entirely to one dorm room and a handful of Saverin Family members who he corners on campus whenever he needs more information for Mark.
And now there's no one but a single death worker who doesn't even like him, but is at least relenting her death grip on the door a little. "What the fuck is going on, Saverin?"
Eduardo glances down the corridor. The girls jump and pretend to be looking at something else before he can meet their eyes. "Inside," he says. "Please. I'll tell you everything."
Christy deliberates for a long agonising moment, then takes half a step back to expose just enough empty doorway for him to slip past and get inside. She slams the door shut behind him with a well practiced flick of her wrist and turns to lean against it, folding her arms and looking down at him. "What happened, Mark get tired of your fancy clothes and kick you out until you could procure a decent hoodie and flip-flops? I mean I'll do my best if it means getting you out of here, but I somehow doubt I'll have anything in your s-"
"They're gone," Eduardo interrupts, sitting on the sofa and curling his hands around the back of his neck because it's this or endlessly pacing and his feet are already sore from the hours of waiting for Christy to get home. "They had to go, there was no choice, they're gone." Maybe if he says it three times it'll sink in. There's always that slight chance.
Christy frowns, locking the door and taking a few steps forward. "Who?"
"Mark, Chris, Dustin," he chokes, resting his elbows on his knees which drags his head down to stare at the floor. "I don't know what happened to Billy. And Andrew—no one was supposed to know he was even involved." Andrew was with Nonomura—had been with Nonomura. Who even knew now? He drags his hands apart to look up at her. Christy is just standing in the doorway, clutching her simple string of charms in one hand.
She killed someone once. She must've done, if his father knew she was a death worker. Eduardo had never really realised that before. He knew—because it was the only option—but he'd never sat down and realised. "There's a turf war between the Winklevosses and my—and the Saverins. They both thought they owned Facebook. Mark and—they had to go, get out before the Winklevii sent workers after them."
Christ snorts. "I always knew the Saverins owned Facebook. They're all slimy shits in that Family—you included."
Eduardo shakes his head, looking back at the floor. "They didn't. They don't. Mark owns Facebook," he swallows. "Just Mark. But people think that I had a hand in it and there's talk so I couldn't go with them—I couldn't. They need to get away and I need to not be there."
Christy sinks slowly onto the sofa next to him, and a moment later he can feel the small beads of the amulet on her wrist digging into his back as she touches his shoulder. "They left without you."
Eduardo closes his eyes and doesn't think of it like that. Doesn't miss Mark already like he's further away than the hundred or so miles they could have travelled in Dustin's piece-of-shit car. "They had to. I talked to my parents, they were going to get lawyers and start a media campaign and send people to take over Facebook by force if necessary. I told them I wouldn't, I said if they wanted to go after Facebook they would have to go after me too and, yeah, that turned out to be less of a problem for them than I thought." It's funny, really, that he thought they'd care. Funny in a way that would make him laugh if he wasn't scared it would come out like hysteria. "I have to stay away from Facebook, people have to stop associating me with Facebook so I couldn't go away with them."
"And they just left without you?"
Eduardo closes his eyes. "I said I had to meet with my parents and I'd go down in a few days. Once they find somewhere to hide out and get Facebook all set up, Chris will let Mark know that I'm staying here." Chris was always the sensible one. He had stopped trying to argue once it was clear that Eduardo knew what he was doing, and settled for giving him a quick tight hug.
"I know you hate working," Eduardo had said. "But if anyone comes, he needs to be protected."
Chris hadn't asked who Eduardo was talking about—he didn't need to. He had just nodded, and gone to help Dustin finish packing while Eduardo went next door to lie down in bed next to Mark's sleeping body and run his fingertips up and down Mark's bare back—pushing luck like he could do enough to last a lifetime.
"Wait," Christy says. "If you can't go to your family and Mark's gone, what are you going to do now? It's summer—you can't just move into my dorm room forever."
Eduardo shrugs, fighting down a wry smile. "I have absolutely no idea."
So that's how they end up getting an apartment together.
The apartment in New York is cramped and awkward. They share a bed because it's the only thing they could afford, and as such they both sleep fully clothed and gloved with amulets tied tight around their necks. Eduardo has to snatch moments in the shower—in the five minutes before the water runs cold—to think about Mark, Mark's fingers Mark's bare skin twisted up against his and comes against the wall just before the first trickle of ice water spills down his back.
Christy has two blackened toes. One night they're curled up on the sofa watching come terrible TV movie while she paints her toenails a bright scarlet that no one will ever see and she glances over to see him watching her. "They both deserved it," she says. "If that's what you're worried about."
"That's not—I was just thinking why paint them if no one will see. I mean as soon as you tried to show them off people would just see the black and know."
"Is this where you tell me that if I was in a Family I would be able to walk bare foot through the mob palaces and live like a red-toed queen of the castle and then I could call your father and tell him I've had a sudden change of heart and maybe we'd be able to pay rent next month?" She leans forward to blow across the neat polish. "People know about workers all the time, they're just too scared to say anything. Do you really think anyone believed that Facebook—the brain child of a luck workers best friend—got so popular by chance?"
Eduardo couldn't care less if the whole of Harvard knows, as long as Mark doesn't and Mark still calls every night he can find a secure connection. He doesn't say anything about luck, just that it's harder to run Facebook from a bunker than it was from a dorm room. They have fewer lucky breaks with power outages and though they've never crashed there were one or two very near misses. He wouldn't call if he knew. He doesn't elaborate on the near misses.
Eduardo shouldn't know where they are, but he does because he couldn't quite stop himself from asking and Mark told him in a flood like he was just waiting for the question. Now Eduardo has the address memorized permanently in the back of his head and every day he walks past the train station and thinks that he could just go. Any time he liked.
It's hard to remember he's doing the best he can for Mark when Mark is so very far away. Apparently they found Billy wondering the streets of Palo Alto with no shoes and no phone, looking for them. No one's so much as heard anything on the whereabouts of Andrew and his face haunts Eduardo's dreams every night.
"I was thinking about making a Facebook page," Christy says, starting the second coat on her unblemished foot. "If we don't get some money in soon you're going to have to start moping in the street."
Eduardo's eyes flick to her toes. She follows his gaze, then tucks her foot under the table out of sight. "I meant charms," she says sharply. "I could make amulets and sell them."
Eduardo feels instantly guilty and tears his gaze up to the wall. "Of course. I didn't mean to—I wouldn't think—"
"Believe me Saverin you will be out that door long before I'm desperate enough to turn to assassination." She pulls her laptop forward on the coffee table. "How much do luck charms go for these days?"
"Five bucks each if you find a fancy enough stone, they're not exactly rare." He could offer to start playing the market, but to gamble—even with luck on your side—you need enough money that you can afford to lose.
Christy sighs, typing facebook.com into the address bar. The site loads slowly, a small note at the bottom apologising for any performance issues during Facebook's 'period of transition.' "Can you call Mark and find out if the privacy glitches are ironed out?" she asks, tapping her fingernails against her laptop as she reads the sign-in page. "McDonalds have a strict policy of not hiring workers and if I lose my job we are both screwed."
Eduardo is already pretty fucked. He was supposed to have an internship this summer, but it had been set up through a 'friend' of his father's so he hadn't even been able to show his face for fear of being dragged home and forced to give up Mark to the Saverins. Failing that, all the other high-up jobs required an entire degree or at the very least the kind of connections that he no longer possessed.
And as Christy said, none of the menial labour jobs hired workers and no one was going to believe that a Saverin wasn't a worker.
All of which effectively distracted Eduardo from thinking about Facebook's privacy glitches for—oh—at least thirty seconds. It was probably a new record. "What's happened now?"
"Rice found one of their workers listed. Her email was supposed to be private but for some reason it showed when someone was browsing the list of local workers."
Eduardo should ask what happened to her, but Christy is speaking in the slow deliberate monotone that means she's trying not to think at all, and really he doesn't want to know. "I should call Mark."
Christy shrugs, watching the cursor flashing in the sign up box. "What are you going to do, send him all the money and programmers that you're cut off from? You really think he'd take Saverin help if it was offered?"
It wouldn't be offered. Eduardo's mother hung up on him the moment she recognised his voice on the line. Ti locked himself in the bathroom and said that everyone was pissed—they'd been dragged into a turf war and now they were getting nothing out of it. "Just back off," Ti had said. "They'll cool down eventually and then you can give them the website and everything will be cool."
Eduardo had made some vague noise of assent and hung up. "He needs help from somewhere," he says to Christy, watching her sigh and close out of the browser. "If people are getting hurt."
They barely make it through Mark's door before Eduardo finds himself pressed up against the wall. Mark's fingers push through his hair, the brush of fabric building a static charge that sends strands flying off in every direction. Mark's mouth is on his a moment later, warm and damp and Eduardo opens up to it without even thinking, Mark's tongue sliding into his mouth like he's done this a thousand times.
Mark's second hand presses against Eduardo's waist—pushing his shirt up to reveal the skin underneath and Mark's fingers dig into it one by one like he might be able to press his fingerprints into Eduardo's skin.
His hand is bare, Eduardo realises with a shock like cold water. Mark's hand is bare and touching Eduardo's skin and he should be running in the opposite direction but instead he's wrapping his arms around the back of Mark's neck to pull him closer—closer.
Mark is hard already; Eduardo thinks of the way Mark was watching him from the corner of his eye in the back of the car that drove them home and realises they were lucky to even make it into the house.
"I missed you," Mark says, pulling back long enough to tear off his second glove with his teeth so he doesn't have to take his hand off Eduardo's skin.
I missed you too, is on the tip of Eduardo's tongue even though he couldn't possibly have when half an hour ago he barely knew Mark's name, but Eduardo hardly cares about that now because Mark's fingers are on his neck, twisting through the cord of his amulets to pull them tighter against Eduardo's skin. They're kissing again, Mark's hand pushing up Eduardo's rib cage, skin to skin, and it feels like nothing Eduardo has ever imagined and at the same time familiar.
It feels like coming home.
"Can I—" Eduardo starts, pulling his hands off Mark's back to raise his gloved fingers. He doesn't even know what he's asking—well he does but he knows he shouldn't. He knows it's taboo and wrong and there's no way, no way anyone would ever allow it the way he's allowing Mark to touch his skin.
Mark hesitates for half a moment, the hand on Eduardo's side pulling back so the tiger eye catches the light. It's suddenly awkward, like Eduardo has said the wrong thing or made the wrong move.
Then Mark is smiling a slightly awkward smile—that Eduardo wants to taste and touch and oh god. "'Course," he says, stepping back so his hand slides free of Eduardo's neck. "Upstairs?"
He holds out a hand, and Eduardo pulls off his glove slowly before reaching for it. Mark's hand is rough, tight. Eduardo can feel the tendons and the slight twitch of muscles beneath his skin. If Eduardo moves his little finger slightly he can press it against Mark's wrist and feel the pulse of blood under the surface of the skin.
Mark is definitely not the only one who's hard as he tugs Eduardo lightly up a carpeted staircase and through a door. The bed is smaller than the doubles Eduardo remembers from home, but it's big enough to fall back on while Mark tugs the hoodie off over his head.
He's not wearing anything underneath. That means he's been shirtless since he walked into the cafe and he has so much bare skin that Eduardo wants to touch all over with his bare hands.
"Hey," Eduardo says, his fingers pressing against Mark's shoulderblades to feel the tiny motions of his muscles as he slowly undoes each button of Eduardo's shirt. "I'm not dating anyone in this future, am I?"
Mark smiles a tiny smile as he undoes the last button and drops a kiss on the skin just above Eduardo's belt. "Well," he says, placing both palms flat on Eduardo's chest to leave two warm handshaped patches on the skin that Eduardo never knew would be such a turn on. "You never officially broke up with me."
Eduardo's hands slide down Mark's sides—running across each rib and then three tiny hard spots, like flat pebbles under the skin, and a scar line. His eyes snap open as Mark goes still, barely breathing so Eduardo can touch his fingertip to each flat patch in turn.
They are stones. Three small, thin pebbles implanted under the skin. The scar is a twisted line on Mark's skin and Mark shivers when Eduardo drags a finger down it. "Charms?" Eduardo asks, like they could be anything else. That would go some way towards explaining why Mark doesn't seem to be wearing amulets.
Mark closes his eyes for half a moment, his hand moving to press over Eduardo's, so Eduardo can feel each of the small stones against his palm and the warm weight of Mark's fingers against the back of his hand. "Physical," Mark says, pressing Eduardo's hand into the first stone. "Memory," he presses the second stone. "And death." The third.
Eduardo has seen people with implanted charms before, but they all had small neat surgical scars. Mark's is ridged, thick, like it's been reopened as charms broke and were replaced.
"The wonderful world of being every Family's Most Wanted," Mark says, pushing Eduardo's fingers away from the scar and down to the top of his shorts.
Eduardo has a million questions that all need answers right this moment but even more pressingly he wants Mark's lips on his and Mark's tongue. It's not answers, but Mark's hand is pressing at the front of his trousers and Mark's mouth is hungry and urgent and Eduardo just couldn't care less about anything else.
Mark's head falls back on the pillow and Eduardo collapses down next to him, their sides pressed against each other, Eduardo's leg draped over one of Mark's. "I missed you," Eduardo says, in case that wasn't stupidly obvious.
Mark rolls over to kiss him again. "You should visit more."
It's not a plea for Eduardo to stay, unlike the first few weeks of phone calls. Clearly Chris has been having many long talks with Mark to get him down from 'I need you out here'. "I know. It's expensive." He's only here now because someone else paid for his flight, and guaranteed that he wouldn't get lynched for showing his face in the airport. Fortunately being the one person possibly capable of convincing the Facebook founder of anything can get you a few bonuses.
Mark sighs, kissing him again this time rolling over so his hand lands on Eduardo's other side and he can prop himself up to kiss properly, chests touching and Eduardo's hands reaching up to lace together behind his neck.
"Everything is," Mark says eventually, relaxing back down to lie at Eduardo's side, this time threading their fingers together on top of the sheets. "Facebook—it's hard with just Dustin and me. Sean does a bit and Billy's trying but they can't—"
"I heard about what happened in Nebraska. The Rice girl."
Mark groans, turning his head to bury his face in Eduardo's shoulder. "The media loved that one," he says, the words muffled a little by Eduardo's skin. "Not that they don't love all of them. It feels like the whole world's just waiting to leap on every tiny glitch."
Eduardo loosens his grip a little, shifting away so Mark can't hide against him. "You know you can't have glitches, Mark. There are people's lives in your hands, you can't just say 'oops' and move on. You have to be better, you have to do better."
Mark goes still for a moment then moves back, lifting his head up to frown very slightly in Eduardo's direction. "We're doing the best we can."
Eduardo shakes his head. "It's not good enough. There can't be glitches. Not one, not a single one. I don't care what Sean is saying about expansion—"
"This isn't about Sean." Mark brings his knees up, folding his arms over the top of them. "Sean is helping. He set up a meeting with this man—Peter Thiel. He's got money, he's allegedly a worker. Sean thinks he might invest and then we could hire more workers and buy more secure—"
"People don't just invest in illegal ventures with no way of turning a profit. What would Thiel even want from Facebook, or is he just the mob thug you've decided gets first access to your list of names?" Mark's expression is closing off and Eduardo knows that if he keeps pushing Mark is only going to get more defensive, but Eduardo is tired of hearing about workers being captured while he sits on the other side of the country doing nothing. "What else does Sean recommend, chasing a leprechaun to the end of a rainbow? Putting the list up for auction?"
"There's no list," Mark says, defensive and confused like he's not sure why Eduardo is yelling at him. He reaches out to catch Eduardo's wrist before Eduardo can get out of the bed. "I'm doing the best I can, it's not like you're here to—"
"The best you can isn't good enough." Eduardo tears his hand free but doesn't get out the bed, just turns away. "You have no idea—we've spent our whole lives running and hiding and this one thing is supposed to be safe—this one thing."
"And what do you think will make it safe?" Mark interrupts. "Taking money from the mob? How is giving a Family a list of names supposed to be safe for anyone?"
Eduardo shakes his head. "You could work out a system, hash out a deal. The Families could advertise on Facebook somehow, then people could join through there and they give you money. No one's forcing anyone into anything." He snatches his jeans off the floor and tugs them on.
"And how long would that last?" Mark snaps. "You think all the Families will happily co-exist and all share in a small advertising square on a website? You really think they'll just go along with that?"
"There's a code of honour, if they sign a deal they'll—"
"You are so fucking naive. They will do whatever they have to do to get their hands on whatever they want to get their hands on. Do you really think they keep death workers on payroll to make protective charms? Do you think they hire physical workers to fix the legs of people they disagree with after they've broken them?"
"Wow, the CEO of Facebook showing negative attitudes towards workers. It's no wonder there are so many glitches or security flaws." He regrets it the moment it's out of his mouth, turning on the spot with one hand on his belt in time to see Mark go very still—closing his mouth on whatever retort he was preparing. "I didn't mean that," Eduardo says.
"We never had these problems back at Harvard," Mark says, almost like a plea. "Even when something seemed about to go wrong, you would show up or we'd take a break and it would just work out."
Eduardo reaches out to touch Mark's cheek, pushing luck work like a prayer. "I'll think of something."
Mark catches his hand. "Not the mob, Wardo."
"Fine," Eduardo says. "Not the mob."
It's not like he hasn't lied to Mark before.
He writes the address on the top of a pad of orange post-it notes. Divya and Tyler aren't there, but Cameron shook his hand when he entered the room and offered him tea. They went up to the top floor of the Porcellian club house and Eduardo looked at the pictures of old workers wearing ornate charms or sporting dead fingers.
Mark wasn't allowed past the bike room, he found himself thinking as they walked down the carpet. He wonders now if it was because he wasn't with a mob, or if somehow they just knew he wasn't a worker.
He pulls the post-it off the stack, pushing the pile back towards Cameron. "Thank you for meeting me." He doesn't add 'and thank you for the fuel to drive to California and back'. Mostly he's tired from driving, stressed from lying to Mark and driving away from Mark again. Mostly he just wants to get this out of the way and sleep.
"Thank you for seeing reason," Cameron says, glancing at the door that connects his office to the one next door. Eduardo wonders if Tyler is there, listening, and what is going on that's so important that he can't come out. "Mark must know he can't do this on his own. Facebook isn't exactly what we had in mind when we approached him but my father assures me the Winklevosses can put it to its best use."
Eduardo hesitates, moving the post-it slightly closer to his chest. He's been trying not to think about Cameron's father—focusing on the fact that the twins and Divya had wanted this. They'd approached Mark about building a social network and when Eduardo had spoken to them on the phone they'd seemed open to the idea.
Eduardo's father had told him to bring the list of Saverin workers signed up to Facebook and 'that death worker you've shacked up with to the disrepute of us all'. Eduardo had hung up without listening to anymore.
"You're working on your own network still, right?" Eduardo says, because that's one of the reasons he chose them instead of desperately fishing around any Family that might still take his calls. "You have programmers and you've allocated funds to website projects. You can divert them to Mark."
Cameron smiles. "Of course, that's why you called me."
When you're planning a con, the best mark is the kind that is desperate. The kind that practically comes begging you to screw them over. Because that way, when they look back, all they see is their own idiocy. "You need to convince him to take the help, maybe if you show up with the resources. He isn't listening to me but if you make it clear that you're just looking to advertise on the site he might let you—he should let you."
Cameron nods again, calmly. "I understand," he says.
Eduardo swallows, hesitating again, but he's been sitting here for five minutes trying to come up with more excuses to stall and at some point it just has to bite the bullet.
He holds out the post-it note and Cameron tugs it lightly enough that it un-sticks from his finger. "We want to help workers," Cameron says, secreting the note in a drawer as he stands up to usher Eduardo out. "The privacy problems, the financial issues. We want the same thing you want, and I'm sure it's the same thing Mark wants."
Mark, who wasn't allowed past the bike room because Mark isn't trusted inside worker houses. Mark, who wasn't a worker, and casually admitted it, as much as people didn't believe him.
No worker would leave their fate in the hands of a non-worker if they had the choice. If they knew. Workers know the risks and know what they're dealing with and it's the only way to guarantee the safety of everyone.
"He can be reasoned with," Eduardo says. "I know it's hard to believe but just talk to him."
Cameron holds open the front door to see him out. "I'll bear that in mind," he says.
Then Eduardo is standing on the sidewalk, popping up his collar as it starts to rain. He stands out on the path as it gets heavier and heavier, watching the lights turning on and off in the ornate building beside him.
So he lied to Mark, but there were no other options and the people had to be kept safe. What else was he supposed to do?
They stay in Mark's house for six days, living off takeaway and Dominos pizza. Mark doesn't wear gloves in bed, at his computer or even generally around the house which leads to awkward situations where he's peeling the top off a pile of Indian takeout containers and Eduardo suddenly needs Mark's fingers in his mouth right now.
He always gets what he wants, Mark just laughs in something like surprise and nostalgia when Eduardo grabs at him during random menial tasks to touch Mark's face with his bare hand, or lift Mark's fingers to his hip. It's just... there are hands and fingers and all kinds of new and exciting textures that Mark doesn't seem to object to at all. He just smiles indulgently like he's gone through all of this before and types with one hand while Eduardo runs a fingertip across all the markings on his palm.
Eduardo has gone to bed with Mark six times and woken up with him once. He's not even sure Mark sleeps, he knows he tends to crash after they're done with the orgasms and when he wakes up hours later the bed is cold and downstairs Mark is sitting on the sofa with his laptop, chewing the string on his hoodie and closing whatever he has open the moment Eduardo walks up to him.
This morning, Mark has his laptop open but he's typing with one hand so he can hold a phone to his ear with the other. His amulet—a string of at least thirty cool gray stones, because apparently he's the kind of person that has to be prepared for someone trying to work him multiple times—is just visible across his collarbone. Eduardo walks around behind him, kissing the back of his neck just above the stones and totally trying to glimpse whatever Mark was working on.
Sadly, unless Mark gets up early every morning to play Tetris, he closed whatever he was doing before Eduardo could see. "I know," Mark says, reaching a hand back so Eduardo can briefly clasp his fingers. "I've been occupied." He hesitates. "It's not about—I know going public is a big deal, Chris. I told you I was ready, I'm not hiding. It's—" he turns his head a little so he can see Eduardo leaning over his shoulder. "Remember when you said now everyone would be able to find us?"
Eduardo is close enough that he can hear the other person on the line. "Mark, shit, are you alright?"
"I'm fine," Mark says quickly. "It's just... remember the thing Sean didn't want to happen but thought would." He presses the mouthpiece of the phone against his shoulder, turning his head to Eduardo. "Could you grab me a red bull?"
Eduardo raises his eyebrows in a way that he hopes says 'I know the kitchen is a long way away and you just don't want me listening in' and Mark shrugs apologetically.
"Mark," the voice on the other end of the line is saying. "I don't know how to tell you... it happened. He found Sean outside one of the court hearings."
Mark's hand tightens involuntarily on Eduardo's. "What did you do?" he asks.
"It was Sean, so he did what Sean always does. Threw money at the problem and told it to go away." There's a pause and a crackling sigh. "He owned thirty percent of the company, Sean bought him out according to the valuation we got the other week. He signed a contract to forsake any ownership he had."
Eduardo can't help thinking he's not supposed to be hearing this, in spite of the fact that Mark is holding onto his hand painfully tightly. "Did Sean tell him everything?" Mark asks in a low voice.
Mark swallows, Eduardo can see his throat move, and doesn't say anything for a long moment. "Okay."
"I'm sorry, Mark. He's gone."
Mark is seriously cutting off the circulation to Eduardo's fingertips now. "Right, yes." He stops talking, then pulls the phone away from his ear. "Kitchen?" he says again to Eduardo, almost a plea.
Eduardo wants to say 'no' but he's distracted thinking about bought him out and thirty percent of the company and on top of that five hundred million dollars. When Mark releases his hand, he goes, practically running into the kitchen and slamming the door behind him to press his head against the wall and think.
Sean told him something. Sean Parker was there and Mark Zuckerberg is on the phone to Chris Hughes and thank god Alice is a shitty memory worker because Eduardo can picture where they fit in his head. He knows that Mark doesn't wear gloves to code because he says they chafe the spaces between his fingers. He knows Harvard was boring and Mark was fascinating and Mark isn't a worker.
He knows Mark doesn't want to be a worker, he wants to be something better. He knows there was a dreamworker, Chris wants to change the world and Facebook—
Facebook was white text on a black screen, images blown up and stuck all over the walls, someone drawing in the corner with a set of fineliners while someone else shouted nonsense about walls. Facebook was Mark not sleeping, numbers going up and up, every Family on campus breathing down their necks. Facebook was clean, simple and the hugest most fucking complicated addition to their lives.
The kitchen door eases open behind him. Mark. Mark who Eduardo tried to work once and then successfully worked hundreds of times. Mark who got 1600 on his SATs and founded Facebook and isn't a worker at all.
"I'm in love with you," Eduardo says. It's a tiny realisation that makes a thousand things make sense. The way he'll go to the kitchen because Mark is too lazy to stand, the way he doesn't want to go to sleep without Mark's taste in his mouth, the way he thinks he'd be happy if he could go through life without ever letting go of Mark's hand.
Mark is still holding his phone, throwing it from side to side like he's not sure what he's supposed to do now. "I have to go to the office," he says, reaching out absently so they touch hands as he passes.
Eduardo reached out too, without even thinking about it, and he knows—he can remember—that Mark doesn't say it but this touching and feeling and being is how he says 'I love you too.' "The Facebook office," Eduardo says and when Mark turns to frown at him he smiles. "I've been remembering some stuff. We were at Harvard and you made Facebook with Chris and... Justin?"
Mark is staring at him like he's grown an extra head. "Dustin," he says in a very quiet voice. "You remember him?"
Eduardo shrugs, because Mark's look is not exactly friendly. "A little. Not his face, just an impression of him. He made me laugh."
Mark stops still for a moment, like he's forgotten something, then pushes the phone down into his pocket and snatches a pair of gloves off the side. "I don't want to leave you here on your own. They think this house is safe but who knows for sure, and you don't know any of the codes for the security system." He holds out a hand. "We've just moved into a new office, it's great, you should see it."
Eduardo can't remember the old office. He can't remember people's faces or what Sean Parker may have told him—though he can remember going into a bank with some indistinct figure and setting up a bank account, then signing something.
It feels like the morning after a night out, trying to piece together events from a series of blurred photographs. He wonders if this would be enough for Alice, if she could bring everything back.
Mark called it an office, but it doesn't seem like he's planning to change out of his hoodie so Eduardo doesn't bother to lose the tracksuit bottoms and North Face jacket he stole from Mark's closet in favour of hunting down his old clothes. He does grab his passport and bank details to shove in his pocket, but more because they're the only things he owns and it's nice to keep them close.
Mark drives them across town to a building that looks simultaneously new and innovative—all glass walls and unusual fountains—and exactly like every other internet start-up office in Palo Alto.
"Thiel helped us find it," Mark says, pulling into one of the parking spots outside the front door. "He was our first investor, he put a lot of money into the site and into Chris' campaign to legalise working."
"Is he in a Family?"
Mark pauses, hand going still on the door to the building. "No," he says eventually. "He's not. His daughter was a death worker, he wanted to change the world for her." He pushes the door in slowly. "We all want to change it for someone."
The entrance way is wide, bright and clean. There are potted plants and photos of six faces on the wall, four of which Eduardo doesn't recognise at all and two of which ring a bell but he can't put a name to. There's also a security desk manned by a young woman with bright red lipstick who smiles at them in a way that suggests she could kill them in a thousand ways before anyone heard them scream. "Mark," she says. "ID."
Mark pats down all his pockets and comes up with his phone, a USB stick and a pack of Twizzlers. "This is why we shouldn't have a real office," he says. "Secret phrases and cunning knocks were easier to remember, even if they were changed every thirteen hours." It sounds like it should be a joke, but his tone is reminiscing and slightly sad.
"Mark," she says warningly, standing up to walk around the desk. "Remember that long lecture last week about how going public means an increase in security and how you can't just go running around without your ID." As she speaks, she's patting down his sides. To any outsider it would just appear she was checking for a gun, but Eduardo sees the way her fingers linger briefly against the three stones cut into Mark's skin.
Mark rolls his eyes, tugging his neckline down to reveal the string of beads. "Hasn't come off since I last saw you, Cass," he says, which Eduardo knows is an utter lie.
Cass glances at Eduardo and sighs at Mark. "Your friend stays here," she says. "And know that after tomorrow you will not get away with this again."
Mark nods at her, squeezes Eduardo's hand briefly and continues down the corridor. Eduardo stands awkwardly next to the desk, looking through the glass wall at the office beyond. It's not right for a major company worth over 600 million dollars, but somehow it's perfect for Mark. Bright colours, walls covered in street art or just mindless graffiti. The desks are all scattered around the room without a cubicle or office in sight. Eduardo can see the girl playing solitaire with one hand and coding with the other. He can see the queue of people waiting by the microwave.
Mark walks through the room slowly, stopping by half the people to greet them. Everyone smiles at him as his lips form their name.
He stops longest at a desk in the far corner. Eduardo can only see the other person's back, short dark hair above an old T-shirt, but their typing speed is infinitely slower than anyone else in the room, like an old man who's been given a keyboard for the first time.
Cass is still standing next to him, looking in the same direction. "Still," she says quietly, as Mark leaves the person's desk and they start their agonisingly slow typing again. "I hear in Singapore they set worker's hands in concrete."
Eduardo half turns to frown at her. "What?"
She nods in the direction of the guy. "He used to be the second fastest programmer in the whole of Facebook. You know. Before." She shivers, reaching up to touch the string of opals around her neck.
Eduardo feels a chill down his spine, like her shiver might have passed through the air. He was bought out, Sean Parker bought him out of Facebook because... there had to be a reason. "Before what?"
Mark has somehow found a non-glass wall to hide behind because he's disappeared entirely from sight when Eduardo turns away from the windows entirely to see Cass frown at him. "Nine months ago," she says. "The attack. I thought everyone knew."
She is interrupted by a door slamming open at the end of the corridor and a guy wearing a black jacket over a gray hoodie storming towards them. "What the fuck is he doing here?" he demands, looking at Cass, at the workers closest to the window, at the two large men in black suits who followed him down. "He is not allowed to be here."
Cass looks highly confused, but takes a step away from Eduardo towards the security desk, hand moving down behind the counter. "He came in with Mark," she says to the newcomer, all traces of friendliness with Eduardo vanished. "Is Mark compromised? I let him inside."
"Mark's fine," the newcomer says, then hesitates turning back to Eduardo. "Mark had better fucking be fine." The two men in black don't move forward as the man slams Eduardo forcefully against the security desk. "I told you not to come back. You signed the papers, you're out. You don't get to come back."
He leans forward a little further and in another sudden rush Eduardo recognises that face. "Sean Parker."
Sean raises one hand, for an instant looking like he's about to tear off his glove and press a hand against Eduardo's skin. Then he forces himself to step back. "Security," he says, without looking around. "Get this man out of here. And you—if you ever come near Facebook again—"
Sean Parker. Sean Parker, who Eduardo had always hated and who had signed 500 million dollars as a guarantee that Eduardo wouldn't come back.
Eduardo takes a step forward before the security men can touch him and grabs Sean's wrist, feeling the slight flash of Sean's skin through the pinprick holes in the tips of his gloves. "You told me something," he says. "Eight days ago, maybe more than that, I don't know but you told me something."
Sean goes very still, and Eduardo notices there's a tan line around his neck where a string of beads would normally sit. There's nothing there now. "I told you to get the fuck out."
Eduardo squeezes Sean's arm slightly tighter. "Something else. Something that I wouldn't be able to live with knowing, something I'd do anything to forget. What was it?"
Sean looks up at him, then wrenches his hand free. "Which part? The part where you left him without a reason or an apology? The part where you betrayed your friends? Or the part where people died because of you?" He steps forward and Eduardo steps back, the desk digging into the small of his back. "Which part exactly?"
It's nine months ago. The news breaks while Christy is at work and Eduardo is sitting alone in the apartment looking for surefire investments to bet their tiny collection of savings on. He has the TV on in the background but he isn't really listening until the word 'Facebook' makes him glance up in mild curiosity. The word is dropped into every new story these days—Facebook incited workers to protest registration, Facebook is ruining teenage education, a group of workers were attacked and one of them had a Facebook page. It's the new buzzword on everybody's lips and Eduardo still can't stop himself from glancing up every time he hears it.
There's a burnt out husk of a building on screen. Eduardo thinks he vaguely recognises the cityscape behind it, like maybe he's stood on that road once before, but most of it is obscured by blackened beams and smoke so he can't be sure.
"Firefighters reached the scene less than twenty minutes ago."
It's too sunny to be anywhere in New York and he wonders briefly what buildings might be important enough to get their own news report just for a fire. Maybe it's just reporters jumping on the fact that a worker lived there—a worker with a Facebook account.
He's about to look back at his laptop when the text on the screen changes and the woman speaks again. "Yes, I've just received confirmation that this was the official headquarters of the website known as Facebook. Facebook is currently displaying error messages across the country as the almost one million members are unable to access any of their pages."
Eduardo grabs at the remote wildly and changes channel looking for someone to say it's a hoax or a trick because it has to be.
"We can confirm that the hacker group known as 'anonymous' have hacked the Facebook servers and published a short list of registered workers. There is currently no way to verify this list but one member of the group was quoted on an internet forum as saying they were requested to perform the attack by a major US mob Family."
Eduardo's laptop falls to the floor with a crack as he scrambles forward to the kitchen table to grab his cell phone. As he does so, the second channel flicks to the footage of the smoking building in time to see someone pull up the zip of a black body bag over an indistinct face.
Eduardo hits the first number of his speed dial without thinking. It barely rings for an instant before it's picked up and Eduardo wants to scream or smash the handset down. "Was this you?" he says. "Did you do this? You're at war with the Winklevii, were you spying on them? Did you hear what I told them?"
There is a long silence from the other end of the line. "We were wondering where the Winklevosses got their information," his father says eventually, the words crisp. "I should have remembered your unfortunate tendency to trust those you shouldn't."
Eduardo snaps his cell phone shut because he can't mean—this isn't—
Cameron's number is still saved in his outgoing calls and he hits the green button without even thinking, rocking back and forth in his seat as he clutches the cell against his ear and listens to the dial tone.
"This is Cameron Winklevoss. I can't come to the phone at the moment. Please leave your name and number after the tone and I'll get back to you." A single beep.
"You shit," Eduardo says. "You fucking piece of shit, when I find you I will kill you. There's a code of honour between Families, there's precedent, we had an agreement and you—"
There's a click as the phone picks up, Divya's smooth voice filling the silence. "I think you forfeited all right to Family law when you sided with the little asshole in the first place, don't you?"
"What did you do to them?"
Divya laughs. "You should have heard the dreamworker scream."
There's a crack as Eduardo's phone hits the far wall hard enough that the casing shatters. His hands are shaking too much to pick up his laptop or touch the TV remote to shut off the images of the blackened husk of a building, the people walking by and craning their necks for a better view.
"We can confirm that the body seen earlier was that of Billy Olsen, a known affiliate of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. To date, no other bodies have been found."
Eduardo curls his hands behind his head, presses his face against his knees and tries to remember how to breathe.
Christy punches him in the face and tells him to get the hell out. He stumbles onto the streets, clutching a handful of tissues to his nose, and finds a payphone which takes the last few quarters in his pocket.
He still knows Mark's number by heart.
"The number you have dialled is no longer available."
He hangs up, types the number in again, like he might get a different answer. Like Mark is just sitting next to his phone waiting for Eduardo to ring and not burnt down to ashes somewhere under the streets of Palo Alto.
He doesn't know how to feel anything but numb. He dials a different number, holding the phone against his ear and counting the rings. Three and he'll hang up. Four. Just one more.
"Ti," Eduardo says. "Fuck, please, I need your help."
There's a long silence before, "Are you still in New York?"
Facebook goes back online two days later. Eduardo still has no computer, but Ti calls him from Miami so he goes to an internet cafe and pays five bucks for a shitty muffin so he can go online to make sure. Ti is still working for the Saverins, siphoning enough money from his own paychecks so Eduardo can afford a hotel. In return, Eduardo talked him through the process of making a Facebook page that was completely secure from any Family investigation.
He had learned something from Mark, after all.
Facebook loads slowly on the desktop, slow enough that Eduardo can pick at the edges of his muffin and get stodgy cake stuck between his teeth. The log-in page is similar to always, although there's an added box at the bottom—a simple tick yes/no option. 'I would like my profile to be registered as in favour of Facebook's new worker legislation.'
Mark's own profile is completely public now. Mark Zuckerberg, non-worker, founder of Facebook, in a relationship.
Eduardo's breath catches a little at the last one, but he doesn't let himself think about it. Most likely Mark has been a little too distracted to worry about something so ridiculous.
What he's been distracted by is also clear from the statement he's added just below his own name.
Facebook is not affiliated with any Family.
Facebook will fight for your right to be who you are.
Facebook will not bow and will not break.
We have gone through a rough time, we have lost friends and co-workers and we have come out stronger. We know the lengths the Families will go to and we will fight against them.
You may remember Peter Thiel as a former campaigner for Worker rights. Thiel is now with Facebook in our new location, supporting us to change the future.
Gain Worker rights. Fight for Worker freedoms. Change Worker laws.
- Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Hughes, Sean Parker
Eduardo reads through it three times, his eyes drawn every time to the too-short list of names at the end. Mark is alive, Mark has to be alive. Mark and Chris and fucking Sean.
He searches Dustin's name, but if he has a profile it's still private. He tries searching the news websites in case they've found a body but they just name Billy Olsen and a few other alleged employees that Eduardo doesn't know.
Of the hundred names on the list leaked to the internet, fifty have disappeared—hopefully gone into hiding—thirty have joined Families, five are in hospital and fifteen are dead. Eduardo memorizes all their names and they shiver behind his eyes at night like sheep to be counted.
It's three months before Ti manages to hide from the Family long enough to drive to New York. He shows up at Eduardo's motel late one night and looks him slowly up and down. "I was going to punch you in the face," he says. "But you look like you're beating yourself up enough for the both of us."
Eduardo makes a small choked noise and Ti steps through the door to pull him into a hug. His arms had been toned, firm against Eduardo's skin, completely unlike Mark's I-eat-too-far-too-much-sugar-and-junk-but-nothing-else weight. "I honestly thought it was the right thing," Eduardo says. "I thought—faith, trust, honour. That's how I was raised."
Ti nods. "The benefits of being born into the heart of a Family. Those of us who fought our way in, we learnt the other laws. Do whatever the fuck you can to whoever the fuck you can if you don't get caught." He ruffles Eduardo's hair and lets him go, stepping back to survey the room. "This place is a tip. We're getting an apartment."
Eduardo wraps his arms around his chest to hold onto the warmth a moment longer. "I'm not—we're not getting back together. That's not why I asked you to come."
Ti shrugs, pushing open the bathroom door to check out the mould infested room beyond. "Well, there's no way your dad's taking me back now so sex or not you're stuck with me. You can help me set up my Facebook page."
He calls Mark that night from Ti's cellphone—hitting redial over and over until Ti rolls over in the bed and holds his hand over the screen of the phone, blocking the light. "Sleep you fucker."
"What if he's dead?" Eduardo asks him, holding the phone away from his ear so he only hears the faint echo of 'this number is no longer in service.'
Ti sits up to wrap an arm around his shoulders. "You really think they could run Facebook without him?"
Eduardo presses closer to him and clings to that thought. It's all he has to hold on to.
There's a bank three blocks down from the Facebook office. Eduardo pulls the crumpled sheet of paper out of his jacket pocket and smoothes it out on the counter. He shows his passport when asked for ID, signs his name over and over and politely refuses all her offers of investment accounts, saving accounts, her suggestion that he invest in property.
Eventually she passes him a sheet of paper and a small wad of bills—nothing in comparison to what the account holds, but enough to be going on with—and promises the debit card will be delivered to Christy's address in two to three working days.
He walks outside and hails a taxi, giving a vague address based on what he can half recall Mark saying and road signs he noticed on the drive to Facebook. The driver drops him off at least three streets away from Eduardo's actual house but it only takes him half an hour or so to work out where he is and work his way back to Mark's front door.
"The key is under the garden gnome with the wheelbarrow," Mark had said when he rushed back to reception to kiss Eduardo quickly and say he'd been called to a very urgent meeting but Eduardo could go home or whatever while he waited. Just as Sean had promised. "The code to the door is my sister's birthday, 14—"
"I know," Eduardo had interrupted, because he did. He knew everything. Mark had kissed him again—Cass pointedly turning her head away—and run off, leaving Eduardo standing there.
The gnome's wheelbarrow has been filled with small stones, but it's easy enough to tilt it up and pull out the small key—still gleaming silver, like it hasn't been lying there more than a few days. Eduardo wonders briefly who bought the gnome—it certainly wasn't Mark—then wonders who bought all the furnishings in the house. Maybe Chris, in between long stints at the courts pulling out petitions signed by hundreds of Facebook users and account after account of worker suffering.
The hallway is quiet. Sean promised he could keep Mark busy for the afternoon, but couldn't guarantee anything further. "Enough time for you to leave," he'd said.
Mark has no photos on the walls of his house, just the same clean wooden furniture and matching cushion covers that suggests whoever bought it just flicked through a catalogue at pictures of someone else's dream home and chose one at random. Chose one that was cheap.
There were six photos up in the Facebook entrance hall, of the six Facebook employees who died before Chris could fight the Government down to a point where Facebook could go public. Could hire bodyguards and run out of an office.
Of the six, Eduardo only recognised Andrew and Billy Olsen. He supposes that's a sign he was never really part of Facebook at all.
Eduardo runs his fingers along the banister as he walks upstairs. Dustin had been wearing black gloves, he remembers. Black gloves that hid his red, scarred hands as he typed—one slow, careful letter at a time.
There are no photos in Mark's bedroom either. Just the bed—with covers that match the curtains and the carpet and the sofas downstairs—and a wardrobe with no hangers, just a growing pile of hoodies thrown into the bottom. The bed covers are still rumpled from the morning, the curtains drawn so only a sliver of light can get through, cutting the room neatly in two.
There's a table on Eduardo's side of the bed but it's bare. Mark's side has a cheap Walmart alarm clock, a well-thumbed book on the history of working in California and a scattering of stone beads that must be amulets of some form or another.
There's also a pencil and a notepad with the logo of some dirt-cheap hotel. Mark used to say he kept it by him in case he had a surge of inspiration during the night, but now Eduardo wonders if it's there to be something familiar. Something that reminds Mark of the long months spent moving from cheap hotel to cheap hotel, hiding his face and running the Facebook servers from a different underground bunker every week.
If it hadn't been for Thiel and his resources they'll all be dead. If it hadn't been for Sean fucking Parker and his stupid fucking contacts Eduardo would have killed them all.
He grabs the pencil and the pad, leaning on the cover of the book hard enough that his pencil almost cute through the page, and starts to write.
When he's done, he folds the page in half and writes Mark's name on the outside. He calls a taxi, giving Mark's address from an envelope he finds in the kitchen, then while he's waiting for it to arrive he digs a scrap of paper out of his pocket.
Christy's number is written across the top. He dials the number underneath, holding the cell to his ear in a slightly shaking hand and listening to the rings.
There's the familiar click of the line connecting.
"Hello?" says Alice.
It's two weeks ago. Eduardo is standing outside the private court chamber, holding a note he printed from a poor quality scan that's been hanging in his email inbox for over a year. Thanks to the Winklevii finding where they live and threatening the landlord, the money Ti makes from selling charms and doing occasional healing work on people who find him on Facebook is no longer enough to live off.
"We need money," Ti had said, throwing the address of the court chamber at Eduardo's head as Eduardo screened the list of new people finding Ti's Facebook.
The court sessions had been in the news for months now—everyone knew that Facebook had finally worn the Government down to actual discussions, they were literally shaping the new laws day by day. Facebook was going public in under a month, finally able to reveal its location without the Government staging a hostile takeover on the first day.
They weren't public yet though, and no one was supposed to know where the meetings were being held. "How did you get this? Is Mark going to be there? I need to see him."
Mark had been in the news as well, just his name over and over with no photos or video evidence that he was still alive. Not so much as an audio recording to prove that it wasn't just Chris and Sean eking out whatever credibility his name still held.
Dustin has been on radio. Barely half a second of a reporter shoving a microphone in his face but Eduardo had replayed the soundbite over and over until he thought he was going crazy just to make sure that it was his voice. Dustin was alive.
"I don't care about Mark," Ti said, his voice echoing with the faint hint of jealousy that he pretended wasn't there. They had separate rooms in this apartment, separate beds. Ti went clubbing every night he could and came back with a different person on his arm. Eduardo lay in bed listening to them through the thin wall and missed Mark until his heart ached. "Facebook is fucking rich with Thiel, the fundraising and the fifty gazillion government grants. You own thirty percent of that fucker and I want a house where I don't have to worry about being shot every time I step outside."
All of which brings Eduardo here, standing outside the private chamber clutching the single sheet of paper—signed by Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz and Mark Zuckerberg—that grants him rights to thirty percent of Facebook.
Sean comes out first, eyes darting up and down the corridor like he's worried they're being watched. "You shouldn't be here."
Eduardo holds out one of the many copies of the page. "This is my website too." He cranes his neck a little to see through the door before it closes. "Where's Mark? Is he here?"
Sean reaches back to tug the door sharply shut, then pulls Eduardo to the side of the room. "Keep your voice down, Saverin. Keep your voice down and get the fuck out."
Eduardo brandishes the page again. "You want this on the internet tomorrow morning? Proof that Facebook is part-owned by a mobster?"
"That's bullshit," Sean snaps, grabbing the page. "There is no way it would hold up in—" he trails off a little as he reads it, clearly realising that Eduardo wrote it and Eduardo has been writing contracts since he was fifteen years old. "It could be faked," he says, changing track completely. "It's a shitty scan, it could be anything."
"I have the original," Eduardo says, speaking through his ass because last he saw it was with Christy and she didn't seem at all likely to keep his personal belongings safe and sound. "I'm just not stupid enough to bring it within your reach. Is Mark in there? Is he okay?"
Ti had been very clear in his instructions to focus on the money first and 'you can deal with your little emotional clusterfuck later, okay?'
Eduardo has slightly different priorities.
"No thanks to you," Sean says, which is not a no but isn't word-for-word a yes either. "You little shit, you think you can sell us out then come sauntering in nine months later wearing your ridiculous suit like you own the joint. Mark may be deluded to the point of idiocy when it comes to your innocence but the rest of us are not so easily fooled."
"They were supposed to help," Eduardo says, in spite of all his lawyers instincts yelling 'deny deny deny'. "They swore they were just going to help. Facebook couldn't have survived without additional money and workers."
"And you couldn't trust that we had it in hand, could you? Oh no, once a Saverin always a fucking Saverin with your Families and your mob rule and your constant enabling of the Government fucking workers over every which way." Sean shoves Eduardo hard against the wall. "Do you want to know how many people died? Do you want their names?"
Eduardo freezes, counting in his head. Chris and Sean are fine, Andrew disappeared years ago, he heard Dustin speak and Sean's implying that Mark's alive. "Billy Olsen," he says. "I know, I saw—"
"Billy Olsen," Sean interrupts. "Michael Fletcher. Jimmy Cook. Rhiannon Jones. Mackey Lewis." He takes half a step closer, so close they're almost touching. "You want to claim thirty percent of Facebook? You don't even know their goddamn names. Do you know how many Winklevii died, even? Do you know what your friends had to do in the result of your mistake?"
Eduardo's hands are shaking, his blood is running cold and he wants to get out of here. He shouldn't have come. Fuck this, he shouldn't have left the apartment, should have stayed hidden and away like he has ever since the Winklevii found out he was still in New York.
"Chris and Dustin aren't exactly used to using their powers. Chris worked three men until they were so fucking scared of him that one of them took out a gun and shot himself in the head. Dustin put three people to sleep, do you want to lay a bet on how many of them made it out before the fire started?" He snatches the papers from Eduardo's hand. "You don't know, you weren't there, and you are not a part of Facebook."
"Is Mark alive?" Eduardo says, as Sean flicks through the stack of copies. "I just need to hear you say it, I need to find him."
Sean's hand go very still, then fall to his sides. "No," he says. "No, you don't. He doesn't know, do you get that? He doesn't know what you did. We told him your parents called him back and the address of our location leaked and it has taken long enough for him to get over that. I am not making him go through that again." He glances back at the papers. "Thirty percent. Thirty percent now is a small fortune so you can have that. We'll set up an account, I'll wire across the money, Mark won't even notice it's gone." He lifts a hand like he's thinking about punching Eduardo in the face, then lets it fall. "Five hundred million dollars, and for that, you never come back."
Eduardo looks over at the closed wooden door, hand shaking at his sides. He doesn't have faces to put to the names, it's just a blur of corpses and bodies and Chris and Dustin who killed people. He can't imagine Dustin ever hurting a fly but now—
"They set Dustin's hands on fire," Sean says, casual like he's commenting on the weather. "The office is much quieter now."
Eduardo almost throws up there in the corridor. He can't keep his hands still, the names that he only heard once burning in is head like they're being written onto his brain in fire.
He throws one last look towards the door—Mark is there. Mark is there and he's alive and god he can never see Eduardo again. Eduardo could never look him in the eye again.
He follows Sean out. Five hundred million dollars. He's met memory workers who will do a complete mind-wipe for half that.
He can't think of anything else that might get him through this.
When he gets home to find Ti's corpse on the sofa, he locks himself in the bathroom and calls Christy.
The slow regular ringing of a cellphone wakes up a long dark-haired girl lying on a black and green striped couch. She blinks, her face slowly twisting from awake to confused. She's just reaching out for the source of the sound when it stops.
Her eyes catch the cell sitting on the table, then move further up and she shrieks, jumping back a little at the sight of a boy passed-out on the sofa opposite. He's wearing an old hoodie, the sleeves pulled down over his hands. He doesn't look familiar, but he didn't stir at the phone or the shriek. His chest is slowly rising and falling where the light catches it, the only evidence that he's not dead.
Alice sits up carefully, looking around at four unfamiliar walls covered of people she doesn't recognise and—is that her? And her again? And again? She stands up, walking to the nearest wall to tug off a photo. It's her, looking older than she can ever remember being, one arm looped around the shoulders of a pretty girl—long black hair pulled into a tight ponytail behind her head.
She turns the photo over. It's captioned 'me and C' with a rough outline of a heart.
The cellphone bleeps once and she turns to pick it up, dropping the photo on the table to run her fingers across the plastic casing. It looks brand new and she flips it open carefully to see the little icon for one voicemail.
"Hello," says a boy's voice, sharp with desperation that bleeds into every word. "Wardo pick up, please pick up." Alice glances over at the boy. He could be a 'Wardo', she supposes.
"As soon as Sean tried to work me to stay in the meeting I knew something was up," the voicemail is saying. "I found your note at the house, you stupid¬ -
" I'm not an idiot, Wardo, for fucks sake. I got 1600 on my SATs and I don't care what Chris or Sean told you, I can put two and two together. I knew you lied, I knew you went to them, I knew you didn't want anyone to get hurt because I fucking know you, okay?
"Do you know what Thiel said when we escaped the Winklevii? He said it was only thanks to dumb luck that anyone survived at all. Dumb fucking luck." A low laugh escapes the phone. "Every single charm you got for me shattered the night the Winklevii came. All except one. I almost want to ask how long you've been working me except I think I know the answer and I'd really rather not.
"But that doesn't mean— Wardo, please. I know we're not okay and there are too many lies and secrets but I need you out here. I need you with me. I need you to remember me.
"You didn't say you loved me until the memories came back. You didn't remember what we had, what we were." The voice is choking now, like the words are getting harder and harder. "Don't do this. You don't have to do this. Please. Just... Please. Wardo, I love—" there's a click as the message cuts off.
Alice stares at the phone for a minute, then looks over at the boy in the hoodie curled up on her sofa. Blowback, she realises, far too belatedly, pushing at the gaps in her head where her memories used to be.
'To save the message,' says the cool female voice through the speaker. 'press 2. To delete the message, press 3'
"Sorry dude," Alice says. "You're too late."
She presses 3 and drops the phone back on the table, near the unconscious boy. There's another phone in her pocket, she realises now, and she pulls it out, a tiny scrap of paper coming with it. This one is much older, the keys faded a little from use, and it switches on easily at her touch. The PIN code is the same number she's always used—1920—and the cell lights up.
She picks up the paper. It's a short note, with the 'to' and 'from' both giving her own name.
'This is Christy,' the note says, giving a phone number. 'You love her.'
Alice blinks at it for a moment, then types the number in and hits the call button. She's all set to wait, but it's picked up almost instantly.
"Alice?" says a girl's voice, sharp with concern. "Alice, is that you?"
Alice looks down at the note. "Am I in love with you?"
There's a long silence from the other end of the line, then in very careful tones, "I don't know. Are you?"
Alice looks around the room—at the photos all over the walls of her and 'C'. "I'd like to find out."
Another long pause, then, "There are some books locked in the drawers of your bookshelves, diaries. Pack them up and some clothes—anything you think you might need. I'll pick you up in half an hour."
Alice looks around at the furnishings and magazines, at the flat she doesn't recognise at all. "Thank you."
Eduardo wakes up to an empty room. His cellphone is sitting on the coffee table ringing loud enough to give him a headache and he is at least a hundred percent certain this room is not where he was planning to fall asleep last night.
He snatches his cell a moment before it goes to voicemail, lifting it to his ear and not really listening as he looks up at the photos on the walls of people he doesn't recognise.
"Wardo," Mark practically shouts down the phone. "Wardo, thank god. Look you don't have to, can we talk about this please—"
He stands up to peer closer at one of the pictures. "I thought you'd made your position very clear."
"I don't—what—" Mark says, like Eduardo has completely blindsided him.
"I should be in Singapore by now," Eduardo says, keeping his voice deliberately casual. "Except my taxi driver appears to have knocked me out, stolen everything I had on me and left me in some random apartment in the middle of nowhere." He turns away from the photos to the window, in case there's some kind of landmark in sight. Nothing but roads and apartment blocks as far as the eye can see.
Mark is silent for a long moment, and when he speaks again it's almost like he's reading from a script. Eduardo can just imagine Chris sitting opposite dictating the exact lines and tries to pretend he isn't grinning a little. "I didn't—I didn't mean it," Mark says. "It was a bad day. You don't have to go."
Eduardo could comment that it lacks passion, or point out that this doesn't exactly sound like Mark desperately trying to convince him to stay. Luckily for Mark, he isn't really on the look out for much convincing. "Well since I got the taxi driver from Hell, I can only assume fate wants me to stay in the city." There's a scrap of paper on the coffee table with an address written in small, neat capitals. "Ah, he left me an address. How thoughtful."
"I'll come and pick you up," Mark says, which is much more like it in terms of trying to convince Eduardo that he shouldn't finalise their break up by flying halfway around the world. "Tell me where you are."
Eduardo reads it out slowly, walking around the walls. The photos are haphazard, like someone grabbed a handful and just left the rest. The bookshelves are the same.
"Okay," Mark says. "Okay, I'll be there soon. Wait for me."
"Love you," Eduardo says, without really thinking.
He thinks Mark's breath catches, but it could just be a crackle on the line and before he can ask the phone disconnects.
It's now. Saturday night and he sun set hours ago outside the Facebook offices. The staff all went home Friday night, they have plans to go out or families to cook dinner for or loved ones to push down in beds for the first time in a too-long week.
There are two people left. Dustin Moskovitz types slower than he used to but can't tear himself away from the code. He keeps a bottle of vicodin beside his keyboard and takes them slightly more regularly than he should. When he finally leaves, there are more painkillers and sleeping pills in the cabinet at home.
He can't put himself to sleep anymore. Every time he tries it's like his hands are on fire all over again. He goes back to the doctor the morning after and the man sighs and says they should be healing by now. If he wasn't a worker, they would be.
There's one other light on in the office, and as Dustin saves his code for the final time and stretches, he notices it. A single desk lamp on one of the desks in the centre of the room. In any other business, that would be the desk of a random admin guy.
In Facebook, that's where Mark sits. In fact it's where Mark has been sitting since he came in on Monday morning—sleeping for half hour stretches on his keyboard and eating whenever Sean or Chris showed up to force food into his mouth.
Dustin puts his computer to sleep—yes he knows about the environment and the polar bears but it's just so much quicker on Monday morning, okay—and switches off his screen. He knocks back a tablet with the last of the glass of water on his desk and locks the rest of the pot in his office drawer.
Mark is staring at his computer screen, at code that no one's been editing in at least two weeks, his chin resting in one cupped hand. His eyes are unfocused, the bags underneath them pronounced, and the bin beside his feet that was empty Monday morning is spilling cans of red bull all over the floor.
He's got a sheet of what looks like hotel stationary in his hand, folding and refolding it along creases that are well on the way to becoming holes.
Dustin reaches out, using his elbow to nudge Mark's shoulder. He should learn to type with his elbows, that should totally be a thing and he opens his mouth to say it—then changes his mind and just lets his arm fall.
Mark jolts a little, turning his head hard enough to jar it, and only relaxing when he sees Dustin behind him. "I didn't realise anyone was still here."
Dustin shrugs—here I am.
Mark yawns, stretching out his arms, turning back to look at his screen and over his desk at the benches-and-bean-bag-chairs area. "What time is it?" he asks, meaning 'I might have a nap in a bean bag chair.'
Dustin waits for him to turn back around then gives him a look.
Mark makes a vague noise of protest, letting his eyes drop to his keyboard. "It's not like—it's better here. Simpler."
Dustin says nothing.
"It's—" Mark says. "Say, two people fell in love and one of them did something. Then that person couldn't live with it, so they made themselves forget, only they didn't just forget the thing, they forgot that they'd fallen in love in the first place." He closes his eyes, massaging his temple with the hand still clutching the scrap of paper. "And maybe they replaced the memories of falling in love with different memories of different love and nothing seemed to fit together." He looks up at Dustin, like he's searching for some kind of answer. "And the person that loved them didn't know what to think anymore. If we're all just the sum of our memories, and memories are so easy to change it's just like—"
"Mark," Dustin says, slow because that's the only speed he can seem to do anything these days.
Mark closes his eyes, head dropping a little. "I don't know what—"
"Go home," Dustin says.
"I don't know how—"
Mark stares at him for a long moment, then slowly reaches out to switch off his screen. "Okay," he says, slow and carefully. "Okay, I can—okay."
Dustin's painkiller is kicking in just enough that he can tap Mark reassuringly on the shoulder. "I'll see you on Monday."
Mark looks vaguely lost at the thought of a whole day without Facebook, but nods anyway. "Okay."
It's now. Eduardo is watching TV loudly in the living room so it's easy enough for Mark to sneak in the back door and grab a box of matches.
The note is so worn out now it's hard to read, but he knows what it used to say by heart.
There are things you don't know and things I can't tell you. Things that happened in the past that I got away from once, for too brief a time.
Even when I couldn't remember you, getting you back was all I could think about. Knowing something was missing. I think I realise now that I can't just lose three years and I can't just lose you.
So here is what I will remember: we met at Harvard. I fell in love with you and gave you money for Facebook which resulted in my family abandoning me. When Facebook went underground I got an internship in New York and when you started to go public we met up again.
I will remember still being in love with you but we found it hard to make it work. You didn't want me near Facebook and I got angry and we broke up. I decided to catch a plane to Singapore.
If that's what you want that's fine, just let me go.
I think I will still love you the way I do now. I hope. Losing three years didn't stop it and even when I couldn't remember your face I thought about you all the time.
I am so sorry for everything I did and have done. I don't know if you know the details but if you don't, don't make my mistake. Don't ask.
I don't know how to live in a world where I know.
I love you. Always.
The match catches at the corner and he drops it into the sink, watching the words get eaten up one by one until it's just ashes to be rinsed down the plug hole.
Then he sneaks out the back door and walks around the front. Eduardo turns the moment the front door opens, face lighting up so bright that Mark feels a stab of guilt in his stomach. "There were some problems," he says. "I'm sorry, I should have called—"
"It's fine," Eduardo says, too quickly. "It's cool, I was just—" he gestures to the TV, turned up loud enough that it echoes through the too large house.
Mark used to do that when he lived alone.
"I know you don't want me near Facebook," Eduardo says, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand. "I get it, I'm not going to break up with you again." He takes a few steps forward. "It's your thing, Mark, and if sometimes you have to—to stay out to keep it running I'm not going to stop you." His hands are stiff at his sides, like he wants to reach out but is too unsure of his welcome to try. With the cavernous living room empty behind him, he looks very small. "If you have to stay in the office for a week while I watch TV and read or—"
"No," Mark says, surprising himself and—by the look of it—Eduardo. "No it's not okay." His voice gets firmer as he speaks, remembering Dustin alone in the office. Remembering the months he spent without Eduardo there. "I have to—I'm going to be better. We're going to—we'll work out. We'll work something out."
Eduardo hesitates then walks closer, slow like he's not sure he's allowed. "Together?" he says, so tentative that Mark wants to go back in time and drag his ass back home 5pm on the dot Monday night. This is Eduardo. Eduardo with his big doe-eyes and too-long limbs and a slow smile that Mark feels down to his toes.
If they don't share old memories, it's time they start making new ones.
"Yeah," Mark says, reaching up to pull Eduardo into a kiss. "Let's give that a try."
It's now and the moonlight shines across Eduardo's naked back in Mark's sheets.
It's now and his bare fingers tangle through Mark's amulet, brushing against his skin.
It's now with lips and shadows and whispering 'I love you' too soft to hear.
It's now... and now... and now.