Chris is there when it happens. He’s in New York at a benefit gig, representing Facebook and also in his own capacity. And Eduardo is there too. Chris is debating with himself whether or not he can go and say something – it’s been a year since the lawsuit and they do talk, a little, via email or even Facebook itself. It’s just that they haven’t spoken in person since, and while Eduardo was never really one to hold a grudge, Chris does work for the guy Eduardo sued. So he’s not sure whether he can go over right away. Maybe he should wait until Eduardo’s finished the glass of wine.
Eduardo takes a slow sip from the glass of wine and wonders whether he should go talk to Chris before the guy freaks out completely. But there’s a conversation going on behind him about the money involved tonight, and Eduardo can’t help but listen. He really doesn’t mean to get involved.
“I heard Zuckerberg donated a million to the fund. He must have taken a big hit with the last PR disaster. Everybody knows he doesn’t give money away if he can help it.” The guy is large, wearing a suit which is too small for him but probably cost more than Mark’s entire wardrobe, not that Eduardo is getting into the argument.
Eduardo tries to push past him, away from the bar and over to Chris.
The man stops him. He’s clearly drunk. He says, “Now, Mr Saverin can tell us all about that, can’t you?”
“Excuse me,” Eduardo says, trying again to move away.
Eduardo says, “Mark doesn’t care about money.”
The man is also probably twice their age, and Eduardo is sure that plays a part in all this but he’s annoyed now. Eduardo says, “Mark doesn’t give a damn about the money part of it. I have no idea whether he donated money tonight because someone on his PR team told him to, or whether he actually cares about the programme, but I can safely say that the money involved had nothing to do with it.”
“Well, sure,” the man says, “he could buy and sell everyone in this room if he-.”
“And he could code rings around everyone in this room, he’s smarter than any ten people here and he knows it, but he still donated the money so what the hell does it matter why he did it?”
The woman who’s with the drunk guy looks at Eduardo. “I thought you and Mark Zuckerberg hated each other?”
Why does everyone think they know the whole story? Eduardo shrugs. “I think it’s a good cause.”
“That wasn’t what I-.”
There are people around here with notebooks and cameras. This is a charity benefit and this isn’t the right kind of publicity. Eduardo walks away.
Chris answers his cell phone, still mostly-asleep. “Dustin?”
“What happened at the thing tonight?”
“Is it still tonight?” It still feels like tonight, but in that case there’s no way Dustin should be calling so late.
“Yeah,” Dustin says. “What happened? Look, turn on your computer and tell me if the quote’s accurate.”
Chris fires up his laptop and finds the first report, on the gossipy end of the tech blog. “Why are you asking? You don’t think it sounds like Eduardo?”
“No, I think it sounds exactly like the kind of defensive shit Eduardo always came out with when someone tried to call Mark out.”
“So tell Mark that.”
“Mark saw the story?”
“I’m pretty sure Mark has ‘Eduardo Saverin’ as number one in his Google alerts, so yeah, he saw it.”
“Okay,” Chris says. “Well, yes, that was pretty much word for word what he said.”
“Yeah. You think Mark’s going to call him?”
Dustin sighs. “No.”
Chris thinks Dustin is probably right. Mark is bad at making the first move in things like this. Though if Chris thinks about it, Eduardo has already made the first move. It’s just up to Mark to notice.
* * * *
Dustin does find it sort of funny that in workplaces across the country, people are getting reamed out for what he has to do for a living. His Facebook newsfeed is open in one tab, the way it always is. Dustin clicks across to it, just to check.
Eduardo Saverin is stuck in San Francisco airport. Hotels booked out and no cars available – apparently I’m staying here tonight.
Dustin laughs. “Eduardo has the worst luck with California weather.”
Mark, walking past, stops. “What?”
Dustin turns his screen around to show Mark. Chris has a policy of not bringing Eduardo unnecessarily to Mark’s attention, but Dustin thinks they need to get over this. The cold war shit is boring him now - just not funny anymore.
Mark looks at the comment, and disappears into his office. Facebook has a car service on call.
Eduardo is sitting on the wrong side of security with his laptop and a large cup of coffee. They’re saying the weather problems should blow over in the morning, and the planes might be flying out again then. Eduardo hates the weather in California.
An announcement comes over the loudspeaker system. “Would Mr Saverin please report to the customer services desk in the arrivals lounge?”
He unplugs the laptop, tucks it under his arm, and grabs the coffee. The woman at the desk says, “Mr Saverin?”
“Yes. Is there a problem?”
“No, sir. Your friend sent a car for you, to take you to a hotel overnight.”
There’s a man in a dark suit and hat to the left of the desk. He nods at Eduardo. “I was asked to drive you out to Palo Alto, and bring you back here in the morning before your flight.”
“Okay. And did Mark mention why he was deciding to kidnap me?”
“Mark’s the only person I know in Palo Alto.”
“I couldn’t say, sir. All I know is that I’m to drive you to the hotel, or anywhere else you want to go, and bring you back here in the morning. There wasn’t any name given.”
Eduardo raises his eyebrow. That’s weird. Eduardo had meant it, those weeks ago, when he said Mark didn’t care about money. But Eduardo would have thought Mark would sign his name to this one. Mark used to like Eduardo noticing when he did things right.
Eduardo sighs. He hates sleeping in airports. A hotel bed and room service and a car back in the morning sounds good. He nods. “Fine. But just the hotel and back. No ‘or anywhere else’. Not tonight.”
Mark is sitting looking at his phone. Dustin has been watching him for the past hour. Then Dustin’s own phone rings, and it takes him a while to figure out where the noise is coming from, he’s so focussed on Mark. He finds the answer button eventually. “Hello?”
There’s no way in hell Dustin’s going to say ‘Eduardo’ with Mark sitting across the room waiting like that. Dustin says, “Hey,” and gets up to walk across the offices, far away from Mark. Maybe outside, or back home, or to another state. Somewhere Mark won’t be able to find him.
When he’s got far enough that he’s pretty sure Mark can’t hear him, at least, Dustin risks, “You still in the airport?” Casual.
“No, I’m in a hotel.”
“I thought they were all booked out.”
“The ones in San Francisco, sure.”
“Yeah. You want to tell me what happened?”
“Mark saw your update over my shoulder.”
“He can see anything he wants, he doesn’t have to…”
“He doesn’t look at your page.”
Dustin shrugs. “Because he knows you wouldn’t like it, I don’t know. He’s weird about stuff like that now.”
“And sending a car was really keeping to the terms of our not-speaking?”
“He knows you hate airports.”
Eduardo goes quiet over the phone. After a minute he says, “Tell him- no, don’t tell him anything. He knows I- Yeah.” He hangs up.
Mark looks at Dustin when he walks back to his desk. “Anything interesting?”
“No. Nothing new.”
* * * *
Chris tries to keep his phone held to his ear while juggling the paper copy of a marketing report and a diet coke. “No, we’re looking at deploying the upgrade tomorrow night. Fuck, hold on- I…”
Eduardo laughs. “Put down the phone until you’ve sorted your hands out.”
Chris does so, putting everything down on his desk in the order he needs them, and then lifts the phone again. “I’m back.”
“I should go anyway, you sound stressed out. Is everything okay over there? Everyone, you know, okay?”
It would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. Chris says, “We’re all fine. Just busy. Like the old days.”
Eduardo exhales. “It doesn’t feel that long ago.”
Mark notices his assistant standing beside his desk, even if he can’t hear any of what’s going on. He’s coding in the main office this evening, so he can keep an eye on everything. The update is going live in three hours.
She puts the box next to his desk and walks away. She’s not too happy with him at the moment; Mark makes a note to buy her something (or tell her to buy herself something) when this is done. Having to break in new people really slows him down.
One of the developers walks past his desk thirty or so minutes later – Cathy. She’s been here since they moved to Palo Alto, he thinks. Long enough that she raises an eyebrow and mouths, “Want me to open this?”
Since it will otherwise sit there for three weeks until he remembers it, Mark shrugs, and goes back to typing.
When he looks over again, she’s smiling in that soft way only girls can pull off. Mark shifts his headphones off one ear. “What?”
“Is this from your mom?”
Mark doubts it. His mother loves him but she doesn’t tend to send him things for no reason.
Cathy takes the things out of the box one by one and ranges them along the desk: five cans of energy drinks, two cartons of chicken soup and some ridiculous amount of twizzlers.
Dustin comes to sit on the edge of Chris’s desk. “Do you think they don’t know?”
“Well, yeah, but does he know about Mark or does he just know, you know…”
Chris blinks. “I think we’re becoming over invested in this.”
“Sure, but wouldn’t it be…”
“Yeah,” Chris agrees. It would be good for both of them, if it ever happens, and Chris is their friend and he’d like them to work it out. But he and Dustin had thought they'd get it together freshman year, and that had blown up in all of their faces, so Chris has learned not to expect so much of the two of them.
* * * *
Dustin is waiting for the journalists. Mark is doing some interview - Time, maybe? – and Dustin is trying to make sure he’s prepped and not going to do his terrifying genius act. It’s one of the anniversaries: the date the site first went live across Harvard.
Mark’s been twitchier than usual the past few months, which just leads to him being even more horrifyingly articulate and tearing perfectly nice journalists to shreds. It’s the rest of them that have to work to pick up the pieces afterwards.
Mark sits down in front of the woman, his hands stuffed in his pockets, and looks at the far wall instead of her. Oh, it’s going to be one of those days.
Mark doesn’t know why these people don’t do the rudimentary background reading before coming to talk to him. He understands – or at least it has been explained to him – that these people are not technology experts, and that the deeper aspects of the company will escape them. But this is basic information, and all public record.
Mark says, “No. It was me, and Eduardo, and Dustin and Chris. That’s who it started with. Well, really I guess it was me and Eduardo, but Dustin and Chris right after that. Sean and Peter were the summer. And there were a lot of other people by that point. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Facebook is a large company.”
“Well, yes, of course,” she says. “But it was your brainchild, at heart, wasn’t it? That’s what all those lawsuits were fought about. Other people claiming they had more input than they really did.”
“Most of the initial coding was mine. All of the first money was Eduardo’s.” Mark has never claimed any different. This is what people seem to miss. Mark had never denied Eduardo’s role in the company at the beginning. The problems came about because of what Eduardo had done after that.
“So you would-.”
Mark interrupts, “We wouldn’t be here right now without what Eduardo did. On a purely practical level, we needed the money as much as we needed the code.”
She doesn’t look happy with this answer, though Mark is fairly sure that it’s an exclusive. He doesn’t think he’s said those words out loud before, or at least not to anyone that wasn’t Eduardo. He remembers telling Eduardo things in the first Palo Alto house – obvious truths he thought everyone should know but Eduardo had seemed surprised to hear. That might have been one of them.
Dustin coughs and tries to pretend that he just swallowed the wrong way. He asks for an advance copy of the article to be sent straight to E Saverin in New York.
* * * *
Chris is in the office when Mark takes the call. Mark’s face takes on that forced blank look that never bodes well – corners of his mouth pulled down in an expression that could be unhappiness but could equally well be boredom. He says, “Sean Parker, yes.”
Chris closes his eyes.
Mark hangs up the phone and bites, “Find me someone from Legal.”
By the time Mark gets the lawyers out there, the problem seems to have disappeared. It’s more disconcerting than dealing with the situation would have been. Sean answers in a terse email that he’s taking a break for a couple of weeks, don’t call me.
Dustin leans over his shoulder and says, “Where was this, again?”
“São Paulo, I don’t even know what Sean was doing there, or what he did or how he got himself released but- fuck.”
Dustin is smirking.
Eduardo knows people in São Paulo. Mark doesn’t know anyone else who would. Mark says, “This is like that movie.”
“With the girl. The one who isn’t Natalie Portman. (Eduardo would know which one.) He hates Sean. Why would he do something for Sean if he isn’t-? He does this just to screw with me, you know that. He knows I won’t know what he’s doing and I’ll get distracted from all the things I’m supposed to be doing, trying to deconstruct what goes on in his head.”
“Or maybe,” Dustin says, really slowly, like Mark is drunk or stoned or in some other way impaired, “maybe he likes you.”
“He doesn’t like me.”
“Well, no,” Dustin admits, “I’m pretty sure he doesn’t like you all that much right now. But he was mad at you for a solid thirty percent of our college experience even before the whole lawsuit thing.”
“I don’t remember that.”
“Well, mostly those were the parts where you were ignoring him to do something else, so I guess you wouldn’t remember. You weren’t talking to him then; you probably didn’t notice.”
“I’m not talking to him now.”
Dustin shrugs. “Yeah?”
It’s strange because Mark is sure he never thought about Eduardo so much when they were seeing each other every day, either at school or then during the depositions. Eduardo communicates in ways that used to drive Mark to distraction, with big flashing letters, spelling things out like he thinks Mark isn’t able to understand. (And he hadn’t, a lot of the time, but they hadn’t seemed important even when Eduardo did explain). Mark is trying to decipher Eduardo at the moment, and it’s much more work than just listening to him ever was. It seems like he should have figured this out earlier.
“So my theory is,” Dustin says, “that the two of them are just going to escalate the increasingly grand gestures until Mark signs over the company to him but at no point are they actually going to fucking talk to each other.”
Chris clinks his beer bottle against Dustin’s. “Possibly.”
“No, not possibly. I was talking to Eduardo today and he was pretending ignorance over the whole Sean thing which is fooling no one, not even Mark, so if there’s a point I don’t see it.”
Dustin takes a drink of his beer. Even being on the sidelines of this thing is exhausting.
Chris says, “It’s… complicated, I suppose.”
“See, it’s really not. I mean, if I was in stupid epic love with you, you know what I’d do about it?”
Chris grins. “Sue me for thirty percent?”
“Well, I was Mark in this equation, so actually I was going to be really passive aggressive about share dilution and an argument that could have been resolved in about five minutes, and then not mention your name in public ever again but no. You know what I’d do?”
“You’d tell me?”
“Yeah, I’d just tell you. It’s not that hard.”
Chris rolls his head back, working out the cricks. “Honestly, I’m not sure they both knew.” Which is nuts, because Dustin and Chris both knew, and definitely Sean, and probably Mark’s mom, and all of the original interns and even most of the new ones. It seems unlikely that the only people who didn’t know were Mark and Eduardo. Dustin supposes crazier things have happened, but there can’t be many of them.
* * * *
Eduardo looks at Mark. “Do you think they realise we can hear them?”
Mark closes his laptop. “I’m not sure they noticed you come in. I didn’t. Not that I’m not… I’m glad you’re here.” He bites his lip like that sentence took a lot of effort.
“Well,” Eduardo says, “you called me.” Mark hadn’t said much, on the phone, but he had definitely called first. Eduardo hadn’t really expected that move. He started it, he supposes, though he hadn’t meant to. It was just exhausting, being angry with Mark, and he was getting the impression Mark had felt the same way.
“And you came.” Mark looks at him.
“Yeah.” Eduardo’s not sure why yet, but he’s willing to wait and see. “I guess I wanted to find out what you had to say.”