Actions

Work Header

connection in two-thousand something ain't easy

Work Text:

Mark doesn’t notice it when the door to the Kirkland suite—already open just a smidgen, as it usually is—nudges a bit wider. He doesn’t hear the tiny plops making their way across the floor, since his headphones are on, and it’s only when something bright green appears by his mousepad when he realizes that he is not alone.

He lets out a yelp (even though later he will vehemently deny it, as much as Eduardo teases him that he was there) and kind of flails a little, instincts immediately urging him to hit the thing. Luckily, the frog quickly moves out of the way and Mark’s palm makes hard contact with the wood of his desk instead.

Mark swears and winces, clutching his wrist. He squints at the frog, because it looks like it’s laughing at him… and why is there a frog in his room, on his desk, doing something that looks like it’s laughing, anyway?

“Hi Mark,” says Eduardo’s voice, out of nowhere.

Mark is so startled that he nearly falls out of his chair. Instead he immediately pushes himself back, away from his desk, because Eduardo’s voice had sounded at the precise time the frog had opened its mouth, and he has to be imagining this. Eduardo’s disembodied voice is probably coming out of a tape recorder or something, like a bad joke that Eduardo and Dustin had teamed up for. And the frog is… Mark doesn’t know what the frog is here for.

The frog leaps to the front of Mark’s desk, and says, “Mark, it’s me. Eduardo.”

“This isn’t funny,” Mark says, immediately getting up and looking around his bed, under his pillows and between his blankets for that fucking tape recorder, or something. “I mean, it’s probably going to be funny in retrospect, but this is also fucking stupid.”

Eduardo’s voice, which is not coming from the frog, thank you very much, sighs. “I know it’s stupid. But it’s not a joke.”

“Don’t mess with me, Wardo.” Mark tosses aside a few textbooks on the floor by his bed, but finds nothing. “Where is it? Where are you?”

“What are you looking for?” Eduardo—no, not Eduardo, the frog—jumps from Mark’s desk to his chair. Mark is tempted to sit on it and squish it to punish Eduardo and Dustin, except a part of his brain is saying but what if that actually is Eduardo so he merely throws aside more books instead.

“For the—wherever your voice is coming from!” Mark finds his schedule and a few campus maps that have been stuffed underneath his mattress, but nothing else.

The frog, if it could, raises its eyebrows. Since it doesn’t have any eyebrows, it just scrunches the upper part of its green skin above its eyes.

“I’m not—this isn’t a joke, Mark,” comes Eduardo’s voice, again. “I was just studying in my dorm when my whole body started tingling for whatever reason, and then I just kind of turned into this.”

The frog, if it could, shrugs. Since it doesn’t have any shoulders, the upper part of its front two arms perk up and down.

Mark sits back on his bed and stares. The frog—Eduardo, this could actually be Eduardo, since Dustin nor Ashton Kutcher aren’t jumping out from behind walls any time soon—stares back at him. This tiny little green thing that is sticking up Mark’s chair that Mark doesn’t have any particularly strong feelings about could very well be Eduardo. Possibly. Sort of.

If that were plausible at all.

“What…” Mark pinches the bridge of his nose. “How? Why?”

Eduardo-the-possible-frog does its faux shrugging motion again. “I don’t know. Maybe I pissed off a witch recently and she decided that this was the best revenge.” His tone is light as he says this.

“I doubt it,” Mark says, because Eduardo is far too nice and polite to really piss off anyone. “Are there even witches in Harvard?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised; this is the oldest school in the country,” Eduardo says.

Mark blunders, despite Eduardo’s apparent nonchalance. Maybe his having a frog brain gets rid of the anxiety Mark usually sees creeping at the corner of Eduardo’s eyes, when he’s a human. “And how are you—how is your voice still the same? It still sounds like I’m talking to you in person.”

“Fuck if I know,” says Eduardo, and it’s strange to see a frog make a mouth shape around the word fuck. “It’s bizarre, though. I’m still trying to get used to this.” He wriggles around on the chair, leaping around the open space, jumping up on the armrest and to the edge, closer to Mark.

Mark continues staring.

“This is so weird,” he says, because it’s a lot more logical than just saying my best friend’s turned into a frog.

“I guess it is from both ends,” Eduardo says. “I don’t know if I like it.”

And then. Oh yeah, it’s not like Mark is going to let him be a frog forever. Eduardo doesn’t seem immensely bothered, but he’d probably come to Mark because he thought Mark would solve the problem. Or maybe he just needed to let someone know and Mark was the first. Either way, Mark doesn’t particularly want his best friend to be a frog for the rest of his life, because it’s not like Eduardo can do homework or graduate Harvard like a frog. He probably could, but his lifespan would be shorter, and also Mark isn’t sure if they make graduation caps that small. And now he’s imagining tiny frog!Eduardo wearing a graduation cap and gown.

“Well,” Mark says, “I don’t. Maybe you did get turned into a frog by a Harvard witch and you need to learn a life lesson from all this.”

To his dismay, Eduardo starts fucking laughing. His tiny frog eyes are closed as actual laughter—not weird animalistic croaks—start bubbling out of his frog throat. “I would love to learn a life lesson from all this,” Eduardo says.

Mark kind of wants to smack his frog best friend upside the face. Instead, he gingerly picks up Eduardo from the arm of his chair and plops him into his left palm. “Why aren’t you freaked out by this?” he asks.

“Because you’re freaking out about it,” Eduardo says, amused. “And that means you’ll solve this even if it takes all night.”

*

Mark’s fingers clack on his keyboard, but his eyes keep drifting up to the top of his desktop screen. Eduardo is perched there, because he is now small enough to perch there, observing around Mark’s room with darting eyeballs, glancing down at Mark’s screen every once in a while. Mark is half-tempted to ask him if he can still read, but he’s not sure what he would do if Eduardo cheerfully answered no and Mark would have to face the reality that the person he—the person who is his best friend is perfectly happy with losing the human ability to communicate through cultured languages.

He’s searching the internet for what to do when my friend has turned into a frog, except all he’s come up with are bad fantasy books for children. Mark doesn’t like bad fantasy, and he’s not a child, so that’s pretty much moot. Eduardo watches him intently, which is becoming simultaneously distracting and guilt-inflicting.

Clicking back from a forum, Mark asks, “Are you hungry?”

“I’m okay,” Eduardo says. “If I see a bug I’m pretty sure my tongue’s going to react on instinct. Just a warning.”

“Great,” Mark grumbles.

It’s the afternoon, so at least Eduardo doesn’t have any classes this evening. Mark knows because Eduardo had been the third person to implement their schedule in CourseMatch this semester and Mark had maybe had his finger on F5 until Eduardo’s schedule had popped up. Anyway, they don’t need to worry about that. All they need to worry about—all Mark needs to worry about, apparently, since Eduardo is so fucking happy as a frog—is how to get Eduardo back into a human.

“I was pretty freaked out about this, you know,” Eduardo says as if he could read Mark’s thoughts, after a moment. “But that was in the first few hours when I was trying to climb out of my drawer because I accidentally fell in it from my desk. Then I was trying to see how being a frog worked.”

“And learning frog mechanics alleviate stress, apparently,” Mark grunts without looking up.

“Well, it’s easier to worry about being a frog than being a frog,” Eduardo says, which makes no sense at all. “Have you found anything?”

“No,” says Mark, in case it’ll make Eduardo start freaking out with him so he doesn’t have to be the one freaking out about this. Eduardo is the generic lime green frog with the weird colored eyes—Mark had searched until he found a picture that looked the most like the frog on top of his computer—and not poisonous, fortunately, since Mark had already touched him before wondering that. Still, knowing what type of frog Eduardo is helps absolutely nothing, except for what he might need to eat if it came to that. The only relatively irregular thing are some black angular markings that don’t look like anything Mark could find on the internet.

At that moment, the door to the suite bursts open and Dustin appears. “What’s happening,” he calls, tossing his backpack onto the common room suite.

No one answers him; he comes to the doorway of Mark’s room. “Are you working on something?” he asks, before, “Uh, why is there a frog on your computer?”

“Hi Dustin,” Eduardo says, turning to him.

Dustin jerks back so quickly he actually falls down to the floor. Mark can’t suppress his own laugh even though he’d done nearly the same just several minutes before.

Pointing at Eduardo with a shaky finger, Dustin says frightfully, “W-Wardo?”

“He’s a frog now,” Mark informs him. Eduardo was right; it is much less stressful when someone else is freaking out about this. “In case you wanted to know.”

“This can’t be real,” says Dustin, scrambling up. Like Mark had done, he immediately starts snooping around Mark’s room, which Mark would yell at him for except he’s found an interesting theory on frog eggs. “This is a prank. You both have to be pranking me right now.”

“Why would I ever prank you,” Mark deadpans, as Eduardo merely laughs.

Dustin immediately swivels around and grabs Eduardo. Eduardo lets out a little “urk” as Dustin starts shaking him, shouting, “WHERE IS WARDO. WHERE IS HE.”

“Dustin!” Mark snaps, smacking Dustin violently upside the head so that he stops. “You’re going to give Wardo a seizure! Eduardo’s a frog!” And he smacks Dustin for a second time for good measure.

As Dustin rubs at his head, recovering, Mark pries Eduardo out from his hand and gently places Eduardo on his wrist. Eduardo rubs at his head with a tiny webbed hand and says, “Thanks.”

Dustin blinks at them. “Okay,” he says. “Okay. You never get physical for anything, except I guess this makes sense,” his eyes flicker down to Eduardo, “I guess. Since Eduardo is a frog.”

“Eduardo is a frog,” Mark repeats.

“I’m a frog,” says Eduardo.

“Okay,” says Dustin. “Okay.”

He makes his way back to the common room, then slumps on the couch next to his backpack. Eduardo and Mark exchange looks, though Mark’s not too worried, since he’d almost injured Eduardo and all. Mark kind of wants to ask Eduardo how he’s doing post-trauma, except Dustin’s in the room so he just searches how bad of a trauma can a frog suffer after being throttled by an annoying ginger.

Dustin’s voice comes faintly from the common room after a few minutes. “What are you doing then?” he asks, presumably to Mark.

“Looking to see if we can find a way to remedy this,” Mark says. “Though I really don’t want to resort to making some dumb potion.”

For some reason, this gets Dustin to perk up. “Wait, did Eduardo get cursed by a witch?” he asks, far too excitedly.

“We haven’t ruled it out,” Eduardo explains. “But this is bound to have happened for some reason.”

Dustin squints at him. “You don’t have, like, a frog curse that runs in your family, do you?”

Eduardo laughs. “What?”

“I’m just checking!” Dustin says, throwing his hands up. “Just covering all our bases. In case we need you call your parents or something.”

“Oh god, fuck.” For the first time, Eduardo actually sound distressed at being a fucking frog. It shouldn’t be as comforting to Mark as it is. “My parents. Okay, yeah, I do not want to do this anymore. Can we find an antidote, please?”

“As if I haven’t been looking for the past twenty minutes,” Mark mutters, though he’s admittedly sidetracked on a page full of fun facts about frogs.

“A counterspell, anything.” Eduardo places his hands on Mark’s glossy computer screen and bends his head down to see what he’s doing. “Oh god, I can’t read.”

Mark tries not to be too pleased by his reaction again. “I’m looking,” he insists, prodding Eduardo’s head back up so he can see how many times its weight a frog can lift.

“Maybe you don’t need a counterspell,” Dustin says. He brightens up suddenly. “Maybe this is like The Frog Prince! Maybe you need a kiss!”

“A kiss?” Eduardo asks blankly.

But even as Mark reads through this very informative site about frogs, his mind cycles through Dustin’s words. He has a point—this may not be some fairy tale love story, and Eduardo isn’t technically a prince (despite his usual human demeanor), but he’s a human who turned into a frog and maybe he just needs true love’s kiss to turn him back. Mark is almost pissed that he didn’t think about it before, except another part of him doesn’t particularly want to think about the idea of Eduardo having a true love, who’ll kiss him, and who isn’t… Well, Mark doesn’t think himself particularly a romantic, so it makes sense that he didn’t think of it first. Obviously.

“It’s possible,” Mark says, coming out from his reverie and pretending he’d been reading something particularly captivating. “Kisses do solve things, according to fairy tales.”

“I didn’t know you read fairy tales,” Dustin teases.

But Eduardo examines him carefully from his place on top of Mark’s computer. “Seriously?” he asks Mark. “You actually think it’s a viable solution?”

“I didn’t think you becoming a frog would have ever been a viable problem,” Mark points out. “But here we are.”

“Then what do we do about it?” Eduardo asks. “Go up to complete strangers and ask them to kiss me?”

Mark glances at Dustin, who seems up for the idea. Mark shrugs.

Dustin says, “Chris did say he had a big party to go to tonight.”

*

Chris gets invited to pretty much every party on campus, which makes both Mark and Dustin’s social life pale in comparison, even if Chris sometimes ends up dragging them along anyway. Eduardo would probably go, Mark thinks, if he didn’t have so much homework to do all the time. Eduardo usually winds up doing homework on Mark’s bed instead of going along to Chris’s parties, so he only goes if Mark and Dustin go too. And sometimes when they don’t. And sometimes to his own parties, that Mark suspects Eduardo gets invited to on his own, since people like him so much.

Mark doesn’t particularly care about likability, but now he’s taking the T to a club in downtown Boston that apparently everyone on campus is going to—or everyone important, at least. Eduardo is sitting on his palm, because they’d decided that a jar might suffocate him and Mark and Dustin weren’t completely confident on their ability to understand frog hand motions to save him just in case. He clutches Eduardo tightly to his chest, careful not to actually grip him in case it would be uncomfortable, but to not let him fall either.

“Maybe you should just ask people on this carriage to kiss him,” Dustin says from the side.

Eduardo doesn’t say anything, likely from fear for over-projecting his voice, so only Mark says, “Yeah, because that wouldn’t be weird at all.” He thinks for a moment. “What if his true love isn’t at the party? Or even at Harvard?”

“I heard the Stanford debate team would be there,” Dustin says. “Maybe his true love goes to Stanford.”

Eduardo lets out a badly disguised snort from behind of one of his webbed hands. Even as a frog it’s endearing, and Mark tries not to smile at it.

“There’s just a lot of people in the world,” Mark says seriously. “And a lot of time left. Eduardo’s true love could be in Singapore, for all we know.”

“Or they could be at a house party in Boston,” Dustin says. “We don’t know until we try! Anyway, a lot of people say that you meet your closest friends in college, so there’s no saying that that doesn’t go for true love, too.”

“A lot of people don’t believe in true love,” Mark points out. “I don’t.”

In his hands, Eduardo shakes his head to indicate that he doesn’t either.

“You’ll have to for Eduardo, though,” Dustin says.

“Not necessarily. I just have to get him to stop being a frog and then we’re good,” says Mark, as the T jerks to a stop and they switch carriages. He feels out of place carrying only his keys and a frog, no backpack, but he highly doubts he’ll be able to find a place or even time to code tonight with Eduardo momentarily out of commission so he hadn’t even bothered.

“So you do believe in the closest friend thing,” Dustin says cheekily.

Mark doesn’t answer.

They make their way to the club that Chris had sent Dustin, since Dustin had told him that he and Mark may be coming along and Chris generally approves of instances where Mark’s fingers aren’t glued to his computer keyboard. They can feel the bass pumping through the sidewalk before they even get there, and Mark wonders out loud, “Can frogs get sensory overload?”

“I wouldn’t take risks,” Eduardo says to him. “Put me in your pocket.”

Mark frowns. “But what if someone presses against me and squishes you?”

“I can handle it.”

“Can’t you handle potential sensory overload then?”

“I can’t believe I have to be the adult in this situation,” Dustin says, “but seriously, Mark. Just put him in your hoodie pocket and hold onto him, and make sure no one bumps into you.”

Mark scowls. “We’re both older than you,” he says pointedly, but does as Dustin suggests anyway.

He slips Eduardo from his hand into his hoodie pocket, and Eduardo says, “Mark, why is there a single red vine in here?”

Mark and Dustin make their way into the club. It’s dark, colorful, and pulsating already, people raving on the dancefloor and whatnot. Mark’s stomach immediately tangles at the thought of asking so many strangers to kiss a frog, partially because he’ll be asking a bunch of strangers to kiss a frog, but also because there are so many people here to kiss Eduardo. Any single one of them could be Eduardo’s true love, or whatever—Dustin hadn’t technically been wrong. What if Eduardo’s true love is in this club tonight, someone who isn’t Mark, someone whom Eduardo will fall in love with immediately and they’ll go back to Eduardo’s dorm and hook up and be joined at the hip for the rest of their plausible lives?

Mark is shaken out of his stupor when he and Dustin have only been mingling by the edge of the dancefloor for a few minutes (Eduardo complaining, “It is so dark and loud, Jesus Christ” from Mark’s pocket) when Chris appears out of nowhere, sweaty and pink-faced and grinning. His blond fringe sticks to his forehead.

“Hey,” he says breathlessly. “You guys made it.”

“Yeah,” Mark says, at the same time Dustin shouts, “Eduardo’s turned into a frog!”

Chris frowns. “I don’t think I heard you,” he says, sticking a pinky into his ear and rubbing it. “Did you just say—”

“EDUARDO’S TURNED INTO A FROG,” Dustin says, very loudly.

Mark takes Eduardo out of his pocket for proof.

“I,” Chris says. “Wow. I didn’t think I’d ever see Mark willingly hold a frog before.”

Because Mark has no time for niceties or manners, even when it comes to Chris, he thrusts Eduardo into Chris’s face in hopefully what is a decent aim between both of their mouths. Chris’s eyes widen as they both sputter, and Mark yanks Eduardo back. Eduardo is, somewhat thankfully, still a frog.

“What,” says Chris, “the fuck.”

“We’re trying to find his true love,” Mark says plainly, as Dustin is choked up on laughter. “So we’re doing that.”

“You’re shoving a frog into people’s faces,” Chris states.

For the first time, after recovering from his forced kiss, Eduardo speaks. “Mark’s supposed to be my wingman to help me find my true love so they can kiss me to turn me back into a human,” he says. “But hopefully not like that again.”

Chris’s eyes widen again, and he steps very close into Mark’s personal space to get a good look at Eduardo in Mark’s hands. “Eduardo?”

“Are you trying to kiss him again?” Mark asks dryly, resisting the temptation to yank Eduardo back.

Chris pulls away again, though. “No,” he says, rubbing at his forehead. “I just think I’m too drunk to process this properly.”

“Maybe you’re too high,” Dustin chirps. “Speaking of—” He scurries off, presumably to find a joint.

Mark is a little disgruntled that he can’t particularly join him, since apparently this task has been thrust onto him and him only. “Ugh, useless,” he says, mostly to Eduardo since Chris is still staring at them with wonder.

“It’s okay, we can be painfully sober together,” Eduardo says reassuringly. “I’m not even sure if frogs can get high.”

“We’re not going to find out,” says Mark, and immediately starts scoping out his first target. If he’s going to get Eduardo back into a human and a true love tonight, he’s going to do it as soon as possible so he can get over it as soon as possible, too. “Let’s get this over with.”

*

It is particularly difficult to get drunk and dancing college kids to be pulled aside and asked if they wouldn’t mind kissing a frog. Luckily, there is a bar, and against his word Mark orders a beer as he tries to figure out a strategy. Dustin’s already gone into the crowd, Chris is drinking more to fully grasp the situation, and Eduardo is resting gently in Mark’s pocket, poking his head out to assess the possibilities.

“Maybe her,” Eduardo says, since they don’t need to worry about talking too loudly in already such a crowded place. “She looks like my type.”

Mark ducks down to see where Eduardo’s eyes are fixed. There’s a girl with a very pretty face sitting in a booth at the side of the club, talking with a group of other kids. A couple of them have BU hoodies, and the girl has a scarlet and white scarf around her neck, BU’s school colors.

Mark tries to ignore the flare of jealousy that immediately starts in his stomach. “‘Your type,’” he repeats. “What does that mean?”

“I mean, like, a girl who I might go for, I guess,” says Eduardo. “As opposed to Chris.”

Mark gulps down a mouthful of beer, because he wants to be at least tipsy to have this conversation. “Chris was totally plausible,” he says to Eduardo. “He’s gay, you’re bi—”

“He’s not my type,” Eduardo says lightly.

Mark wants to ask so who is your type, except he’d rather not. “And that BU girl is?” he says, unable to keep the scorn out of his voice.

“Well, she’s not not my type,” says Eduardo. “She looks nice enough.”

“Ugh.” Mark throws back the rest of his beer and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. “Fine.”

He grips Eduardo securely, slides off of the bar stool, and marches over to the booth, managing to weave his way around annoying couples making out and stupid kids dancing. When he arrives in front of the BU girl, it takes her another whole several seconds before she realizes that he’s standing front of her.

“Hi?” she says, blinking.

Mark takes Eduardo out of his pocket. The girl jolts, as Mark lays him flat on his palm.

“My friend Eduardo’s been turned into a frog and he says that you’re his type,” he says flatly. “He wants to see if you could kiss him to break the spell.”

The BU girl stares hard at Mark. “Is this a joke?”

“Hi,” Eduardo pipes up, saving Mark from making a nasty comment about her education. “Sorry about my friend, he’s not the best wingman. But my name is Eduardo and I have been turned into a frog. It’s nice to meet you.”

And he sticks out a webby little hand, because even as a frog he’s an annoying fucking gentleman.

The girl stares at him for a moment, before hesitantly taking his hand with an index finger. “Erica,” she introduces herself. “It’s… nice to meet you too, I guess?”

“I wish we could under better circumstances,” Eduardo chuckles. “But um, yeah, this is unfortunate. I really would rather not be a frog, you know.”

“I’d imagine,” Erica says, observing him carefully. “You… really are a frog? This isn’t some sort of bad joke?”

“None of my jokes are bad,” Eduardo replies.

This actually earns him a smile from Erica.

Mark tries not to grovel too much, both in his head and out loud. “Can we get on with this?” he says, annoyed. “Are you going to kiss him or not?”

The light in Erica’s eyes immediately disappears, but Eduardo adds, “Mark wouldn’t play bad jokes either, he’s as awkward as it is.”

“I am not awkward,” Mark protests, but both Erica and Eduardo ignore him.

“On one hand, your wingman is awful and I’m really not that attracted to frogs,” Erica says to Eduardo. She ignores Mark glaring at the side of her face. “On the other hand, you don’t seem like such a bad guy, so I guess I don’t mind.”

“Finally,” Mark grumbles, at the same time Eduardo says, “Thank you.”

Mark lifts Eduardo up to Erica’s face. She places her hands on either side of Eduardo’s little froggish body, before pecking him lightly on his frog mouth.

Nothing happens. Mark could almost sigh with relief.

“Well,” Eduardo says, but before he can continue with what he’s saying, Mark is already whipping around and taking them back to the bar. He ignores the baffled look on Erica’s face and Eduardo shouting over the music; Mark just plops back onto another empty bar stool, places Eduardo on the counter, and orders another drink.

Eduardo glowers at him from next to Mark’s hand. “What did you do that for?” he shouts, as the bartender looks at them funnily but says nothing. “I was about to—”

“To thank her, which you already did,” Mark says shortly. “And then flirt with her some more. It’s a waste of time—she kissed you, you’re still a frog, so—”

“You should be a better wingman about this!” Eduardo says indignantly.

“I didn’t want to be a wingman in the first place!” Mark retorts, then colors as he’d kind of shouted too loudly and people may be staring at him for arguing with a frog. “You’re—there’s no point in flirting, just get kissed and get over with—”

“Well, if they end up being my true love, Mark,” Eduardo says, surprisingly heatedly for being such a small and non-intimidating frog, “I’d like for them to like me at first instead of you forcing them on me.”

“What does it matter,” Mark mutters, as the bartender comes back over with his drink, still looking at Eduardo peculiarly but saying nothing. “They’ll be your true love anyway.”

*

He and Eduardo don’t talk for a few minutes, because Mark doesn’t owe him an apology and no one is really bothering them, so Eduardo doesn’t seem to worried as he sits atop the bar counter, looking around. Presumably for someone else his type, whatever that means. It doesn’t worry Mark too much that the playing field is pretty even among anyone of any gender, but he does wonder what that means for “types.” Considering Erica the BU girl had not really said much about Eduardo’s taste at all, except for relatively attractive people with questionable academic abilities.

Mark joins him in scanning over the crowd, anyway, since there are a lot of people. His eyes do a double take for a second, and then he scoffs.

“Look,” he says. “Jock twins.”

“Hm,” Eduardo says, but doesn’t sound interested.

Mark glances at him. “Are they not your type?”

“They’re not unattractive,” Eduardo admits. “Those are the Winklevoss twins, though. You know that, right?”

“Oh.” Pretty much everyone in undergrad knows the Winklevoss twins, since they basically got unofficially accepted into the Porcellian in freshman year and are the star players of the crew team. Not that Mark actually cares; crew is a stupid sport.

Eduardo considers for another moment, anyway. “I wouldn’t rule them out, I guess,” he says. “Do either of them even like guys?”

“Isn’t there a thing about twins and sexualities, anyway?” Mark asks, though he’s already picking Eduardo up. Maybe one of them is Eduardo’s true love and it’ll ruin the Winklevii dream team. It might crush Mark, like, emotionally, but he’d also pay to see the drama.

“I doubt it,” Eduardo says as Mark squeezes through bodies to approach them.

The Winklevoss twins are dancing with two girls that are probably their girlfriends, but Mark ignores them as he shouts, “Hey!” When neither of them seem to respond, Mark shouts even louder, “Hey!

One twin glances at him, and then blinks. He nudges the other, who pauses at the sight of Mark.

“Hey,” says the nudged one. “You’re Mark Zuckerberg.”

Ugh, socialization and effort. Mark raises Eduardo up in his hand, eye level to the both of them.

“My friend’s been turned into a frog,” he says, over the loud music. “You should kiss him!”

“Way to sell it,” Eduardo says sarcastically, as the Winklevosses blink at Mark and Eduardo with confusion.

“Why,” says one. “Why are you holding a frog?”

Mark huffs and stomps towards the edge of the dancefloor, clutching Eduardo and elbowing people out of the way. When he turns around, as expected, the twins had followed him, expressions of befuddlement on their identical, annoyingly chiseled handsome faces.

“My friend has turned into a frog,” he says to the twins, holding Eduardo up, “and you look like Prince Charming types, so kiss him or what the fuck ever.”

“I don’t think Prince Charming was the one in that one,” one of the Winklevosses says sincerely, as the other one just laughs.

“You—You actually want us to kiss a frog?” he says. “Is this some sort of hazing joke?”

No, it’s not,” Mark snaps. “Do I look like the type that’s in a club that’ll try to haze you?” It kind of kills him to say that, but—

“Not really, no,” says the sincere one, then, “Sorry, I mean. But you don’t.”

“So just,” Mark shoves Eduardo in their directions. “Kiss him.”

The sincere one bends down to look Eduardo in the eye, while the other one is alternating between laughing and looking at the both of them suspiciously.

“Hello,” Eduardo says to the sincere twin.

The twin whistles low. “Well that is convincing,” he says. “Meg might be pissed if you turn out to be my true love, but—” He gives Eduardo a slight peck, and then winces as he pulls away.

Eduardo is, stoutly, still a frog. The twin says to his other, “Ty, your turn.”

“I don’t want to kiss a frog,” Winklevoss the Second says. “And besides, I really doubt he’s my true love or whatever.”

“Just do it,” Winklevoss the First says, nudging him. “What if he is? You never know.”

“Shut up, Cam.”

The Annoying Winklevoss looks down at Eduardo, who merely waves at him. “How are you a frog, anyway?”

“Magic or some bullshit,” Eduardo answers. “We tried to figure it out earlier, but I have no idea, either.”

“Ugh,” says Annoying Winklevoss. “This is so stupid.” But he bends down to kiss Eduardo anyway.

After nothing happens, Mark says, “Okay. Bye.” He goes back to the bar since he’d left his beer there, as the twins begin complaining about kissing a frog and accidentally swapping spit via Eduardo.

“Well, that solved absolutely nothing,” he says, clutching Eduardo. As soon as he sits down, Eduardo jumps onto his wrist, and then into the crook of his elbow then the top of his arm. He rests on Mark’s shoulder, adjusting his webby feet.

“It did let me know that neither of them were my true love,” Eduardo says pointedly. “Which, thank god.”

“Yeah,” says Mark, trying not to make it sound like he’s actually agreeing. He looks around for his beer, but it looks like it’s disappeared, which is annoying. If Eduardo were a human again he would’ve offered to buy Mark another one, but it’s not like frogs are big enough to have pockets to carry wallets.

“What should we do now?” he asks Eduardo, turning to him.

Eduardo might be about to respond; but before he can, a pair of girls rudely bump into Mark’s shoulder and almost make him topple off. “Fuck!” Mark swears and uses both hands to keep Eduardo on him, steady, and elbowing one of the girl’s face in the process.

“Ow! Watch it, dickhead,” says Face Girl. The girl with the face. That had previously had Mark’s elbow on it. Yeah.

“You watch where you’re going,” Mark snaps back. Face Girl’s friend is talking to the bartender, seemingly oblivious; but Face Girl is glowering at Mark.

“You’re the one who nearly took my eye out.”

“Yeah, and you almost committed murder.” Mark doesn’t even care that he’s exaggerating. “Are you alive, Wardo?” For all intents and purposes he’d plucked Eduardo from his shoulder and is now cupping him between his palms. Who knew that taking care of a frog was so much work.

“I’m fine, just disoriented,” says Eduardo, rubbing at his slimy head with a webbed hand. He looks up at Face Girl, whose expression has gone from irritated to shocked. “Hi. Sorry.”

“What—” The girl’s expression is bordering on hysterical, which under normal circumstances Mark would think funny. Fuck it, he still thinks it’s funny. “What the hell is going on? Alice—” she tugs at her friend’s arm, trying to get her attention.

Mark, meanwhile, can recognize Eduardo’s tone, and that jealousy burns even hotter until it’s anger because—“Eduardo, seriously,” he hisses, as the girl is asking her friend to check her for a concussion or a fever. “Her?”

“Calm down, Mark, it’s fine,” Eduardo says in probably what he thinks is an assuring voice, when it’s not assuring at all. “It’s convenient. And she seems okay.”

“She called me a dickhead when she shoved me first.”

“And you said she nearly committed murder.”

“Well she did!” Mark says indignantly. “You could’ve fallen and gotten trampled or something—”

He’s interrupted again when the girl comes back over, with her friend, and says, “Okay, I know you look like a freak and act like a freak but that is not a talking frog in your hand, right?”

Mark is about to tell her that yes, as a matter of fact, it is, and who the hell is she calling a freak? when Eduardo says, from his hands, “Guilty as charged. Um? If it’s any consolation, I don’t look like this normally. Or at all. This is kind of a one-time thing.”

Mark wants to scowl at him and maybe throw him across the club for being persistently nice, but he does kind of want his best friend back, and not in the form of trampled frog guts. Instead he lets out a long-suffering sigh and turns his head away because he doesn’t want to deal with Eduardo being better with girls than he is when he’s not even a fucking human.

“This is,” says the girl’s friend, with wide eyes, “really trippy.”

“Tell me about it,” Eduardo says, eliciting giggles from the girls. “It’s really kind of fairytale bullshit, though, like—”

“Oh, oh wait, don’t tell me,” says Face Girl. “You’re a prince and you need a kiss from a beautiful girl to turn human again and learn your lesson.”

“Something like that,” says Eduardo. “We—Mark and our friends and I—were thinking more along the lines of a soulmate, but that sound way more reasonable.”

“Soulmate can work too,” Face Girl says, tossing her long black hair back. “But if we’re going down that route, then I have to know—are you, like, hot? Because if either of our kisses are going to save you, I need to know that neither of our asses are stuck with a butt-ugly dude for the rest of our lives.”

“You know that break-ups and divorces are options, right,” Mark says, breaking his silence to narrow his eyes scornfully at the girls, who have crouched down to talk to Eduardo.

They ignore him, but Eduardo says, with a light chuckle, “Mark’s got a point. That’s him, by the way; I’m Eduardo, former human, Harvard economics major.” He does a fucking bow in Mark’s hand, and Mark is going to be so pissed if they don’t turn Eduardo back into a human by the end of the night.

“I’m Christy. This is Alice,” says Face Girl, now dubbed Christy. “And you gotta know I’m in it for the long run. I don’t even like frogs, so if I’m going to kiss you I have to know that you’re hot first.”

“I don’t really care,” Alice says brightly, and Mark immediately decides that he likes her infinitely more than her friend. “I used to play with frogs when I was little.” Judgment rescinded by a margin. “Do you mind, Eduardo? Mark?” She looks up at him with a smile.

Mark rolls his eyes and lifts his hands higher. Eduardo says, “Not at all,” and then Alice is leaning in and giving him a light peck on the mouth.

Mark’s stomach does a lurch of anxiety as usual—but Eduardo stays a frog, and Alice shrugs. “Oh well,” she says, and then prods her friend. “Your turn.”

Christy crosses her arms. “So?” she asks Eduardo. “Hot or not? Worth my lipstick or what?”

“Well,” Eduardo says, scratching the back of his tiny froggy head sheepishly. “I don’t know if I’m really the one to say—I don’t think I’m bad-looking, really, but—um—Mark?”

Mark looks down at him with surprise. “What?”

“Do you want to say something to sell my more human appearance?” Eduardo asks him.

Something like dread and embarrassment is creeping up the back of Mark’s neck, and suddenly he can’t quite look Eduardo in the eye. It’s not like—well, he does have opinions on Eduardo’s more personable features, most (or all) of which are really, really positive—positive as in Mark has compartmentalized elements of Eduardo’s appearance that he can appreciate without being obviously spotted (eyelashes, thighs, wrists), and others that he sneaks glances to, sometimes thinks about in the shower (ass, shoulders, neck.) But it’s not like Mark can—or even knows how to articulate this to a really kind of hyper-aggressive college girl who is trying to ask for reasons why she should kiss Eduardo. If anything—

Mark shuts that thought off immediately and says, “Yes, fine. Eduardo is hot. Go kiss him and get this over with.”

Christy clicks her tongue. “Not enough.”

“C’mon,” and Eduardo’s tone turns teasing. “Lay it on me, Zuckerberg.”

“Eduardo is attractive,” Mark bites out. He pretends he’s rattling off facts and not very subjective opinions that get him off. “He’s almost six foot and he works out four times a week and he has a nice jaw and cheekbones.” Okay, that may have been too much. “Also he’s smart and likes to gamble and is the president of the Harvard Investor’s Club.”

“Ooh, chic nerd,” Christy says, grinning. “Fine, you’ve got me. Let’s try this out.”

Reluctantly, Mark brings Eduardo up to level with her face, and she plants a firm, solid kiss on Eduardo’s froggy lips. Mark kind of wants to smack her, except he is pretty sure that she would hit him harder, and worse with the nails she has.

To his immense relief, Eduardo stays the same and Christy withdraws. “Damn,” she says, looking vaguely disappointed but grinning all the same. “I’d actually hoped that that would do something.”

“Don’t worry, that makes two of us,” says Eduardo, and Mark wants to sink so low into the floor and die. “Well, it was really nice of you guys to do this for me.”

“Our pleasure,” says Alice cheerfully.

“Call us if you ever get this solved,” Christy tells him. “I kind of want to see in you person. Maybe we can get drinks.” She waves as they head off.

Mark puts Eduardo back onto the bar as soon as possible and decides, fuck it, he’s ordering another beer. Or something stronger. “Red Bull and vodka,” he tells the bartender, who thankfully doesn’t ID him.

Eduardo turns to him and frowns. “Mark,” he says, but then seems to switch tack. “What was all the—what was with the jaw and cheekbone shit?”

Mark shrugs. The bartender slides him his drink, and he downs half of it, wincing at how strong the vodka is.

Eduardo places a webby little hand on Mark’s, which obviously doesn’t prevent Mark from doing anything but at least gets his attention. “Stop it, you said that you were going to stay sober with me,” Eduardo says. “And you’re not answering my question.”

Enough alcohol has been in Mark’s system for his brain to make a couple of intuitive leaps to come to his rescue. “It’s something that Chris said about you once, I don’t know,” he lies. “Why? It’s not like I have an actual opinion on your appearance.”

“I mean,” Eduardo starts, then stops. “Okay,” he says. “If you say so.”

*

Mark pretends he’s not sitting in sullen silence as Eduardo does—whatever he’s doing, scoping the place out for other people his type, like pretty Asian girls or dumb BU girls or big crew jocks or whatever. Whatever. This is really Eduardo’s problem, not his. Eduardo should be grateful that he has a friend like Mark in the first place.

Dustin bounds over, looking high as hell and with glitter in his hair. “Hey!” he laughs, even though there’s nothing to laugh at. “Any luck on the frog-front?” He giggles to himself.

Mark points at Eduardo. “Nope.”

“Aww.” Dustin pouts. “Hey Wardo,” he says, and Eduardo waves.

Then Dustin’s eyes light up. “Hey! What if I’m Wardo’s soulmate? That would be a real turn of events, huh?”

Mark covers his face with a hand. He knows what’s going to happen next. “If you’re going to kiss him,” he says, “just go for it.”

Dustin pokes him childishly. “I don’t need your permission, Marky-Mark,” he says. To Eduardo, he says, “Wardo, may I give you the best smooch you’re going to get all night? Better than Chris’s, at least?”

“If we do end up being soulmates, Dustin,” Eduardo says lightly, “we’ll need to establish some boundaries on how much body glitter you’re allowed to possess at a time.”

Dustin cackles. “Deal,” he says, and then picks Eduardo up and slobbers one all over his mouth.

Behind his hand, Mark grimaces. Eduardo is still a frog, though, and says once they’re lips are detached, “Dustin. Did you really have to do it like that?”

“You needed to know what you were getting into,” says Dustin. “As in, that would be the worst kiss you’d ever get from me for the rest of our relationship.”

“Well, we’re not in a relationship and now I have your spittle all over my—” Eduardo seems to be trying to wipe himself down with his feet-hand things, though with the texture of his skin Mark’s not sure how successful he’s going to be.

Mark huffs. “Look,” he says, and uses the end sleeve of his hoodie to wipe Eduardo down.

Dustin hollers, “Now you’re covered in my body fluids too!” while Eduardo says, “While I appreciate that, Mark, that’s kind of disgusting, isn’t it?”

“I can deal.” Mark rolls the end of his sleeve up to his elbow. “And now you’re not covered with Dustin spit.”

“My spit is magical,” says Dustin.

“And gross,” Eduardo adds. “I sincerely feel sorry for anyone you hook up with tonight.”

If he hooks up with anyone tonight,” Mark says, and he and Eduardo exchange grins.

Dustin pouts. “You’re both mean and don’t know what you’re missing out on,” he shouts. “I am going to find someone to hook up with! And they are going to appreciate my amazing kisses!”

They watch him prance back to the dance floor. “He’s too optimistic for his own good sometimes,” Eduardo observes, hopping onto the edge of Mark’s glass. Balancing precariously, he darts a tongue down and scrunches his face. “Yuck.”

“All the time, more like,” says Mark. “And why did you do that?”

“I wanted to see if it’d do something, but I think my taste buds are like a hundred times more sensitive this way.” Eduardo pats at his tongue. “And it didn’t do anything.”

“Yeah,” Mark says, amused. “I can tell.”

*

The night gets rowdier and rowdier, dark and blue with strobe lights brightening up the ceiling and even though Mark is used to it by now, the bass is still immensely loud. What’s more, Eduardo suggests to him that maybe he should go to the dancefloor, since not a lot of people are hanging by the bar anymore.

“I’m not going to dance,” Mark shouts to him over the music, clutching Eduardo as securely as he can without making his grip too tight.

“I didn’t tell you to dance,” Eduardo shouts back. “Though it really wouldn’t hurt, you know.”

“How am I going to ask someone to kiss you if I’m out of breath dancing? Plus, I don’t dance.”

“Excuse me,” Eduardo calls. “Pardon me. Coming through.”

The good thing about being in a giant mass of swarming bodies is that no one really looks to see where voices are coming from, they just move out of the way because they want to continue to move like mindless idiots. Mark asks, “Where are we going?” and Eduardo responds, “Just look for someone sober enough to ask for me!”

Mark eyes him warily. “You mean drunk enough.”

“No, I mean sober enough,” says Eduardo. “A drunk person might try to eat me. Or kill me.”

He does have a point. “I really don’t think the middle of a fucking moshpit is the place,” Mark shouts.

“It’s not—look, there’s someone!”

Eduardo points, and he’s right; lingering by the walls are kids mellow enough who don’t look unhappy with their lives, but aren’t insane enough to be headbanging to this awful music. “How the hell did you know that people hang out here?” Mark asks loudly, because they are in the middle of the fucking club and Mark wouldn’t have guessed that for his life. Though he doesn’t really spend a lot of times in clubs, anyway.

“The front sides are always crowded, it’s always the middle,” Eduardo shouts back. “Go try that guy.” He points at a single guy, who has a beer in his hand and is rocking a bit to the music, looking relatively sober.

Mark wedges his way over between everyone else, before shoving himself in front of the guy. “My friend’s been turned into a frog,” he shouts to the now-bewildered-looking stranger, prodding him in the face, “and I need you to kiss him!”

Out of nowhere, and before the guy can respond, someone shouts, “Div—! Hey, wait, you’re the weird frog guy, aren’t you?”

Mark spins around. Face-to-face with him, once again, is one half of the Winklevoss clones. Fifty-fifty chance, he takes a gander that it’s Tyler.

I’m not the weird frog guy,” Mark says, frowning. “He is.” He lifts up Eduardo again.

“Uh,” says the guy, who is apparently “Div,” who is apparently a friend of a Winklevoss. “What’s going on?”

Winklevoss-Who-Might-Be-Tyler answers before Mark can. “He’s going to make you kiss a frog, says it’s his friend who’s been magically turned into one for some reason, nothing’s gonna happen, you’re gonna indirectly trade spit with me and Cam—”

Internally, Mark pumps his fist in victory. Externally, he glowers and says, “Look, I know it’s nuts but my friend has been turned into a frog, so—”

They’re interrupted once again when a girl pops out from the dance floor and attaches herself to Div-The-Winklevoss-Friend’s arm. “Hey babe, think we should get more drinks?” she says to him, before noticing Tyler and Mark. “Wait, what’s going on?”

“Hi,” Eduardo chirps up. “I’m a frog.”

Div-The-Winklevoss-Friend leaps back like he’s been spooked; even Tyler jolts in surprise, which Mark thinks is ridiculous since he knows Eduardo can talk.

Div-The-Winklevoss-Friend’s girlfriend, however, immediately leans in and coos. She must be really drunk or really stupid. “Aw, a talking frog,” she says. “I’m KC, and this is my boyfriend Divya. And that’s Tyler! And.” She looks up and frowns at Mark. “I don’t know who you are.”

“That’s Mark,” Eduardo says quickly, before Mark can speak. “I’m Eduardo. Do you know anything about kissing frogs?”

“I know that sometimes they make frogs turn into princes,” KC says. “Oh, are you a prince?” Her eyes go wide and bright.

“To an extent,” Eduardo says, and Mark quickly turns away so none of the others can see him snort, because Eduardo’s resorted to bullshitting to getting this over with. Mark knew he wasn’t enjoying this as much as he pretended he was. “Do you want to see if I am?”

“Sure,” says KC, and bends forward.

Div-The-Winklevoss-Friend-aka-KC’s-Boyfriend-Divya goes, “Wait, wait, wait, hold up. You can’t just go around asking other guys’ girlfriends to kiss you. And KC,” he tugs her by the arm, “you can’t just go around kissing other—other—!” He flails at Eduardo. “Frogs!”

KC pouts. “Don’t be a party pooper, Div.”

“Cam and I kissed it already too,” Tyler adds.

“He,” Mark corrects snappishly.

Tyler ignores him. “If that helps,” he says to Divya.

Divya shoots him a glare. “It doesn’t.”

“Well,” KC says primly. “If I feel like kissing frogs right now, Div, then you’ll just have to deal with that.” And she leans down and places a surprisingly decent kiss on Eduardo’s frog mouth.

Despite Mark’s usual stomach lurch of worry, nothing happens. Divya glares at his girlfriend, anyway, until Eduardo says, “You’re welcome to try too, man.”

“You—” Divya splutters. “What?

“He’s bisexual,” Mark says, for clarification.

KC coos, “Aww, a bisexual frog!”

Divya glares at her again; and when Tyler says, “Come on, man, I did it,” Divya glares at him too.

But he figures it must not hurt when he turns back to Mark and Eduardo, lets out a resigned sigh, says, “What the fuck,” and brushes his lips against Eduardo’s frog ones. It’s like, barely touching and not really anything at all but Mark’s stomach twists in all the worst ways again.

He should really start looking away when these things happen now.

At least nothing happens. At least Divya says, “Well, that was gross and pointless,” and KC says, “But we kissed a frog together!” and drags her boyfriend out to the mess and the din, Tyler following. Mark and Eduardo are left alone at the side of the dance floor, though to anyone else it really only just looks like Mark.

Eduardo wipes at his mouth again. “Ugh,” he says. “I’m getting really tired of kissing strangers.”

“Whose idea was it in the first place,” Mark mutters, leaning against the wall and trying to make it look like he’s not sulking.

“Well, not mine, I know that,” says Eduardo. “Wasn’t it Dustin’s?”

Mark snorts. “Of course it was,” he says. “Now can we leave this godforsaken hormone dumping ground? I can feel myself lose brain cells by the second.”

*

They make their way to the side where all the private booths are, though at least the BU one from earlier was closer to the bar and these large ones are more sneaking along the wall. Most of them have their curtains shut—“No, Mark, you’re not going to peek in them”—but one is pretty active and open, with kids coming back and to the dancefloor from it, laughing.

Mark ignores the twinge of jealousy in his chest—mostly in that as much as he does enjoy Eduardo and Chris and Dustin’s company, it’s still so cliquey and easy for people like that that it’s alienating. He wanted to be in a final club (didn’t get in), wanted to have an actual group of friends outside of his roommates, but all he’d gotten was fifteen minutes of fame with CourseMatch, and Eduardo. Given, Eduardo is actually way more than he would’ve expected, because Eduardo is good with people and people are good with him and somehow he’s Mark’s best friend.

And when Mark points them out, as they draw closer, Eduardo says, “They don’t look like they go around here.”

They don’t. Half the kids are wearing fucking shorts when it’s October, and they’re all dressed very hippy and preppy. Not New England prep, but more like… west coast prep.

“I think that’s the Stanford debate team,” Eduardo says.

And that’s not even all. When Mark gets close enough, he can see at the middle back of the booth is a guy slightly older than the rest of them, who look more like undergrads, with curly dirty blond hair and glasses perched on his face, arms around two pretty girls as they all socialize and laugh.

Mark’s pretty sure he stops breathing.

“That’s Sean Parker,” he says, though less to Eduardo and more to himself. Sean Parker, who revolutionized music streaming with a simple app, who pissed off an entire business of people and got out of it, mostly unscathed.

Mark wants to ask Sean Parker what he’s doing here, with Stanford kids, in Cambridge—but Eduardo says, first, “We should test out Dustin’s theory to see if my soulmate goes to Stanford.”

And oh. Right. Eduardo’s a frog. And needs to be kissed by multiple people. To turn back into a human.

Mark says through his teeth, “That’s a great idea,” and marches over with more conviction. At least this’ll give him an excuse to talk to Sean Parker.

Stopping at the head of the table, Mark takes a deep breath and says, “You guys are the Stanford debate team, right?”

Most of the kids look up at him. To Mark’s delight, Sean Parker stops whatever conversation he was having with some girl to glance at him too.

“Who’s asking?” he asks curiously.

“Me—I’m, uh, Mark Zuckerberg,” Mark says quickly.

Something like recognition flits over Sean Parker’s face, and Mark’s heartbeat speeds up quicker. “You made CourseMatch,” Sean Parker says.

“How did you know?” Mark asks, trying not to get too excited.

Sean Parker chuckles. “I have friends at Harvard, you know, word gets around the Ivies.” He reaches a hand across the table. “I’m Sean Parker.”

Mark lets go of Eduardo with one hand to take Sean’s hand. “I know,” he says, trying not to sound too eager. “You did Napster—”

In his other hand, there’s a loud cough. Sean and his girl friends look surprised; Mark jerks back, having momentarily forgotten. “Oh, sorry,” Mark says. “I mean, to you guys,” he adds, when he notices that Sean and the Stanford girls are looking at him oddly for apologizing to a frog. “My friend’s been turned into a frog and we’ve been trying all night to get him to kiss people to see if they’ll turn him back.”

He brandishes Eduardo up, and Eduardo says, “Hi, I’m Mark’s friend Eduardo who is in fact a frog.”

“Cool trick man,” Sean says, grinning. He’s not even paying that much to Eduardo, mostly making eye contact with Mark, and Mark grins back. “C’mon, we can pass your little froggie friend around to see if any of them can ‘kiss him’ back into a ‘prince.’” He uses air quotes like he doesn’t really believe Mark, like he thinks this is some sort of party trick, but this is Sean fucking Parker so Mark doesn’t care. Mark nods and hands off Eduardo to some random girl, ignoring the way Eduardo seems to squawk as soon as he’s in the clutches of someone else.

As the girls go around cooing and kissing at Eduardo, Sean says to Mark, “I heard about you man. You did a music thing in high school too, right?”

“Music AI,” Mark says, shrugging with one shoulder and trying to play it cool. “A program that can detect your preference of music.”

“That is some sweet stuff, dude,” says Sean. “You ever think about capitalizing on this shit? Making real bank?” He rubs his fingers together for emphasis.

“I mean, it’s,” says Mark. “Microsoft offered to, but I.” He shrugs again. “That’s not what they’re for. Well,” he adds quickly, in case Sean might call him stupid or a kid or something, “they were really kind of beta programs, and Synapse was open source anyway. CourseMatch is just for Harvard, but I do want to make something—something bigger.”

Sean’s eyes light up, and he grins. “You definitely have the head for it, I’ll tell you that,” he says. “Not just the skillset and the intelligence, but you? You know how to work with purpose.”

“Thanks,” says Mark, flustered. “I, uh. I heard about your stuff with Napster, too, that was really—I thought it was cool.” He mentally hits himself for using such a lame word, but Sean smirks anyhow.

“It was cool, wasn’t it?” he says, just as one of the girls on his arm reaches over to pass Eduardo to the other girl.

Sean stops them. “Hold up Sharon,” he says. “Maybe I’m the princess in this story.”

Sharon—the girl on his right—laughs, and says, “Yeah right, Sean,” but lets Sean take Eduardo anyway.

Mark forces himself to smile, too, even though Eduardo is clearly squirming in Sean’s grasp. “I mean,” Sean says, “don’t I look more like a contender than Ashleigh?” He gestures to the girl on his other arm, a pretty young blond.

Ashleigh snorts. “You wish.”

“You’ve got guts, keeping a pet frog,” Sean says to Mark, looking at Eduardo from side to side. “I probably couldn’t keep a goldfish alive for a day. Well, I wouldn’t want to, is the thing.”

“He’s not my pet—” Mark starts.

Before he can say anything more—and in hindsight, Mark probably should’ve been looking after Eduardo better—Eduardo says irritably, to Sean, “What are you doing with a bunch of coeds? You look too old to be hanging around college girls?”

“This frog’s really got a mouth on him,” Sean says to Sharon and Ashleigh, who are watching with interest. “I’m the club advisor, little guy. What are you?”

“President of the Harvard Investor’s Association,” Eduardo snaps.

Admittedly, it’s embarrassing when it’s coming out of the mouth of a frog. Sean and Sharon and Ashleigh and a few other people listening in burst into giggles, and Sean says, “Aw, how cute. Pucker up, big fella.”

“I’m not kissing you,” Eduardo protests. “Mark—”

“He could be your soulmate,” Mark says, though mostly he just doesn’t want to do anything to piss Sean Parker off.

Sean snickers and says, “Mom did always tell me I’d have to learn to love someone despite their looks,” and the rest of the table erupts into laughter—

—and that’s when, for the first time, Eduardo’s tongue darts out, sticks to Sean’s glasses, and flings them down, shattering onto the table. Sharon and Ashleigh jump as Sean yelps, jumping up onto the booth and letting go of Eduardo, who topples to the table, which itself rocks forward by the force of Sean’s jumping, shattering Sean’s actual drinking glass in the process.

To make matters worse, Mark is unceremoniously shoved aside before he can do anything by a girl who shouts, “Why does Mackey know my bra size?” and pours the contents of her beer bottle at him, and the table, and everything on the table.

“Amy,” Sean says, hurriedly, drenched in beer and now glasses-less and trying to climb his way around the booth. “We were just having a bro-talk, he wasn’t supposed to tell you—”

Wasn’t supposed to tell—!”

As the Stanford debate team descends into chaos, Eduardo hops over to Mark, a slight cut on his upper arm and looking furious. Even as a frog it’s kind of intimidating.

“Get me out of here,” Eduardo bites out.

Mark doesn’t know if he’s supposed to apologize or what, so he just picks Eduardo up and takes him into his hoodie pocket and scurries away, as Sean Parker and his girlfriends or whatever turn the whole booth into a screaming match.

The entire night has been ridiculous, and Mark is tired or at least overheated, so he treks outside, instantly hit with the cool October air. He breathes in deeply, as he hears Eduardo mutter, “Jesus Christ,” from inside his hoodie. The pounding in his head from all the music stops, a mute relief.

“Mark,” Eduardo says again, which Mark takes as indication as Eduardo wanting to be taken out again. He’s still a sticky, beer-sopped mess, shaking his head when Mark plucks him out.

“What the hell was that all about?” Eduardo demands, as Mark wishes he’d taken him out with the end of his sleeve instead of flat in his palm.

Mark winces. “What are you talking about,” he mutters, looking off to the side.

“The whole! Sean Parker! Shit!” Eduardo hops up and down hysterically. It would be funny—well, it still kind of is—even though he sounds absolutely furious. “You left me to be passed around a fucking table with other fucking people, and I didn’t even want Sean Parker to—”

“Why not?” Mark snaps suddenly. “Why are you even yelling at me about this? You’re the one who’s a fucking frog, who’s been kissing people all night, what the fuck’s wrong with Sean Parker?”

“What’s—What’s not wrong with him, he’s hanging out with underage girls, he knew what that one girl’s bra size was!” Eduardo huffs and puffs and he’s not doing that thing that frogs do with their vocal sac but he sure looks like he’s about to. “And you were just—”

“It shouldn’t matter what I was doing, you just need to get kissed to turn back into a human,” Mark reminds him. “Remember?”

“Yeah, well I doubt Sean Parker would’ve helped that,” Eduardo mutters.

“Why? What’s wrong with him?”

“There’s nothing—He’s not—” Eduardo rubs at his little frog face. “If he was my soulmate, that would crush your dreams with him, wouldn’t it?”

Mark opens his mouth—but before he can, to his astonishment, Natalie fucking Portman bursts out of the club, looking harried and slightly drunk like every other coed in there. “Oh, it’s nice out,” she says, before she spies Mark right outside the entrance. “Oh. Hi?” She squints. “Are you holding a frog?”

Mark can’t speak.

Eduardo seems to be shocked into the same silence as he has, until she asks, in which case Eduardo immediately clears his throat. “Hi,” he says.

Natalie fucking Portman nearly jumps. “Oh! A talking frog,” she says, and then laughs. “Didn’t expect that.”

“Where the fuck is Dustin,” Mark mutters from the corner of his mouth.

“No idea,” Eduardo mutters back, “but he is going to shit his pants.”

“You’re friends with the frog?” Natalie fucking Portman asks Mark.

Mark coughs, and then says, “Um, my friend is—Would you mind doing us a favor?”

“Depends,” Natalie fucking Portman chuckles. “Are you going to ask for my autograph?”

“No,” Eduardo says, the same time Mark says, “Would you mind kissing my friend, he’s the frog—I mean, kiss my frog, he’s my friend—it’s basically the same thing—can you kiss my frog and turn him back into a human?”

Natalie fucking Portman looks between Eduardo and Mark, amused. “You do realize I’m not actually a princess, right?” she says.

“You’re close,” Eduardo points out.

“Actors aren’t the same as the people they play,” Natalie fucking Portman says, but she also says, “Sure,” and plucks Eduardo out of Mark’s hands, and neither of them complains.

“No offense,” Eduardo says, as Natalie fucking Portman brings him to her face, “but The Phantom Menace was really bad.”

“I thought so, too,” Natalie fucking Portman says earnestly, before kissing him on the lips.

Mark closes his eyes—but when he opens them, nothing happens. It’s—well, it’s something both like relief and disappointment, because it’d be pretty cool to have Natalie Portman dating Eduardo or something. Or in their friend group. It’s just Natalie fucking Portman, and now both Mark and Eduardo can boast to Chris and Dustin that they saw her and got a kiss from her (Mark more vicariously, but. Details.)

Anyway, Natalie fucking Portman says, “Damn,” but she’s smiling, and hands Eduardo back off to Mark. “Well, we tried.”

“We tried,” Eduardo echoes.

Mark doesn’t know what to say.

“I’m going to head back inside,” Natalie fucking Portman says. “But you guys have a good night, alright?” She waves, and then goes back into the club, Mark and Eduardo staring after her.

“Did that just really happen,” Mark says.

Eduardo seems to still be as starstruck as him. “I guess it did.”

Mark starts walking down the street, because if Natalie Portman can’t bring Eduardo back to a human, he doesn’t know what can. He doesn’t know what Eduardo is thinking, but Mark’s own mind is a jumble between holy-shit-Sean-Parker, holy-shit-Natalie-Portman, and holy-shit-Eduardo’s-kissed-so-many-people-tonight-and-I-had-to-witness-every-single-one-of-them. The autumn air is blissful against his warm cheeks, at least, and he makes his way down a couple of blocks to where he can see some green despite the night air.

“I can’t believe Natalie Portman didn’t turn you back,” Mark says, after some time has passed.

“Because you wanted her to be my soulmate?” Eduardo asks. “Or because she’s basically a princess?

“She is right that actors aren’t the same people they play,” Mark says pointedly. “But yeah, more that one.”

Eduardo hums. “Pseudo-royalty is the same as royalty, anyway.”

Up ahead, Mark can hear a light rush of water, like a fountain, and figures Eduardo can probably use a rinse. “I can’t believe tonight happened,” Mark says, loosening his fist and adjusting Eduardo in his palm.

Eduardo rights himself and looks up at Mark. “It’s still not over, you know,” he says.

“Yeah, I know,” says Mark. “I wouldn’t have tried to talk to the Winklevii even if my life counted on it before, though.”

“They’re not bad,” says Eduardo, and Mark snorts. “Really. They could be a lot worse. Like Sean Parker.”

“Sean Parker’s not bad either,” Mark says.

He stops at the fountain, having easily found it, and puts Eduardo on the stone ledge. Instead of dipping in right away, though, Eduardo says to him, “What’s your deal with him?”

“What do you mean, what’s my deal with him?” Mark says, bewildered. “What’s your deal with him? You’re the one who got all pissed off.”

“I got pissed off because random strangers were passing me around from hand to hand while you and Sean Parker had some sort of heart-to-heart or whatever.” It sounds like Eduardo’s trying to keep the bitterness out of his voice, but he’s bad at it.

He does have a point, with the strangers thing. Mark glances away. “Sorry, I… I did kind of get distracted,” he admits, observing the night sky.

“No shit,” Eduardo mutters, before slipping into the fountain water.

Something from before strikes Mark’s memory though, and he says, “Hey—wait. What did you mean about earlier?”

“What are you talking about?” says Eduardo, tiny green body swimming in the fountain. It’s kind of discombobulating because he’s swimming like how a human would, but that’s not important right now.

“You said that if you kissed Sean and he turned out to turn you back, it would crush my dreams or—whatever,” Mark says. “What does that mean?”

“What do you think it means?” Eduardo says. His voice is strangely hard. “You’ve got a crush the size of a galaxy on him.”

Baffled, Mark says, “No, I—Why would you think that?”

“Because you basically ditched me to meet him?” Eduardo hops back on the stone ledge of the fountain, which Mark has taken to leaning against. “And he’s a skeevy asshole, too, so I didn’t even want to kiss him in the first place.”

“Well I don’t have a crush on him,” Mark says brusquely. “You kissed a lot of people tonight, anyway. I don’t see how it might’ve made a difference.”

“It would’ve made a difference because a lot of the people I kissed tonight I actually wanted to kiss,” says Eduardo. “If there was someone I didn’t want to kiss, then I wouldn’t kiss them.”

Oh. “Oh,” Mark replies, just barely, because he’s been with Eduardo all evening and the whole time he’s been helping Eduardo navigate around, look for so many different people to kiss, to see if they’re his soulmate or some shit, or at least break the spell—so many people, and Eduardo hasn’t kissed himonce. Not like Mark wants to, anyway, because he doubts—knows that he’s not going to do shit, and then it’ll be awkward, and stupid, and Mark will be disappointed in himself for just… being Mark. When Eduardo is cool and likable and managed to successfully flirt with so many people tonight while being a fucking frog.

Then Eduardo says, “Do you want to try to do it?”

Mark is so wrapped up in his thoughts he’s not sure if he heard Eduardo right. “Try to do what?”

Eduardo lets out a patient sigh. “Do you want to try and kiss me?” he says. “Seeing as you haven’t yet.”

“I… haven’t.” Mark looks down to Eduardo, trying to be nonchalant. “Do you want me to?”

Eduardo rolls his eyes. “I asked, dumbass,” he says, which makes Mark’s mouth quirk and dimple beyond his volition.

He picks Eduardo up. “I might as well,” Mark tells him, though he’s pretty sure it’s not going to work. It didn’t work with Natalie fucking Portman—well, anyway. Mark’s not too sure if he’s resigned to his best friend being a frog forever, but admittedly this is only the first night of a probable many.

“You better not taste like Red Bull and vodka,” Eduardo says seriously, before Mark brings Eduardo over to his lips.

The effect is near immediate—one moment Mark is holding Eduardo as a tiny squishy thing in his hands, and the next Eduardo has rematerialized, in his omnipresent suit and slacks, hair and face slightly damp but otherwise looking relatively normal. He nearly stumbles and rights himself.

Mark’s hands are holding onto thin air and he gapes.

Laughter bubbles out from Eduardo’s throat and he goes, “Mark.”

“Holy fuck,” Mark says, but then Eduardo is leaning down and putting his hands on Mark’s knees and kissing him on the mouth for real this time, properly, the wet strands of his hair brushing against Mark’s forehead and his hands coming up to cup Mark’s face. Mark presses back, but then Eduardo pulls back to breathe and Mark says again, low this time, “Holy fuck.”

“I know,” Eduardo says, and pulls away. “I—You—I’m back.”

“You’re back,” Mark echoes, then grins. He stands up, and he doesn’t know what Eduardo is about to step back for but he doesn’t let him, keeping their hands interlocked. “You’re not a fucking frog anymore.”

“I’m not,” Eduardo says sincerely, and Mark is the one who kisses him this time, slow and sweet and he’s not the most experienced kisser but it’s still better than all the fake-frog kisses Eduardo’s been getting all night.

Eduardo makes a happy noise in Mark’s mouth, which makes Mark’s spine shiver and his heart do a pulsing thing. “You fucking—I can’t believe this,” Eduardo says, as he keeps kissing Mark’s mouth. “Of course it was you.”

“What do you mean, of course?” Mark says, though he can’t stop smiling. “You’re the one who thought I had a crush on Sean Parker, I—”

“Yeah, well you obviously don’t.” Eduardo is starting to kiss at Mark’s jaw, and he really better not make Mark pop a boner while they’re outside and like, right next door to BU campus. “Since you’re the one who broke the spell and all.”

“Shut up,” Mark says, and shoves his hands into Eduardo’s. “You kissed, like, fifty people tonight, so you’re going to have to make up for that.”

“Is that a challenge?” Eduardo says. He pulls back but he’s beaming, and Mark wants to make out with him on the T back to Harvard and then back in Kirkland, or maybe Eliot where Eduardo has a single. “If it’s any consolation, you’re my best kiss all night.”

Mark snorts. “I better be,” and Eduardo presses a kiss on his mouth again, and screw it if this isn’t a life lesson or a fairy tale ending, because it’s definitely good enough.