Here is the difference between the Mark that was, and the Mark that came after:
Mark—pre-rift, pre-loneliness, pre-stupid-decisions-that-lost-him-so-much, pre-comprehension— only saw the big things. He saw only what was unavoidable, what was impossible to miss, what people would push in his face with their words and their actions and their too-large-to-ignore anger. Mark missed details.
So he knew things like the stone-set fact that he lived, breathed and slept code; that most people were idiots and he had no patience for that; that Eduardo was not an idiot and yet somehow seemed to like him anyway; that Eduardo was always around, always would be around, and Mark didn’t have to do anything to tend to that relationship. It would just happen, remain, flourish on its own.
The fact that that last was less certain than Mark thought is only proof that Mark let the details slide by him when he should have grasped at them and studied them until he understood. That part is his own fault. If he’d paid attention, he might have noticed things like: the way Eduardo looked at him was unlike anyone else, it was bright and drowning and hopeful (it was fragile); the soft catch of Eduardo’s fingers in Mark’s hair when they’d had too much to drink, and everything felt languid and easy and comfortable under his skin, and Mark didn’t examine why it was so easy, why he could feel Eduardo’s eyes on his face all night, why Eduardo’s voice cracked a little at the edges when he said “Mark, go to bed” (a tell, barely there, with worlds of secrets susurrating within).
Mark missed the fact that Eduardo loved Facebook but he loved it because Mark loved it, because it was theirs, together; he didn’t love it less than Mark did, but he didn’t love it for its inherent nature, for the things it meant. He loved Facebook and he loved Mark, and Mark fucking missed it, missed that Eduardo did not have it within him to separate the two from each other, couldn’t even imagine it; and what that meant is that Mark thought he could break Eduardo from Facebook and still keep the Eduardo who put his fingers in Mark’s hair and said his name softly, and he didn’t know that that wasn’t allowed. He didn’t see it. He missed it.
The Mark of now is smarter than that, by choice. By necessity. This Mark is the one who saw Eduardo looking at him at an event and, instead of wondering what it meant, noticed: the absence of tension in the line of his body, the tilt of his head that was an invitation of a kind. This Mark is not the same person he was at nineteen, and maybe Eduardo had seen that, like he’d seen everything in Mark once (Mark wonders if that was a part of what hurt Eduardo so badly then; a betrayal of himself, when he’d thought he’d known everything there was in Mark, better than anyone else could, and he’d been blindsided all the same).
This Mark found it easy to say I’m sorry and I missed you and mean it; and if he was still apologizing not for what he’d done but how he did it, for the fact that he didn’t see all the ways in which it would break Eduardo, he thought Eduardo knew that, and understood it, and took it as no less sincere.
It was months later when Mark saw that familiar look in Eduardo’s eyes, wanting and hesitant and a little aching, and he knew what it meant, finally; so before Eduardo could swallow it down like he had so many times before, Mark rose on his toes and kissed him. Simple, but it left him shaking. They were both shaking, Mark could feel it where he was clutching Eduardo’s arms with his fingers. Mark noticed. He saw it.
So he has Eduardo now, and maybe Eduardo has learned to not expect too much of him, but Mark—Mark doesn’t want to be that. He wants to see the details, he wants to know how to—how to keep this. He wants to know Eduardo as thoroughly and instinctively as he does Facebook, because he has both again, and this time he will make it work.
So Mark learns the details: that Eduardo loves orange juice, but drinks only apple juice when he has a fever. Eduardo keeps the living room neat and ordered, but spreads his things out in their bedroom so it always looks lived-in, because the living room is for guests but the bedroom is for them. Eduardo sleeps half- on his stomach, half- on his side, with one leg thrown over Mark’s. He talks to no one while he’s dreaming, sometimes. Sometimes Mark answers him back to see if he can keep the conversation going or if he’ll wake Eduardo up, and when he relates it back to Eduardo in the morning, Eduardo always turns a little pink and glares at him without heat and tells him to leave Eduardo out of his social experiments, please.
Eduardo hates bananas. He kills spiders and flies and whatever else gets inside the house, but even seeing a snake on television freaks him the fuck out. He makes this sound, low in his throat like a purr, when Mark presses his thumbs into the base of his skull, and Mark will never tire of listening to it. Mark tries to get Eduardo to make new sounds every day, so they won’t be new any longer, so Mark will know them all.
Mark sucks Eduardo’s cock with all his concentration, slow and careful and thorough, frowning intently like he’s being judged on it; he doesn’t want to let Eduardo out of his mouth even after he’s come. It makes Eduardo kick his heels against Mark’s back and writhe on the bed and sob out, “Mark, Mark enough, please, more, Mark,” confused and contradictory like he can’t even think, just babble. Eduardo doesn’t mind that Mark reaches out for his laptop sometimes, after; he just brings his own work to bed at times, other times falls asleep pressed up against Mark’s hip with his hand on Mark’s thigh as Mark types away. Sometimes Mark shuts his laptop after ten minutes because Eduardo is in his bed, and he has learned that his attention tips toward Eduardo’s end most of the time, now. Sometimes he falls asleep with Eduardo and doesn’t think of his laptop at all.
Mark didn’t know it could be this easy, this heady, this addictive. He didn’t know it could be like code—learning rules and styles of doing things and cause-and-effect; if (Mark.consideration==true) return Eduardo.smile; and there is no else, Mark will not let there be an else. He didn’t know how it would feel to hold Eduardo’s trust again, like looking at a blue-and-white page and thinking I made this. He can look at Eduardo curled into his side, how they are two rough edges smoothing each other down until they fit better than they ever had before, and he can think I made this too.
So the day that he rummages around in the fridge for his breakfast, picks up a yoghurt for Eduardo, takes it into the living room for him and then notices the label, he doesn’t even think before turning around and going back; it’s absent and automatic. He comes back with a different one, and Eduardo gives him a slightly confused look.
“You don’t like the raspberry ones,” Mark says, shrugging a little, and Eduardo stares at him for a moment before stumbling forward and kissing Mark hard and deep, like he knows that Mark is really saying I love you. I love you. I love you.
They have a staff meeting today, and Dustin is running on about three hours of sleep and a shitload of caffeine, but miraculously he remembers to be early for once. He comes into the offices, drops off most of his stuff and then heads to the conference room. He’s actually the second one there, but he expected that—he sees Mark’s familiar hunched-over pose and his flying fingers, the intent look on his face from profile. Mark likes to pretend he’s early to every meeting because he’s such a dedicated and responsible CEO, but Dustin totally knows it’s because he wants to reserve his favorite seat that is both in the corner so he’s not surrounded by people, and also very close to an outlet. Apparently coming late to meetings and kicking people out of your favorite seat is gauche or something.
Anyway, Dustin is about to loudly break the silence and see if he can manage to make Mark jump a foot this time, but just then Mark’s phone rings and Mark’s hand flies to pick it up. Dustin gapes. He’s seen Mark ignore a fire drill while he was working until someone shook his shoulder and pointed it out to him. A missed phone call or two is business as usual.
But against all odds, Mark is holding it to his ear and uttering a soft, “Hey.” His whole face goes soft, actually, even the line of his body, and if Dustin had had any doubt who was on the other end of the line, that would erase all of it. There’s only one person Mark goes that stupid over.
“Are you—” Mark starts, stops to listen, then continues with a frown, “Actually you’re not fine, you have a fever—Wardo, I don’t think you can really have a little fever, you either have one or you don’t. And you have one. Yes. What? Yes, I do argue with sick people if the sick person is as aggravating as you, and didn’t you just say you’re fine?” Mark is scowling a little and scratching a groove into the table with his thumbnail. “You know, I could have stayed—” He pauses and heaves a sigh as Eduardo presumably interrupts him again.
Dustin realizes he’s hovering in the doorway like a very creepy stalker, but this is—he’s decidedly sleep-deprived and this is highly entertaining to him right now and it’s kind of blackmail gold, okay?
“I left your—the medicine’s by your bed, and I stuck some more juice in the fridge,” Mark says quietly, hunching his shoulders and speaking a little furtively even though he thinks no one else is around. “Call me if you need anything, it’s highly unlikely I’ll be listening to anything of such importance in this meeting that it can’t be interrupted. …What? Why do you automatically assume I was saying that this meeting will be unimportant instead of saying that you’re just more important? You have no faith in me.” His tone is wry, teasing, open. Dustin wouldn’t say this to Mark, because they both share an aversion to talking about the really important stuff most of the time (and to be honest, he and Mark have never really needed that anyway), but he’s kind of missed that sound a little bit.
Mark hesitates after a beat, and then says even quieter than he’s been so far, “I, uh, you too. Call me in another couple of hours so I know you didn’t pass out and fall down the stairs or something. Okay. Bye.”
Mark hits the end button, and Dustin must move or make a noise or something, because Mark looks up and catches sight of him then. His ears turn a little red immediately, and his eyes narrow dangerously, and it is adorable.
“Not a word,” Mark says meaningfully, in his very stern I am your boss and you have to listen to me or else I will make your life miserable voice. It might even work, if it weren’t for the fact that Dustin has seen Mark passed-out face-first into his cereal, and asleep and snoring and drooling at three in the morning in front of his laptop, and also that one time when he was too busy writing an idea down on his hand in Sharpie to notice that he was about to walk into a glass door, and he had to go around all day with a huge red mark on his forehead. It kind of takes the intimidating shine off a guy when you’ve known him that long, through all the stupid things he’s ever done and dreamed of doing.
And Dustin hates to disappoint expectations, so he says promptly, “Mrs. CEO’s checking in, I see. How are things at home? Still as nauseatingly happy as ever?”
“I will fire you,” Mark says through gritted teeth.
“Wardo likes me, I’m pretty sure he’d send you to the couch if you did that,” Dustin says, finally walking fully inside the conference room to set his stuff next to Mark, unfazed by his deepened glare.
“Not if I tell him you keep calling him Mrs. CEO,” Mark mutters, and Dustin rolls his eyes.
“Oh, like you aren’t just waiting until you’re totally sure he won’t say no when you propose. You want to put a ring on it and have his babies, dude,” he says, logging onto his laptop as he speaks.
“…There’s something wrong with you,” Mark says after a beat, but his whole face is flushing now, and his hands are twitching a little against the table. Dustin eyes him sidelong. He’d been joking, but only by about forty percent.
“You have to know he’d say yes,” Dustin says, a little gently and more serious than before. Contrary to popular belief, he does know how to be serious once in a while.
“Keep your delusions to yourself, Dustin,” Mark grumbles, but with less heat than might be expected from someone protesting wholeheartedly.
Dustin grins to himself. More people start filing in then, so he sets the discussion aside for another time, preferably one during which he can embarrass Mark in front of the most number of people possible.
Later that day, Mark’s phone rings again, and Dustin watches him answer it and try to pretend that he isn’t the happiest he’s ever been in his life.
It absolutely does not work even the slightest bit.
It’s one of Facebook’s anniversaries, and the combination of that and the fact that apparently the public is bored and would really enjoy hearing whatever possibly horrifying thing comes out of Mark’s mouth next combine to mean one very terrifying thing: Mark is about to interviewed.
Chris has a minor panic attack every time this happens, which—is a little unfair to Mark, he knows. Contrary to what most people and some small part of himself think, Mark is capable of being a responsible adult and communicating like a (semi) normal person, especially when it’s about something as important to him as Facebook. It’s just that, sometimes Chris looks at him and remembers a frighteningly articulate nineteen-year-old who wouldn’t hesitate to stand up and say, “This is appalling, why am I here? This is a complete and utter waste of my time,” and Chris had found it amusing then because he didn’t have to clean up after Mark. Mark doesn’t really do that anymore, though. Much.
Still—minor panic attacks. Which is why Chris is running around the offices, looking for Mark so he can inform him that, yes, a tie is necessary, and also hopefully convince him to take his mother’s advice: If you can’t say anything nice, please please please do not say anything at all.
He turns the corner and sees Mark. Mark, who is not alone—Eduardo is there as well, leaning against the wall and watching Mark duck his chin and fumble with his tie, trying to stare at it and probably going hilariously cross-eyed. The look on Eduardo’s face—amused, helplessly fond, still slightly disbelieving like he’s itching to pinch himself so he can prove it’s all real—makes Chris’s chest hurt a little, in a good way. It’s—it’s never been as good as when all four of them are together. Mark and Eduardo are two of his best friends, and there was a time when he thought they were just spectacularly bad for each other, all miscommunication and inability to say the important things and lightning-edged overwhelming emotion; but they’ve made it work, maybe they don’t need to say the important things because they’ve learned each other’s silences, and Chris has never seen either of them as happy as they are when they’re with each other.
“Do you need some help with that?” Eduardo asks pointedly after a minute, and Chris doesn’t lie to himself about why he’s still hiding behind the wall and watching them—back at Harvard, he’d come across them sometimes, had seen Eduardo always watching Mark, always giving, and Mark didn’t notice any of it; he wants to see what they’re like now when no one else is watching, if they’re happier. Easier.
“I’m the CEO of Facebook,” Mark says, and it’s nothing less than a petulant grumble. A laugh tumbles out of Eduardo, surprised and warm.
“What, is—is that going to be your stock answer when someone brings up something you can’t do?” he says, grinning a little. “Mark, you keep turning our laundry blue. Mark, your omelets are decidedly subpar, I’m afraid. Mark, I hate to break this to you, but you really can’t carry a tune.”
Mark looks up, and his mouth is quirking a little. “But I’m the CEO of Facebook,” he says dryly, and that is—that is Mark playing along. “Your argument is invalid.”
Eduardo cracks up, putting a hand over his mouth to stifle his laughter. Chris can’t quite stop his own smile at the sound, at the subtly pleased curve of Mark’s mouth.
“I don’t understand why I have to do this, anyway,” Mark says, huffing in irritation and yanking the lopsided line of his tie off to try again. “I mean—they won’t even want to know what’s going on with Facebook right now, it’s all the—all the same questions I’ve answered before, and I really don’t have a different response now.”
Eduardo shrugs, still watching Mark with the kind of intentness Chris has never seen anyone direct at anyone else, ever. It’s as if Eduardo’s entire world is focused a foot in front of him on this one curly-haired, socially inept billionaire. Eduardo’s always looked at Mark like that, though. As much as Chris used to hurt for Eduardo a little, he sometimes wondered what it would be like to be the center of a look like that—incredible, yes, but also a little scary, so much pressure from someone’s entire happiness hinging upon you and your actions. Mark didn’t see it back at Harvard, didn’t know what it meant; Chris knows, with everything in him, that if Mark had seen it, he never would have done what he did in that way. He loved Eduardo too much to break him open like that intentionally, even then, even if he never said it.
“The history of Facebook,” Eduardo says, doing the movie-announcer voice that really just shows what an enormous dork he is. “It’s fascinating to people. Just answer whatever questions they have and be nice, Mark.”
Mark makes a noncommittal noise that does not reassure Chris in anyway. “Okay, but why do I have to do this? I mean, you’re here, why don’t they—why don’t they just talk to you, you were there, you were just as integral to Facebook’s beginnings. I really do have a thousand better ways to spend my time, I have to work on this update, and I…” Mark trails off, muttering a little to himself and still intent on the tie that is apparently his Kryptonite, so he misses the way Eduardo straightens up from his lean like he’s been shocked. Eduardo stares at Mark with his mouth half-open, and Mark is oblivious, and Chris can tell Mark has no idea what he’s even said—that he’s said the thing Eduardo always wanted to hear from him. That Facebook was something they did together and that Eduardo was needed.
Mark looks up after a minute, probably due to Eduardo’s silence. “What?” he says, frowning a little. “Wardo, you’re the one who told me to wear this, anyway, I don’t suppose you could—”
Eduardo takes a step forward and pushes Mark’s hands away gently. “You’re hopeless,” he says with a small smile, his voice a little rough. Mark’s eyes narrow a little, like he’s trying to break Eduardo down and figure him out, but Eduardo doesn’t give him a chance. Eduardo slides the tie out from under Mark’s collar, running his thumb down Mark’s throat in a caress. Mark inhales, reaches out to wrap his fingers around Eduardo’s wrist. Keeps them there while Eduardo deftly does up his tie and straightens his shirt and finally leans in to kiss Mark slowly and thoroughly. Chris feels a little uncomfortable seeing the way Mark lets out a soft noise and fists his hand in Eduardo’s shirt—Mark, who is so guarded and walled except for when even he can’t manage to close himself off—but it eases all the last worries he didn’t know he’d been carrying. There is no imbalance anymore, Eduardo wanting and Mark blind. They just fit together.
Eduardo finally pulls away when Chris is considering coughing and moving forward and pretending like he just got there, and Eduardo says softly, “You have to go.”
“I hate you,” Mark says, “Don’t remind me.”
“You really don’t,” Eduardo says, looking more than a little smug when Mark just makes a face and doesn’t deny it.
“Can I hate Chris for making me do this?” Chris can hear Mark say, their voices growing a little distant as Eduardo presumably leads Mark away.
“No, you can’t,” Eduardo says firmly. “And the sooner you get this done, the sooner I can take you home and…” Chris is very, very glad Eduardo lowered his voice to finish that sentence. As happy for them as he is, he really does not want to think about what the two of them get up to in bed (bad enough that time Dustin had come to him and, in horror-filled tones, related the story in excruciating detail of how he walked in on them in the bathroom and “if I never see Mark even partly naked again it will be too soon, Christopher, I’m traumatized for life”).
But—he really is happy for them. And for himself, too. There is absolutely no question that Mark is one hundred times easier to handle when Eduardo is around to calm him down and put him in a good mood through methods Chris is not thinking about.
Calmer now than he had been fifteen minutes ago when he came looking for Mark, Chris turns around and leaves, and finds he can’t quite get rid of his own smile for the rest of the day.
Haley isn’t exactly wildly enthused about working the late shift at a grocery store, but hey—it makes her money, and she meets the weirdest people. Like, there’s the guy who comes in at 9:30 every week and always buys one of those huge boxes of chocolate donuts, nothing else. He’s the skinniest guy Haley has ever seen, and what does he even need with a box full of donuts at 9:30 at night, anyway? Then there’s the woman who always fills her cart with packages of paper towels, so many paper towels it’d probably get her through the apocalypse, and the last thing she always buys is a People magazine from the checkout counter.
Then there’s Mark Zuckerberg.
The first time he came to her counter at eleven at night with a case of Red Bull in his hand and a packet of gum, Haley almost knocked something over when she realized who he was. But he just blinked at her kind of blearily, looking like he needed that Red Bull desperately, and kind of reminding her of her younger brother, who wanders around in the morning looking kind of helpless and sleep-deprived until she sits him down and forcibly makes him eat breakfast. So apparently some billionaires shop at night and singlehandedly keep the energy drink business running. That’s—good to know.
This becomes something of a routine, and once in a while she considers asking him if that’s all he plans to buy, but she resists the temptation. After all, for all she knows, he could be doing his normal grocery shopping whenever she’s not on shift. It doesn’t mean anything that he looks like a strong wind could knock him over, that’s just Haley’s mother rising up inside her and trying to take over again. Right.
Then one day, the routine breaks: she sees Mark walk up to the counter, but this time he’s pushing a cart full of actual food in front of him and looking kind of disgruntled, and someone is standing next to him and lecturing him in tones of great disapproval.
“—can’t believe you do your grocery shopping at this time of night, Mark, you—”
“Eduardo,” Mark says, stressing the first syllable petulantly. Haley bites down on a smile. Now he really reminds her of her younger brother. “You’re the one who wanted to come here now.”
“Because your milk is three weeks old, Mark! Never mind the complete lack of all other food in your fridge,” Eduardo says, sounding all kinds of horrified.
“I don’t even drink milk,” Mark says, shrugging, and Eduardo sighs in exasperation. He rolls his eyes when he catches Haley’s gaze, but the look he darts at Mark is so helplessly fond that she doesn’t know why he’s even bothering to pretend he’s feeling anything else.
“I know, I know, if you could live on Red Bull and Red Bull alone, you’d be a happy man,” Eduard says dryly, pulling the cart’s contents out so Haley can start ringing them up.
Mark considers this thoughtfully. “And pizza,” he says after a moment. “I like pizza too.”
Eduardo makes a ‘why me’ sort of face, and Haley can’t stop the little laugh that bubbles up. Eduardo smiles at her in response.
“Look, Mark, fruit,” Eduardo says, dropping a bag full of apples onto the conveyor belt. “Bread, milk! Eggs! Staples of life!”
“You’re a little too enthusiastic about this for my comfort,” Mark grumbles.
Haley counts breakfast cereal of the non-sugar-laden kind, orange juice, pasta, tomatoes, and other things she’s never seen remotely near Mark’s person before as she rings them all up. This is kind of—adorably domestic, actually.
“Tyranny,” Mark says with a little frown. “I have no control over what I keep in m—” he breaks off, darts a quick look at Eduardo, and then finishes hesitantly, “our fridge anymore.”
Eduardo doesn’t look up from where he’s fumbling a credit card out of his wallet, but his ears go pink and he bumps Mark’s hip with his own. Wow. Haley can practically feel her teeth rotting at how sweet they are.
When they finally have all their groceries bagged and back in the cart, Mark heaves a sigh and says, “We didn’t even get any Red Bull.”
Eduardo rolls his eyes. “Check the bag at the bottom, genius. Shows how much you were paying attention. Now come on.”
Mark sidles up to stand so close to Eduardo he’s practically stepping on his foot, and doesn’t move any further away from him even when Eduardo starts rolling the cart out the door.
“Have a nice day,” Haley tells them, and finds that she really, honestly hopes they do.
It’s been a long time since Sean last saw Eduardo, and an even longer time since he last said more than “how’re things?” at an event, because they’re capable of being civil to each other in public, but Sean still can’t quite get over the half-feeling that Eduardo is considering all the ways he’d like to punch Sean for real this time whenever he sees him.
But look, okay, Sean may not be the best friend in the world, but he does consider Mark a friend. He doesn’t know a lot of people who are so unapologetically themselves, and he likes Mark for that.
So he comes into the offices one day, looking to check up on Mark, and also maybe possible looking to confirm those rumors he’s been hearing that Eduardo Saverin is back in Mark’s life. If he is, then hey, good for them—contrary to what people might think, Sean hasn’t actually enjoyed seeing Mark wander around like a sad little robot these last few years, and if they can make it work, great.
Here are the things Sean remembers about Mark and Eduardo’s relationship back then, back before: Eduardo always looked at Mark like he was everything he’d ever want, so much so that it made Sean a little uncomfortable. Eduardo had a girlfriend, but the way he looked at her didn’t have a tenth of the same fervor. Eduardo looked at Sean like an intruder, like competition, with his jaw set, teeth clenched, like he’d hit him if he could; Eduardo used to put his hand on Mark’s arm or his back in a silently possessive gesture, pathetic in its futility because it meant nothing as long as Mark didn’t know what it was. Mark didn’t see it; what he did see was that Eduardo had a girlfriend who went with him everywhere, and his mouth would set in an angry line even if he didn’t understand why. What Mark saw was that Sean was only looking at Mark, and Sean had things to offer.
What Sean saw was opportunity.
Maybe it made him an asshole of the worst kind, but it was business, and if Eduardo had ever found it in him to say Mark, this is what I want from you and laid it all out and listened in return, Sean knows he’d have been history, because Mark would have chosen Eduardo. But Eduardo didn’t, and Mark went with Sean, and now they’re all rich as fuck.
So. That’s what happened, and it’s history, and Sean can still wish the two of them well, now. He can hope for them that they really have figured themselves out, because he’s an asshole, but not pointlessly. He’s not some cartoon villain rubbing his hands in the corner and wishing eternal pain on Eduardo’s head, and maybe he’s rooting for them not for Eduardo’s sake but because he knows it’ll make Mark happier than anything else could, but he’s rooting for them all the same.
When Sean gets into the offices, he sees them before they notice him, and this is what he sees in them now: Eduardo still looks at Mark like he puts the sun up in the sky every morning, but Mark—the look on Mark’s face is like when he and Sean used to stay up and talk about Facebook, this brilliant visionary thing Mark created; it’s breathless and disbelieving and awed, a match for everything Eduardo’s got written all over him and more. Eduardo has his hand on the back of Mark’s neck, but it isn’t the clutching grip he’d had back when he’d been so desperate to stake some claim, any claim at all over whatever part of Mark he could get.
But what’s most telling is what happens when Eduardo looks up and sees Sean. He doesn’t pull away, his face doesn’t twist in that old look of barely-contained jealousy. He doesn’t tighten his hand on Mark in a gesture of possessiveness.
He just—stays where he is. His hand rests on Mark’s neck naturally, easily, like it belongs there. Like Eduardo is entirely certain that he belongs with Mark, and he has absolutely no need to prove it to anyone else.
Okay then. Sean can work with that.
Sean sidles over toward them, inwardly amused by the slightly apprehensive looks Mark is darting between him and Eduardo.
“Sean,” Mark says, and it’s—well, as warm as Mark can sound, because Mark doesn’t forget. Sean fucked up, but Sean was there, too. Eduardo is watching him intently, but he doesn’t look angry. Maybe they’ve all just managed to grow up.
“So I should probably stop trying to get him laid at events, huh,” Sean says, looking at Eduardo and smirking at the way Mark scowls at him blackly.
“I’m sure he appreciates your concern for his sex life. But yes,” Eduardo says, and the words are dry and light enough, but there’s just enough of a dangerous edge there to make the or else very clearly audible.
Sean holds his hands up in surrender. “Hey, don’t have to tell me twice. Congratulations or whatever.”
Eduardo eyes him for a moment, and then nods his thanks, which is probably about as friendly as they can be with each other without one of them exploding or something.
“So tell me what’s going on,” Sean says to Mark, sitting on the corner of a desk.
Mark starts telling him about the new update they’re putting in and the meeting Chris made him go to and the new idea he had at four in the morning one day, and Eduardo’s thumb is rubbing circles over the back of Mark’s neck, and no one is punching (or threatening to punch) anyone else, and the world does not end. It’s a pretty good day in Sean’s book.
Danielle has been Mark’s assistant for a few years, and she knows by now pretty well how to handle him—including standing out of his way and handing him Red Bull after Red Bull when he’s mid- intense coding session; reminding him multiple times that he has a meeting this afternoon, yes, this afternoon, do not forget, Mark; fielding calls from his long-suffering mother; and remembering, above all else, that any topic even remotely concerning Eduardo Saverin is completely forbidden upon pain of death. Or, well, pain of firing, really; but seeing the way Mark goes kind of red in the face and grouches around for the rest of the day and yells at everybody that time one of the interns makes the mistake of asking about him in Mark’s hearing, Danielle wouldn’t really take death off the table.
When Mark and Eduardo reconcile, this last is not the only thing to change.
Mark leaves before Danielle sometimes, now. She just about had a heart attack the first time it happened.
- “Do I have anything else today?” Mark said with his hands shoved into his pockets, a look on his face she’d never seen before.
“No?” Danielle told him after checking his calendar, fully expecting him to retreat back into his office with orders not to be disturbed for the rest of the night.
Instead, Mark nodded at her and said, “Okay, well, I’ll be leaving then. Let me know if something comes up. Um. Something urgent. That Dustin or Chris can’t handle.”
Danielle just gaped at him for a moment, distantly aware that she looked like some kind of fish, but—Mark wanted to let Dustin handle things? It was only six, and Mark was leaving? She honestly couldn’t even help herself, she just blurted out, “Are you feeling all right?”
“What? Yes,” Mark said, and at least his familiar scowl was back on his face. It lasted all of five seconds though, before fading into something kind of soft and uncertain, and Mark said, “I’m, uh, having dinner. With Eduardo. Wait, why am I telling you this? Never mind, forget I said that, you’re always telling me to leave early anyway, does it matter why?”
It was too late though. Danielle could feel a distinctly sappy smile stretch across her face, and it didn’t disappear even in the face of Mark’s pointed glare. It wasn’t Danielle’s fault, she’d always been a romantic. “No, that’s—that’s great. Go, go, don’t keep him waiting. Have fun,” she added, and couldn’t resist the tiny little suggestive eyebrow waggle.
Mark tripped over the leg of her desk. His ears went red like he was thinking of all the ways he could have fun, in detail. “I’d threaten to fire you, but no one believes me when I say that anymore,” he grumbled.
“It’s the good mood you’ve been in lately,” Danielle said knowingly. “Tell Eduardo to keep up the good work.”
Mark shot her a look that was trying to be a glare, but just came out looking sort of horrified and disgustingly besotted, which, admittedly, was a much nicer reaction to the sound of Eduardo’s name than she’d gotten used to. He left, and Danielle grinned to herself as she checked over Mark’s calendar for the rest of the week. She foresaw a lot more early nights in the future.
So there’s the leaving early, and the smitten smile Mark can’t keep off his face, and sometimes Eduardo comes into the offices to visit Mark and the two of them stand around staring at each other like they think no one else can tell they’re hearing a Disney soundtrack in their heads. There’s also the way Mark comes into work looking well-rested and well-fed, the way his diatribes and caustic rants lack their usual biting edge, like his good mood is so persistent it sticks around even in the face of general stupidity.
There’s also the time Eduardo comes in when Mark is busy in a meeting, carrying a large box in his hands and looking kind of sheepish and furtive.
“Are you planning on blowing up the building?” Danielle asks him with a raised eyebrow. She likes Eduardo. He’s friendly and just so genuinely nice in the way she wishes more people were. Also, she knows Mark knows she has absolutely no designs on Eduardo’s (dubious) virtue, but Mark still gets this little scowl and line between his eyebrows anytime she stands too close to Eduardo (too close, in Mark’s mind, being anywhere closer than ten feet, apparently). It’s kind of hilarious, actually.
Eduardo laughs. “I think I’ve destroyed enough of Mark’s property for a lifetime, don’t you?” The fact that he can joke about it is—well, it says good things about their relationship, and really, Danielle is so very happy for them. She’d liked Mark even when he’d been stuck in his pining, ‘I hate the world’ state, because he was nice to people and tried to pretend like he wasn’t, because he was so smart, because she came in on her birthday and found flowers on her desk, and he’d hid in his office all day so she couldn’t thank him. She’d wanted better for him, she wanted him to be happy. The way Mark looks now is so different from how he’d been then, they may as well not even be the same person.
“So what’s in the box?” she asks, nodding toward it. Eduardo throws a look around again, as if to make sure no one’s watching, and really, what did he bring in here, drugs?
When he opens it up, she has to bite her tongue to keep herself from erupting into giggles. The box is stocked with bottles of water, and packets of trail mix, and a couple of clementines and some other fruit, and jesus, did he bring Mark a care package?
“They’re—if I stick them in his desk so they’re right in front of him when he’s coding, he’ll usually eat them because they’re there,” Eduardo says, flushing a little. “It’s what I did back in—well, he never used to complain. And it’s better for him. So. I’ll just—go do that then.”
“Okay,” Danielle says, voice a little strangled, because what else can she even say in response to that?
Eduardo turns to go presumably hide his secret box of healthy food in Mark’s desk, but he stops for a second and says, “Oh, you—you don’t have to tell Mark about this, do you?” He looks at her pleadingly.
“It’ll be our secret,” Danielle tells him, and bites her lip hard to keep the laughter down.
Of course, two days later, Mark wanders out of his office with a bottle of water in one hand and an orange in the other, mouth twitching at the corners.
“What,” he says flatly, and Danielle grins.
“Well, the health-fairy was concerned about your Vitamin C intake, so I guess she—” she starts, and Mark sighs, and cuts her off.
“Wardo,” he says knowingly, and it’s possible he’s trying to sound irritated, but she decides not to tell him it comes out more infatuated than anything else.
“He asked me not to tell you,” Danielle says, shrugging a little.
Mark shakes his head. “Okay, the only two people in the world who’d do something like this are him and my mom, and I highly doubt my mother came all this way to put fruit in my desk. He is so…” Mark stops, at a loss for words.
“Sweet?” Danielle suggests. “Unreal? Criminally adorable?”
Mark narrows his eyes. “You’re fired,” he informs her, and Danielle laughs in response.
“Still don’t believe you!” she calls out as Mark heads back to his office, and then grins to herself, considering the likelihood of Mark taking her hand off at the wrist if she tried to appropriate any part of his care package.
Likelihood: very, very likely.
It isn’t all easy. They don’t fit together seamlessly, magically glossing over all the issues and history and differences they have. Mark still retreats, deflects, dives into work because it makes more sense to him than Eduardo does sometimes. Eduardo still reacts too fast, convinced of his rightness, forgets the fact that Mark means worlds more than what he says at times, and it only takes the right kind of listening to glean it all. They’re neither of them especially given to listening.
But they’re working at it. It’s in the fact that they try, that Mark goes to work in a stony silence and comes back looking a little hesitant, a little open, he nudges Eduardo’s ankle with his socked foot in a wordless apology and lets Eduardo explain to him why he’s upset. It’s in the fact that, somewhere along the line, Eduardo has stopped guarding himself against the certainty that he will be hurt again—that he and Mark can fight, and his chest does not seize up in that chill of he’s going to make me regret this; because he and Mark are older, and just a little wiser, and Eduardo can see how much Mark loves him now, and Eduardo thinks he’s realized that he doesn’t have it in him to regret any part of Mark.
It’s—it’s the way that they try their hardest to just keep each other, because they’ve lived without each other before, and whatever else happens, they intend to do everything they can to make sure they never have to do that again. Mark is infuriating and confusing and arrogant and closed-off, and he’s brilliant like a once-in-a-lifetime cataclysmic event that Eduardo gets to hold between his two hands, and he forgets dates and dinners but he brings home a bar of dark chocolate for Eduardo whenever he goes to the store by himself because Eduardo once absently mentioned he liked it. He’s sweet and thinks he doesn’t have the capacity to be. He’s acerbic in the way Eduardo wishes he could let himself be sometimes, and he hates stupidity in people but sometimes Eduardo catches him with a look on his face like he thinks Eduardo is brilliant, like he thinks Eduardo is, god, everything.
Eduardo has seen him from nineteen onward, has witnessed the growth and change, has seen Mark lose his sharp edges and his sky-high walls and learn how to share the softness so carefully guarded within. Eduardo has felt the sting of Mark’s teeth, the knife of his betrayal, the cold touch of his hands as he tucks them under Eduardo’s shirt to warm them, the way he falls fully into every kiss he leaves on Eduardo’s body. He has seen him through stupid drunken decisions and incomparable, visionary ideas; he has learned him upside-down and inside-out, immersed himself in the history that is theirs, unmatched, and he and Mark are still not effortless together, but he will not let him go to anyone else.
There are relationships built on grand gestures and sweeping declarations; the moments that are rare and immense and breathless. They’d had something a little like that, even when it hadn’t been a relationship; more like a series of constant miscommunications tempered by unspoken connection. They founded Facebook, they were children thrown into the bigger world in the blink of time, they sat opposite each other and tore their history apart for the dispassionate judgment of others, trying to see where it went so wrong; Eduardo froze the account, smashed Mark’s laptop, Mark pushed him out of their company, they spent years trying to forget each other, everything they did to and with each other was too vast, too frightening, too much. They were too much for each other, then. They knew how to react but not how to listen.
They have enough money for the grandest gestures in the world, now, but—they don’t need to be that anymore. Eduardo doesn’t need breathless and one-of-a-kind, colossal and earth-shattering, he doesn’t need it and he doesn’t want it. What he needs is the way Mark slides his toes under Eduardo’s leg when they sit together on the couch, slow and careful like he thinks he has to get away with it. What he wants is to watch Mark stumble out of bed in the morning, every morning; to see the sharply focused snap in his fingers when he tumbles into his code and know, with certainty, that when he resurfaces he will return to Eduardo. Eduardo wants to hold the tiniest of these moments in the palm of his hand, weave them deftly into something that cannot ever tear, that will stand up to time and their insecurities and their fumbling ineptness at being in love, that will endure.
He wants a millennium of watching Mark fall asleep with his mouth open and Eduardo’s t-shirt hanging too long at his hips. Even a lifetime won’t be enough.
Eduardo wakes one morning with Mark breathing open-mouthed and hot against the back of Eduardo’s neck in his sleep, a strange little whistle of sound escaping him every time he exhales. Eduardo feels a warm curl of fondness in his stomach for that whistle, for the fact that it is a Thursday morning and he has Mark’s arm locked around his chest like he is exactly where he belongs.
He doesn’t know how long he stays like that, drifting in the hazy reverie of early morning, straddling the line between sinking right back into an easy sleep and coming fully awake. He knows the exact moment Mark wakes, though; a rush of hot breath against his skin, a questioning unintelligible murmur that sounds a little like his name, and Mark’s arm tightens instead of easing away.
“Morning,” Eduardo murmurs, turning over and sliding right back into the open parenthesis of Mark’s arm. People might not think that Mark has it in him to be soft in any way, too used to the flying daggers of his words and his seemingly impenetrable confidence, but they don’t see him like this—sleep-rumpled, unguarded, easy. He rolls right onto his back when Eduardo pushes him a little; his fingers cup the back of Eduardo’s head and he mumbles a thick, “Morning,” back.
(“I used to feel like they were just waiting for it,” Mark said one day, staring down at his hands. “Everyone around us, you too. For when I’d fuck this up again, like it was inevitable. I used to wait for it to happen.”)
Eduardo listens to Mark’s heart drumming under his ear, beating a rhythm right down into his bones. Mark says Eduardo’s name again, barely audible, delicate like he’s tasting it. He says it like it means more than the letters making up its skeleton, more than the two-syllable ebb-flow of it, more than anything else.
(“Neither of us is all that good at this,” Eduardo said, mouth quirking a little. “I’ve had my own share of screw-ups. But we—we’re doing pretty well, aren’t we?”)
“You’re putting my arm to sleep,” Mark grumbles quietly, but makes absolutely no effort to move away.
“Deal with it,” Eduardo tells him, bites him gently.
(“Yeah,” Mark said softly, and it was about as far from a standard declaration of love as possible, but the way he was looking at Eduardo, it was—fuck, it was everything.)
Mark makes a noise that comes out colored in shades of contentment, and pulls him in closer.
And god, Eduardo is just so happy.
“So, you’d marry me, right?” Mark says suddenly one day, out of nowhere, staring straight ahead at his laptop. His fingers are stilled against the keys.
Eduardo drops his book.
“I…” Eduardo stares at Mark wordlessly for a moment, unsure if he even heard that right. The possibility that he hit his head and is now hallucinating Mark proposing almost makes more sense than Mark actually, well, proposing. Mark just stares back at him, face blank and not giving anything away. If it weren’t for the way he’s pulled his hands away from the keyboard and fisted them in his pockets, Eduardo might think he’s utterly at ease. This—he might really be—
“Is this you—actually asking me?” Eduardo says, voice a little hoarse.
“No,” Mark says, the slightest hint of a shake in his voice. “I don’t like public humiliation or asking for things if I don’t know the answer’s going to be yes. This is me making sure before I ask. So I’d—really appreciate an answer.”
And Eduardo can’t stop himself from grinning wildly at that, at Mark being so Mark, at the uncertain curve of Mark’s mouth, at the way his face smoothes out at the sight of Eduardo’s smile. At Mark’s clever hands curled up into nervous balls in his pockets.
“Then yes,” Eduardo says, biting his lip and smiling through it all the same. “I’d marry you if you asked.”
“Okay. That’s—good to know,” Mark says, letting out a relieved little sigh.
“So ask, idiot,” Eduardo says, laughing because he is so full of joy and it needs some way to escape him.
“What? No,” Mark protests, “I was going to—make it special. I thought I’d ask Chris or something, he’s good at that stuff.”
“This is special,” Eduardo says, perching on top of Mark’s desk and reaching out to brush his fingers against the side of Mark’s face. His heart is thumping inside his chest, and he means it—this is Mark, wanting forever with him so much that he has to make sure of it beforehand. How could that not be special?
“You—I don’t understand you,” Mark says, shaking his head. “No, at least—hold on.” He bends down and starts frantically yanking things out of his laptop bag, until he finally emerges triumphantly with a little box in his hand, and—oh. “Okay, okay,” Mark mutters to himself, and then kind of slides out of his chair and onto one knee, and Eduardo is still sitting on top of Mark’s desk, frozen in place.
“Right,” Mark says decisively. “I—” Then he stops, swipes his tongue over his lower lip, looking like the words are as surreal on the tip of his tongue as they sound in Eduardo’s head. “Same question as before?” Mark says hopefully, and Eduardo laughs, chokes on it a little. He puts his hands on his knees to try and stop them from shaking.
“Try again,” Eduardo says sternly, pushing his tongue against his teeth to keep his face from going stupidly buoyant.
“Marry me, please?” Mark manages to spit out, going a little red. “The chances of me finding anyone else willing to put up with me at this point are limited at best.”
“I see your priorities are in order,” Eduardo says.
“My knees hurt,” Mark says plaintively.
“Please, you’ve spent longer down there before,” Eduardo says dismissively, kicking his feet a little, and then says around a giddy laugh, “Yes, of course, get up here.”
“I’m getting mixed messages from you,” Mark starts to say as he gets to his feet, but it dissolves into an mmph when Eduardo kisses him so hard their teeth click together. Eduardo doesn’t let him go, loops a hand around the back of his neck and holds him in place so he can bite his mouth and draw out every slick, panting noise Mark gives him.
When they finally pull apart, Eduardo rests his forehead against Mark’s and points out, “You bought rings without knowing if the answer was going to be yes.”
And Mark—Mark just fumbles for his hand without looking down because he doesn’t want to pull away, slips the ring onto his finger and says quietly, “Yeah, well—so maybe I hoped.”
And Eduardo has to kiss him again for that, for his shaking hands, for the fact that they’ve even gotten here from where they began.
“I love you,” he whispers, and Mark is not nineteen and he never holds back from saying it to Eduardo, in everything he does and in words when he thinks it’s needed.
So Mark says, “Love you too, Wardo.” And because he’s still Mark, he follows it up with a blunt, “Let’s go upstairs. I really want to fuck you while you’re wearing that ring.”
Eduardo breaks into a startled laugh even as he feels something hot pool low in his stomach, and he plants a hand at the base of Mark’s back and starts pushing him up the stairs. “God, Mark, you’re such a romantic, I don’t even know what to say,” he teases.
“You already said yes, it’s too late for you now,” Mark says flatly, turning a little to smirk at Eduardo. His mouth is crooked, a little hint of dimple peeking out.
It was too late for Eduardo years back, when he saw a curly-haired boy exiting a class and struggling with his books and he walked toward instead of away; when he came back, again and again and again, and stayed; when he carved out the biggest portion of his heart as a resting place for Mark, and found he couldn’t remove him even when he tried so hard years later. It was too late for him when he found himself putting Mark to bed and staring at the curve of his neck, searching for the elusive appearances of Mark’s unguarded smile, when he said I’m here for you and meant everything, anything, anything at all; when he saw him after years of bitterness and found no more bitterness within himself, because Mark is his and he is Mark’s and that is something he can’t change. He doesn’t even want to anymore.
It was too late for him the minute he said, “Hi, I’m Eduardo,” and the boy snapped “Yes, and you’re dropping my books. No, that’s—okay, good. Um. Thanks. I’m Mark,” and Eduardo had found himself laughing instead of growing irritated; he didn’t know then that he’d find himself tied to that boy forever, utterly unable to work himself free. He didn’t know he’d find himself never wanting to.
“Second thoughts?” Mark says dryly, and that smothered flash of vulnerability in his eyes is so clear to Eduardo, when maybe he never would have seen it before now. Before they got here. Before Eduardo could look at Mark and practically taste forever on his tongue.
“Never,” he says quietly, and lets Mark lead him by the hand all the way upstairs.
Bonus scene thing that has no place anywhere, shhhh I just like writing Chris
After Chris sees their rings and hugs them both and cries a little on their shoulders in a totally embarrassing manner (“I’m not crying, Mark. Now shut up and let me remember that I like you for a minute.”), Eduardo decides to let slip the exact story of how Mark proposed, completely neglecting to mention the part where it was all his fault it went that way. Eduardo just looks at him innocently, but Mark is not fooled. He can see the gleam of evil in his eye.
“You proposed at home,” Chris says flatly. “At your desk.”
“He was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie,” Eduardo says helpfully. “It was all so very romantic.” Mark glares at him in outrage.
“Is this your plan to get out of the wedding?” he asks, narrowing his eyes at Eduardo. “Have Chris kill me before it happens?”
“That depends, am I in your will?” Eduardo asks, widening his eyes and possibly fluttering his eyelashes a little, what the fuck, what is wrong with Mark’s brain that he finds even that kind of endearing.
“Yes. I left you that clock my mom gave me that you love so much—” Mark starts, smirking as Eduardo jumps in to interrupt him.
“That thing has eyes, that is the creepiest fucking clock I have ever seen in my life. I come downstairs in the middle of the night and it’s staring at me!” Eduardo says, shuddering a little.
“—and also that one ratty bathrobe of mine that’s your favorite—and by the way, why are you going downstairs in the middle of the night when you could be in bed with me—”
“One of these days you’re going to come home and your bathrobe will have had a tragic accident, I’m sorry to say, Mark.”
“—oh, and Dustin and Chris. I left them to you too. Don’t let them set my company on fire,” Mark finishes, and Eduardo shoots him a look, mouth twitching.
“Don’t worry, I’ll have them in bed by nine every night,” he promises very seriously, and Mark maybe gets lost in staring at his stupidly attractive face for a moment or two before remembering that they are not alone in the room.
Chris clearly notices him coming back to himself, but pointedly coughs to get his attention anyway, because he’s a terrible person like that.
“I was going to tell you to come up with a better-sounding story for when you inform the public,” Chris says dryly, “but actually—just. You guys are fine. Just do your thing.” His face does something weird, and he looks kind of like he wants to hug them both again. Mark edges away slightly in case he decides to go in for the kill.
“Our thing?” Mark says, frowning a little. Well, that’s incredibly specific and helpful.
“In public?” Eduardo gasps, hitting the high end of the scandalized scale, and then dissolves into laughter at the look on Chris’s face. It’s more like giggling, actually. Mark is going to marry a man who giggles. He’s—surprisingly okay with that.
This might actually work out after all. Mark doesn’t know what he’s done right recently to get to have this, so he decides to just keep doing everything he’s doing for the rest of his life. Just to be safe.