"Hell is yourself and the only redemption is when a person puts himself aside to feel deeply for another person." - Tennessee Williams
"Come on, I know what guilt is. It's one of those touchy-feely words that people throw around that don't really mean anything. You know, like 'maternal' or 'addiction.'" – Will & Grace
It wasn't until four hours after Sean woke up that he believed it was still Friday. He sat up carefully as his stomach rolled, had a beer with his eggs to ward off the hangover, and considered heading into the office. But then he remembered the tone of Mark's voice on the phone (the rank smell of sweat at the station) and thought an Animal Planet marathon might be time better spent.
When he pulled his laptop over to check his personal mail he saw that yesterday had been flushed (real cute, Zuckerberg), the clock had been hacked, and someone had wasted a ridiculous amount of time writing a script to change the dates on every site he flipped to on his browser.
u boys have too much time on ur hands Sean tapped out on his phone (which had been violated as well, jesus fucking christ), and didn't think much more of it until he went out for lunch.
Ten radio stations, the local deli, and a very concerned librarian could not be wrong.
Sean considered the possibility of a psychotic break for about 2 minutes, but he was going to skate by with only minor charges and the coke hadn't been that good. Also, he'd watched a lot of TV and had always maintained that Bill Murray was a comedic genius.
So pretty soon he decided to just give it up, drive home, and then walk out into the middle of his street to shout up at the sky,
"Are you fucking kidding me?"
The universe did not answer back.
It didn't answer back the next Friday either. Sean had woken up, checked the level in his bottle of Don Jose, and went outside to kick a few trees.
"Seriously? For real?"
"Could you shut the fuck up?" David from 2C asked, who was walking his dog the exact same time he'd been walking his dog the day before, and the day before.
"Whatever," Sean said and flipped off a cloud that looked suspiciously phallic.
He fumed about it until well into the night, leaving his phone at home and driving out of town to drown his sorrows at the first dive bar to cross his path.
It seemed inconceivable that this could be happening to him. There were loads of people who'd done much worse. Maybe serial killers and, like, baby rapers, weren't going to learn any profound lessons about the error of their ways—this Sean could admit quite easily. But how about execs that downsize single moms with cancer or people who didn't bother to check for lead paint in toddler toys?
Though for all he knew, maybe it had happened to them just the same. It's not exactly something you'd talk about it. Maybe, Sean thought, this happened to people every day.
"I did not ruin his life," he informed Mary, the kindest and most generous bartender to ever live. "Zuckerberg cannot be the center of his life. I mean, I like the dude and everything, but honestly, Eduardo could do better."
the universe can kiss my ass, he sent back on the third day, as a response to Chris' increasingly impolite demands for why Sean hadn't checked in yet, or called even.
Then he plodded to the bathroom, dropped his phone in the toilet, and marched to the bedroom to crawl under his covers, pulling the pillow back over his head.
Sean went bar hopping for a week, heading out after lunch, passing out in his car, and then waking up back in his bed, nose raw again like he'd snorted up just a few hours ago.
It was mostly like that first month after he found himself 90 days past due on his rent and had to put the stuff he hadn't sold into storage. He'd gone home with the barista who kept smiling at him in Starbucks and they partied a while, until she got back with her ex-boyfriend. Sean was practically famous, right, so everybody was always willing to buy him a drink, smoke him out, put him up.
There was something about the idea, going backwards like that, that didn't sit comfortably. So he actually showed up the next night, to jerk the laptop out of Mark's hands and turn around to deck Eduardo in the face.
It wasn't as satisfying as he thought it would be, hearing the thick wet sounds of Eduardo's shuddering breaths, seeing him dropped to his knees. The blooming red spreading across his swelling cheek. Dark, wide eyes glittering up at Sean as Eduardo raised his head.
"Hey, hey, I—fuck, are you—"
"Don't touch me," Eduardo hissed fiercely, and Sean found himself stumbling back into Mark's chair.
"Let's call security," Mark said, voice shaking.
After that, Sean was ready to do so many drugs.
"I'm going to do so many drugs tonight," he said to Dustin, who laughed like he was joking.
What Sean decided to call his Blue Period lasted twenty-three days.
The days were spent mostly at home, except the few times he ended up in the park. There might have been a few hours there where he schooled a flock of pigeons on tagging semantics and blew their little chirping minds with the consequences of unfettered global collaboration, but then that might have been another hallucination.
He called his dealer each morning with larger and exponentially exotic requests.
"Don't call me your dealer."
"What do you expect?" Sean said.
"I expect you not to call me your fucking dealer."
"I didn't even know your name was Ray until yesterday," Sean pointed out, upon which Ray pulled a gun out from under the cushion of his sofa.
"How the fuck do you know my name?" he shouted.
By this point, Sean was a little insulted. "How can I not call you my dealer when you own a semi-automatic?"
"Who sent you?" Ray demanded, ignoring that extremely valid line of inquiry.
"Man, you gotta lay off the tweak a couple days. Look, I'll buy you out."
"Seriously?" Ray said.
"Yeah," Sean said. What the hell. "Toss in a couple sheets with it."
"Hey moderation, my brother," said Ray, with inordinate concern for someone pointing a firearm at Sean's head.
"You told me your name when I picked up the shrooms," Sean told him.
"Boy, you never rolled that hard in your life."
"uh, you were high as fuck."
Ray scratched his forehead with the barrel, grinning a little sheepishly. "That has a ring of truth to it."
"I swear I will never refer to you by your given name again," Sean solemnly promised.
Ray shrugged and tucked the weapon back into his waistband. "Nah, it's fine."
"Bad idea," said Sean. "What are your feelings about... pharmacist?"
It appeared to be the superior method of coping, until Sean experienced what it was like to OD.
Lying on a couch that smelled faintly of Cheetos, it occurred to him that he didn't know what would happen if he died before time reset himself. As hellish as the prospect had seemed, he wanted a hundred thousand more Fridays instead of cramping, choking out vomit, twitching fingers, sharp spreading convulsions, and then nothing.
It was the quietest, scariest thing that had ever happened to him. And though he was unconscious before his heart stopped, it hurt real bad.
Then he woke up.
Sean thought a lot of people might have found the discovery freeing, opening up the doorway to limitless consequence-free risk, but he wasn't other people and had found that death did not fucking suit him, no fucking way.
Mortality had never been serious business for Sean, but that mis-cu-fucking-ception was duly rectified. Not knowing how the looping worked, it was impossible to know, for absolute sure, when that cute little trick would stop working.
When he finally got to Saturday, Sean thought he might cut down on fast food and eat his veggies. Hit the gym more often too.
So going forward, the first thing he did every Friday was toss everything in the house but the pot, and then even side-eyed that a little. This Groundhog Day nonsense hadn't been especially illuminating thus far, but one significant exception was the discovery that Ray was more than a little unhinged. Dudes that were crazy as a shit house rat probably didn't always check if the stuff they were sorting was laced.
"I'm so sorry babies," Sean said to the baggies, a little despondent, but then flushed them down the drain.
He decided he'd spend the next week writing a better RSS reader, which he'd been meaning to do for a while, get back into the groove of things, so Mark couldn't say things like,
"You wouldn't understand."
"I could understand if you'd explain it to me," Sean said, but Mark had swung back around to open a window and add another line into NetBeans.
"But I don't want to explain it to you. I want to work on it."
"It'll take five minutes."
"It'll take two hours. At least."
"So, two hours and five minutes, give or take."
"How about you check on the server ghosting."
"I was fucking great at this," Sean protested.
"And now you're not," said Mark, entirely without sympathy.
If he actually had huge stretches of real time, Sean was fairly confident that he could figure out just about anything.
But losing all that he'd accomplished the day before mostly just pissed him off and made him throw things through the bedroom window. He almost hit David's dog once, and then David tried to climb in and kick the shit out of him, so that was no good.
There were a few more Fridays where Sean mainly slouched on the coach and caught up on television, but there were only so many channels and reality television tended to make him irritable and impatient. Which was a potent combination with how frustrated he already, understandably, was at the situation.
He drove in to the office, flipping some brand new asshole off who was riding his bumper, for some less fatal experimentation.
"You know how you make those sounds, and I think you're listening to me, but you actually can't hear through your head phones? I fucking hate that. I hate that so much."
"Hmm," Mark said, so Sean slammed a knee into his monitor and could see what Saverin was thinking – it was mildly therapeutic.
Then he told Elaine that when she popped her gum like that he wished she'd choke on it, tossed Andrew's squeaky chair through the glass office door, and called his mom to let her know he blamed her sometimes for letting him skip so much school.
"It's not that you're a geek, it's that you stare at ladies in this creepy ass way", he said later to Dustin, who was waiting with him and the security guards for the police.
"You stare at the interns." Dustin sounded doubtful.
"The key word here is creepy."
"The key word here is interns. The creepiness is implicit."
"The interns worship me," said Sean smugly -- to which Dustin had no real defense, since it was true.
They watched the sys admin sweep up coffee cup shards and for some reason an image occurred to him: the kids huddling together at that after-party Sean never felt like repeating, suddenly so young again under flashlights and straightening their clothes.
"Emily's crying in the bathroom," Dustin said after a bit. "She and Elaine started dating last week."
"Fuck," Sean said and ran a hand over his face.
In the spirit of responsibility (and hopes that time and space were paying attention), Sean spent twelve straight hours at his workplace. It was a personal record.
He even kept working while Eduardo did his thing, diving into the tech support inbox with his back turned to the chaos. It just—wasn't that interesting after the first time, and with Eduardo's stupid bruised face flashing in front of his eyes. It was easy to force the focus, keep chugging away, when it might mean he wouldn't have to sit there again and listen to that shit that was not all his fucking fault.
It was about time for a break, after. Just, to stretch his legs. He poured another cup of coffee and asked Darren for a splash of rum from the flask he knew Darren had on him, because guys who go to RenFair every year and keep up a full beard with their ponytail always have flasks. It's like a law.
So he was around when Chris came storming up to say, "You know, you guys are assholes."
Mark had closed his eyes and was spreading fingers out from the bridge of his nose to run over them, as if to rub the tired out. But not.
Sean took another long pull from his cup, letting it sit hot on his tongue as Chris stood there for a moment and finally said, a little weakly,
"You didn't have to do it like this."
"It could have gone worse," Sean said truthfully. He'd been on his best behavior. Not that anybody noticed. Fuckers.
Chris scowled. "I could have been hit by a truck on the way here, but I wasn't."
"Where would a truck hit you?"
"Where couldn't a truck hit me?"
"uh, in your living room?" Darren interjected.
Mark looked up. "That doesn't sound like wired in."
"This is why people say you're an asshole," Chris informed him.
Mark rubbed his eyes again and said, a little defensively, "So then don't act surprised."
"The only reason you'd get nailed by some fucking truck is that you're a crap driver," Darren insisted.
Dustin nodded. "He's got you there. I have legitimately feared for my life, on multiple occasions, with a sleep deprived Hughes behind the wheel."
Sean tried throwing in an extra hour, bright and early. It was truly a profound sacrifice, because there was a reason he always skipped the morning developer huddle, and that reason was Robert, who reminded him of Paul, who Sean had used to jerk off to, obsessively, until he stole Sean's girlfriend and called Sean a fag in front of everyone.
And then Sean revolutionized file sharing to get over it, and right, that went so well.
At 6:10 pm he asked to borrow Darren's flask for a moment and caught Eduardo when he was still outside, passing it over ("trust me, you'll need this"). Eduardo was reluctant, but then smiled, a touch of warmth creeping in despite itself, which-- Sean had felt better about himself, at certain points in his life.
Those points did not include Paul, however, to whom Sean was definitely sending mass amounts of hatemail tomorrow, no matter what day it was.
"You didn't have to be so hard on him," Sean said to Mark that night -- who looked at him like he'd completely lost his senses.
But as that was becoming a common occurrence (and there was a very slight possibility he was right), Sean didn't pay it much mind.
Fifteen hours of unwavering diligence was his last bet, and at five minutes to midnight Facebook looked clean and gray.
When it neared ten Mark had left him the keys, curiosity written plainly on his face, and Sean had sworn he'd be out within thirty.
"Sleep here if you like," Mark said, because curiosity wasn't caring, exactly.
And that was fine. That wasn't what he and Mark were about.
The quiet was giving Sean hives. Quiet was for funerals and public library sex. It made him drum his fingers against the table as he powered down. He was about to recite the lyrics to Crazy in Love, in genuine desperation, when he was pummeled with the demonic screech of his alarm clock.
As it wasn't his work ethic, exactly, that got Sean into this he supposed he shouldn't be disappointed.
"I don't suppose I could get you to give the universe a stern talking to?" Sean asked Eduardo thoughtfully, blocking his path to the conference room.
Sean had always felt mildly disconcerted after one of their little confrontations once the adrenaline wore off. He wasn't entirely sure if a higher power or personification of existence or whatever they were dealing with here had some equivalent of adrenaline, but it was worth a shot.
"No, we should probably do this now," he continued when Eduardo scrunched his face in confusion and said he'd catch up with Sean later, "In a moment or two you really won't be in the mood."
Perhaps not unpredictably, there did not turn out to be a mood in which Eduardo could be coaxed into talking into thin air like a crazy person.
It was not that Sean wasn’t, in general, a very persuasive individual. He simply hadn’t hit on the right track yet for surmounting inconveniently reasonable concerns about hidden cameras and prolonged mockery, as well as Eduardo’s deeply suspicious nature.
But it occurred to Sean after a couple more attempts that there was one thing he hadn't tried yet. He wasn't sure what that said about him, or maybe he’d just rather not think about it.
After handing Eduardo a drink ("I'd offer to smoke you out, but—long story") he said, "In approximately six minutes a lot of things you believe in are going to turn to shit. I would like to sincerely apologize for my part in that," and Eduardo laughed.
Eduardo's face, as he took in the elegant lines of the building and the view through the glass of its bustle inside, was closer to lovely than should be allowed in someone who hated Sean's guts – with his eyes bright like that, all fired up.
It was just something Sean couldn't help but notice, after seeing it so many nights. Sean actually hadn't spent much time with him, before.
"I don't know what Mark's told you, but not all Harvard parties are like Caribbean night. Whatever you've got going on, I think I've seen worse."
"I was referring more to the fact that Mark's completely screwed you over," Sean said, "But thanks for assuming I throw down weaker than the future treasurers of America."
And then he explained what he meant and Eduardo started to laugh again at first, until Sean explained a little better. Then Eduardo slid down the wall to sit with his knees pressed up against his chest, shoulders trembling, like he was too angry to walk and too afraid of crying to let his body stop moving.
Somewhere a counter was increasing, and Mark was waiting while pretending not to, and his future was being made (if it ever decided to come), but Sean just stood there and stopped talking, because he wasn’t sure what else to do, until Eduardo said,
"I’m going home now," and rubbed at his face.
So Sean left him to do that and drove back to crawl into bed and still wake up at the start of the very same day.
"You know," Sean mused to the ceiling and whomever, whatever might be paying attention, "I get that I'm being punished - and don't get me wrong, that's really working out – but he's had to go through this night how many times now? That's kind of fucked up."
Nothing happened, but by this point Sean hadn't been expecting a response.
"In the movies there are all these parts that look fun, but I don't think this life style is conducive to my personality," he told Mark, after buttering him up for a day by guarding his desk against all social interaction and refilling his cup whenever it neared empty. Sean almost had to tackle the Fed Ex guy when he'd been distracted by a flame war with this Mac disciple who'd been trolling the CNET forums since September, but that was the only close call and, besides, he'd been closer to winning than ever before. Priorities.
Mark's typing paused. "Is this you quitting?"
"Don't sound so cut up about it," Sean said, "you're breaking my heart."
"I'm trying to decide if this is something I should be concerned about, or if you're fishing for compliments."
"The quitting is in a broader sense," Sean said and Mark stared at him blankly before returning to his laptop.
A normal guy would have gotten up to check on the members board, but because it was Mark he sent an IM to Chris to walk over for him, from the other side of the building, and report back. There were times when Sean was sure that Mark was a legitimate bad influence. He hoped somebody up there was catching this.
"I'm going to ignore you now, until your words mean something," Mark said.
"Promise you'll tell me when karma gives you a time warp," begged Sean.
After he'd obediently walked in a straight line and touched his nose, Sean explained, "It's just stressful, all the time, because I wake up and it's like: judgment." He made a picture frame with his fingers and zeroed into Mark's face, for effect. "It pisses me off. I can't handle all the judgey eyes, like with teachers and, you know, Eduardo. Oh, the irony."
"I didn't follow most of that," Mark said, looking bemused despite himself, "but Eduardo had a point about your dating history. There's this one girl who keeps calling the house still. It's distracting."
"See, that's good," Sean said encouragingly.
"No, actually I'd like that to stop."
Sean scooted closer. "What if I told you I was blackmailing Eduardo with dirty pictures because he caught me embezzling?"
"I wouldn't believe you," said Mark, unimpressed.
"But what if I meant it?"
"Are you going to go down a list of possible but improbable actions you could have committed in some point in our history? Because I promised Dustin I'd actually meet him for lunch today."
"You never meet Dustin for lunch," Sean said.
"We used to live together. I've met Dustin for lunch."
"But not today."
"If you have too many more pointless hypotheticals to offer, then no. Probably not."
"I don't think you should fire Eduardo," Sean said, coming right to the point.
Mark stilled, the screen he'd been leaning towards with at least a fourth of his attention now forgotten.
"Are you serious?"
"The only time I've been more serious in my life was about blowjobs," said Sean earnestly.
"Okay." Mark adjusted the neck of his hoodie, toying with the hem. "I don't know where this is coming from, but that's no longer an option."
"He doesn't even know yet. We can just –"
"Don't do that thing where you say my name five times and then look at me like you're my Jewish grandma."
"You've always said you like him, but I've never believed you," Mark said honestly. "That makes this more than a little puzzling."
"Yeah, I was lying my ass off," Sean admitted. "So it'll be a lot of paperwork. There's talk that Sun might rehire Bechtolsheim."
"And I should care why?"
"Sean. This isn't your call. It was never your call." He sounded a little weary, like Sean knew he would sound at 7pm, forever, if Sean couldn't stop this. A little weary but very firm.
"You used to listen to me," said Sean plaintively. He was too young for nostalgia. It was total bullshit.
Mark nodded. "And you told me to think about Facebook. I am."
The next day he called in a bomb threat. They were to clear out for 72 hours, or face the direst of consequences.
"Sean? Is that you?"
"NO. I AM VENGENCE PERSONIFIED."
"Sean, stop fucking around."
"THIS IS NOT SEAN," Sean intoned ominously.
Mark huffed impatiently and there were sounds of scuffling in the background.
"There's a meeting on the wall revamp in twenty minutes. Dustin says bring Doritos, but the update's throwing exceptions all over the place -- (yeah, that's because it is and forget Für Parker, I'd tell CNBC if they'd give a damn) -- So I don't know if he deserves them. Up to you."
"THIS IS THE DESTROYER," he tried again, but realized he was talking to a dial tone.
He didn’t plan to come in to Facebook for a while, thought he’d take himself a little vacation. But then he found himself driving around aimlessly, like he was trying to fool himself that he just couldn't decide between clubbing or a bar or late night buffet
He showed up for just the tail end of the show, where Mark was explaining to Eduardo why everything was his fault and something about poultry.
And it was just—it was plain dumb, just such a fucking waste, all this pointless running in place, these days and days and days, and for basically nothing, like Sean had gone and killed somebody, and it wasn’t helping Sean or Eduardo or world peace or anything or anyone, so Sean just had to ask:
"Really? This guy? Why does nobody think I did you a favor?"
"What?" Mark said, and Eduardo pulled back to stare at him too. It was possible that he’d raised his voice a little excessively.
"No offense pal, but you're sort of a sociopath. With occasional feelings. Don't ask me how that works, I'm not a psychologist."
"What's he on?" Eduardo snapped at Mark, who shrugged.
"Nothing, I think."
"I'm on 55 Fridays," Sean volunteered. "This is just not right."
"55 Fridays," Eduardo repeated.
"Or 57. Possibly 58. Or 59." Sean waggled a palm. "I had a Blue Period. Makes the timeline a bit suspect."
"Sean, I'm going to need you to get in a car with me. Can you do that?"
"Wait," said Sean, catching on and completely fucking indignant, "you're driving me to the hospital after I colluded with your best friend to trick you out of your share in this company and get to you fly across the country for the sole purpose of humiliating you in public?"
"Yes," Eduardo said, clenching his jaw and not looking any happier about it than Sean.
"Fucking hell. Could you try to be more of a heartless asshole? Just once? This is totally why the universe is dicking with me."
He let his head slip down, turning his face to rest against Eduardo's shoulder through the entire cab ride. It smelled like hair gel and amber wood. Eduardo raised his hands at first like he might shove Sean off, but then settled back and just let him, though his whole body had gone tense.
Simple human comfort, given without expecting a single thing in return: it was just as soothing as Sean had secretly thought it would be. Goddamnit.
Also soothing was an extended application of Court TV and the entire catalog of zombie movies available for Instant Viewing.
These Sean consumed along with equally sensory numbing take-out from every flyer he’d ever shoved into that kitchen drawer that always got stuck and also held the two candles Chris had handed him, in all seriousness, in case of a black out. Implements that Sean had tried to give back, expressing the fervent opinion that [a] they were pointless and took up too much room [b] patchouli-scented, really? and [c] a shotgun and freaky survivalist third-cousins (because you wouldn’t want them any closer than that) would be of much more use in the event of electricity armageddon. But Chris had pointed out that no one really trusted Sean with any kind firearm, though some of their collective cousins might be a little sketchy, none of them dreamed of bunker ownership, and he was trying to get rid of everything that reminded him of Jeremy (the love of his life for three weeks, who had given miraculous head when he wasn’t frying balls and listening to the Grateful Dead). Sean had been forced to concede these excellent points, took the candles, and stuck them in a back of a drawer with some rubber bands and a building pile of hastily folded menus. And now he was sort of seeing the draw of a freakish emergency power outage, if only for one or two Fridays – if only for something different.
"Hey," he told Andrew, "it would be hilarious, right, if we sent out an alert on everyone’s account, asking them to all turn on their air conditioning full blast for the next two hours."
"I actually need this job, Napster Boy," Andrew said and then told on him to Chris, who did not agree that it would be psychologically freeing to know that his phallic symbols of withered love had been put to productive use. Or, at least, it wouldn’t be worth the national panic and consequent property damage.
"I know, I’m just being avoidant again," Sean sighed. "But for fuck’s sake, I can’t even jack off properly anymore without it going to this weird place for a moment where Eduardo is stroking my back and telling me everything’s going to be all right, and then suddenly we’re naked and he’s still stroking my back, but now we’re all sweaty and slippery with my dick between his legs all rubbing up against his balls, and he’s sliding down the seats and making this happy sound when I put my hands on his ankles and—"
"Why would you tell me that?" said Chris.
"Mostly because you won’t remember I said it. But also because now you’re going to be fucking thinking about it too."
"Oh god, he cannot come here tonight."
"That’s what I’ve been saying," said Sean, satisfied.
"You have not been saying that at all," Chris fumed and was not impressed by Sean’s reply that this assertion was both true and lacking two months of pertinent data.
Nor was Chris apparently impressed when whatever attempted intercessions must have failed, as Sean received hate u so much, hes going to cry and was thinking of fuking him, omfg make that arrested 4 homicide, and false alarm crying hate uuuuuu over his dinner of pad thai and fried won-tons.
Lest the universe think him completely irresponsible, Sean finished up his zombie queue and returned to work bright and (passably) early, ready and willing to perform miscellaneous supportive duties.
Like informing Kristina that, "He's not gonna go for it," before she spent the morning on a presentation to Mark that would turn her face blank and awful, and letting Andrew down easy about the girl he’d been eying at the pizza place next door.
"Trust me," Sean said. "Every album by Tegan & Sara. We had a lively discussion about Ani Difranco bootlegs. Don't waste your time," and then remembered something very urgent he had to attend to when Andrew wanted to know when exactly he’d been talking up Andrew’s future ex-wife, how he knew so much about jangly lesbian folk-rock, and transitioned into a lecture about the destructiveness of stereotypes.
Sean was not at all disruptive for two whole Fridays, solved five bugs that had been plaguing the development team for a month, and brought Chris a nonfat, light whip, toffee nut latte just how he liked it.
"What did you do?" Chris’ eyes narrowed suspiciously
"I don’t think I ever thanked you for the stinky candles," Sean said. "That was very thoughtful. And, you know, there was that mostly unintended trauma."
Chris accepted the cup with a dubious glance, pausing to sniff at the top.
"You can’t actually smell arsenic," Sean said helpfully and slung an arm around his shoulder. "Seriously, I was just thinking that my karma needs all the help it can get."
Along those lines, Sean did sincerely attempt to re-center his orgasms around a kaleidoscope of images that did not include more than a quick flash of Eduardo’s very pretty mouth (captured in enough detail that Sean had evidently been looking a little closer than he would have liked to admit). (It was just all that thing where Sean had talked to him a bit, and had seen his face un-tense for a moment, and watched his hopes crumble, and knew how it felt to slump against the warmth of his body, and had been scared shitless of how incredibly fierce he could be when you pushed the right buttons terribly wrong. It started making a person—noticeable. It was just much harder to forget a guy when you’ve lived a certain variety of moments with him.)
Being well aware that Eduardo would likely prefer to make not even the smallest guest appearance in his standard jack off material, Sean decided to send a conciliatory gesture by way of text (‘tell him you know about the time with the german tourists’), which Eduardo would figure out was ammunition right about the time he realized that he needed ammunition, and went back to playing Minesweeper, sleeping through the 3pm conference call, finding the perfect blend of their three coffee brands, and typing up the by now memorized end of month financials report for their accounting clerk while he crammed for his Biology exam.
"You seem different," Dustin said, mostly off hand because they were rolling in a couple new replacements for the water cooler.
Sean considered it.
"You'd think so," he finally said, and bit his lip when he stubbed his toe. The delivery guy who would have done the bottle change-out had left them propped up against door when no one answered. They ended up with lot of cold Chinese that way. Sean decided he'd show up early the next Friday, or just not volunteer. His shoulders ached like a bitch. "But then I went through a decade making really fucked up decisions, one after another. So maybe not. I'm sort of impaired."
"You realize that just made no sense, right?"
Sean kicked his bottle over, arching through the doorway. "I realize."
Though it was an intriguing change of pace to find round-about quiet ways to make the day less crap in general for people, in a manner that had nothing to do with being the center of attention, running away (even in the more subtle lacking-in-physical-running-or-even-fast-walking sense) didn’t seem to be solving anything.
So once he’d stopped dodging the office there wasn’t much justifiable reason to keep on ducking out early. So Sean sat through a few evenings kicking back to drink his coffee while Eduardo and Mark did the dance that they did every night, watching the slide of Eduardo’s shoes over the floor, the minuet flinches that hit his eyes, the sharp hurt in the shoulders that Sean had laid his cheek against and let the world drop away.
"Seriously, I need to know about the chicken," Sean said finally, "This has begun to haunt me." And they ignored him like they typically did by this point, except this time he grabbed Eduardo's arm and ducked the swing he guessed would be coming. One thing he could say about this mess, the constant hindsight was pretty handy.
"Fuck this guy, don't even look at him," he continued, letting go slowly and meeting Eduardo's eyes, risking a friendly smirk.
Eduardo smirked back. Less friendly and doing things to his stomach that Sean had resigned himself to. "Are you sure you want to be speaking like that about your meal ticket?"
"He has a point," Mark muttered darkly.
"Extenuating circumstances," Sean said brightly and hopped back up onto a desk. "The chicken please, kind sir."
Then Eduardo actually told him the story. Sean guessed it was probably the satisfaction of seeing his now-former best friend so summarily dismissed, because when Mark tried to speak Sean had told him to shut it, the adults were busy, and Eduardo startled at that but pressed on with a less clipped tone.
"The man's engaged in forced cannibalism, show some respect," Sean told security, gesturing them off. "I think he can see himself out."
"I'm coming back for everything," Eduardo still said, but this time with simple matter-of-fact sincerity.
He glanced at Sean before he left but Sean couldn't read anything in it.
"What's he good at?" Sean asked the next morning, leaning over Dustin's shoulder.
Eduardo's VPN token had been canceled, and now they were locking him out of the backend before his plane was due to land. Eduardo had never actually used that account, since he wasn't a developer, but someone (Mark, probably) had given it admin privileges during set up.
"Hmm?" Dustin hummed under his breath. "Jeez, it's Wardo. Everything, I guess." He hummed again, absentmindedly, and tabbed down with his pinky. "Everything but computers and probably football. You know the type of guy. Everybody does."
"Yeah," Sean said, except it was hard to mesh that in his head. With what he'd heard and all.
"He's not—he had good connections, right?"
"I guess," Dustin said noncommittally, and pressed a couple keys to bring up Outlook. Mark was making the senior team members change all their passwords, just – because. Security policy for executive layoffs. They were almost just like a real company now. It was a little weird still.
Dustin sent a reminder out and adjusted the headphones around his neck.
"Math," he said, without raising his eyes from the screen where they were tracking the cursor.
"Wardo was fucking great with it. Predictive modeling was like cake to him—drove me nuts when we took Stats. He taught himself meteorology, no joke. He'd write you out an algorithm from scratch, no books, just from some talk. It was pretty cool."
"He's not dead you know," said Sean, laughing a little uneasily.
"S'not like he'll talk to me now. With, you know," Dustin said, trailing off. He reached back a hand to crack his neck, settled back into the chair. There were too many things in his voice to read, if Sean had cared to. "So, might as well be."
"Might as well be," Sean echoed, something tight in his throat.
Eduardo was half-way through the hotel parking lot when Sean showed up and told him the party was canceled, due to some new kid crashing the site. Eduardo got kind of panicked at the news, since he still thought this was his company too, imagine that.
"We'll only be in the way. Let's just check you in and we can catch up over dinner." Sean said, after making the necessary assurances, promises of retraining, and guarantees that he wouldn't try to carry any of the luggage again – which was admittedly a weird move without the whole emotional-turmoil context.
"That's not the best idea," said Eduardo mildly.
"I don't have bad ideas, haven't you heard?" Sean grinned, inviting Eduardo in on the joke.
"Let's call this your first one." Eduardo was always a stubborn fucker.
He also didn't seem entirely certain the joke wasn't on him. (To be fair, it usually was.)
In retrospect, the arguable value of Sean's fucking genius ideas might not have been the best lead in.
"Now it's the principle of the thing," Sean said, because it was. And he'd spent a considerable portion of a Friday discovering where Eduardo was staying and what hour he'd arrived to fit in a shower and nap before the festivities.
"I'm going to rock this next time," he said, enjoying the frustrated confusion on Eduardo's face – one of the perks of being sort of a dick.
"How would you ask Saverin out on a date?"
It was way easier to break someone's ribs during the Heimlich Maneuver than he'd realized. That should be circulated more widely, Sean thought. Maybe a personalized, rich-media ad campaign.
"Only Dustin would nearly choke to death on Top Ramen," Chris mused, wincing at the hospital coffee.
Sean made sounds of agreement. "Wanna get your opinion on something. Wait, hand me your cup first."