Thursday, 9:30pm, Fairmont Hotel, Mark Z. – TBE
Eduardo glanced down at the neat handwritten lines in his book as he carefully smoothed back an errant strand of hair. Sean had called this booking in the day before, very last minute. “This is a big potential client, Eduardo, huge, okay? Make sure you show him an extra good time, bring out the big guns.”
Eduardo sighed into the phone, rolling his eyes as he curled his toes into the sheets. The ringing of the phone had woken him up; he’d spent last night with a client who wanted to watch him clip his toenails, naked, in the bathtub until two in the morning.
“Sean, you are aware that I am a professional, right?” He’d been working with Sean for three years now, and they still had this exact conversation at least once a week.
Sean laughed, hearty and way too much for the hour. “Yes, I am very aware. The background on this guy is insane, though, and we want to make sure that he’s happy and keeps coming back.”
“Well,” Eduardo said, flipping over onto his side and pulling his plain, black notebook off the mahogany nightstand. “What does he want?”
“He’s definitely a first timer.” Eduardo could hear the click of a lighter over the phone line. Weed at ten in the morning. Classy. “It was hard to get him to say much of anything when I asked him questions, but he was pretty clear that he wanted someone for the whole night. I’m guessing the Total Boyfriend Experience. Your specialty, Eduardo.”
The down comforter covering him was starting to feel stifling in the closed-up room—he hadn’t had the energy to do anything last night when he got home but strip off his suit, drape it over the wingback chair in the corner of the room, and pass out—and he turned back over quickly, throwing the comforter down around his knees. He buried his face in the pillow, held the phone away from his head, and screamed. If he hadn’t been making twice as much as he was before he had hooked up with Sean, he’d throw his work Blackberry out of the window, but not until he told Sean to go fuck himself.
“Gee, thanks, Sean.”
“What can I say? They eat up all of that genuine, honest bullshit.”
It was Thursday evening and he was getting ready, trying to anticipate what this Mark Z. would want. Some of Sean’s guys were completely comfortable not knowing exactly what they were walking into, as if their jobs weren’t already enough of an adrenaline shot, but Eduardo liked everything written out, spelled out plainly in his even, straight handwriting in his black notebook. He always tried to resist the temptation to picture what the clients would be like before he met them; it was a surefire way to set yourself up for a letdown, and it was nice to be pleasantly surprised.
His tie was a bit crooked, dark purple against his black dress shirt, and he straightened it. Eduardo knew that the Total Boyfriend Experience might not obviously include Armani, but he also knew by now exactly how it made him look. He smirked at himself in the mirror, just barely resisting the urge to laugh.
The Fairmont was only a short cab ride from his apartment, and Eduardo made sure that he was at the door to Room 408 (Sean had texted him the room number right as he was stepping into the cab outside of his building) at precisely 9:30. He smoothed his hands over the nonexistent wrinkles in the front of his shirt before lifting his hand to knock. Eduardo always felt weirdly nervous right before an appointment, hands a bit clammy and, at the same time, a thrill running right up his spine.
He’d managed to knock twice before the door swung open so quickly it almost knocked him off balance. The man standing on the other side of the door was shorter than Eduardo, curly hair, blue eyes, unwavering stare, navy blue hoodie and jeans.
Good thing he hadn’t tried too hard to picture Mark Z., because after Sean’s hyper, condescending reminder about how important this client was, he wouldn’t have imagined this guy staring him down, not blinking, for the world.
“Miami?” Mark said, eyebrows turning in a bit in the middle, lips pressed into a harder line. “That’s a completely ridiculous and obviously fake name, you know that.”
Eduardo laughed. It had been a long time since anything—anyone—surprised him. “Yes, well, obvious and ridiculous fake names are an occupational hazard. Nice to meet you, Mark.” He stretched his hand out, and waited longer than was usually socially acceptable before Mark returned the gesture, his handshake unexpectedly firm.
“I assumed that the usual social niceties weren’t needed in this situation,” Mark said, pulling his hand back and tucking both hands into the pockets of his jeans, pushing himself up onto his toes, bare against the plush carpet.
“Sorry,” Eduardo said, still smiling despite feeling a little like he’d been run over by a truck. “You’re right—I’m pretty much a sure thing. Isn’t that what they said in Pretty Woman?”
The corner of Mark’s mouth turned up, just the slightest bit, and Eduardo filed that tidbit away for later. Total Boyfriend Experience and hopeful repeat client, after all.
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never seen it.” Mark stepped back a bit, and Eduardo took the opportunity to step forward and shrug off his jacket, watching Mark’s eyes track the lines of Eduardo’s chest and biceps.
“You should check it out. It’s a classic.”
“Fascinating,” Mark shot back, and Eduardo felt that same thrill down his spine that he’d felt in the hallway, except now the accompanying clamminess was long gone. “Anyway, I’m not sure how this works exactly. You’re the first—well, as you can probably guess, I don’t call an escort service every day of the week, even though I could afford it.”
Eduardo stepped forward, just a bit, crowding Mark against the sideboard. “It works however you want it to work. I’m here all night.”
“Does that line normally work?” Mark asked. Eduardo let his eyes move down to catch Mark’s adam’s apple bobbing as he swallowed.
Eduardo moved in a bit more, feeling Mark’s body heat through the layers of fabric, but not quite touching. “I don’t normally need a line. Sure thing, remember?”
“Of course I remember, you said it two minutes ago.” Mark said, distracted; there was no real bite behind it. In fact, his eyes kept drifting down to Eduardo’s mouth. “We could go to the living room.”
“Your hotel room has a living room?” Eduardo said, smiling, now just inches from Mark’s mouth. Mark’s pupils were blown wide, blacking out almost all of the blue.
“I’m sure Sean told you that I’m a billionaire.”
“He alluded to it, yes.” Eduardo watched Mark as he tucked his tongue into the corner of his mouth. It didn’t matter that as soon as he left, he’d have $3,000 in his bank account—he still liked to know that he could make someone feel the way Mark looked at that moment. He reached down and grabbed Mark’s hand, skin dry and warm against his. “Where’s this living room, then?”
The living room had a couch and a love seat, and a giant 60-inch TV, nearly identical to the one in Eduardo’s living room. On the floor was a Playstation 3. “What games do you have?” Eduardo said, letting go of Mark’s hand to kneel on the floor.
“Just a few—it was already pretty ridiculous that I brought the PS3 here for the night. It’s been so long since I watched TV that I barely recognize anything that’s on.”
Eduardo shuffled through the games, then held up Grand Theft Auto and grinned. “Want to?”
Mark shifted on his feet a bit, looking down at the floor. “Is that okay? I mean, aren’t we supposed to—”
“Mark.” Eduardo pushed himself up from the floor and grabbed Mark’s hands again. “We can do whatever you want.”
Mark seemed to visibly relax at that, his mouth turning up again in a way that Eduardo couldn’t help but smile at. “I’m not sure you’ll want to play me anyway. I am completely awesome at this game.”
“Bring it on.”
They played for an hour or so, and Mark was right—he was awesome—but Eduardo had spent a good amount of his time during college playing this game; they were almost evenly matched. Eduardo sat cross-legged on the floor next to Mark and they talked smack the whole time, even though Eduardo kept catching Mark glancing at him, and smiling just a little bit.
In hindsight, he should have been a bit more aware that Mark had been moving closer to him the whole time (that was what he was paid for, after all). As it was, he was startled when he felt Mark press, warm and firm, up against his side. He pressed pause on the game and looked at Mark.
“Hey,” Eduardo murmured, just barely above a whisper. Mark reached out, not shy but like he was still not fully sure of his welcome (Eduardo usually found that the money made people very sure of their welcome, but it was a nice change. Sweet almost.).
Mark’s hands finally glanced against his throat, skittering a bit before coming to rest on the knot of Eduardo’s tie. Eduardo swallowed and moved into the touch, just a bit, enough to encourage.
“Hey yourself,” Mark said, using Eduardo’s tie to pull himself closer. Up close, Mark was handsome, stripped bare of the twitches and quirks that Eduardo had seen when Mark first opened the door.
“Do you want to finish the game?” Eduardo said teasingly, edging closer himself, enough to feel Mark’s breath against his cheek. Mark laughed and his eyes went wide, like it had taken him by surprise.
“Fuck the game. And lose the tie.”
Eduardo couldn’t remember ever laughing into someone’s mouth as they kissed, especially not over the last five years, when kissing had been all business. It felt good, and one of the perks of the job was that he got paid for it and could enjoy it too.
After a minute, Mark pulled away, mouth red and wet. “Wait, is that okay? Do you do that?”
“Do what?” Eduardo rasped, eyes fixed on Mark’s mouth.
“Kiss,” Mark said flatly, like Eduardo was stupid.
Eduardo looked back up at Mark’s eyes, laughed, and tugged Mark back in with his hands clenched in the front of his hoodie. “We have to talk about how you’re a liar and have definitely seen Pretty Woman.”
“Yes, yes, whatever,” Mark said, his voice hoarse now too, batting Eduardo’s hands away and yanking on his tie, loosening it and slipping it over Eduardo’s head. “There.”
“You’re avoiding.” Eduardo tried to make his voice stern, but it was hard with Mark pressing him down against the floor and working open the buttons on his shirt. He let his head fall back against the carpet as Mark leaned in closer, pressing in with the weight of his body and closing his mouth on Eduardo’s collarbone. The room was almost too hot now, and he hoped that Mark would get his shirt off sooner rather than later. He almost said something but was cut off by the trail of Mark’s fingers down the center of his chest, his palm coming to rest on Eduardo’s stomach.
Mark moved in closer, his mouth pressed up against Eduardo’s ear. “You didn’t really want to talk about that now, did you?”
Eduardo wrapped his hands around Mark’s waist, burrowing under layers and pushing his hands against the warm, slightly sweaty small of Mark’s back. “Maybe later.” Mark’s breath grew ragged as Eduardo tugged him closer, and Eduardo let his legs fall apart, feeling wanton, giddy almost, wanting to let Mark in.
If someone had told Eduardo five years ago that someday he’d be an escort and that he’d like it, he honestly would have laughed right in their face. When he was twenty, in his junior year at Yale—weighed down by his father’s expectations and the subtle pressure inherent in the atmosphere on campus that if you didn’t turn out to be something, you were wasting the opportunity—he never imagined his life now. There were many days when Eduardo woke up, looked in the mirror, and was genuinely surprised that he didn’t feel more disappointed in himself, or ashamed.
The job had come out of the blue. After Eduardo’s father unceremoniously yanked his tuition dollars out from under him, he decided he needed to get as far away from everything as possible. He spent part of the money he’d earned from betting on oil futures during the summer to fly to San Francisco and get an apartment, but the money wasn’t going to last forever. He was a college dropout of sorts, no real job experience (he’d had an internship lined up at JPMorgan the summer after his junior year, which certainly would have led to a job, but that had disappeared too). Eduardo finally found a job working as a personal assistant to a hedge fund manager—a decent job—but he couldn’t help but feel that he could do his boss’s work in his sleep.
He accompanied his boss, Anna, who hated to be “that single career girl alone at a party, who everyone feels sorry for, god”, to a party in the Mission one night, dressed up just a bit more than he did every day at work. He was refreshing their drinks at the bar when he felt a hand on his elbow, and he turned to find a man grinning at him.
“I’m sorry. Can I help you?” Eduardo said, polite but confused. He couldn’t figure out if he was supposed to know who this guy was.
The man reached into his pocket and held out a business card. “Nice work tonight,” he said, and okay, Eduardo was now officially really confused.
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“I know that she’s not your girlfriend, but you’re doing a great job selling it. Impressive.” The man extended the hand holding the card just a bit more. Eduardo found himself reaching out despite his own better judgment. Peter Thiel, the card read, nothing else but the name, a phone number, and an e-mail address. The card was expensive, the writing navy blue, leaving its deep imprint on the heavy paper.
“Just doing a favor for a friend,” Eduardo said, looking back up at Peter, who was still grinning at him, somewhat disconcertedly. He tucked the card into the pocket of his charcoal grey suit pants.
“It was very convincing. I’m sure I’m the only one who noticed.” Peter kept the smile on his face, but looked to each side of them like he was checking to make sure no one was listening. “Listen, Eduardo,” and wait, how did he know Eduardo’s name? “if you ever want to trade that skill in for some money, give me a call.”
Peter stuck his hand out, and Eduardo shook his hand firmly. And then he was gone.
It was only two days before he gave into the nagging curiosity that had been eating at him since the party. And three days until he gave his notice to Anna. Intellectually, he knew that he was selling himself for money, but what was the big difference between that and running a hedge fund? And he found quickly that working for Peter was much more, well—fun.
So Eduardo generally did enjoy his job, and in particular he was enjoying the way Mark’s fingertips moved across his skin, flirting with the waistband of his pants, tucking into his belt loops. He prided himself on being able to find something about every client that could turn him on, something that gave Eduardo that little thrill that made this more than just a financial transaction. Even when it was hard to find, like with David, Tuesday night’s client with the toenail fetish.
Some clients were more challenging than others.
And sometimes, he got lucky—he got paid to have sex with someone who, if he were a normal guy in his age, he’d try to take home with him from a bar, or meet in a coffee shop and strike up a conversation. Someone with whom it wasn’t the least bit challenging. Sometimes, he even had to mindfully push away the feeling in his stomach, the ache, when someone touched him, because this was business, even though his business was pleasure (and even though he hated that cliché). Mark was a bit dangerous—fidgety and awkward but confident when he put his hands on Eduardo’s body, just the right mix of tentative and forward—and Eduardo knew it was a bit stupid (his father would say that stupidity was Eduardo’s strong point), hell, it was beyond stupid, but tonight, he was going to try not to think so damn much.
“Mark.” He reached down and wrapped his fingers around Mark’s wrist, trying to tell him what he wanted. And he knew that Mark wasn’t stupid—he could tell that by the quickfire, staccato way that Mark talked and from the description that Sean had given him—and Mark proved him right, grunting softly in Eduardo’s ear, then pulling back just enough, one hand braced next to Eduardo’s head, to start unbuckling Eduardo’s belt.
“So,” Mark said, voice just above a whisper, eyes caught on where Eduardo could feel his own lower lip pinned between his teeth. “I’m going to blow you, because if you blow me, I’m going to want to be able to yell your name, and I refuse to yell out Miami while I’m coming in your mouth because someone will come up here and haul me to the psych ward.”
Eduardo groaned, closing his eyes for a second, not able to look at Mark’s face while he was saying those things in his deadpan voice, the edges rough with sex. They would have to revisit that image (and what a beautiful image it was), but who was he to turn down what Mark was offering? Hell, what Mark was paying for? “Sorry to put you in such a position.”
“I’ll live,” Mark said, reaching inside of Eduardo’s pants and closing his eyes when he found that Eduardo wasn’t wearing any underwear (what was the point?). “Damn.”
Eduardo watched as the top of Mark’s head dipped down to run his tongue along Eduardo’s chest and stomach, and Eduardo had to grab onto the high pile of the carpet to keep still. Mark pulled Eduardo’s cock out of his pants and Eduardo forced himself to look as Mark ducked his head down even further.
Blow jobs were one of Eduardo’s specialties. They sort of had to be in his line of work, and he’d had lots of practice. He’d given them underneath boardroom tables while meetings were in session, in the elevator at the Plaza in New York, in a luxury box at an Oakland Raiders game (at least it was a distraction from how bad the team was), and, most memorably, underneath a scratchy blanket on a first class flight from San Francisco to Honolulu. He liked being on his knees, he liked the power he felt when he was able to make someone come apart beneath his hands and his mouth, the feel of someone’s fingers tangled in his hair.
Eduardo had given much more than he’d received, but plenty of clients weren’t interested in using him, but rather wanted to both give and receive pleasure (part of the Total Boyfriend Experience for sure, which was also one of Eduardo’s specialties), which Eduardo was more than happy to do.
He’d certainly had some excellent head in the last five years, and Mark didn’t rank at the top of the list. But he was enthusiastic, and when Eduardo finally was able to let go of the carpet and twine his fingers in Mark’s hair, moving Mark subtly and saying “yes, that,” and “just a little, yes, god”, his learning curve was incredibly steep. So much so that Eduardo went from “hey, that feels good” to “oh my god I have to come now or I will certainly die here on this floor” in an embarrassingly short amount of time.
“Mark,” Eduardo said, barely able to get the word out. “God, just—”
It was like everything was in slow motion, as Mark pulled off, lips wet and clinging to the head of Eduardo’s cock. “Can I help you with something?”
“Did I say you should stop?”
“No, but you sounded sort of like you were going to die there, so I wanted to make sure you didn’t stroke out.”
Eduardo tugged at Mark’s hair, just enough to sting, from the look on Mark’s face. “Ugh, get back to work.”
“You’re really pushy for a hooker.”
Mark’s voice was tinged with annoyance, but just a second later Eduardo felt the warm wetness of Mark’s mouth around him again. Christ.
“You know, Mark,” Eduardo gasped out—Mark bobbed his head down and Eduardo could feel the head of his cock push into Mark’s throat. Mark gagged just a bit, but he seemed spurred on by Eduardo pulling on his hair, probably way too hard this time. He couldn’t really focus on that. “You’re not in much of a position to disparage my career at the moment.”
Eduardo couldn’t help but laugh, because he could feel Mark scoff around Eduardo’s cock in his mouth. There was something about that he could feel not just physically (obviously), but all the way into his bones. Part of the Total Boyfriend Experience was letting himself just be himself to a large extent—Sean was right when he said that Eduardo was good at it. And he genuinely enjoyed most of his TBE clients. They were different than the fetish guys, or the guys who wanted a piece of arm candy who could wear a suit to take to an event. Eduardo liked those guys well enough. He was a professional enough to admit, though, that the TBE guys were most able to get under Eduardo’s skin, to burrow past the walls that one had to put up around their heart when they had sex for money. Basically being someone’s boyfriend, albeit with the added element of getting paid, was understandably more complicated than a quick fuck.
And Eduardo could already tell that, in a less than two hours, he’d have to keep his walls up high this time.
It was also hard to think about complications and boundaries now that Mark had apparently added deep-throating to his steep learning curve. Eduardo could feel the head of his cock pushing in and out of Mark’s throat as he bobbed his head, his hands pressing Eduardo down on the carpet, Eduardo’s pants still around his knees. He couldn’t help himself—he had to lift his head up to see, and Mark’s mouth looked almost as good as it felt, lips stretched around the width of Eduardo’s cock sliding in and over his tongue.
“Fuck,” Eduardo shouted, surprising himself, and he let himself hold Mark onto him as he came, hot and thick, down Mark’s throat. “Jesus.”
Mark was smiling, more than Eduardo had seen so far, as he came into Eduardo’s view, crawling up the length of Eduardo’s body. “So that was okay, then.”
“Oh my god. Shut up, you already know you’re a genius,” Eduardo replied, groaning and covering his face with his hand. “You don’t have to rub it in.”
He felt Mark’s fingers wrap around his wrist, prying Eduardo’s hand off of his face, and Eduardo draped that same arm around Mark’s back, pulling him just the smallest bit closer. “I do have a bedroom. One of the perks of the room with the foyer and the living room.”
Eduardo leaned forward, pressing his mouth to Mark’s. God, he was still shaking just a bit.
“Bedroom sounds great.”
Eduardo returned the favor in the bedroom, Eduardo just the slightest bit unsteady on his feet, but covering it well. He pressed Mark down to sitting on the bed, then kneeled between his legs, hands reaching up to undo the button on Mark’s jeans. “Now let me show you how a professional does it,” Eduardo said playfully, reaching in to push Mark’s boxers down and get to his cock.
“Don’t let me stop you,” Mark said, obviously trying to keep his voice steady and not quite succeeding.
It was good. Eduardo really didn’t get tired of this particular aspect of his work, especially with a partner as responsive as Mark, who wasn’t afraid to move his hips, to shift Eduardo’s head, to give direction. By the end, Mark was making choked sounds and fucking into Eduardo’s throat and Eduardo could only hang on as Mark came, whimpering as his fingers relaxed in Eduardo’s hair.
“You’ll stay,” Mark said, asking but without the actual question mark, after they had gotten themselves into the bed and shed their clothes. They were facing each other, close enough that Eduardo could reach out and touch Mark’s mouth, his cheek, if he wanted to.
Eduardo closed his eyes. “Of course. You paid for the whole night.”
“Right,” Mark said, and Eduardo fell asleep to the whisper of fingertips against his hipbone.
At one in the morning, Eduardo woke up to go to the bathroom, and when he quietly returned to the room, he noticed that Mark was lying on his back, his eyes open.
“You’re up,” Eduardo said, crawling back beneath the blankets, which were still warm from his own—and from Mark’s—body heat.
Mark turned his head. “Do you like your job?”
“What?” Eduardo stammered, a bit startled by the question, which had seemingly come out of nowhere.
“You don’t seem like the hooker with the heart of gold type, and you don’t seem like the exploited sex worker, so I wanted to know if you like what you do.” Mark paused and shrugged. “There’s probably also part of me that wants to not feel guilty for paying for sex.”
Eduardo relaxed, smiling just a little. It was hard to be annoyed by the question when it was obvious that Mark wasn’t judging him. He was just curious.
“Most of the time, I do like it. It’s not what I saw myself doing with my life, certainly, but I enjoy sex and making people feel good. I feel like I’m helping a lot of people, which may be my own way of justifying it, but that doesn’t make it any less true.” Eduardo looked away while he was talking, but he turned his eyes back to Mark’s face, to try to gauge his reaction. Mark still had the same flat expression on his face that he’d had for most of the night.
“What did you think you’d be doing?”
It wasn’t hard to answer that question, even though he wasn’t sure if he should. “Investment banking. I did economics in college, but I didn’t graduate, so that path wasn’t as straightforward as it would have been otherwise. And after working in finance for a while after I left school, I realized that selling my body wasn’t that different than investment banking.”
Mark laughed at that, nodding. Then, another question: “Why’d you leave school?”
“Tuition money dried up. My father didn’t want to write the check to Yale after he found out that I was gay.”
Mark was quiet for a minute, then, “I went to Harvard. I didn’t finish either.”
Eduardo reached out and rested his hand on the small of Mark’s back. They were close enough that Eduardo could feel Mark’s breath on his cheek. “We didn’t do all that bad for ourselves then, did we?”
Mark smiled back at him, but it didn’t seem to quite reach his eyes.
“I don’t need your pity. If I wanted to do something else, I would do it. I could always go back to school—I can afford it on my own now.”
“So why don’t you?” Mark shot back, his mouth turned down in a frown.
Eduardo paused. He wasn’t sure that he was ready to go there with a client, so he just said, “I will. I’m thinking about it, I’m just not sure it’s the right time. How about you?”
Mark closed his eyes, still frowning. “I already have a billion dollars—what’s the point?”
Eduardo dragged Mark a bit closer and tucked his face into Mark’s neck. “Fair enough,” he said to the skin behind Mark’s ear. Mark didn’t say anything else, and Eduardo’s eyes drooped. He let himself succumb to sleep again.
Eduardo woke to the clacking of a keyboard, the early morning light streaming in through the gauzy curtains. Mark was sitting at the desk, typing furiously.
The light was bright, and he shut his eyes quickly against it and groaned. “Morning,” he called feebly.
Mark didn’t turn his head, eyes glued to the laptop screen. “Morning.”
Eduardo stretched against the sheets and then checked the clock. It was six. He should probably get going soon; he made it a point to consider the night a client paid for as only lasting until eight. He let himself enjoy the warmth of the bed for a few more minutes, then pushed himself up to sitting, studying Mark across the room.
Mark hadn’t said another word after the initial greeting, and Eduardo wasn’t beyond some healthy curiosity about Mark, or any client, to be honest. He stood up, still naked as he’d never bothered to get dressed after they were done, and moved over to where Mark was sitting.
“What are you working on?”
Mark turned his head toward Eduardo behind him, looking almost startled. “Sorry, I forgot you were here. We had some security breaches at the site, so I was just going in to make some quick changes to the coding that should patch things up.”
Eduardo nodded, and he couldn’t help looking over the top of Mark’s head. And when he saw the Facebook page open next to the window Mark was programming in, everything clicked into place.
Shit. He just slept with Mark Zuckerberg, for money. Second-youngest billionaire in the world. Founder of Facebook.
It wasn’t like Eduardo hadn’t slept with famous and/or rich people—athletes, financiers, politicians—but he would guess that Mark might be the biggest deal yet. And it was going to take every bit of discretion and training he’d gathered over the years in his work to act like he didn’t notice, or care, who Mark was.
“Listen, I think I should leave, but this was fun. Call Sean if you ever want to make another appointment, okay?” Mark looked at Eduardo as he was talking, almost studying him.
“Do you come to people’s houses? I mean, would you come to my house? Not that I can’t afford the penthouse suite at the Fairmont, but home would be preferable.”
“Yes,” Eduardo said, even though he usually waited a few appointments before making house calls. “I can do that.”
“Can you do next Thursday?”
Eduardo blinked. He wasn’t expecting that. “I’m...I’m not sure. Call Sean. It has to be set up through him anyway. I’ll let him know that I’m fine going to your house.”
“Okay,” Mark said resolutely, turning back to the screen. “It was. It had a good time, Miami.”
“Sorry,” Eduardo said, catching Mark’s wince.
“Yes, well, you’re not an idiot and you’re great in bed, so I’ll put up with the completely dumb fake name for now.”
Mark’s fingers started moving on the keys again, lightening fast, while Eduardo put his clothes back on, remembering that he’d need to grab his jacket and tie from the living room on the way out. Occupational hazard, and they were not cheap.
“Goodbye, Mark,” he said as he walked toward the bedroom door. Mark was still coding (coding Facebook, Christ) and didn’t respond. Eduardo gathered up the rest of his clothes and let himself out of the room.
Sean called him the next day.
“Nice work, dude, seriously. He wants you Thursday. Every Thursday. I think he must have called me as you were walking out of his room.”
The spoon full of cereal that Eduardo was holding paused in midair, on the way to his mouth. He’d been eating breakfast at his kitchen table when the phone rang. He couldn’t exactly say that he was surprised that Mark had called Sean, since he’d asked to see Eduardo again, but there was a part of him—a smart part, his brain provided—that had hoped he would get off easier than that.
“Oh, okay. Sure.”
Sean scoffed. “Okay? Sure? Eduardo, the guy is a billionaire. He seems decent, he’s not into anything kinky, and he wants to put $3,000 in your pocket, and mine, once a week. Could you try to muster some small amount of enthusiasm?”
Eduardo put his spoon down, hearing it clack against the side of the bowl. “Yes. That’s great news.” And, shit, he’d almost forgotten. “And I maybe told him I could do a house call the next time?”
“Brilliant,” Sean said, laughing in that evil way of his. “Now, don’t leave me to become his kept woman or anything.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it.”
The rest of the week was typical. Well, typical for Eduardo anyway. Friday he had the day off and was attending an event that evening with a regular client, James, who was the editor of the most widely circulated gay magazine in the country. Saturday he was off, and he spent the day in his pajamas, lounging around his apartment. Sometimes, when he spent so much time at hotels and other people’s homes, he forgot how much he loved his apartment. He’d saved up enough to buy the place two years before--a great loft space, with floor to ceiling windows and a view of the city. It was the first place he’d lived that ever really felt like home to him.
Sunday, he had a new client, Jeremy, a baseball player in town on a four game series with the A’s. He was jittery and clearly uncomfortable the whole time, and Eduardo tried his best to relax him, calm him down. To help him enjoy it. He wasn’t sure it worked, though.
Monday was another off day—one of the great perks of the job was that he didn’t have to work nine to five, and he rarely worked anywhere near forty hours a week, but still made great money. Tuesday was Toe Guy again, although David didn’t seem to be interested in toenail clipping so much this week, but rather wanted Eduardo to run his toes over David’s stomach for an hour.
Wednesday was another off day, and he couldn’t help but look forward to Thursday, just a bit. It had been a typical week, but at least Mark was something of a breath of fresh air.
Sean texted him Mark’s address. Of course he lived in Palo Alto; Eduardo should have already known that since Facebook was headquartered there. It was a good thing that Eduardo loved his car (a completely ridiculous but completely awesome Audi TT convertible--his dad would hate it)—he didn’t use it all that often in the city, so he was happy to make the forty five minute drive down the peninsula.
Mark’s house was just gorgeous—not ostentatious or gaudy, but a really beautiful Spanish-style home that had to cost a fortune in this part of Palo Alto, with a weeping willow tree right outside of the front door and a perfectly manicured lawn. Eduardo had pictured Mark in some kind of ultra-modern place with glass and steel, befitting a technology giant. But if the hoodie and jeans were anything to go by, this was more Mark’s style. And maybe somewhat unlike Mark, it felt warm and inviting.
He raised his hand to knock, and Mark opened the door before Eduardo had a chance to. Mark was wearing cargo shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt. And he was smiling, that quirk of his mouth that Eduardo was beginning to figure out was like a shit-eating grin on anyone else’s face.
“Hi,” Mark said, staring right at Eduardo’s mouth.
“Hi,” Eduardo replied, licking his lips. “Nice place.”
They fucked on Mark’s wide bed, the blankets untucked and sliding off onto the floor as they moved, the fading light coming in through the french doors on the other side of the large room. Mark had one hand braced on the bed next to Eduardo’s head, holding himself up. They’d lost their clothes on the way to Mark’s bedroom, making quick work of the hallways and stairwell of the beautiful house (it was just as nice, if not a bit on the under-furnished side, on the inside), until Mark pushed Eduardo down onto the bed and said, “I want to fuck you.”
Every slide of Mark inside of him caused him to dig his heel just a bit more into the back of Mark’s thigh, urging him on. Like the blowjob of a week ago, it was clear to Eduardo, who had more experience than most, that Mark was pretty new at this, but just like last week, he learned fast. He had Eduardo disassembled into his component parts, his fingers slick and hard in Eduardo’s ass, in less than ten minutes.
Eduardo enjoyed almost all of the sex he had as a matter of course, and always had. He wasn’t a brave and suffering prostitute who put a smile on but secretly cried inside. There were plenty of things he did in the course of his work that weren’t really his scene and that he never would have done if money hadn’t been exchanged, but he really did find someone else’s fantasy being fulfilled, their genuine pleasure, a real turn on.
This sex, though, on his back with Mark over him, around him and inside him, slow and hard and relentless, his arms and legs wrapped around Mark, close enough to see Mark sweat as he thrust—this was exactly his scene.
Eduardo took a deep breath and closed his eyes for just a moment, giving himself a break from the sensory overload. And giving himself the opportunity to remember that this was work. As Mark nudged Eduardo’s prostate with the blunt head of his cock, over and over, he tried to make himself override the litany of Mark Mark Mark in his head with work work work.
He had about a fifty percent success rate.
They’d been at it for a while, and Eduardo was seriously impressed that Mark, who had been so eager to get them into bed, no pretense at all, had lasted so long. They were locked into a rhythm that felt like it could go on forever, slow and languid. Eduardo felt like he was losing his mind.
“Fuck,” Eduardo groaned, pushing his ass back onto Mark’s cock, clenching to let himself feel Mark’s length, and also to try to move Mark closer to the edge. Mark’s rhythm stuttered, his hips jerking just a bit. It was hard to hold back his grin as Mark closed his eyes and bit his lip, trying to regain control.
“Jesus, you’re going to make me come.”
Eduardo pushed back again. Mark moaned. “That was sort of the idea. Not that I’m complaining...”
Then, Mark’s hands were on Eduardo’s wrists, circling them and pinning them to the bed above Eduardo’s head. His eyes had gone dark and he looked sexy as hell. “Message received.”
Mark pressed down on Eduardo’s wrists, hard, and let his whole body weight rest on Eduardo’s, fucking him harder, faster, and taking his breath away. Eduardo had been close before, but lost in the haze of it—now, his own orgasm was back in the front of his mind, making its presence known.
“Can you—” Mark gasped, between thrusts. “Can you come like this?”
Eduardo couldn’t, always. Most guys assumed that it came as part of the job description. He was pretty sure that now was one of those times he could, though. “I don’t know—can you make me come like this?” he whispered against the shell of Mark’s ear.
Mark seemed like the type to love a challenge.
And sure enough, Mark leaned forward, bending Eduardo practically in half, his hips snapping and every thrust right on the mark. Normally, Eduardo had extraordinary control, but he didn’t even realize he was coming until he felt himself clench down, hard, around Mark inside of him, until he heard Mark’s cry into his ear.
Mark fucked him through it, talking to Eduardo the whole time, but Eduardo couldn’t quite pick up the thread of it. It all just sounded like nonsense. He was relaxed and Mark still felt so, so good, sliding in and out of his fucked open ass, until Mark’s fingers clamped down on Eduardo’s wrists, hard enough to bruise, and he felt Mark coming, through his whole body, trembling above Eduardo’s.
A couple of hours later, after cleaning up and falling asleep (they seemed to be developing a pattern) with their legs entwined, they finally dragged themselves out of the bed. They ate takeout Chinese at the coffee table in the living room across from a big screen that put the one at the Fairmont to shame (“Jesus, what is that, 80 inches?” and Mark had snickered and replied, “that’s what she said.”), Eduardo on the floor between Mark’s legs.
Halfway through an episode of How I Met Your Mother (which Eduardo never thought to add to the DVR, but loved every time he saw it), Mark muted the television. “I have a question.”
Eduardo sat the rest of the container of lo mein down on the table and turned his head, just enough to see Mark’s face. “I might have an answer.”
Mark rolled his eyes. “I have an event next Saturday. I know that it’s not our regular night, but I was wondering if you might be willing to attend the event with me.” He paused. “As my date.”
The room was quiet, partially because Eduardo was genuinely surprised. He was pretty sure that he’d never heard that Mark Zuckerberg was gay, and it was usually only the out guys who wanted him on their arm at events.
Eduardo must have paused for too long, because Mark cleared his throat and said, “I must have misunderstood. I thought—never mind. Just forget I asked.”
Eduardo pushed himself around until he was facing Mark, one hand wrapped around Mark’s calf through his sweatpants. “No! That’s not it at all. I’d have to check my calendar—rather, Sean would have to check my calendar—but I can do that.”
Mark didn’t say anything for a long moment, looking at Eduardo like he was studying him. He tried not to squirm. “You know who I am, don’t you?”
He considered lying, for a brief instant. What was the point? “Yes.”
“So you’ll come, then?”
“You have to call Sean.” Eduardo had run through the next week’s calendar in his head. Saturday night he had a cancellation. He was free.
Mark frowned, but nodded. “Okay.” Then he looked back up and unmuted the TV. Eduardo missed most of the rest of the episode, because he knew if he turned back around, turned his back on Mark, he’d have to let go of him. He really didn’t want to. Fuck, he was in so much trouble.
When he’d first started in the business, Peter had connected him with an experienced escort named Christy, who had shown him the ropes, told him how to protect himself physically, how to draw boundaries, how to make sure he got the money that he deserved. And on the last day, before Eduardo went off to his first solo client, she’d taken him aside.
“This isn’t part of the official training, okay?”
“Okay,” he’d said, confused at the time.
“You seem like a really nice guy, Eduardo, and there’s something about this job that no one tells you at first. It’s impossible to feel nothing for your clients. There’s no such thing as sex with no emotion, even when there’s money involved. You may feel disgust or lust or affection, but there will never be nothing. And sometimes...” Christy trailed off. Eduardo hadn’t been able to figure out at the time what was so hard for her to say. He knew now because he’d lived it every day for five years. He was grateful every one of those days for what she said next.
“Sometimes, you will love them. Sometimes, they will be everything you have ever wanted, and you will want to lose yourself in your very own fantasy. And sometimes they’ll want it too. But you can’t ever have it. Never. Because you’ll always be a whore if he pays you. You might want to change that, but you can’t.”
“So enjoy it. Like them. Love them, even, if you can’t help it. But don’t ever forget what you do.”
For five years, he’d kept those words in his head, sometimes clinging to them like a life raft. This was the first time that he’d told the Christy in his head to shut up, and it scared the shit out of him.
The next morning, Eduardo woke up in Mark’s bed, sun weakly beginning to stream through the french doors. He was surprised to find Mark’s face mashed into the pillow beside his own, mouth open slightly and still asleep. The first night they’d spent together had given Eduardo the impression that Mark didn’t sleep much—that he was always moving, restless.
He reached out to push Mark’s hair off his face, allowing himself one indulgence--just one--while Mark was still asleep. Eduardo didn’t want to move from that spot, face to face, legs curled toward each other like parentheses, open on both sides, so he stayed for a little while, letting himself imagine that there wasn’t another chunk of money on its way into his bank account. That Mark even knew his name.
The sun rose higher in the sky, brighter and brighter through the crystal clear panes of glass, and Eduardo couldn’t pretend anymore. The room was lit up enough that he could see everything, the yellow glow on the curve of Mark’s jaw.
He leaned forward, pressed a firm, closed mouth kiss to the corner of Mark’s mouth. “I have to go,” he whispered, and Mark groaned, edging his legs closer until their knees touched. Eduardo closed his eyes.
“Mark,” he said, raising his voice just a bit, urgent.
Mark’s eyes blinked open, barely. “‘Kay. Saturday?”
“Call Sean,” Eduardo said, voice muffled as he pulled his sweater over his head, turning his back on Mark.
“How original,” Mark mumbled sarcastically, and Eduardo was out the door, not daring to look back, before he could reply or hear anything else.
Eduardo got the text message from Sean right after he came home from the gym. He hadn’t even stopped at his apartment on the way home from Palo Alto, needing to blow off some steam. He was sticky with sweat and his legs were shaking a bit, but his head was clearer.
You’re a rock star! MZ called re: Saturday. He’ll pay for a car to pick you up at your apartment at 8pm - I’ll give your address directly to the driver. Black tie reception at the Omni.
He tossed his phone and keys onto the counter, pushing his shoes off near the door and dropping his gym bag. He ran his fingers through his damp hair before picking up the phone again.
Thanks. I’ll be ready.
It was still only ten in the morning, and he knew he needed a shower and to start getting ready for his appointment that evening, another regular in town on business. But instead, he allowed himself to slouch down on the wide couch in his sweaty gym clothes and flip on the television.
His phone pinged again, an incoming text message. Great, and one more thing: his PR guy wants you to sign some kind of non-disclosure agreement. Something that says you won’t find out company secrets and sell them, that kind of thing.
Eduardo paused, his thumb hovering over reply. He didn’t know why his throat felt tight and made it a little hard to breathe. This wasn’t the first NDA he’d ever signed for a client; he worked with guys in Silicon Valley relatively often and they were all paranoid as shit about proprietary information.
Even with their whores.
He took a deep breath, as deep as he could, and hit the reply button. That’s fine.
Cool. PR guy (Chris) said he can meet you Monday for lunch at Chez Panisse in Berkeley to go over the stuff. I checked your schedule, it looked clear.
Eduardo had zero desire to haul himself out to Berkeley for lunch with someone he didn’t know. He felt exhausted, all the way down to his bones. But three thousand dollars a week was a strong motivating force, one he couldn’t pull himself away from. Tell him I’ll be there.
Miraculously, there was street parking on Shattuck (the perks of not being a nine to five worker was how easy it was to do things in the middle of the day, like park on the street in Berkeley) and after Eduardo made his way through the wrought iron gates of Chez Panisse and through the door, he found a blond guy waiting, hands in his pockets and a slight smile on his face.
“Hello, Chris?” Eduardo said, holding out his hand.
“Yes, hi,” Chris replied, grasping Eduardo’s hand in a firm handshake. Eduardo’s dad would have been impressed. “This is a bit awkward for any number of reasons, but I don’t know your name.”
Eduardo withdrew his hand, tucking it behind his back. “I don’t typically give out my real name to clients,” he said warily.
The hostess was gesturing for them to follow, which let Eduardo off the hook for this line of conversation for a few minutes until they were seated. When they were finally settled, Eduardo leaned back in his chair and sighed.
“Eduardo,” he said, and he had to give Chris some credit that he didn’t look surprised at all. “I know there’s no point in trying to keep my name from you if I’m going to be signing an NDA. And I’d rather that Mark didn’t know, but I also understand what kind of position that puts you in.”
Chris stared at him for a minute before his face cracked into a smile. Eduardo couldn’t help but relax in the face of it. “Sorry, it’s just,” Chris started, shaking his head. “I honestly never thought that this would be a part of doing public relations at Facebook, or with Mark. Ever.”
“What’s that?” Eduardo said, taking a slow sip from the glass of red wine that had appeared at his right hand.
Chris blushed, just a bit. “You know who Mark is.” And yes, Eduardo did. He’d Googled Mark after he put the pieces together that morning in the hotel room. Mark was twenty eight. Single. A couple of not-so-serious girlfriends in the past. No guys that he could tell. Abrasive, brilliant, and single-minded, from all accounts.
He knew some other things too, things he couldn’t find between the lines on Valleywag: the shape of Mark’s mouth when he smiled, the weight of his body against Eduardo’s, his fingertips against the skin behind Eduardo’s ear.
“Yes, I do. And I know that, well...I’m not his usual fare, I guess you could say?”
Chris looked relieved, like he’d expected Eduardo to be obtuse. “I would say that. You definitely have more...”
“Dick?” Eduardo shot back, only loud enough for Chris to hear, the rest of the diners going about their business around them. He’d had five years to learn that kind of discretion.
Chris choked on his wine, sitting the glass back down carefully, coughing. Then he smiled at Eduardo again. “You know,” Chris said, wiping the tears from the corner of his eye, “I think, in another life, we could have been friends.”
Eduardo smiled back, but he couldn’t help but think that would have been nice and wanting it, just the smallest bit. His line of work wasn’t exactly conducive to friends, having to explain why he couldn’t go out most nights and making up some cover story for what he did for all of his money, for his big, expensive apartment, his bespoke suits. His Yale friends had stayed in touch for a while after he’d moved to San Francisco, but they’d gone on to graduate and they didn’t have much to talk about anymore. They liked each other’s statuses on Facebook (how was that for irony?), but that was it.
It was simpler not to have real friends. He had plenty of company as it was; he didn’t have time for relationships of any kind.
They ordered, and over an absolutely insane halibut tartare (seriously, he’d work on figuring out ways to be in Berkeley more often; it was a religious experience), Chris pulled out the NDA, talking Eduardo through the relatively simple document. One clause about the confidentiality of company information, and one very short clause that said he wouldn’t sell the fact that Mark was paying for sex to the highest bidder. He pulled his own pen from his pocket and signed and initialed where Chris had flagged.
“Listen, thanks,” Chris said as he slipped his corporate credit card in with the bill. “And I know this seems weird, but I think you’re really good for Mark. He seems different—less edgy, lately. Which is why I haven’t killed him yet for hiring a hooker first and telling me later. “
Eduardo folded his napkin and placed it in front of him on the table. “Well, it’s my job, so.” He tried to make it sound flip, casual, but he could hear the bitterness in his voice. Chris smiled at him anyway.
“I’ll let you tell Mark your name. It will be fun to drive him crazy all week that I know and he doesn’t. I think it was part of why he didn’t give me a harder time about asking you to do this. “
The waitress came back with the credit card slip for Chris to sign. Eduardo stood up when Chris did and shook his hand. “Thanks. It was good meeting you.”
“You too, Eduardo. See you next week.”
They parted ways on the sidewalk. Eduardo sat in his car for a long time after, watching as people walked up and down the street, on their way to work, school, home. Maybe the woman with the black coat and heels, blond hair pulled up into a ponytail, looking straight ahead as she walked, maybe she worked in an office, maybe she had a husband, kids at home.
He could almost guarantee that she wasn’t on her way to fuck a man for money. Although he didn’t think that anyone saw him and thought that either.
It had never bothered him that people with whom he did business knew exactly what he did, that they understood in full technicolor images, but something about his lunch with Chris made his stomach uneasy, the way they both understood exactly what they were doing there and how much Eduardo wished they didn’t have to.
The feeling didn’t go away as he drove over the Bay Bridge, the water glittering below, and back home.
Tuesday morning found Eduardo up and outside right as the sun was coming up, feet pounding against the pavement as he ran the punishing San Francisco hills. Generally, he preferred the gym to running, but sometimes, the actual wind pushing against your body, all that resistance, was just what he needed.
It was definitely one of those times.
Eduardo didn’t want to think, honestly. He was running to try to stop thinking so damn much. He’d always been able to get through situations when he just let himself off the hook, and he was hoping he could clear his head and figure out how to snap out of this funk.
He’d been doing this job for five years, and when he first started, he honestly didn’t think much about how long he wanted to stay working as an escort. At the time, he’d had vague thoughts about working until he saved up enough to go back to Yale, or somewhere, finish his degree, become his boss’s boss.
Except the money was good--fuck, the money was great--and he found being a prostitute more in line with his personality, his need to take care of others and to be needed, his need for approval, than he’d originally thought. Eduardo was damn good at it, enough to be recruited by Sean, stepping up the clientele and the money after two years working with Peter, enough to buy his apartment and his car and vacations if he ever needed to pay to take his own (usually, his vacations were paid for by someone else).
He hadn’t stopped long enough, hadn’t let himself think long enough to realize that this had become his future. This every week, every month, every year until he washed up, got too old for someone to want to pay for him. Eduardo had never let himself think about that. About what came after that. It was easier just to ride the wave.
Except he couldn’t stop thinking now.
And it was hard to remember what it was like to have a normal life. Maybe because he’d never really had one. He was escorting by the time he turned twenty-two.
Eduardo couldn’t shake what Chris had said to him over lunch, about being friends (or that he was good for Mark). It burrowed into his brain, like a parasite, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it.
He ran harder, past the restaurants and the bars, which in twelve hours would be full of people Eduardo’s age, out after work with friends, or looking to meet someone. It was like another parallel universe existed right alongside of his own, where he could see it but couldn’t cross over.
Stop, he told himself, trying to override everything that was spinning through his head. Enough, you have a great life. You don’t rely on anyone. You have everything you could ever need.
His strides shortened, slowed, as he made his way back to his street, his building, and by the time he put his key in the lock, he had almost convinced himself.
Tuesday night’s appointment was with Andres. He was a Brazilian businessman, around forty five and hot as hell, whose company ran a branch in the Bay Area that he checked in on every few months. Eduardo saw him every time he came to town.
Tonight, Eduardo strode into the Fairmont (absolutely not thinking about the last time he was there) at nine o’clock, and took the elevator to the ninth floor. His suit was fresh from the dry cleaners, and he felt better than he had in days, like he’d finally gotten his bearings.
Andres opened the door with a big smile on his face, and Eduardo smiled back. Andres was one of his very favorite regulars, because he didn’t beat around the bush. At all.
“Fuck, you are a sight for sore eyes,” Andres said hungrily, reaching out to tug Eduardo into the room. Eduardo always had to will down his own reaction to Andres’ voice, the rhythms of Sao Paolo, the hazy memories of his own childhood. Andres was the closest he got to Brazil on a regular basis, which was both good and bad.
They didn’t talk much, Andres tugging off his clothes, speaking low in Portuguese, right up against Eduardo’s ear, in a way that made him squirm. They always fucked first, then lounged in bed for a while later, sometimes talking, sometimes not, Eduardo allowing himself the few hours to feel the familiar vowels in his mouth.
Andres had him naked fast, and pushed him down onto the bed. “Turn over, querido. Come on.” Eduardo obliged, flipping over, rising to his hands and knees with his palms flat against the headboard. He arched his back just enough to hear Andres curse behind him.
“That’s not fair, you know,” Andres moaned, and Eduardo smiled as he heard the sound of Andres’ zipper, the sound of the condom wrapper. He closed his eyes.
“It’s not supposed to be fair,” he shoots back, coy and keeping his voice steady, even though his whole body was lit up in anticipation.
The blunt head of Andres’ cock (Eduardo always forgot how big he was, always had to breathe through it, calm himself down to take it) pushed against his ass, and he arched his back more, pushing his hips back. “Is this fair?” Andres whispered, leaning closer to Eduardo’s ear, laughing softly.
“God.” Eduardo wanted to have a better comeback, something witty because he knew that Andres liked the banter, the back and forth of it, but it was like everything swirling around his head had been erased like a blackboard, clean and empty. Andres’ fat dick was spreading him open, not nearly as much lube as he could have used, no lead up at all, and it felt incredible. “Fuck me.”
Andres didn’t say anything, just reached out and grabbed Eduardo’s hips, pulling Eduardo down onto his cock, and it was almost too much. His brain was telling him to pull away, to get some space, but his hips were meeting Andres’ thrusts, without his approval. A sound escaped his throat, high and tight, before he could rein it back in.
“You okay?” Andres gritted out, all the way inside, and Eduardo appreciated the sentiment, he really, truly did, but this was not his first rodeo, so to speak.
He turned his head, taking in Andres’ face, the sweat beading on his skin next to his dark hair, the muscles in his stomach taut from holding himself still. “Fuck. Me,” Eduardo said, his voice hard and firm, and Andres smiled.
And he did.
The pace was brutal. Eduardo ducked his head down and bit his lip until he tasted blood, to keep in the whines trying to escape his throat, because he didn’t want it to stop. It felt good, and for the first time in weeks, he wasn’t thinking about anything else but the man behind him, the cock inside of him, and he wanted it to last.
“Fuck, you’re so perfect,” Andres said, his voice hoarse, hands gripping harder at Eduardo’s hips, pulling him back more. Eduardo finally felt relaxed and open enough—the pain edging back just enough but not too much—that he let himself cry out. He knew that Andres liked the sounds he made when they fucked like this. So he let them come.
Eduardo could tell that Andres was close, his rhythm faltering just a bit, his thrusts turning harder, but slower. All the words spoken into Eduardo’s ear now were Portuguese, and Eduardo tried to shut his brain down even more.
He hadn’t even really checked in enough to know how close he was, but when Andres reached around to wrap his hand around Eduardo’s cock, he came instantly, all over the sheets and Andres’ hand. It was like all of his bones had liquefied, and he struggled to stay up on his knees as Andres kept moving inside of him, so close.
“Querido,” Andres shouted, and bore Eduardo down into the bed, pressed on top of him. Eduardo couldn’t breathe, and he was having a hard time caring.
A moment (or an hour, who knew) later, Andres flipped them over onto their sides, curling up against Eduardo’s back. “Olá,” he said against Eduardo’s neck, placing a kiss to the same spot, and Eduardo smiled.
“Hi,” he replied, feeling warm, enveloped, and for the first time in weeks, like himself.
Eduardo rode the high of Tuesday night throughout the day on Wednesday, a day spent grocery shopping around the corner, having coffee at his favorite place a block down from his building, and hitting the gym. He still had a smile on his face on Thursday morning, until he leaned over in bed to look at his book, and remembered that it was Thursday.
Just like that, he felt everything that Andres had literally fucked right out of his head creeping back in, and he had been perfectly happy not to feel like he was going crazy for one day. Now all he could think about was Mark.
Mark had left a message with Sean asking Eduardo to come around seven this week, and that gave him an extra half an hour stuck in rush hour traffic to think about what he was going to do.
Get a grip, he told himself, his hands clenched tight around the steering wheel, his knuckles white. You’re a goddamn professional.
By the time he pulled into Mark’s driveway, glimpsing his house through the trees, he was calmer. Ready to be professional, ready to do his fucking job.
The sound of a car came up behind him as he was getting out of his own, and he turned as he shut the door to see a red Prius pulling in behind him. The door opened and Mark climbed out, seemingly out of breath.
“I got held up at the office—it’s like the universe heard that I was leaving before nine for once and conspired against me.” Mark strode closer to Eduardo, taking a deep breath. He smiled. “Hi. Did you wait long?”
Eduardo took a deep breath of his own, and tried to keep his voice friendly but neutral. “No, just got here. Traffic on the 101.”
Mark nodded, smile fading just a bit, like he sensed the distance that Eduardo was trying to so hard to create. Eduardo followed him up the front walkway and into the house, and then pinned him up against the door as soon as it was shut.
“What—” Mark started, tipping his head back and gasping, and Eduardo was more than willing to press his advantage. The skin right beneath Mark’s jaw was a bit prickly with stubble and Eduardo dragged his lips along his jawline until he latched on right below Mark’s ear. He bracketed Mark’s body against the wooden door with both hands.
Mark laughed, and Eduardo could feel it thrum through his body. “Hi, nice to see you too,” Mark said, voice rough and turned on, picking up his foot and hooking it around the back of Eduardo’s calf.
Eduardo didn’t answer, just pressed in until their bodies were flush against each other, until Mark’s rapidly hardening cock was tucked up against Eduardo’s thigh.
“I thought we could have dinner—” Eduardo cut him off, pressing their mouths together and tracing the firm line of Mark’s lips with his tongue, urging him to open up.
When they finally pulled apart, both panting, Eduardo growled, “Enough talking.”
Mark shuddered against him (Eduardo filed that one away for later: likes to be told what to do). “Fair enough.”
Eduardo licked back into Mark’s mouth, catching Mark’s moans, as he dropped one hand to work open the button on Mark’s jeans. Mark’s cock was hot and hard in Eduardo’s hand, and Eduardo was about to provide yet another one of his specialties.
“Whoa,” Mark said, and Eduardo pressed his involuntary smile into Mark’s neck, stroking him fast and just this side of too hard. “Oh my god.”
“Would you rather stop and have dinner?” Eduardo said teasingly, lips right up against Mark’s ear. Mark’s heel dug harder into his leg.
“Don’t even think about it,” Mark spat out, closing his eyes. “It can wait.”
Eduardo found that hand jobs were less in demand than blow jobs, from a professional standpoint. Probably because a lot of the guys could convince their wives or girlfriends to give them a hand job, but a blow job was a harder sell. Eduardo was equally good at both, however, and the years of practice were clearly working on Mark, who was starting to sag against the door. Eduardo leaned in to hold him up, letting his thumb drag over the slit on the head on the way back down.
“Oh, god,” Mark whimpered, pushing his hips into Eduardo’s fist. Eduardo felt Mark’s body go still an instant before he felt his come hitting his hand, hot and wet. He stroked him through it, closing his teeth around Mark’s ear, just to hear him cry out.
After Mark cleaned up and made a gesture toward Eduardo (“It’s okay, we’ve got all night,” Eduardo had said, clasping his hands around Mark’s and moving them away, avoiding Mark’s eyes), he ordered dinner (“Thai okay this time?” he’d said, digging through the menus, and Eduardo had nodded).
They sat at the island in Mark’s kitchen, and Eduardo knew he should say something. He was getting paid a shitload of money to provide the Total Boyfriend Experience, and part of that was carrying on the conversation. Still, he struggled to force himself to say something, wanting to let Mark fuck him and then just go home.
That would be so much easier.
“So,” Mark said, clearing his throat and setting down his chopsticks. “I wanted to say thanks for meeting with Chris and signing the papers.”
Eduardo sat down his carton of pad thai. “It’s fine. It’s not the first time I’ve had to do that. I have a number of high profile clients.”
He can tell by the way Mark’s face gets a little pinched that he didn’t appreciate the reminder about how many other clients Eduardo has. Or maybe he didn’t like that someone was as high profile as he was. Either way, Mark frowned at Eduardo. “Well, I appreciate it regardless. And I appreciate your willingness to make room for me in your schedule for Saturday.” Mark’s voice was formal, stilted and a bit awkward, and Eduardo sort of hated it.
“It’s not a problem.” Eduardo paused, because he knew he should just let it drop. He should finish his dinner, then drag Mark to bed, fuck until they were both exhausted and passed out, then slip out as soon as he could in the morning. Full service, nothing less, but nothing more.
Eduardo had always thought of himself as pretty smart, with a good survival instinct, but that didn’t stop him from saying, “Can I ask you a question?”
Mark’s face relaxed. “Sure.”
“Why do you want to be seen in public with me? I mean, I know that you haven’t ever publicly dated a man, and I don’t know why you’d want the publicity.”
Mark lifted one chopstick off of the counter, twirling it around between his fingers, not looking up. “I’ve kept my few past relationships with men private. I didn’t want it to interfere with Facebook business.” He looked up, his eyes blue, his stare intense. “As for Saturday, I asked you because I thought it might be nice to go to one of these things with someone for a change. I enjoy your company. And I don’t give a shit what anyone thinks anymore, to be honest.”
Eduardo swallowed back the lump that had formed in his throat. He wasn’t sure what to say, and he felt pinned back, like a butterfly in an elementary school science project, by Mark’s eyes. “Okay. Thanks for telling me,” he said softly, and Mark looked back down at his food. Eduardo felt like he could finally breathe.
“Are you finished?” Mark asked.
Eduardo dropped his hand down to the counter, right in front of the pad thai. “Yes.”
“Good.” And then Mark was up, rounding the island and grabbing Eduardo’s hand, dragging him to the bedroom.
Mark pushed Eduardo down on the bed. He sank into the deep, down comforter, locking his eyes with Mark’s, which were all pupil, completely blown.
Eduardo closed his eyes.
When Mark started to bear down against him, hips slotted together, mouths close enough to share breath, Eduardo wanted to give into it. It scared him how much he wanted. He barely knew this man pressed against him—they’d spent a grand total of three evenings together. But he knew how Mark made him feel.
He couldn’t open his eyes. Instead, he flipped over inside of Mark’s arms. “Like this,” he whispered, pushing himself up onto his hands and knees, pushing Mark back. “I want you like this.”
Mark hesitated, like he knew that Eduardo wanted it exactly the way it had been going, but he got with the program quickly, pressing himself along Eduardo’s back. “Okay, yeah,” he whispered into Eduardo’s ear, making Eduardo shudder from head to toe.
Maybe it wasn’t going to be any better this way. But he had to try.
Not being able to see Mark’s face, his eyes, as he slicked up his fingers and pressed them against Eduardo’s hole, helped somewhat. He didn’t really need the prep, but Mark’s fingers felt good, pressed close inside of him. The two fingers were a mere fraction of the last thing-- Andres’ huge cock--that had spread him open, but they were still lighting him up. Still making him rock back into them.
“Please, Mark,” Eduardo urged, wanting to feel him, and also wanting to have this over so he could go home and try to gain back some of his equilibrium. He dropped his upper body down onto the bed, his face pressed into the duvet, and reached back to spread himself open. To put himself on display.
“Christ,” Mark groaned, and Eduardo smiled to himself as Mark pulled his fingers free and tore open a condom wrapper. “You want me to fuck you?” Mark’s voice broke on the edge of the statement, and Eduardo lost his own quick retort at the feeling of Mark sliding his dick along the crack of his ass, brushing up against his fingers, pushing just enough to catch the edge of his hole.
“No, I thought we could just hang out,” Eduardo shot back finally, calming himself down, but he heard the tremor in his voice too.
Mark chuckled against his ear. “I think we’re both hanging out.”
Eduardo rolled his eyes. “I hope you’re proud of that one. Now, can you shut up and get to work?”
“I think I can do that,” Mark said, the end of the sentence swallowed up into a groan as he pushed into Eduardo in one long, excruciatingly good stroke. Eduardo had been fucked a lot in his life, by lots of different guys, and Mark certainly didn’t rank at the top of the scale in terms of size of the guys he’d fucked this week, let alone ever.
So there was no real explanation for the way Eduardo felt completely broken open. It wasn’t really the right time to go exploring in his head to try to find one.
Instead, he met Mark’s thrusts with his own hips, letting everything come down to the sounds of skin on skin, each of their harsh breaths, Mark’s filthy words spilling out across Eduardo’s ear, where he was pinned down and couldn’t get away. Mark’s rhythm was merciless, consistent, deep, right on the mark.
Eduardo took his own cock in hand, stroking hard and fast, trying to just relax and take it, to not think so damn much. He couldn’t block out what Mark was saying, though, even though he was trying, even though he was racing toward the finish line to make it stop.
Beautiful, you’re so fucking beautiful, Mark said, among you feel so good, the way you take it and I wish I could come inside of you and I wish I could keep you here.
That was the hardest one to push away, because the truth was, Mark could afford to keep him there. He was keeping him there every Thursday night.
Eduardo’s cock got impossibly hard in his fist, and he clenched down hard on Mark’s cock sliding into him, getting a groan and getting Mark to move faster. He brought himself to the edge as he felt Mark’s rhythm stutter, as he threaded his fingers in Eduardo’s hair, pulling his head to the side to sink his teeth into Eduardo’s neck.
The sharp pain was enough. Eduardo pulled his hand off of his cock, close enough now to ride out his own orgasm on Mark’s dick. “Yeah, please, Mark,” he cried out, and Mark didn’t disappoint.
“Come on, come for me,” he rasped, almost painfully, in Eduardo’s ear, still fucking him, and Eduardo’s vision went blurry before he felt himself squeeze tight around Mark’s length inside of him, spilling out across the rumpled sheets. He let Mark’s fingers in his hair, making his eyes water as he yanked Eduardo’s head around to bite at his lips, thrusting a few more times before coming inside Eduardo, ground him. He was still shaking and clenching around Mark when Mark eased them over onto their sides, not pulling out of Eduardo yet.
Later, he could probably blame it on the orgasm, the way he felt broken and adrift, but at that moment, he was just so damn grateful for that, for Mark staying.
Mark’s trembling fingers had gone gentle on Eduardo’s scalp, petting him almost. “That was—” Mark started, but Eduardo didn’t want to hear what he had to say. He somehow knew it was very important that he didn’t hear it. So he turned his face and pressed his mouth to Mark’s, kissing him and kissing him.
Saturday evening, and Eduardo was pulling his tux from its bag in the closet, smoothing out some barely there wrinkles with the pads of his fingers. The car was coming to get him at nine, so he still had some time to get dressed, do his hair. To wait.
He’d managed to get out of Mark’s pretty cleanly on Thursday, both of them passing out after the spectacular fuck. Mark woke him at seven on Friday morning with fingertips pressed along his neck, barely there, and a kiss at the corner of his mouth.
“I have to go,” Mark whispered, and Eduardo allowed himself one brief moment to turn his face into the pillow, pinning Mark’s hand. Then he opened his eyes. Mark was smiling at him. “We’re doing an upgrade this morning. Sorry.”
Eduardo pushed himself up on his hands, blinking the sleep out of his eyes. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, sorry to feel Mark’s hand drop away.
“I’ll see you Saturday though.” Mark pulled on his hoodie, which had been lying on the floor.
Eduardo swung his legs around to the floor and stood up. “Just give me a second to throw on my clothes and I’ll walk out with you, okay?
At their cars, Eduardo was almost convinced that Mark wanted to kiss him goodbye, wish him a good day, as they awkwardly stepped around each other. Mark finally put a stop to it and clasped Eduardo’s biceps. “See you tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow,” Eduardo agreed, and took off.
Friday night’s client was the magazine editor again, but this time they just stayed in and had sex in the california king in the hotel. He was handsome and a good fuck, part of why Eduardo never made excuses when he called Sean for an appointment—fifteen years older than Eduardo, very experienced, and he knew every damn trick in the book.
Well, almost as many as Eduardo did, anyway.
Their sex was technically flawless, and Eduardo really liked him as a person. They had intelligent discussions and were physically compatible. Eduardo left around one in the morning and went home to sleep soundly.
He went for a five mile run in the middle of the day on Saturday, and picked up his tux from the dry cleaner on the way home.
He had an hour to kill before he really needed to get dressed. He’d already taken a shower--he could do his hair, but even he couldn’t take up an hour doing his hair.
Fuck. He needed to chill out.
Taking a deep breath, he left his tux where it hung in the closet and made his way to the living room, throwing himself down onto the couch and grabbing his laptop off the coffee table. He thought idly about signing onto Facebook, but thought that probably wouldn’t help with the distraction, so he signed into Gmail instead.
Eduardo had a very small number of acquaintances, escorts who he had met over the years. They didn’t really do any normal friend things, but he exchanged e-mails with them sometimes or texts, and occasionally met up for drinks when they didn’t have clients. They exchanged war stories as only they could, but they didn’t exactly have regular schedules.
When he logged into his e-mail, he saw Christy Lee’s name staring at him from the address list. He hadn’t seen Christy in a while—maybe a year, or more—but he’d been thinking about her a lot lately. It wouldn’t be that strange to just drop her a line, say hi, right?
Before he could talk himself out of it, he opened a new e-mail and started writing.
I know that it’s been forever. Sorry I haven’t been in touch much—I’m sure we’ve both been very busy! Are you still working for Peter? If so, give him my regards.
I’ve been thinking about you lately, and wanted to let you know that I still remember the advice you gave me when I was first starting out. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, actually, and doing my best to try to follow it.
I hope you’re doing well, and we should catch up sometime soon.
He paused for one minute before sending it, but he felt the weight off of his shoulders just from writing it.
Eduardo took a few minutes to check in on his investment portfolios, which were doing very well (and were going to be what kept him from needing a job ever again after this one), then heard the ping of an e-mail coming in.
It was from Christy.
Baby! So good to hear from you, but that was an ominous message. Who’s the guy? Meet me tomorrow for a drink, bitch!
He didn’t know what he would say to Christy’s inevitable questions, and he was a bit afraid of what would come out if he started talking about the situation. But he knew that he needed to hash this out with someone, and Christy would tell him exactly what he should do. Hopefully she’d help him get his head on straight.
Absolutely. Name the time and place, I’ll be there.
A Lincoln Town Car pulled up to the front of Eduardo’s building at exactly nine, black and sleek at the curb, and Eduardo took a deep breath, smoothed down the front of his tux, and let the driver open the door for him.
It was a beautiful, mild San Francisco night, the lights sparkling up and down the hills, and a short drive to the Omni. When they pulled up in front of the hotel (familiar, as Eduardo had had occasion to be a number of times before), someone was standing under the awning, in an absolutely exquisite tux, hands clasped in front of him and waiting. Then that very man quirked up his mouth, familiar and enough to make Eduardo smile back through the tinted windows, and opened Eduardo’s door.
He blinked a couple of times, just to make sure that this was really Mark.
Mark held out his hand and Eduardo reached up to take it, letting Mark help him out of the car. “I do clean up occasionally, you know,” Mark said, still smiling.
Intellectually, Eduardo understood that Mark was a businessman, that he came to events like this all the time. That he would own his tux, that it would be designer and expensive and really fucking beautiful made all the sense in the world. Except it was hard to reconcile this Mark with the Mark he knew from inside his house—bare feet and soft, washed out t-shirts and warm skin.
This Mark was wearing dress shoes. Damn. Eduardo swallowed hard, and tried not to ask Mark if he’d gotten them a room.
“You look incredible,” Eduardo said, his voice hoarse and giving himself away completely. He could always play it off as part of the Total Boyfriend Experience, that he would pretend to get hot for Mark like this.
Mark rested his hand on the small of Eduardo’s back, to guide him toward the door. “Thanks,” he said softly, turning his head toward Eduardo, creating their own private space. “So do you, but that’s not a surprise.”
Eduardo smiled, then stopped in his tracks. He had forgotten something important that he had to do.
He pulled reluctantly away from Mark’s hand, and turned to face him, extending his hand toward Mark.
“What—” Mark started, looking at Eduardo like he was maybe losing his mind. Which probably wasn’t so far off the mark.
“It’s Mark, right? It’s a pleasure,” Eduardo said formally, and he waited a beat before gesturing at Mark’s hand with his head until Mark caught a clue and clasped Eduardo’s palm.
“Uh, sure, nice to meet you too, can we go in now?” Mark said impatiently, still holding onto Eduardo’s hand.
“Don’t you want to know my name? It’s only proper.”
Mark’s mouth fell open, just enough to make Eduardo grin. “Seriously?”
“We can skip it if you want,” Eduardo said, starting to pull his hand away, but Mark held on tight to keep him there. “Stick with Miami.”
Mark’s gaze was intense, and his hand was warm and firm, solid, in Eduardo’s grip. “No. No way.”
Eduardo took a tiny step closer, not letting go of Mark, and just aware of the buzzing of arrivals around them. “Eduardo.”
Mark blinked, then seemed to recover. “Eduardo. Would you care to go inside?”
“I’d love to,” Eduardo answered, and Mark squeezed his hand before letting go, breaking their connection, their moment, and placing his hand back on Eduardo’s back, warm through the layers of his suit. Mark nodded at the doorman as they entered the lobby.
Mark guided Eduardo through the door of the room marked Bay Area Educational Collaborative Annual Gala (Eduardo had Googled the hell out of the event—it was an occupational hazard to go into something like this unprepared). Eduardo immediately recognized faces in the room from other events he’d attended over the years, a couple of men who did quick double takes and recovered quickly upon seeing Eduardo. He might worry that one of these guys would sell Mark out, but he knew how important discretion was for his clients and how scared they were to be outed, most of the time.
“So, I have to make a quick speech thing before the dinner starts,” Mark said. He ducked his head a bit, and Eduardo smiled helplessly. He sort of hated himself for how cute he thought that was.
Eduardo bumped his hip against Mark’s. “Well, aren’t you the big deal.”
“Of course.” Mark pursed his lips, but Eduardo had spent enough time with him at this point to see the playfulness behind it. “Are you—”
Mark was cut off mid-sentence by a black and white flurry that barreled toward them from across the room. “Marky, thank god you’re here. I’ve been stuck talking to the CEO of Oracle for the last ten minutes, and god, old people are so boring.” The flurry, who turned out to be a dark-haired guy about the same height as Mark and wearing an ill-fitting tux, turned on Eduardo.
“Hi, I’m Dustin—” and right, Dustin Moskowitz, of course, “and you are some guy who Mark has his arm around?”
“Eduardo Saverin,” he said, smiling and sticking out his hand, “Mark’s date.”
Dustin’s eyes widened comically, nearly dropping his glass of champagne. Eduardo figured out at that point that Chris must be really good at his job and that he took confidentiality seriously, because if Dustin had heard about Mark’s gay hooker, Eduardo would eat his six hundred dollar shoes. “Mark, is there something you need to tell me?”
“Not really,” Mark said, sounding bored almost, and Eduardo laughed.
Dustin nearly dropped the glass, but recovered nicely. “So, as far as you’re concerned, everything here is just as normal as it can be.”
“Right. Because you totally pick up guys this hot every day. Absolutely.” Dustin took a big gulp of his champagne, stretching out his arm to place the empty glass on the tray that was being carried past at that moment, then stuck his hand out. “Eduardo, it’s nice to meet you. I hope you know what you’re in for, and I hope for your sake that Chris gets sick tonight.”
Eduardo reached out to shake Dustin’s hand, at the same time that Mark said, “Chris already knows.”
Dustin dropped Eduardo’s hand like it was burning and groaned. “How am I the last to know this?”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dustin,” Eduardo said, still smiling. He watched Dustin’s gaping mouth in the face of Mark’s flat stare.
“Yes, Eduardo, a pleasure,” Dustin said, before he reached over to smack Mark on the shoulder. “Asshole. Not you, I mean, well, you if you’re Mark Zuckerberg.”
Mark cleared his throat. “I have to go,” he said, clenching his fingers almost too tightly against Eduardo’s waist, pulling him closer. “Dustin, don’t make Eduardo want to leave, okay?”
Dustin clapped his hand against his chest. “I would do no such thing,” he said, indignant, “I’m the perfect gentleman.”
Eduardo made conversation with Dustin, who was actually kind of hilarious, if completely spastic, until it became clear that it was time to follow the crowd to the dining room. Eduardo took his seat next to Dustin, and Chris was already there. Eduardo smiled at him, and Chris raised his glass.
“You’re lucky Mark’s about to talk, or I’d kill you, Chris Hughes,” Dustin spat under his breath. Chris kicked Dustin under the table. “Ow!”
“Good evening,” a beautiful woman in drop-dead gorgeous red dress that set off her dark skin perfectly said, and the room quieted down. “Thank you all so much for coming this evening. Without any further ado, I want to move right along to our keynote speaker, so that we can get to main event: tonight’s fabulous dinner.” Polite laughter filled the room. “I’d like to introduce you all to Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder of Facebook. I probably don’t have to explain the significance of his contributions to social media, or his incredible success for his young age. I will say that he has been one of the strongest supporters of educational initiatives in the Bay Area, and I know that we at BAEC hope to continue our partnership with him for many years. Now, here’s the man himself, to say a few words. Mark?”
The room erupted into applause, and Eduardo sat back to watch as Mark took the dais and adjusted the microphone. “Uh, good evening, everyone. It’s my sincere pleasure to have been asked to speak here tonight on behalf of such an extraordinary organization.” He looked out into the audience, the hint of a smile playing on his lips.
Eduardo couldn’t look away. He’d always been attracted to the certainty with which Mark did almost everything, the confidence behind all of his moves, but he was also socially awkward in his personal interactions in a way that didn’t fit together with the man up there, speaking to this room full of people.
Mark had his hands pressed flat against the podium and he spoke without hesitation, outlining the challenges in education and the work the organization had undertaken on behalf of low-income students in under-resourced schools and his own pledge to donate a really astronomical amount of money to continue the great work they were doing. He has the attention of every person in the room, including Eduardo, and every time they locked eyes, Eduardo felt his stomach drop, like he was falling out of an airplane at thirty thousand feet.
Then Mark wrapped up graciously (Christ, he was almost charming), leaving the stage to a hearty round of applause. If you asked Eduardo later, he would say that he couldn’t remember what happened at that moment when Mark lowered himself into the chair next to Eduardo’s. He’d say that he was distracted by the noise in the room, or that he’d had too much to drink (he’d had one glass of red wine).
All he knew was that, as soon as Mark sat down, Eduardo put down his drink purposefully, turned to Mark, took his face between his hands, and kissed him in front of every important person in the Bay Area.
When he finally pulled away, put distance between himself and Mark’s mouth (which was harder than he thought it would be), awareness of their surroundings rushed into the space between them. Eduardo could feel the heat of flashbulbs on the side of his face, he could hear Dustin’s wolf whistle, and he could see the surprise barely contained in Mark’s expression.
This was really, really bad. Possibly epically bad. For more than one reason.
“What was that?” Mark said softly, enough for just Eduardo to hear, still looking startled.
Eduardo’s throat was dry, but he couldn’t make himself move. “Sorry,” he croaked out. “I don’t know.”
“I’m not—” Mark started, leaning forward to clasp his hand around Eduardo’s knee, but he was interrupted by Dustin bounding over to clap them both on the back.
“Well, Mark, you really know how to make people talk,” he said, beaming at both of them. “Kim from Valleywag was snapping pictures and typing on her phone like the world was ending, and you know how much they already hate you.” Chris came over, giving Eduardo a look that he couldn’t quite read, but probably meant something like thanks for making this really fucking complicated for me, and dragged Dustin away as he protested.
Awesome. It’s not that he hadn’t had his picture taken before, after years of attending public events with men all over the country, and he even had a story (Eduardo Saverin, junior hedge fund manager from New York/Los Angeles/Chicago/wherever-he-wasn’t, very charming, please don’t dig into this too much, thanks) to tell if people asked who he was. It wasn’t that being seen was the problem. There was an art to what he did. He tried to blend in, make casual, intelligent conversation, stick close by the arm of whoever he came with, touch just enough to be believable, but ultimately to be the person that no one could quite remember at the end of the night.
He’d managed to blow that one right out of the water before he’d even gotten a chance to talk to anyone else but those at the table.
Mark still hadn’t looked away from Eduardo. “Shit. It will be online in an hour, at the outside.”
“It’s my fault,” Eduardo said, letting himself sell it, lean forward and kiss the corner of Mark’s mouth. He was saving face the best he knew how. “I’m sorry.”
“I don’t care what those assholes say about me,” Mark replied, but clutching Eduardo’s knee in a way that made it hard to believe. “Are you okay?”
Eduardo laughed and pushed his fingers into his hair. “I’m good.” He leaned in again, pressing his lips against Mark’s ear, feeling him shiver. He took a deep breath to tamp down his own reaction, and calm down his pounding heart. “Now let’s go make this look convincing.”
Mark didn’t look all that happy when Eduardo pulled away, but he nodded, mouth in a hard line, so far away from the open, soft way it had looked when Eduardo had broken their kiss. Eduardo wanted so much to be alone, back in Mark’s bedroom, in the Fairmont, anywhere but here. But he had a job to do, and that job tonight was to be Mark’s date—his fake boyfriend--and turn his stupid move into a positive.
Eduardo stood up, holding out his hand in front of Mark. “Shall we?”
Mark was silent, but his hand was warm folded in Eduardo’s palm. Eduardo tugged, and Mark followed, into the crowd, which closed around them.
It felt like his tie was choking him as Mark keyed into the room, and Eduardo tugged at his neck until the knot came loose, leaving it hanging around his neck.
“So, that went well,” Eduardo said sarcastically, shrugging off his jacket and draping it over the back of an overstuffed chair.
“Sure,” Mark said, toeing off his dress shoes a bit roughly, which had lost some of their shine, but still looked almost heartbreakingly good on. He had his back to Eduardo, his shoulders hunched. “Started off with me having to give a speech, which is definitely not my favorite way to spend a Saturday evening, and ended with you kissing me and sending the Silicon Valley rumor mill into an uproar. All in all, a successful night, wouldn’t you say?”
Eduardo didn’t know how to respond to that. In fact, he was having a hard time knowing what to do at all as Mark handed him his iPhone, the Valleywag site up on screen with their picture (the two of them leaning in close, Eduardo selling it like crazy) and the caption Mark Zuckerberg steps out with mysterious guy, makes scene at BAEC Annual Gala
He handed the phone back to Mark after perfunctorily scanning through the article, which called him hot (which was nice) and exotic (which was a bit racist), and openly speculated on who the hell Eduardo was and how Mark had managed to land him, and, oh, did we mention Mark Zuckerberg attended a public event with a man?
A notification sounded on Mark’s phone, just as Eduardo thought to dig out his own. Thankfully, he’d left his personal cell phone at home, because he couldn’t only imagine if anyone in his family had caught wind of this. As it was, he had a text message waiting from Sean, who seemed less than thrilled.
Eduardo, you know that you’re my favorite employee and Zuckerberg is paying both of us crazy money for this, but I feel the need to remind you that YOU ARE NOT HIS ACTUALFAX BOYFRIEND. Kissing him like that at a public event probs not best for career longevity. Lay low, call on Monday.
Eduardo groaned, tossing the phone just a bit too hard onto the table near the door. He half-heartedly hoped he hadn’t broken it. He reached up to run his fingers through his hair, breaking apart the gel he’d so carefully applied earlier in the evening. That seemed like a hundred years ago.
Mark had shed his own jacket and was headed for couch. Eduardo took a deep breath. “Listen, about tonight. I’m sorry.”
Mark didn’t answer him right away, which was pretty unusual—usually, it was like Mark knew what Eduardo was going to say before he finished saying it, he was so fast on the uptake. The silence stretched out for a few moments as Eduardo stood awkwardly next to the couch.
“Eduardo,” Mark said steadily, and Eduardo swallowed down the thrill of hearing his name in Mark’s mouth, “don’t apologize to me. It’s fine. I told you, I don’t care what they say.”
Slumping down on the couch next to Mark, several feet of distance between them, Eduardo said softly, “Maybe I care.”
“What does that mean?” Mark shot back, sitting forward. “You’re the one who kissed me!”
“I know!” Eduardo said, louder than he’d expected he would, watching Mark flinch, barely noticeably. He started again, more softly this time. “I know, I know, I don’t know why I did it, and I probably fucked my career in the process.” He wanted to say, I can’t fucking think around you, Mark. I do every stupid thing when it comes to you, and I might lose everything because of it.
Mark crossed his arms, and laughed. “Your career? Seriously?”
It was as if everything in the room froze, Eduardo’s blood running cold. “What did you just say?” he said, each word punctuated with anger. Because he could hear what Mark was trying to say in his tone.
Mark’s eyes went wide and he unfolded, reaching out toward Eduardo and then stopping, like he’d thought better of it. “I’m sorry. That was cruel, and I shouldn’t have said it. I’m just--”
“I’m just confused, Eduardo. And I hate that you have to do this.”
Eduardo sighed and inched closer, wanting to get back that sharp, cutting edge of anger, but having such a hard time holding onto it in the face of Mark like this. His gaze was full of pity, for sure, but it was also colored with something like genuine care, and Eduardo didn’t know what to do with it.
“Mark,” Eduardo said softly. “I’m not a victim. I don’t have to do anything.”
Mark looked him in the eyes, steady, unwavering. “Then I wish you wouldn’t.”
Eduardo closed his eyes, keeping his fingers curled into fists at his sides. He couldn’t afford to acknowledge the aching in his chest, not after his stupid fuck-up that night. It was fine to enjoy Mark’s company, to enjoy their sexual relationship, and take his money and be satisfied with that. It was not fine to want to be what Mark seemed to want. Because it was all built on something fake, on wireless transfers of money between bank accounts, and a pimp who made all of the appointments.
It wasn’t real. Even though Eduardo’s heart, coming back to life for the first time in so long, for the first time ever, maybe, wanted him to believe something else.
“I know you do. But it’s who I am.”
Mark narrowed his eyes and frowned. “It’s not who you are, it’s just what you do.”
“Okay,” Eduardo said, putting his hands up in surrender, letting his thigh fall against Mark’s, less than subtle. “I don’t really want to talk about this anymore.”
Mark rolled his eyes, but reached out to tug Eduardo into his lap. “Nice move, changing the subject,” he said, pushing his hips up against Eduardo’s, making them both gasp.
“That’s what you pay me for. And besides, you look so good in that tux—I’ve been thinking about this all night.”
“Somehow, I don’t actually believe that. But I suppose that’s what I’m paying for, too.” And something about the way he said that made Eduardo smile, because there was nothing malicious or proprietary behind it at all.
Eduardo leaned down and let his lips brush against Mark’s, just barely, and then said, “Trust me, the money has nothing to do with it.”
Mark didn’t make a lot of mistakes in life, it seemed, if his career success was anything to go by, and that seemed to extend right into his sex life, because Eduardo had never had someone make him feel exactly this way before. Like nothing else mattered but the space between them, the firm touch of Mark’s hands.
When Eduardo kissed him, licking across the seam of Mark’s lips and opening him up with a groan, Mark flipped them both over on the couch, almost taking Eduardo’s breath away when he landed on his back. Mark didn’t break the kiss, just pushed one hand into the back of Eduardo’s hair, and another down between them to work on Eduardo’s belt. He had it undone in record time and yanked on Eduardo’s pants and underwear.
“Fuck,” Eduardo gasped, as Mark wrapped his hand tightly around Eduardo’s cock, stroking him almost roughly but so, so good, and pulling away from Eduardo’s mouth, breathing heavily.
“God, I wanted to fuck you all night,” Mark said breathlessly, not losing any of his rhythm.
Eduardo tried to spread his legs, but his pants were keeping them closed. He tried to lift his ass and kick the pants down his legs some, but with no success. He closed his eyes and laughed. “All night?”
Mark mouthed at Eduardo’s neck. “Since you got out of the car,” he whispered into Eduardo’s ear, making him shudder.
“Well, what are you waiting for?” Eduardo said, getting himself coordinated enough to plant both hands against Mark’s chest and push. “There are condoms and lube inside my jacket.”
Mark raised his eyebrows, his hair a mess and his lips swollen and red, and Eduardo shrugged. “Such a boy scout.”
“Occupational necessity.” Mark shook his head and stood up, his erection straining the front of his black suit pants. Eduardo took the opportunity to shed his pants and kick one leg up over the back of the couch.
He thought Mark was going to choke when he got back, having lost his own jacket and tie and clutching a condom and the tube of lube. “Jesus. Look at you.”
“Enough talking, come here.”
Mark didn’t even take his pants all the way off, just undid his belt and unzipped, dealing with the condom and lube quickly, then pushing into Eduardo with no prep at all. He hitched Eduardo’s legs up around his hips and gave him no time to adjust.
Eduardo could hear himself making noises, but it was like everything narrowed down to the way Mark was splitting him open, making him take it, letting Mark in.
He could also hear Mark, far away and like he was underwater, just repeating Eduardo in his ear, over and over.
Eduardo tried to clear his head, like some sort of strange meditation, to think of nothing but the way his body felt, the way Mark slid in and out, the deep, intense pleasure and pain of it. And for a moment, right before his orgasm came screaming up from inside of him, making him dig his heels into Mark’s lower back and cry out, there was nothing but this.
He wrapped himself around Mark, riding out the waves crashing though him, panting, and felt Mark keep moving in him, Mark’s heartfelt groan when he finally went still and came. Eduardo dragged his shaky hand from Mark’s back and pushed it into Mark’s sweaty curls, pulling him closer.
And if he thought, fleetingly, that he could stay right there, forever, well—that was only for him to know.
It was clear from his first client on Monday (not a regular) that Sean was looking to punish him for Saturday and the whole Valleywag fiasco. Monday’s client was Jim, a fifty-something married guy who wanted Eduardo to ride him around the hotel room like a horse, with a bit and saddle.
He tried really hard not to judge anyone’s fantasies, what turned them on, but he couldn’t really deal with the people who wanted to act like babies or animals. He did his best, but there was a reason they had specialties. And there were other guys who worked for Sean who were great at that kind of thing.
Then Tuesday, for a nice double-header, he had toenail guy again in the early evening, and later a guy who wanted to rub his dick between Eduardo’s thighs for an hour before thanking Eduardo and essentially kicking him out.
Okay, I get it, you’re pissed. Eduardo texted to Sean as he rode a cab back home on Tuesday night. I know I fucked up, okay? You don’t need to punish me. He didn’t hear back, but there also were no new, special appointments coming in, so Eduardo guessed the message was received.
Wednesday was a day off (thank God), and Eduardo made plans with Christy. After the past few weeks, he hoped that she could help ground him, help him get past whatever the hell was going on in his head (with Mark, his brain helpfully provided).
When he arrived at the coffee shop, he found Christy at a table already, smiling widely and waving. He raised his hand and smiled back, negotiating the tightly packed tables.
“Shit, you look incredible!” Christy exclaimed, making heads turn as she jumped up to wrap her arms around Eduardo’s neck, pulling him in close. It felt good to touch someone without thinking about money, to have someone not want anything but this.
“So do you, baby,” Eduardo said, laughing, as they took their seats. “It’s been way too long.”
Then (and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t noticed it the second he walked in—it was like a fucking satellite), he noticed, as he looked down at Christy’s hands folded on the table, that she was wearing a huge diamond on her left ring finger.
“I always knew you were observant. That’s why you’re so good in the business,” Christy said quietly, still smiling, and Eduardo noticed that she looked really, truly happy. He barely recognized her.
“You’re getting married?” He could hit himself, hearing the incredulity in his own voice. What a stupid thing to say. “I mean, congratulations, oh my god!”
Christy rolled her eyes at him and reached out to grasp his hand. “Thanks, babe. Good save there, too.”
“Sorry, I just—”
“No, I understand, totally. It’s a shock.”
Eduardo squeezed her hand, looking down at the beautiful ring, and back up at her glowing face. “I’m an asshole. Now, tell me the story.”
“It’s such a cliché,” Christy groaned, leaning in closer. “He was a client.”
“Violating your own code, huh?”
“I know! I just—I walked into that hotel room, just another client at another appointment, and I can still remember when he opened the door. I remember thinking, ‘Christy, just get a grip. He’s just another guy.’ And that worked for the rest of the night. Until it was time to leave, and he asked if he could have my number. And I gave it to him.”
“I know. Breaking my own rules, right? I don’t know why I did it—at the time it just seemed to make sense. And then he called me and wanted to take me to dinner, and told me that my job didn’t matter to him, but that he knew we had a connection. I couldn’t deny it, but I also knew that I couldn’t keep doing this and be with him. That only works on tv shows.” Christy giggled, because they both knew what show they were both talking about. “Well, it worked for a while, anyway.”
Eduardo didn’t even know what to say. This was the last thing he’d expected when he’d made plans with Christy. In fact, he’d expected the opposite: for Christy to give him the stern lecture about separation of work and feelings and protecting your heart that he so desperately needed.
He had no idea what to do now.
“Congratulations. Really and truly,” he said, still gripping her hand tight. “You look so happy.”
Christy beamed even wider, if that was possible. “I know, it’s disgusting. I gross myself out.” She paused, looking right into Eduardo’s eyes, and then her brow creased. “Okay, spill. What’s going on with you?”
“Ugh,” Eduardo groaned, dropping his head down onto the table, making Christy’s coffee mug jump and slosh onto the surface. “It’s a mess.” And then he told her about Mark, about their regular Thursdays, about the NDA, about Saturday and telling Mark his real name and Valleywag and everything. And even about how Mark made him feel, about how he had to remind himself constantly when Mark was near him, smirking at him and touching him and just generally getting under Eduardo’s skin, that it wasn’t real. They’d known each other for a grand total of a month, but Eduardo couldn’t remember what it had been like before, not really.
When he was done, he sat up. Christy looked at him softly, threading her fingers with his.
“Eduardo, you deserve to be happy, you know.”
Eduardo took a deep breath, and let it out. “I know.”
He didn’t know how to answer that. He knew that if he started trying to answer that, everything would cave in around him. He wasn’t sure if that would be the best thing that ever happened to him, or the very worst.
“Can I get you a refill?” he said desperately, reaching out to grab Christy’s half-full cup. Christy sighed and let go of his hand, her eyes still searching. It was like he couldn’t get away from the table fast enough.
Eduardo was a half an hour late to Mark’s on Thursday night. When he pulled into the driveway, Mark was standing on the front stoop, hands shoved into the pockets of his khaki cargo shorts. Eduardo didn’t look down, because he knew that Mark didn’t have any shoes on, and he was smart enough to know how on edge he was already.
“Shit, I’m sorry,” he said, walking up to Mark. “Traffic was a bitch.” When the truth was, he’d spent forty five minutes sitting in his car with the engine turned off, outside of his apartment building, trying to keep himself from banging his head against the steering wheel.
Trying to convince himself to go, to shake everything off and just get over whatever this was, because it was work, damn it.
He wished he could figure out what was going on. Why everything had been just fine for the last five years, and why, this time, things were different.
Finally, he’d slammed his fist down on the steering wheel, honking the horn and startling himself (and the elderly woman crossing the street in front of him). “Get a fucking grip, Saverin,” he muttered to himself, and threw the car into gear.
Mark gave him a skeptical look, like he could tell that Eduardo was the kind of person who made a point to always be on time. To everything. But then he shrugged and turned around, leading Eduardo into the house.
That Thursday was video games (Eduardo considered picking up a Playstation for practice over the weekend, because Mark was kicking his ass) and pizza and Eduardo blowing Mark, on his knees on the living room floor, Mark’s fingers tangled in his hair. And after he got home that night (Mark had an early flight to a tech conference in Tokyo the next morning), he logged into his bank account to watch the three thousand dollar transfer from Sean credit to his account. So that he couldn’t forget.
The next Thursday was Chinese, Star Wars (A New Hope, because Mark wanted to go in order, and it was ludicrous to acknowledge that there was anything that came before that), and Mark bending Eduardo over the side of his bed, Eduardo laughing at Mark’s tirade against George Lucas as Mark pushed inside of him.
And the next one was Mark pressing Eduardo against the heavy wood door, dropping to his knees and tugging at Eduardo’s belt before Eduardo could even say hello.
The following morning, he kept driving past the city, all the way up to Marin, until he reached Point Reyes. He walked along the water, the sea air making his clothes stiff (his dry cleaner would have a fit when she saw his suit) and whipping his hair around, stinging his eyes, and tried hard, so hard, to stop thinking. Because he could still feel the barely there press of Mark’s fingertips, sliding up the ridge of Eduardo’s spine, the way he pushed Eduardo’s hair back from his forehead and smiled at him after they climbed in bed.
He was losing his mind.
Then, like a blessing, Sean called on Friday morning.
“Wardo! I have great news!”
“Hi, Sean,” Eduardo replied wearily, pulling the blankets up around him, guarding against the chilly morning air.
“Sorry, I forgot what a bitch you can be in the mornings. Anyway, your friend Andres called me yesterday and made an offer that I think you won’t be able to refuse.”
“He wants to take me far, far away from my evil pimp?”
“Ha ha, very funny,” Sean said. “He actually wants you to come and stay with him in São Paulo for three weeks. He wants you to come down next Sunday. Doesn’t sound like it requires any public appearances, which is probably a blessing after your last outing. I think he just wants you to go down there and fuck him in the tropical heat for three weeks. For seventy five thousand dollars.”
Eduardo closed his eyes, and debated whether or not he wanted to pull the blankets up over his head. He hated how good that sounded, to get the hell out of the city for a few weeks (to get away from Mark, his traitorous brain helpfully provided), to be in his city again, speak nothing but Portuguese for days (when it wasn’t about his father). To be with Andres, who made everything so simple, so black and white. Not to mention the money.
“Eduardo? Is this a hard decision? Because if you don’t want to go, I’ll seriously consider it.”
“No, no, I’ll go,” he said, pushing the blankets off of himself, kicking them to the end of the bed. “Tell him I’ll be there, and text me the details.”
“Do you want me to cancel your appointments for the next few weeks?”
Shit. Right. “Yes. I mean, yes, everyone except Mark. I’ll tell him.”
“Right, your boyfriend,” Sean said playfully. “Of course, I got it.”
“Fuck off, Sean,” Eduardo shot back. He normally tried to have a deeper well of patience for Sean, but he wasn’t in the mood.
“I’ll pretend that you just told me you loved me. Peace out.”
Eduardo hung up the phone without saying anything else, and put the phone back down on the nightstand. He thought about getting up, putting on his shorts and t-shirt, going for a run, but instead he reached down and pulled the blankets back up, burrowing into the bed, closing his eyes and trying his very best to shut out the world for a little while. The trip to Brazil was very welcome for many reasons, and he tried to focus on that until he drifted back to sleep.
Eduardo waited. He waited through Mark’s smile, less guarded each time they met, through saag paneer and chicken korma, through a heated discussion of which superhero would be most likely to be elected president (“Batman, hands down,” Mark said firmly, around a mouthful of naan, “you need that kind of cash to be elected president.” Eduardo shook his head. “Mark, that’s a really depressingly cynical point of view. And besides, you know that Captain America is the only one that can wear the ubiquitous flag pin unironically.” Mark laughed. “Yeah, he’d probably be in the Tea Party too.”). He waited through Mark’s heated eyes, predatory as he pressed his palms against Eduardo’s chest and practically pushed him down the hallway to Mark’s bedroom, and folded Eduardo’s hands around the rungs of the headboard.
He waited until they were laying next to each other, Eduardo still trying to catch his breath, his ass sore and clenching, Mark’s arm brushing hot against his. He wanted to turn his head, take in the sight of Mark’s doubtless self-satisfied smirk, like he always had after sex. It was one of his favorites, in a long list of favorites he definitely shouldn’t have.
Instead, he said, “I have to cancel our appointments for the next three weeks.”
He felt Mark shift beside him, but he kept his eyes trained straight ahead on the blank, off-white wall opposite the bed. He didn’t look. He was pretty sure he couldn’t.
Then, Mark was leaning over him, hands bracketed around Eduardo’s head. “Why?” he demanded, but Eduardo could hear what was behind the harsh tone. The tiny bit of worry, of hurt. Jesus.
Eduardo closed his eyes. “A client asked me to accompany him on a trip for a few weeks. I’m leaving on Sunday.”
“Oh,” Mark said, his voice flat and even, giving nothing away. He was quiet, and finally Eduardo opened his eyes, and just looked.
Mark looked furious, and like he was very aware that he shouldn’t be, but that he couldn’t stop himself. He kept opening his mouth, then quickly shutting it.
“Mark—” Eduardo started, hoping to say something, anything, to put Mark out of his misery, but Mark shook his head, almost violently.
“Don’t,” he snapped back harshly. “Just don’t, okay?” Eduardo opened his own mouth again, but before he could get anything out, Mark was up, off the bed, off Eduardo, and on his feet.
“Mark, sorry, but this is just business. I’ll be sure to have Sean put you back on my schedule after I get back, okay?” Eduardo pushed himself up onto his elbows, watching Mark pace at the foot of the bed.
“I fucking hate your business!” Mark shouted, looking right at Eduardo, fuck, right through him even, and Mark’s eyes went wide, shocked at himself for actually saying what had so obviously been at the very forefront of his mind.
Eduardo pushed the blankets down until they were bunched around his feet, then swung his legs over the side of the bed. God, fuck Mark for saying that. Fuck him for complicating this, for acting like a sanctimonious asshole while still making sure that the money was paid on time for Eduardo’s services, every time. Eduardo wanted to punch him in his stupid goddamn face with his stupid deer-in-the-headlights eyes.
He reached down and grabbed his pants, now hopelessly wrinkled, off of the floor next to the bed. Mark was frozen in place when Eduardo glanced at him, arms crossed in front of him like a shield.
“You know, Mark,” Eduardo said, wincing a little at the sound of his voice in the deafening silence of the room, “I am a whore. You can tell me you hate it, but you paid for me. You’ve been paying for me, and you’ll keep paying me.”
Eduardo knew that it would cut Mark, right at the heart. Because he knew that Mark didn’t feel guilty that he paid someone for sex, for company or dating or whatever it was that they were doing, but that Mark specifically thought that Eduardo deserved better.
If Eduardo deserved better, he wouldn’t be so damn good at this.
Eduardo was yanking on his pants and standing on still shaky legs (he usually had a bit more recovery time) to fasten them when Mark said, “I’m sorry if I think that you’re wasting yourself on this. Or that you should do what you want to do, for once.”
“Fuck!” Eduardo yelled. He couldn’t even remember the last time he’d raised his voice at someone. He hadn’t even yelled when he called his father after finding out that he hadn’t paid his spring semester tuition bill. It felt dangerous, and good. “I appreciate the sentiment, Mark,” he closed the distance between them as he buckled his belt, “but you are not. My fucking. Boyfriend.”
They were close enough now that Eduardo could feel Mark’s breath against his cheek, both of them amped up and breathing heavily again, like they had been just minutes before.
“Maybe I want to be,” Mark said, almost too quiet to hear, and it took all of the air out of the room. And Eduardo couldn’t help it, but he started to laugh, making Mark flinch back from him. Eduardo reached out, pressing his hand against Mark’s chest, feeling him firm and warm and present, then pushed him gently away.
“Well, you can’t,” Eduardo answered, laughing because there was a part of him, that stupid, stupid part that had been getting louder and louder every day, that wanted him to say yes yes yes, that wanted to feel all of this, even if it hurt. He turned away and picked up his shirt, slipping it on and making quick work of the buttons, carefully not looking at Mark, standing alone in the middle of the room. “I know you don’t want to believe it, but this is who I am. It’s not changing. Not for anyone. And you can’t save me, so stop trying.”
His hands ached to reach out to Mark as he walked past him to leave the room, but he had wasted way too much time being stupid, and had fucked this whole thing up in the process. He wasn’t surprised that Mark somehow got the idea that Eduardo wanted something else, with Mark, in general, because Eduardo had stopped following his own rules and let at least some part of himself believe that it was okay to want that.
And now, he had to walk out of this room and be fine with it probably being the last time, because it would be on the wrong side of idiotic to see Mark again after he came home. He’d probably filled his quota of idiotic several times over at this point.
“Goodbye, Mark,” Eduardo said, as gently as he could, not allowing himself to look back before he stepped through the door, and out of Mark’s life.
Eduardo had forgotten exactly what the warm Brazilian air felt like, humid against his skin. He vaguely remembered his last trip to São Paulo, the summer after his first year at Yale, but it wasn’t the weather he remembered. It was the last substantial amount of time he spent with his father, and remembered the details of that trip like it was yesterday, even though he’d tried to forget.
Eduardo, I’d expected you would have an internship this summer and wouldn’t be joining us. His father had started in on the plane and didn’t let up for the whole three weeks they were there, despite Eduardo’s constant reminders to his father that he actually did have a four week internship at Bear Stearns for the month of August (even though his main motivation to do it was that the guy he was sleeping with was in New York for the summer). He’d spent most of his days at home by the pool, while his father was off attending to business holdings in the city, then out with his cousins at night, drinking and dancing and, more than once, ending up in the back room.
This time, he met the driver in the terminal, holding up a sign from Itaúsa, with Andres Amaral written on it. It was March, the end of the Brazilian summer, but the air was still heavy and hot around him. Eduardo shrugged off his jacket before getting inside the car.
It was hard not to just stare out of the window for the whole drive, like a child, because São Paulo had changed—the favelas more sprawling, the buildings taller, the cars more expensive—since he’d been here last. The traffic was just as bad as it had always been, and there were even more helicopters overhead, ferrying the wealthy over the congested roadways.
It took almost two hours of slow moving stop and go to get to Morumbi, where Andres lived in a sprawling mansion, the trees green with summer all around. Eduardo’s own family, his parents’ house which sat open for most of the year and his aunts and uncles and cousins, lived in Jardim Paulista, just a few miles from here.
He suspected, sometimes, that Andres knew exactly who Eduardo was (he was too rich and too paranoid not to do a background check) and what family he came from, and that some of the pleasure he took in fucking Eduardo into the mattress every time they were together came from the fact that he was a Saverin.
Andres was standing on the wide front step when Eduardo climbed out of the car, hot and tired and ready for nap. He smiled widely and tugged Eduardo in by his wrist.
“I am so very glad you were able to come,” Andres said smoothly, voice rough and sparking down Eduardo’s spine. He wore black dress pants and a white linen shirt, his dark hair curling around his ears, and Eduardo, despite fifteen hours spent flying and failing miserably at not thinking about Mark and how royally Eduardo had fucked that up for every minute of that, wanted to find a bed immediately.
Andres was very distracting. Which was usually a very good thing.
“You look amazing,” Andres whispered, lips brushing against Eduardo’s ear, arms clasped around Eduardo’s back.
Eduardo groaned and pushed a little, making some space between them. “I’m positively disgusting. I’m exhausted and smell like a plane.”
“You smell amazing.”
“You’re crazy. Where’s the shower?”
The shower was amazing, if anything, four shower heads and amazing water pressure and Eduardo was pretty sure he could fall asleep right there. Except that Andres decided to join him halfway through, pressing Eduardo up against the cold tile, teasing his lips along Eduardo’s neck.
He didn’t get fucked through the mattress that time, rather up against the shower wall, the water loud and rushing in the background. Andres swore as he tore open the condom wrapper and tried to slick on some lube, but Eduardo could tell by the burn, the sharp edge of Andres sliding inside him, that most of it had washed away under the spray.
It felt fantastic, and he was sore and tired and exhausted by the time Andres urged him into a wide bed.
He slept for more than ten hours. He couldn’t remember ever doing that, even in college. His father never stood for that kind of laziness.
The morning started with Andres kissing him awake and telling him that he was heading into the office, but that Eduardo should make himself at home, and they’d go to dinner later. So Eduardo did just that. He spent the morning by the pool with his Kindle and his laptop, did some laps, spent the hottest part of the afternoon inside, and had the housekeeper bring him drinks and lunch. He made a point to try to forget about California, about everything he’d so gladly left behind, and tried to enjoy himself.
Sometimes, it still blew his mind that he got paid—obscenely—for this.
Eduardo hadn’t spoken English in so long that he felt like he’d never get his tongue to go back to those clipped, harsh, alien sounds. He’d forgotten how much he’d missed the easy conversations with his family in Portuguese, and he found that the more time passed, the less every syllable made him think about his father.
The morning after he slept off his flight, Andres told him that the car and the helicopter were at his disposal, and that he should go anywhere he’d like to go. He spent one afternoon at the museums (he took the car, preferring the traffic to the conspicuousness of the helicopter), but otherwise didn’t feel much compulsion to go anywhere. He wasn’t really there for sightseeing, and he couldn’t feel like a tourist in São Paulo.
So instead, he was there waiting every day, showered and dressed or in his tiny swimsuit, when Andres came home, sometimes as late as nine or ten, and then they’d go out for another fabulous dinner. And come home for more fabulous sex. It was gloriously uncomplicated. He knew exactly what he was there for, and he knew that Andres had a girlfriend (Eduardo was almost certain she knew about Andres’ other activities) who was out of town on business.
But for the first time he could remember since he started in the business, he was bored. Out of his mind.
Eduardo had never really thought about the fact that he wasn’t really doing anything; he’d always considered himself someone who provided a necessary service. There were some people who needed what he could and was willing to give (for the right price).
For some reason (or for a very specific reason that Eduardo knew too well), he kept picturing himself doing this in five years, in ten. He pictured himself at thirty, thirty five, sitting around a rich man’s house, giving him everything he asked for, whenever he asked for it.
It was so fucking depressing.
Every night, they went out to another ridiculously expensive restaurant, Andres shaking hands with important men, Eduardo standing just slightly behind him and smiling. Eduardo remembered when he thought that he would be one of those men. It felt like a million years ago, a million miles away from being someone’s whore.
And Andres fucked him, every night, on the crisp, white sheets, with the window open and the warm breeze blowing or the rain falling hard outside. It was perfect, every time—Andres having learned Eduardo’s body ages ago, knowing exactly how hard and fast to move to get him off.
He came, every time, and it felt fantastic, his body loose and open, his ears ringing with the force of his orgasm, but it didn’t even begin to touch anywhere else inside of him. He remembered, back when he was twenty and so, so fucking stupid, wanting that—wanting someone who could fuck him like that, and love him too.
He hadn’t wanted that since then, and he was scared shitless that he was even thinking about it now.
On the night before he flew back to San Francisco, Andres’ housekeeper made them a truly spectacular feijoada (his aunt Paloma’s was still his favorite, though) and then Andres took him upstairs and carefully and slowly removed Eduardo’s pants and shirt, at the foot of his bed. He was uncharacteristically pensive, and Eduardo smiled and tried to lighten things up, but Andres just urged him onto his back and stripped off his own clothes while Eduardo watched, his mouth watering.
Andres wasn’t much for foreplay, usually, which was fine with Eduardo. Obviously, whatever Andres wanted with some minor exceptions would have fine, but Eduardo appreciated the simplicity of this, the way that Andres took what he knew he could take. It made everything easier.
They were face to face, Eduardo’s arms pinned over his head by Andres’ hands wrapped around his wrists, Andres breathing hot and hard into Eduardo’s ear as he pushed his cock into Eduardo. It wasn’t gentle, and the edge was always there when Andres fucked him, but it was far more intimate than they typically were. There was a big part of Eduardo that wanted to hide, to run.
Instead, he breathed through it, relaxing and hearing Andres’ groan as he moved deeper inside Eduardo, making Eduardo cry out. He wrestled his hands free and wrapped his arms around Andres’ back and dug his nails in, giving some of that edge back, and smiled when Andres lost his rhythm.
Eduardo came when Andres slipped a hand down between them and grasped Eduardo’s cock. He was already close, just from the friction of Andres’ stomach against him as they moved with each other, and it only took a couple of strokes before Eduardo scored his fingernails down Andres’ back and came, clenching around Andres and dragging him over with him.
It wasn’t acceptable to just crash out, like all of the guys that Eduardo had sex with before he moved to San Francisco had, even though his body felt heavy and sated. Andres let go of Eduardo’s wrists and smoothed his hands down the length of Eduardo’s shaky arms, making him shiver, cold in the air conditioned room.
When Andres rested his whole body weight against Eduardo and took Eduardo’s face in his hands, he struggled to breathe, for more than one reason. This wasn’t the way they did things. Andres’ smile was fond, and perhaps a bit sad. “I’m not going to see you again after this, am I?” he whispered in English, dragging the pads of his thumbs along Eduardo’s cheekbones.
It wasn’t that he’d actually made some big decision about his future or what he wanted to do with his life, or if even knew how to be happy, but it wasn’t hard at all to answer. He paused, forming the words in English carefully. “No, I don’t think so.”
The kiss that Andres pressed to Eduardo’s lips was sweet and almost chaste. “Querido,” he breathed against Eduardo’s mouth, and Eduardo couldn’t help himself anymore. He wrapped his arms around Andres’ back and held tight.
“I’m sorry,” Eduardo said softly, dragging his fingers up Andres’ spine and pushing them into his hair.
“Don’t apologize, Eduardo,” Andres said, burying his face in Eduardo’s shoulder. “Be happy.”
“I’m trying,” he whispered back, swallowing hard. And for the first time in a long time, he didn’t think that he was just saying what someone else wanted to hear.
Meetings with Sean were regular, but not often. A necessary evil of the work, and of having a pimp (ugh, Eduardo hated that, and hated more that it was Sean). They usually met up for coffee or a drink around once a month (or whenever Sean called and said, “Meet me this afternoon. I have to lay my eyes on you every once in a while to make sure you didn’t get fat or something.”), where Sean would give him as many of his advance appointments for the next month as he could. Eduardo also tried to avoid them until they were absolutely necessary, finding Sean much easier to take on the phone and through text messages.
This time, though, a few days after he got back from Sao Paulo and fifteen straight hours of thinking about his life on the flight back, he called Sean and asked to meet.
“Eduardo, I didn’t know you cared.”
“Sean, shut up. Seriously.”
The bar was slick and full of beautiful people (several of whom certainly weren’t old enough to be there) and completely Sean’s scene, from floor to ceiling.
Eduardo hated it. He had a great desire to turn around and go home, spend the rest of the night on the couch in his sweatpants.
But he knew he was there for a reason, that he needed to do this, and so he forced himself through the throngs to where Sean was sweet-talking some blond girl at the bar.
“Eduardo!” Sean exclaimed, clasping Eduardo’s hand and dragging him in for a back-slapping hug.
“Sean,” Eduardo acknowledged, shrugging out of the embrace. “I thought I said I needed to talk to you.” He gestured to the large, open space around them, packed full of people and so loud Eduardo could barely hear himself speak.
“We can talk here! Just...” Sean shouted, turning to the girl at his side, who was practically tottering on her five-inch heels and giggling, whispering something in her ear.
Sean led them both through the crowd to an almost-magically open table (sometimes Eduardo was convinced that Sean is a wizard, or an evil sorcerer or something) in the back, still loud but better than the bar.
“So,” Sean started, “to what do I owe this rare pleasure?”
Eduardo tried to consciously unclench his hands, balled into fists under the table. He didn’t know why he was so goddamn tense—he wanted to do this. He knew exactly what he had to do, and for once, he was going to listen to himself.
Might as well just rip off the band aid, deal with the pain, and start to move forward.
“I need to cut back my hours.”
Sean laughed and sipped at his drink. “Wow. I thought that four nights a week was a pretty sweet deal for the kind of money you bring in.” His tone didn’t match the sticky sweet smile on his face.
“Listen, Sean, I have some things I’m planning to do, and I need the time.”
“Some things you’re planning to do, huh?” Sean leaned forward, forearms flat on the table. He didn’t look happy. “Do you think you’re going to find something you’re better at?”
It was meant to cut, to wound somewhere deep, but what Sean didn’t know was that Eduardo was already so raw in that place that he couldn’t make it hurt any more than it already did. “Trust me, I know what I’m good at. And I know that this is what I need to do.”
Sean sighed. “Listen, don’t make me say you’re my best.”
“Thanks for the compliment, really. It warms my soul.”
“I just don’t want to lose you, okay?” Sean leaned forward even more, right into Eduardo’s personal space, almost earnest. “We’ll keep your regulars, cut out everything else. That should do it.”
Eduardo shook his head. “No, no more regulars. One time clients only. Two nights a week, tops.” He crossed his arms in front of his chest.
Sean leaned back and put up his hands in surrender. “Okay, okay.” He paused and smiled, almost reptilian. “But you probably want to keep your boyfriend Zuckerberg, right?”
Eduardo smiled weakly and shook his head again. “I’m pretty sure that Mark wouldn’t want to see me again even if I wanted to keep him on my client list.”
“Okay,” Sean said, smile gone, sounding defeated. “Whatever you need. I’d rather have you around than lose you completely. I’ll work on clearing your schedule on Monday.”
Eduardo extended his hand, and Sean shook it firmly. “Pleasure doing business with you, as always.”
“I knew you loved me!” Sean called after Eduardo’s retreating back. Eduardo smiled and felt lighter than he could remember in a long time as he pushed open the door and felt the cool evening air against his skin.
Tuesday morning, Eduardo took advantage of the increase in his free time and drove over the Bay Bridge, to Berkeley.
Well, to the Berkeley undergraduate admission office, to be precise. The transfer deadline was in two weeks, and he wanted to make sure that everything was in order.
He had made an appointment for an informational interview with Amy, one of the admission counselors, to talk about the feasibility of transferring for the fall semester. He brought an unofficial copy of his Yale transcript; it had taken him two days to find, deep inside his desk drawer, nearly forgotten after being hastily printed out as he packed up his boxes all those years ago.
After talking for fifteen minutes, Amy smiled and leaned toward Eduardo, a smile on her face, tucking her dark hair behind her ear. “To be honest, Eduardo, you’re not our typical transfer student. Valedictorian in high school, 4.0 at Yale, good extracurricular activities. My only question is: why do you want to go back to school after five years away? What have you been up to?”
He knew this question was coming. And he was so tired of lying, but he knew that he had to, one last time, to start to move on. “After I left Yale I came to San Francisco, and was lucky enough to get a job with a hedge fund manager in the city. I’ve been doing that ever since.”
Amy smiled, wider. “Transfer admission at Berkeley is quite selective, even for California residents, but I think you are a very competitive applicant. I look forward to your application, Eduardo.”
The possibilities swirled around in his head as he walked back to his car, and he couldn’t quite wipe the no-doubt creepy smile that was plastered across his face. He pulled his phone out of his pocket as he slid into his car, and thumbed through his e-mail.
He deleted a few spam e-mails, and passed over an e-mail from his mother (he didn’t want to deal with that at the moment, just because she’d decided to contact him—she hadn’t called in four months), and was about to throw his phone onto the seat next to him when he noticed an e-mail from an unfamiliar address.
To: Eduardo Saverin
Subject: I am not a stalker, contrary to what this seems like
Please don’t be mad and delete this. It took me a couple of days to wear Chris down and get him to tell me your last name, and fifteen minutes and some hacking skills I had forgotten I had to get your e-mail, and I would appreciate it if you would hear me out.
Sean called to say that you couldn’t see me anymore, which honestly wasn’t all that surprising after our last meeting. After some haranguing, he let it slip that you weren’t seeing regular clients at all. I couldn’t get him to confirm that you had actually come back from wherever you went, but I’ll just hope that you did and have decided to take a break or something.
Okay, the point. Why I hacked into Google (that part was just an extra helping of awesome) to contact you. I just wanted to tell you that I should never have said what I said to you, about your job. It wasn’t fair of me—in fact, it only contributed to the correct perception that I am a massive hypocrite and a more than occasional asshole. I had no right to ask you to do anything that wasn’t a part of our agreement.
What I can’t apologize for is wanting more than what you were able to offer me. Or for thinking that you are smart and funny and pretty fucking amazing, and wanting someone to tell you that every day, to be the one to tell you that.
That’s probably not fair either, but I’ll fall back on that asshole thing again and say that I just don’t care. I know that we met under less-than-ideal circumstances (in that I solicited your services for money), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t be something else. That we can’t be something else. And I know you felt it too.
I know that this whole thing is rather unorthodox, but I hope you’ll reply. Or maybe you won’t, I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want any more Thursdays (or any other days, for that matter) without you.
It took Eduardo a minute to figure out that he wasn’t actually having a seizure, but that his hand was shaking, the text blurring in front of him. It felt like all of the air in the car, what little of it there had been, was gone.
Three weeks ago, he knew exactly what he would have done. He would have deleted the message and forgotten all about it, or at least done his very best to pretend that he had. He knew that everything, the tectonic plates underneath his life, were shifting and moving, because instead, he hit reply.
From: Eduardo Saverin
Subject: I’ll take your word for it on the stalker thing
Apology accepted, for what it’s worth. Thank you. But Mark, I can’t be what you want right now. I don’t know that I ever will be, to be honest, but I’m trying to be what I want.
I hope you understand, and please try to let it go. To let me go.
And then Eduardo hit send, before he could think about it too much, before he could erase the whole damn message and type yes yes yes the way he wanted to. And the thing was, he was starting to realize that he could do that, that it would be okay, but he also knew that there were so many other things he needed to do before he could let himself have something like this—this tiny, bright, shining thing that threatened to burn him up from the inside.
He was certain that Mark would be long gone by then.
Still, Eduardo let himself hope, and laugh as he navigated the few blocks to Chez Panisse, driving just a bit too fast, to take himself out to a well-deserved lunch.
It turned out that Mark was a terrible listener, and Eduardo was not at all surprised. A week later, his phone beeped as he was submitting all of his electronic materials to Berkeley, and once he’d finished and closed out of the website, he found another e-mail from Mark.
I know you told me to back off. I’m going to be the asshole I’ve been told I am so very good at being for now, and not listen, sorry.
I realized that I never told you when I called Sean in the first place. I asked you so many questions but I never told you about my own motivations. The truth is, I was lonely. Sad, right? I had just crashed out of two relationships when it became glaringly obvious that it was all about the money, and wanting to change me. It was like I wanted to know that if I was going to have to pay for it anyway, I wanted everyone to go into it with eyes wide open. I just wanted to be with someone who didn’t want anything else from me, who didn’t expect me to be someone I wasn’t.
And a month later, when he got the letter in the mail that said Congratulations! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Class of 2013 and the University of California at Berkeley., he also got another e-mail from Mark. He hadn’t answered the last three, which had come about once a week, conversational and confessional and Eduardo could hear Mark’s voice, like he was in the room, every time.
I know I said that I wasn’t really a creepy stalker, but I’ll admit at this point that at least my behavior is in line with that profile.
Eduardo, I know I don’t have the right to know anything about you. I just want to know that you’re okay.
Eduardo was still smiling, the acceptance letter clutched in his hand, when he sat down to open up his e-mail on his laptop and hit reply.
You’re right, you don’t have a right to know. But I do want to tell you: I am doing okay. Better. There are some things I need to do, and I need to do them alone.
I know it would be stupid at this point to ask you to stop e-mailing me. I’m sure you’ll ignore me. But I don’t think I can be your pen pal right now.
Surprisingly, Eduardo didn’t feel upset or sad, he didn’t even feel bad about what he said to Mark. And he really didn’t want Mark to stop writing. Not even a little bit.
He logged out of his e-mail and shut his computer, placing the letter on top and smoothing it down. The smile had never really left his lips, and he just sat there, for a long time, staring down a fork in the road, a different possibility. And he couldn’t help being thrilled by it.
Finally, he got up, leaving the letter where it was, and picked up his phone, typing out a text to Sean.
Consider this my one month notice. I quit.
To say that Sean wasn’t happy was an understatement (his string of caps lock filled texts might have been a clue), but when Eduardo finally caved and answered after the fiftieth time Sean called (that was no exaggeration—Eduardo had forty nine missed calls on his phone from Sean), Sean just sighed.
“I’m not surprised, Eduardo, I’m just disappointed,” Sean said, with a hint of whine in his voice that was not at all flattering.
“I know, Sean,” Eduardo said, and he took a deep breath before he continued, “and I want you to know that I really appreciate everything you’ve done for me over the past couple of years. So, thanks.”
“You’re going to miss me, I knew it!” Sean said, then his voice turned smug. “And you’re going to miss the money.”
It wasn’t even worth rolling his eyes. “Well, of course I appreciate it, but do you have any idea how much money I’ve made in the last five years?” Not to mention the three hundred thousand I brought with me to San Francisco. “I don’t have to work for a long time.”
That seemed to shut Sean up for a minute, because Eduardo didn’t need what Sean was offering. He didn’t need anyone, in fact. He’d worked for years, literally sold himself, to be in the position he was in. He had his investment accounts open on his computer as he juggled his phone to his other ear, and he smiled at how well everything had been doing while he’d been living off of cash. He hadn’t taken anything out of his accounts since he had withdrawn the down payment for his apartment, just let the deposits pile up and his good investment decisions pay dividends. In truth, he’d been so distracted for the last few months he hadn’t checked in to see how his investments were doing.
Eduardo had almost dropped his laptop the night before he sent the text to Sean, telling him he was through, realizing that he could pay off his mortgage, and have enough not to work for as long as he was in school, and for a while after that. There were zeros there he wasn’t really expecting to see.
“You’ll miss the work then. You’re too good at it not to.”
When Eduardo thought about the work (the sex, making people feel good, everything else that went along with it), he knew that he would miss it. The sex wasn’t the problem at all—he loved that part of it. That had never been a problem for him.
Over the last couple of months, though, he felt like he’d started to put down the heavy weights he’d been carrying for so many years, one by one, until he felt lighter than he’d ever been.
He knew that it was time for him to do something because it made him feel good. And he knew that he was just starting to figure out what that something might be.
“Yes, I will. But I’m still walking away.”
Sean made a defeated sound, like maybe (thankfully) he was finally giving up, letting it go. “It’s been good knowing you, Eduardo. I’ll call you some time, we can get a drink and catch up. And call me if you change your mind.”
“Sure, Sean,” Eduardo said, ending the call, and clicking around to the listing of courses at Berkeley’s summer session. Truth be told, now that he knew what the next few years of his life were going to look like, that they were going to be different, he couldn’t wait to get started.
And who knew, maybe he would take Sean up on that drink someday.
April gave way to May, then June. Eduardo had never really gotten used to the fact that the calendar said summer, but that, in San Francisco, the weather never really changed. He hadn’t gotten the stifling Miami heat out of his bones, and it was still strange that he needed his sweatshirt in June, the first morning of his Intro to Complex Analysis class at Berkeley.
It also turned out that he hadn’t changed much—school still made him uptight and anxious, and he decided to leave way earlier than he needed to and to take the BART, because he couldn’t stop thinking about getting stuck in a freak midday traffic jam on the Bay Bridge.
Eduardo sat down on the train, feeling more like a stereotypical college student than he ever had at Yale, in his jeans and hoodie, his iPod headphones stuffed in his ears. It felt really, really good, like another thing he was letting go.
It took him about three minutes to start scrolling through his e-mail.
Mark was still writing. Every few days now, even though Eduardo hadn’t written back since the initial interaction. Strangely, Mark seemed okay with that.
Eduardo was more than okay with it.
In truth, he waited for the e-mails, for Mark’s stream of consciousness rants and philosophical ruminations, full of sharp edges and pretentious vocabulary and alarming honesty.
It turned out that Valleywag (god, they hated Mark so much, it was as if they had made portraying him as some kind of robot/monster/despot their personal mission)—along with almost everything else—was completely wrong about Mark Zuckerberg.
When I was twenty, I tried to screw Chris and Dustin out of Facebook. I was convinced they weren’t in it for the right reasons, or something—it’s hard to even pin it down now. I was young and stupid and paranoid, and I’m so grateful they didn’t let me do it.
I’ve worked pretty hard to stop being an asshole over the last few years. I still need reminders every once in a while, but it’s amazing how people respond to you when you think about how they’ll feel if you say the first thing that comes to your mind. I think that Chris and Dustin still think that I always have something cruel and cutting on the tip on my tongue, and while it’s true I don’t suffer fools, but I’m not twenty anymore.
I’m terrified of what happens after this. Chris wants to move on, and he will soon, and I know Dustin will too. They have ideas, plans, hopes and dreams, and honestly, I don’t have any. This was what I dreamed up, and I’m scared that someday, Facebook will fade into obscurity, and so will I.
There was a part of him that wanted to write back, to tell Mark everything, to pour out every tiny piece of himself to Mark until there was nothing left hidden in the deep, dark corners inside.
He wanted, and it had been so long since he had felt that way and let himself acknowledge it, and not try to push away, down, somewhere where he wouldn’t have to deal with it.
Eduardo stuffed his phone back into his pocket and turned up the music, flooding his ears with the pounding base line and drowning out the sound of the train. He tipped his head back against the seat, closing his eyes.
That morning, he’d picked up his mail on the way out of the building and found a large, ivory envelope inside. He stuck the rest of his mail back into the box, shutting it and tearing into the envelope.
Eduardo couldn’t help but laugh, because inside was a beautiful, simple invitation on crisp white paper, to the wedding of Christine Lee and David Sullivan, in East Hampton in September. Christy, who had taught him everything he really knew about the business, who had been the guiding voice of reason in his head over these last few years, had decided to throw her own rules out the window.
He traced the deep black embossed print with his fingertips, hoping that no one was around to watch him laughing in the lobby of his building, clutching a wedding invitation in his hands.
Eduardo couldn’t stop thinking about Christy, how he’d never seen her look so damn happy before he saw her in that coffee shop, with that ring on her finger. How he’d never really felt the way he did on those Thursdays with Mark, ever before. Not in Miami, or at Yale, or in San Francisco. Only with a brilliant Silicon Valley billionaire whiz kid, with asshole inclinations and the ability to see right through every single layer of Eduardo’s carefully constructed bullshit.
Taking Christy’s advice had worked exceedingly well up to this point, and he might be smart to keep following her lead.
Eduardo turned in his midterm exam for his Climate Change course on a sunny mid-October afternoon. He was smiling as he packed up his bag and slung it over his shoulder, making his way out into the warm sun.
He was in a particularly good mood that morning as he made his way through the Berkeley streets and merged onto the 880, heading south.
A week ago, Eduardo called Sean. It had been late, later than Eduardo usually stayed awake unless he was out with a client, closer to morning than night.
It was still a little strange that it had been months since he had anyone else’s schedule to be concerned about but his own.
“Eduardo?” Sean had answered, dubious and wide awake (probably artificially so, knowing him), and Eduardo was surprised that all he could muster for Sean now was a kind of annoyed affection. “To what do I owe this honor, college boy?
Eduardo had no idea how Sean knew that he was in school, and to be honest, he didn’t really want to. “I need a phone number. Chris Hughes, from Facebook.”
“No way,” Sean said, with no hesitation. “I can’t give out that kind of client information, you know that.”
Taking a deep breath, Eduardo said, “Sean, I have never asked you for anything. Not one thing, in three years.” He paused. “Please.”
Sean didn’t say anything, and after a minute, Eduardo was worried that Sean had hung up, which would just be so fucking perfect. “Fuck,” Sean finally said, then muttered, “I have no fucking idea why I’m doing this, and for someone who can’t even be fucked to work for me anymore...”
Eduardo didn’t care—he was grinning ear to ear as he took down the number that Sean read to him grudgingly, and laughed while Sean told him not to do anything crazy.
He wasn’t sure he could promise that. All of this felt insane—like hurtling toward something bright and hot and dangerous, but he was pretty sure that he couldn’t stop now that he’d decided to start.
So he called Chris, and met up with him at a bar in the Castro. Eduardo told him what he wanted to do, his whole stupid crazy plan that had taken him months to be ready for. And at the end, Chris smiled at him, warm and happy, and said, “I’m in.”
Eduardo hadn’t seen a client in more than five months. It was strange at first, because he could barely remember what it had been like before. He’d never lived in a city, in his own apartment, without a job, without clients to see. He’d gone out to the clubs a couple of times over the last few months and picked someone up, not because he felt like he needed to, but because he wanted to see what it was like—sex on his own terms.
Ultimately, he had liked his work. He wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done, but he knew that it was time for him to focus on himself, what Eduardo might want out of life, rather than worrying about the needs of others all the time. He had spent way too much of his life doing what someone else wanted him to do.
Slowly, things had changed and shifted for him, through the days of class and writing papers and discovering something new and exciting—discovering his mind all over again—and reading line after line on a computer screen that were meant for just him. It had taken him until a warm September day on the beach on Long Island, Christy gorgeous and beaming in white, for him to realize that he deserved this too. All of it. Someone who didn’t just want him for the way he looked, what he was like in bed, but for all of it. The dirty and the beautiful, the broken and the whole.
He danced with Christy towards the end of the night, holding her small body, loose with wine and joy, tight to him, her hands clasped around his neck. She smiled at him and leaned forward to whisper in his ear. “You go get your boy, baby.”
So he followed the signs for the Oregon Expressway, then travelled through the Palo Alto streets until he turned onto S. California Avenue. He had his name on the security clearance list, and his phone on the passenger seat, open to an e-mail that he’d received the day before.
Eduardo, I’m not going to stop writing. I know you’re there, reading this, and as long as I know that, then I won’t give up.
Eduardo threw the car into park and took a deep breath. Yeah, I’m here, he thought, before he climbed out of the car.
There was a part of Eduardo that was certain this wouldn’t work, that some part of this plan hatched with Chris would come unraveled, but he made it through security, showing his license and getting a smile and a temporary ID badge as he walked into Facebook headquarters.
When they met, Chris told Eduardo exactly how to get to Mark’s office once he was in the building (“make a left after security, go to the third floor, then a left and right. It will be pretty obvious where Mark is when you get up there”), and Eduardo followed his instructions. They led him to a large room with an open floor plan. He spotted a door straight ahead, a room with wide, floor to ceiling windows. And Mark, sitting with his back to the rest of the room, headphones around his neck and typing furiously.
Eduardo stood in Mark’s doorway for a few minutes, studying the pale, soft skin (he could remember what he felt like beneath his fingertips) at the back of Mark’s neck. Mark hadn’t moved at all since Eduardo approached, completely focused on the screen in front of him. If he didn’t already know that he was completely done in, then how adorable he found Mark’s utter lack of awareness about his surroundings would have clued him in.
Finally, Eduardo cleared his throat, folding his arms across his chest. When Mark didn’t respond, he said, “Mark,” at least three times before Mark’s fingers stalled, Mark’s body going completely still.
Then, he swiveled around in his chair, eyes locking with Eduardo’s. His eyes were wide, startled, and his mouth was open just slightly. It made Eduardo want to kiss him.
“Holy fuck,” Mark breathed, clutching the arms of his chair, white knuckled. “What are you doing here?”
“Well,” Eduardo said playfully, swallowing down his nerves, “considering you’ve been e-mail stalking me for months now, I figured it would fine. Chris helped me out.”
Mark moved his mouth, like he thought he should say something, but couldn’t get the synapses firing properly, to get the words from his brain to his lips. “Remind me to kill him later,” Mark said, tone flat, emotionless.
“I don’t think you should kill him. I needed to come and talk to you.”
“You’re wearing jeans,” Mark said inanely. Eduardo wasn’t quite sure that he’d blinked since Eduardo came to the door.
“Those are some finely tuned observational skills you have, Mark. Did they teach those to you at Harvard?”
“Much better than they do at Yale, anyway,” Mark shot back, and Eduardo felt comforted, because it was obvious that while Mark was in some kind of shock at seeing Eduardo in his office, he was still just fine, still himself.
Eduardo stepped inside the office and turned to push the door shut behind him. “I need to tell you some things.”
“No, Eduardo, it’s--”
“And I need to you to just listen,” Eduardo said firmly, cutting Mark off. Mark didn’t look happy about it, but he nodded anyway.
Eduardo had thought about this moment for a long time—exactly what he would say to Mark if he ever got the chance. And once he’d finally decided to do this, to call Chris and plan the grand gesture, he started to think about the details. Because the truth was, while there had always been a connection between him and Mark, something that ran underneath their skin and down below every rational thought and all reason, they didn’t know each other. What they did know of each other was tainted by the way they knew it, by the thousands of dollars that Mark had paid Eduardo to be there on those Thursday nights.
He wanted Mark to know him. If this was ever going to happen, then Mark would have to know him for who he really was, and on his own terms.
The truth was that Eduardo never really thought of himself as brave, but he knew that he was capable of the kind of braveness that allowed you to leave everything you’ve ever known and move across the country by yourself at twenty one years old, to not speak to your father for years, to talk yourself into a job at a hedge fund with no degree, and to take Peter Thiel’s card at a party.
Eduardo needed—he wanted—to be that brave now, with this. He fixed his eyes on Mark, and started to talk.
“When I was twenty, my dad made a business trip to New York and decided that a side trip to visit his son in New Haven would be a good idea. I was too stupid or reckless to lock the damn door, and he caught me in a bed with a guy.”
“He freaked out—needless to say, I did not sleep with that guy ever again—and tried to get me to tell him it was just a one time thing, that it was some kind of phase. When I wouldn’t, he told me that he wasn’t going to pay for some queer’s college education. I didn’t really believe he was serious until I got to Miami for winter break and he’d changed the locks on the house.” Eduardo shook his head, remembering standing in the humid Miami night on the doorstep of his parents’ house, the keys in his hand falling with a loud clang onto the steps. “And until I called Yale’s student accounts office to find out that my dad had stopped payment on his spring semester tuition check. I didn’t know what else to do, so I picked somewhere as far away as I could think of at the time, where my dad didn’t know anyone, and moved across the country.”
When Eduardo paused, he saw that Mark looked livid, like he wanted to reach back in time and kick Eduardo’s father’s ass for something that was further away than even Eduardo had thought it was. It still hurt, the sting of being sliced out of his family like a cancer, so easily, but he couldn’t even muster up any real anger with his father any more.
“I’m okay, Mark, I am. I spent the last five years trying to please a whole succession of men, like some kind of substitute for pleasing my father, even though I thought it was a fuck you. I was fine, but it wasn’t until I met you that I realized that I could do things to make myself happy and not worry about what someone else thought, and that it could be all right.”
“Eduardo,” Mark said, his voice rough, the anger still stretched across his face. “I never wanted to make you feel that way. I never felt like I owned you, not ever. I wanted you to want to be there.”
“I know,” Eduardo said softly, shifting his feet. “But it was still that way, even if you didn’t want it to be.”
Mark’s face crumpled, like someone had stabbed him in the gut, opened him up for everyone to see. “Oh,” he said flatly, narrowing his eyes and crossing his arms tightly around his body, closing himself off layer by layer. “Is that what you came here to say then? Thanks, but no thanks? Because I have to tell you, I would have preferred you didn’t break into my office to tell me that. E-mail would suffice.”
Eduardo wanted to reach out, to soothe, to tell Mark that he was here to say something entirely different, and he realized that he didn’t have to hold himself back, not anymore. So he walked toward Mark and dropped down to his knees on the gray carpet.
“No,” he said carefully, placing his hands on Mark’s thighs, right above his knees, hearing Mark’s barely there inhalation and feeling the searing heat of Mark’s skin through his jeans. He’d almost forgotten what it felt like. “I came here to ask you to dinner.”
Mark frowned, reaching down and circling his fingers around Eduardo’s wrists, as if he meant to push Eduardo away. “What?” he said incredulously.
“I want to go out with you,” Eduardo said quickly, imploringly, wanting to get the words in before Mark shut him out completely. “I want to take you out to dinner and have you be sarcastic to the waitress in a way she doesn’t understand and I want to take you to a movie that you’ll tear apart afterward, and I want to take you to Berkeley and show you where my classes are, where I get coffee. I want to hang out with you and Dustin and Chris. I want to know you, Mark, and I know that we sort of got this whole thing backward, what with the sex first and everything, but I want to do this right. I don’t want to fuck this up.”
Mark didn’t answer right away, but Eduardo hoped that the way Mark stared at him, eyes wide open, none of the hurt or confusion that was there on his face just a few moments ago, was a good sign. He planted his hands on Mark’s thighs and pushed himself to his feet, holding out his hand to Mark, asking.
It was the most terrifying, thrilling, breathless moment of his life, like the first drop at the beginning of a roller coaster.
When Mark’s mouth quirked up to the side, the smile that had hooked Eduardo right from the beginning, and he clasped Eduardo’s hand, Eduardo felt the drop in his stomach, like careening down a two hundred foot decline. He pulled Mark to his feet, flush up against Eduardo, their foreheads pressing together. Mark’s hands on his hips were absolutely steady, like they always had been.
Mark wasn’t just grinning anymore—he was smiling, his whole face lit up in a way that Eduardo had never really seen, and Eduardo couldn’t help but do the same in return. Because for once, he was exactly where he wanted to be.
“You know,” Mark said, breath hot against Eduardo’s mouth as he spoke, “this isn’t how I thought it would go from watching Pretty Woman. I was expecting to have to climb up your fire escape.”
Eduardo rolled his eyes. “Shut up,” he growled, and then he shut him up by pressing his mouth to Mark’s, hot and real and everything.
Eduardo did take Mark out for dinner the next night, at Chez Panisse (yes, he had a problem, he could admit it)—a big upgrade from their takeout dinners at Mark’s house. It was lovely and awkward and perfect. The truth was, Eduardo was a little scared that everything he’d thought was true about how he felt about Mark and their connection was all in his head, but it definitely wasn’t.
Mark frowned when Eduardo shook his head at Mark’s offer to come in for a drink, once they’d reached Mark’s driveway. “I’m not going anywhere, okay?” he said, and leaned in for a kiss to Mark’s slack, startled mouth.
That weekend, they did a movie (Eduardo had been completely right about Mark’s ability for biting critique) and then went over to Dustin’s place to play video games. At the end of the night, Eduardo kissed Mark goodnight on his front steps, hands pressed to the warm skin of Mark’s chest through his t-shirt, and headed to his car.
He could tell Mark was frustrated, and, hell—so was he, but he didn’t want to skip ahead in the order this time. He wanted to do this exactly like he was supposed to (and maybe, give Mark the opportunity to realize that Eduardo wasn’t worth it, although that belief was fading day by day).
On a Friday in December, just before finals, Eduardo got up early and drove to Berkeley, to turn in a fifteen page paper that had kept him up most of the night; he was half-delirious with it. It probably wasn’t a good idea to be driving at all in his state, let alone all the way to Palo Alto, but he couldn’t stop himself.
Eduardo and Mark had been dating for two months, and it had been exactly what Eduardo had hoped it would be. Because Mark was an asshole, yes, and stuck his foot in his mouth every single time they were together, but he was also fierce and smart and unexpectedly sweet, when he dropped his guard. It felt strange, every time, to leave before their clothes came off (and he knew Mark would have been happy if they had come off, but he wasn’t pushing), but it also felt right.
They’d gotten as far as making out, horizontal on Mark’s insanely comfortable couch, Mark’s hot palms up underneath Eduardo’s shirt. “Do you want—” Mark started hoarsely, pausing to clear his throat.
“Yes, I want to,” Eduardo said, trying to catch his own breath, calm down. “But—”
Mark sighed and pulled his hands away, wrapping them around Eduardo’s neck and kissing him softly. “I know. I’m also not going to think differently of you if we have sex.”
“I know that too.” And he did know that. But he wanted to be absolutely sure that Mark knew that.
Mark had been patient, if not always gracious, about Eduardo’s caginess. Eduardo was insanely grateful for it. But now, as he went fifteen miles above the speed limit down the 880, he was done with worrying so much.
He was a little surprised that the security guard at Facebook just let him in and handed him the temp ID with no hesitation. When he got to Mark’s office, Mark was sitting there, laughing at something Dustin was saying while Dustin perched on the back on Mark’s couch.
“Hey,” Eduardo said, and Dustin teetered and fell to the floor. “Jesus, Dustin, are you okay?”
“Fine, fine, hey, Eduardo,” Dustin said, groaning and pushing himself up from the floor.
“Hey,” Mark said, his smile fading into something warmer, more familiar, with heat. Eduardo wanted to black out the windows and throw Dustin out and lock the door. “How’d the paper go?”
“It’s done,” Eduardo said distractedly, shrugging, staring at Mark. Out of the corner of his eye, Dustin was up on his feet and clearing his throat obviously.
“Well,” Dustin said, shuffling toward the door with a shit-eating grin on his face, “I’ll just leave you two alone.”
“You okay?” Mark said once Dustin was gone, standing up and coming over to cup his hand around Eduardo’s neck. “You seem weird.”
It felt like Mark’s hand was going to burn right through his skin, and he closed his eyes, calculating how fast he could get them to Mark’s house if he broke the land speed record. When he opened his eyes, Mark was staring at him, frowning.
“Any reason you can’t leave right now?
Eduardo reached out and tugged Mark in, dislodging his hand (which was a shame), but bringing their bodies flush. “I hope you can leave, because I’d really like to fuck at your house instead of your office.”
Mark swallowed roughly. “Staying here wouldn’t be so bad.”
Eduardo smiled and leaned in close to Mark’s ear. “Your bed will be better,” and that earned him a gratifying shudder.
“Just let me shut down,” Mark rasped, and tugged Eduardo, laughing, to the desk with him, like he didn’t want to break contact, not for one second.
In the familiar bedroom with its familiar bed and familiar french doors, Mark seemed to lose some of his momentum, hesitant and stumbling. It was kind of endearing, to be honest, but also strange. For all of Mark’s social awkwardness in general, he had always been confident when it came to sex.
Maybe before he was sure of his welcome (he had paid for it, after all), and now he wasn’t.
“Mark,” Eduardo said, pulling Mark in close and framing Mark’s face with his hands. “I want this. We’ve both waited for this, okay?”
“I’m fine, Eduardo,” Mark said irritably, but Eduardo knew him well enough now to know that the look in his eyes was relief.
After that, Mark calmed down, and in some ways, it was exactly like it had been before. The heat between them, the playfulness, the sheer intensity of it. But in some ways, it was brand new, the way that Mark took the time to press kisses into the thin skin on the inside of Eduardo’s wrists and to slide his palms up the back of Eduardo’s thighs. It felt as good as it had before, but it also felt entirely different.
They fucked face to face, quiet, close enough to share breath as Mark pushed inside of him and lit up everything behind Eduardo’s eyelids like the Fourth of July.
Afterward, they slept, on and off, Mark’s chest plastered to Eduardo’s back, legs and arms twined together. “Are you awake?” Mark said softly into Eduardo’s ear, the huff of breath making him squirm.
Mark didn’t say anything. Eduardo sighed. “Is there something you needed?”
It was silent for a moment, and then, “I’m trying to figure out whether or not telling you I love you at this moment would be negated based on the fact that it’s post-coital.”
Eduardo wriggled until he got Mark’s grip loose enough to turn around to face him. His heart was pounding. “What did you just say?”
“You heard me,” Mark said, frowning, curling into himself.
That was not what he wanted, at all. He felt a little like he wanted to throw up, like his heart was going to explode out of his chest, but what he really wanted was—“Say it again.”
“Mark, just say it again, okay?”
Mark looked annoyed, but he didn’t look away. “I love you.”
There was a part of Eduardo that was telling him to run, to get as far away as he could, because this was more than he could be expected to take. And the other part of him, the part that had led him here, was telling him to stay right where he was. Forever, preferably. “Jesus,” he whispered, closing his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Mark said, stiff and shifting uncomfortably all of the sudden, “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“No, Mark, no,” Eduardo said, wrapping his arms around Mark’s back. “Don’t take it back. I just—” he opened his eyes to look at Mark’s face, his blue eyes, the cut of his jawline, the stubble on his chin because he’d forgotten to shave for a few days. The hope in his eyes that you could only see if you knew to look for it.
Eduardo had learned how to look.
“I don’t know that I can say it back,” he said, moving one hand to Mark’s face, his thumb running along Mark’s cheekbone. “I want to, but—”
“It’s okay,” Mark said, cutting him off, his mouth quirking up on one side. Eduardo couldn’t help himself—he let his thumb drift to Mark’s bottom lip. For the first time in his life, he believed that what Mark was saying was true, absolutely. Mark shook his head, his smile betraying him, and reached up to pull Eduardo’s hand away from his face, lacing their fingers together. “I’ll wait.”
And he did.
Eduardo got there, on a cool, breezy late March morning, much like the one on which he’d walked out on Mark a year ago, the sun warming the pale skin of Mark’s exposed back, in Eduardo’s bed. He wasn’t sure that Mark was even awake when he said it, which was a bit of a relief, but then he felt Mark’s body go stiff under his palm. Mark turned over, lower lip caught between his teeth. “Say it again.”
“You’re an asshole, you heard me.”
“Say it again,” Mark said, smiling brightly, and Eduardo couldn’t help but laugh, pushing Mark down into the bed, and saying it over and over again into Mark’s mouth, until Mark kissed him and said it back.