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Looking for the Perfect Beat

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After four phone calls and thirty minutes of waiting in the middle of Harvard Yard, Eduardo can only conclude that his son is going to sleep through their lunch date. They had dinner last night so it's not the worst thing in the world, but it's not every weekend that Eduardo has time to drive up to Boston, and...well. He'll give Jake a little while longer before giving up. It's alumni weekend, so the campus is teeming with people like him, people who are trying recapture a little bit of what it was like to be twenty and have the world at your feet.

There's an information booth stationed at the edge of the Yard that's staffed by two bored-looking students, the words Alumni Weekend 2036 splashed across the free t-shirts they got for volunteering. The table is bare save for various pieces of Harvard swag and tiny strips of cardstock with instructions on how to access the event calendar from your phone. Eduardo remembers when they used to print these out on paper.

"Can we help you?" Her smile is bright with artificial welcome and the clear plastic flash of the braces in her mouth.

"There are events all over campus," says the second girl, her words crowding out those of her friend. They look at each other and laugh.

"Thanks, I'll just take this and--" Eduardo takes one of the instructional cards and gestures off into the vague distance. But they've already had this same conversation with a million other alumni, and Eduardo is forgotten in the space between one blink and the next.

He ends up in front of the statue of not-John Harvard, who is enjoying, as always, a steady stream of pilgrims come to pay homage to his royal collegiate-ness. The old trees overhead have already done their work for the season and covered the ground in a quilt of red and gold; the air is thick with the smell of wet leaf musk. Eduardo closes his eyes a little, and imagines that it's an icy January night, where he can feel the snowflakes biting into the skin of his face, hear the chattering teeth of the guy next to him as he sheds his shirt and tosses it to the ground. He's as fond of that memory as anything else. Eduardo's always carried a torch for Harvard, from the first minute of his high school tour until the day he stood in front of a mirror and settled the voluminous folds of his academic regalia on his shoulders.

He waits until no one is looking, then runs his fingers over the shiny-smooth surface of the statue's foot for luck. It stares back at him, disapproving expression unchanged after all these years.

Eduardo checks his phone again but no one's called him yet. He sighs a little before stuffing it back into his pocket.

Not-John Harvard's kids were probably always on time.



The weekend's event guide is full of carefully curated events designed to seduce him into opening his alumni checkbook. There's a panel on Harvard's slow but steady consumption of Allston that he might drop in on; the talk on LeDoux's research on long-term memory replacement looks pretty good, too. But it's the name in the large call-out box on the top of page five that immediately grabs his eye.

Dean's Lecture Series: "Culture, Creativity, and Adaptation", with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook

There are crow's feet hiding at the corners of Mark's eyes and slightly less hair, but other than that he looks the same he did three decades ago, when he decided to plant a knife between the shoulderblades of the person supposed to be his best friend. A quick glance at his watch shows that the lecture started thirty minutes ago. It only takes him thirty seconds to decide that he wants to go.

The auditorium is one of those cavernous spaces that's only used for things like intro level science courses. There's a line of the faithful snaking down the aisle, each person waiting patiently to ask a question. Eduardo slips in at the end, trying to remain inconspicuous. It couldn't hurt to say hello this way. Mark won't embarrass them in front of a crowd of people. At least, he hopes so.

The cadence of Mark's voice rises and falls over the crowd, made up of a large contingent of the old guard plus the usual sprinkling of undergrads, faces turned upward like hyenas waiting to be fed.

The buzzing silence of the auditorium grows to fill Eduardo's ears when he finds himself in front of the microphone. No one seems to recognize him, although it doesn't make sense that anyone would--his face hasn't cropped up on the internet in decades. Mark can't see him, either, blinded by the bright lights shining in his eyes. When he squints out at the crowd, Eduardo realizes that he's been standing there for a while, staring and saying nothing.

The palms of his hands are clammy with anxiety, which is stupid. Eduardo has seen Mark at his most vulnerable, naked on his back on the unforgiving mattress of Eduardo's dorm room bed, eyes screwed shut, one arm thrown over his eyes as he tries to breathe past the sensation of Eduardo's mouth on him.

But that was then. Now, Eduardo is boring. The majority of his waking hours are spent fulfilling the duties of a senior position at a modest hedge fund. The kind that's stable, but won't be showing up in Forbes any time soon. He's everything nineteen-year old Mark accused him of being, a self-fulfilled prophecy of the common man's American dream. And Mark is...well. Everyone already knows the answer to that.

"Hello, Mark," Eduardo says, painfully aware of all the eyes on him. His mouth is a little too close to the mike, so his voice is at once muffled and overly loud. "I wanted to know--"

Do you still think of me? Did you find someone new? Were you ever sorry?

"-what's your biggest regret?"

When Mark realizes whom he's talking to, his eyes go startled and wide for a second before he retreats behind his public relations mask, his face as smooth and expressionless as it was when he stared down Eduardo during the depositions, flanked by lawyers on either side. Mark shoves his hands into his pockets while pretending to think for a moment. Eduardo feels a tiny bit embarrassed at the obvious passive-aggression he's displaying by putting Mark on the spot, although he knows he's faced down worse than this.

"Beacon was a pretty bad idea," Mark responds, allowing himself a small, self-deprecating smile. "Facebook Marketplace also blew some serious chunks. I think it's safe to say that Craig Newmark beat us to the punch on that one." A ripple of laughter rolls over the auditorium as Mark launches into a story of Facebook's early days of false starts and frequent mishaps. By the end, he's got them eating out the palm of his hand.

Well played, Mark, Eduardo thinks, thoroughly impressed and just a little bit resentful. The part of him that still harbors the resentment of his twenty-year old self would have enjoyed seeing Mark fall flat on his face. Well played.




Eduardo decides to wait for Mark near the exit to the auditorium afterwards. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

"I can't believe they got you to do something like this," says Eduardo when Mark first emerges, squinting in light of the hall. Without the enhancement of a stage and 12,000 volts of dramatic lighting, he's less impressive. He's still short, and in desperate need of a haircut. There are tiny holes in the back pocket of his jeans from where the corners of his wallet have worn through the cotton. Global fame aside, he's still Mark.

"People like having the opportunity to tear me apart, and I like to watch them try," Mark replies, his tone cutting.

"Touché, Mark." Eduardo isn't going to apologize. But he doesn't tilt at windmills anymore, either. It's easier to acknowledge defeat early on if he can still make a tactical retreat. Eduardo needs to get home anyway--his youngest, Ana, just left for boarding school last month and has been begging him to ship the coat she left behind. If he gets on the road now, he can be back in New Haven before FedEx closes for the day.

"I'm starving," Mark announces. "You wanna go eat?"

Eduardo feels like the ground has shifted beneath him. No introductions or pleasantries; Mark apparently doesn't even care why Eduardo is here. They haven't even talked yet, they haven't--

"It's just food, Eduardo," says Mark, reading the anxiety on his face. People never give Mark enough credit--he was always perfectly capable of picking up on nuance when he wanted to. It was just that more often than not, he didn't give a fuck. "You can say yes, or you can say no."

"No, No. I mean, yes." Mark visibly relaxes, and in response, some of the tension Eduardo feels begins to ease. "I want to."




They end up at the Blue Room, one of the first signs that Mark isn't the person he used to be, that maybe he's become comfortable with his staggering wealth over the years. The hostess knows him on sight, and doesn't bat an eyelash at the fact that Mark is the only person in the dining room wearing jeans.

"You're twitching already," says Mark, not two minutes after they've sat down. Eduardo looks at all of the carefully put-together members of the weekend brunch crowd and grins ruefully.

"Maybe a little," he replies, honest. "I'll be fine."

"I don't let those kind of things bother me," Mark says. His eyes scan the menu systematically, back and forth, back and forth.

"Of course you don't, you're richer than God."

"It does help," Mark agrees, grinning.

The waiter is that attractively slim kind of magazine beauty that all expensive restaurants hire, designed to be unobtrusive as possible. Eduardo orders the swordfish, and pairs it with a nice dry white wine. Mark orders a salad, a fluffy thing with locally sourced beets and goat cheese. He colors slightly at the pointed look Eduardo gives him.

"I never thought I'd see you voluntarily consume a vegetable," Eduardo remarks dryly.

"High cholesterol," Mark replies with a shrug. "People always want to take me out for steak."

The conversation proceeds with the kind of bland dinner talk he'd have with one of his clients--Mark talks about the ten new projects he's got his fingers in since he stepped down as CEO of Facebook, and Eduardo about the renovations he's doing on his second home in Miami. To be honest, Eduardo is a little disappointed. They're both so plain, so normal. Somewhere in the intervening decades, all the fire that characterized their early years together must have burned itself out.

Mark is running his mouth at length about Google's rumoured attempts to establish an independent island nation in the Pacific Ocean when his phone begins to vibrate. He scowls at the screen for a few seconds before saying, "I have to take this," abruptly leaving the table. He moves a few feet away, a distance far enough that Eduardo can't hear him, but close enough to the other diners to get a generous helping of irritated glances.

All Eduardo can hear for the next two minutes is a series of "yeahs" and "I knows" as Mark is berated by whomever is on the other end of the line. He signs off, then pulls up the browser on his phone, his long fingers flying across the screen. "And art school payment....done."

Eduardo coughs a little, surprised. "Art school? Is this some sort of mid-life crisis?"

"It's my daughter, Isabelle. Wait, she goes by Izzy now. She's in her second year at RISD, for...painting. I think."

Oh, Eduardo thinks. He runs his thumb up and down the handle of his fork, thoughtful. He never thought Mark would....

"I can't believe you're married," he blurts out.

Mark sets the phone down on the table before downing the rest of the wine in his glass. "We never got married. Izzy was raised by her mother in Colorado, and I visit when I can. We are close enough for me to pay for school, but not close enough for anyone to remember to send me an invitation to high school graduation. Does that tell you enough?"

"Okay, I'll pretend like I didn't ask," says Eduardo. He forgot what Mark was like once you got his blood up, all sharp edges ready to cut anyone who comes too close.

Mark flushes a little. "I'm's fine." He fiddles with the edge of his napkin, and looks unsettled enough that Eduardo feels an echo of the old familiar urge to reach out and touch him, to ask what's wrong so he can help. "What about you?"

"Three kids, three exes, and a cat that hates me." He resists the urge to offer pictures. "Are you surprised?"

"Actually, I am," says Mark. "Only three kids? I would have thought you'd have at least five."




Eduardo grabs the check before Mark can get to it, like he has a point to prove. Mark's only response is a single raised eyebrow that says everything and nothing. They put away just enough wine over lunch that Eduardo's sense of self-preservation fails him, and he impulsively invites Mark to explore their old stomping grounds.

Mark looks down at his watch. "Can we do it in an hour?"

Eduardo's going to take that as a yes.

The little bit of sun that was still out this morning has acquiesced to the rolling bank of clouds coming in off the ocean, covering everything in a fine mist. Eduardo inhales deeply, savoring the bite of the cool air deep in his lungs. It's the first weekend so far that it's really and truly felt like pumpkin pie, apple cider, leaf-burning fall. It wasn't a season that existed in Miami, and even now he still enjoys it, this period of celebration before everyone settles down for another winter.

"So do you do this often, the lecture thing?" Eduardo asks.

"Two or three times a year. They won't let me say no to everyone." Mark pouts a little at the unfairness of the universe. "Besides, I'm Harvard's most famous dropout now that Bill Gates is retired from the lecture circuit."

"Mark," he groans.

"What? it's true."

Their conversation rambles on, taking twists and turns as they wander among the old brick buildings that serve as a focal point for every person who ever had romantic notions about academia. Eduardo can't help but indulge a little himself, and lets his mind linger on memories of impromptu picnics on the Yard in the fall, and snowball fights in winter. If he doesn't think about the way it ended, with lawyers and lawsuits and multimillion-dollar settlements, it's not so bad.

They settle right back into their old way of doing things, with Eduardo doing most of the talking. Mark had always been good at listening, or at least, not interrupting. He'd solved many of his problems--whether with his father, his econometrics professor, or the arcane system that was the Harvard housing lottery--by talking them out to the sound of Mark working, an irregular sequence of noisy typing and thoughtful silences.

"The twins never call me anymore," Eduardo complains. His two eldest children are horribly self sufficient, just like their mother. Eduardo is sure his own mother is tired of hearing him pine after them, and he knows his colleagues don't give a fuck. Having Mark around again to listen to him vent is a golden opportunity. "It's like I dropped them off during move-in and they disappeared into an alternate dimension."

"Then you're fine," Mark says. "If they don't need you, then you did what you're supposed to."

"That's what my therapist says," Eduardo concedes reluctantly. The minute he says it, he wants to take it back. What does it say about him, that he's the type of person who needs to pay somebody to help hash out his neuroses?

"Your therapist is right." The look Mark gives him is inordinately fond. It's familiar, the kind of look Mark would turn on him whenever he'd wake Eduardo up from an accidental nap on top of one of his textbooks, or when Eduardo spent ten minutes picking a flavor at Ben and Jerry's. But mostly, he recognizes it from the times he'd lean over Mark's shoulder to check his progress on Facebook and, for a little while, see the kind of possibilities that Mark knew were simmering beneath the surface all along.

Eduardo pulls his scarf tighter around his neck just to provide some distraction from whatever it is he's feeling at the moment. There was a time when he and Mark made each other happy, but that was all long ago. He picks a direction at random and starts walking again, and is a little relieved when he hears Mark following along behind.




The hour deadline comes and goes while they're making a Mark-ordained coffee stop. When Eduardo points this out, Mark just makes a noncommittal sound and applies himself to getting caffeine into his bloodstream now.

"Kirkland is over there on the left," Mark says. His stride picks up slightly when he sights the old familiar facade just around a corner. They got a little turned around on the way there, victims of the university's eternal zeal for development. The old paths have been bulldozed and rerouted around buildings that didn't even exist while they were students.

Across from the entrance to Kirkland is a gnarled old tree; they stand beneath it to avoid the groups of students passing around them in twos or threes. Every now and again one of them will slow down and look at Mark oddly before letting their attention slide over him and back to wherever they were headed. Eventually Mark leads them around to the side of the building, where it's quiet save for the muted sounds of music and conversation drifting down from the windows.

"It was the second window on the right." Mark's eyes are unfocused, like he's stepped out of the present for a minute and headed back to 2004. They're standing close enough that their shoulders brush together, and Eduardo's heart rate ticks upward in response. He tells himself that little buzz in the air is just a side affect of that potent cocktail made of alcohol and a class of drugs called nostalgia. All the same, he doesn't move away.

"That's not it," Eduardo says. He points to a room a little further over, and hopes that whoever is inside isn't watching the two old dudes staring creepily in the window. "It was that one."

Mark frowns. "I always wondered why you gave up the algorithm so easily, even though you hated the idea."

"I believed in you," Eduardo says, remembering the look of drunken conviction in Mark's eyes that night. "I knew that even if it got us in trouble, it would be good."

Mark stares at him for a long moment, then smiles. It's not a full on grin, more like the suggestion of better smiles to come. "You were always a terrible liar."

Eduardo huffs a little. Did Mark actually expect him to say, I did it because I was kind of a little bit in love with you? Because I would have given you anything?

It's still a bit of a surprise when Mark herds him backward until he bumps into the side of the building, the air leaving his lungs in a rush. The tip of Mark's nose is pink from the cold. Eduardo's mind is full of a thousand thoughts all jockeying for supremacy, so he doesn't say anything at all. This time, he just waits. Let Mark do the talking.

"I have a business dinner in three hours," Mark says, staring at a spot on Eduardo's collar. Eduardo was going for casual today, so his tie is still draped over the back of a chair in his bedroom. "So I need you to tell me now if I should go, or if I should call them and tell them I came down with a cold."

"Don't we have a vaccine for that now?" Eduardo says stupidly. He feels twenty again, like every one of his molecules is oriented towards Mark.

"It's a new strain, they discovered it in Brazil," Mark deadpans. Eduardo rolls his eyes. Mark was always terrible at making any joke that didn't involve a math or computer reference, and he stole half of those from the internet, so they don't count.

When he kisses Mark, there's no hint of bitterness or recrimination. His mouth is warm and slightly rough, and tastes like the sharp tang of the wine he had over lunch. The chill coming off the slight breeze winds around and between them, nipping at their exposed fingers. He pulls Mark in closer by the fabric of his shirt, and tries ignore the hundred reasons this is a bad idea so that he can give in to the one reason it isn't.




Mark's hotel room is one of those palatial suites, more of a penthouse than a place you'd stay for a weekend. They walk through the foyer and the area that serves as a living room, giving Eduardo the few seconds he needs to start hesitating all over again. But then Mark gets him on the bed and kisses him so intensely that anything he might have been thinking of disappears from his mind. They live on opposite sides of the country, after all, and avoidance can be easy if he wants it to be.

"I keep telling myself I shouldn't do this," Eduardo confesses when Mark stops to yank his shirt over his head. He's still skinny, but there's a softness to his stomach that Eduardo finds strangely endearing.

"Why?" Mark asks, smirking at the obvious bulge in Eduardo's tailored trousers. "You want it, don't you?" He scoots backward on the bed, legs spread open and inviting. Everything is always so simple in Mark's mind. He does what gives him pleasure and turns his back on everything else.

"I can't believe you're asking me that," Eduardo mutters. Not that it matters, anyway. His fingers are already tugging at the soft leather of Mark's belt. He takes his time working Mark's fly open, watches the way Mark catches his bottom lip between his teeth when he feels the pressure of Eduardo's hand on his stiffening cock. His hips jerk upward involuntarily until Eduardo gets an arm across his waist, pinning him to the mattress.

"Fuck, Wardo." Mark's eyes fly open, the pupils wide and dark as he makes little noises of frustration in the back of his throat. "You could go a little faster."

"I could," Eduardo says.

He keeps on taking his time.




Eduardo takes advantage of the way Mark passes out immediately afterwards to order room service. He got up at six this morning to hit the gym, and although it's not quite dinner time yet, his stomach already feels empty, courtesy of the delicately-sized portions they were served at lunch.

Eduardo answers the door wearing Mark's hotel bathrobe, scratchy white and heavy on his shoulders. Eduardo loves being in hotels. When he's there, he's not a harried father, a failed husband or a workaholic, just a credit card number and a set of preferences: non-smoking room, king-size bed, view of the city.

He wheels the tray over to the bed, then turns the television to CNN and nudges Mark in his side with one foot.

"Unf," he grunts, before giving a jaw cracking yawn. He's kind of adorable like this, still half-asleep with his brain not fully online.

"Food," Eduardo says. He liberates a hamburger from its metal hood. It's cooked to perfection, although slightly bland. Mark makes a face.

"My cardiologist would murder me if I even looked at that."

"Maybe I'm getting my long-waited for revenge," Eduardo says, licking a spot of ketchup from his thumb. "Death by trans fats."

Mark stiffens, his whole face shutting down. Until now, they'd had some unspoken agreement not to talk about it. But Eduardo has just gone and burst their bubble of carefully-selected memories and it's now out in the open, no less painful because it's ancient history.

"I could say that I didn't do it to hurt you, but I'd be lying." Mark says. "You practically ruined the entire thing just to prove a point."

"I shouldn't have done it," Eduardo admits. He can look at his performance somewhat objectively now. Closing the account was a pretty dick move. He wishes he could explain it, the kind of deep helplessness he felt when he saw Mark moving away from him faster than he could keep up. "It doesn't mean you weren't a shitty friend, though. I would have given you anything, and you threw it all back in my face."

There's a little birthmark just below Eduardo's pelvic bone, shaped like a lopsided star. Mark's fingers trace idle lines over it, up and down. Eduardo closes his eyes and leans back against the headboard, sheets pooled low around his waist. He doesn't know how he's supposed to feel--neither anger nor numbness are a good fit anymore.

He offers Mark a halfhearted smile, and pushes the plate towards him. "Here, you can eat the tomato and the lettuce."

Eduardo never forgave Mark for the dilution, and he probably never will, not entirely. But he's come to realize that maybe, complete forgiveness is not as necessary as he once thought it was. He's willing to move on all the same.




It's Eduardo's turn to doze off after they finish eating; heavy food and watching the news always makes him sleepy. He wakes up to the feel of his cock hitting the back of Mark's throat. By the time he's fully conscious it's over, and he coasts straight from his already-forgotten dream into a land of endorphin-laced bliss.

Some things definitely improve with age; this is apparently one of them.

"Fuck, Mark," he laughs. He wants to look at Mark, but he's not quite able to sit up yet. "Where you'd learn how to do that?"

"My accountant," he says with a shrug as he drags a thumb across the corner of his mouth, which still red and a little wet.

Eduardo groans. "There's this thing called a rhetorical question--I didn't need you to actually answer."

"Then you shouldn't have asked." Mark reaches out and drags a finger down the long, puckered scar bisecting Eduardo's right knee. "What happened here?"

"Life," Eduardo replies, rubbing at the shiny skin with the tip of his thumb. "I took up running after Ian and I split up. And as reward, I now own a state of the art titanium kneecap that's made me the enemy of every power-hungry TSA agent from here to LAX."

Mark cocks his head to one side. "I had to quit typing for six months because my wrists attempted to self destruct. But it's how I got interested in haptics and voice command technology in the first place, so it all worked out."

"My repetitive stress injuries get me fourteen days of bed rest and a shitload of PT, yours just add another zero to your net worth. How is this fair?"

Mark runs his hand up and down Eduardo's inner thigh. Eduardo spreads his legs wider in response, although he won't be ready for another round for a while yet.

"Would you feel better if I told you how the whole salt and pepper look makes me want to fuck you into the mattress?" Mark asks, matter-of-fact.

He'll never tell Mark that he dyed his hair until he met Lilith, his doctor-recommended post-physical therapy yoga teacher and most recent ex. Lilith made him feel young; she had a way with words that made his worries seem trivial. It hadn't hurt that sex was amazing, either. Everything had been great, until she told Eduardo that she wasn't ready to be a mother to two seventeen year-old boys and an eleven year-old girl.

"Come here," Eduardo says, and drags Mark upward between his legs for another round of making out, sweet and slow as the lazy late-afternoon rain that's sliding down the window.

Mark opens him up with clever fingers and goes slow, slow, until Eduardo is clinging to Mark's biceps hard enough to bruise. He has faint tan lines these days, from whatever vacation or water gun fight or company barbecue he deemed interesting enough to pull him away form his work for more than a few minutes.

Eduardo hisses when Mark slides into him in one long, powerful thrust--it's been a while since...well, it's been a while. Mark's breath is his harsh in his ear; the curls at the back of his neck are dark with sweat. Eduardo thinks about how he wouldn't mind if they just stayed here, like this, forever.For now, he just winds his legs around Mark's waist and holds on as best he can.




Mark is chattering away at his computer, pausing every now and then to chew on his stylus thoughtfully as he dictates an email to an engineering team he works with in Japan. He woke up at three a.m. this morning, muttering something about needing to get a call in before they left the office--it was Sunday, so they'd be heading home at the 'early' hour of five p.m. Eduardo just rolls over and goes back to sleep, trying to make this period of no-consequences idle luxury last as long as possible.

When Eduardo finally crawls out of bed, he goes immediately to the bathroom to try and wash away the sweat and aches he's accumulated beneath the six-jet shower. Now that he has the space to think, the list of things he's not doing begins to weigh him down again. He's got an inbox full of emails, an apologetic voicemail from his kid about missing their lunch that he needs to respond to, there's a mess of documents related to the divorce to go over for his lawyer, and a lawn that needs mowing. That used to be the twins' job; now he has to remember to call somebody to do it.

He wraps a towel loosely around his hips and stands in front of the bathroom mirror, frowning at the patch of grey hair that first appeared at his temples and is now spreading inexorably upward. There's a line between dashing and just plain old-looking, and Eduardo is pretty sure he's crossed it.

"Your hair is fine," Mark yells from the bed. He shows up in the bathroom a few minutes later in boxers and an old Facebook t-shirt with a hole in one sleeve. His phone is in his hands, and he flips it from palm to palm until it's just a black blur. It takes Eduardo a moment to realize that he's nervous. "So...breakfast?"

Eduardo gives Mark a good morning kiss and an apologetic smile. "Can't. I have to get back on the road soon." Eduardo ignores the little voice in the back of his head that whispers, coward.

"Okay," Mark shrugs. "I put my contact info in your phone."

"Really?" Eduardo says, surprised. If anything, he though Mark would treat this as a one-off, a brief stroll down memory lane before they separated at the fork in the road. But it appears that Mark has been seduced by the domesticity of the moment as well. Eduardo's had a number of one-night flings over the years, but this one is different. There's no pretense or need to impress each other; they've already done their worst.

"Yeah." Mark's eyes fall on the muscle of Eduardo's shoulders, the thin trail of hair that starts low on his belly and disappears beneath the towel. Eduardo can't help but preen a little, still hungry for Mark's attention. "Yesterday was good," he says, his voice low.

From anyone else, "good" would be an insult. Eduardo rests his weight against the bathroom sink, crosses his arms over his chest. "It was."

They stare at each other awkwardly for a moment. The tension is thick between them; it would be easy to push Mark up against the mirrored door of the closet and get him off quick and dirty, to leave teeth marks on the pale skin of his neck and his come smeared against the glass. Instead, Eduardo just moves past Mark back into the bedroom and begins gathering up his clothes from yesterday. He can feel the weight of Mark's stare on him, but he doesn't turn around.

"Drive safe," Mark says once Eduardo's got himself in order again and is ready to head out the door.

"Thanks," Eduardo replies. They don't make any promises to keep in touch. Over Mark's shoulder he can see the rumpled bed; the quilt still on the floor from where Mark kicked it off in the middle of the night only to fit himself against Eduardo's side for warmth later on.

Eduardo doesn't let the door slam behind him. He just keeps a hand on it until the latch clicks shut in the lock, silent and final.




The house is dark and silent when he returns home, save for the presence of his daughter's mean-eyed cat, Miss Frizzle. She hisses at Eduardo when he climbs the stairs to his bedroom, her gold eyes narrow and suspicious. The cat was a peace offering from Lilith, meant to smooth Ana's ruffled ego at no longer being the lady of the house. And now that they're both gone, Eduardo is forced to put up with her. He's negotiated an uneasy truce by offering the cat free reign of the right side of his bed, but there's no telling how long that will last.

He regrets skipping Mark's offer of breakfast. When his kids were all still at home, they had to buy enough food for a small army, but there's not much reason to keep it stocked anymore. He's never been too into cooking, but he's got the Chinese restaurant down the street on speed dial; it's good enough.

By the time the delivery kid peels out of Eduardo's driveway in his battered old sedan, the sun is sinking behind the stand of trees in the yard across the street. He can still see a bit of decorative crepe paper hanging in the branches of his neighbor's graceful old dogwood--their eldest son got married last weekend. Eduardo had stopped by the reception just to drop off a gift, and couldn't help but soak up the obvious joy in the room.

Eduardo kicks the door shut, pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration. He shouldn't have left the hotel. He has approximately nothing that he has to do tonight that couldn't be handled by an early morning arrival at the office tomorrow. And it wasn't like Mark had asked him to fly back to Palo Alto with him. It was just fucking breakfast. It probably would have been nice, even. Mimosas and french toast until they were both a little drunk, tipping Mark backwards into the bed to kiss the taste of maple syrup from his mouth, and...

And then Mark would have gotten on the plane anyway, and Eduardo into his car, and they'd both be exactly where they are now. This is good, this is fine. They had a good time, and now everything can go back to normal.

Eduardo closes the door to his office to keep the cat out and stretches out on the lumpy old couch that's been a fixture in his home office for years. He turns on a PBS special about storm chasers just for the background noise and begins poring over spreadsheets with his laptop propped up on his knees and a cup of coffee cradled in his hands.

He gets in about a half hour of actual work before he's jolted from his reverie by a call from the younger of the twins, Marcelo. He rambles on for a good half hour about the little Midwestern liberal arts school he chose as the route for his escape--especially his classes, his friends, and his newfound interest in beat poetry, whatever that is. Eduardo finds himself smiling the entire time. Marcelo had always been the quiet one, forever hiding in Jake's shadow. When Eduardo hangs up, the silence rushes in again, making the house seem quieter than ever.

Eduardo scrolls through his contacts until his finger settles on Mark's name. He lets out a shaky breath. For the longest time, he was perfectly happy with the thought that he might never see Mark again. He presses the call button before he loses his nerve, but it goes straight to voicemail--he's probably in the air now, terrorizing the flight attendants in first class.

"Mark, I was thinking about how your daughter was going to RISD, and Providence is a hell of a lot closer to New Haven than Palo Alto, so..."

He stops and erases the message in the middle, dissatisfied. This is Mark; there's no need to dress things up more than they need to be. Eduardo's spent the last thirty years trying to find a substitute for that connection they'd had, that near-painful intensity deep in his chest that Mark could call up with nothing more than a look. Eduardo takes a deep breath before dialing again, and finds that this time, his hands are steady.

"Hey Mark, it's Eduardo. When you get this...I want you to call me."