Eduardo is coming back from his lunch break when his phone pings with a new email notification. His laptop is open on his desk, though, so he opens that instead, adjusting the cuffs of his sleeves as it loads.
When it opens, he freezes.
The name at the top says Mark Zuckerberg.
In the back of his mind, Eduardo is telling himself it’s a joke. It has to be, even though anyone who knows him knows that it’s a terrible idea to use Mark Zuckerberg as a joke to him, because then Eduardo will slaughter them, if not literally then metaphorically. He’s not the best computer person, really, but he knows nerds, and he knows what an IP address is. That’s all it takes, probably.
Eduardo opens the email.
Are you sitting on the F5 key? Because your ass looks refreshing.
Eduardo calls Dustin.
“Hey, can you do me a favor?” he asks the second Dustin picks up.
“War-do!” Dustin’s voice is cheerful and surprised. Eduardo knows nerds, he just doesn’t talk to them frequently. Or at all. You can say that the nerds he knows are like the kids who chose to live with one parent after a divorce, and Eduardo is the other parent. Well, Eduardo knows other nerds who aren’t like that, but those nerds aren’t half as competent as the child-nerds Eduardo knows.
“Hi, Dustin,” Eduardo says.
“What can I help you with? Whatcha need buddy?” Dustin sounds eager. That’s good. “And can I say it’s been a long time since I heard your voice, man, I never get to see you at the shareholders’.”
Okay, that might be Eduardo’s fault. He might remain a stiff composure for most of those meetings, and then high-tail it out of there as soon as they’re done, only making eye contact with strangers.
So he’s not exactly the best other—parent—thing. Whatever. It’s a terrible analogy, because it’s not like he and Mark were ever married, anyway, and even if they were, Facebook would be their child, not Dustin.
“Yeah, sorry about that, I never have enough time to stick around,” Eduardo says quickly. “Hey, do you could figure out the location of this email address for me?”
“Sure,” Dustin says easily. “What, is this some sort of secret CIA mission? Are we breaking the law here?”
“No,” Eduardo replies firmly. And even if they were, it’s not like Mark’s never broken any laws before, so he probably deserves it.
He gives Dustin the email address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org. He hears a pause on the other end.
“Wardo,” Dustin says. “This is—That’s Mark’s email address.”
“I need you to double check,” Eduardo says, because he refuses to believe it until a nerd confirms it for him. He refuses.
“I mean, I’ve seen Mark’s email address,” says Dustin. “He just—Dude, he just sent me an email telling me to get back to work when I’m—”
“Please,” Eduardo adds.
Dustin sighs, but he says, “Okay.” He does some clicking, and typing, and Eduardo is trusting that he’s doing what he asked of him on the other end. Finally, Dustin says, “Yep, the IP’s from Palo Alto, California. USA. Facebook offices,” he adds, as if to make a point.
Eduardo breathes shallowly. “Okay. Thanks.”
“Why?” Dustin sounds concerned. Eduardo doesn’t know if he should tell him.
“No reason,” he answers, because no one is going to win if he tells Dustin that Mark has decided to comment on his ass.
The second email comes next week.
Are you a Latin case? Because I sure find you vocative.
Eduardo calls Mark.
“Mark,” he says, without even pausing for greeting, or maybe even letting Mark slide in the first word, because that’s what he does and wants to do probably and Eduardo is not letting him having it. “What the hell does this even mean?”
“If I recall correctly,” says Mark, after a brief moment of silence, which would’ve gone probably undetected by anyone else other than Eduardo because he can still read Mark this well over the phone, goddammit, “there are pronouns in the English language, among them this, which is generally used for objects and events, and in rarer cases—”
“No,” Eduardo interrupts. “I meant. The email.”
“What about the email?” Mark asks, with just that same moment of breadth. He had not expected Eduardo to call, so he is generating his answers as fast as possible so he can keep up whatever aloof facade this is. For whatever reason. Eduardo’s pretty sure that after calling someone vocative, though, there’s really no reason to having a facade.
“The implications?” Mark asks. “The meaning? The vocabulary? There are eleven words in it, by the way, so if it’s any one of those, you’re going to have to specify.”
“The—” Eduardo splutters. “The everything! Did you expect me to—Latin—and you talked about my ass—”
“You’re not making any sense,” says Mark.
Eduardo places a hand over his eyes. He laughs disbelievingly.
Mark continues, “I’m not sure what Latin has anything to do about your ass, but if you want me to make a connection—”
“Please don’t.” Eduardo is sure to make his tone as sharp and cutting as possible.
He hangs up without letting Mark get another word in.
Are you made of copper and tellurium? Because you sure are CuTe.
Eduardo calls Mark again.
“Mark,” he says, exasperated, because this time this had come through a text, not an email. Eduardo is going to have a talk with Dustin later.
“Wardo,” says Mark. At least this time he sounds like he’d expected it.
Eduardo sighs. “What did I say last time?” His hand is over his eyes again. It’s starting to go into his hair. He’s reaching hair pulling territory and not in a good way. In a terrible way. Everything is terrible.
“You said not to make any comments relating Latin and your ass,” Mark replies.
Eduardo lets out an anguished noise and sinks back in his office chair.
“Shouldn’t you be working on Facebook?” he spits out, because he’s contacted Mark three times in three weeks, when, three weeks ago, he didn’t think he would have to contact him personally, ever again. He only kept Mark’s number on his phone so he’d know if Mark ever tried to call him again, he wouldn’t pick up. Now he’s the one who’d called Mark first.
Mark had picked up, but Eduardo’s not really sure if Mark had kept his number, too.
Mark says, “I am working on Facebook,” and then, “It only takes five seconds to send out an email, you know.” Maybe he’s smiling.
Eduardo’s always liked Mark’s smiles.
“How long does it take you to come up with the lines, then?” he can’t help himself from asking.
On the other end, he pictures Mark shrugging. “A few hours. Sometimes I steal them from the internet.”
“Where’s the merit in that?” says Eduardo. “Wouldn’t you prefer to make something only you could take credit for?”
There’s a pause. Eduardo almost regrets it.
But then Mark says, “Coming up with pickup lines isn’t really my area of expertise, Wardo.”
Then, before Eduardo can respond, Mark adds, “Is this the part where you hang up now?”
Eduardo hangs up.
You’ve stolen the ASCII to my heart comes the next week and Eduardo refuses to call Mark again.
Then there’s Are your pants a compressed file? Because I’d love to unzip them and Eduardo neither calls Mark nor thinks of Mark unzipping his pants, thank you very much.
But then there’s, You don’t need to be a hacker to enter in me, and, really, okay, Eduardo can’t just ignore that one.
“This one is like,” Eduardo says, his eyes on his computer screen and his hand clutched in his phone. Today he’s sitting at his dining table, hovering over his breakfast. A little belatedly he wonders why one of the last times he’d called Mark he’d asked if he should be working on Facebook, until he remembers that Mark probably hasn’t changed much since college, still stays up at horrendous hours staring at his laptop screen. He also realizes that he’s been calling Mark during the day on his own time, which means it’s been during those horrendous hours in Palo Alto.
He seethes between his teeth before finishing, “This one is like, vulgar.”
He doesn’t hear a shift on the other end, but he knows Mark shrugs.
“It’s not even a pickup line! It’s—” Eduardo doesn’t know how to describe it. A proposal?
“I felt like you needed more straightforward hints,” says Mark. He sounds amused. “After that vocative one, and except for the ASCII one, because I’d come up with that one on my own—”
“Of course you did.” Eduardo rolls his eyes and picks at his porridge. “You could’ve come up with a better one, like, Are you an algorithm? Because I need you more than I need Eduardo Saverin.”
It’s terrible and he comes up with it on the spot and nearly swallows his spoon. It is quiet on the other end of the line and Eduardo just kind of stares in horror at his porridge.
“That was embarrassing,” says Mark. “For both of us.”
“Also because it rhymed.”
Eduardo hangs up.
He sends a text of, Go to sleep, idiot, anyway.
Please check your email, sends Chris, the same time his email application dings.
Eduardo reads the email, and glares.
I came up with that one. Eduardo can hear the pleased tone in the text. He grits his teeth and presses the motherfucking nine in his speed dial that has made its home there, because one and two are his parents, three through six are good friends and coworkers, and he’d rather feel like he’s demoted Mark to the lowest number on his speed dial even though Mark is the third most commonly called number (after his parents) as of recent.
And okay, maybe a little part of him is feeling this weird thrill of adrenaline when he talks to Mark, but no one asks so no one knows.
“Chris came up with that one,” Mark says as soon as he picks up.
“I heard,” says Eduardo. “I didn’t know you told him.”
“I didn’t think he would enjoy this as much as he does when I did,” Mark admits. “He says he’d been saving that one for a while.”
“And then he told you to use it on me,” Eduardo finishes.
“Well,” says Mark, and it’s really annoying how Eduardo can practically see everything Mark is doing, even though he doesn’t know what Mark looks like now, like maybe he’d gotten wrinkly and hairy and fat over the span of four years. But Mark would still purse his lips and his eyebrows would still twitch, all so vivid that he might as well be sitting in front of Eduardo right now.
“Well he suggested it and I implemented it,” Mark says.
Eduardo snorts. “I’m glad he saved it. He never would’ve gotten a husband if he ever used it.”
“Yeah,” says Mark.
Silence falls between them. Eduardo doesn’t know if Mark is waiting for him to hang up, but there seems to be something that Mark is waiting to say himself. And Eduardo is curious by nature, so he waits.
“Chris told me,” Mark says, “that I should probably apologize before I try to woo you.”
Mark is silent.
After a few minutes, Eduardo exhales. He’s staring at the ceiling of his office and it’s a long day, because of this phone call. He doesn’t know why he’s doing this, or why he called Mark in the first place. Why he’s responding to Mark at all. It’s been letting him win from the very beginning and Eduardo doesn’t want to play this game anymore. At all.
“Bye, Mark,” he says, and hangs up.
From: Eduardo Saverin <email@example.com>
To: Chris Hughes <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Okay, that was pretty good.
<Begin Forwarded Message>
From: Mark Zuckerberg <email@example.com>
To: Eduardo Saverin <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Were you a good student? Because you look like you cum laude.
Despite everything, another week passes and a new email from email@example.com is sitting in his inbox.
Eduardo knows he should redirect all these messages to his spam folder. He really, really should. He thinks about it, right clicks, and hovers his mouse over the option.
Then he opens the email.
What does it mean if you’re seeing six of someone? Because I swear you look like sex.
Eduardo has—Okay. So maybe in college he had these niggling thoughts about Mark, you know, like maybe one day he’ll lift his head up and finally notice it and then he and Eduardo can pursue their economics-weather and programming-classics-fencing passions together and raise two point five kids, or something. The kids had only come in because of this one time when one of their older classmates had been walking around on campus with a kid, who was staring at Mark’s Twizzler intently. And instead of ignoring her like Eduardo thought he would, Mark had noticed and offered one out to her and grinned when she chomped on it happily.
That was not the moment Eduardo had fallen in love with him, but if he hadn’t earlier it definitely would’ve been.
But that was all along time ago. Eduardo does not know how to deal with Mark suddenly sending him emails, saying that he looks like sex.
He really wants to know if Mark came up with this one on his own. He really does. Eduardo clenches his jaw and exits out of the email and goes along with his day, trying not to think about it. He talks to app execs and investors and eats lunch and goes home and waters his plants and watches a movie. He eats dinner.
Then he takes out his phone.
Mark is mid-yawn when he says, “Wardo,” into the phone and Eduardo immediately feels bad. Had he just woken Mark up? Mark needs to sleep.
“Is this a bad time?” Eduardo says hurriedly. “I can call later—”
“It’s fine, I was about to go to bed,” says Mark. “You’ll probably bore me to sleep, anyway.”
Eduardo doesn’t know if he should be offended by that or not. He does the math and exclaims, “It’s eight in the morning for you!”
“Yeah,” says Mark, like it’s no big deal. “What’s up?”
“Your—The—” Eduardo splutters. It all feels trivial now, now that he’s hindering Mark from sleeping.
“The what?” Mark asks. “Oh, the email?”
“What else would I be talking about?”
“I don’t know. The weather.” Mark chuckles like he’d told a particularly good joke. It was not a good joke.
Eduardo smiles against the speaker despite himself.
“Did you come up with that on your own?” he demands, because Mark is supposed to be insufferable and not anything else.
“Mm,” Mark answers in what sounds to be an affirmation. “Yeah. I think so. Maybe.” He yawns again. “What was it again?”
Eduardo splutters some more. He is imagining Mark tired and sprawled on his back on some mattress, eyelids sinking and heavy with exhaustion. It makes Eduardo’s chest twinge, and he blinks for a second.
“Never mind,” he says. “Go to sleep, Mark.”
He doesn’t hang up fast enough, so he hears a murmured, “'Kay,” on the other end before the line cuts out.
Eduardo puts up with You must be wi-fi because I feel a connection and You’re always welcome to enter my database before he conference calls Dustin and Chris.
They are both laughing when they pick up.
“What,” Eduardo says, “what?”
“I knew this would happen!” Chris is crowing. “You owe me fifty bucks, Dustin!”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll just take that out of my billion dollars, hold on.” Dustin chuckles and Eduardo can’t help but crack a grin too. They sound happy, and not just because Chris had just won fifty bucks. Because Eduardo is calling them, maybe.
He shafts that away for later and says, “Yeah, yeah, you’re not the only billionaire in the conversation, Dustin.” And before Chris can ask him for fifty bucks too, he says, “Can you guys tell me what’s going on with Mark? He’s been churning these out by the week.”
“I’m pretty sure it’s daily, dude,” says Dustin. “He’s just being nice and not sending them to you every twenty-four hours. Probably figured once a week is less annoying.”
“It’s—” Well, it’s annoying, but not really in a way where Eduardo would be too peeved every day. At least, he wouldn’t think about suing Mark again even if he was being more persistent.
“I’m pretty sure it’s obvious what he’s doing, Eduardo,” says Chris. “Innuendoes don’t go over your head, do they?”
“Of course not.”
“Good. Just checking.”
“Is this what girls feel like?” Eduardo wonders, staring at the ceiling of his bedroom. He’s been up all night doing work, and figured he should probably be more considerate to Dustin and Chris if he was going to call them, like the last couple of times.
Dustin snorts and Chris says, “Well, maybe not the girls Mark’s ever tried to flirt with. You’d probably feel more like a chair.”
“Yeah,” Eduardo says thoughtfully. “I don’t think a lot of guys do Latin and programming pickup lines, either.”
“Dude,” says Dustin. “There was this one—oh shit, you wouldn’t get it—well anyway, no wonder it isn’t working, he probably doesn’t have good ones anyway.”
“There was the one I suggested,” Chris puts in. “It was good.”
“It was terrible,” says Eduardo.
“It was great.”
“What was it?” Dustin asks.
Eduardo tells him.
Dustin says, scandalized, “Christopher,” while Chris laughs at his own damn joke, and, okay, so the nerds Eduardo knows are pretty great, too. He puts them as seven and eight in his speed dial when the conversation is over.
Mark sends, You turn my software into hardware, on a rainy Wednesday evening, after Eduardo has stepped out of the shower and absentmindedly checking his texts.
He stops and laughs. He presses the nine on his phone.
“Okay, I’ve definitely heard that one before,” he says as a greeting. “You’re not coming up with anything original anymore, Mark.”
“It’s a classic,” Mark says defensively.
Eduardo wants to say something, like maybe classic doesn’t always mean good or I’d rather hear something you came up with when Mark keeps talking.
“Wardo,” he says. “I’m—sorry.”
It sounds stilted, like he’s forcing it out. Eduardo’s breath catches anyway. His fingers cling to the towel around his waist, and he stands in the middle of the hallway, half-naked and dripping onto the hardwood floor, phone pressed against his damp ear.
“I have had,” Mark takes a deep breath. “Realizations. Recently. And, uh. This hasn’t really been appropriate without me. Saying this. So. Yes. Sorry.”
It’s all so awkward and Mark and Eduardo finds a smile pushing into his cheeks, fondly. Maybe it hadn’t been appropriate—every nerve in Eduardo had been telling him so—but having Mark as regular part of his life again, maybe glancing at his phone or waiting for the sound of his email notifications lately, has made him sort of hope that they would come here. That this would become—maybe not normal, but. Definitely something.
“Wardo?” Mark asks hesitantly, after a full minute where Eduardo doesn’t know what to say.
Eduardo finds that he wants to cry, and he does a little. But he laughs, too.
“I’m only in my software right now,” he says, and the little choke on the other end is totally worth it.
He hangs up after an airy goodbye. Then he books a flight to California.
Are you the Golden Gate Bridge? Because I can see you from here.
Mark is the one who calls him first this time.
“Palo Alto is nowhere near the Golden Gate Bridge,” is the first thing he says. “Where are you right now?”
Eduardo laughs, giddy. His suitcase is at the foot of the bed and he’s changed out of his sweater and jeans, into his usual suit. He buttons up his jacket and says, “Sorry, I don’t know any other Californian landmarks.”
“You’re a disgrace,” Mark says.
“I heard you developed a fondness for pick-up lines,” says Eduardo. “You should try them out at a club tonight.” He names one as a suggestion.
A few hours later, he’s leaning against a bar counter, elbows propped up against the sticky wood, sipping patiently from a beer bottle. He’s pretty sure he’s seen a few eyes flicker his way, strangers trying to chat him up. But Eduardo’s waiting for someone else.
Then, a foot scuffs against his and the person half-hidden by the shadows is saying, “Hey, do you want to go back to MySpace and Twitter each other’s Yahoos, before I Google all over your Facebook?”
Eduardo is full on laughing by the middle of it, coughing into his sleeve and spraying some weird mix of beer and spit all over his sleeve. Mark is pink-faced and beaming, and he is neither wrinkly nor hairy nor fat, but Eduardo finds that he probably wouldn’t mind even if he was.
Eduardo says, trying to catch his breath again, “That was horrible.”
“I felt like it was direct enough,” says Mark. He’s biting his lip like he’s trying to stop himself from grinning too hard. It’s not working. His cheeks must hurt, and Eduardo wants to kiss his dimples.
“What, like you haven’t been direct enough before?” Eduardo takes another sip of his beer to calm himself. “God.”
“I’ll have you know that I decided to descend to that level of embarrassment,” says Mark. “For you to understand.”
“I don’t think anyone would understand,” says Eduardo.
“Do you want me to say something less intelligent?” says Mark. “Like, did it hurt when you fell from heaven?”
Eduardo snorts into his drink again, because he’s an angel investor now, and his own words from all those years ago are coming back to him. Mark is smirking like he knows, and Eduardo kind of wants to make fun of him for using a pickup line that is not really his color.
Instead, Eduardo says, “I was thinking something more like, let’s play house, you can be the door and I can bang you all night.”
Mark’s face goes red under the dim lighting, but he takes a step forward. His hair is as unruly as ever, and Eduardo wants to tangle his fingers through it and spring the curls against Mark’s face. Maybe make a bunch of awful mop-related puns.
“Nice legs,” says Mark, in Eduardo’s breath. “When do they open?”
Eduardo rolls his eyes, and Mark does too, and then they’re kissing. Mark tastes like szechuan sauce and Red Bull and definitely didn’t get enough sleep last night, Eduardo thinks hazily, as he slips his tongue into Mark’s mouth. Mark is making tiny sounds into him, and he’s laughing and gasping all at once. Eduardo doesn’t know if it’s because of their stupid pickup lines to each other or because he can’t believe that this is happening either, but Eduardo isn’t complaining. He pulls Mark flush against him, hand on his waist, until they’re thigh to thigh, in the middle of this club with terrible lighting.
Mark breaks apart and says, “This is the worst place to be doing this.”
“Yeah,” Eduardo says, panting a little. “It really is.”
Mark bites his bottom lip.
“So,” he says. “Do you want to play house at mine?”
Eduardo chuckles, wraps his hand around Mark’s wrist. He tangles them downward so his fingers meet with Mark’s, spindly and warm and familiar.
“If you’re lucky,” he says, “my legs will open tonight.”
They are both laughing as they race for the door.
“Oh, oh, I got one!” exclaims Dustin, spinning around on his desk.
Mark looks up at him from his Compose New Message window. “What is it?"
“Roses are #ff0000,” Dustin begins, “violets are #0000ff, all my base are belong to you.”
Mark stares at him.
“First of all, I don’t do poems. Second of all, poems are supposed to rhyme.”
“No they’re not!” Dustin says defensively, because he’s developed an obsession with slam poetry this week and it is annoying.
“Third of all,” Mark says, “how many times do I have to say it? No. Memes. Allowed in the office.”
“You’re worse than a dirty 4channer,” Dustin accuses, pointing a finger at him.
Mark ignores him and exits out of his email application. He opens up a file on the server. At the same time, Dustin is scrolling through his Facebook newsfeed, pretending to still be offended.
“Did you just change my profile picture to lions having sex?”]]