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Beer goggles. They show you what you want to see, and when they feel spiteful, or at least a little disobedient, they show you more.

It's supposed to be liquid courage; that's what it's often called. But instead it makes Mark a little more afraid, makes Mark hate himself, just a little more. It's the honesty part that comes out true, as all greater ironic forces would have it. He fears what he's done, what he can do, and what he would, should, won't.

Maybe it's what he can't do, anymore, that bites the most.

His more rational self would say it's ridiculous. He's being ridiculous. But his more rational self can't scare him now; his more rational self is bound and blindfolded, quiet, sound, and weirdly at peace.

Mark is never at peace, let alone with himself.

While his more rational self is asleep, Mark picks up his phone. Of course it's useless; Eduardo changed his number years ago. But maybe, maybe. Maybe when he can't say a thing will Mark learn to speak.

-

For all he cares, Mark is mumbling into the voicemail of a dead man. Nothing gives him reason to think any different. And maybe if he can, if he closes his eyes and lets go, he can hear himself, rustling alongside Eduardo, recording the message.

Both a little younger, both a little less alone.

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Don’t slow down. It’s a rule Mark is determined to live by; when you slow down, you mess up - even worse, you don’t mess up at all. But if you move fast, and break things, you have just as much of a chance to fix them.

In most situations.

He’s seen it in Eduardo, the aftermath of slowing down. It leaves Mark unhappy, and while he wishes he could say it’s the sight of his friend under such duress that makes him feel this way, as would be the case for any good friend, it turns out Mark is not the greatest friend.

Instead of that very human empathy, the “your pain is my pain”, he gets a near-unbearable irritation for several reasons.

One, because Eduardo brought this on himself, through the way he feels, absorbs responsibility, and lets his own childishness shine through when he can’t deal with things anymore.

Two, because this affects everyone around him, and hinders their ability to manage anything involving Eduardo without kid gloves.

Three, because as general productivity and adult conversation lessens, Mark grows frustrated; his frustration stems from both his own inability and inactivity - Eduardo would probably react strongly to an offer from Mark, be it positively (accepting his help) or negatively (pushing Mark back, so far away - saying there’s “nothing he can do”).

Either way, Mark’s own failure to react in time to Eduardo’s needs is usually the end of these things.

The thing about Mark’s rule, “don’t slow down,” is that you don’t slow down. He can’t. Not for himself, not for Eduardo.

Especially not for Eduardo.

But it works out; Mark takes off ahead, always at a run, and when he looks back - the few times he does, the few he allows himself - Eduardo is there. And Mark would be lying if he claimed after the first time, he began to expect the pleasant surprises.

He never turned around. But it was alright, as long as he didn’t stop, and Eduardo kept following; and Mark stopped looking back - each glance made him more nervous, and while that shadow of himself, of Eduardo, trailing in his footsteps, gave him a greater sense of security than it ever should have, facing forward did not delay the problem, only the reaction.

But it works out, and it worked out; it worked out until Mark turned back and Eduardo wasn’t there.

It worked out, until it didn’t anymore.

And from there, Mark drove it into the ground.

From there, Eduardo stopped trying to keep up, because he just couldn’t, anymore.

-

Move fast. Break things. And sometimes, stop to fix them - if you can.

But only when there’s really no other way. Or else you’re just caring too much.

Is he caring too much?

-

But if he slows down, and can’t keep up--

Well, there’s just no point, anymore.

Chapter Text

Do feelings die?

Eduardo is learning the answer - or answers, especially ones that contradict.

The key, theoretically, to killing a feeling, is distance.
Creating a distance severs that bond, that attachment--

That vein of unbidden emotion that Eduardo can live without.

Feelings are hot, and warm, and burn as long as you let them, but they do not die. They are not rekindled. There is a science.

In people, and emotion - it’s all within the brain, part of a science, some great plan.

Eduardo is a scientist, but one with finities, finalities;
Eduardo is a scientist, but one without closure.

And he knows his own feelings, until they change--

Gradually, and then suddenly.

-

He understands it a little more when he sees Mark again, for the first time.

In fact he understands it so well, he loses some understanding of himself.

He’s drawn, and itches to gravitate, if only out of habit. Maybe he should be ashamed - a year, a life built on being Mark’s satellite.

Eduardo begins to hate - not Mark, no; Eduardo begins to hate how he can’t hate him, ever, ever.

-

Mark leans into him, and Eduardo’s grasping at straws.

You don’t hate me.
No, he chokes. But I tried.

Mark is silent then, tenses, then shakes it away.

At least you did that, he concedes, after a long while.

-

Eduardo looks on, like maybe this isn’t real, none of it, if only out of habit.

(During the deposition
glass walls
valley larger than his life could afford
hoodie strings Beck’s beer
losing breath to the wind)

Mark has to remind him, quietly, wordlessly:
I saw you, thinking, waiting, thinking. I heard you.

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Eduardo dreams in daylight. These dreams are not clear of shade and shadow; sometimes he sees an absolute nothing, it’s so dark - but he can feel the presence of a floating warmth, long as it lasts, long as he remembers.

Sometimes he thinks of Mark. He is not dreaming of him, per se - rather he is invaded, hacked into - in his head, his mind.

Again, he’s lost control. If he had it at all.

He doesn’t know exactly when “you never asked” became invalid.

-

Mark hears the rain come before he sees it. First timid patters against the glass, begging permission; he completely misses their transformation into savage, haphazard bullet rounds, scattering amidst the closing sky, frustrated by Mark’s lack of response.

He bears through, keys clacking at the same sinister rhythm.

Not now, he tells the rain. I’m wired in.

-

There were plenty of occasions in which Eduardo had asked for Mark’s clarification on things:

(Wardo, I need you.
Wardo, we did it.
Wardo, you’ll get left behind.)

The last answer was one he waited for, but rejected both inside and out.

Even after, even now, he is small.

-

(Don’t tell him I said that.)

It was a small thing - the words, his voice - and Mark could feel himself collapsing beneath it, going quietly, horribly unnoticed.

Who was left to notice now, really?

And even then, Mark felt him - dragging them down, holding a high bar, dangling a prize in front of their noses.

But he wouldn’t shut him out, and even then, he asked of his Chief Financial Officer:

Don’t tell him I need you here with me.

-

Eduardo defined a broken heart as this: loving someone you can’t trust, anymore.

Mark describes the wound inside like so: empty, and unimpressive, and numb until he feels it sigh.

They can’t promise things will be the same, but broken pieces yearn - and love - to come together.

They’re mending, and building, something incredible, something brilliant.

Chapter Text

Mark is not a robot. Dustin knows this. Eduardo knows this. Most obviously, Mark knows this, but he lets people believe he is one.

Mark can feel, just like anyone else.
He just doesn’t know what to do with that, most of the time.

So he feels. He’s laughed, he’s cried. He’s burned another, and burned himself. Best of all, he’s wanted.

He has wanted things, and he’s a little wanted, maybe.

-

Eduardo has wanted. He has ached, he has hurt, and he has known the loss that comes with wanting something so desperately.

Eduardo knows what wanting feels like.
It’s only working for what he wants that is so unfamiliar he could die.

So he wants, and waits, silent. He knows things won't just come, if he waits for movement, but he hopes.

He feels like anything he’s worked for, he never wanted, maybe.

-

They learn a little, in their time apart.

Mark gives names to his thoughts, and thoughts to his voice, again.
Eduardo chooses to want, and to work, and to fight for himself, again.

And they hope with all they have that they’re changed -
Not too much, not too little, but enough - enough to fight.