As soon as they’re settled in Palo Alto, Eduardo calls him to say that he quit his internship. He also says that he’s staying in New York. Mark tries to parse that, tries to understand why Eduardo wouldn’t want to come back to California now that he has nothing holding him back. Tries to understand why he changed his mind.
In the end he wires in and hopes the answer will come to him in his post-coding haze, when the world seems like it might exist in true and false after all. Instead, all he sees are emotions tripping around and through each other, messy and irrational and raw, and he tugs his gloves on that much tighter.
Letting Sean Parker in is an easy decision. Mark and the company feel aimless and confined, and he’s working on building this site that stretches out further and further in Mark’s head like a star map, but he can’t navigate it alone.
The worst thing – even after everything that happens later – is that when Sean shows up on his doorstep, a small part of him feels vindictive and delighted at the prospect. Eduardo should be here, but if he’s going to choose New York instead, then he can deal with the consequences.
Mark wires in the day before Eduardo’s visit with no intention of surfacing until it’s time to pick him up from the airport. It’s disorienting to wake up to a dark house, muffled rain against the roof. Everything feels sealed inside and close, cut off from the outside world, and yet there’s Eduardo, standing in the entryway like the eye of the storm.
“Eduardo!” Sean is saying, phone clutched against one ear while he shuts the door. “Nice of you finally drop by, buddy.”
Eduardo lowers his shoulder bag with a thump; Mark steps out of the hallway.
“Mark? You were supposed to pick me up from the airport an hour ago.”
Reality breaks. Mark frowns.
A number of explanations flit their way through Mark’s mind when he followed Eduardo into the hallway, but everything melts away to anger at the expression on Mark’s face, the distance between them.
“What is he doing here?” Eduardo starts, voice clipped.
“Listen, I —”
“Mark, please, just answer the question. What is Sean Parker doing here?”
Defensiveness builds up in him like a fire, comes out louder than he expected, angrier. “I don’t know, Eduardo, making contacts, setting up meetings – ”
“And you didn’t think to tell me? I’ve been out there looking for advertisers -”
“You weren’t here!"
Eduardo shuts his mouth with a snap, breathing heavily into the silence of the hallway. His wet hair and clothes are dripping onto the carpeting, eyes wide with anger and Mark just wants to backtrack, go back to ten minutes ago, start again. He can’t, and when he asks himself if Eduardo would deserve a second chance, the answer is clear.
“What am I supposed to do, Mark?,” Eduardo says plaintively and hard-edged. My father has given me until the end of the summer to prove this thing to him and you won’t even answer my calls. I’m not, I’m nobody to this company until it starts making money.”
“You’re not nobody, Wardo, that’s ridiculous. You just can’t –”
“- Be a part of it? Yeah. You’ve made that abundantly clear, Mark.”
“I can’t, because I’m a worker. Right?”
“You knew that when we started. We made an agreement, Wardo, you wanted to prove your honesty!”
“Oh, okay, sure. But it’s not stopping you from putting your name all over it, is it?”
“Is it, Mark?”
“I don’t understand.” Mark’s pressed himself against the far wall, hands twitching at his sides.
“Oh really? Then take off your gloves.”
Mark swallows around his suddenly sandpaper-rough throat. “No.”
Eduardo shakes his head once, jaw tight, and moves into Mark’s space, caging him in with his forearms. Mark wants him to stop, wants him to continue; he wants to pull Eduardo in and make him forget about this, wants him to keep pushing, want him to know. Finally. Someone to know, someone else, someone –
“Take. Them off.”
Mark catalogues all the places Eduardo’s skin is bare: his face, his neck, his wrists just above the cuff of his gloves where his cuff linked shirt and jacket have ridden up. Just two small points of contact. Mark catalogues them, and stays away from them.
He pulls his gloves off slowly and lets them fall to the floor.
Eduardo’s eyes are wide, like maybe he’d been calling Mark’s bluff, like maybe he hadn’t known for sure. It’s all right though, it’s okay. This would happen eventually, Mark tells himself as Eduardo moves away; this was inevitable. One day – this day – Wardo would know.
“What is it?” Eduardo says eventually, the air in the hallway still and the walls silent, like they’re trapped in a time capsule, like one day they will be excavated from this moment and it will all be a horrible memory. “What’s your curse?”
“Emotion,” Mark confesses.
Eduardo lets out an aborted sound, half disbelief, half laughter. Mark slides his eyes closed.
“This whole time,” Eduardo says, voice dangerous in a way Mark has never heard it before, “you have been telling me that I will ruin this company’s credibility. This whole time, and here you are, Mark, and you’re a worker too --”
“It’s not the same! Nobody,” he swallows, “nobody knows, just my family, just you, Wardo.”
For a moment, a long moment, Mark can feel a sourness curling through the air between them, Eduardo’s eyes glinting and the rainwater dripping onto the carpet. I didn’t, Mark wants to say, but for a horrible minute, just this side of too-long, Mark isn’t sure if he’d be telling the truth. I never worked you, Eduardo.
Whatever is on his face must be convincing enough, because while Eduardo’s shoulders slump forward, he doesn’t turn away. He scrubs at his eyes with a gloved thumb and forefinger, pinches the ridge of his nose briefly and sighs.
“You could have told me. You should have told me, Mark, I –” He cuts himself off with a pained sound deep in his throat. Mark’s hands twitch at his sides, thinking he should comfort him, but he can’t. Not now, not when he can’t understand this, when he doesn’t know his place.
“I’m going to bed,” Eduardo announces. He looks at Mark with his jaw set like he’s expecting a challenge, and Mark doesn’t know how to make him understand that this hasn’t changed, that nothing has to change.
So he doesn’t say anything. He leans past Eduardo and shoves at the open door to his bedroom so that it swings sluggishly another few inches, gesturing vaguely. Eduardo glances over his shoulder, chews a lip briefly. When he bends to pick up his sodden bags he grabs Mark’s gloves from where they had fallen to the floor and presses them lightly into Mark’s chest.
Mark takes them, hand brushing against the wet leather of Eduardo’s glove, and goes back out into the living room to help Dustin with the Wall. When Dustin heads off to find an empty mattress some hours later, Mark tumbles onto the couch, about which Dustin, mercifully, says nothing.
A sound in the kitchen wakes Mark up far earlier then he’d like. He lies on the couch for a long moment, thinking he should go in to his bedroom, wake Eduardo up and start over. He hauls himself up, and that’s when he notices the sound he’d heard - Eduardo is standing in the kitchen holding a glass of orange juice. He’s fully dressed, suitcase at his feet.
Mark would be lying if he said he was surprised.
“I just – need a few days,” Eduardo says before Mark can open his mouth.
“Yeah. Yeah, okay. Do you – need a ride?”
“I called a cab.”
“Right, sure, of course. Wardo, I –” he cuts himself off.
Mark shakes his head. The taxi can’t be here yet, Eduardo had only just started looking for breakfast, but he grabs his bag anyway and hauls it over his shoulder. “I’ll call you in a few days, okay?”
When Eduardo leaves, Mark has nothing to do but wander back over to the couch. He presses fists against his thighs and tries to think of nothing.
Dustin trudges into the room with his laptop tucked under his arm. He looks around, eyes squinted nearly shut like he’s trying to see underwater. “Where’s Wardo?”
Mark doesn’t say anything. His gloves are brand new and the leather squeaks when he stretches his fingers out of their curl, Dustin stumbles over to the couch to sit beside him, and nobody, not even Sean, says a single word all morning.
“And what became of your visit to Palo Alto, Mr. Saverin?”
Eduardo’s chair has turned, some of his straight posture slumped against the back. It’s like he can’t look at Mark at all anymore and he has to look at his lawyer instead, answering questions that sound rehearsed. “Mark called me later that day. I had just returned to my apartment at the time in New York when Mark called to say they – that he and Sean Parker - had landed an angel investment. Peter Theil was giving them half a million dollars, brand new servers, new offices.”
“What did Mr. Zuckerberg say over the phone?”
“He asked me to come back. So I did.”
Eduardo calls the new offices when his flight has lands, which one of the new interns tells Mark in tones of confusion, and then Mark is called off to sign more papers. Wardo is sitting at his desk when he returns, listening to whatever Chris is telling him, wearing a suit and gloves it’s so dangerously good to see him. Mark feels bright, wide, forgetful. “Wardo.”
“Hey!” Eduardo says, spinning himself out of the chair and coming to a stop in front of Mark, smiling warmly. “Look at this place. God, can you believe it?”
“Yes,” Mark says, and Eduardo’s grin widens. “Want a tour?”
They barely make it out of the main floor and onto a deserted hallway before Eduardo gets his hands on him, warm and close like he used to always be. Mark lets his back hit the wall and he stretches into the kiss, feeling drunk with success, stupid with it. He missed this, he missed him, and when Mark tells him this Eduardo lights up from the inside.
“Mark, I –” he begins, slotting a knee between Mark’s legs and Mark tucks his face into Eduardo's shoulder, nods. If he doesn’t think, if he doesn’t speak then maybe, maybe, they can – just this once –
Eduardo rocks further into him and Mark has to hold back a moan, lets Eduardo find his mouth again and keep him quiet. Mark sets his grip onto Eduardo’s hips and wishes he could have more. He pretends he doesn’t know that he can’t, pretends he’s not thinking about how he’ll never be able to walk down this hallway again, and focuses the curl of Eduardo’s tongue against his teeth. It will have to be enough.
If Mark ever said that he was unaware of what the repercussions would be, he’d be straight up lying. He knew which papers Eduardo was signing, he knew it had to be done and he knew why. The only thing he is ever sorry for is being naïve enough to believe that it could work out in the first place, a curse worker in one of the highest positions in the company. The hypocrisy is not lost on him.
When the laptop hits the desk, Mark’s heart trips into overtime. He breathes in, whatever Eduardo says muffled by the shock, and then focuses.
“You did this,” Eduardo hisses, seemingly shocked by his own words. They hit Mark like a slap in the face. Eduardo’s expression seems to crumple in on itself for a moment, just long enough that Mark has to look away. “You cursed me, didn’t you, you made me –”
“Do you really think that’s true?” bursts out of Mark like a shot, hard edged and flat. He sets his jaw and looks Eduardo in the eye, daring him to even consider finishing that sentence.
“’Cursed?’ Mark, what the hell is he talking about?” Sean demands, but Mark has little concern for him right now as he sits up, pushing back into Eduardo’s space like a challenge.
“You weren’t even here, Wardo. If I had worked you we wouldn’t be in this situation, you wouldn’t have been able to help being here, even if you tried to stay away. Don’t blame your bad decisions on me, you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Eduardo searches Mark’s face like he’s looking for lies, expression cold. Mark’s instincts tell him to reach out and make this better, but his control is hard-won.
“You’re right,” Wardo says, straightening, “You couldn’t possibly have worked me.”
Mark has no idea what to do with the steel of Eduardo’s voice as he says it or the red rim of his eyes; one doesn’t equal another. He feels helpless against the complexity of human emotion, and says nothing.
“You better lawyer up, asshole, ‘cause I’m not coming back for 30 percent.” Eduardo straightens his gloves pointedly. “I’m coming back for everything.”
Mark doesn’t know where Eduardo goes once they sign the settlement papers. He watched impassively when Eduardo wrote his final signature on the non-disclosure agreement, but he can still recall the memory of Eduardo’s hand around the pen, his familiar tailored gloves, and in Mark’s head this signature and the one Eduardo had used to sign his shares away become one and the same.
He keeps his distance, and three months after Erica Albright sends him a Friend Request, Mark books a flight halfway across the earth.
Mark knows this is Eduardo’s apartment because Chris told him. For the first time since he left for the airport he wonders if he might have exploited Chris’ continued friendship with Eduardo, or if he has any right to be here at all. Well, of course he doesn’t have the right, but he’s here either way.
He knocks and waits and Eduardo flings the door open without, apparently, checking to see who is standing in his hallway. He has his cell phone tucked between his ear and shoulder, apparently listening to whoever is on the other end tell him their life story because he stands there in silence for longer than is necessary, mouth quirked to the side, looking at Mark and chewing on the inside of his cheek. Then he shuts the door.
Mark’s fingers drum the air beside his thigh. He can hear Eduardo through the door: Hey, I – yeah, sorry, I’ll have to call you back, someone’s here. Yeah, yeah. Okay, b–. Okay. Bye.
The door opens again and Eduardo turns, heading back into the apartment. Mark steps in and closes the door behind him, hesitating with his fingers over the doorknob, then locks it.
It’s nice. It’s not huge, but it’s nice, Mark supposes. Eduardo’s gone but catches sight of him a moment later, passing across the entrance to the kitchen.
“Are you hungry?” Eduardo asks when Mark steps in, looking in the cabinets for something.
Eduardo hums. “Let me guess, you just came in a taxi from the airport and you didn’t eat the plane food. I haven’t gone shopping, is cereal okay?”
Eduardo’s back stiffens. He turns around, leaning back against the counter while Mark gauges his reaction – he hadn’t meant to screw this up so quickly. “I’m trying not to ask the obvious question here, Mark.”
Mark shrugs. “I wanted to see you.”
Eduardo sighs, squaring his shoulders. He looks at the air above Mark’s head, then at the corner of the ceiling. “Why?” he asks, eyes finally venturing to Mark’s face. “Because of a couple of polite conversations in Silicon Valley?”
“Chris – ” Mark starts.
Mark swallows. Eduardo has his jaw set now, eyes wide in a familiar kind of self-righteous indignation that Mark remembers pretty well, scenes that play across his mind of Eduardo in the first Palo Alto house. Anger, though. Anger is good. Anger is not polite hospitality, anger is not dull-eyed resentment.
Mark says, not entirely defensively, “You’ve heard about the update.”
“Of course I have, I’m still a shareholder, Mark. I get the memos. Not to mention, you’d have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the recent update, as every news media outlet has been reporting it for days on end.” Eduardo hesitates, an instant of what might have been concern flashing across his face between one breath and the next. Mark’s not sure; he may have imagined it. He’s not exactly well-versed in Eduardo anymore.
“You’re not – in some kind of trouble, are you?” Eduardo is saying.
“They haven’t arrested me yet, if that’s what you’re thinking. I didn’t come all the way here to con you into hiding a fugitive.”
The change had only been up for a few hours when his phone had started logging missed calls from at least three members of Facebook’s board of directors, a text from Dustin, and an angry voicemail from Chris threatening to fly across the country just to grab Mark by the shoulders and shake some sense into him. Mark had turned off his phone, cancelled his day, and gone back to sleep.
Contrary to what most of the reports had said, Mark had not added the change on a whim. The amount of time he’d put into debating with himself had been astronomical compared to the amount of time it had actually taken to go into the planned profile update and code in a new option, right there alongside birthday and relationship status: curse work, complete with a drop-down menu listing none and then the seven types. It’s optional only, of course, and Mark is hardly surprised that very few of his vast userbase have utilized it.
Eduardo hasn’t, that he knows. Neither has Mark, although the speculation about him is certainly true. He is a worker, and before long, he’ll have to address the public.
He’s going to put it off for as long as possible, though. He didn’t do this for himself.
“Why did you come, then?”
To show you that I’m not afraid. But he says nothing for long enough that Eduardo should have every right to get angry, to force Mark out of his home.
But Eduardo just sighs and says, very gently, “Why don’t you come back when you’ve figured it out, then?”
Even Eduardo is better at manipulating emotions than Mark is.
Mark leaves. ‘Come back’, Eduardo had said, and Mark stares at the carpet out in the hallway, repeating it to himself. He hadn’t said leave, he hadn’t yelled or herded him out or told him to go home to California. Come back¸ Mark thinks, and smiles to himself as the elevator doors ping open.
Mark decides that Singapore is a nice place to lie low for a while. He calls Chris and apologizes, calls Sheryl to get updates. In the last two days, dozens of workers – most of them from established crime families – update the Curse section of their profiles. It the few outliers that give Mark hope, the small number of students and bankers and artists and parents that declare their curse as a part of themselves unashamedly. Mark isn’t the one who can say whether or not it’s a smart decision, but that’s the beauty of Facebook and what it has become: created by the user, owned by the user, a declaration of self. Mark may have provided the bullets, but he’s not the one who pulled the trigger.
And then, to his great surprise, he wakes up on the third day to his phone ringing, the one number he didn’t block, and Eduardo asks him to come back.
He’s there to buzz Mark in this time and Eduardo leads him to the couch in his socked feet, curling them underneath his body. Mark sits.
“Tell me why you’re here, Mark.” Eduardo says seriously. “Tell me, because I can recognize an apology when I see one, even if it comes in the form of radical movement instead of words.”
Mark lets one corner of his mouth lift into an amused smile. Eduardo settles back into the couch and returns it softly. His stupid hair is back and he looks older, like a more defined version of the Eduardo that used to be Mark’s.
This was supposed to be it. If Mark were to look down the long hallway of his life he would see an end point here, a door closing quietly and sealing everything inside. Eduardo, from the night of the party Mark’s freshman year to the first shocking memory of his skin under Mark’s bare hand; spanning the years they spent apart and ending here, right now in a quiet room with Eduardo’s quiet acceptance. But now he can see it stretching out further, not a certainty but a possibility. Mark shutters away this ending and wants for something new, an idea as vast and terrifying as a cloudless sky.
He slips off a glove. “Do you know what hinders most scientific discovery? Not the school system. Not money. Fear."
“Most workers have no idea what their abilities do or how they work, and those who regularly practice do so mostly as criminals or, conversely, as party tricks. You work luck, but is it deterministic? It can’t be, not when you’re the one in control.”
“Right,” Eduardo says tightly, and Mark doesn’t miss the way he shifts subtly away, wary as a colt of Mark’s now-bare hands. Mark lets them fall to his lap.
“You make luck. You see all possible outcomes, reach in and pluck out the one that you want. Did you know that there are luck workers in Australia who can work as conduits? They don’t impose their choice. They let the person being touched decide their own luck, good or bad.”
Eduardo gapes at him. “I’ve never heard of this, how…?”
“You’ve never heard of it because American propaganda has been fine-tuned to perfection. There is no legal funding to study curse work. If you want to learn, you have to leave. If you want information, you have to go to it.”
“Are you saying you’ve studied curse work?”
“I have,” Mark says. “And I want – Eduardo, I –” He lifts a hand, but Eduardo’s eyes stay locked on his. “Can I?”
There’s a long moment of doubt; if he says no, Mark will walk out of here and never bother him again. But his heart is kicking in his chest and he doesn’t look away, waits in the breadth of a moment for Eduardo’s nod. Slight, hesitant, but there. Mark reaches out and lets his hand settle over the curve of Eduardo’s neck, thumb resting against the pulse there. Eduardo closes his eyes, and Mark does the same.
It hardly takes a minute. In less time than that, Eduardo is scrabbling at Mark’s wrist like he wants to pry his hand away, but he doesn’t try. His fingers sweep frantically over the soft skin on the underside of Mark’s wrist and he jerks his head away with a gasp, eyes wild.
“Mark,” Eduardo chokes, “Mark,” and he only has seconds before the blowback hits. Mark catalogues as much of Eduardo’s reaction as possible before any false emotions can impugn his judgment; he knows that the first, visceral emotional reaction is the most prominent, the most important, and he’s not at all prepared for what he sees.
Interestingly, the first wave of his blowback comes as euphoria. It’s the first simple, pure emotion Mark has ever felt, and he can’t trust it. He tears away from the couch and locks himself in the bathroom, ignoring Eduardo’s voice coming from the other side, thick with concern.
For a few brief, perfect moments, Mark wakes up and has no idea where he is. His body feels wrung out and empty in a familiar sort of way, like the ocean has rushed in while he was sleeping and scrubbed him clean, inside and out.
He knows this exhaustion. Mark breathes in carefully and a wave washes over him, something that he thinks might be melancholy mixed regret, which is also too familiar and something he rejects immediately. He waits for his mood to stabilize before breathing out again.
Two minutes steal away before Mark shifts onto his back and clumsily goes up on his elbows. Eduardo is there on the bed, curled toward him in a way that means he probably fell asleep trying to watch over Mark. Mark knows, because he used to wake up and find Eduardo like this on his bed in Kirkland for the same reason.
Eduardo stirs. Mark rubs the heel of one hand into his eye and regards Eduardo groggily with the other; he’s still wearing his clothes from yesterday and the gel in his hair is playing traitor, chunks of it sticking up ridiculous and unruly. He looks like a child.
“Hey,” he says, voice fragile with sleep. Mark doesn’t trust himself to say anything. Unexpectedly nervous, Mark’s bare hands curl inward and Eduardo’s eyes track the movement. Eduardo smiles gently and then he moves, rolls a little unsteadily to his feet.
“You can shower first,” he says lightly, and heads towards the kitchenette while Mark slips quietly past him into the bathroom.
He knows that what he gave Eduardo isn’t fair. He stands with his face under the spray and hopes that it’s what Wardo wanted, anyway. It’s what Mark wanted: now Eduardo knows exactly why in a way that Mark could never, would never, articulate. Now he knows it intrinsically, like Eduardo and Mark could have been the same person.
The connection will fade, just like a normal emotion curse, but this takes nothing away from Eduardo. He just owns a piece of Mark now. No more than he ever did, but. Now he knows.
He leaves the bathroom still damp, yesterday’s clothes clinging in places but he feels clean and whole so that’s okay. Eduardo is waiting for him, arms folded and still bed-rumpled.
Mark tugs his shirt away from his side and considers whether it’s worth putting gloves on again.
“I know,” he hedges.
“Do you, though? You can’t just—” Eduardo cuts himself off with a frustrated hum. “What am I supposed to do with this?”
“I thought it would be easier this way. Language is messy.”
“You think this isn’t messy? I can’t even, I don’t… look, how do I forgive you now without wondering if what I’m feeling is just.” His eyes slip closed. “You, Mark?”
You wanted to forgive me, Mark thinks, which is intoxicating but he knows it’s not exactly what Eduardo meant. “It wasn’t an apology.”
Eduardo nods, eyebrows knit together. The look on his face feels too sympathetic, Eduardo’s understanding of Mark’s intentions too perfect now that he’s felt them for himself. Mark shivers, has to look away.
“I want –” Eduardo starts, too loud. “I want to. And that’s what makes this, that’s why this sucks, okay? Because I shouldn’t want to forgive you.”
Mark smirks at that. “See? Emotion. Too confusing.” He means it as a joke but he’s terrible at jokes and Eduardo knows it; it falls flat. “It’ll go away,” Mark offers.
Eduardo’s eyebrows shoot up and he scrubs a hand over his face, into the mess of his hair. “You didn’t think of mentioning this before?”
“When would I have mentioned it? When I was riding out the blowback, or after I blacked out? Wardo, it’s just a memory. An emotional memory, it will fade over time.”
“Okay, okay. Mark, please don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m going to need you to leave.”
For all of his huge eyes and stupid hair, Mark has known Eduardo to be menacing more times than he wishes. This is not one of those times.
“Yeah,” he says, edging around Eduardo to grab his gloves where they’ve been folded neatly at the foot of the bed. “See you.”
He didn’t ask it as a question. He hopes it’s not a question. Mark’s hair is still damp and stringy and sticking to his forehead when he leaves, but Eduardo knows now for better or for worse, and that alone is worth it.
It’s time he stop avoiding it, so this time, Mark goes home. His fourteen hour flight and the drive from SFO get him home near midnight, and he has only tumbled into bed three hours ago when his phone wakes him up, the ringtone distorted and unfamiliar in his haze of sleep and travel exhaustion.
“Mark,” Eduardo says in a voice so quiet and thick that Mark has to strain to hear. “Why did you give me this?”
He swallows around the sudden pressure in his chest, but it releases just as quickly as it had come. He showed Eduardo the answer, he gave it to him for this reason: so he wouldn’t have to find the words, wouldn’t have to struggle to string them all together in a way Eduardo could understand. “I had to,” he says, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I needed to let you know that I could, that I had – that I could feel. That I can.”
There’s silence for nearly half a minute. Mark considers checking to see if the line has disconnected, but he can still hear the sounds of Eduardo’s low breaths, and anyway his fingers are clutching his phone so tightly that he’d have to remove them one by one.
“I know you can, Mark. I’ve always known it. And you know, I hope you know that I didn’t mean what I said. I didn’t believe it, but sometimes I wanted it to be true. It would have been easier.”
It takes a minute for Mark to catch up. “Oh.” He laughs, “Sometimes I thought the same thing. But I didn’t work you, that’s about the only thing that still makes any sense. I didn’t make you love me.”
There’s a heavy sigh from the other end and a muffled goddammit, Mark before Eduardo’s voice returns full volume. “I’m coming to you, okay? Don’t wander off.”
“I’ve always been here.”
“I know. I’ll see you.”
Mark’s curse has nearly faded by the time Eduardo finally makes it to California, just as Mark promised it would. In nine days, when Eduardo’s taxi pulls up, Eduardo doesn’t even have any lingering sentimentality towards Palo Alto. Of course, it’s the weaker emotions that will fade first,
“But I feel like one person again, so that’s a good thing.”
Eduardo stands in the middle of his living room and looks it over, declares it “practically unlivable,” and doesn’t leave for two months.
They’re a good two months. Chris flies in from New York and Dustin decides to take a ‘staycation', so we can pretend it’s college again!’ and sometimes, usually when he’s tired, Eduardo have to ask which one of them had felt this fondness or that jealousy. When he leaves, Eduardo stands with his back to the open door and a taxi waiting by the curb and takes Mark the chin, presses one lingering kiss to the corner of his mouth, and says, “Don’t be surprised if I hate you again a week from now.”
It’s three days, four days; Mark plans a private press conference and Facebook’s board swears that they’ll stand with him on the day he finally mouses over the drop-down menu he coded in the middle of the night three months ago, chooses emotion, and saves changes.
Five days later, and Eduardo is back on his doorstep.
“…Hey,” Mark says. “How did you… know I would be home?”
“I didn’t, I got lucky,” and Wardo doesn’t give Mark any time to react, just hauls him in by the face and kisses him, greedy.
Mark has always been quick to catch on and it wouldn’t be far off base if he said he was a natural born leader, so they make it to the downstairs guest room before Eduardo even manages to get Mark’s hoodie over his head.
“Wait,” Eduardo says. Mark stills with his fingers on the third button of Eduardo’s travel-wrinkled dress shirt, his back against the mattress and Mark above him, knees tight to Eduardo’s hips.
He does it slowly this time, loosening the fingertips of Mark’s glove and sliding his thumb underneath the hem. When they’re both off and Mark feels completely exposed in his cargo shorts and t-shirt, he returns the favor.
Eduardo stills completely, shirt half-unbuttoned and slack-jawed as Mark undoes the tiny snap on the underside of Eduardo’s left glove and slides it off.
“Good?” At his nod, Mark tugs off the right glove, and his fingers catch on Eduardo’s cuff link.
Mark rolls his eyes. “Really?” he says, reaching to undo it, but Eduardo takes his hands away and twists them off.
“You’re right. I don’t need them.”
And that’s when Mark notices: the links are topped with tiny gemstones, such a commonplace style that Mark never bothered to think about it before.
Charms. Just two, and Mark can guess which curses they break.
“I told you I didn’t believe what I said,” Eduardo explains. “I know you didn’t work me, or I’d be missing a broken stone.”
It makes sense. Eduardo’s family probably has dozens of curse charms, and Eduardo especially must have learned how to keep them on him out of habit, hidden and out of the way.
“I’m not proud,” Wardo says. “But I don’t need them. I didn’t need them when we were in school either, for what it’s worth.”
Mark just shakes his head and slides their right hands together until their fingers lock, palms sliding against one anther. What had that slogan been? Bare hands, bare hearts. “I’m the reason they settled, you know.” Eduardo makes an inquisitive sound. “They never would have been able to charge you for working luck on the company because you never did.”
Eduardo chews on the inside of his lip, thumbs at Mark’s jaw with free hand. He gives the tiniest of nods. Mark wraps takes Eduardo’s left hand in his and presses both hands to the comforter.
“Mark. Can you… does it work both ways, your curse?”
“No.” He squeezes their tangled fingers, eyes ticking between Eduardo’s own. “Besides, don’t you think I know already?”
Eduardo hums vaguely, a slip of a smile that Mark has to kiss. “What do I feel then, Mark?”
“You feel that you want to stay. Today. Tomorrow. Longer.”
Mark watches him without apprehension, and Eduardo searches Mark’s face as if he could find the answer there. His smile returns in full this time and he twists free one of his hands, fingers coming up to catch at Mark’s jaw.
“Lucky guess,” he says, and pulls him down.