pandora's curiosity (hold_onhope) wrote,
pandora's curiosity
hold_onhope

(fic) tsn: for what binds us (2/3)




Mark is awake again while it’s still dark out, the standby light from his laptop blinking shadows onto the walls and the steady illumination of his monitor the only light to see by. He listens for a moment, but the only sound is Eduardo’s light breathing – Chris and Dustin are out. Mark thinks dully that he should probably be either embarrassed or guilty, but Eduardo’s leg brushes against his when he shifts slightly and stretches, so he is neither.

Mark shivers and curls towards Eduardo – it’s winter, it’s Boston, it’s cold and he’s not wearing anything so he figures he has a pretty good excuse. Eduardo’s waking up too slowly, but he smiles at Mark when he finally squints his eyes open.

It’s not until Eduardo touches gloved fingertips to a bruise he’d left just above Mark’s collar that Mark remembers that his hands are bare. It’s been a while since he’s fallen asleep like this what with sharing a dorm with three people. He remembers how addictive his palms on Eduardo’s skin had been and feels almost sorry that he hadn’t insisted on pulling off Eduardo’s gloves as well; then he remembers the long, tan expanse of Eduardo’s skin contrasted only with the dark, tailored leather of his gloves and feels selfish again.

“Is this why you left Brazil?”

Hmm?

Mark runs his fingers along the inside of Eduardo’s wrist, stopping at the hemline of his glove. “The Heebeegeebies. Were you trying to hide it?”

“No,” Eduardo says around a yawn, “Not really. There were – are, I guess – a lot of kidnappings. Crime families stealing worker kids and forcing them into the business, that sort of thing. My name turned up on a list.”

Mark tries to imagine a young Eduardo forced to work as a mobster, all skinny bones and eyes too ridiculously large for his face. He can’t. “So you were trying to hide.”

“We were trying to keep me safe,” Eduardo says. Mark eases two of his fingers under Eduardo’s glove, sliding them in to press at the palm of his hand. Eduardo is watching him, eyes on the side of his face that Mark ignores.

“Well look at you now, even the final clubs want you.”

He means for it to come out more sarcastically than it does. He opens his mouth to correct himself, but Eduardo only makes an amused note of protest low in his throat and curls his hand closed, trapping Mark’s fingers between his skin and his glove.

He could work him right now. He could be being worked. Mark looks at Eduardo’s face and sees the slight working of muscle under his jaw, Eduardo’s expression calm and defiant.

Mark tugs experimentally, just a twitch of his fingers and Eduardo lets go. Pushing himself up by, he leans over Eduardo, arms bracketing him in just to kiss him, just because he can. Because it’s simple, an action and a reaction that can mean everything and nothing and sometimes both all at once.
Because touching is safer than feeling.


--


Chris edges his way slowly into the suite some indeterminate amount of time later. Mark knows there was daylight again, and possibly food, but only an hour ago had they decided that showers were in order. Mark drags his laptop over to the couch, which is where Chris finds them once he’s decided that the dorm is safe to enter.

“Sorry,” Eduardo says sincerely, which makes Mark roll his eyes.

Chris sighs long-sufferingly. “Don’t be, it’s nice to have confirmation that Mark is human.”

Eduardo tries and fails at masking a laugh. Mark glares at them both.

“Have to hand it to you guys, though.” Chris makes a gesture that encompasses the whole of the couch.

Mark takes stock of the situation. Eduardo is slumped against the corner of the couch, and Mark is slumped against him, wrapped in his power cord and Eduardo’s legs where they’re folded underneath Mark, heels resting against the coffee table.

“You’d two might as well be wearing signs around your neck that say we’re fucking.”

“Chris!” Eduardo says, playing at being shocked, although they both know that Chris isn’t as innocent as his baby face suggests. Mark ignores them, Chris’s words circling in his head.

“Relationship status,” he says.

“What?”

Relationship status.” Mark practically launches himself at his computer.
It doesn’t take long to add the option, but Eduardo is already hanging over his shoulder, watching what must be incomprehensible code as Mark types.

“Think about it. You meet someone in class or at a party and you want to know if they’re single. You can’t just ask without being rude, but you don’t want to say the wrong thing and offend anyone. So what do you do? You check their Facebook page.” Mark sits back in his chair. “Relationship status. Interested in.”

“Mark, that’s good. That’s really, really good.”

He leans forward to update the code; hits refresh. “That’s it.”

“That’s it? It’s live?”

“It’s live. Do you still have the emails from the Phoenix?” Eduardo pulls out his Blackberry and grins.

“I knew that experience would count for something,” he says, and Mark sends out the invites.
“There.” Mark barely has to turn his head and Eduardo is so close. Mark can see everything there, he can see it: he could, if he wanted to, reach with bare hands, take that look on Eduardo’s face and make it something different, something more.

He won’t. If he does, he’ll never know what it is that makes Eduardo look this way. He’d never know for sure.

“Chris,” Eduardo says, “No offense, but I think you’d better leave,” and closes the distance before Chris can probably even process what he’d said. The kiss is soft, Eduardo’s grin wide until Mark gets a hand in his hair, holding him steady with another hand on his hip, Eduardo’s knee resting on the chair next to Mark’s thigh, and Mark kisses back hard.

“This is it,” Eduardo repeats, and even Mark can’t stop himself from answering Eduardo’s smile with one of his own.


|||

“In February of 2004, Misters Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and Divya Narendra filed a cease-and-desist letter against you and thefacebook.”

Mark breathes in, a chill racing down his spine. He holds his face passive, but he can’t stop the bite in his words. “The Winklevii were under the impression that my website was similar to theirs.”

Eduardo’s lawyer shares a look with Sy. “They never pressed charges despite their threats, and when we contacted them, they declined to comment.”

Mark shrugs. “They were wrong. They must have realized.” He chances a glance at Eduardo, who widens his eyes just a fraction when he catches Mark looking.

A moment before, Mark had actually been afraid that Eduardo might have said something to his lawyer, but now – now he’s piecing it together, and Mark looks away. He doesn’t want to see Eduardo’s face when he realizes, when Mark lands him another blow even now.

He never asked. Mark thinks – Mark would like to think – that he would have told Eduardo the truth about the Winklevoss twins, if only he had asked.



--


In all honesty, Mark isn’t paying attention to the girls. It’s not that he thinks he’ll ever be the next Bill Gates, but he can’t tear his focus away, not even when Eduardo twists sideways to talk to the girls in the row behind them and sets a hand lightly over Mark’s thigh.

Eduardo, though, is a gentleman, or so he tells Mark when they’re leaving the lecture hall, his breath visible in the winter air, practically quivering with excitement about what she had said.

“She knew you, she recognized you!” Eduardo is saying, holding Mark by the elbow like he’s too excited to bother with personal space.

Mark is still cold when they make it back to the dorm, and although he’ll never admit that, he’s grateful when he crosses the common area and Eduardo pulls him in at the hips, still practically vibrating with excitement. His breath is warm against Mark’s frozen cheek and his mouth is warm and his body is warm where Mark ducks his hands inside his wool coat and pushes it off at the shoulders.

“We have groupies,” Wardo grins, pulling his arms out of his sleeves impatiently. His cheeks are pink and it reminds Mark of the day he asked him to be a part of this behind a horrid AEPi party; it feels so long ago but it’s only been weeks, and now they have groupies. Facebook me, the girl had said, and Mark pulls Eduardo back in until he’s warm enough to feel his toes again.

He gets Eduardo’s shirt loose and he has Eduardo’s gloved hands up under his t-shirt and hoodie, pushing him none-too-gently into his desk so that the empty bottles rattle. In the next second he’s trying to push Mark up onto the desktop, which is probably a bad idea and Mark’s computers are on there and if this thing breaks it will be bad, but those thoughts are fleeting and he’s more interested in where Eduardo’s hips are in relation to his.

He braces his hands on the edge of the desk and paper crumples beneath his palms.

Eduardo pulls his mouth away from Mark’s with some effort. “Move that,” he says, grabbing an entire stack of papers away to clear a space.

Mark is vaguely amused at Eduardo’s concern -- only he would care about Mark’s things at a time like this -- so he doesn’t think about what Eduardo is holding until it’s too late, until he can see it written on Eduardo’s face.

“Give me those.” Mark reaches out for the paper but Eduardo snatches them away.

“Mark, what is this?”

“It’s nothing, come on, just put them down.”

“It’s not nothing, these people – these Winklevoss guys think you stole their idea. Mark, did you steal their idea?”

“Of course not, Wardo, what? I didn’t steal anything. They came to me with an idea, I had a better one, can we move on?”

“You should have told me.”

“It’s not going to matter, they’re not going to want anything to do with the company.”

“It says they could sue us, Mark, you know this could be intellectual property theft?”

Mark snorts. “Right, because they’re the only guys to ever have thought of a dating site. Did we get any beer?”

Eduardo’s gaze lingers on his back as Mark moves to the mini-fridge, which Mark steadfastly ignores. Sure enough, Eduardo is still standing by his desk when Mark turns around, papers still in his hands, still wearing the same expression of disbelief. It looks absurd on him in this moment, with his shirt half-untucked and his mouth still swollen.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he says in a voice small and hurt, and Mark tries to parse where that’s coming from – the Winklevii were nothing, they didn’t matter in the long run and now Eduardo is something Mark can’t understand again.

“It’s nothing,” Mark repeats, and after a moment grabs a second beer for Eduardo. “Here, we’re celebrating.

Eduardo stares at him for a second longer and then blindly presses the papers back onto Mark’s desk, running gloved hands through his hair. “Mark, listen. Just because this doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean the twins won’t try to press charges. They have a lot of money, okay, we don’t.”

“We will. Take the beer, Wardo.”

He does, snatching it out of Mark’s hand and taking a long pull, then placing it alongside the papers on Mark’s desk with a clunk.

“What if… what if we let them have a cut?”

“No. What? No.”

Eduardo nods placatingly and all hope of continuing their earlier activities fades when he starts tucking his shirt back in carefully, shoulders squaring up.

“I know, okay, this is – it’s ours, I get that. But we need money, and the Winklevii have that.”
“We don’t want their money.”

“I –Mark, I am the CFO, you can’t just decide –”

“They don’t want us, Wardo, I promise. They don’t want you.”

Eduardo gapes. “They don’t even know me,” he says, and his voice is hard but his shoulders slump slightly.

Mark shakes his head, trying to figure out how to backtrack even though Eduardo has come to the wrong conclusion; this isn’t about him, it’s about what he can do.

“They don’t need to know how you handle the finances, that’s completely different. All they need to know is your name, and they won’t take a gamble on you.”

“You’re saying I’m a liability. Because I’m a worker.”

“Yes.”

Eduardo takes a swig of beer. Swallows, pulls another. Then he pauses with the bottle halfway to his mouth and makes a visible effort to settle it down slowly back onto the top of the desk. There’s a look in his eye that Mark can’t read, and it’s huge enough that he almost has to look away. Mark blinks, setting his jaw.

In a shallow, steady voice, Eduardo says, “Is this why you won’t put me on the masthead?”

“Oh. I –”

“Yes or no, Mark.”

“You know I don’t care, Wardo,” Mark says, but for a minute he wonders if Eduardo does know.

“But?”

“But it’s – come on. You know how the world is. Nobody is going to trust a young luck worker with a company like this.”

“Yeah,” Eduardo says faintly, eyes far away. “But you. How can you pick and choose?”

“I don’t follow.”

“This,” Eduardo says, placing a palm flat on the cease and desist letter. “You don’t think the Winklevii have a leg to stand on, and you don’t believe that I’m going to perform curse fraud on or, or fuck up the company, but you won’t let me come out to the public as CFO?”

“Mark. What are we going to do about this?”


“I’ll take care of it.”

“They aren’t going to just go away, the Winklevoss twins have the money and legal services to back them up.”

“I said I would take care of it,” Mark repeats. Eduardo sighs, shaking his head a little.

“Tell me the next time something like this happens,” he says, but he doesn’t wait for an answer. So Mark goes and untucks Eduardo’s shirttails vindictively, getting a small, shaky grin for his efforts.

Eduardo seems to forget about the cease-and-desist letter after that, and for a little while Mark forgets, too.


--


The Winklevoss twins are predictable. Mark knows how often and how early the rowers are out on the river, constantly training out of what must be sheer insanity, is Mark’s best guess. and he also knows exactly what the twins’ class schedules look like. He doesn’t even have to hack anything; they provided that information themselves through CourseMatch, and all Mark had to do was apply the program.

In the bike room, back in February, there had been club photographs littering the walls dating back at least half a century. The bare hands of the members in the earlier photos wasn’t surprising, but Mark had frowned at the club photos starting in the last few decades: all of the members standing stoically, hands clasped behind their backs.

The final clubs boast their clean rosters – according to tradition nobody who is hyperbathygammic is allowed in, but according to rumor, at least half of them are workers. Hands behind their backs, hands hidden: it’s Schrödinger’s club, every member both a worker and not a worker until somebody bothers to check.

Mark had followed Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss into the bike room and watched them both shed their gloves, an unconscious habit, while Divya Narendra made no move to remove his own. They might as well have shown Mark two plastic handguns and one real, fully loaded.

The twins have free time in the evening. It’s cold, even Mark can admit that, but nobody expects him to dress appropriately (no matter how often Eduardo leaves fleece-lined gloves and scarves around the Kirkland dorm), so a pair of old cotton gloves won’t arouse any suspicion. Threadbare as they are, it’s easy to pick a hole in the palm of the right glove, and one on each of the fingertips for good measure.

If Mark has to take a few deep breaths before he enters the boathouse, then nobody has to know.
The sounds of oars pushing through water are loud in the tall building. Just as Mark suspected, the Winklevoss twins are training for probably the third time today alone, rowing pool oars in bare-handed grips.

The first one – Cameron, Mark presumes – stops rowing first. There’s a few seconds of outrage from Tyler before he catches on, and then their identical faces are wearing identical expressions.

Zuckerberg, one of them growls, climbing out of the boat, but his brother talks over whatever else he was about to say.

“Do you even have permission to be here? This pool is reserved.”

Mark snorts. “Do you want to talk, or what?”

“Oh, I want something,” Tyler mutters. Mark ignores it, keeping his hands tucked into the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie.

“You got our letter?”

“Yes, I got the letter your lawyers drafted,” Mark says, reprimanding himself internally. He takes a breath to focus, then lies: “You’re right, I used your idea.”

“We want you to take down the site,” Tyler says. Mark shakes his head.

“And what, change the header to ‘Harvard Connection,’ credit you? This whole campus will see is as a takeover.”

Cameron shoulder-checks Tyler and the two exchange something with raised eyebrows and sour expressions that Mark can’t understand and for reasons that are unknown.

“What do you propose?” Cameron says, managing to come across as diplomatic despite his damp hair and the sweat rings around the collar of his sweatshirt.

“You get credit as co-founders, we figure out your cut of the percentage later.”

There’s silence. Mark grits his teeth, hoping that years of pretending to be normal have made him a better liar. The twins look at each other. Tyler shrugs. Cameron nods.

“Deal,” he says, “but this isn’t over. We want it in writing at later, got it?”

Mark holds out a hand. “Got it.”

He shakes Cameron’s hand first, then Tyler’s. All curses have one thing in common: they work on mere intent. It’s easy, it’s effortless, just a thought. Mark can feel it in himself for the barest of moments before the emotion leaves his skin and moves onto theirs; forgiveness, goodwill, respect.

Real emotion is more complicated than the curse. It’s this part that Mark is unsure about, because if the emotions he gave the twins feel too fake, they’re going to know, and they’re going to be angry. Not now – now, he’s bought them time at the very least. He can only hope that they feel genuine fondness for him long enough that they forget, eventually.

At the moment, even Tyler is wearing a vaguely pleased expression. “You know what?” he says, pulling his hand back. “Maybe we can hold off on that meeting. Cam, we can get our site up and running with a new programmer, right?”

Cameron nods enthusiastically. “Definitely. We’ll see how it goes and get back to you later.”

Mark tries very, very hard not to laugh. He isn’t sure if that’s part of the blowback or not – he isn’t sure how long he has before it hits. He nods at them, says something he doesn’t remember, and then his chest seizes up, overwhelmed by something he can’t name, and – Mark flees.


--


It’s been a while, and Mark finds that it isn’t any easier. He folds himself under the covers on his bed and buries his head in his hands to wait it out. It goes on and on like that, moments of clarity broken by hysteria or something else, something worse and all at once until he doesn’t feel like himself anymore, wonders if he’ll ever be the same way again.

In truth, the worst of it is over within a couple of hours, but he manages to avoid Eduardo until late the next day, when he feels like he can be around people without his face giving himself away; until his moods feel predictable and under control.

So it starts out nice, crisp winter air adding more clarity to Mark’s post-blowback body, Eduardo warm and close and oblivious as they walk back from the dining hall.

And then the Winklevoss twins step into view, Divya Narendra among them, and Mark’s stomach seizes.

Cameron smiles and waves, which Eduardo returns hesitantly. It’s Divya that takes him off guard. The moment he sees Mark he sets off towards him, face thunderous. Mark fights the base instinct that tells him to run because it’s useless to him – one touch of his hand and the situation is his. Not that he would risk it. Not again.

“Div, stop!” one of the twins growls, getting a hand around Divya’s bicep and tugging him backward, but he lunges forward like a rabid dog.

“Zuckerberg!” he shouts, and Mark almost feels like laughing at how absurd it is.

“What’s going on?” Eduardo asks, and Mark really does laugh unthinkingly.

“No, let me go,” Divya is saying, and the other twin hisses something at the first one that Mark doesn’t quite catch. “I’ll take care of this.” He raises his voice. “I’ll pull your bones right out of your skin!” he shouts, and it sends shivers down Mark’s back.

It takes both twins to drag him away. When they’re out of sight and Mark has shaken himself loose enough to start walking again, Eduardo stops him.

“Did you hear that?”

“It was a death threat, of course I heard it.”

“He’s a worker, Mark. He said he’d – that’s physical work.”

“He won’t do anything, Wardo, he’d be imprisoned for life,” Mark says dryly, starting forward again. Eduardo doesn’t loosen his hold on Mark’s sleeve.

“He’s in the Porc. They let a curse worker into the Porc, but I can’t get into the Phoenix?”

Divya Narendra, for all intents and purposes, is HBG-negative. Mark thinks about Erica in the crowded bar, rolling her eyes heavily and saying good old boys’ club.

If you want to be successful, you have to hide it. Mark knows this, and so does Eduardo. He doesn’t say anything, just shakes Eduardo’s hand loose and takes it in his own. They walk back to the dorm that way, huddled close for warmth.

Dustin is on the couch when they get in, and when Eduardo dumps himself heavily into the armchair, Dustin shoots Mark a questioning glance.

“Where’s Chris?” Mark says, because Eduardo will never forget about Divya Narendra and the Porcellian if Dustin starts cooing over him, and Chris comes out of his room with a book in hand and a question on his face.

“Good, okay,” Mark starts. “We need to expand. Columbia, Yale.”

Eduardo sits up straighter. “And Stanford,” he says, “They need to see this in Palo Alto.”
He’s grinning, excited, and Mark smirks. This will make Eduardo forget about his anger – just this, and Mark didn’t even have to lay a finger on him.


|||

“You had a series of meetings with advertisers that spring, correct?”

“Mark wasn’t interested in advertising.”

“What was Mark interested in?”

“When thefacebook expanded, we started gathering more attention. Evidently, we piqued the interest of Sean Parker.”

“Sean Parker of Napster?”

Mark isn’t proud, but he can’t make eye-contact when Eduardo looks over this time. He can’t read him, he can’t see anything on his face, and it’s unsettling.

“Mark was very interested in Sean Parker’s help.”



--


“But the crazy shit is,” Sean Parker says as he leans forward in his seat, eyes roaming between Mark’s and Eduardo’s in turn, “if you aren’t a worker, you’re screwed. They’ll make that up, you know what I’m saying? You gotta have power in this business, I don’t care what the government tells you.”

Mark thinks this meeting may have gone past the point of its usefulness, if only because Sean is too drunk now to be thinking in any terms other than conspiracy. That, and the way Eduardo’s hand finds the top of his thigh and squeezes there just this side of too hard. His jaw is locked and Mark doesn’t move because he gets the feeling that he’s the only reason Eduardo hasn’t flown off the handle yet. Interesting, considering the fact that Sean is basically telling Eduardo everything he’s ever wanted to hear about what it means to be a worker in the business world.

“Everything, everywhere is owned by one of the families, I swear on my life,” Sean continues. “Mark, dude, you have to make them believe you’re a worker. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. By the time we’re billionaires, they won’t argue when we tell the truth. We’ll show them just how much the Heebiegeebies matter when it comes to money and power.”

We?” Eduardo bites out, and now is when Mark’s going to have to pull the plug.

“I don’t care about money,” he cuts in, and Eduardo’s grip relaxes.

“No, of course not, it’s not about money. And that’s why your company will last, Marky. Just gotta play it cool.”

Sean picks up the check. “Silicon Valley,” he says, “That’s where it’s at, man,” and turns to go. “Oh! And I almost forgot. You want some practical advice? Drop the ‘the.’ Just ‘facebook.’ It’s neater.”


--


Something changes as soon as they leave the safety of campus. Facebook is nothing out in New York, and something about the loss of notoriety makes expansion more necessary than ever.

Harvard is comfortable. Mark rests easier back with Dustin and Chris; it’s easier to keep an eye on the site when they’re all together. He and Eduardo are maxing out credit cards for server space and Mark has been skipping more and more classes to monitor the site.

Logic dictates that he shouldn’t be upset when Eduardo starts talking about monetizing the site in earnest, but Mark’s instincts keep overriding every insistence Eduardo makes.

“We don’t need advertising, Wardo, we’ve talked about this.”

“No, you’ve talked about this. Mark, Facebook will be spending even more money on interns and rent if you go to Palo Alto. How are we supposed to make up that deficit?”

Mark turns away from his monitor. Dustin calls out a number from the other room ("Nine hundred and eighty seven!”), but it doesn’t register. “You?”

“I’m sorry?”

“‘You’ will be spending money in Palo Alto. Not ‘we.’”

Eduardo looks away, biting the inside of his cheek.

“Wardo?”

“I should have told you sooner, but – my father set up an internship for me in New York, I can’t go out to California this summer.”

(“Nine hundred and ninety three!”)

Mark doesn’t understand – why. Why Eduardo would want to leave Facebook, leave him. “Why New York? You have a company right here.”

“My name’s not even on the masthead, Mark.”

Mark frowns; they’ve talked about this. At length. Eduardo is fine with it now, what -- “What does it matter? You’re doing the work, you’ll get credit – Wardo, you’re co-founder. What’s the point of an internship?”

“You don’t understand, my father knows people we can’t. I can work there and I won’t have to hide, Mark, I can’t expect you to imagine what that would feel like.”

“A Wall Street firm that allows workers? And which family owns it, the Brennans? The Zacharovs?”
“They do good things for us, Mark,” and Mark can feel the exclusion; he’s not part of ‘us,’ not to Eduardo. “Where else do you expect will hire me? I’m a known positive for HBG.”

“I’m saying you don’t need them, Wardo. You have Facebook.” You have me.

“I know that. You know I do.”

“Then come with me.”

Dustin slides halfway into the room then, hanging off the doorway to stop his forward motion. “Guys! One hundred and fifty thousand members!”

Mark smiles, only half-present, and Dustin flings himself back to the other side of the suite, presumably to all Chris.

“Congratulations, Mark.” Eduardo says. Mark lifts the corner of his mouth in spite of himself and Wardo leans in to kiss him, soft and congratulatory.

“Congratulations.”

“I can’t come to California, not yet. I’m sorry.”

“Then at least give me some interns.”

“Okay, okay. Interns.”

Eduardo smiles, but Mark is an expert at fake emotions, and he sees right through it.


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