The pain had been invigorating.
Perhaps it was fate's way of telling him he had royally screwed up; that he had deserved it. He was on the brink of becoming one of the most influential people to grace the 21st century, and yet he'd just lost anyone who'd ever been important to him in the process. It left him feeling strangely empty, for what was more important to a person at this time? He couldn't figure it out – was it better to keep himself as detached as possible while he made this monumental step into success, or was he the bad guy for abandoning everyone who had stood by him?
Well, almost everyone. Clearly Sean didn't want to be pushed away easily. Or, at least, he hadn't planned on it. Because that night, with the rain pouring down and what seemed to be only the two of them in the darkened office, Sean tossed him the can of beer like they were pals. Like Mark had known him forever. Like he was one of them…
"Forget them," He had muttered later as the two walked out to his car, Mark finding himself even more and more unable to take his mind off of everyone else. "They're not worth the time. You're headed for such big things, Mark. They'll eventually turn around and realize that they need you more than you ever needed them…"
As Mark climbed into the passenger's seat, he thought that he didn't want them to need him. He didn't want anything from them. He just wanted them back. Chris, Dustin – they hadn't spoken to him since Wardo made it known that he was suing Mark. And fuck, Eduardo… if he could just turn back the time and do it right this time around, he would. If it meant losing out on certain things – his eyes shot to Sean, who was still talking about had Mark had made the right decision by dumping his friends – he would do it in a heartbeat.
By that point he realized that Sean had stopped talking. In fact, he noticed he couldn't hear anything except a loud humming noise, growing louder every second. Looking up, he immediately paled, the blinding headlights seeming like they had been pulled out of some movie clips. He tried to yell to Sean, but his voice seemed paralyzed, and before he knew it, the lights were all he could see, all he could take in… until there was nothing but darkness
"…sir, can you hear me? Sir? If you can hear me, I need you to remain calm and nod for me…" The only thing Mark could do right now was feel. And all he felt was pain, shooting through every nerve of his body. He attempted to lift his head to nod, but the slightest movement sent tremors through his body. Instead, he tried to open his eyes, which didn't seem as painful, blinking until he could focus in front of him. The fact that he was hanging upside down in the car, head barely brushing the roof as he was suspended by the seat belt left him feeling sick. It was completely dark outside, darker than he remembered it had been when he and Sean were leaving.
Sean. Mark painfully turned to his left, his heart seemingly stuck in his chest as the thought of what could've happened to Sean crossed his mind. But the seat was empty. "Where's my friend?" Mark slurred, his tongue feeling too thick his mouth. The woman who was perched outside the car gave him a strange look, not stopping as he continues to hack away at the door that was trapping him inside the car. With that look, he already had his answer.
"Sweetheart…" she said softly.
He had lost everyone. There was no one. He had nothing. He couldn't breathe as the thought of being completely alone filled his head, unable to fathom the thought. The passenger side door was ripped away from the side of the car with a roaring sound, but it was nothing compared to the deafening sound of the word 'alone' repeating over and over in his head.
It was all he could hear as he lost consciousness again.
Four broken ribs, a major concussion, a fractured wrist, and severe bruising and lacerations. Fuck, he sounded like some patient on a sleazy medical drama. Doing anything except laying in bed hurt like a bitch. Luckily, that was really all he could do, for anything other that was too much for him. Saying he was depressed, it was cowardly. But it was the truth. Because when you spend a week in the hospital, with no one visiting, no one calling, no one asking how you are or if you need anything, it hurts. It leaves an impact of just how alone you are in the world.
Sighing, Mark painfully rolled onto his side, grabbing one of the many transparent orange prescription bottles from his bedside. He didn't know which was which, he didn't know when to take which one, he didn't know anything. There was a piece of paper with all the instructions written out that Mark was supposed to give to whoever was going to take care of him through his recovery, but he'd lost track of it. Besides, there was no one…
Dropping a few pills into his palm, he swallowed them dry before settling back on his back. With the shades drawn, it was dark… reminiscent of that night. When there had been at least someone. Someone – before he'd walked away too. As the pills turned into a tingling buzz in the back of his brain, Mark pulled the blankets over his head, letting the numbness take him freely.
"Remind me why we're here again?" Dustin growled, slamming the door shut in the parking lot of Zuckerberg's apartment complex. They hadn't seen Mark since he stabbed Wardo in the back, completely turned his back on all of them, and decided that the only company he'd surround himself with was that of Sean Parker. At least, they hadn't seen him face-to-face. But this morning, when Chris had been flipping through the paper while Dustin was desperately trying to cram a bagel in his mouth while carrying on a conversation about who was going to have to attack the five foot high pile of dirty laundry that seemed to be eating the floor of their entire basement.
"…fuckin' hell, Chris. If you could learn to wear a t-shirt for more than an hour, maybe we wouldn't be having this problem," Dustin had spat out half-teasingly, crumbs flying wayward. When Chris didn't insult or yell anything back, Dustin turned to find him paling over the paper, his eyes wide. He dropped his bagel into the garbage.
"Dustin, fuck. You gotta – I can't – fucking shit. You gotta read this," he mumbled, standing up shakily from the table. His hands were trembling, lip bitten between his teeth. And Dustin may not have been extremely observant with anything besides numbers, but he knew Chris well enough to know that something was up. As the paper was shoved into his hand, the headline read 'Police Still Searching for Driver in Local Hit-and-Run'. His eyes glanced over the picture, taking in the warped, destroyed remnants of the car. As he scanned it, the edge of it stuck out.
The license plate.
"It was Sean's car. It says further down about how – Mark – he was in the car, he was the victim of the hit and run…" Chris started, his voice so flat that Dustin could've draw a line on it. Sighing, Dustin dropped the paper, grabbing his car keys in one hand and Chris's arm in the other.
After no answer at his door, Chris fumbled with his own key ring, eventually pulling out one of the keys and unlocking the door. As the two of them walked through the door, Dustin scoffed in fake awe. "Since when are you good enough to have his spare key?" Chris ignored him, instead choosing to call Mark's name. There was still no answer, but as they walked further into the house, it became more evident that something was wrong. The trashcan was empty, the counters and sink was clean, nothing was out in the open cluttering the kitchen. No notebooks, no computer, no empty cartons of food. All that was out on the table was a doctor's note outlining a prescription schedule. This wasn't like Mark at all…
When Chris pushed the bedroom door open, it was like walking back in time, back into the previous night, as no apparent light could be found. Similarly, there was a strange sense of familiarity that washed over Dustin as he looked at the huddled figure under the blankets, reminiscent of when Chris and Dustin would walk into Eduardo's room after a long stretch of finals, finding not only Wardo but Mark as well crashed on his bed, dead to the world. As he took to opening the blinds, Chris yanked the blankets off of Mark, who hadn't moved or spoken at all yet.
"Mark, it's us, wake up," Chris said to him, shaking his shoulder.
"Dude, don't do that!" Dusting exclaimed, swatting Chris' hand away. "He could have a broken shoulder or something… Mark. Get up. It's Chris and Dustin, we heard about the accident."
Beginning to get bored of desperately trying to wake up the one person he really couldn't stand to see right now, Dustin sat down on the edge of the bed. Chris picked up the pill bottles on the nightstand, reading the labels despite Dustin telling him not to. Grabbing Mark's chin in his hand, Dustin started to lightly slap his cheek.
"Dustin, look at this," Chris muttered, still reading some of the prescriptions as he pointed on in his face. "They're all fucked up. This one says take two a day for pain, but the bottles nearly empty after only five days. And this one – this one say take four times a day to help fight infections, but the bottle is full." Letting go of Mark, who's head flopped lifelessly back onto the mattress, Dustin grabbed the bottle, reading them only to find the Chris had been right.
Meeting Chris's eyes, they exchanged the same expression of wary disbelief. What the fuck had Zuckerberg done to himself? And even more than that, why had no one been there to stop it?
Climbing fully onto the bed, he took a hold of Mark's shoulder, finally noticing that his worn Harvard t-shirt was soaked with sweat. Hitting him on the cheek light, calling out his name, Dustin couldn't help but notice that every time his friend's cheek bounced under his fingertips, his voice became less mocking and more frantic. Slowly, after about six more hits, Mark opened his eyes, blinking owlishly at Dustin.
Only, Dustin could tell that Mark was looking straight through him. It didn't matter if he was there or not. His eyes were so unfocused, it scared him. Slowly, Mark smiled and started to laugh, a high-pitched noise. Dustin felt like he couldn't breathe. "Okay, okay," he whispered, trying to remain as calm as possible. "Just stay awake. Okay? Mark, just – just stay awake." His own voice was shaking terribly. It was fucking scary.
As he pulled out his own phone, still holding onto Mark's shoulder and looking over his shoulder every three seconds to make sure that he was still conscious, he noticed that Chris had pulled out his own phone. Once he had hung up with the 911 operator, assured that an ambulance would be sent out as soon as possible, he asked. "Who are you calling?"
Chris tore his eyes away from Dustin, watching Mark with an unreadable expression, one that seemed full of regret. When he turned back to Dustin to answer, his voice was short and clipped.
"Who do you think?"
Dreaming is usually considered to be a pleasurable experience. For most people, they use phrases like 'dreams coming true' or 'in your dreams' just to signify just how good life is in their dreams. For Mark, though, it was never like that. At least, it hadn't been for a long time. Not since he lost his...only friend. Nights filled with tossing and turning, filled with dreamless sleep, filled with reminders of disappointed faces and disappointed words and disappointment, disappointment, disappointment. It wasn't what dreams were made of, but he could only look to the silver lining; at least he still got to see Eduardo somewhere.
So now, as he found himself floating somewhere in between reality and who the fuck knows where, he couldn't figure out why he was having a good dream. Unless he was dead. That would explain it; he had died and gone to Hell, where he would be surrounded for eternity by the people who hated him the most in the world, with no chances of redemption. Because, fuck, he might spend all of his day with his face pressed up against the screen of his laptop, but he wasn't a complete idiot when it came to social skills. Never apologizing... he wasn't that much of a dick.
But now, it was there. It was all around him, like always. In the same hushed, collected, casual tone as always. Only, for the first time since he'd began to have those dreams, there was no hint of disappointment in the voice. In fact, the voice almost sounded... scared.
"...what the fuck happened? How the hell did you two let it get this far?"
"We - well - we, you don't understand, Wardo. We were on your side... we were letting him know that." That was new. Mark had had tons of dreams about Eduardo, but none about Dustin. Just another reason to chalk it up to being dead.
"We kinda lost track of Mark after the two of you had that falling out..." If Mark had to, he'd say that Dustin almost sounded... regretful. It was nice - in a sadly pathetic way. He could hear Eduardo groan at that.
"You two have fully functioning brains and dicks of your own. Put at least one of them to good use and think for yourself, you fuckers!"
"We were trying to make a point..." For the love of God. Why didn't they just invite everyone and their mother into his dream... considering that Chris was now here too. Have a fucking free-for-all...
"A point? What kind of point are you trying to make by not knowing that your friend was in a car accident and has thereafter OD'ed on painkillers?" There we go. The voice was getting louder, like in all of Mark's other dreams. So it all was a dream. He'd wake up. And be alone. All over again.
Then again, it seemed like all the other voices were getting louder as well. They were practically all he could hear at this point. In any normal case, he would attempt to roll over and put the pillow over his head until his alarm clock went off, ignoring it until the absolute latest moment. But when he tried to move, a pain shot through his side. He hissed - or, at least tried to, as it came out as more of a muffled slur against his lips.
"Mark?" Someone was grabbing at his hand, which he immediately tried to swat them away with. "Go get the doctor, I think he's waking up..."
Doctor? Mark thought to himself. Since when did he need a doctor to get himself out of bed and into the shower? But when he finally opened his eyes, which seemed to weigh about thirty pounds each, to find Chris and Dustin both staring at him with wide eyes, he knew that this was about more than his morning routine.
Before he had the chance to say anything to them, a doctor came in, clipboard perched at his hip and stethoscope wrapped around his neck. Without a word, he placed a hand on Mark's jaw, the other hand on a tube he hadn't even realized was inserted down his throat until this moment. Quickly - and extremely painfully - the doctor pulled it out, perhaps finally letting Mark realize that he wasn't dreaming as his throat felt like it had just been ripped out.
Watching the doctor as he checked his vitals and inserted another IV, Mark could've sworn that he'd been discharged from this exact hospital just a little while ago. For - for something. He just couldn't remember.
"Alright, Mr. Zuckerberg. Since you clearly feel that a serious car accident isn't enough damage for one person, here's the issue..." the doctor started.
"And, because I can see that you are clearly beyond words right now, I'm just going to keep talking. You lied to your doctor, Mr. Zuckerberg. You specifically told us that you were going to have someone to assist you in your rehabilitation period..."
Mark violently shook his head.
The doctor raised an eyebrow doubtfully. "So...you didn't lie about being completely alone?"
Biting down on his lip, Mark realized that trying to explain that having no one there was going to be more difficult than he thought, so he instead shook his head slowly. The doctor smirked. "That's what I thought. Healing broken bones, head trauma, bruises and wounds like yours - they take specific care. And with the shape you're in, you can't provide that care." Mark nodded.
Yes I fucking can. I'm a multi-billionaire. I can take care of myself. He resisted the urge to stick his tongue out at the doctor...
Flipping through the folder, the doctor frowned even more. "Oh, so the dehydration, minor infections, fever, and the beginnings of a narcotic overdose were you taking care of yourself, then?"
Well, when you say it like that...
"This isn't some kind of joke, Mr. Zuckerberg. If your-" The doctor's voice dropped, his tone going from anger to... to something Mark couldn't put his finger on. "If your friends had found you a mere few hours later, we would've had a bigger issue than we did. Slowed heart rate, slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure - they all would've been much more drastic." He put his clipboard to his side, finally looking Mark in the eye. At this point, he seemed like a real human, and not like some animatronic medically healing robotic monster just here to yell at Mark...
"To make sure that you receive that necessary care, one of your friends has elected to move in with you. Granted, your recovery time will be longer now because of this, but you will make a complete turn around..." the doctor trailed off.
Mark looked to Dustin and Chris who were practically on top of each other, clinging to one another like they were each other's last hope. That a story Mark clearly was not ready to hear yet. But as if they read his mind, both of them shook their heads.
Who? Mark mouthed. The only other one Mark could think of that would've been wiling to - and this was saying A LOT - was Sean, and he hadn't seen him since the night of the accident. No one had.
A hand dropped over his, softly encircling his. He already knew; his heart already knew who it was. It always had known and it always would. But his head was telling his heart - screaming at his heart to not be fooled. They couldn't afford to be fooled, not again. As he turned to find Eduardo standing there, his head tipped shyly and an easy smile pulling at his cheeks. "Hi Mark."
This wasn't real life. This could not, should not, cannot be happening. It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Never mind like this - it wasn't supposed to happen EVER. Eduardo was never supposed to forgive Mark becuase Mark was a douchebag who'd sold out his friendship for Sean Parker's.
And yet. Here he was. He was the one who had come to move in with Mark. To fucking take care of him.
There was so much Mark could say right now. He opened his mouth, trying to will himself to speak. He cleared his throat, trying to form a sound...
"What the fuck are you doing here?"
Of course. Because that would have to be the first thing Mark would say to Eduardo.
The next few days in the hospital and getting back to his apartment seemed like they were on a film loop; one of those black and white scratchy ones that you replay over and over. As he looked back on it, he couldn't remember actually being there apart from brief moment – a conversation, a look, a touch. Perhaps the heavy sedatives the hospital kept him on to make sure that the OD hadn't affected his concussion weren't helping, but he remembered a few conversations with Chris, Dustin's constant disapprovingly worried look as he drove them back to the apartment.
And Eduardo's hands. For some reason, he couldn't help but remember them. Whether they were holding onto his, fixing something by his face, brushing his hair out of his eyes – they were constantly in his head. They were all he could feel on his skin, all he could see when he closed his eyes.
Eventually, the sedatives wore off, and Mark found himself becoming more lucid. As good as that might sound, more lucid meant that he was going to be able to be aware of Wardo. In his house. Near him. Less than a foot away from him.
Nope. Not good.
He soon came to find out that just because Eduardo had come to live with him in no way meant that he had forgiven Mark. That little gesture at the hospital must've been a sign of weakness - because what else are you supposed to do to the guy laying in the hospital bed who almost just died? Punch him in the face like you've always wanted to? Because, really, that would be so classy. (Although Mark wouldn't have been surprised if Eduardo had done that…)
But as the drugs wore off and the time they spent together grew, Mark noticed that as cordial as Eduardo may have been trying to pass himself off as, he was still fucking pissed. It also didn't help Mark's case that he couldn't play the poor helpless victim card, as before he'd come back to his apartment, Chris and Dustin had warned him that Wardo didn't know that it had been a hit-and-run or that Sean had been involved. For all Eduardo knew, Mark had been the one driving.
So as tension stayed at an all-time high between them, consisting of awkward conversations, subtly pointed barbs directed at Mark, Eduardo picking up Mark's cellphone and speaking in Portuguese to whoever was calling. Even after years of listening, Mark couldn't understand it, but he was pretty sure he knew what 'Serviços de prostituição Masculina' meant, and was pretty sure his clients weren't interested in them from him. Or, he hoped they weren't…
If it wasn't a danger to the multi-billion dollar empire that Mark owned, he would've thought of it as comical… But it was getting to the point that it was starting to drive him out of his skin. He couldn't focus on the fact that oh hey, this is Eduardo here with me because all he was focusing on was how he wanted to rip the phone out of Eduardo's hand and throw it at his face.
When Eduardo wandered up to Mark's room, a week into his stay, Mark pushed himself up against his pillows, his head swimming only a little bit. The pills were dropped into his hand, and the water was dropped onto the table, Eduardo leaning against the doorframe as if he was waiting for Mark to take them. Instead, he dropped the pills onto the nightstand, deciding that he'd prolong his hallucinatory drug induced coma until later. He watched Wardo carefully, wondering when those dark bags under his ex-best friends eyes had appeared, when he had grown permanent frown lines…
When he had grown so fragile.
"Take the fucking pills, Mark," his voice said warningly.
With a sigh, he buried his head farther back into the pillows. From this light, it looked like Eduardo was frowning, like he was sad. But that made no sense. Because Eduardo had nothing to be sad about. Eduardo could walk out at any time he wanted to and Mark would be shit out of luck. Eduardo wasn't the one trapped in his own bed; he had nothing to be sad about.
"Why did you come, Wardo?" Mark asked quietly, finally addressing the giant elephant in the room that neither of them had been willing to acknowledge. Slowly Eduardo walked into the room, which was more of an accomplishment than Mark had been expecting. Standing right next to him, close enough to touch – again with the hands! – Eduardo smiled sadly, reaching out to cup his cheek.
"This isn't the time, Mark. I can tell you how much I fucking hate you and that I want to rip your heart out when you're a little bit farther from your death bed…I don't need you to OD again," he muttered.
If it was possible, Mark's jaw may have broken from the way it dropped.
"Stop it. I'm not a kid, or a damsel in distress. Tell me the fucking truth before that time does come. Why did you, of all the people in the world, decide to move in with me when you 'fucking hate me and want to rip my heart out'?" Mark said, shooing his hand away from his face. For a moment, for just a brief second, he could've sworn that Eduardo looked hurt.
Turning away, Eduardo started rummaging through drawers next to Mark's bed, pulling out a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and a wrap of gauze. Mark wondered when those had gotten there. He looked curiously at Eduardo, who simply shrugged. Sitting on the side of the bed gently, Eduardo dropped them on the blanket. "Fine. We'll make some compromises. You take the pills, I'll cleans your disgusting cuts…"
Eduardo held up a hand, silencing him. When he started again, his voice was quieter. "I will also tell you why I came. If. If. And I stress once again. If. You tell me what happened with the car accident." Solemnly, Mark nodded, slowly trying to piece together something to tell him instead of telling him the truth. Though, as he soon discovered, it was actually difficult to do anything – including breathe and blink – when Eduardo Saverin is taking your shirt off. As he felt Wardo's knuckles brush against the exposed bruised skin on his stomach, his muscles jerked involuntary, letting an "ow" escape from his lips.
"Sorry," Eduardo mumbled, helping him pull his arms out of the t-shirt until it simply hung around his neck. As his finger dipped beneath the old bandage, pulling them lose so he could unwrap them, the soft skin on the back of his hand brushing Mark's side ever so slightly, he said quietly "I hate you, Mark. We got in a fight, and you ruined our friendship. That doesn't mean I ever stopped caring about you."
Strange as it sounded, Mark managed to smile at that, because it was so honest, just like Eduardo always was. Feeling the cold sting of the peroxide against his cuts, he winced, his hand tangling in the sheets. From his spot at chest-level, Eduardo glanced upward, his head tilting slightly. He continued what he was doing though, his eyes pulling away a few moments after.
"Why did it take you this long to tell me this?" Mark grunted through gritted teeth.
"It's not like we were exactly chummy," Wardo muttered. "And besides, you never made much of an attempt to apologize…"
Careful, Mark, his conscience warned, things here can get ugly.
But that didn't make any sense. Mark had sent hundreds of emails and even snail mail to Eduardo with the hope of maybe a cursory 'Fuck. You'. being sent back to let him know that Eduardo had at least opened the mail. But he hadn't received a response to any of them.
"That's not true…"
As Eduardo finished taping down the gauze on Mark's stomach, he signed, rubbing his palms on his pants even though there was nothing on his hands, or he wouldn't have done that. He turned to Mark, laughing tiredly. "I can't do this anymore, Mark. This whole 'you and me' being friends. Being together. You're ruining me without even trying, and I can't take it." When Mark opened his mouth to object, Eduardo moved quickly, dropped the pills on his tongue. As he handed him the glass of water, he turned away. "You don't know how badly I wanted this to end up coming back together. How I wanted a happy ending out of this shitshow. But it's not in it, and after you get better, I can't be either."
Placing the empty glass on the table, Mark could only stare back at Eduardo, so many thoughts and ways to approach this filing through his head. But his head was starting to fuzz over, his eyes starting to feel heavy. With a defeated slump of his shoulders, Eduardo pulled the loose t-shirt off over his head and the blankets up. As he switched the bedside lamp off, he whispered, "You still owe me the truth about what happened with the accident."
And as Mark slipped into dreamless sleep, he thought Maybe he deserves the truth. The actual truth.
Rubbing a hand over his face, Eduardo shut the door behind him, forcing himself to not turn back at the barely illuminated sleeping form in the bed. It wasn't supposed to be like this, he realized. It wasn't supposed to be this fucking hard. Because when Chris had called him that morning, interrupting one of Eduardo's meetings and clearly not even giving thought to the fact that the last time they'd spoken was through drunk texts to each other, Eduardo had been blind-sided. Chris had barely managed to utter "It's Mark," before Eduardo realized that he had unknowingly stood up from his desk, something foreign tugging at his chest.
When he'd finally managed to fly in and actually hear what had happened, it didn't make it any easier. All he wanted was for some event, some conversation, something that would give Eduardo reason to say that it was still okay for him to hate Mark. But walking into a hospital room to find him in a coma with a machine breathing for him? Learning that Mark had been the only one injured in the car accident and wasn't drunk or anything? Finding out that Mark was still Mark, and not some uptight billionaire bastard? That plan really wasn't working out for him.
Stumbling over to the couch, he collapsed onto it, knees giving out from exhaustion. He hadn't really had the time to think through this whole plan before he found himself buckled into a seat on a plane, unsure of what was really happening. All that had been running through his head was that this was Mark. The same Mark who he had pulled all-nighters with, had saved from potentially disastrous interactions with women, had been practically carried by him after a particularly rowdy Spring Weekend…
And there was a possibility that Eduardo could've lost him. After everything that they had been through, after all the fueled shouting matches and throwing of things and declarations of eternal hatred… Eduardo never wished that something like this would happen. A fight was just that – a fight. It only went so far. And in the back of the mind, he hoped that eventually, maybe this fight would be over. But if he had lost Mark, there wouldn't even be a chance at that.
So he climbed on the plane, finding himself in the hospital room, with overly apologetic and scared shitless Chris and Dustin, and the lifeless shell that resembled Mark. When he heard about what had happened prior to it, all that came to him washow did I not feel it?Because roll back the clocks to the era of 2003 at Harvard, Eduardo would've known if something like this happened to Mark. He wouldn't know why or how it happened, but he would've just known.
As he volunteered to be the one who would help Mark through his recovery, much to the surprise of Dustin and Chris (and himself, quite honestly), he should've realized that he wasn't ready for this yet. Sadly, however, it wasn't that he was too angry or still upset or wasn't ready to forgive Mark that made him not ready. It was that he'd already forgiven him a long time ago. And every day over the course of the past week that they spent together, Eduardo desperately trying to convey an appearance of well-maintained hatred, he slowly came to the realization that pretending to be mean was harder than he ever thought it was going to be. He didn't hate Mark anymore. He didn't want to hate him anymore. And it scared him.
He grabbed Mark's laptop off the coffee table where he'd set it down earlier, opening it absentmindedly. Mark's Gmail inbox popped up, along with a flood of unread emails. Curious and against his better judgment, he clicked on the 'Sent' folder. It was a tacky, nosy move, but he could justify it by saying he deserved to know who Mark was talking to on the basis that they were technically business partners and Mark didn't talk to him in person.
When the folder finally did open, it wasn't what he was expecting. Practically every other email had '' in the To header. Eduardo blanked. As he clicked back, he did the math quickly in his head, estimating that there had to be close to three hundred emails that Mark had written to him.
And he hadn't received a single one.
Swallowing, trying to dissolve the strangely new lump that had just appeared in his throat, he clicked on the earliest one. This feeling was strange. Because thinking that Mark hadn't apologized – well, that made him feel a little less guilty about not letting Mark know that he had been forgiven. Now, though, he only felt like the wind had been knocked completely out of him.
'e. i'm sorry. i never meant for any of this to happen. i need you back.'
'so since you've decided to ignore my long apologetic rants, here's a new one. i miss you.'
'saw a movie in portuguese earlier today. you sound much cooler than this guy did.'
'i'm come to find out i can't do my own laundry still. remember when you used to have to sort it out for me?'
That was all he could manage to read before the words in front of him turned into a shaky, blurry mess. A choked sob escaped his throat, and before he could even realize it, he had gotten to his feet. Slamming the cover of the laptop down as he pulled his shoes on, he grabbed his keys and ran out the door.
This wasn't supposed to happen. None of this.
"…hey, hey. Mark? Are you awake?
Mark let out an incomprehensible noise, wondering why the fuck Eduardo wanted to suddenly talk to him. His head felt murky, like there was a gallon of water filling it up until it was too heavy. That was the worst part of the pain pills – the aftereffects. Although he wasn't sure if hallucinations was one he had experienced before. If it wasn't, he should add it to the list, because he was definitely hallucinating that Sean Parker was sitting on his bed right now. "Hey Marky," he said, grinning. "Brought you a get-well soon present." He put a bottle of Corona and a computer science magazine on the bed side table next to Mark, who just looked at them, wondering what the fuck? When Mark proceeded not to say anything, Sean stood up, the light, casual tone slowly dropping from the room.
"You left me in that car. Unconscious. And you walked away," Mark said quietly, without any sharpness coming through. The words felt strange on his tongue. Ever since Wardo had asked him about what had happened, he had been trying to come up with a good excuse, but nothing yet. Now that he was admitting the truth to himself, it was strange. "How did you get in here?"
Sean shrugged half-heartedly, not really focusing on Mark. "The door was unlocked. No one was here, so I just let myself in…" he mumbled, shoving his hands into his pockets. As Mark opened his mouth to ask about Eduardo, he decided against it. Wardo already hated him, but he hated Sean more. He didn't need to make it worse by making to known to Sean that Wardo was also the one taking care of him.
He couldn't help but notice that Sean looked…bored. "Soooo. What can I do for you?" Mark eventually asked, cutting the awkward silence. Sean turned towards him slowly, straightening up, his shoulders becoming rigid. His lips pulling into a thin line, he frowned.
"I need to know you won't turn me in for the accident."
For a minute, Mark thought he'd heard wrong. Because Sean Parker, he wasn't the most stand-up guy in the world – but Mark never thought that he would've come here to force him to cover up something. "If it was just an accident, why does it matter? There's not a whole lot they can do…"
"Because I was drunk, and you and I both know that. If you go off and run your mouth to the cops, it'll get out that I was the cause of the accident, I was drunk, and I'll be arrested. And we wouldn't want that to happen?" Sean was smiling at this point, a smug grin that Mark had to turn away from, instead focusing on the pattern on the blanket. He wasn't sure what it was, but there was something about Sean that made him feel that he could control everything. Including Mark.
And more oftentimes, he succeeded at the latter part. "You were drunk and you knew it. You hit a tree and flipped the car. And you managed to walk away. While I was still inside." His voice sounded so small, it made his stomach retch. Sean laughed this time, sounded clipped and almost mocking. Like Mark was making a bigger deal out of this than he should. Because clearly, in Sean's mind, it's okay for people you trust to almost kill you knowingly and just forget about like it's not a big deal.
Sean groaned in annoyance. "Fuck, Zuckerberg, this isn't that big of a deal. You're not dead, you're going to live, get over it. Stop acting like this is some after-school special that's here to teach us all about 'the right thing to do', or 'friends come first', because that's never true!" he exclaimed, waving his hands animatedly. "Friends never come first. If they do, you're only setting yourself up for destruction. Both of us, especially you, know that." As he added the last part, a smirk lit up his face, his eyes gleaming with something Mark couldn't put his finger on.
"What if I do decide to turn you in?" Mark asked, tone questioning.
As Sean started to move towards the door, he turned back. "I suggest you don't. Because I'll ruin you. In everything you do, in everything you ever attempt. And don't doubt that, Mark. You've seen it happen first-hand…"
Waiting for Mark to wake up was like trying to wake the dead. As Eduardo stood by the door, with every hammering beat his heart made, his mind was telling him that there was still time to escape from this. That he could still back away and it would all turn out for the better. But then he realized that after what he'd learned this afternoon, it wasn't fair to either of them to keep this hidden. Mark had come forward and attempted to share how he felt. The least Eduardo could do was the same.
As he watched Mark begin to stir underneath the huge quilt that he was currently sleeping under, it came to him that if he hadn't been so stubborn, and maybe if Mark hadn't been so thick-headed… they might've been able to work past this a while ago. He'd heard it said that passion and hatred are emotions that often became confused with one another. It seemed like Eduardo was just another example of that.
"…what're you doing," Mark slurred sleepily, rubbed a hand over his face as he pushed himself upright. The exhaustion sapped his voice of any questioning that there could've been.
Eduardo sighed, stepping forward into the room. "I need to talk to you." Almost as if he could recognize the lack of anger in Eduardo's voice as a warning, Mark became alert, still trying to sit up. But it seemed that his mind had woken up a lot faster than his body, as he just kept falling back against the pillows. Eventually, he became frustrated and just rolled onto his side, making room for Eduardo at the edge of the bed. Eduardo laughed softly at this, which caused Mark even more alarm.
When he came to sit down, he couldn't help but notice that Mark was fixated on the empty night stand next to him. He looked at Eduardo, a question etched across his features, before he looked back at the vacant table.
"Eduardo… I need to say something first," Mark started, his eyes still on the nightstand. "Before you do-"
"-I'm sorry," Eduardo interrupted quickly, knowing that if he didn't get it out now, he was going to lose the courage he had built up. "I'm sorry for being an asshole, I'm sorry for not believing you about the emails, I'm sorry about dragging this out for all I could." Mark just sat there, his mouth hanging open slightly. "And I feel horrible that I did, because if it was the other way around, and I knew even though I had tried to apologize multiple times, you still pretended to be angry even when you weren't? I'd be upset…"
He realized at this point he was babbling incoherently, but for the first time since he could last remember, he felt like he could breathe. Like a huge weight was gone from his chest and nothing could bring him down. Before he could even stop himself, he was smiling.
"You forgive me?" Mark asked flatly, almost like it was a rhetorical question.
Eduardo nodded. He laughed - a short, clipped laugh. "When I came to the hospital, I was looking for any reason that I could find to still hate you. But there was nothing. You made it very easy –" Eduardo paused, struggling to find the words he wanted to say.
To fall for you.
He shook his head, knowing that that was for him and him alone to ever know. "- to forgive you. I couldn't really stay mad at someone who'd just crashed his car into a tree… I could say you're a bad driver, but not stay mad at you."
Mark flinched. He wasn't sure where the magazine and the beer had gone, but he was almost positive that Sean had been here. Either that, or he was having some vividly fucked up dreams. All he could think about right now was that Eduardo had just forgiven him. And was sitting with him, beaming in all his precious Wardo-glory.
So now, did he lie to protect Parker's ass? Or did he do it the right way this time?
"Wardo, there's something you need to know about the car accident. Chris and Dustin… they didn't exactly tell you the entire truth," Mark started weakly. The smile quickly disappeared off of Eduardo's face, and it took all of Mark to not turn away from him. He wondered if there was world record for how many times a friend can get angry with you and then forgive you. Because the way he was headed now with Eduardo, he was shooting for the gold.
"What do you mean?" Eduardo said, voice dropping with every syllable, almost like he was losing steam.
Taking a deep breath, Mark fisted his hands into the comforter. He thought back on his time with Sean Parker as president of the company. Now that it was going to end, he wondered if the company could still stay afloat. But when he looked to Eduardo, only a foot or two away from him, he realized that he needed to do this. "I wasn't driving the car. I had been the passenger."
Quickly, Eduardo's face went from fear to mad, contorting to pure anger. "So then what happened? Why did they lie to me?"
"It was a long day, and he maybe had one too many to drink. He was going to drive me back here even though he knew he was intoxicated, but we never made it because we hit a tractor trailer and flipped off the road…" He let his voice trail off, enjoying the vagueness of pronouns.
"Who?" Eduardo snapped, a fist forming and his knuckles beginning to turn white.
"It doesn't matter…" Mark muttered.
"Mark, who drove you home?" Eduardo repeated, wrapping a hand around his forearm. When Mark looked up at Eduardo, he could see that maybe there was still a chance for them. Because right now, he was looking at the same person he'd always known. There had never been a change in Wardo, and he couldn't believe he let himself believe that.
There was only a beat of silence before he heard Eduardo ask "Is he dead?" For a moment, Mark though that he was joking. But when he hadn't said anything else, he realized that maybe he wasn't, because Wardo's face was dead serious. "Because he better be considering that I haven't fucking seen him since I got here. If that motherfucker put you here and isn't dead, he will be soon…"
"He's fine," Mark whispered.
Eduardo jumped off the bed, clutching at his head as his expression hardened. For a minute, Mark was worried that Eduardo was angry at him. But piece by piece, he put it together that Eduardo isn't angry at you anymore. It was a new, strange thought in his head. The anger – it wasn't for him, it was in defense of him. Wardo took a step away from the bed, and all Mark could hear at this point was bits of the rant – "no good sonuva… fucking kill that…horrible homewrecking…" He was pretty sure that Eduardo may've even slipped into Portuguese as he cursed Sean Parker out to whoever might've been listening.
With a grunt of a yell, Eduardo turn to Mark. "That fucker is gonna regret everything he's ever did… I'm gonna make sure of it." As Eduardo took steps toward the door, all Mark could picture was Eduardo trying to murder Sean Parker. Yes, it would be greatly vengeful to both of them at this point. At least, up until the point where Eduardo would go to jail. Or be deported or something. And this whole conversation and forgiveness and past week would've been meaningless.
"Wait…" Mark exclaimed, throwing the blankets off of him, moving a bit too fast than he should've been. His head was swimming, but he shook it off, planting his feet on the floor and getting to them. "Wardo…" he called out, wondering when his voice decided to begin slurring all his letters together.
Maybe the fact that he was gripping onto the nightstand for dear life should've been a sign, but he insisted to try to take a step forward. As he did, the world around him lurched, shifting diagonally, and he remembered too late why his doctor had told him not to overexert himself. As he saw the edge of the nightstand coming closer into vision, he Eduardo shout his name.
Before everything went black, a single bittersweet thought passed through his head.
At least I'm not alone anymore…
Swimming up out of unconsciousness is kind of like swimming in a shark-infested lake. In the middle of a thunderstorm. At midnight. Blindfolded. With your hands tied… so pretty fucking hard.
As Mark blinked awake, have to stop Wardo was still running through his head, making it hurt even more. The sunlight behind the curtains was causing him to wince, but he needed to stop Wardo. Next to him, a soft humming noise filled his head, making him feel sleepy and sick all at once. Continuing to blink, the surroundings became clearer, and he came to realize that the humming noise was actually words.
"…fucking swear to god, since you apparently can't keep yourself in one piece without me here, if you ever try something like this again, I will come back here and kill you. and then bring you life. and kill you again…"
Mark rolled over, finding Eduardo curled up next to him on top of the blankets. No longer dressed in his dress slacks, he was wearing a pair of gym shorts and a threadbare Harvard t-shirt that looked strangely familiar.
He's fucking wearing my clothing.
"Fuck yourself…" Mark mumbled, only it came out barely as a whisper. That was giving Eduardo a little too much credit. Because Mark had been able to exist on his own without any life-threatening injuries for almost a year without Eduardo.
Mid-rant, Eduardo stopped, peering back at Mark. He propped himself up on his shoulders, staring in shock. "Mark?" Mark tried to think of something to say back, but talking seemed to require too much energy at this point. He simply chose to glare at Eduardo.
Flipping onto his side quickly, Eduardo took one of Mark's hands in his own – that was new – while the other brushed Mark's hair out of his face. "Don't you ever fucking do that again."
"You hit your head on the nightstand. People who are recovering from concussions and drug overdoses really aren't supposed to do that…" Eduardo swallowed once, then a few more times before he was able to say softly "They said there was a chance you might not have woken up this time… or at least, woken upas you."
Mark felt the word 'So?' dancing across his lips, but instead the word "Sean?" came out. All he could see was Eduardo standing over Sean's dead body…
He couldn't – he didn't want to even think about losing Eduardo after all this. Because apparently he was now some Lifetime movie main character who fell to pieces at any man who gave him a minute of his time. And as he looked at Eduardo, mere inches away from him, he felt like this was turning into some cheesy romance -
Oh. So that's why…
"Sean's still in one piece. What you choose to do about the accident is…well, it's your choice," Eduardo said softly, running a thumb across Mark's knuckles. That voice, the tone of voice Eduardo had; it made Mark's whole body ache. He felt lost, because he understood that Eduardo had forgiven him. But this was new – wearing his clothes, holding his hand – what the fuck.
"What happened to you?" Mark whispered hoarsely, motioning to the two of their hands, which were still intertwined. He didn't dare pull his out, for fear that he might always have stayed like that. Empty.
Looking away, Eduardo sighed. "I found your emails. All the ones you had meant to send to me. They never made it. Which was why I was so angry at you. If I had known you had sent me an email every day for the past year trying to apologize…"
Mark frowned. "What do you mean 'never made it'?"
"Don't be mad, but I took your laptop to Chris and Dustin, who ran a pretty intense virus scan. Apparently your laptop had an almost undetectable wormhole virus that made it so when you tried to send an email to a specific address, they just dropped out into nothing…"
'But who infected my laptop?' Mark was about to ask, but from the way Eduardo was looking at him, he already knew.
All the color seemed to drain from Eduardo's face, his expression a mess of emotion. "Mark, through this past week, I've come to realize that I need you. More than you ever thought, and more than I ever thought. I fucking missed you. So, so, so much."
At this point, there's so much Mark should be saying. But there's too many options running through his head –you're worth more than a company, I was lost without you, Sean Parker is clearly the spawn of Satan… - but he can't pull just one out. Before he can tell himself not to, Mark's closing the space between them, his heart pounding and his lips crashing against Eduardo's. And through the whole time that he's waiting for Wardo to pull away, all he can think of is how this was nice while it lasted.
Wardo never pulls away. He cups Mark's cheek with his free hand, running the pad of his thumb along his cheekbone. It makes Mark tremble slightly, but it's new. Different. Wonderful. Eduardo buries his face into the crook of Mark's neck, and it's strange how he finds himself surprised at how fast he can feel Wardo's smile against his skin.
"Why are you wearing my clothes?" Mark mutters, brushing a strand of hair out of Eduardo's face.
Wardo laughs warmly against Mark's skin, the gesture strangely intimate. "Because. I needed something to keep me calm. Usually it's you, but I had to go for the next best thing. Since, you know. You were obviously busy being unconscious…"
The room is quiet; quiet enough that Mark has to listen to make sure that he can hear his own heart beating. Because he can't quite believe that this is real and this is now and this is happening. When he does hear it, and ultimately knows that this is real life, he curls up closer against Eduardo. And at this point, there's nothing – not even a multi-billion dollar business – that can even measure up to what he's feeling right now