Loneliness is ugly.

It's not soothing or solitary or even a little bit calming. It doesn't give a person peace of mind, or that extra bit of time that they need to finish up whatever work they couldn't before, or allow for meditation or whatever shit it should. It's exactly what the name describes it to be – it's lonely.

And the worse part of it all? It makes Eduardo feel like he's done something wrong – something to deserve all of this. Something to himself to end up in this place where he feels like he can't say anything or do anything right. Where he just feels so wrong.

If there was any physically real state of limbo here on Earth, Eduardo was currently living in it. He spent every day feeling like he was just floating through his job, through meaningless tasks, through everything people told him to do. For once – and probably for the only time in his life – his life felt like it had no meaning behind it. He could not go to work, and it wouldn't matter. No one would miss him or realize he wasn't there. There were no friends either – because almost all of his old friends were Mark's employees, meaning they were holding one of the most complicated relationships in the world. It was just that simple.

The thought of Mark sent his head into a spinning frenzy of emotions, something that he's been attempting to stop but unable to avoid for the past year. One part of him wants to repeatedly wring Mark's neck, but then there's still that other part of him – the one he's desperately tried to get rid of. The one who still wants to take care of and look after Mark. Who liked it all. Who liked making sure that he knew to eat regularly and sleep at least three hours a night and tried to get him to wear normal shoes during a blizzard.

The part that doesn't want to let go of everything that was Harvard.

Laying back on his couch and smoothing his wrinkle-free slacks, he grabs his laptop from the table beside him before he even realizes what's happening. After this whole year, after the lawsuit and the backstabbing and everything, Mark still has this hold over him….

I don't even understand why I'm bothering to write to you, because you're still a hopeless douchebag. And considering the fact that you haven't even apologized to me for everything – let alone anything – it's finally clear that you're not even going to attempt it because you most likely see yourself as doing nothing wrong. And don't try to tell me you don't. I know you better than you know yourself most of the time. I just wanted you to know that I'm giving up on waiting.

And I still hate you.

It's one of the most ridiculous things Eduardo's ever written, but as he highlights everything and prepares to delete it all, he realizes that the overall message of it is what he wanted to get across. Shutting his eyes, suddenly feeling exhausted beyond belief, he sighs and presses send.

After all this time, Mark can still make Eduardo do what he wants, because Eduardo realizes that this was probably part of Mark's grand scheme. Get him to make the first move. It's tricky, sneaky, cheap.

It's totally Mark.

The thought brings the closest thing to a smile onto Eduardo's face.

After all this time… he thinks sadly. And after all this time, Eduardo still responds to that hold…

When he opens his computer the next night, his inbox only has one new personal message in it, and he already can figure out who it's from… The reply is dated only a few hours after the one Eduardo had sent. He considers trashing it before even opening it, chalking his first message up to sheer stupidity.

But he opens it, because that's what he does. And subconsciously, somewhere deeply hidden in his mind, he knows that he had wanted to open it too.

im happy you wrote to me. surprised – but happy. I know you're still mad at me, and I understand why. I deserve it.

if there was anyone who knew me better than myself, it's you. It's always been you Wardo. So you're right. I'm sorry that I hurt you. But I'm not sorry for what I did. I don't know. I'm confusing myself – I've never been good with apologies.


you know what to do.

Eduardo laughs bitterly at it, wanting to slam it shut and be able to think to himself that this is typical Mark and of course he's not sorry and just move on from it all. But when he finds himself getting up from the table in his kitchen, his head spinning as he poured himself a drink, the only thing that sticks out in his head is what should be the least memorable part of the message.

It's always been you, Wardo.

Throwing the drink back like it's nothing, his fingers digging into the design on the glass, he can practically hear Mark saying it like he means it. The thought of that – of Mark meaning it and saying it isn't too much of a foreign concept, because both of them know that it's true. Eduardo doesn't want to admit it, but he knows that Mark still cares about him. And that he still cares about Mark. He knows that and he's known it since the day of the depositions. He just can't admit it to himself aloud. It'd be like betraying himself at this point. Sleeping with the enemy.

Or something along those lines.

When he goes back to his computer to close it, there's a new message in his inbox, sent only a few minutes ago. It'd be slightly comical to him if he wasn't feeling so fucking messed up right now.

I miss you. I need you. I didn't want to say it, but I need my best friend. Not a business partner or whatever. Just you. That's all I want.

It's just that one line in it's simplicity, but it's says enough. Eduardo just stares for a second, that horribly empty pain in his chest welling up like it always does every single time he considers calling Mark. It would be so, so easy to hit 'reply' and just tell Mark everything and submit to his own cowardly emotions. Despite trying so hard to fight it, this is what he's been missing for so long. This is what he's been wanting. And it's right here in front of him.

He checks both of the emails and hits 'delete' before closing the computer and going to bed.

He doesn't even know what the hell he's doing here. Considering that it's pouring rain, he's standing outside of Mark's huge house with a wet and crumpled piece of paper with the address on it from Dustin and he still can't figure out what brought him here, he's wondering what he'd been planning on doing next…



Mark's standing there at the door, hanging onto the knob loosely. He's dressed in a stupid Old Navy sweatshirt and gym shorts and Adidas sandals even though it's the beginning of March and it's freezing out and it's pouring out and….

And it's like nothing had changed.

Eduardo's brain splutters as he tries to come up with something to say, something to cover up the fact that he just randomly showed up at Mark's house uninvited after a whole year of not speaking or communicating or anything. But he can't, because he's within only a few feet of Mark, and yet everything is back to the way it was. He wasn't strong enough to face this yet, he still isn't. Because Mark's rocking back and forth on his feet awkwardly with a look on his face that looks like a mixture between giddiness and boredom – and it's all too familiar. And no matter how much he wants to project that to Mark – that he wants this back, not Palo Alto or Facebook or anything else, but Harvard-era – he can't. There's nothing he can possibly think to say.

"Wardo?" Mark tries again, a different sound behind his voice this time, pulling his hood over his head and stepping out into the rain beside Eduardo.

"I came to tell you," Eduardo eventually mumbled, his voice sounding so honest and so small that it doesn't even sound like him. He takes a deep breath, purposely turning away from Mark. He can feel the way Mark's eyes are on him, and it make him feel like everything that he's fought for and everything's he's tried to prove is just going to waste. He sniffs, clearing his throat as if doing so would clear his head of all the clouding emotions as well. "I didn't come here to tell you that I can't live without you, because I can. I can live without you."

Mark tips his head at this, his lips downturing from what had looked like an expression of amusement to something more serious concern. And every ounce of self-discipline that Eduardo's built up over this past year, every bit of strength he's wanted to hold up against Mark comes crashing down when Mark looks at him, an expression that says more than words ever could.

"I can live without you. I can," he repeats for emphasis, although as his voice cracks on the last part, he's not sure what good the emphasis does. There's a beat of silence, and Eduardo realizes that in that moment, he could easily walk away from this all. Leave Mark hanging with that valuable piece of information and get on with his life like nothing had happened. It'd be easier than what he's about to do…

"I just don't want to," he eventually whispers, softer than ever. All he can hear is the rain and his own heart beating by now, because he's almost positive he's not breathing. Mark takes a step closer to him, and then another. To the point where they're practically touching. Eduardo closes his eyes, feeling the unshed tears across his lashes, because at this point, it physically hurts. He doesn't have the strength in him to push Mark away, so when Mark grabs a fistful of his soaking wet collar, yanking him forward into a kiss, Eduardo can only fall into it.

It's strange, this is the one person who Eduardo had sworn to himself he'd never reach out to again. He'd never talk to or think about or interact with again after the deposition. But as Mark's hand gently wrap around the back of his neck, diminishing any chance of him pulling away, Eduardo realizes that at the same time this is the one person he can't live without. At least, not without losing himself in the process.

So maybe he doesn't forgive Mark for what happened.

And maybe Mark doesn't apologize either.

But as Mark invites him into his house to dry off and get warm, and Eduardo accepts, he thinks to himself that in the scheme of everything, he can come to accept that. Because from where he's standing right now – those look a lot less ugly than being alone forever.

And with Mark? Eduardo sure isn't alone.