Rating/Warnings: PG-13 (some mild language)
Word Count: ~4500
Disclaimer: This fanwork is based on fictional representations of the characters in The Social Network; I make no claims of ownership of the characters or concepts. Title is from the song "Till It Happens to You" by Corinne Bailey Rae.
Summary: Mark finds one of Eduardo's old sweatshirts, five years after the depositions. Some messages, an awkward phone call, and a meeting seem to set them back on the right track.
Reema is the longest lasting assistant Mark has had to date. Mark believes it is because she is pretty (she always wears pencil skirts with short heels and Mark thinks that should make her legs look sort of…chunky, but it definitely does not and the other (male) interns definitely notice) but not in a distracting way. Mark doesn’t care whether his assistants are pretty, but it’s a good incentive for the rest of his employees to come into work the next morning after Mark had kept them after for four hours to chew them out about their sloppy work (mostly elementary coding errors that Mark could write in a hypnotism-induced sleep). Mark likes Reema because she has this most invaluable thing about her: she can flip her emotions on and off, like a light switch. Reema’s Emotions are always turned to Off around Mark, except for when he’s sick or being particularly difficult. Right now Mark isn’t sure how to switch the Emotions from Off to On, but he thinks that honesty is always a good place to start.
“So I think I miss Eduardo,” is what he says to her, after all but three of the lights are shut off in the building. Everyone’s gone home (Mark’s too distracted or too tired or most likely both to chew out anybody tonight) and even Dustin and Chris had waved their goodbyes, and so it’s just Mark and Reema and hopefully her Emotions switched to On.
Reema stares blankly at him for a beat, almost kind of judging him, and yeah, Mark expected that but it still makes him shift uncomfortably. Finally she says, “What brought this on?”
What brought it on was this: Mark had run out of sweatshirts to wear (because Reema hadn’t had time to go to the cleaners) and so he’d been forced to wear the green São Paulo sweatshirt Eduardo had given him the very first time they’d met. It was after a party at the Jewish fraternity Dustin had dragged him to their freshman year. Mark didn’t know anybody but Dustin and that made him even more uncomfortable which made him drink. A lot. Excessively, even. Okay, it was so much that he was throwing up in the garbage cans inside, not even making it outside. Dustin was too shitfaced to help him, so it had been Eduardo who’d brought him back to his dorm and cleaned him up. Mark doesn’t remember anything but a lot of puking in the hallway bathroom and then leaving wearing Eduardo’s sweatshirt.
Mark had very consciously hidden away that sweatshirt after Wardo – Edaurdo… Well anyway he’d been forced to wear it because he didn’t have anything to wear besides suits and he didn’t need to wear suits because he didn’t have anywhere to be because Reema hadn’t scheduled him anything. Hm. This was beginning to sound more and more like Reema’s fault. He tells her all of this.
“So you miss him because of a sweatshirt? That’s…well, I’m sorry, but that’s kind of pathetic.”
Mark’s brows furrow. What is this? Aren’t women supposed to be all gentle and caring and shit? Mark should’ve known Reema’s affections were as straight-edged as her skirts.
Reema continues, “Of course it’s sweet, Mark. And also everyone knows you miss him. It was painfully obvious when you yelled at that intern for not modeling the first Farmville farm after that Brazilian plot of land you’d, and I quote, seen in a dream.” Mark winces, recalling the incident. “Which is complete and utter bullshit, Mark, because hello? When do you ever have time to sleep?”
Mark shrugs, because he doesn’t particularly feel like wasting time calculating how much sleep he gets or when he has time to get it.
“Is this what you were doing all last night while you weren’t sleeping? Pondering your feelings for Eduardo?”
“I…I wasn’t pondering my feelings for him,” Mark says slowly. “I was trying to figure out…what I could do about them.”
Reema’s face goes kind of soft, then, like her womanly emotions or whatever finally kicked in. She gives Mark a half-smile and pats his hand. “I see.”
I see? Well that’s no help at all. Mark doesn’t need Reema to see, he needs her to give him some damn good advice. He tells her this.
She laughs. Mark frowns. “I’m sorry, Mark! It’s just…well, I just know you won’t like what I’m going to suggest.”
Mark gives her one of his “try me” shrugs, the kind infamously given to one Divya Narendra, a guy Mark never spends much time thinking about but when he does, the feelings are always caught between wanting to punch the arrogant prick in the face and wanting to laugh at the opportunity he provided Mark to show everyone just how much better he is than…well, everyone.
“Okay then. Call him up. Ask him out to dinner.” She shrugs back. “Easy as that.”
Mark’s head lolls to one side in frustration. No it isn’t easy as that. “You really think he’s going to answer a phone call from me? Accept a dinner invitation from me?”
“It’s worth a try.”
“No, Reema, you don’t get it, Eduardo, he –” Mark cuts himself off, his voice snapping at the end like a hot wire. There’s a thousand ways he could fill in that blank, but each one of them seems to Mark like live circuitry which would sting him and strike him back if he even tried, dared, to bring up the past. So he goes with the least dangerous one. “Um. Well. He. He likes romance!”
Reema cocks an eyebrow. “Okay? So send him flowers.”
Mark fidgets. He really does not want to be having this conversation right now and oh God why did he have to wear that stupid green sweatshirt and now that he’s thinking about it he’ll probably end up wearing that sweatshirt to bed because it’s a damn comfy sweatshirt thank you very much. And it may or may not smell the slightest like Eduardo. And that may or may not (but weighing heavily on the may side) just be Mark’s imagination.
“Flowers would do nothing. Like…like, okay, Wardo’s favorite book was –I mean, is, I mean, shit I don’t know anymore, do I? – well anyway, Wuthering Heights. Wuthering fuckin’ Heights! You have to be at least half-mental to get through that book at least thrice.” (Yes Mark says things like thrice, Reema thinks.) “Which Eduardo has. Not that he’s mental, I mean, I’ve read it thrice too, but that was only because he kept leaving it in my room and I – oh never mind. I mean he just went on and on about how valiant Heathcliff was and oh it’s so much more powerful that they get together how they did in the end and yeah I kinda stopped listening after a while but still. Wardo likes romance. Flowery words. I…I can’t give him that.”
Reema purses her lips. (Mark is scared.) “You could if you tried.”
Mark scoffs. “Yeah? And how would that come off? ‘Eduardo, I – Error 404: emotion not found.’” So it’s come to this. Mark imitating the robot that all his employees (and let’s be honest, half the world) thinks he actually is.
Reema gives him a hard stare, like the kind she uses when Mark’s forgotten to eat again or has maybe let himself get sick again accidentally. “Mark. Come off it. Give yourself more credit than that. I mean, you managed to get him to be friends with you, you managed to get him to give you thousands of dollars, you can manage a little thinking-of-you card.”
Mark pretends not to wince at the mention of his debt to Eduardo. “But how could I do that? Do they sell hey-I-screwed-you-over-but-somehow-I-wan
As Mark surpasses his talking record yet again Reema’s face softens even more which is seriously starting to freak Mark out.
“Oh Mark,” she says in a voice that sounds like a sugar cookie tastes, “I’m sure if you just called Eduardo up and said to him all these things you’ve been telling me, maybe with a little less doubt and a little more assertion, then I’m sure he’d love to go to dinner with you.” Mark huffs and turns away; he’s had enough of this feelings-induced crap talk and he doesn’t particularly like it when people tell him how to act. “Hey, you asked me for advice, remember? And I’d like to think that after working for you for eight months–” holy shit, had it really been that long? “– that I know you. Not as well as Eduardo knows you, obviously, which is why he’d be a fool not to see that you’re being totally sincere right now. And, dare I say it, heartfelt.”
Okay, that’s absolutely enough of that. Mark maybe needs to down a few gallons of Red Bull, code until his eyes fall out, and then definitely not put on that damned green sweatshirt and sleep until the next millennium. He tells Reema all of this and she just laughs. Damn emotions.
At approximately 4:39 in the morning, Mark jolts awake and finds Eduardo’s most recent email address in his contacts, the creepiness of which Mark does not even want to discuss, and thumbs out a quick message, his own digital version of a thinking-of-you card:
I still have your sweatshirt.
He squeezes his eyes shut, pulls on the drawstrings of the hoodie in question, and tries to fall asleep, pretending that there may or may not be something waiting for him when he wakes up. He imagines, in the brief moment before sleep takes over and his breathing evens out, that this might be how a child falls asleep on Christmas Eve. He never did have one of those, but he imagines that waking up to…something from Eduardo would have the same effect.
At approximately 7:55, Mark awakes and gets coffee for himself, refusing to even glance at his phone until he makes it to the office. The fact that he even remembers this Eduardo-shaped weight about him leads him to believe that this is really getting out of hand. He thinks he’ll explode in a curly, staccato mess of code and raw emotions if he doesn’t see Eduardo soon. Or maybe if he does see him. Fuck, he doesn’t know and it’s freaking him the hell out. (On the inside of course, on the outside he still has plenty of functioning control to help Chris track down Dustin for breaking one of the vending machines again.)
At approximately 12:08, Reema brings Mark a sandwich and stares at him with eyes that probably hint at something beyond simple assistantly duties. Mark waves her off and debates taking a bite of his sandwich while checking his phone for the first time, and the possible ramifications of that (which could likely be projectile vomiting and/or extreme embarrassment-inducing choking or simply eating the sandwich pathetically because it is of course possible that Eduardo did not get Mark’s message, or did, and ignored it, or maybe Mark’s email account has been hacked).
At approximately 12:16, Mark wipes the mustard from his lip and opens his phone. He has hundreds of emails of course, but it takes him back to ones dating from 5 in the morning to see a name he cares about.
The cursor in the reply box sits blinking at him, as straight edged as a tiny spear, knowing full well what it wants and what this means and what could happen. Mark feels betrayed by it. Tiny pixelated bastard. He’s about to tell it off by exiting out of his email or just by typing any damn thing that comes to mind when he hears an obnoxious and vaguely orange-colored voice.
“Hey Marky-Mark, what are you up to? Eatin’ a sandwich, that’s cool, glad to see you don’t have scurvy. Hey, if you heard anything about the vending machine on the second floor, it was totally justifiable and also not my fault. And…what happened to your face?” Dustin cocks his head like an annoyingly endearing parrot.
“My face…” Mark touches his face, dumbly. “Nothing. My face is nothing.”
Dustin sits on the edge of Mark’s desk. Mark shoves his phone aside. “Well, yeah, normally it’s nothing. But right now it’s something. Are you pregnant?”
Mark sputter and swivels in his chair. “Oh, my God, Dustin, what even. Who-?” He waves his hand around and hopes Dustin will evaporate. “Never mind. I don’t want to know.”
“With a Facebook baby of course! You’ve screwed it so many times you’ve gotta be knocked up by now. Is that the baby announcement you’ve got there on your phone? Let me see it!”
Now Mark knows Dustin’s just trying to get out of doing any productive work in the office, and also maybe to escape Chris’s wrath, which results in a ragtag wrestling match which leaves Mark pathetically winded and Dustin victorious.
His mouth drops open a little and a soft “oh” falls out.
Mark snatches it back, and then, “Yeah.”
Dustin’s hand hovers over Mark’s shoulder, like he doesn’t know if he should be congratulating or consoling. “Well…I think that’s great, man. That you’re talking again.”
“Well it would be…could be great, if I actually had something to talk about. I think almost every conversation topic is covered in red flags.”
Dustin shrugs. “I mean, yeah, it’s gonna be hard. But you actually made contact first and nothing exploded, right? Eduardo’s not fragile, Mark, don’t act like this whole thing is made of bombs.”
Mark thins his mouth in a straight line and turns back to his computer, determined not to spill his feelings to someone two days in a row. After he’s heard a soft huff from Dustin and the clink of his door being closed, he pulls out his phone.
I can send it to you, if you’d like. I would have sent it sooner, but I didn’t find it until just now.
He sends the message off into the air, hoping Eduardo will send back something more than two words (although those two were…perfectly adequate words, if Mark says so) and will understand that what Mark is really saying is I would have sent this sooner, but I didn’t find the courage until just now.
The next interaction between them occurs when Mark is horribly drunk on wine coolers at a party of Dustin’s, his cousin’s birthday or something like that. Sean is there, of course he is, because a party’s happening and because he can always sniff out an opportunity to ruin Mark’s life.
“So a little birdy told me you’re talking to Saverin again,” he slurs into Mark’s ear after stepping off the makeshift dancefloor and finding Mark huddled in the corner, nursing a red cup in his hands.
Mark thinks vaguely that this birdy could be orange-haired and Dustin-shaped, but he doesn’t say anything. It’s safer that way, with Sean, he’s learned.
“What do you two even talk about? How the only time you got laid in college was together, in a bathroom stall?” Mark really wishes he hadn’t let that one slip one drunken night after an investor’s meeting. He also really wishes that the combination of those words in that way didn’t make his cheeks flare up and his stomach tighten. “Or, no, no, I know, the – ha! – the fuckin’ weather!”
Mark briefly considers punching Sean in the mouth and then foresees a significant decrease in his coding in the future due to a bandaged hand. “Shut up, Sean, it’s not – he’s – we haven’t even talked.”
Sean’s eyebrows shoot up devilishly. “Oh really? C’mon, Zuckerberg, don’t be a…lady. Call him the hell up!”
Mark’s drink his nearly empty now and he sloshes it back, laughing at the fact that Sean instinctively censors himself in any Facebook-related environment now. He wonders what slur he was going to be called and mentally thanks Chris’s PR skills for derailing that one.
Sean take’s Mark’s laughter as a sign to continue, and he fumbles around until he produces his phone and presses it into Mark’s hand, Eduardo’s number already flashing on the screen. Mark’s head hurts from too many drinks and the close proximity with all these people to even want to wonder why Sean has Eduardo’s phone number and why that makes Mark’s tongue taste sour with jealousy. And then the phone is ringing and Eduardo’s crisp voice on the other end is going “Sean? Sean, what the hell, I thought –” and Mark doesn’t have time to feel anything at all.
“It’s not. Um. Sean.”
Eduardo breathes a little, and then, “Oh.” Mark isn’t sure why people keep doing that around him.
“Um, yeah, I. Sean is here, though, if you, um, want to talk to him.” Mark wants to drown in his cup.
“What? No, don’t be stu- I, um. Just. God, Mark, hi.”
Mark doesn’t know if he’s being chided or appreciated or what. “Um, hey.”
Eduardo sounds like he’s taking very calculated breaths on his end of the line, wherever that may be. “What’ve you been, er, how have you…how are you?”
Mark isn’t sure which end he’s supposed to pick up. “I’m –”
“God, this is ridiculous, isn’t it? We’re like teenagers again, this is so…Look, um, Mark, I…I’m glad, really glad you sent me that message.”
“Oh? Um, I mean, yeah, sure. It’s just…I just found it in my closet, is all, not that I’ve been meaning to keep it but, you know, I rarely clean so…”
Eduardo’s breath curves through the phone, like it’s escaping from a smile. “I do know.” Eduardo still knows, can still read between Mark’s tacitly coded lines to hear what Mark’s really saying, what Mark even covers up. “And, hey, listen, I…I’ll actually be in town in a few days, if you want to meet up or something.”
Now Mark’s breath catches and he shoves himself even further into his corner. This conversation, sparked by a Sean-doused fuse and some alcohol, has turned into something bright, something burning that Mark feels the need to contain. “I, yeah, sure, to give you your sweatshirt.”
“To give me my sweatshirt, yeah,” Eduardo says and this time Mark definitely knows he’s smiling wherever he is because Mark is smiling right there, in his burning corner that crisps around the edges like Eduardo’s voice.
A few days actually turns out to be two days and Mark finds himself freaking out in a way he hasn’t before. It’s like preparing for a blind date, only you’ve missed your date by five years and the person isn’t “blind” so much as your best friend.
It’s gotten so bad that Mark’s taken to meeting with Reema during lunch, and then before the office opens, and then after too. She calls them their “Marking of the Calendar” which is better than some of the other puns Mark’s gotten (namely “Mark as Spam”). A curious Dustin has started to show up to them to, at first a sign of his creepy over-investment in Mark’s personal life and then became simply a way to flirt with Reema.
“What are you going to say if the depositions come up?” Reema asks over donuts one morning (jelly and powdered ones, courtesy of Dustin). She’d been filled in on the genesis of Facebook, of course, all its messy beginnings and complicated associations. Not that she’d needed to be debriefed for the job; it was practically common knowledge by now.
“Apologize in as few words as possible,” Mark repeats back through sticky donut crumbs.
“And…?” Reema prompts.
“And…and be sincere?”
“Yes, good. Now that’s assuming he brings it up, of course, because,” she stares at him pointedly. “Because…”
“Oh, because, because I’m not the one going to bring it up. I,” Mark clears his throat, “am going to keep the conversation as professional and friendly as possible.”
“Good,” Reema smiles at him and Mark thinks this must be how she trains her dogs.
“Wait, friendly and professional?” Dustin cuts in, powdered sugar coating his mouth and even clinging to his hair. “Are you kidding me? Mark, c’mon now, we all know you wanna bang that Brazilian ass, don’t even try to –”
Mark sputters on his coffee as Dustin flails his arms about, presumably enacting however he thinks Mark and Eduardo would “get it on.” “Dustin, please, you’re embarrassing yourself more than usual. Wardo and I are going to have a nice, platonic catch-up. And, just, I don’t know, some coffee and closure.”
“Yeah or some beer and banging.”
“Drinks and discussion.”
“Hot chocolate and hand jobs.”
“Spaghetti and sex!” Reema cries, giving in to a fit of giggles. Mark groans and Dustin’s eyes go wide and he looks like he’s falling in love.
What it actually turns out to be, on June 30th, at approximately 7:14 PM is champagne and chuckling. Or full on chortling, if Mark’s being honest.
They’re in the bar of the hotel where Eduardo’s staying and Mark had briefly considered putting on a tie, but ended up going straight from the office in his shorts and pullover, his fingers jangling in his pockets and his skin chilled with goosebumps in the summer air.
Eduardo’s at the bar when Mark walks in, his lean frame bent forward and talking in low Portuguese on his phone. He smiles when he sees Mark, rolls his eyes at something the other person said, and hangs up.
“Mark,” he says and Mark shoves his hands in his pockets, not knowing what to do with them or what Eduardo wants him to do with them. Eduardo laughs and pulls on the bunched up fabric on Mark’s elbow.
They’re nose to nose, too big and awkward and Jewish, practically breathing the same air and Mark feels like he’s eating his name with Eduardo sighs out, in the middle of a crowded hotel bar, “Mark.”
Mark thinks it’s the beginning of something, or the picking up where something else was left off, and he’s burning bright again like that night of the party and he completely forgets everything he and Reema rehearsed.
Eduardo eases them into it, like a capable captain on a ship that doesn’t quite know where the dock is. He asks Mark where Mark was when he called, and that sets them into their first fit of laughter when Mark tries to describe Dustin’s “mating dance.”
“He basically just squawks like a parrot and shoves his pointy elbows in the direction of any female,” Mark laughs, the bubbles of his drink tripping up his nose.
Eduardo snorts too, nearly knocking over the little bowl of pretzels and they get a few glares from around the room. It feels like they’re teenagers again, but not in the awkward way like before.
Then Mark asks who Eduardo was talking to, and for some reason Eduardo blushes when he says it was his mamãe, like maybe he’s too old to be talking to his mother on the phone when he’s on a business trip. But Mark feels like no time has passed, that neither one of them has aged except maybe they’ve matured, and Eduardo is on a business trip, right?
Eduardo blushes even harder this time, a flush that would normally be pink on Mark’s pale face but it colors Eduardo’s tanned skin crimson. “I, uh, technically should be on a business trip in Dallas. But, uh, I’m here…instead?” He says it like he’s asking Mark for permission, if it’s okay.
And that does it, that sends the ship barreling into uncharted seas and Mark sure doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. He nods slightly, because he feels like he owes Eduardo that, and then the enormity of just what he owes Eduardo crashes onto him like a wave, sends him sputtering and choking and drowning. His chest aches and he thinks that even though Eduardo seems to be okay with this, seems to want this, even though Mark hasn’t even brought flowers and shit he’d forgotten about the whole romance thing, hadn’t he? But romance is nothing compared to reconciliation and he knows the past can snap back like a hot wire, knows that it won’t let them move forward until they at least try to be complacent with it, put it back in order, calm it down.
Mark lifts up his glasses, brings it the slightest to Eduardo’s. “To the emptiness left behind when you left,” Mark says, focusing on the shiny tint of his champagne and not the expression on Eduardo’s face, whatever it might be.
Mark hears Eduardo breathe out slowly, heavily, like a line that drops an anchor. He clinks his glass with Mark’s fully and places his hand on Mark’s knee. The warmth of it spreads, blossoms, sails and voyages all over Mark.
“To the fullness of our lives now that we’re back,” Eduardo responds and, yeah, Mark agrees, likes the sound of that and the we in Eduardo’s lilting voice. He grins crookedly at Mark and Mark smiles back. It feels like as alive as an ocean.
They sit like that, lightheaded from the champagne or the laughing or the unreality of being together again until Eduardo’s phone buzzes and Mark sees the area code for Texas flash up. He nods and Eduardo takes the call.
Mark should feel bad that Eduardo’s getting yelled at for not being at whatever thing he needs to be at, but Eduardo’s still got his hand clasped around Mark’s knee and Mark is going to be as selfish as he wants for as long as he’s got Eduard back again.
Eduardo hangs up the call quickly, too quickly so that Mark knows he’s going to have to give up Eduardo for the evening. Eduardo smiles apologetically, moves his hand to Mark’s hand, and squeezes it tightly.
“I’m being forced into a conference call, but can I see you again tomorrow?” He sounds a little surer of himself now, his voice not so choppy and watered.
Mark presses his hand against Eduardo’s, thinks about diving in. “Yes,” he says and their smiles engulf them both.
With the promise of tomorrow glistening like the setting sun on his shoulders and the press of Eduardo’s hand still thrumming against his skin, Mark walks home and realizes he completely forgot to bring the sweatshirt.