And also I wrote a thing what the actual heck is wrong with me.
A Warm Place
Summary: Eduardo wakes up in a world where things went differently.
Notes: This is one of those stories that's so cringingly self-indulgent that even someone as shameless and silly as me feels a twinge of guilt for posting it where actual people are actually subjected to it. But whatever, it wouldn't leave me alone so here it is.
More notes: Fudging timelines a little with pop culture stuff, because I think the suspension of disbelief required here is rugged enough to handle a universe in which television and newspapers have content slightly off the timeline of reality.
Potential Trigger Warning: Non-graphic descriptions of injuries and disabilities gained as a result of a traffic accident. (Which are based on the ones I sustained myself in my own accident, by the by. I warned you that this fic was cringingly self-indulgent.)
Non-dedication: Fuck you brain, and fuck you movie, I fucking hate you both, what the fuck is this shit.
The day has, once again, been a long one. It doesn't seem fair that sitting at a table for hour after hour every day should be so exhausting, but really at this point it's absurd that Eduardo still has any expectation of fairness from the universe.
The hotel room is as pristine and austere as any newly made-up, uninhabited room is at the end of the day. Even that innocuous impersonality feels like one more tiny strike somehow.
Eduardo's eyes are gritty and sore from the airconditioning. He considers having a drink, or even just a shower, but in the end weariness wins out over unwinding.
It's easy to feel self-pitying and self-indulgent when you've spent the day recounting the ways the world has done you wrong, and Eduardo's mood is low enough that he lets himself wallow a little.
Of all things, he thinks of the near-miss accident he'd had on the way to the Facebook office on the day of the million member party. He'd felt such a rush of relief when the SUV had missed his cab by less than two inches, skidding on a sudden flat tire. There have been a couple of moments in the time since that second when he's been feeling bad enough that he's wished it had all ended then, before it all went to total shit.
Apparently this is one such moment, because as Eduardo falls asleep still fully-clothed on top of the covers on the bed, his last thought is to wish that car hadn't missed.
He wakes to a sharp, viciously intense headache over his left eye. For an indeterminable about of time, it's too intense for him to register any sensation but the discomfort.
Eduardo keeps his eyes squeezed shut tight, because he didn't close the drapes last night and cannot deal with light on top of this pain. So the next thing his senses register, apart from soreness, is the unexpected level of comfort the rest of his body feels.
The pillow is the firm, springy kind he likes, not the too-soft things his hotel provides by default and which he hasn't bothered to have replaced. His clothes are a t-shirt and boxers, rather than the shirt and slacks he'd still had on when he fell asleep. His right knee throbs with a dull pain, less insistent than the stabs in his head but just as bad. His right forearm and shoulderblade have a quieter echo of the same feeling.
Confused enough to brave the California light, Eduardo opens his eyes. The headache doesn't get any worse, but it doesn't lessen either, and so bewilderment is the strongest feeling Eduardo can muster about the situation, rather than genuine panic.
He's in a high-ceilinged room, on a bed that's queen- or king-sized and rumpled on the side not occupied by Eduardo. The same suit pants and shirt that he'd fallen asleep in are folded over the back of a chair, beside a kicked-aside heap of what looks like cargo shorts and a t-shirt. Eduardo puts the pants and shirt back on, feeling a little less disoriented once he's dressed. He doesn't bother with shoes or socks.
The hallway beyond the room is more of the same airy, comfortable architecture as where Eduardo woke up. This is one thing about California he'll admit a grudging appreciation for, the relaxed atmosphere that buildings seem to almost automatically take on in all but the tensest of circumstances. Even the conference room they've been in for the depositions has felt cleaner and calmer than the stuffy, varnished space where they've been facing down the Winklevoss twins.
They. Even now, Eduardo's automatic instinct in the Winklevoss depositions has been to defend Mark. It's sick.
Voices drift up from the lower level of the house, so Eduardo -- the heel of his left hand pressed hard into the eyesocket on that side. The pressure blunts the pain of the headache a little, enough for him to be able to think.
The kitchen-dining area makes the airy upstairs seem cramped and dark by comparison. There's a can of Coke already set beside the bottle of Eduardo's pills on the countertop, and he swallows down a mouthful and two of the painkillers.
"I still don't believe you that the caffeine makes the medication work better," a female voice says.
"It's documented fact," Mark replies. "I can show you the studies."
"I'm still not going to believe you," she counters, sounding amused. "Good morning, Eduardo."
There's a moment of disconnect, a double-recognition, when Eduardo looks at the young woman sitting opposite Mark at the table, sheafs of foolscap papers spread between them. Marilyn, one part of his memory supplies. One of the lawyers in the PR department, the one who challenges all the pronouncements Mark makes by reminding him how the other side will spin it.
One of Mark's lawyers, the other part of his brain coughs up, less certainly. She seems pretty impressed by him, but not fooled. Having someone like that around will be good for him... Until he screws her over and shoves her out of his world, anyway.
And next to her is Mark, and all Eduardo's brain supplies is Mark, because the tumult of memories and the curdled knot of feelings that comes with that word is an info-dump too large to unpack and process while he's still half-asleep.
"Morning," Eduardo answers, swallowing another mouthful of Coke.
"There's a couple of things I'm meant to mention to you, too, so don't run off," Marilyn tells him. "CNBC's been contacted about reprint rights for some of your columns again, so they want to draw up ongoing terms for when that happens, rather than just do it each time as a one-off. Karl and Vanessa have done a basic breakdown, so if you could look at that sometime this week and get back to them it would be good."
Eduardo nods. "Sure, get them to email everything through."
"And AMC and Lionsgate have sent a list of topics they'd like to get interview grabs about for the DVD documentary. We've gone through and made some notes on what we think you should be diplomatic about and what's fair game."
Mark mumbles something under his breath. Eduardo gestures at him with the hand holding the can of soda.
"You keep quiet." His head hurts. Why can't he have a morphine drip stuck directly into his poor bruised brain, honestly? "Thanks for letting me know, Marilyn. I'll take a look at it today."
"You should go back to bed. You look terrible," Mark tells him in a brusque voice.
"Your diplomacy is as always unparalleled. No wonder you're the one who's a special feature on a Mad Men DVD and I'm the one whose PR team includes attorneys so I don't end up sued by the entirety of the business world on a weekly basis," retorts Eduardo.
Mark doesn't bother to rise to the bait. "Go back to bed. There's an email from Dustin to both of us with a reminder of the location of the restaurant for tonight. I'll go straight from Facebook and meet you there."
Behind the headache, confusion is running riot in Eduardo's brain. He feels like there are two songs in different keys playing in his head. He's paying attention to one and not the other so that the scene before him makes any sort of sense at all, but the other plays on relentlessly in the background. 0.03%... you only had one friend... you made a bad business decision...
Eduardo doesn't realize that he's stilled and closed his eyes until he feels Mark's hand take the can from him and put it down on the countertop, the other hand coming up to touch lightly at Eduardo's arm.
"Go back to bed," Mark repeats yet again, voice as gentle and soft as it ever manages to get. He's looking at Eduardo with frustration and affection, less guardedly that Eduardo can remember ever seeing Mark's expressions while sober.
"Or what," Eduardo asks, feeling tired and crazy and completely out-of-step. "You'll dilute my shares down to 0.03%?"
Mark's mouth just quirks into a smile. "You use that on me way more than I use the chicken thing on you. Who's the diplomatic one again?" he says. Like it's nothing. Like it's a dumb ridiculous thing that's getting mileage as a dumb ridiculous thing.
Eduardo has to close his eyes again. Mark's hand on his arm tightens. "Bed, Wardo."
Eduardo nods, waving a distracted goodbye to Marilyn as Mark practically manhandles him back to the base of the stairs.
"I'll see you tonight. Go sleep, and plan your glittering media career, and play with your godless child of Wikipedia and Youtube and Google Images --"
"Qwiki is not a godless child of --" Eduardo cuts in. Mark just grins, a small victory at getting a rise out of Eduardo, and presses a quick, perfunctory kiss against Eduardo's mouth.
So Eduardo stumbles back up the stairs, undresses once again, and climbs back into bed. The painkillers haven't kicked in yet, so he's got no chance of getting any real sleep for the time being. Instead, he just closes his eyes and lets his mind drift, hoping the tangled strands of memory inside his head will sort themselves into true and false without too much concentration on his part.
He can't remember the accident itself, though there are slivers of consciousness from the ambulance ride and the ER. Of all his injuries he was most aware of the chip in his front tooth, the pain radiating out from it over his face.
Time seemed to stretch and swell and thin in a way that had no relation to the actual passing of seconds, so he'd had no idea how long it was that he'd been there before Mark had been there at his side as well.
"Sorry I didn't make it to the office," Eduardo had said. Mark was frowning, and Eduardo hated it when things he did made Mark frown. It seemed to be happening more and more with passing time.
"Shut up," Mark said back snappishly, hands buried in the kangaroo pocket of his hoodie.
"Have I been here long? I didn't make you miss the party, did I?"
"You've asked me that six times. Stop it."
"You have a concussion." Mark answered. He still sounded angry and annoyed, but even with his mind mostly in disarray Eduardo was with-it enough to realize that the sharp edge in Mark's voice wasn't directed at him, no exactly, and the part of it that was directed at him was resentment of the fact that Mark was being made to feel stressed over something he couldn't then control and repair.
The memory goes grey and choppy again after that. Eduardo can recall having the laceration in his head stitched, the strange numbness of the skin and the distant pull of the surgical thread. Mark was there too, until his phone rang and the nurse demanded he go outside to take the call.
When Mark eventually came back to his bedside -- another grey dip of time later, but one Eduardo could dimly gauge as being quite long -- Eduardo had been moved into a private room for overnight observation, even though it felt to him that most of the night must've surely passed by now.
Mark looked utterly exhausted. Not just physically, which Eduardo had seen a thousand times on him, but mentally and emotionally as well. He looked like he'd aged four or five years in the space of a few hours.
"Everything okay?" Eduardo asked. His voice was indistinct from the painkillers and the swelling on his lip where his tooth had cut him. They'd cleaned the blood off his face. He was going to have some scars, but they didn't know how extensively yet. His kneecap was badly damaged and there were likely hairline fractures in his arm and shoulderblade. The doctors were most concerned about the concussion, which was the injury least possible to predict the long-term effects of.
But even so, Eduardo was the one asking Mark if he was okay. That was just how things worked.
"It's nothing," Mark answered. Eduardo could spot a lie when he heard one, even with a brain resembling battered fruit. He gave Mark a long look with the eye that wasn't swelled shut. Mark shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Wardo. Sean fucked up. I'll take care of it. You just rest."
More nothingness, and then morning light in the room and Mark, hunched over a laptop in the chair beside Eduardo's bed.
"Hacking my medical information or doing Facebook work?" Eduardo asked, half-joking. Mark didn't look up from the screen.
"Multi-tasking both," he answered. "Do you need a nurse?"
"Maybe. Gimme a minute," Eduardo answered, attempting to take stock of how he felt. The general answer seemed to be 'terrible', but nothing requiring immediate emergency attention.
"You need to sleep. There's nothing urgent you need to stay awake for." There was a burst of clacks as Mark typed something.
"You need sleep too," Eduardo reminded him.
"Do you want me to look at that legal stuff I should've seen yesterday? I don't want to hold things up."
Mark glanced at him for a moment, shook his head, and went back to typing. "No, it's fine. They can wait. Everything can wait."
So things did wait, for a week that Eduardo spent slipping in and out of the greyness. Mark was there more often than not, first in the standard plastic hospital chair and then later in an armchair he'd managed to get from somewhere. With anyone else, Eduardo would've said they'd charmed their way into getting the better seating, but it was Mark. Charm was not quite his strong suit.
Sometimes they chatted, sometimes Eduardo just rested and let the sound of Mark's typing carry him in and out of dozing. Other people came and went, doctors and nurses and orderlies and visitors, but for the most part it felt to Eduardo like it was just the two of them, together.
"Are you going to sue?" Mark asked him at one point. Eduardo had laughed quietly, trying not to move too much.
"Aren't you the guy I recall railing against 'endless needless litigations standing in the way of the world running optimally'?"
"That's because the Winklevii are being irritating, petty, and poor losers. You were injured because the owner of the other car had failed to do proper maintenance on their tires. It's not an equivalent situation."
"What you mean is, this time it's something you actually care about that got hurt."
"Yes," Mark had answered simply, no longer mostly distracted by the computer but instead looking directly at Eduardo. Eduardo had smiled at him, hoping the scratches and stitches didn't make the expression look frightening rather than friendly. Mark had smiled back.
Another occasion of conversation had been late at night, when Eduardo had been woken by yet another horrendous headache.
"Go home. Get rest," Eduardo had said, when he'd opened his eyes and seen Mark's face bathed in its usual monitor-glow from the laptop. "Even healthy brains need sleep, even ones as impressive as yours."
"I'm fine," Mark said, but he closed the laptop and shifted a little in the armchair, like he was planning to have a nap right there.
Eduardo sighed, well-worn frustration welling up. He was on a drip for fluids but otherwise free of medical attachments, so it was relatively simple to shift his bruised and battered body over to one side of the narrow bed. "Come on, lie down here."
"I don't want to hurt you."
"Sorry to shatter your self-perceptions, but you're not quite so deadly as an SUV. I think my fragile human form will survive you being next to me."
Mark huffed a little in protest, but climbed in carefully.
"Everything going all right?" Eduardo asked. He hadn't asked about Sean, and didn't plan to. For all Eduardo cared the guy could be schmoozing his way onto a private jet and escaping to Cuba, or stuck in jail, or anywhere else.
There was a tiny, petty part of him that felt a flare of victory that Mark was here, staying close through Eduardo's lowest moment, rather than there for Sean's. Well, Eduardo liked to think it was a tiny part of him. Admitting the extent of his pettiness probably wouldn't leave him in a very good light.
"I've been arguing with Peter Thiel and the lawyers about share redistribution. You might need to sign another set of papers."
Eduardo felt cold for a moment, tensing beside Mark in the dark of the room. "I'm not brain damaged, Mark. I can still handle the responsibility."
"Technically, you are. The medical term for concussion is 'mild traumatic brain injury'. But no, it's not that. It's... we can talk about it when you're properly recovered. Go to sleep."
"We can talk about it now," Eduardo insisted softly. Of all the places to have an argument, lying together in a hospital bed was one of their most absurd, but considering they'd started a revolutionary company whilst standing outside a Caribbean-themed frat party, it was perhaps par for the course.
"The way you think... about business, about investment, about how that whole world is meant to work and fit together and interact with the actual whole world outside that bubble... it's not right for Facebook, Wardo. You just refuse to see that --"
"I'm not one in danger of fucking things up here," Eduardo answered. He was too tired and sore to be as angry as he wanted to be, Mark's weight and warmth too comforting and familiar beside him. "If I'm not... if things aren't right, we can... just make me see, Mark. Stop telling me I'm wrong and take five fucking minutes to show me what's right for Facebook. Don't shove me out because of that tremendous asshole Sean, who's -- what did he even do, anyway?"
"Got caught doing cocaine with some underaged interns at the party. But he hasn't been charged. I don't think he will be. He knows how to make these things go away."
This time Eduardo couldn't help the bitter laugh that welled up, even if it hurt his sore bones badly to let it out. "Nice to know what you think the important skillsets for the future of business are, you fucking asshole."
Mark sat up. It was too dark to see clearly, but Eduardo thought Mark was probably trying to look directly at him. "He's gone. He's not going to be President of Facebook anymore. And Wardo... I don't know if you're right to be CFO, either."
"Fucking Christ, Mark."
"Even if you had nothing to do with the company anymore, I'd let you keep shares, I'd -"
"Oh, that's so fucking generous of you, I'm so glad you'll let me keep part of the fucking empire I helped you build, you son of a -"
"I'd dilute them down," Mark went on, ignoring the outburst, still just a faint silhouette in the dark beside Eduardo on the bed. "But you'd still... you'd still make money. A lot of money. Because if I do this the right way, my way, even a sliver of the pie is going to be enough to feed a nation.
"That was the plan. That was the contract you signed. But then when Sean -"
"What was the dilution?"
"- got arrested, I reconsidered what might be a fair standard percentage to provide to those who couldn't remain as -"
"What was the dilution?" Eduardo asked again, sharply and loudly enough that Mark couldn't possibly ignore it. "What was my new share, Mark?"
"It was 0.03%."
"You fucking asshole." Eduardo wished he had the energy and strength to push Mark out of the bed, to smash his fucking laptop against the floor. Instead he's just got his words, numb and shocked in the dark.
"Wait, no. It isn't that anymore. I've been talking to Thiel and the other investors and getting the lawyers to redraft the contracts. You'll have 5%. I... Wardo..." Mark's words trailed off, like his near-limitless vocabulary had suddenly failed him. Eduardo swallowed, trying to breathe above the hurt.
"I didn't realize," Mark says softly.
"What, that I was your fucking friend and that you were supposed to give a shit about what happened to me?" Eduardo hissed.
"Yes! I didn't realize, but when you got hurt I did and then -"
"I guess that getting hit by a car is the best business move I've made in a while, then, isn't it?"
"It wasn't right, what I did," Mark said, and Eduardo flinched a little because he knew that was the best that he was going to fucking get. It was the closest to apology that Mark was ever going to offer.
"No. It was so very goddamn far from right, Mark."
"But I'll make it right. I'll... it'll be all right."
Eduardo wanted to argue more. He wanted to shake Mark, he wanted to punch him, he wanted to grab him and kiss him and maybe then Mark would fucking see, he'd understand what it was that he'd thrown aside so easily, what he'd valued at a tiny fraction of a single percent.
But he was tired, so tired. He closed his eyes and slept again.
He can't remember waking the next morning, if Mark was already up and off the bed, or if Eduardo was awake before him. But he remembers that he spent the rest of the day lying on one side, aching and stiff-jointed, not looking at Mark and ignoring anything Mark said.
He didn't order Mark to leave, but wasn't sure why he didn't.
Eventually Eduardo was deemed well enough to leave the hospital, even if he was still sleeping most of the day away. He was still numbed by Mark's confessions, and so felt only a dull lack of surprise when the cab delivered them to Mark's house from the hospital.
He slept. He signed the new contracts. He slept more. Mark didn't try to engage him in conversation but was usually somewhere at hand, working at the desk in the room Eduardo was staying in or taking phonecalls in his office, in earshot just down the hall.
One day, Eduardo felt well enough to get up and get dressed, albeit in a clean pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. He shuffled out of the guest room and set out to find Mark. Mark was, unexpectedly, sitting and thinking on the couch, not even remotely close to a laptop or computer setup.
"Why are you looking after me?" Eduardo asked, sitting down beside Mark. The hospital had given him a pair of dark glasses in case he developed light sensitivity, but so far the headaches seemed to come and go on a schedule of their own choosing, regardless of anything external. The afternoon sunlight showed a Mark who was thinner and paler than Eduardo had seen him, that suddenly-older cast still on his features.
"That's a stupid question," Mark answered.
"No it's not. I signed the new papers. I'm not your CFO anymore. You don't have a stake in making sure I'm on top of my game."
Mark shot him a blank, unreadable look, frowning. "Don't be asinine."
"Don't be obtuse," Eduardo shot back, then stopped and shook his head, looking down at his hands. "I might as well demand that you stop being Mark Zuckerberg as demand that."
He got up again, slowly and carefully. Mark made a move, as if to help him, but Eduardo shot him a glare that froze him in his tracks.
"Don't. Also, I'm going to be using the computer you left in my room. If there are any stock dilutions or hostile takeovers saved on it that you don't want me to see, you should probably have done something about it already."
Back in the room, Eduardo sat and typed for most of the evening, until his eyes and arms and head were more painful than he could endure. It was enough time for what he wanted to do, anyway.
He saved the file, attached it to an email, sent the email to Mark, and hobbled back to bed.
Stay young or die trying: what Palo Alto and Hollywood have in common apart from Californian real estate
By Eduardo Saverin
It's a rare person these days who doesn't know that the full name of Botox is botulinum toxin. Botulism. But there are still millions of people who are willing to take in a little bit of poison for the chance of staying young.
What does this have to do with business, particularly Silicon Valley high-technology business? The answer is that if you're afraid of change, of the damage that you risk when you undergo change, then you simply age and wither.
There's no old guard, when it comes to technology, and we face serious consequences if we allow the first wave of successful settlers on this frontier to become the establishment. The old rules don't apply in the new field. The age of Madison Avenue advertising firms playing matchmaker between content delivery platforms and products is an age of the past, and those of us who do not realize that are doomed to a dying future of pop-up banners and floundering companies...
The article was some two thousand words in total, and became the first of Eduardo's columns for CNBC.
He'd didn't know how long he'd slept, after sending that first draft of it off to Mark, but he woke when Mark turned on the overhead light in his room and stepped inside.
"It's really fucking good, Wardo. It's --"
"It's what you wanted me to understand. What I didn't," Eduardo replied, sitting up. Mark nodded, and walked over to sit on the edge of the bed.
"Yeah," Mark said, so quiet, his words gone again. "Yeah."
Their first kiss wasn't much more than a brush of lip to lip, because of the cuts that made Eduardo's mouth sensitive and the broken tooth that made it dangerous for any visiting tongues. But there were other kisses later, more than enough to make up for the imperfect beginning.
The guest-article spots evolved to a regular column, and occasional speaking slots at functions. Eduardo became one of the young faces of entrepreneurship. Even the thin scars left on his face as his injuries healed became part of the myth, because -- as art directors at various magazines assured him time and time again -- they lent his message an air of rugged lawlessness, a Wild West mythos.
(The first time such a comment made it back to Mark's ears, he bought Eduardo an absurdly oversized cowboy hat.)
The headaches and the imperfect memory and the bad knee and all the rest left him different to who he'd been before, but Eduardo didn't feel as if he'd diminished. It was just an alternate path to the one he might have been on otherwise.
Now, if he and Mark had been scheduled to meet up with Dustin and Chris for a dinner, Dustin sent them both a reminder instead of just Mark. It sometimes threw Eduardo a little, things like that. How he could be someone who needed a little extra care taken with him, and yet still be someone worth having around.
"Do you ever think about what might've happened if I hadn't had the accident?" He'd asked Mark once, after his first dream of just such a scenario, of learning about the dilution in a sterile room of lawyers instead of the dark of a shared hospital bed. It had been not long after the first article, when things had still seemed new and fragile between them.
Mark had looked at Eduardo, then looked away quickly, as if he'd been caught in a guilty lie. It had taken Eduardo a few seconds to decode the meaning behind the glance -- even those fluent in the language of Mark Zuckerberg were contending with the most difficult of silent dialects -- but when he had, he'd laughed.
"It's okay to be glad that things happened how they did, Mark," he said, pulling Mark into a hug to which Mark reluctantly surrendered. "It's okay."
These days, when Eduardo wakes up with headaches and half-remembered dreams of how things might've turned out, he lets Mark guide him back to bed, and everything settles back into place, just where it should be.
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