laliandra: (randj)
[personal profile] laliandra
Title: Another Vision of Us
Fandom: The Social Network
Rating: R
Pairing(s): Mark/Eduardo
Warnings: none. Some conning and related crime activities.
Word Count: 24467
Summary: Based on this. In which there is a merry band of con-people called the F. Well, merry until the fucking Winklevii take their greatest asset, the facebook. As if that wasn’t bad enough, their only chance of getting it back requires bringing back their estranged team member. Eduardo Saverin (of the Miami Saverins) is a con-man extraordinaire, weather dork, sometime cat burglar and Mark’s ex best-friend (it totally counts if you only say that when they were unconscious).




NOW

People used to underestimate them. Too young, wrong background, crazy ideas, nice faces. Well, people still regularly underestimate Chris but he never seems to mind, Mark supposes it makes it easier for him to charm them into doing exactly what he wants. Even Mark still falls for it, despite the fact that he knows - has video, monetary, and textual proof in fact- that underneath that innocent, trustworthy face lurks a mind like a steel trap.

The thing is, Mark did mind, right up until the moment that the douches were left sitting in the - sometimes literal - ashes of their former empires and cursing Mark’s name. Or cursing the F. Whatever. Things are different now and Mark loves notoriety. Dustin and Chris may enjoy easy, unaware targets but Mark revels in the fact that everyone knows who the F are these days. They are among the richest, brightest, most feared, best. But maybe that’s made them complacent, which would go some way to explaining...

“Mark,” Chris says again, sharp. “Can you focus, please? The fucking Winklevoss are saying that they’ve got the facebook.”

That.

Mark says, “On it,” and wires in.

He calls Chris an hour later to confirm that it does look like the fucking Winklevii have the facebook. Confirm may not exactly be the right word. "It's not just compromised, it's eviscerated. They nuked all the backups somehow."

Chris sighs, a static rush down the line. “Wait, I’m patching Dustin in.”

There a pause, a click and then Dustin says, “Boss.” That’s never a good sign.

“Can you...” Mark starts but Dustin is talking before he can get the question out. “I don’t know, Mark. Don’t know how they got in, or locked us out, how they fucked with the servers or where they’ve gone. Nothing.”

It was a blind hope at best, that Dustin could find something when Mark couldn’t. But Dustin lives to surprise Mark with his ninja competency. Literally, on some occasions.

“They’ll need money, server space, connections, if they’re going to actually use it,” Dustin points out.

Mark says, “The Winklevii are old fashioned, they’d probably go to one of the families, a club. Maybe even to sell.” He thinks not, probably. Getting the Facebook for their own has been Cameron and Tyler’s goal for too long now, even the sums of money that the Phoenix or the Porc would pay for it wouldn’t be enough for them. They’re little rich kids who, like all spoiled children, want something because they’ve been told they can’t have it. Fucking Winklevii.

Chris sighs. “I could...” He hesitates for just a moment too long, enough time for Mark to think about the very few things that can make Chris Hughes halt in this tracks.

“You could what?” he asks, as coldly as he can. He has some pretty bad suspicions.

“You know those places,” Chris says. “They’re a closed world and we’ve never tried to get on their good side because we’re better than that. We don’t need them.”

“Stop stalling, Christopher. So you could...”

Chris says, “I could call Eduardo.”

“Okay,” Dustin says quickly. “So I figured there would be an awkward silence so I’m just going to start talking about nothing in particular but I might bring up the subject that calling Eduardo is probably the best thing we could do right now and he’s awesome, Mark, you know he’s awesome, you know you should let Chris call him and...”

“I think the awkward silence has been avoided successfully,” Mark breaks in. “Why. Why would you call Wardo?”

“He knows all of those kinds of people,” Chris points out. “And he’s one of us, Mark, he should be here. This is important.”

*

THEN

“Mark Zuckerberg, right?” The guy talking to him stands out at the hacking party like the sorest of thumbs. Mark had registered him when he’d first arrived, vaguely wondered what the hell he was doing here. Attractive, wearing dress pants, doesn’t have a laptop. This guy might as well be from a different planet.

“Yes?” Mark says, warily. The dude looks kind of wiry but you just never know. That tiny girl from Classics had punched like a bastard, although quite why Mark’s brain is equating someone’s parent’s marital status with their ability to injure him is unclear. Things started to go a little off-track after the second round of shots.

The guy laughs. “You don’t sound very sure.”

“It depends on whether you want to know if I’m Mark Zuckerberg because your girlfriend or sister or, I don’t know, platonic life partner was up all night crying about Facemash, and you memorised that fucker’s face so that you could exact some kind of ironic revenge by smashing it in.”

“Eduardo Saverin, no girlfriend or platonic life partner, and my sister would have destroyed you herself. I wanted to say, er, good hacking, I guess?” He frowns. “I don’t actually know, I’ve been told that the actual hacking part was impressive, that’s beyond my limited tech skills. Still.” He gives Mark a huge smile, his entire expression changing in the space of a syllable. “If you happen to see Mark Zuckerberg, tell him I thought the whole thing was pretty cool.”

Mark snorts. “I’ll let him know.”

Of course at that moment Joe walks by and says, “You’re up, Zuck!” He tries to slap Mark on the back but misses, getting mostly air and the edge of Mark’s shoulder.

“Your cover is blown,” Eduardo says, shaking his head, eyes now large and serious. Mark has no idea how he’s doing that with his face.

“Damn,” Mark says. “I really hate having to burn all my possessions and shave my head.” He wanders off to take his place at the table. He’s never had a problem hacking drunk, the parts of his brain that get affected seem to be unnecessary, like the ability to code is linked directly to his fingers with no other assistance required.

After he’s run out of decent competition he finds himself going back to where Eduardo is eyeing the “punch” dubiously. “If you don’t know about hacking, then what are you doing here?”

Eduardo tilts his head and Mark realises that probably quite a lot of time has passed since the rest of this conversation happened. “I know Dustin? Dustin Moscovitz?”

Mark tries and fails to see what this guy could have in common with Dustin, with anyone in his CS class. He’ll rail against stereotypes as much as the next . He pulls a doubtful face.

“I guess you could say that we have other overlapping interests,” Eduardo says, with a laugh.

“Are you going to make me guess?” Mark asks. Eduardo smiles into his cup. “What can I say.”

Mark gives Eduardo another look over. Clearly he missed something in the first sweep.

Mark wakes up the next morning on his sofa with a beer bottle and a piece of paper labeled “INTERESTS” scrawled on it on the table next to him. It has a Venn Diagram with a Dustin/hackers circle and an Eduardo circle on it. In the middle, where the overlap is, there’s just a large question mark.

*

NOW

Chris calls again after an hour or so. Mark has catalogued the damage - bad from front to back and every fucking level in between - and is now going over every request on their server for the last month because those bastards got in somehow and if he can work it out then he can find them and crush them.

“Eduardo says he might be able to help,” he tells Mark. “He’s going to come to my place on Thursday. Be there. Be smart. Be... Okay, I was going to say nice but that’s not exactly your style and it’s not like Eduardo ever cared for nice anyway.”

“I know,” Mark says. Eduardo always used nice more as an insult - I don’t know, Mark, he’s just so bland. Bland and beige and nice. Eduardo was emotion and extraneous movement and comments with a hidden edge in the centre of them like a sword stick. There was nothing nice about either of them, not really.

Mark swallows. He clicks the page where his facebook should be again. Still nothing.

“It’s been nearly five years,” he says.

“Exactly, plenty of time for the two of you to put all that stupid shit behind you and move on,” Chris states.

Mark says, “Oh, it’s as simple as that, is it?” and it comes out flatter than he wanted. Chris makes a soft noise, a little too sympathetic. Chris had figured it out long before Mark had, after all.

“Maybe it should be,” he says. “I know you’re not actually still angry with him.”

Mark doesn’t bother with trying to lie. Chris has other plans and other projects these days, “going legit,” as he like to joke, but he can still read Mark like a book. There’s still a sign on Chris’s desk that Dustin made years ago, taken from office to office as they move, that says “Chris Hughes: Translator. French - English. Mark - Rest of the World.” He says, “Not exactly.”

“Just don’t be an asshole,” Chris instructs him. “Or at least try not to be.”

Mark thinks, just for a second, about protesting.

“Mark,” Chris warns. “Wardo is probably the only person who can get the information we need. He’s Eduardo Saverin, the clubs have to let him in.”

*

THEN

“I’m a Saverin of Miami,” Eduardo says, and grimaces at his plate. Mark doesn’t think it’s the dining hall food, for once.

On the table between them is the Venn Diagram, stained and crumpled. In the middle there is now a scribbled note that says, in all caps of victory, “CRIME.”

Mark frowns. “Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

Eduardo looks up sharply. “You really don’t know. Never knew?” He gestures down at the diagram.

“I take my graphs very seriously,” Mark says. They’ve been running into each other for weeks now, Eduardo turning up with Dustin seemingly at random. Eduardo likes to lean over Mark’s shoulder and make considering faces at whatever he’s working on. It’s clear that he wasn’t lying about his lack of coding knowledge, but it makes Mark laugh anyway. Eduardo has an implausibly expressive face. But sometimes Eduardo also makes comments, just small things about domains or creative commons law. They’re obviously not things that he even thinks about mentioning, knowledge so ingrained that it’s practically instinctual. And one day it just clicks.

(Eduardo had traced the letters with his finger, cheap Bic ink coming off the page and staining his skin. “I know... stuff. I can answer questions most other people wouldn’t, so certain... communities come to me with questions.”

“Not vague at all, then,” Mark had said.)

“But you’re one of the most overtly law breaking people I’ve met here,” Eduardo says. “Don’t you know anything about the criminal underworld? Did you not do any research?” He looks genuinely aghast. Mark bets Eduardo is one of those people who cites a source for everything. He’s discovered in the last couple of weeks that under all of the good clothes and the easy manner, Eduardo Saverin - of the Miami Saverins, what the hell was that anyway- is kind of a nerd.

“Didn’t seem important,” Mark says with a shrug. “I know what I can do. I’ll see what other people can do if they try and get in my way.”

Eduardo says, “Mark,” in a way that should seem judgemental but doesn’t. He spears a green bean with his fork. “There’s no good way of explaining this but my family are sort of a big deal, in that world.”

“Like the mafia?” Mark jokes.

“Kind of,” Eduardo says, calming eating another bean. Mark stares at him, tries to picture Eduardo in a suit ordering hits. If he tilts his brain just right, it sort of works.

“Are you being serious?” he asks.

“I’m sure you can find out,” Eduardo says. “You’re you. The internet has no secrets it can keep from your hacking prowess.” He waggles his fingers in an imitation of Mark. It’s a tic, Mark doesn’t know where it came from, he’s done it for as long as he can remember, linked in his brain to starting an new project.

Mark says, “Okay. Cool.” He takes a spoonful of mac and cheese - into which he has mixed peas because Eduardo has this thing about always getting green onto one’s plate because Sesame Street told him to, Mark wishes he was making this shit up - and thinks about potential.

Eduardo’s mouth crooks around a smile. “That’s all you’ve got. Cool?”

“You’re a mafioso. That is pretty cool. I mean, obviously it doesn’t make you cooler,” Mark says, jabbing towards Eduardo with his spoon. Eduardo laughs loudly, tilting his head back, and people stare over at them. Eduardo doesn’t seem to notice.

*

NOW

Mark looks at Eduardo when he arrives and tries to work out if he feels any differently, after five years and too much time to dwell on should have, could have. All that conditional tense can make a person bitter. Now that he knows... Well... Now that he knows. But no, it’s still the same push-pull war of frustrated and pleased. He wants to ruffle Eduardo’s slicked back hair until he looks more like Wardo of the F. Which should have possibly been a clue. It does say “A Mark Zuckerberg production” at the bottom of every page of the facebook.

Chris was lying about the satisfactory nature of revelations. Eduardo's hair really does look stupid like that. He’s wearing a dark blue suit and carrying himself too straight, too self-contained.

Eduardo always knows the impression he’s making, he’s been conning people most of his life.

*

THEN

“Thank you so much,” Eduardo says to the barman. They take their drinks - the ones that they definitely didn’t pay for as far as Mark could see - to a table.

“Did you just...” Mark waves a hand at the drinks.

Dustin claps Wardo on the back. “Hell yes he did.”

Eduardo says, “Thanks, Dustin,” but he’s watching Mark intently. “Baby’s first con, what did you think?”

The thing that Mark will remember the most is how easily Wardo’s mouth had shaped itself around the lies. “Why did you do it?” he asks. “You can afford a round of drinks here.” Mark can’t, but that’s another story. One he doesn’t much like being the protagonist of.

“Because it’s fun.” Eduardo says. “Plus I like to show off my abilities now and then. Make sure that you remember what I’m here for.”

“Like we could forget,” Dustin says with a laugh.

“You’re here to buy the drinks,” Mark teases.

*

NOW

“I’m not here for you,” Eduardo says. His eyes are fixed somewhere just over Mark’s left shoulder. “I’m here because Chris asked me and because it’s the facebook. It doesn’t belong to the Winklevosses, they didn’t make it, they certainly don’t deserve to profit from it.”

Mark finds he’s nodding along with Eduardo’s words in spite of himself. He’s right, they created facebook, their code and their ideas. The thought of Tyler’s name on the masthead of Mark’s system makes him want to smash things.

“And besides, they’re kind of tools,” Eduardo adds. He’s refused to sit several times, hovering in the middle of Chris’s front room and probably doing damage to Chris’s infinitely precious wood floors with his pacing.

“True. And it is sort of your duty as a member of the F to defend our honour,” Mark says.

It’s meant to be a joke but Eduardo goes white. “Not any more, remember,” he says. “You should do, seeing as you were the one who pushed me out.”

“You’re the one who left,” Mark says, because it’s true. “Plus you were with the Phoenix in New York, you weren’t a part of the F anyway.”

“I was there for us as well, only you didn’t seem to understand what undercover meant,” Eduardo hisses.

Mark says, “Look, you’re back now, you can help us now...” Eduardo cuts him off with a sharp noise.

“You’ve only ever wanted me when you could get something out of me, Mark Zuckerberg,” Eduardo says, vicious. “Believe me, I will never forget again.” He turns on his heel and walks out the front door.

Mark stares after him. “What the hell did he mean by that?” he asks Chris. Mark hates not being able to just read Eduardo, hated it when he went off to New York and came back angry and different, and they couldn’t seem to fit back together. And it’s worse now, like the people they’ve become don’t recognise each other. Even his goddamn hair is different.

Dustin turns to look at Mark, slow and incredulous. He says, “Mark, seriously. You have to see how it seems to him. That you only ever want him when you want something from him.”

Mark says, “Is that how it seems to you?” because Dustin’s face is horribly familiar, from all those months when he’d hardly speak to Mark and every time he had looked at him it was like... Like each time he saw Mark he was disappointed all over again, a fresh betrayal with every glance.

“The two of you, it was always a bit...” Chris waves his hands around.

“Sad?” Dustin offers.

“No it wasn’t,” Mark objects. Even when he was really, really mad at Eduardo he’d always had great memories of their time at Harvard.

“Okay, not sad but it wasn’t normal. It was like...” He looks at Chris. “Help me out here, Hughes. Surely metaphors are like, the one useful thing your fancy arts degree is good for.”

“I feel so valued,” Chris sighs.

Dustin says, “No, wait I’ve got it. It was like that movie.” He looks at them both triumphantly.

Chris says dryly, “Ah, yes, it’s suddenly all so clear.”

Dustin sits forward in his chair. There’s a blanket over the back of it that Mark recognises from way back when, the one that always got pulled out for movie nights and mornings after the night before. It’s sort of weird to see it here among Chris and Sean’s perfect furniture, but sort of not. Out of all of them Chris is the one who’s made something that feels like a home the way that their dorm room did.

“Wall.e,” Dustin says. “Wardo was bringing you lightbulbs and rubix cubes and trying to show you the wonders of the world and you were just zipping around saying, “Directive.”” He does his best robot impression. “Except for lightbulbs read servers and for Directive read facebook.”

Chris grins. “Wa-ardo,” he tries. They are terrible excuses for friends and colleagues. Mark tries not to think of Wardo’s stupid, sad eyes looking over the top of something.

“He just wanted to hold your hand, Mark,” Dustin is clearly getting into his stride. “That’s aaaaaall,” he sings.

Chris says, “Oh my god, this is so true. It’s the most accurate and tragic thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Directive,” Dustin says mournfully.

Great, now one of Mark’s favorite movies has been spoiled because he’s never going to be able to watch it without thinking of Eduardo getting struck by lightening. While holding out a router box.

“So that makes you the cockroach,” he tells Dustin, who shrugs.

“I am indestructible,” he returns. “And I hope that my genius metaphor...”

“Analogy,” Chris corrects.

“Analogy. Whatever. My genius has made you see the light in your stupid robot brain.”

“He thought I only brought him on board for the money?” Mark asks. He feels, well, he feels angry at Eduardo for not realising how wrong that is but there’s guilt, too, strange and adult.

“Maybe not at first,” Chris says. “But later, when things were...” he pulls a face that doesn’t quite sum up the horrible charged tension between Mark and Eduardo but comes pretty close. “Bad.”

“But it wasn’t just about the money,” Mark says. “That’s stupid. He was my best friend.”

“And Wardo knew that?” Dustin says. He looks sort of unconvinced, which is really unfair. “You told him that?”

“Yes,” Mark says, defensively. “Of course. Just because I didn’t go around telling any person, plant, or inanimate object I came across how much I loved them every time I got stoned.”

“You tell your laptop that sober,” Dustin claims. “And me and the bush outside of Kirkland had something special.”

Chris grins. “It was very understanding all of those times you fell into it.” Dustin flashes him a smile back.

“When?” Dustin says, turning back to Mark, mood switching gunshot fast. His expression is one Mark has seen across poker tables. Call.

“This is ridiculous,” Mark tries. “I don’t have a trapper keeper where I keep a BFF log.”

“Don’t try and distract me by making more than one pop culture reference in a sentence,” Dustin says. “You never said it, did you.”

Chris sits on the edge of Mark’s desk with an sigh that Mark has come to recognise as, “I despair of you as a human being, but I have grown resigned to your failings and so will not end you.” They’ve spent a long time sitting at opposite other, often with not a lot to do. Mark has had plenty of opportunity for study, categorisation and very specific naming.

“I...” And then he remembers. “After the Delancy Job. With Sy,” he says, triumphant.

Dustin stares at him. “Mark,” he says, carefully. “You know it doesn’t count if the other person doesn’t hear.”

“Oh Mark,” Chris says.

Dustin reaches out and takes Chris’s hand. “I’m sorry, I have to finish this sentence. Please try not to actually kill Mark with that pen.” He looks from Mark to Chris and back again, and then removes the whole cup of pens from Mark’s desk and holds them behind his back. “It especially doesn’t count if the other person doesn’t hear because they were unconscious at the time.”

Chris makes a distressed noise.

“It still counts,” Mark says. It comes out a bit petulant.

“It does not,” Chris says. “This is why we need him to come back, so that you can tell him. And maybe stop hating on each other from opposite sides of the world. That would be kind of satisfying for the F.”

“Look, I think we’ve already got an improbably happy ending to this story...” Mark says. “If we’re going down the route of analogy.”

“What?” Chris says.

“We’re young and we’re rich. We all made it through the first few years of running a criminal gang without getting arrest or killed. Chris met the perfect guy on a blind date, for the love of god.”

Mark doesn’t think about things like luck, he’s smart enough to make his own most of the time, but he knows that the odds have been seriously against them all making it this far. “Dustin should have died at least seven times by my count,” he adds.

“You always underestimate me,” Dustin says. “Ten at least. And I hardly think that counts as getting an improbably happy ending...”

Mark sighs.“Dustin, everyone knows you’re in love with Amy from the Stanford, okay? You’re not cut out for a clandestine Romeo and Juliet affair.”

Dustin looks shocked, like he hasn’t been spending hours on the phone ‘data gathering’ with her, which is a poor cover for making very dorky jokes and reading out horribly accented sentences in French that Chris has written out for him.

“You don’t...” Dustin says, making a vague shape with his hands. “Mind?” He bites his lip, like Mark is actually going to go all vengeful and possessive on him. The Stanford aren’t the enemy.

“It’s very romantic, we’re very happy for you.” Mark assures him. “I’m just saying. I think the F have used up all of the narrative luck we’re going to get from the universe.”

*

THEN

Dustin comes from a criminal family too, although not the same way as Eduardo. Not at all. Mark has put together a pretty good picture from the web and from things that Dustin lets slip in the middle of a long ramble about something completely unrelated.

It’s a picture of a kid and his sister who were left to fend for themselves too much, using the tricks of their parent’s trade, easy when it’s all you know. Who had to dodge loan sharks and worse. A kid who was smart but tiny, who learnt to fight.

“It was all very Karate Kid,” Dustin says. “Lots of training montages and focusing my rage on those who had done me wrong.”

He looks at Mark. “So I get it when you say you want revenge.”

Mark nods. He’d never been threatened before, not like that. He wanted to destroy them, nothing but an unoriginal gang of thugs, anyway.

“You want Chris Hughes,” Dustin tells him. “I’ve been thinking we should get him on board for a while now, anyway. This kind of thing is his specialty. He can ruin a whole life in an afternoon.”

Mark says, “I’ve never heard of him.”

“Exactly.”

But it turns out that the picture Mark had was incomplete. Well. That’s an understatement.

Chris Hughes has a cute face and perfect teeth and a newscaster accent.

Mark thinks maybe this is why he takes to Mark, Wardo and Dustin like he does. None of them look like they should be trying to take on the criminal elite.

“Good work on the Hellard job,” Chris says to Dustin, who makes a dismissive gesture and says, “Nah, it was simpler than it sounds. After the first floor, anyway.”

Mark freezes. “That was you?” he asks. He knows all the details, even though it happened before he came to Harvard. The Hellard job is pretty legendary in Boston.

Dustin gives him an odd look. “Yes.”

“You took out seven members of a notorious cartel to get to their mainframe and then redirected all of their bank transactions? I heard they lost four million dollars in a night.”

“More like three,” Dustin says. “But yes. Like I said.”

Mark says, “But I thought you were just a programmer?”

Chris’s shoulders start to shake.

“You’ll have to upgrade me,” Dustin says, with his wide, guileless grin.

Chris says, “Your problem is pretty easy, actually, with a campus like Harvard. You just start telling people that the rumour about the Ad Gang isn’t true. Be as earnest as you can. However compelling, however likely it may sound, you want them to know that it isn’t true.”

“How does that help?” Mark asks. He really hopes Dustin hasn’t brought him an idiot for a joke. He doesn’t even know what this guy majors in but he’s betting something, whatever, Artsy.

Chris gives him a big-eyed, innocent look. “The thing is, to tell them not to believe the rumour, first you have to explain to them what that rumour is.”

*

NOW

Eduardo calls Chris on Saturday. Chris transfers him to Mark without warning him first. Mark says, “That was a fast version of never.”

Eduardo hangs up.

Chris calls him back and makes a lot of apologetic “hmm”s. When Mark gets Wardo on the line he’s laughing.

“You just did that for the hell of it, didn’t you?” Mark says, smiling, even as Chris makes throat cutting signals. He knows that laugh.

“Of course,” Eduardo says. “But really, Mark, what did you expect?”

“What did you? You know I don’t do small talk and pleasantries.” Nice, Mark thinks, and shakes his head.

“I know grovelling isn’t exactly in your nature, but I’m going to need something better than this. I can’t...” Eduardo sighs. “I don’t need a rerun of the ‘Mark Zuckerberg Can’t See Anyone Else’s Point of View’ show. Been there, got the emotional scars, thanks but no thanks.”

“I didn’t know,” Mark starts. “I...” He did know. Eduardo had been so angry, the kind that people only ever are when they are really, truly hurt. “I’m sorry, I guess,” he says. He is. Has been for a really long time, but he has to say it now, even though it still feels like showing your belly to the enemy. He has to get Eduardo back, he has to.

Eduardo makes a sharp, punched out noise.

“I’m sorry too,” he says. “And I’m sorry for... I couldn’t, you know, with the Phoenix, I couldn’t say no. My father... You know how it is with him.” Mark knows. That’s the thing that makes Eduardo so good at conning. He genuinely wants to be whatever people most want him to be.

Eduardo sighs. “But I shouldn’t have... I know I messed up. It was stupid, and I’m sorry, okay?”

Mark knew that, really, because Eduardo is that kind of person. He’d probably known that for years, if he’d thought about it. It’s stupid to... It’s stupid that it matters so much just to hear the words.

“Okay,” Mark says. There’s a long pause, like Eduardo is waiting for something. But they’ve both said sorry. Mark really doesn’t think there’s anything else to add, but Eduardo can be weird about this kind of thing.

“Come back, come to our headquarters. It’ll just be you and me and Chris and Dustin?” Mark tries.

“Yeah, I heard Sean got busted,” Eduardo says. “I don’t suppose you had anything to do with it.”

“I can’t comment on that,” Mark says, because he’s still a little raw and he’s not going to admit that Wardo had been very, very right about Sean. Mark likes Sean, still has that slight tinge of awe when he thinks about him, but Sean could not be trusted with the facebook. Which is really funny in that way that isn’t at all amusing.

The phone line makes Eduardo's laugh thin, pulls all the warmth out of it. Or maybe it’s the mention of Sean, who’d always made Eduardo bitter-edged and petty.

Eduardo says, “If I say yes, you understand that I’m just going to help you get the facebook back and then I’m going back to Singapore. This isn’t... We aren’t the F any more.”

“Got it,” Mark says.

*

THEN

“Is that us?” Mark asks.

Dustin grins, huge, and bounces on the balls of his feet. “It’s us,” he says.

“Wardo, come look, we made the FBI watch list,” Mark calls over his shoulder. He looks over the page again. He sort of wants to screencap it. Then he notices that Wardo has failed to appear where he should be, next to Mark and leaning over to peer at his screen, body angled just right to avoid being in the way of Mark’s use of the mouse. He’s been conditioned through repeated elbowing. He turns his chair round.

Eduardo is standing in the middle of the room, staring at Mark in what looks like disbelief. Mark gestures a ‘what?’ at him with his hands. Eduardo runs his hands through his hair. He says, “Do you really think this is a good thing? We don’t want to be on the watch list, Mark, that means that the FBI are watching us.”

“Oh, like they can get to us,” Mark scoffs. They can’t even keep Mark out of their system for more than a day.

Eduardo comes to read over Mark’s shoulder. “Mark, why are they calling us the F?” They’ve joked about being the Famous Five before, or possibly the Famous Four because no one is really sure if Andrew counts. No one is sure if Andrew exists out of an IRC channel, to be honest.

Mark says, “I thought it was cooler than a kid’s book reference.” He brings up the graphic embedded into the code.

The four of them gather around Mark’s chair to stare at it, as quiet as Mark’s ever heard them, like no one wants to break the moment. Mark steals a look up at Eduardo, sees the moment when he’s convinced, when the possibility breaks over him. It’s perfect.

“Cool, right?” Mark says, noncommittally. Eduardo doesn’t take his eyes off the screen.

*

NOW

Eduardo says, “Classy,” raising his eyebrows. He gestures around at the mismatched collection of chairs and tables.

It’s a temporary HQ, they did a salt-and-burn on the last place after the Winklevoss breach. They’re careful, these days, although it’s probably not a standard measurement of adulthood, but Mark will claim responsibility points wherever he can get them. There’s actually minimal burning involved in the procedure, which Dustin always looks distressingly disappointed about.

Mark shrugs.

“Wardo!” Dustin says delightedly. He gets up from his chair and hesitates for a second, then wraps Eduardo up in a hug. He says something that Mark can’t hear but it makes Eduardo laugh, full blooded and rounded out.

He was Dustin’s friend first.

Dustin puts his arm around Eduardo’s shoulders and walks them over to the big table in the middle of the room. He sweeps the paper and cans into a pile at one corner, and sits down.

“There,” he says, in a satisfied voice. “Now we’re ready for a team meeting.”

Eduardo gives the chair nearest to him a suspicious look but sits. Chris comes out of their tiny kitchen, beaming at Eduardo who grins back. It’s not that Mark minds that they’ve all managed to carry on being friends, it’s just that... Well. He minds.

“Are you coming to sit down?” Chris asks, with only the slightest hint of threat in his voice.

Mark is used to that kind of level of veiled menace, he deals with it on the regular, so he says, “No, some of us are still working, you know.”

He refreshes the page again.

“How did they even do that?” Eduardo says. Mark glances back over his shoulder and Eduardo is looking past him to the clean white page with a stricken look. Mark knows that feeling, his stomach still turns every time he sees it.

“They got into our repo, stripped us bare, then trashed the production server and all the backups. It means they have everything that makes the facebook the facebook,” Mark tells him. Wardo’s probably not had to speak tech in a while.

Chris says, “Andrew was sending us a new laptop, specially modified, of course. We use an intermediary and they must have worked out who it was. They knew about Andrew, because some people can’t keep their mouths shut. Anyway, they installed a keylogger on it. It was easy for them from there to get everything.”

“We never even thought to check,” Dustin admits, wincing. ‘Going soft in their old age’ was how he’d described it when they’d finally worked it out. Mark can see now that he’d been coasting for a while, what with Chris off changing the world and Dustin and Amy and their thousand new ideas a week. The facebook had been so all consuming, so challenging, but it hadn’t stayed that way forever. And now it was gone.

Chris says, “We’ve put some feelers out, and no one else has heard much about this, which a relief. But it’s only a matter of time before word gets out and a bidding war starts.”

“We can con it out of them,” Eduardo says. They all turn to look at him. “It’s the only way we’re getting it back.”

“We?” Chris asks.

Eduardo shrugs. “I want the facebook back.” Eduardo’s voice changes a little when he mentions the facebook, just like Mark’s does, like the very idea of it still produces an unavoidable tone of awe.

*

THEN

They’re outside the back door of the casino, Wardo dressed like a tourist in shorts and an appalling bright shirt which he seems to be enjoying wearing more than Mark feels is necessary. He looks wide eyed and guileless still, half stuck in the character. Mark loves to watch Eduardo fool people, Mark the only person in the room who knows who Wardo really is; the myriad deadly marvels of him a secret that none of them know.

“Mark,” Wardo says, with a snap in his voice that means it’s not the first time he’s said it.

“The Winklevoss twins wanted me to create a secure network for them and their friend,” Mark tells him, because the thought has been running in the background of his head all day. “Anywhere they are in the world, their network will connect them to each other. And their club, probably.” Mark still can’t quite believe that Tyler and Cameron have had offers, multiple offers, from the clubs when they need Mark’s help to achieve anything. They won’t even look his way, just because he doesn’t have pictures of his grandfather’s grandfather being sworn in.

Eduardo brings his hands out of his pockets to blow on them. “This is what you brought me into the desert night to tell me, Mark? I’m from Brazil, okay?”

“Okay,” Mark says, confused because yes, obviously. “Anyway, I was thinking, it’s the asset that people are always asking us for, right? Secure lines, better, VPNs, anonymous IP addresses, ways to communicate easily and safely. That and identities. Get me on this database, erase me from this list. We’ve got a great system for casinos already.”

Eduardo is a notorious card counter, his face is on systems all over the world, recognition software programmed to flag him as the highest threat level as soon as he sets foot on the casino floor.

That is until Mark reprograms it.

Eduardo nods.

“What if we took that and made it one system, a way of making another identity, a perfect one, and then you could communicate with that other person via these new selves. Imagine it, Wardo, if you knew that you could share anything. Totally unhackable, untraceable.”

Eduardo’s smile is sharp edged. “If you can do that... Wow.”

“It could change everything,” Mark agrees, numbers already forming patterns in the air by Eduardo's head.

“I can help. I have some ideas about the...” Eduardo starts.

“I’ll need start up cash,” Mark says.

*

NOW

“I want you guys to be safe. And...” Eduardo looks around their makeshift office. “Nostalgia is a stupidly powerful thing, I suppose.” There are pizza boxes everywhere, and the whiteboard on the wall still has the last round of Chris and Marilyn’s game of Extreme Hangman on it. There are paper planes on the floor around Mark’s desk, a testament to his focus and Dustin’s boredom. There’s Chris’s desk with its ever-present sign.

Mark thinks it’s more than hope that if Chris asked, Eduardo would say No, I’m not angry anymore.

Maybe he has, Mark doesn’t know what Chris and Eduardo have talked about in the past few years. Chris won’t tell him and they never communicate by email or facebook.

But Eduardo’s always been better at this. A better person, probably, all told. He could probably hide being angry with Mark, play up some other emotion, but he’s got no reason too. And when it comes to the big things, Eduardo can’t help himself, he goes big or he goes home.

Mark hopes that a lack of anger equates forgiveness. He shouldn’t want to exploit Eduardo’s better nature to make that definite, but hey, criminal. He will.

“Thank you,” he says.

Chris gives him an approving look. “And Mark’s not just saying that to get out of fieldwork.”

“Isn’t he banned from leaving the van?” Eduardo asks, straight-faced, when Mark remembers very clearly that he’d taken part in that vote.

Mark says, “Just one of the reasons that we couldn’t do it without you.”

*

THEN

Mark closes up his last line, and the site appears on his screen. “And we’re done,” he says.

The page is mostly white with a small text box in the middle. Eduardo peers over from the bed, and then gets up to lean one hand on Mark’s desk. There’s always a space there for it, just to the right of the keyboard, in between papers and cups and tuna cans.

It’s simple, “The F” written at the top, white on blue.

(“If you’re going to treat your burgeoning criminal empire as a company, you should look like one.” Andrew had said. “Brand yourselves.”)

“Mark Zuckerberg. Founder, Master and Commander, Enemy of the State,” Eduardo reads. Half way through his voice changes, becomes more dramatic. He grins at Mark. “It looks good. Really good.”

Mark reads over the words again, the last step, and the first one. Branded, his name burnt into the site for everyone to see.

“I have no idea what this is going to mean to my father,” Eduardo says, still staring at the screen, voice flattened out the way it always does when he talks about Ricardo. Mark thinks that maybe he’ll charge the Saverin family a little more to use the facebook, a dollar extra for every time Eduardo’s expression has dimmed at the thought of them. Mark could live like a king just on the money he’d get from that alone.

“He’ll get it,” Mark promises.

“Really?” Eduardo says hopefully. It’s so dumb, that he should care if one old man understands that the F are changing everything here, that it’s something a Saverin can be proud to be a part of. If his father is so stupid he can’t see that, then what does his opinion matter anyway?

“Sure.” Mark looks down at the notepad. “Oh, I need at least another two laptops.”

Eduardo frowns. “I’ll make a list,” he says. He still sounds a little hollow. He catches Mark’s eye for a second, then swallows and looks away.

“‘Paid assassin and no longer expendable programmer’,” he muses. “Dustin will be pleased.”

“Not all of us can be Saverins of Miami, after all,” Mark says, and Eduardo knocks him with his shoulder.

*

NOW

“So I finally get to meet the Eduardo Saverin,” Marilyn says, spreading another sheaf of papers out over the table. “I’m very excited.”

“It’s just Wardo,” Mark says with a half-shrug. Maybe they shouldn’t have kept Marilyn from meeting him until now, it’s built up some weird kind of mystique, and it’s not like they’re not going to get along like the proverbial burning house. They can bond over unnecessary business attire. But they’d agreed that Eduardo had to be brought back in stages, first the address of the HQ, then getting to know the other members, and then - although Mark isn’t sure about this one - giving him the IRC channels that they’re using these days.

“Oh, hey, is this Eduardo why Dustin used to call me the ‘new wardo’?” Marilyn asks, dropping into the conversation far too lightly. “I thought it was some kind of stupid code that I didn’t know yet.”

“You are not and never have been a new Eduardo.” Mark snaps. Marylin tilts her head.

Mark tries to remember that he likes that she can see right through people.

He says, “Eduardo was our fifth member, when we started. He was the numbers guy, you know? And a thief. Oh, and our go between. And our legal consultant.” The last one was always more of their joke than a reality, Mark isn’t sure why he said it. “He quit.” He tries to make it sound as uninteresting as possible. He’s been told he’s good at that.

Mark wants to wire back in but he can’t focus on his laptop now, the sharp, bright lights of the main office glinting off the screen. Too much glass to reflect everything back at him. It’s a stupid place to code, really. He should know better.

Marilyn raises her eyebrows. “Jeez, Mark, I’m not sure I want to be the new Eduardo. If I wanted to be overworked and pointlessly stressed I would have stuck with being a lawyer. Is that why he quit?”

“Not exactly,” Mark says.

Chris slides into the chair next to her and slides a box of salad at them both. “Someone has to make sure that the pair of you have more than one meal a day between you,” he says. He frowns at Mark. “What are you two plotting?”

“Oh nothing,” Marilyn says. “I was just asking Mark about Eduardo. I get that it’s complicated between you all.”

Chris lets out a snort of laughter and stares helplessly at Mark. Mark glowers into his salad. Chris is the worst.

*

THEN

Chris has always been awesome but he gets extra awesome points for not making a Face of Judgment when he finds Mark halfway through a bottle. He just gets another tumbler from the kitchen and knocks back a healthy measure.

“Oh my god, what is this,” Chris says with a wince. He swallows again, experimentally and shudders. “Why is it... Ugh.”

“It was all we had left,” Mark explains. “And you get used to the taste and the whole,” he waves a hand, “burning thing.”

“I thought Andrew sent us some beer? Fancy European stuff.” Chris takes a deep breath and another drink.

Mark gestures under the table, or the Bottle Graveyard as he’s been referring to it in his head. “He did.” Mark leans back, cradling his glass carefully in his hand.

Chris bumps his shoulder. “So, is this random Drink All of The Alcohol Night, or are we getting trashed for a purpose?”

“Dustin says we have to hire someone to replace Eduardo. Because Wardo’s not coming back,” Mark explains. Out of the corner of his eye he sees Chris refill his glass. “I thought you didn’t like it. With the juddering.”

“I need to be much drunker to get through this conversation,” Chris tells him solemnly.

Mark focuses on the ceiling tiles, counts squares. “There’s no conversation. He was stupid, I was angry, we had a fight, he over-reacted, he left.” It sounds... right like this, a nice clean linear progression.

“Left? Wow, that’s an unexpectedly polite version of the truth from you,” Chris, who has been a buffer zone between Mark and the world for a while now, says. “I remember it more being a vicious, miserable stalking off because it looked like you didn’t give a shit about him. And I wouldn’t have called it just a fight, either.”

“That wasn’t what... He was being an idiot. I needed him out here. I wanted him...”

And there’re no other words to that sentence.

Fuck.

“Fuck.”

Chris puts his arm round Mark. “Took you long enough,” he says, soft and amused and a little bit resigned.

It makes sense. Mark’s always been good at following tangled strings back to their source, the things that make people tick. But he’s can admit, at least now, that he’s not good at applying that to himself, too close up to see it, wood for the trees.

He knows that the New York Eduardo that he created in his head wasn’t real. That Eduardo went off to the city, kissed ass for his own profit, because that Wardo didn’t think they could succeed, didn’t think they were going to make back the money he’d lent. That Wardo could wear suits all day just like he’d always wanted, the freak, and go to Phoenix club parties at night. Parties that wouldn’t let Mark past the coat room.

It really wasn’t all that rational. At least now Mark can put a pin in it, a reason why. That should be some comfort. It’s more of a body blow.

“So, when you said ‘Mark’s always been crazy about Eduardo’ you meant...” Mark says.

Chris pats Mark’s shoulder sympathetically. Oh.

It’s not a surprise, really. Dustin and Mark have had muttered conversations about mutant empath genes before.

“Everyone had worked it out?” It’s a question but more out of hope than anything.

“It was suitably greek and we were the chorus,” Chris says. “The chorus always know what’s what.”

PART TWO

Date: 2011-09-10 03:24 pm (UTC)
azurelunatic: Bra-clad woman, "Tits against the RTE"  (tits against the rte)
From: [personal profile] azurelunatic
THE CHORUS. *dies*

Date: 2011-09-11 05:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaiserkuchen.livejournal.com
I have tweeted you my love for the WALL-E thing already, so I am containing the rest of my random remarks to these LJ comments.

- TENSE SWITCHING OOOOOOH-ERRRR! Like how that parallels how it was done in the movie too and how you're showing us what makes this version of the characters who they are. Such charming and badass criminals!
- WARDO AS A MAFIOSO = LOVE EET. Happily imagining Wardo ordering hits on people like Mark was musing about when he first found out. Also "of the Miami Saverins" just sounds kind of amazing. I really liked this line, too: "The phone line makes Eduardo's laugh thin, pulls all the warmth out of it. Or maybe it’s the mention of Sean, who’d always made Eduardo bitter-edged and petty."
- CHRIIIIIIIS! How is he so wonderful. The bit where he's all "branding is important"! A man after my own heart, truly. And Dustin! I like how THEN!Mark reacted when he finally realized that even Dustin was a badass in his own right, too. YEAHHHH.
- The prickly Eduardo/Mark bits ahhhhh MARK WHY DON'T YOU USE YOUR WORDS AHHHH "IT DOESN'T COUNT WHEN THE OTHER PARTY IS UNCONSCIOUS" asfhajkfh oh man

Date: 2011-09-12 03:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] laliandra.livejournal.com
DARRRRRRLING

Hee, oh yes, I thought that was such a good idea and then it turned out to be REALLY HARD. Dammit, Sorkin. :D

Wardo the mafioso is sort of uncomfortably attractive to me #terribleperson. I was so charmed by the way "of the Miami Saverins" sounds.

CHRIS! He is BETTER THAN EVERYONE. You would be the Chris of my conpeople gang, I think.

MARK WHY DON'T YOU USE YOUR WORDS AHHHH

The constant scream of the TSN fan. MAAAAAAARK, WHAT IS YOUR DAMAGE.

Date: 2011-09-14 03:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaiserkuchen.livejournal.com
THE CHRIS OF YOUR CONPEOPLE GANG kahfjksha ahhh Lal this is one of the nicest things someone has ever said to me :">>>

AND I WILL ALWAYS LOVE MAFIA!/CRIMINAL!AUs. Every fandom needs one! Randomly, Saverin is also such a sexy-and-potentially-dangerous-sounding last name anyways... I mean, perhaps this is my own bias talking in that I mostly can't find German-sounding names threatening, but I doubt for instance you could use Mark's last name for quite the same effect XD

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