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Un/Requited

He finds himself noticing things. Things about Peter. And not the obvious things anyone would notice about Peter, because Peter is noticeable, he's this force of nature that draws looks everywhere he goes. Other things. For instance, not his big brown eyes that manage to retain a glimpse of innocence even when every other part of his body screams mischief, but his ears. Peter sits there, retreats into his own little world, and Carl stares at the hair in his ears, thin and invisible except for where it's catching rays of sun and wonders if Peter would shiver if he ran his thumb over them. He can almost see the music flowing into his body, the vibrations as they stream from the headphones and reverberate trough Peter's skin and bones, and thinks that's intimate somehow, like putting your mouth into someone's ear and whispering a secret.

Everyone notices the way Peter scribbles furiously on that notebook he carries everywhere, but Carl wonders if he's the only one who sees when he stops ocasionally, thumb dragging back and forth on the desk or the chair like there's strength to be gained in such a small gesture, like he needs that to keep with whatever it was he was writing, except sometimes he doesn't, just shuts the book and then shuts his eyes, and Carl wants to come over and put his arms around him, but he's too afraid to do it. Until the day he's not.

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It hits him one day, while Peter raises his eyes from a book and smiles, warm and unguarded and just because, that they are probably in love.

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Peter kisses him and it's....wet. Wet and cold and anti-climatic, and there's a part of him, the one that romanticizes everything out of proportion, that's crushed over the lack of fireworks or ringing bells, but there's also a part of him that's really not surprised at all. But then Peter beams at him, smiles like Carl just gave him the moon, and there...there are his ringing bells, loud and clear and deafening and the most beautiful thing he has ever heard.

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This feels natural, Peter's warm skin on his, weight firm and reassuring, and it's just the natural progression of things that they should entwine their bodies like they have entwined their minds, every barrier between them gone except for this tragedy of not being one (it feels wrong somehow that his and Peter's existences are separate, that one could even go on without the presence of the other). And then Peter's eyes shoot up when his hand nests between Carl's legs, but Carl's eyes are already closed to avoid the hurt he knows he'll see there. Because the truth is (and it doesn't make sense, it's the wrong piece to fit in the puzzle, it's information that's out of place and out of sync with everything they know about the world) that, while Peter's body makes Carl's heart flutter, it doesn't set his skin ablaze.

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In the good days, he thinks this is enough. This discovering of places and pressures and speeds, of new ways to elicit gasps and sighs and shudders, it's like playing the most beautiful of all instruments, one that's unique and perfect and alive, and when he looks into Peter's eyes, he feels driven with purpose, because he's making Peter happy and that's his definition of being complete.

In the bad days, he hates Peter, hates him with the wounded, self-destructive fury with which you can only hate someone you love. Hates Peter for wanting to give Carl more than he wants to take, for insisting on taking from Carl more than he wants to give, for being so selfish and not knowing when to stop. As if it's not enough that, along the years, he has given Peter all of his dreams and hopes and fears, as if it's not enough that he gives Peter his heart and soul with every fucking breath. Peter, the bloody hypocrite that, with all his talk of noble feelings, seems to think the measure of Carl's love is the way he reacts to Peter's hands.

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"I can smell her on you. What was the matter, Carl? Too much time had passed since you've last been seen in public with someone with tits?"

"For fuck's sake, Peter! Can't I actually have a shag that I'll enjoy once in a while?"

It's out of his mouth before he can think of stopping it. He braces himself for the look of pain and anger in Peter's face, that look he has come to know so well (and he always thought he wanted to know all of Peter, every minor detail and secret corner, never thought he would find himself wishing there were places he had never gone to). But what he sees is the face of a man who has grown weary of hiding inside the paper-thin walls of his fortress of denial.

He can see that as much as Peter would like to pretend that it's shame that makes Carl's heartbeat stay steady and unchanged even while Peter's leaving a wet trail of kisses in his chest, as much as he would like to pretend that it's just a matter of time untill Carl's comfortable enough to let Peter touch him in all the ways he dreams of...he's known for some time now, in that dreaded part of his brain that wakes him up at night to talk of all the things that leave him cold and scared, that this is not a problem that he can work up a solution for, this is just the way things are, just one more sign that he's alone in a vast universe that doesn't care about the things he wants to, craves for, would fucking kill to have.

"It's not you", Carl says. That's as helpful as it sounds.

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He's not surprised when he gets the call. He's been waiting for something like this, for some grand gesture in Peter's escalating quest to invade Carl's space. It had become more and more unbearable lately, as it seemed Peter had decided that, if he couldn't have Carl's body, then he would demand every inch of Carl's heart, mind and soul. As if there was anything left to take.

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He stares in disgust at the man in front of him. This man he once thought he knew so well now seems a complete stranger. This man has brought him here, to this point where he can't even trace his steps to find out where he went wrong, what was the turn that took him so far from any path that wouldn't end in tears and heartbreak. Hate seeps trough his veins till he can't stand to stare anymore. He tears his eyes away from the mirror and starts bashing his head in the sink.

He doesn't know why he's doing this more than he knows why he does anything these days, but there's a voice inside his head that keeps screaming that Peter needs to see, listen, understand, he needs to know that Carl's suffering too, this thing is eating him alive, clawing at his guts, and while this is not the healthiest way of saying it, he thinks a message that vital deserves a blood sacrifice.

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He's never stood so far from Peter in a stage. He itches to edge closer, mingle their breaths while they share a mic, but he doesn't know where the boundaries are anymore, doesn't know where he stands in this new and uncharted territory born of all the ways they have hurt and loved each other trough all those years. He knows it's still there, though, the foundation of this thing that made the two of them together be so much more than the mere sum of its parts. It feels so right to play their songs like this again, to look Peter in the eye while they bring to life these pieces of their souls, crafted from their hurt and hope and love. "Why can't this be enough?" he tries to tell Peter with every note he plays. "Please, let this be enough."

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He's not surprised when he gets the call. He's been waiting for something like this, some grand gesture in Peter's escalating quest to be welcome in Carl's space. As if, since Peter had accepted he couldn't have Carl's body, he would cherish every inch of Carl's mind, heart and soul. And there was always more for him to take.

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It hits him one day while Peter raises his eyes from the guitar and smiles, warm and unguarded and just because, that Peter knows that he's loved.
When they had thought about it (obsessed about it, yearned for it, ached for it ) they never dreamed it would be like this. Their dreams were of tasting copper and salt, breathing from each other's lungs, too entranced ( afraid, afraid, afraid )to come apart, the air around them a mine field of unspoken ( shouted, hissed, sighed in barely audible resignation when they had been reduced to something almost not quite human, nothing more than a bundle of raw nerves and exhaustion and defeat ) words, teeth sinking on skin, such a pathetic, such an useless ( because they would always belong to each other, because they had never belonged to each other, because they would always belong to each other ) attempt at reclaiming, nails digging too deep, hands bruising too hard, less they betray them ( a barely touch on a cheek, the impossible softness of a wrist, everything that wasn't theirs anymore, everything that wasn't theirs anymore ), a sharp burn that was more invasion than connection, until they were finally drained ( empty, empty, empty ) and then drifting apart to ( the bare wall, the flat line, the misery that was ) their lives.

It wasn't like that. At all.

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Is not a strike of lightning, is the crashing of a wave. The realization washes over them, swells and retreats, as blue meets brown and salt meets salt, the air around them a blanket of unspoken ( whispered, sang, sighed in barely audible contentment when they had been elevated to something not quite human, a bundle of raw nerves and unlimited potential and defiant innocence ) words, soft lips that trailed softly over skin, an useless (because they would always belong to each other, because they had always belonged to each other, because they would always belong to each other ) attempt to reclaim ( because you don't reclaim what you never lost, because you don't reclaim what was always yours, because you don't reclaim that which owns you ).

Before, it had always been ( moans and pleads drowning out the voices in their heads that spoke of failure, the tenderness of fingertips erasing the sting of a needle, a trembling hand that stroked a tearful face to refrain the urge to clench into a fist ) a refuge. From the mediocrity of the world around them, from the hungry eyes that pried into their private lives. And, in the end, it was a refuge from each other, when they craved contact but feared words, when hands and tongues and nails and thighs became anchors to offer ( or to cling to, and they didn't know which one was they were doing, and they didn't know if there was a difference anymore )

Not now. Now, this doesn't have to be something else, the brushing of lips is not a replacement for the words they can't say, the stroke of a hand is not a substitute for the amends they can't make, the soft touch behind an ear is not a shared code for the forgiveness they can't word. Now, touches and kisses and moans and sighs can be touches and kisses and moans and sighs ( and their entire universe of meanings and the new meanings they will create together, each and every one of them speaking of inocence and love ).

It's not an epiphany; like everything else between them now, it's slow, peaceful, unhurried, so they don't know when it finds the words to wrap itself around it, but at some point ( at the barely touch at a cheek, at the impossible softness of a wrist, everything that was forever theirs, everything that was forever them ), they understand it.

That was escaping. This is going home.
- Please tell me I'm having an aneurysm.

- Chris, man, is not that...

- Dustin, if what you're going to say is not that I'm having some sort of aneurysm or stroke that somehow made me unable to understand the English language, if what you're going to say is not that I'm trapped in a nightmarish coma where my worst fears came true, then don't say anything at all. This is partially your fault anyway.

- How is this MY fault?

- To be fair, you were the one who told me to make some sort of big romantic gesture.

- SHUT UP, MARK! This is not a wacky romantic comedy! That wasn't a ''romantic gesture.'' You slipped a domestic partnership contract in a bunch of business papers! A contract Eduardo signed! Without even knowing what he was signing! Before he barged into the room and broke your laptop, and told you he was going to sue!

And, okay, maybe he shouldn't have said that last part. Because Mark flinches like he was just hit, and stares pointedly at the nothing in front of him, and Chris feels that he isn't being fair, it's not like the contract is legally binding, Mark is going to destroy it, Wardo doesn't even have a copy. So maybe it isn't fair to be so angry, but nothing is fair right now, and maybe he's not so much angry as he is frustrated, maybe he was hoping Mark would do it, he would manage to tell Wardo how he felt, and things would be normal again, and he wouldn't have to worry for them all the time. But now he's locked in a room with a Mark who seems smaller and defeated, and he can't remember Harvard without feeling like it was the life of someone else, and even Dustin seems ten years older now, with his back hunched and his arms crossed, and when has this become his life?

- Just...get rid of that thing, okay? The last thing we need is a journalist finding out about this.

He wants to say ''Eduardo's lawyers finding out about this'' but Mark's face looks blank like his soul has gone somewhere else and Chris is afraid that, if he says it, then Mark may not come back.

========================================================================
He signs the agreement and hands it over to his lawyer, who hands it over to Wardo. First year is paper, he thinks, then runs to the bathroom and laughs hysterically until he's sobbing.

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A year after that, Eduardo finds a package waiting for him at home. He opens it up with unsteady hands, getting ready to find more legal documents, getting ready to place his signature into one more piece of paper that makes his failure official. But what he finds instead is a shirt. A black cotton worn out T-shirt with a picture of a tree in it. Nothing particularly remarkable about it. But the thing is: that shirt...it used to be his.

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Next year, it's a leather wallet. As soon as he opens it, a card falls out and he recognizes the name just by glancing at it. It's Mark's business card, and when he picks it up, he sees writing on the back. Mark's phone number and e-mail are there. Eduardo had thought that door was firmly locked behind him, that he had trown away the key the day Chris told him that they had to change everything after an intern tried selling Mark's personal data to a tabloid, and Eduardo told him it didn't matter, it was not like he was going to talk to Mark ever again. Chris had shot him the strangest look then, one that said he cared for Wardo enough to pretend that was true.

He tosses the card in the trash can. He takes it back. He thinks of burning it. He thinks of calling. He places it in the drawer with all the things he can't get rid of, under the ticket from their first trip to California, and tries to pinpoint the moment where it all went wrong.

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The year after that, he thinks it has stopped. It's December 31 and no ghost from his past has yet made its way into his life. Until the doorman stops him on his way out and shows him a box of lichi someone sent him. Which is ridiculous: he's in Singapore, it's not like he can't find lich in here.

But then he remembers the holidays when they didn't go home to their families, because Mark was Mark and Eduardo's father was Eduardo's father, and all they did was walk around in the freezing, empty campus, and Wardo had said he missed eating lichi at New Year's Eve in Brazil cause it was a special ocasion, and he realized he needed Mark to know this sort of thing. He gets back up stairs, opens the drawer, stares at the card, takes it, drops it, goes out again, stops at the hallway, wishes Mark was dead, wishes Mark was there, goes to a New Year's Eve party, leaves after two hours, goes back to his apartment and starts typing.

========================================================================
Fine, Mark. My curiosity - helped by my ingestion of alcohol in an amount that makes me stupid enough to think writing this is a good idea, but unfortunately not drowsy enough to go to bed in time to realize what an awful, awful idea this actually is - has finally beaten my pride. Tough you could be insensitive, and cold, and completely out of touch with standard human behavior, you were never cruel. Therefore, I believe there must be a reason - and please understand I use that word loosely - for you to be sending me traditional wedding anniversary gifts in the date of the closing of our lawsuit. I would appreciate it if you could kindly enlighten me concerning the nature of said reason, so I can maybe have some sort of life again.

========================================================================
He wakes up with a hangover, rolls around in his bed, falls to the floor, realizes he's actually in the couch, glances at his notebook, feels a wave of panic rushing over him, checks his Sent Messages box, punches the table, and doesn't dare to even look at the computer for the next couple of days.

========================================================================
When he checks his Inbox, there's a reply from Mark. He opens it, reads it, thinks he's dreaming, thinks he's hallucinating, feels irrationally happy, feels irrationally angry, calls Chris, and gets on the next plane to the US.

========================================================================
Mark stares at him with the perplexed look of someone who has wanted something for a long time, but has never actually thought it would happen.

- You're here.

- I am.

- You read my e-mail.

- I did.

- And you're here.

- I thought we had established that already.

They stare at each other for a long time, like just being in the same room is foreign territory now, and their steps around each other need to be careful and calculated.

- I was so angry. Eduardo finally says.

- Why? Mark says, and it doesn't mean Why? You had no reason to be, it just means Why? I want to know. and he trusts Eduardo to still be able to see that.

- You were so blind, Mark. So blind. You made us waste so much time... I would have said yes. Another long silence, and he doesn't try to fight back the tears that are streaming down his cheeks, his tears are for Mark to see because Mark was the one who caused them.

Finally, Mark speaks and there's a hint of something in his voice Eduardo has never heard before. He thinks maybe it's fear.

- You're still angry?

- Yes he says and then his lips are on Mark's.

On radfems and slash being opressive

Cause this is like a trainwreck I can't look away from, a little more of my thoughts on the people who think we're minions of The Evil Patriarchy by writing and reading stories about people with penises:


Radfems think so little of women that they think ANY woman who gives any amount of atention to anyone who's not a cis-woman is degrading herself. That's how much respect they have for other women: if we write abt men, like art made by and/or about men, have male friends or, god forbid, actually engage in sexual/romantic relationships with men, we imediately become sub-human...because you know it's impossible to keep your dignity in the presence of a penis, right? Even if it's a fictional one.

These women hate the idea that some women relate to male characters. They are so entitled that they're personally offended by the mere idea of any woman who doesn't ''put women first'' (because prioritizing ppl who have a set of genitals similar to yours is one of the tenants of radical feminism)
So...as someone who has read summaries for Digimon fic, Garfield/Oddie, and - Holy Jesus on a Pogo Stick - Bush/Blair I'm (unfortunately) sure those are probably NOT the 5 most baffling sex scenes ever written in slash. Still, it's badfic with the hilarious kind of commentary only Cracked can provide, and with the links to the actual fics, if they weren't taken by trolls and taken off the air by authors who today live in an isolated village in Tibet in constant dread someone will find out they're the author of any of these gems.

Have fun, and keep your brain bleach at hand while reading:

http://www.cracked.com/article_16554_5-most-baffling-sex-scenes-in-history-fanfiction.html

brought to you by Cracked.
You know what? It's 01:36 AM, and I think I'm coming down with conjuntivitis (is that even a word? Anyway, I think I'll wake up tomorrow with a pink eye) but I just had to write an open letter to whoever wrote this mind-boggling piece of nonsense:

As to why women, gay, straight and bisexual, write slash fiction I think something I read recently really help clarify it for me. In anticlimax ,Sheila Jeffreys talked about a woman who, as a coping strategy for living with a violent, abusive husband, learnt to have orgasms whil being raped by her husband.

I think slash operates on the same principle. If women are going to be raped (metaphorically) by male supremecy day in and day out, when male supremacy is the air you breathe and the water you drink, then you learn to wring whatever pleasure you can from being raped. Slash is women wringing pleasure from their social and political powerlessness.

Dear Ms-Disgrace-To-Reasonable-Feminists:

1 - My president's vagina disagrees with your ''social and political powerlessness'' statement.

2 - Stop trivializing the experiences of real rape survivors.

3 - Just because a woman writes about male characters, it doesn't mean she's submitting to The Evil Patriarchy That Rapes Us Just By Existing. Women are not weak enough human beings to be disempowered just by writing about men, discussing things from a male POV or admiting to the existence of men in general. Some of us can still retain dignity while writing something that centers on a character who has a penis. Some of us even - gasp! - relate to those characters with penises and write stories from their perspective because we can see ourselves in them. Shocking, I know!

4 - Stop trivializing the experiences of real rape surivors.

5 - Stop trivializing the experiences of real rape survivors.
The reason I love Cracked with all my heart is that they have articles like this:

http://www.cracked.com/article_19084_5-reasons-pop-culture-run-by-fan-fiction.html

that say things like this:

If fictional characters from Naruto getting naked just doesn't cut it for you, there's real-person fanfiction, also known as RPF. As the name implies, RPF is fan-written work about nonfictional celebrities: actors, musicians, athletes, newscasters or anyone with a vaguely recognizable name. So a normal person might watch a debate between two presidential candidates and think, Hmm, I wonder which of these people share my views on health care. A person who is into RPF will be thinking, Damn, look at those barely-controlled emotions. I bet they are just waiting to kiss.

They're on to us, guys. They're totally on to us.

P.S: The link to the fan wank over Dominic Monaghan + Elijah Wood is kinda scary. The slashy goggles are fun and all, but those people sewed them onto their faces, and it made them blind.

What Makes a Man (a Mark/Eduardo fic)

The first time it happens, he's wearing a large hoodie because it's kinda chilly. The first time it happens, he's wearing flip-flops because his only pair of sneakers got ruined in the rain and the mud the day before. He's standing at line on the coffee shop, and the barista, a cute girl with red hair, tells him What are you having today, sir? He stops in awe, trying to capture the moment in his mind, and forgetting to actually tell her what he wants to drink. DUDE! he hears the guy behind say Stop holding the fucking line! The whole line is glancing at him angrily when he leaves, but he doesn't mind.

The first time it happens, he's 16 years old, he's been on T for some weeks, and life starts looking good for the first time. His brain tells him it's the T, the way his voice's getting deeper and his body fat getting redistributed, tells him it's the hoodie and how it hides the binder on his chest. But his heart tells him this moment is big enough for him to find magic in it. I'm never taking these flip-flops off he thinks.

===============================================================================================
Eight hours after he gets the acceptance letter from Harvard, the university system already lists him as Mark Zuckerberg, one of the future occupants of the male dorm room at Kirkland. He's been planning it for two years, and it's something it could only be done by the best among the best. It's the most impressive thing he's ever done in his life, and he'll never be able to tell anyone. And, because some part of him still wants to believe in magic, he figures this is the moment he's been preparing for his entire life.

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Who the hells uses their real name on a fake ID? You're a little dumb for a genius, Zuckerberg. Dustin tells him before their first night out to get drunk. But his voice is soft and he smiles fondly at Mark, and Mark thinks once again how lucky he is to have Dustin and Chris as roommates. Dustin and Chris whom he's sure have seen something before they didn't understand, but who never asked any question, because they were Mark's family, because they were always there for each other. He doesn't believe in magic anymore, but he knows he's incredibly lucky.

The thing is, the name on his real ID it's still not his real name. By the time he graduates, all his papers will already have his name right. He's going through all the legal procedures, he's known people who've done it. But, for now, his ID still has his birth name, the one he feels it was imposed on him rather than given, the name that was never, never his. Tonight, he just wants to see his real name on something that looks official.

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The feeling of completeness he feels when he leaves the hospital is unprecedented. There's a sense of possibility in the air, like everything can be achieved. Like it wasn't just skin and muscle that he left on that place, it was everything that bound him.

He's gonna talk to Wardo, he's gonna make him understand. How Facebook was coming between them, and he couldn't have this, couldn't afford to keep arguing with Wardo, because now everytime they talked they were on opposite sides, and Mark just couldn't deal with that. But now they're close to the 1.000.000 user, and Wardo's coming to sign the papers, and he may get angry at first, but he'll see Mark was right, he'll see that this is working out, this beautiful thing that they created together, and Mark's gonna explain how he will make it right for Wardo, and everything's going to be okay. He's an incredibly lucky man.

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The problem with making plans that involve another person is that another person is an incredibly unstable variable.

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He stares at the mirror, touches the scars on his chest. He doesn't feel nearly as complete as he did this morning.

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His body is almost everything he wanted. When you have billions, you can pay for the best that Medicine can give you. His life is almost everything he wanted too. He doesn't have to answer to anyone. No one tells him what to do. Dustin and Chris are still there, cause they've always been there, and he loves them for it. He can buy anything he wants, he can go anywhere he wants. He can take drunk groupies back to his hotel room and, if they notice the scars on his thighs, they never say anything.

His life is almost everything he wanted. He feels more and more that almost everything sometimes really amounts to nothing.

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When he picks up his phone and Wardo says Hi he still thinks he's dreaming. It doesn't matter how many times this has happened in the last few weeks, it doesn't matter how much they've talked things out, everytime he hangs up, he feels Wardo's gonna realize the huge mistake he made when he first called, and he's gonna drop off from the face of the Earth, because miracles like this just don't happen, this world is devoid of magic and Mark has run out of luck a long time ago.

===============================================================================================
He touches the skin on his thigh. Just another way in wich he'll never be enough for Wardo.

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When he opens his door, Wardo's there, lunging forward, kissing Mark like he needs that to keep breathing, clutching at his T-shirt like it's all that's keeping him steady. And then he's pushing Mark on the bed, and he's trying to take Mark's shirt off, and of course this was going to happen, of course reality was going to come crashing down on his miracle, because he's already had way more luck than he ever deserved in his life, and it had to end sometime.

Wardo, wait! Wait! I can't do this!

And the way Wardo's looking at him, like Mark just punched him in the gut...it's worse than the look he had that day, and Mark didn't even think this could be possible.

I...I have to tell you something he says, mustering all the strength he can find.

Wardo looks at him, sudden realization on his face.

Mark, I know he says, his hand soft on Mark's cheek. I know.

You...how do you...

They, huh...they got their hands on your birth certificate...the original one...huh, during the lawsuit. Wardo says, and Mark goes white.

Don't worry, I...I made them sign a non-disclosure agreement. If they ever say anything...ANYTHING, Mark, I swear...I'll make sure their lives are ruined forever.

Wardo, why are you...why are you here?

Wardo takes a look at Mark beneath him, at his hand that keeps stroking Mark's hair, at his other hand settled gently on his hip. Did anyone ever tell you that, for a genius, you can be incredibly slow?

Yeah Mark says flatly, but he's grinning now. Dustin

When Wardo kisses him again and then looks into his eyes, smile wide and blinding, Mark thinks maybe it's time to start believing in magic again.

Two little words (a Mark/Eduardo fic)

Note: I'm sorry if the lines on bold text look weird. It was the best I could think of to indicate who was saying what in the dialogues.

Mark doesn't know why this is A Big Deal. Yes, he knows it's something he's not supposed to do. Not him. ''Mark The Iceberg'', the persona everyone seems to think he is. He knows that. Just because he doesn't care about what people think of him doesn't mean he doesn't know what they say behind his back.

He still doesn't get why people think him saying I love you to Eduardo in a regular basis is going to cause a rip in the space-time continuum. Why wouldn't he say it? It's the true. It's a fact. Water is wet, the sky is up, Mark loves Eduardo. People don't need to make puppy eyes at him when he says it, or pretend to be working while they text their friends with their mouths hanging open. He thinks he even saw an intern tear up once. It's ridiculous.

These things bother him. Saying I love you to the people you love is standard human behavior (okay, maybe the fact that he phrases things this way isn't helping his case, but stil...) He's doing something so ordinary and people act like he just gave Wardo the moon (not that he wouldn't. He would totally do it. Maybe not the moon, but he would be on the phone with Spielberg working on the details of the replica before Wardo had even finished asking. )

Is he such a cold-hearted asshole that this is the pinnacle of romantic behaviour for him? Is this the best Wardo thinks it can get from him? Is he glad to just have that? Has he resigned to never expect anything better than normal from Mark? Did he spent so much time just wishing he could get Mark's attention that now he's convinced himself that, because he's finally got it, that's enough?

Does he even believe it when Mark says I love you? Or does he think it means something else? That Mark loves him ''in his own way'', like Wardo's father loves him ''in his own way''? That Mark loves him as much as he can, except ''as much as he can'' is not that much? That, when Mark says I love you that's filtered by Mark's skewed perspective on what love even is?

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Dustin translates the world for him. That's why Mark likes him so much. It's not that Mark's not perceptive. It's just that, most of the time, he doesn't care enough to pay atention. But, for that, he has Dustin. Dustin says and amplifies what everyone else is thinking. Dustin is the bullshit-free spokesperson for the collective pulse.

So, when Mark turns on his laptop while waiting for Wardo's flight to arrive and finds out Dustin changed his wallpaper to one with the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz, he fights his initial urge to send embarrassing e-mails in Dustin's name to Natalie Portman, and texts him instead.

What was that about?

that's the Tin Man. from the wizard of oz.

Thank you for cracking the code, Dustin. I hadn't figured out that obscure pop culture reference.

the Tin Man. Coz now u got a heart.

I should fire you for messing with my laptop.

not afraid of u anymore. now u re human

So, that's official then. Apparently he didn't even have a heart before.

He stares at his cellphone like he can make Dustin's head burst into flames if he concentrates hard enough on staring at his name on the contacts list. When he notices the world around him, Wardo's already next to him, a fond smile on his face.

What's the matter? he says.

Dustin's an idiot. He clings to Wardo like he's just come back from the war. I love you.

I love you too. he answers. That's not what Mark wanted to hear.

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When he sees Wardo coming through the doors with a look in his face that makes him seem a wounded animal, at first Mark thinks he's dreaming. The recurring dream he has where Wardo smashes his laptop and tells him to lawyer up because he's coming back for everything. Or the one where Wardo tells him he's leaving, that Mark hasn't changed, that he's still the same asshole, that this was all a waste of time. That there's no hope for him, no improvement. He'll never be a better man.

He realizes he's awake because he can talk. He can never talk in those dreams.

Why didn't you tell me my father called?

Oh crap.

Wardo, I...

My mom called me today and told me he talked to you three days ago. That he tried to reach me. For my birthday. Goddamn, Mark, I thought he had forgotten my birthday!

You always got sad when he called you!

What?

In college. Everytime he called you, you looked like shit for days! I didn't want you to feel like that. I didn't want it to ruin your birthday...to ruin our dinner, ruin everything!

Wardo's face is softer now. It's okay. It's okay, he keeps saying while he hugs Mark. You were looking after me. The ''in your own way'' goes unsaid.

I love you. Mark says, and hears Wardo's voice in his ear:

It's okay. Guess you were right. It's okay. And I really enjoyed that dinner.

That's great. It's soothing. It's music to his ears. It's still not what he needs to hear the most.

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He tries his best to pick up his phone before Wardo wakes up, but fails. By the time he says Hello to Chris, Wardo's already looking at him with a look on his face that says I didn't dream for a second your plans to spend the weekend with me without worrying about work would come true, and I kinda think you're an asshole, but that's alright because you're my asshole and I'm the greatest person in the entire world and still love you, even tough you're a jerk who's going to leave me all alone after I came from New York to spend time with you. At least that's what he thinks it says. He was never good at reading people. Maybe he's projecting. At least the ''being a jerk'' part.

When the call ends, he says Sorry. The new app is making the site crash. Go back to sleep, gets up, takes his laptop and sits at the table.

He's back in bed in 10 minutes.

What...what were you doing? Wardo asks, sleep and confusion making his voice slower.

Telling Chris to put Dustin and Andy to work on that problem, and to call Daniel to get there too, and that, if he gets mad this is his day off, I'll give him a raise.

Why?

Because they're our best programmers, and the site can't keep crashing, and I'm going to make Dustin pay for messing with my wallpaper.

Your wallpa...no, I mean why aren't you running to Facebook?

Because you're here.Mark says in the tone of voice he uses to state the obvious, the plain facts, the self-evident truths of the world.

And I love you he adds, placing a kiss on Wardo's forehead.

I know, Wardo says, and Mark drifts into the most peaceful sleep he's had in weeks. That's what he's been waiting to hear all along.
Eduardo knows his father probably thinks he's doing it out of spite. Just to get under his skin. Just because it's the polar opposite of what he thinks his son should be doing. It's typical of him. It wouldn't even cross his mind that his son might be his own person. That not every action of his is a mere reaction to his father.

Eduardo knows his father probably thinks it's just a phase. That if they don't name it, if they pretend it's not there, it will go away. That he will find an adequate wife, from a good family, with the right contacts. That he will get married, settle down. That any indulgence in what his father calls ''inappropriate urges'' will be illicit encounters with anonymous men, a dark cloud of shame over them, like this is some sort of anathema, something he can only do, something he can only be, in fragments, in the dark, something it can only be seen by people as tainted as him. After all, he likes girls too, his father knows that. Why would he choose any other way than the easy one, the adequate one, the one with the least amount of pain? His father doesn't even consider someone might be worth it.

His father doesn't even consider that, even if Eduardo marries a woman, she will probably look as defective as his son does in his eyes. Because he doesn't even consider marriage is an end in itself. It's not a strategy, a way to climb the social ladder or to meet the right people. His father doesn't even consider that the person Eduardo marries might be a man. Because he doesn't even consider that marriage is not about what's apropriate, or what's state-sanctioned, or what's easier, because he doesn't even consider his son might marry someone even if it alienates him from his family. Eduardo doesn't even consider he wouldn't really be giving up on much.

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When he goes downstairs, his father knows. He probably didn't even had to pick up the extension. He wouldn't do that, anyway. He feels so entitled to unlimited judgment on his son's life he would just ask him what the conversation was about, and not think for a second Eduardo wouldn't tell him. He probably overheard it. Eduardo hasn't been home for a while, he forgot how the sound travels when your father's by the pool and you're in your bedroom, reminding your friend's roommate ( not your friend, you can go through a week without talking to him, you don't miss his voice, you're not wondering if he's okay, you don't wonder if he misses you. this is under control. it is. )that he's gotta eat real food. He pretends he doesn't see the way his father keeps looking at him and goes home three days sooner than planned.

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His father isn't even disapointed. He thinks that's what hurts the most.

You're blaming someone else because you made a bad financial decision for your own company?

It sounds so much like Mark he wonders if he did it on purpose. If he gets attached to people like his father - cold, distant, emotionally unavailable - in the desperate hope the attention he gets from them will fix something. Love by proxy. The closest he can get to it. The only thing he deserves.

Freezing that account. You think that was the behavior of a man? That was the action of a child. A child who tried to stop the game because he didn't like the rules. It was the action of a scorned lover. Of a boy petty enough to punish someone for not giving you the attention you thought you deserved, and dumb enough to think that was the way to get it.

His father's eyes are completely fixed on him now. Intent on reading his every expression. He hates it that the only times he gets his father's undivided attention is when he's having his soul picked apart against his will.

Were you fucking that boy? He doesn't even have time to react. No, of course you weren't. He would never be stupid enough for that.

He was wrong earlier. That was what hurt the most.

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When his phone rings in the middle of the night, he doesn't know if his father thinks he's in Singapore, where it's still afternoon, or if, as always, his son's comfort came last in his list of priorities. His father doesn't even wait for a Hello., his voice getting louder and louder, to the point Eduardo has to put the phone away from his ear.

Eduardo! Is true what they're saying?! That boy screws you over and you go back crawling for him?! Do you have NO pride?! Do you have any idea the things my friends have been hearing?!

He doesn't say He's not a boy, and neither am I, so stop treating me like one! He doesn't say HE was the one who came back begging for a second chance! He doesn't say I can't believe I could think for a second that he was anything like you.

Instead, he says Stop shouting. You're going to wake up Mark., turns his cell phone off, kisses Mark in the shoulder and goes back to sleep.