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Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four

Author's Note: Thanks for all the comments and your patience with this story! As a teaser for the chapter after this one, I just want to offer preemptive apologies to Jane Austen. :p

“Of course you do,” Mark said, uncomfortable by Eduardo’s sudden intensity. Eduardo’s moods were like Facebook traffic: most of the time, Mark could almost lull himself to sleep with their soothing predictability. Then, the sudden server crash—or smashed laptop—would pitch Mark into crisis mode.

Eduardo looked like he wanted to get up and pace. He finished his Sam Adams instead and reached for another. “Earlier today, you said you weren’t that nineteen year-old any more. Now, you say that I know you, the real you. Aren’t those statements mutually incompatible?”

That was not what he meant! Mark’s brain sputtered and seized upon the first response it had. “You’re—you’re mutually incompatible!”

Eduardo choked on his beer and set it next to his feet. “How mature,” he said, coughing. “Does that line work for you at shareholder meetings?”

“You’d know, if you were ever there,” Mark shot back.

A pillow slammed into his face.

Schoolyard reflexes kicking in, Mark barely remembered to set his laptop aside before snatching up the pillow and pitching it towards Eduardo. As Eduardo tried to shield his head, Mark launched himself at Eduardo’s unguarded torso. They went down hard, sinking into the dorm room’s cheap mattress.

Mark could feel the mattress springs dig into his shins as they fought for control of the only pillow. Eduardo had longer arms, but being flat on his back limited his reach. Every time he tried to rear up and dislodge Mark, Mark used that opening to wrestle away the pillow and thump Eduardo on the head.

“Why—” thump. “Do You—” thump. “Never Come To—” thump. “Shareholder Meetings?!” thump.

“Because I don’t want to see your smug face!” Eduardo’s flailing arms were no match for Mark’s attack, but a lucky hit knocked the pillow from Mark’s grasp. Eduardo immediately rolled on his side and sent Mark sprawling in the other direction.

“Oh yeah?” Mark tangled his legs in Eduardo’s to keep him from getting to his feet. “I’ll hack into your screensaver. You can see me every day.

“That’s torture! It’s against the Geneva Convention.” Eduardo elbowed Mark in the side, but Mark thwacked him in the chin.

“You know you’ll like it!” Straddling Eduardo, Mark used his weight to hold him down.

Eduardo stared up at him, winded.

“Dude.” Dustin slid into the room, Chris shutting the door behind them. “That’s some kinky shit, right here.”

Eduardo shoved Mark off him in a flurry of motion. His hands immediately went to
straightening his hair. Eduardo was flushed red, from the back of his neck to the tip of his ears.

Mark was content to stay sprawled on the mattress. “Why are you here? I thought there was a party going on?”

“Lot of people started leaving with all the pounding on the wall,” Dustin leered. “But everyone left is probably a voyeur.”

“You guys might want to stay in here for a bit longer,” Chris said. “Unless you’d like to do the Walk of Shame through our common room.”

Eduardo groaned, hiding his head in his hands. “These are our classmates. How I am going to face them all weekend?”

Chris patted Eduardo’s shoulder. “I might have implied that you’re upset about the terms of Facebook’s possible IPO—”

“And you and Mark got into a manly altercation.” Dustin glanced at the abandoned pillow. “Very manly.”

“Gotta admit I’m surprised,” Chris said as he and Eduardo picked through the Solo cups and pizza boxes scattered across the common room. Dustin had muttered something about maid service, but Chris quelled him and Mark with a look, sending them out for more trash bags. “I didn’t think you still cared enough to resort to violence.”

“Mark started it.” Eduardo realized that was not the best rejoinder and tried again. “He implied that I was a negligent shareholder, so I—”

“Hit him with a pillow.”

“I know, I know,” Eduardo said. “Violence is not the answer.”

“Sometimes, violence is the answer,” Chris said, chuckling. “Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to do that to Mark?”

Even as he reflexively grinned back at Chris, part of Eduardo began to feel uncomfortable. In those first, awful months after the dilution, he and Chris straddled that line between friendly acquaintance and friend. A friendly acquaintance was someone to sit with at the dining hall or down shots with on the senior booze cruise. A friend was someone who could take nights of shouting and accusations of betrayal. Chris had seen both too much and too little of Eduardo, and Eduardo had never quite forgiven him for it.

If Chris sensed Eduardo’s discomfort, he didn’t react. “At least you’ve cured his moping. You should have seen Mark last night. He sat through a rerun of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills without saying a word.”

Eduardo snorted. “Mark holding his tongue? Color me surprised.”

“He managed to keep your Mem Church reservation secret all these years,” Chris said, with a searching look.

“It was just a placeholder. Until we found the right women.” Eduardo looked down at his hands.

“Is that what Mark said to you?” Chris asked, his voice sharp. Then he sighed. “Oh, Wardo.”

“What?” The last thing Eduardo wanted was pity. He reached for that familiar numbness. “I don’t know what you’re thinking . . . I . . . Anyway, I’ve moved on.”

“Mark may have been blind, but we—”

They both startled at the opening of the door. Dustin had cleared the CVS of ping pong balls, if the bags he carried were any indication. Right behind, Mark brought in trash bags and cleaning supplies with a disgruntled expression. Eduardo would accuse him of being too accustomed to the housekeeping perks of a billionaire—if he hadn’t remembered Mark’s aversion to cleaning his dorm room. One reading period, Mark started stacking empty cans of Mountain Dew next to his desk. By the time final exams were over, he’d managed to replicate the Great Pyramid of Giza.

“Know what we were missing just now?” Dustin lifted one CVS bag. “Beer pong! I spotted a good table in the Kirkland grille, and we can set up a tournament tomorrow night.”

Mark cleared his throat. Dustin blinked, then smirked. “Never mind. We can save the beer pong for Saturday. In fact,” he said, grabbing Chris by the arm and dragging him back out the door, “I need some help sending out invites.”

The door shut behind them.

“So, er . . . I guess you wanted to say something to me?” Eduardo asked, taking refuge in stating the obvious.

Mark took a deep breath. “I’m sorry for hitting you with a pillow,” he said, in the robotic tone of the well-rehearsed. “Though you started it. I’m sorry for implying that you’re a bad shareholder. But you really should come to the meetings. And I shouldn’t have threatened to hack into your computer. Even if it was ridiculously easy because you use the same passwords for everything—”

“Stop, stop.” The only surprise was how unsurprised Eduardo felt about Mark having already hacked his accounts. “Don’t incriminate yourself any further.”

“It’s not a crime if you gave me permission to try,” Mark said.

“When did I ever give you permission?”

“That time we played Truth or Dare with jello shots, remember? You dared me to hack into your laptop in under five minutes.” Mark had the gall to look smug.

“One,” Eduardo said. “I was drunk, so it didn’t count. Two, any consent given has long since been revoked.”

Mark’s blank look said Does Not Compute. It was probably the same expression he had whenever Facebook users revolted against new privacy settings. Eduardo reflected that, by laughing off Mark’s hacking instincts in college, he’d helped create a monster.

Visibly disconnecting from the previous conversation, Mark said, “I got us tickets to the Sox game tomorrow night. Front row seats, behind home plate.”

For a moment, Eduardo debated trying to make Mark see his point about privacy, permissions, and how they weren’t best friends any more. But it was late, and he didn’t have the energy to argue. With a sigh of defeat, he said, “Do you even know anything about baseball?”

“Sure I do,” Mark said, lips curling up at Eduardo’s implicit surrender. “Dustin brought his PS3, and it has MLB: The Show. Here, let me set it up.”

Eduardo sank into a chair. It was going to be a long night.

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October 2011

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