Mark can’t quite make fun of Wardo’s nanny mafia connections, because they do get them Trish. Patricia, really, but she warns them off from using that one.
Jess likes her, and that’s good enough, but Mark is mostly content with the fact that she doesn’t seem interested in hitting on anyone in the house.
“That could be because you’ve pointedly held my hand throughout the interview,” Wardo points out a few times. Whatever, better safe than wasting time on looking for a replacement. Again. “Besides, I don’t think you’re her type,” Wardo adds and Mark shrugs, every time.
“I’m not taking any chances. Maybe I’m not, maybe you are her type, and then where I’d be?”
“Jealousy is a very unattractive quality,” Wardo tells him mournfully, but still tugs on Mark’s wrist to pull him closer, hand on Mark’s jaw to tilt his head up and into a kiss. Clearly Mark can’t believe a word Wardo’s saying. He’s not complaining, he’s just mentioning this.
“Pants on fire,” he mutters and Wardo looks down, comically surprised.
“Really? Help me take them off, then, and quick.”
There’s really no way Mark can stop complaining about Trish, as you see. She seems to find it entertaining, at least, so.
“You’re home early,” she says now, looking up from over something that looks like a giraffe made of tin foil. “Didn’t we agree you call ahead, so there’s no one walking on anyone in any compromising positions?”
So maybe she finds it too entertaining. “I’m sorry, I’ll leave you and your giraffe alone. Where’s Jess?”
“It’s a brontosaurus,” she says pointedly. “Well, really, I should say apatosaurus, because...”
“Jess?” He’s heard Trish go off on dinosaurs before. Or on planes. Or on middle age french literature. Or, for some reason, on my little ponies.
“Looking for more glue, we’re out,” she shrugs.
Trish smiles. “Doing his homework.” At Mark’s look, she shrugs. “He has a research paper due. Something about-- you know what, I don’t even know. Numbers,” she waves vaguely and Mark snorts. “He’s been at it for hours,” she adds.
It’s not surprising. When it comes to schoolwork, as it turns out, Wardo gets a little, well, obsessed it a strong word. In this case it might not be strong enough. He worries about assignments and grades and wants to do everything right and perfect.
“How about you and Jess make use of the nice weather and go to the park?”
Trish looks at him. “It’ll be dark soon,” she points out.
“Cinema? Or maybe-- You think Katie’s parents would mind an unexpected visit?” he asks and Trish shrugs.
“Probably not. And Nate owes me for the last time I look after both of the girls when he and Brad wanted to-- you know, I didn’t inquire about the details, but it probably wasn’t far away from what you are planning,” she nods and turns her head towards the staircase. “Jess, you’re making that glue there? Come down, change of plans!”
“Thanks,” Mark says after a few seconds.
“Hey, Dad,” Jess bounces down the stairs, her hands full of what seems like seven different kinds of glue. Some of them are glittery. “How was your trip?” she asks, trying for a hug, made a little problematic by having her arms full. “Did you bring me something?”
“Hey, fine, and yes, of course” Mark says, bending to kiss the top of her head. “A Big Ben.”
“The real one?”
“No, they couldn’t be persuaded. But I’m pretty sure it’s big enough to make a good house for Leia. It’s in the hall,” he says and Jess beams at him and rushes to see it. “What?” he asks Trish, he can feel her look.
“You bought a Big Ben house for your daughter’s cat. I don’t think I have anything to add,” she tells him before turning on her heel and heading after Jess. “Wait ten minutes before you get vocal, I need to gather our stuff,” she adds and Mark’s sorely tempted to flip her off, except such behavior would be unbecoming.
And he’s already heading upstairs besides.
Wardo’s in the study, going through a print out with a red pen. That means he’s in the one of the final edits, that’s good, he’ll be much more prone to agree to be dragged away from the desk. Mark watches him for a moment, the look of concentration on his face, the way he’s biting the end of the pen when he’s not scratching something out.
“I thought you found the glue, you need something else?” Wardo asks, not looking up.
Mark nods. “You can say that,” he drawls and shakes his head at himself. “That was a bad line,” he mutters as Wardo glances up smiling.
“I’ve heard worse,” he says. “Most of them from you,” he adds fondly and glances at the clock. “You’re home early.”
It’s exactly what Trish said, but Wardo says it differently. Not just because he’s happy Mark’s back, but because in his mouth ‘home’ always sounds better. It took him a while to refer to Mark’s house as home, every instance thrilling Mark endlessly at the beginning. Now it’s a matter of fact, not it’s just the way it is.
Mark can’t quite get enough of that.
“Don’t sound so excited,” he says dryly and Wardo beams at him, because for some reason he finds Mark’s sharp responses entertaining. “You done with that?” he asks, waving his hand at the papers and the laptop as he walks up to the desk.
“Not quite,” Wardo shrugs and reaches out, hand on Mark’s hip. He has a folder opened on his knees, probably checking his data against it, and Mark doesn’t step in closer, not wanting to mess up the order of the pages or anything. Wardo doesn’t seem to care so much, he just leans in and rests his forehead against Mark’s stomach, letting the papers slide to the floor. “I believe I missed you,” he mutters.
Mark cards his finger through Wardo’s hair and debates the choice between pulling him up and then towards the bedroom or maybe-- he slides down to his knees and tilts his head up, his hand still on the back of Wardo’s neck. “You done with that?” he asks again and Wardo smiles before their lips meet.
“I think I could be, for now,” he mutters.
Mark had never mastered the art of sleeping while on a plane. Jess is out like a light the moment the plane takes off and Wardo drifts in and out of sleep, a little too anxious to really let himself relax, his eyes closing just to flutter open a few minutes later.
Mark sends him a look over Jess’ head. “You’re making me nervous,” he says before turning back to his screen. He can still see Wardo out of the corner of his eye.
“Sorry,” Wardo mutters and falls silent for a while, looking at Jess before he brushes a curl of her hair off her forehead. “Is it too late to turn the plane around?”
He’s probably joking.
Mark shrugs. “I think I could swing it, for a couple million. Probably cheaper to arrange an emergency landing somewhere half the way, we could get a flight back.”
He doesn’t really mean it. Unless it’s what Wardo actually wants.
“I wasn’t serious,” Wardo tells him.
“But you were.”
“Possibly,” Mark shrugs. “It’s going to be fine, Wardo. Or, at least that’s what you told me when I was panicking when your mother called.”
She called Mark.
For a few seconds after she introduced herself Mark was actually petrified, thinking that maybe something happened to Wardo. (“You’d be notified first,” Wardo told him later that day, ducking his head, his voice quiet and a little hesitant. Mark had wondered how much could his heart take in a day without finally pounding its way out of his chest.)
But she only wanted to invite them for a few days holiday during Spring Break. Mark was so relieved that he accepted the invitation without thinking. Not that he wouldn’t otherwise, but he probably should have consulted Wardo first.
“It’s fine,” Wardo said, shrugging, only the slight tension visible in his shoulders. “Can’t tell I wasn’t expecting this, she was plotting for a while,” he added with a small smile and Mark reached out to squeeze his hand, pull him close, try his best to make the tension disappear, melt away.
It was a short conversation but Mark thinks he likes Wardo’s mother, she’s no-nonsense and sharp and apparently enjoys people’s discomfort. He was less than impressed when he was subjected to this, but those are qualities he generally appreciates. That’s not the... she’s not the one he’s worried about.
Eduardo calls his father more often than he used to and a majority of the conversations don’t even end in Wardo disconnecting in frustration. There still are some like that, but less and less. “He’s trying,” Wardo says and Mark knows that so is Eduardo.
So maybe this visit will be good. Well, Mark will take not catastrophic. If anything happens, he can always grab Jess and Wardo and evacuate them to a hotel, he’s looked into the ones nearby.
Jess sleeps through the car ride, too. She’s been up last night, excited by the trip and packing and repacking things she thought she might need, unable to decide which books she wanted to take. Mark was ready to offer to just take an additional suitcase, but she finally picked the six ones she absolutely couldn’t part with.
It took her till two in the morning.
So right now she’s sprawled in the back seat of the rental car, dead to the world. Wardo drives carefully, making sure he doesn’t hit any bumps and wake her up.
“She’s seriously out, a tornado wouldn’t wake her,” Mark mutters and Wardo speeds up obligingly. By maybe a mile. “Suit yourself.”
Jess opens her eyes when they pull over and looks around sleepily before deciding she’s more interested in going back to sleep and slumping in the seat. Wardo puts the car in break and sighs. “Okay.”
“Want to turn around?” Mark offers and Wardo shakes his head. “Want to keep the engine running, just in case?”
That at least gets him a smile. Eduardo turns off the engine and leans over, brushing his lips against Mark’s. “Thanks.”
“I’m only doing this for blackmail material. My mother has probably shown you every single fucking picture from my childhood. Including the bad hair years, which were all of them.”
“I happen to be fond of your hair,” Wardo tells him. “Okay, here goes nothing. Grab the suitcases?” he adds and gets out of the car, walking around to open the door to the backseat, gently picking Jess up. She mutters something and burrows her face in Wardo’s shirt.
“Eduardo,” Mrs Saverin calls and then drops her voice when she sees sleeping Jess. “And Mark,” she nods at him. She looks between them and at the suitcases, then reaches out to pick the smallest one up. “Ricardo, a little help,” she says, a little louder but still a whisper.
And that would be Wardo’s father, and Mark hadn’t ever met him and has no reason whatsoever to be nervous, and yet, he shuffles his feet and sticks out his chin and it’s all so completely ridiculous.
Mr Saverin looks at him, quick and assessing, and Mark’s telling himself it’s only anxiety-inducing because he’s so tall, and then his gaze slides to Eduardo and Jess and something shifts in his expression. He turns back to Mark. “Which one is hers?” he asks and Mark wordlessly hands over Jess’ suitcase.
“Her room’s ready,” Mrs Saverin says and Mr Saverin nods at Eduardo.
“Come on, son, I’ll show you to it,” he says, lowering his voice to a whisper too, carefully quiet.
Wardo’s frowning and he turns his head to glance over his shoulder at Mark, confusion all over his face. Mrs Saverin smiles widely, like she’s the mastermind behind it all. “Mark. You don’t mind if I call you Mark? You can call me Helen,” she says brightly and Mark can’t quite get what’s going on. “How about some ice tea?”
“Sure. And then you can show me the hidden camera?” he mutters and her smile grows wider. “This isn’t quite what I expected.”
“Oh, don’t worry, they’re bound to get into an argument sometime later today,” Helen offers.
“But you’re not surprised by... that.”
“Dear boy, my husband has his faults. They’re quite similar with Eduardo, in their stubbornness at least.” Mark shakes his head at that, he doesn’t quite see it. Helen continues. “But I have seen Ricardo when his business partners and friends take out their wallets and show the pictures of their grandchildren.”
“So, you planned this,” Mark concludes.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. I have just wanted to meet my prospective son-in-law,” she says brightly and a small thrill of excitement runs through Mark, because well, there’s that. “About that tea?”
Jess wakes up well-rested and energised right in time for dinner. She bounces downstairs and then bounces in her chair for a good measure and Mark feels tired just looking at her.
She’s also in the phase of asking questions about everything from the plane and flight to the more esoteric notions of the theory of time. Or something. Mark answers her absently and when his mouth is full of food, Eduardo takes over. They have that routine down pretty well.
“And what ‘pai’ means?” Jess asks and it’s definitely not a question for Mark, they ave the division worked out too.
“Dad,” Wardo says at the same time Mr Saverin answers. She must have picked up on the few times in the evening Wardo said it, and now she nods seriously and thinks for a moment.
“So, ‘mãe’ means Mom?” she asks and get a few acknowledging nods. “Cool,” she announces and proceeds to asking what are the words in Portuguese for everything that is in her line of view and then some.
Mr Saverin smoothly takes over answering every one of them and Mark blinks at Eduardo across the table. Wardo just shrugs, his eyes a little wide. Helen looks particularly pleased.
“You’re going to have to teach her Portuguese, son,” Mr Saverin says and Eduardo nods.
“This whole thing isn’t going like I expected it to,” he tells Mark later, when they’re unpacking in the room Helen assigned them, not Eduardo’s old room, that went to Jess. “I’m not complaining,” he adds quickly and Mark nods.
“It’s okay to be freaked out by your parents,” he offers. “That covers pretty much my whole growing up experience.”
“Your parents are lovely.”
“You’re saying that because they hadn’t got into the mortifying phase with you yet. Maybe they won’t, I think they like you better than they like me,” he shrugs and smiles to let Wardo know he’s joking. Mostly. “I like your mother,” he offers. Helen scares him a little, sure, but she seems on board with Mark getting to marry Wardo at some point, if her comments about the whole son-in-law thing are anything to go by, so.
“I’m pretty sure she likes you too,” Wardo shrugs. “Can’t speak for my father.”
“Because he hadn’t spoken to me for the whole evening? That’s fine, I’ve given up on that when he started to discuss Jess’ favorite cartoons with her.”
Wardo smiles. “That was actually a highlight of my evening. Cartoons were always considered a waste of time in this house,” he mutters. He doesn’t sound bitter, more like wistful and Mark gives in to the instinct and crowds into Wardo’s space, taking the few shirt he’s holding out of his hands and dropping them unceremoniously on the bed. “I was going to hang those,” Wardo complains automatically.
“A dollar,” Wardo says, laughing into the kiss, his hands on both sides of Mark’s face as he holds on even as they pull back and rests his forehead against Mark’s. “Thanks for being here.”
“You’re kidding?” Mark says, purposefully misunderstanding. “I haven’t had vacation in years,” he offers. Which reminds him. “I need--” he starts and Wardo nods.
“Go check on it.” He steps back. “I’ll finish unpacking.”
“Okay,” Mark says and holds on for a second anyway. “I love you.”
“That’s a happy coincidence,” Wardo says, kissing Mark’s forehead. “I love you too. Check your messages.”
He goes to check the messages and, for good measure, texts Dustin just in case. He gets an immediate response. Everything’s brilliant. You should go away more often. He should have actually expected that.
The whole day and the travel was more exhausting than he’s initially realised, so Mark’s out like the light early in the evening. But still, the bed is unfamiliar and so is the house, different sounds than Mark’s used to, and he doesn’t sleep well, waking up a few times during the night, burrowing his head in the pillow, or in Eduardo’s neck and trying to fall asleep again. He’s more fond of the second option.
Until finally he wakes up and Wardo’s not there. The bed is still warm on his side, so he couldn’t have been up for more than a few minutes. It’s gray outside, not quite morning but not quite the night anymore and Mark crawls out of the bed, figuring that he might as well go take a leak and then maybe find a glass of water, his throat is scratchy.
He’s still a little fucked from sleep, and he doesn’t quite make out the voices coming from the living room until he’s already in the kitchen, filling up a glass with tap water.
“You never actually considered that I might have been worried?” is the first he catches, but it’s obvious that the argument was going for a while.
Mr Saverin’s voice is clipped, angry but not quite. Mark considers his options, could he get back upstairs as quietly as he walked down, go unnoticed?
“You’ve always had a funny way of showing that,” Wardo responds, his tone an exact echo of his father’s. “And this is none of your business.”
“If you really believe that, what are you even doing here?” He sounds tired, Mark thinks, like they’re rehashing an old argument again. “You wanted us to meet him.”
“His name’s Mark.”
“I remember. We’ve been introduced and I don’t yet have a dementia.”
“I suggest you learn to use it, then,” Wardo suggests. There’s a long pause before he speaks again. “He’s going to be around for a while,” he adds softly.
Mr Saverin sighs. “I don’t-- One of my concerns over your choice of a lifestyle--”
“It’s not a choice.”
“Fine. One of my concerns was that you wouldn’t have-- children. Family.”
“No one to carry the Saverin family name?” This time Wardo does sound bitter and Mark instinctively steps forward, thinks of stepping in. Probably do more harm than good, but do something.
“I don’t give a damn about that,” Mr Saverin says, and the silence that follows means that he’s managed to surprise Wardo. Maybe even surprise himself. He sighs. “That little girl of his.”
“Mark’s. And her name is Jessica.”
“I am aware, yes,” he sighs. “She’s a great kid. You’re doing well,” he offers quietly, Mark has to strain to hear. “Not that you need my approval,” he adds dryly and there’s a long moment before Wardo speaks.
“No,” he says, and it can mean a lot of things. “Thank you, Pai.”
“Yes, well,” Mr Saverin says and there’s a rustling sound, like maybe he’s standing up. “Alright,” he adds and leaves the living room, like the argument was fine but the nice moment afterwards is too uncomfortable.
Mark moves slowly, after an adequate moment of wait, and fills up another glass, walking to the living room and handing it to Eduardo.
“Any alcohol in it?”
Mark shakes his head. “I don’t know where your parents store booze.”
“As a boyfriend, you’re sort of useless,” Wardo says, but he pulls Mark down onto the couch just the same, buries his face in Mark’s neck and breathes in and out slowly.
“That’s unfortunate, because you’re stuck with me.”
He can feel Wardo smile against his skin. “Good.”
When they leave, two days later than they initially planned, Mr Saverin shakes Mark’s hand and almost, almost smiles. “It was good to meet you, Mark,” he offers pleasantly, the first time he’s addressed Mark by his name. Mark’s not quite sure what to do with that except to shake the offered hand and glance at Wardo helplessly.
Wardo just shrugs at him, but the moment is quickly over and Mr Saverin moves on to actually hug Jess.
“You need to visit again,” Helen tells them. “I don’t know what plans you have for Hanukkah... or maybe Thanksgiving. I’m sure you’d want to visit Mark’s family too, but we’d love to claim one of the holidays,” she insists and Mark finds himself promising to figure out a schedule.
“I am still not entirely convinced they haven’t been replaced by pod people,” Wardo says quietly in the car. “Well, my father, at least,” he adds. “Mãe was always like that.”
“Why are your parents pod people?” Jess perks up from the back seat and Wardo glances into the rearview mirror, a slight look of panic crossing his face. He was sure Jess was to involved in her book to listen.
The book is in Portuguese, one of Wardo’s first, apparently. She’s tracing the words she knows already, which aren’t many but Mark hadn’t seen her fascinated with something like that since judo. Or the time she started to learn how to read in English.
“They aren’t, really. It’s just an expression,” Wardo tells her and she nods, satisfied with the explanation.
“I didn’t really think they were pod people,” she says. “They’re nice. Your Pai is very funny.”
Mark sort of wishes he had the time to fish out his cellphone and snap a picture of Wardo’s expression. Clearly, not a word he’d ever associate with his father, not that Mark blames him.
“Yes,” Mark says slowly. “That he is,” he adds, mostly to see the look Eduardo is bound to give him. Ah, there it is. Kind of brilliant.
He’s still watching Wardo a few seconds later, when Jess speaks up again, and that’s a good thing because otherwise he’d might have missed the greatest thing in the history of ever.
Jess turns the page and mulls over something, clearly thoughtful, clearing her throat before she speaks. “Is it okay if I call you Pai?” she asks. Wardo startles and stares at her in the mirror, gripping the steering wheel tightly, his knuckles white.
He’s clearly not watching the road, Mark would like to point out, for all his lectures on how it’s usually Mark who gets distracted while driving.
Mark doesn’t point it out only because there’s something stuck in his throat, coupled with a sting behind his eyeballs, wet and warm.
“What?” Wardo asks, his voice a little strained. “Why?”
“Katie has two Dads,” Jess points out. Again. She’s kind of fond of that one, Mark thinks. “And she calls both of them Dad. I think it’s confusing, right? I mean, how do you know which one she means? She says they always know, but it’s weird.”
“And you don’t want to call me Wardo? What’s wrong with Wardo?” Eduardo asks and Mark snorts, because that’s sort of a good question. Wardo’s flushed now, his eyes bright, a look of wonder on his face and Mark knows this one, this means Wardo wants this, but he’s still questioning it, still unsure.
Kicking him would be counterproductive while he’s driving.
“It’s weird when you call your Dad by his name, right?” Jess shrugs. “And I know you’re not my Dad-Dad, Dad is, but well, you’re sort of like my Dad.”
Stellar logic there, Mark is proud.
“I’ve asked Trish, but she said I should ask you. Well, I didn’t ask her about the Pai thing, I’ve just learned that here, but about the Dad thing.”
Wardo starts pulling over to the side of the road. Only two cars honk at him. “What are you doing?” Mark asks with some interest and Wardo glances at him.
“I need to hug your daughter right now, I’d prefer not to do this in a moving vehicle.”
“Sounds valid,” Mark agrees, biting his lip to hold back a smile.
Wardo puts the car into the parking break and looks at Mark. “You’re fine with this?”
“I’m pretty sure I’ve been clear about that,” Mark mutters and reaches out, his hand on Wardo’s, lacing their fingers together for a moment. “You’re pretty much stuck with us, might as well get the terms right.”
“I love you,” Wardo tells him and looks up into the rearview mirror. “You too,” he says. “And stay where you are,” he adds and gets out of the car, walks around to the side away from the road and opens the door. Jess bounces out happily, throwing her arms around Wardo’s neck obligingly. “Yeah,” he says, kissing her forehead. “You can call me whatever you want. It’s-- I’m honored, Jess.”
“Is this calling you whatever we want an open offer? I have a few ideas,” Mark interjects, unfastening his seat belt and opening his own door. He stays seated but shifts, his feet on the ground outside of the car. “Some of them--”
“No,” Wardo stops him immediately, but he’s laughing. “We can negotiate later. Jess can call me whatever she wants.”
“Pai?” Jess prompts and Wardo nods, mouthing something against her hair, Mark can’t quite catch the words but Jess smiles widely and hugs Wardo tighter.
“You two stay in the backseat,” Mark tells them. Wardo’s probably not letting go of Jess soon. “I’ll drive. And control the radio,” he adds, mostly to himself. Wardo’s taste in music sucks.
“Thanks,” Wardo says. He probably doesn’t mean about the driving.
“Yeah,” Mark says, smiling. “You too.”
So, he’s planned the whole thing a little differently. If he planned it at all, that is, because it’s not like he’s actually prepared anything substantial and specific, other than the vague idea that this was what he wanted.
But, getting ahead of himself.
It starts with that one time when facebook crashes for half an hour. Well, half an hour of the downtime the users actually experience, plus a few additional hours of glitching and something like fifteen straight hours of intense work from everyone at the office and some people dragged into the office on their free day.
“I want to die,” Dustin says when it’s over, falling down onto the couch in Mark’s office. “I think I’ve ingested enough Red Bull to have it flow through my veins. Maybe it replaced all my bodily fluids. Maybe my dick shoots Red Bull now.”
“I will never drink Red Bull again,” Lisa says wonderingly from the doorway. “Thanks for that. Mark, you need anything? I’m going to head home in a bit. I suggest you do the same.”
“Home?” Dustin shakes his head. “I was gonna party,” he waves his hands above his head weakly. “No?”
Mark rolls his eyes and glances at the clock. Close to seventeen hours since he’s been home. Probably. He’s not entirely sure he can tell if it’s the middle of the night or the middle of the afternoon. “Lisa, can you call me a car? I should call Wardo, tell him we’re done here.”
“Already notified him,” Lisa tells him. “He called a few times throughout, offered to come by, but Trish has a free day... I promised to make you eat something,” she adds. That probably was a deciding factor for Wardo to stay home with Jess.
He thinks he remembers sandwiches a few hours ago. And maybe a salad before that, Lisa using his distraction to smuggle in something healthy. She’s as bad as Chris or Wardo.
Speaking of Wardo and food, there’s something that’s nagging at Mark’s brain now that it isn’t preoccupied with lines of code and isn’t running on adrenaline and coding haze anymore. “I missed dinner,” he tells Lisa and she gives him a kind look.
“I think that ship has sailed a while ago. You’ve had sandwiches for lunch, though. Well, not that it was in time for lunch, but still.”
“No, I mean dinner with Wardo,” he says, standing up, then sitting back down when the movement pulls on the headphones he has around his neck. He starts disentangling himself from the wires.
“You’ve had me call him when this thing started, he wasn’t waiting,” Lisa shrugs. She doesn’t understand.
“The birthday dinner,” he explains. It’s not Wardo’s actual birthday today, well, yesterday, he amends glancing at the watch. That’s this weekend and they’re expecting both Mark’s and Wardo’s parents to visit, which is most certainly going to be a complete disaster, so today, yesterday, it was going to be just Mark and Wardo and Jess and a dinner and gifts and...
Dustin whistles. “Better buy some flowers on the way home. Or, is Wardo a Tiffany’s kind of girl?”
Mark glares at him before sighing. “Call Josie and Zev in, someone needs to man the fort,” he mutters. “Get some sleep and come back to check on things. Let me know if anything goes fucked again, but I probably won’t be coming in...”
“Need to grovel for a while, gotcha,” Dustin offers a half-hearted salute. “Hey, mind if I just sleep here? I don’t think my legs will carry me far...” he muses. “Say hi to the missus,” he adds and Mark snorts.
That’s not how he’d put it, but Dustin might not be that far off on the groveling bit.
Mark half expects Wardo to be asleep, considering the hour, but he’s sprawled on the couch in the living room, pouring over a printout of something and highlighting what he considers the important parts, which is everything. Mark doesn’t even point out that the finals aren’t for quite a while yet, it’s a lost fight.
“Hey,” he says and Wardo looks up, smiling instinctively. Mark waits for Wardo’s brain to catch up and for his face to turn into mild annoyance, but that doesn’t happen. “Sorry,” he adds.
“Lisa called me. Apparently this one was quite serious? I know it’s not the first time you’ve been under attack.”
“Never one so well organised,” Mark shrugs. It’s not that he doesn’t want to talk about it, he’s going to spend weeks discussing it, especially with the facebook employees, but this isn’t the right moment, he’s pretty sure. “I’m an idiot and I forgot,” he tells Wardo, sitting down next to him, leaning back into the couch. “I probably would have cancelled anyway,” he says wryly, “but I should have called you myself at least, not delegate to Lisa.”
“Mark, it’s fine,” Wardo tells him honestly and takes a moment to put his papers in a folder and place the folder on the coffee table. Ever the organised one. “I don’t think you’d be blowing me off if it wasn’t serious, we can have the dinner tomorrow.”
He means it. He’s not angry, or even mildly annoyed, and Mark thinks he should be happy with that. And he is. Grateful, too, that Wardo gets it, in a way no one really does, that it doesn’t mean that Mark doesn’t care, it means that he’s terrible at this stuff and he’s going to forget the dates and the anniversaries all the time. It means that he loves Wardo and wants to try and be better at this whole thing, but he’s probably not going to succeed.
So, he should be happy and grateful and that should be it, but there’s the uncomfortable feeling settling in his stomach, an unpleasant buzz in his head.
“Yeah. Tomorrow sounds good,” he says and shakes his head, shifts closer until their knees bump together. “I’m not... I’m not choosing facebook over you, or anything.”
Wardo looks at him for a moment. “I know that. I don’t think I’m competing with your website, Mark,” he says, but there’s something a little sad in his smile, and Mark thinks he was right to be concerned. Maybe Wardo understands that Mark isn’t choosing facebook over him. Or maybe a part of him thinks that there’s no point competing because facebook would win.
That’s not true. Mark could envision his world without facebook. He doesn’t want to, but he’d manage fine. He can’t see himself without Jess or without Wardo. Those two.
“You know Dustin makes those jokes about how you’re the missus and facebook is the mistress?” he asks dryly. Dustin makes those jokes after he’s been wired in for hours, or after four to five beers, which is just about the same state. “Which is a stupid metaphor to begin with, I mean, people have mistresses for, I assume to have sex, and there’s really no way to have a sex with a website.”
“I’ll bet you ten bucks Dustin might have tried,” Wardo says thoughtfully. His expression turned inscrutable and he’s leaning forward, intently listening to Mark. “Mark. What are you saying?”
“It’s work. I need you to know that, to be sure of that. It’s one of the best things in my life, yeah, but it’s not the-- It’s not like I’m married to it,” he shrugs. He’s heard those rumours, both in the married-to-his-work fashion and the creepy Dustin way.
Wardo nods slowly. “You’re not married to me either,” he points out, his tone lighter, like he’s coming back to Dustin’s analogy and making fun of it. Mark shrugs again and speaks without thinking.
“Yeah, but I want to.”
This is probably the moment to redefine facepalming. He wasn’t going to say that. Not now. Not in this way. He didn’t have a specific plan but it was going to be something... suave, maybe. Maybe even romantic.
Wardo blinks at him. Licks his lips. Works over the words for a few seconds. Mark’s about to speak again and inevitably trip over the words when Wardo shakes his head. “Is this your way of proposing?”
“No. Yes. Well, maybe,” Mark shrugs. “It is if you say yes. If you, er, if you’re about to say no then maybe we should forget about this whole thing.”
“No,” Wardo says and Mark’s not sure what to. “You’re not doing this. Wait here,” he adds and stands up, a little shaky and unbalanced. “Wait right here, I’ll be right back,” he adds and steps back, around the coffee table. He glances back at Mark and Mark doesn’t know what he sees, maybe the fact that his heart is still and his hands are shaking is showing on his face. “I’ll be right back,” Wardo says again and steps closer to Mark for a second, leaning down to kiss his forehead, run his fingers down the side of Mark’s face. “Right back.”
He runs upstairs taking two steps at the time and Mark can hear him moving around in their bedroom. It’s the longest minute of his life. Those experiences seem to top each other, he remembers waiting for facebook to go online and the whole world still for a few seconds. He thought it was incomparable, but then came... He remembers when Jess was born. He’ll remember this.
“Okay,” Wardo says, walking back in, a little out of breath. “Sorry. But this-- I want to get this right,” he says and Mark licks his dry lips and nods. He can’t quite remember how to breathe, because Wardo’s holding something that looks suspiciously like a rings box.
He might be a Tiffany’s girl after all, Dustin will be pleased to hear.
“Are you going to get on one knee?” he asks and Wardo gives him a look.
“You’re spoiling the moment, Mark,” he offers and then, probably to fuck with Mark, drops down to one knee and flicks the box open to reveal two matching wedding bands. “Marry me.”
“I actually proposed first,” Mark points out.
“I didn’t hear any question in there.”
“It was implied.”
“Are you really going to argue about this now?” Wardo asks but he’s laughing and Mark can’t hold back his own smile.
“Which question are you even answering?”
Mark fishes one of the rings out of the box. “The important one,” he says, slipping it onto his finger. “Do I get to kiss you now?” he asks and Wardo laughs again, scrambling up and pushing Mark down onto the couch, kissing him, slow and content. Mark can feel him blindly try and extricate the other ring from the box. “Let me,” he says and takes it from Wardo’s palm before putting it on Wardo’s finger.
He can feel the weight when their fingers lace together, the quiet clink of metal against metal and he smiles into Wardo’s kiss.
“Pancakes?” Jess asks, some time later, startling Mark. He’s not quite sure how much time they’ve just spent making out on the couch, but it had gotten light outside. Wardo closes his eyes and runs his hand through his hair. It doesn’t help the matter, it sticks up even more.
“That could be arranged,” Wardo tells her.
“Hey, Jess,” Mark says, moving to stand up. It’s not going well and he resigns to sitting up on the couch. It’s still a success. “You okay if I marry your Pai?”
Wardo makes a low sound, something like a sigh but even softer, and glances up at Jess, like he’s nervous. He should know better.
Jess gives Mark a look like he should know better than asking stupid questions and nods. “I want to be a bridesmaid,” she warns. “I’m too old for a flower girl. Can we have whipped cream on the pancakes?”
“I think she approves,” Mark tells Wardo seriously.
Mark wants the wedding to be a small affair. He hates all the fuss.
Well, sure, a part of him would have nothing against broadcasting through the whole world that Eduardo Saverin is now taken, and by no one else but Mark, but that can be conveyed through a facebook status. That’s what the thing is for.
But a small affair would mean not having to wear a tuxedo, for starters. Not that Mark intends to. A suit jacket will do fine. And, okay, a tie. Eduardo made an excellent case for a tie.
They start with a small guests list. Both their families, Jess’ grandfather from her mother’s side because Mark can’t not invite him, a handful of friends, a few Facebook employees... Then Mark’s mother takes over the list. Turns out there’s a lot of relatives she was dying to invite to a wedding of one of her children and that Mark and his sisters were apparently cheating her out of that joy by postponing marriage.
“I’ll give you Randi and me,” he mutters darkly. “But Andie is sixteen.”
“Don’t try your logic on me, young man, and get me your fiance. I need to get his opinion on the flowers.”
Mark holds his hand over the receiver before he passes over the phone. “Do you have an opinion on flowers?”
Wardo blinks at him. “I have a generally positive attitude to them?” he tries gamely and Mark snorts.
“Yeah, good luck with that.”
Eduardo’s mother isn’t better. Mark is rethinking the mafia thing, there might be some truth to that. No one has that big a family. No one needs to invite that many relatives to a wedding, unless one is planning an ambush to take out the prospective competition.
“Have you been watching the Godfather while I was gone?” Wardo asks him suspiciously. He went to see his parents for two days, and it’s either about the mafia business or about his mother’s wedding dress and Mark did tell him already he’s not wearing that.
“I need to be prepared,” Mark says solemnly and holds the expression for long enough for Wardo to laugh and pull him down unceremoniously, Mark’s smile breaking out when he falls into Wardo’s lap.
So, families, that’s bad.
But then Chris gets on the planning and that’s worse.
“Didn’t you get all this,” Mark waves vaguely around, “out of your system when you were getting married?”
“Are you kidding? I was a nervous wreck when I was getting married,” Chris says smoothly. He’s smiling way too widely for Mark’s liking. “But I’m sure Sean can recommend you a fantastic catering service. You remember ours, they did those little...”
“Chris,” Wardo says, gentle but firm, probably because he can see the vein starting to pulse on Mark’s forehead.
“We need to talk about what this means for Facebook,” Chris offers.
Mark wants to point out that Facebook doesn’t give a shit. It’s a site, isn’t that what everyone kept telling him? But it turns out that Facebook employees do give a shit. And the shareholders. And, fuck, the users.
Their wedding has a fan page.
Mark has a newfound sympathy for doctor Frankenstein.
There are statements. They have to delegate one of the interns to deal exclusively with the things related to the wedding and run the fan page. Her name is Alyssa, she asks random questions about food and music choices when Mark least expects them and when he really, really doesn’t want to be answering, and she looks like this is the best job ever.
“There’s something seriously wrong with her,” Mark tells Wardo.
“Not now, we’re trying to make a decision on ballerina skirts.”
It takes Mark an uncomfortably long moment to be able to do anything but blink and stare. “I thought we’ve decided against wedding dresses.”
“My dress, Dad,” Jess tells him pointedly. Oh. Right. “What do you think?” she asks, tilting the screen towards him.
“It’s blue,” Mark notices. “And... puffy.”
“Well spotted,” Wardo nods at him. “It’s also going to clash terribly with the color scheme your mother has planned on.”
“So,” Mark shrugs. “We can change the color scheme.”
He likes blue better anyway.
“Hey,” Wardo says, lifting the laptop from his knees and handing it to Jess, then crawling up the couch to sit next to Mark, bring their shoulders together. “Want to go to Vegas tonight?”
Mark laughs and shakes his head. “You’d hate that.”
“Not if I woke up married to you tomorrow.”
Jess turns her head to glare at them. “No. I want to wear my dress. I decided,” she offers, showing the picture to them.
“It’s very pretty,” Wardo tells her and ducks his head, hiding his face in Mark’s neck, nosing a line up its side. “So, it’s decided, then. But at least I’m going to get you in a tux.”
“I’ve vetoed the tux.”
“Even if I help you dress? And then help you out of it?” Wardo says, his voice so low Mark has to concentrate to catch the words, and concentrating on anything is pretty damn hard when Wardo’s breathing against his neck, warm and wet.
Fine. Mark could be convinced to withstand some fuss.
“This is not exactly the stag party I’ve had in mind,” Dustin mutters, opening another pack of crisps. “Then again, I might have known it’d be lame when you’ve decided to host it together. Who the fuck does that?”
“This isn’t a stag party,” Mark says flatly. “I’ve vetoed the stag party.”
The whole tradition is ludicrous to begin with, really. Last night of freedom? If you perceive marriage as prison or slavery, why get married in the first place?
“It’s not...” Dustin shakes his head. “It’s traditional. It’s just an excuse to, I don’t know, get drunk and go see some strippers.”
“I’m not interested in strippers. And I don’t need an excuse to drink beer. Frankly, I’m worried about you if you do.”
“Wardo?” Dustin prompts, looking for support.
“Oh, no, I’m quite enjoying this,” Wardo offers from this place on the couch.
“Chris’ stag do was better,” Dustin says incredulously. “We went to a bar, at least.”
“And played darts,” Chris tells Wardo helpfully. “You can see how glamorous is the life of the world’s two youngest billionaires.”
“I’m adequately impressed,” Wardo nods seriously.
“But it was in a bar,” Dustin points out.
“Chris doesn’t have a seven-year-old daughter whose nanny has a free night,” Mark points out. Jess conked out a few hours ago, after kicking Dustin’s ass at Mario Kart. She was hyper for hours, because her dress for the wedding arrived. Eduardo had a hard time convincing her not to wear it the moment it came.
“Coming back to the important part, though,’ Dustin says thoughtfully. He’s just at this stage of being lightly drunk when it’s impossible to stop him from getting worked up about his topic of choice, the only way is to just let him talk himself out. “Should you guys be here together? Isn’t it bad luck to see the bride before the wedding?”
Wardo snorts. “I don’t think that one applies.”
“I’d like you to take a moment and think long and hard which one of us you consider a bride,” Mark tells him.
Dustin gives him a look. “Well, I’ve heard it was Wardo who proposed, so...”
“I’m firing you.”
“You can’t fire me, I’m the best man.”
“No, Chris is the best man,” Wardo says brightly. “Technically, if Mark’s the bride then you’re the bridesmaid.”
“It might not be too late to get you a pretty dress,” Mark offers helpfully.
“I hate all of you,” Dustin tells them and picks up one of the game controllers, tossing the other to Chris. “Your turn. I hope you still suck at this.”
“Twenty bucks says Chris kicks his ass,” Mark offers, climbing onto the couch and sprawling out comfortably, his feet in Wardo’s lap.
The stag night idea was idiotic but this, this is nice.
Mark was pretty sure he wasn’t worried about the wedding. He worries about a great number of things, on a daily basis, included but not limited to every time facebook glitches or crashes and every time Jess coughs. The wedding shouldn’t even register, it’s just a formality. With cake.
And yet, for some reason, he wakes up with an unsettling feeling in his stomach and it only gets worse as the day proceeds.
His parents arrive early in the morning, early enough that when Mark gets downstairs, Wardo already made them coffee and is talking to Mark’s mother and Randi about the honeymoon.
“Coffee,” Wardo tells him instead of a greeting, handing Mark his mug. This right there might be part of the reason Mark’s marrying that guy.
“Back garden, with her grandfathers.”
“Your parents are here already?” Mark asks, frowning. He’s pretty sure Helen would have been here in the living room. They get on regrettably well with Mark’s mother, it’s bound to come back and bite him in the ass at some point.
“The other grandfather,” Wardo says and Mark nods before downing all of his coffee in one go. “I’ll make you another,” Wardo doesn’t even blink.
“Thanks. I’ll be in the garden,” Mark offers, resigned, and makes his way out there. It’s a little too bright for his liking, for this early in the morning, but it looks like they’re going to have a fantastic weather for the wedding and reception.
“Hey, Dad!” Jess calls out, looking up for a moment from the minigolf game she’s playing against Mark’s father. Alan is sitting on the steps and watching them and Mark hesitates for a second before sitting down.
“Mark,” he nods. “Thank you for the invitation.”
“I thought your flight wasn’t for a few hours. We’ve arranged for a car to pick you up at the airport.”
“I can’t stay for the reception, I’ve figured I’d get some time with Jess before the wedding,” he shrugs. “She’s growing fast. She looks more like you than Jenna,” he adds, a little wistful, and Mark shrugs.
“She takes after Jenna in social skills, though. It’s a relief,” he says and Alan almost smiles.
Mark hadn’t met him until after Jenna got sick, when she decided to put her affairs in order and make provisions for Jess. Jess was eleven months old when Jenna died, and while Mark had been present in her life since the beginning, they weren’t quite a family. He and Jenna would probably never have kept in touch, save for an occasional conference or charity function, if she hadn’t gotten pregnant.
And so, he hadn’t met Alan until after Jenna got sick, and they’ve been civil if politely distant in the time after that.
“Your turn, Grandad!” Jess calls out. “Grandpa lost,” she adds gleefully and Mark’s father shrugs, making a show of slumping his shoulders in defeat.
“Coming,” Alan assures her and stands up, looking down at Mark. “She’s happy,” he tells Mark, stuffing his hands into his pockets. “You’re both doing fine,” he adds, looking up to include Eduardo, who’s standing in the doorway, holding a coffee mug.
“Thank you,” Mark mutters, looking down at his hands. Alan nods again and steps away, heading off to play minigolf.
“Here,” Wardo tells him, handing over the mug and sitting down, stretching his long legs.
“Enabling me without an accompanying lecture? I’m starting to worry,” Mark mutters, inhaling the coffee.
“Just because it’s our wedding day, honey,” Wardo says, mockingly sweet, but he’s smiling. “Also, my parents just got in.”
“Vovô!” Jess yells happily when Eduardo’s father walks out of the house. Mark closes his eyes and breathes in the coffee.
“This is going to be a long day.”
“Quite so,” Wardo tells him. “Come on inside, you should have some breakfast and then we probably should start getting ready.”
“Oh, joy,” Mark mutters and leans to the side, resting his head on Wardo’s shoulder. “The offer of helping me into the tux still stands?”
“I’ll do you if you do me,” Wardo says, calling up an innocent smile, like he’s aiming to be helpful.
“You really want to be late to your own wedding?”
“They won’t start without us,” Wardo laughs and stands up, reaching out to pull Mark up. “Come on, we should hurry up.”
Mark’s revised his opinion on tuxes. The whole thing was a great idea, clearly.
“You look good,” he tells Wardo, pretty aware that his tone’s going to betray the way his mouth actually started to water at the sight.
“So do you,” Wardo says, his voice a little awed, like he’s just as impressed with the way Mark looks, which is ridiculous, because Mark looks a little like Jess’ stuffed penguin Abraham, only less comfortable. And his bowtie is undone. “Come here,” Wardo pulls him close and proceeds to fix the thing up efficiently, his fingers brushing against Mark’s neck.
“So, how much time do we have?” he asks hopefully and Wardo snorts.
“Not enough,” he offers, as if Mark’s actually made a suggestion. He most certainly did not, he’s way too dignified for that. “Besides,” Eduardo nods towards the window. It’s on the side of the back garden and Mark can see Jess, already dressed in her bridesmaid dress, sitting on Mark’s father’s shoulders. Alan and Ricardo are standing a few feet away, and apparently getting along.
“You make an excellent point,” he mutters, a little sullen. It makes Wardo laugh softly and pull him away from the window and kiss Mark’s forehead.
Mark leans in instinctively, nuzzling Wardo’s neck. He gets only a moment of calm and quiet, pressed closely against Wardo, before someone’s knocking on the door impatiently.
“The car’s here, boys, you should get going.” His mother, of course. Mark nods and tilts his head, brushing his lips over Wardo’s, and reaches around him to open the door. His mother beams at them. “Oh, you both look lovely. Come here,” she adds to Mark and proceeds to brush invisible lint off his shoulder and pat at his hair to smoothen it down.
Wardo keeps smiling, a little too amused by this for Mark’s liking. He also ignores Mark’s withering glare.
“Helen wants you downstairs,” Mark’s mother tells Wardo. This at least turns the smile into a more worried one. At least Mark’s not going to be the only one going through this. This meaning the fact that his mother is one step away from spitting on her handkerchief and wiping some imaginary smudges from Mark’s face.
They escape only when Ricardo carries Jess into the house and asks why is everyone still there, they don’t want to be late, do they?
Mark never thought he’d say that, but Ricardo might be his favourite. Brilliant man.
“We wouldn’t have this if we eloped,” he tells Wardo in the car. Wardo looks at him for a moment before turning to the driver.
“You think you could take us to Vegas now?”
“Of course Mr. Saverin,” he says placatingly and doesn’t change the route. He sounds like he’s been warned this might happen. Or maybe he’d seen other grooms panicking.
Not that Mark is panicking. It’s not cold feet or some bullshit like that, he’s very much on board with the part where he gets married to Eduardo. He’s so on board, in fact, that he’d gladly skip today and just proceed straight to the married part of this.
“On the other hand,” Wardo shrugs. “Jess would kill you if she didn’t get the chance to enjoy her dress.”
True. “No choice but to enjoy it, then?”
Wardo smiles. “I’ll make it worth your while,” he promises and, yeah, okay. That. He leans into Wardo a little more and closes his eyes for a moment.
“Sorry,” he mutters. He’s being a grumpy asshole about the whole thing, he knows that, but fuck, he really, really doesn’t like the fuss.
“You hate the fuss,” Wardo agrees, sounding fond rather than disappointed. “Don’t worry, we’ll be able to sneak out right after the cake at the reception.”
“You don’t mind?”
“Of course not. Probably won’t be able to get out before posing to at least a few pictures, but I’m actually for that. I’m not sure I’ll get you in a tux any time soon.”
“Slim chances,” Mark agrees. “You really like the tux?”
“I like you in the tux. Not that you don’t look good in your usual t-shirts and hoodies. And of course, everything ends up on the floor just the same,” he adds, drawing his words out a little, like a bad pick up line, and Mark laughs, shaking his head. “Too much?” Wardo asks innocently.
“Vegas,” the driver announces. Mark glances outside, it looks nothing like Vegas but it certainly looks like their destination. “I can keep the engine running for you,” he adds and Mark looks at him blankly for a few seconds.
“Don’t encourage him,” Wardo tells the driver and pokes Mark’s side, making him leave the car.
Jess runs up to them, just to stop a few steps away and give them a look. “Everyone’s waiting,” she says and Mark groans.
“You’re really starting to resemble your grandmother,” he tells her and she smiles, as if that was a compliment, and then frowns again, because clearly, they’re not moving.
“Pai,” she says pointedly, like Mark’s being difficult and Wardo should do something about it.
Mark sighs. “Everyone’s waiting, Wardo, hurry up,” she deadpans and tries not to laugh at both Jess’ and Wardo’s faces. “Jess, aren’t you going in first?”
“Yes!” she seems to remember and turns around, gathering her gigantic skirt and making sure it falls around her in the right way. She pauses and peers at them suspiciously. “You’ll be right behind me, right?”
“Right,” Wardo assures her. “Promise,” he adds and takes Mark’s hand, lacing their fingers together.
“Okay,” Jess nods and smiles toothily. They follow her towards the doorway, where Chris and Dustin are waiting.
“You have the rings?” Mark asks and Chris pats his pocket reassuringly and nods.
“I still haven’t forgiven you for choosing Chris to do this, not me,” Dustin complains.
“You’d have pretended to lose them at the last moment and Mark would have a heart attack,” Wardo says flatly.
“I’d never... well, fine. I might.”
“You get to escort Miss Jessica inside,” Chris offers and Dustin bows to her.
“That is indeed an honor. Everyone ready?”
Chris takes in their nods and smiles. “Let’s start, then, shall we?” he pats Mark on the back and walks in, and the music starts a few seconds later. More fuss.
“Jess?” Dustin prompts and she picks up her flowers and nods seriously before half-turning, her head tilted up to look at Mark and Wardo.
“I love you,” she says, like she’s just remembered she was going to say that.
“You too, honey,” Mark tells her and she nods, then waits. Mark elbows Wardo, because clearly, it has been for him, too.
Wardo crouches down, level with her, and brushes a strand of her hair over her ear. “Queridinha,” he mutters and then leans down to say something else, quiet enough that Mark doesn’t catch it, but Jess nods with bright eyes and a wide smile, before taking Dustin’s hand and leading the way inside.
“What did you tell her?” Mark asks quietly and Wardo shrugs.
“That we should hurry up with the best day of my life. Well, second best.”
“What was the first?”
“When I met you both,” Wardo shrugs again, and it should sound disgustingly cheesy, but it sounds just about right instead.
“I-- me too,” Mark nods and Wardo smiles, leaning in slightly to nuzzle Mark’s cheek with his nose.
“I can’t wait to hear the vows you’ve written,” he mutters.
“Save the sweet talk for the wedding night,” Wardo tells him seriously and tugs at his sleeve. “Come on, it’s our moment.”
Yeah, Mark thinks, it most certainly is. And if Mark has anything to say about it, it’s going to last forever.