Warnings: off-screen violence, some swearing
Word count: 23.200
Author’s notes: Thanks to all the wonderful people over at the tsn kinkmeme, your comments kept me going. Also thanks to leviathans_moon and uena, who where the first to look over this. rei17, you know your cheerleading means the world to me. And last but not least, a huge thank you to thisissirius , who beta’d all of this. All mistakes left are my own.
Disclaimer: The moment unicorns are real, I make money with this. Title taken from the poem “Alive together” by Lisel Mueller.
And knowledge and tears and chance
“But I had to get your attention.”
That’s the last thing he hears from Wardo for a long time -- at least the last full sentence. He hears a lot after that, a surprised yelp, muffled noises, rushed breathing which sounds surprisingly like someone’s in pain, a thump -- nothing.
“Mark … ” somebody whispers, maybe it’s Wardo. He can’t tell.
And then the call disconnects. Dumbfounded, he stands next to the swimming pool and tries to make sense of everything. It’s not easy, because sound is no code, and he’s somebody who already has trouble deciphering meaning when he sees faces.
One working theory is that Wardo simply doesn’t want to talk to him anymore, too angry and too childish to face him right now. But he had Mark’s attention, so it doesn’t make sense to hang up right then (and it has nothing to do with the fact that Wardo’s never hung up on him before and as much as Mark can’t change who he is, Wardo could never change his behavior towards Mark).
It’s the other working theory that makes Mark sprint into the house, though. It’s not as much as a formulated theory, but more a feeling of utter terror in a region of his stomach he didn’t know could express such feelings. He pushes Dustin from a chair, ignores his protest and begins to type. He has no idea where in New York Wardo lives (although Wardo probably told him, but the part of Mark’s brain that stores this important piece of information won’t cooperate right now), but he knows Wardo’s number by heart and that’s enough for his skills in combination with the internet. Dustin is still complaining about his behavior, but Mark couldn’t care less, because his stomach hurts and Wardo may have hung up on him.
He gets the location of Wardo’s cell and calls 911 the next second. The lady on the other end doesn’t understand what he wants from her the first three tries, and he finds out that yelling doesn’t help at all. She even threatens to hang up on him and his “utter nonsense about a crime in New York City when they’re in Palo Alto”. The world is stupid, he thinks, and wishes for Wardo, because he’s always been the people’s person, has always known what to say and how to make people listen. Mark -- he’s not good with this at all. The only people he even remotely gets are Chris and Dustin -- and Wardo, of course. Finally, he gets the lady to listen and maybe it’s because he sounds desperate, but eventually she takes him seriously. He gives her the address and then she forces him to disconnect, but promises to let him know if there’s anything to report.
“What’s wrong?” Dustin asks, looking completely sober now. “Why did you send the police to Wardo’s place?”
Mark jumps a little when he hears his voice. He’s completely forgotten that there are other people in the room, that maybe other people care about Wardo as well -- which is idiotic, because of course other people care about Wardo, at least Dustin and Chris do. He’s not so sure about Sean. “I need to be on the next flight to New York,” he informs Dustin and leaves it at that. Wardo can explain the rest later.
Wardo can’t explain anything, Mark finds out once he’s touched ground in JFK and is allowed to use his cellphone again.
He stops dead in his tracks in the middle of baggage claim (not that he has any baggage to begin with, only the clothes he’s wearing, his wallet and his cell), because he doesn’t understand what his voicemail is telling him.
It sounds remarkably like stab wounds and emergency room and prognosis unclear.
For a moment he forgets what he’s supposed to do. If breathing is a natural occurrence or something he can live without, if (a+b)*(a-b) really makes a² - b², if it’s bad that he can’t name the exact number of Facebook users at this particular moment in time.
Somebody brushes past him and that brings him back to the real world. It feels like a cold shower at six in the morning. Like the ones Wardo made him take because he’d coded for two days straight and had a final in one hour. But there’s nobody waiting outside the door with a bagel in his hands and a strong cup of coffee, least of all Wardo. Usually, Mark has a plan, and if he hasn’t, then somebody else -- usually Wardo -- has one. He doesn’t know what to do now. He feels hollow and weirdly directionless. The path until here was clear, but New York is a big city and Mark has no idea how much distance he still has to cross between Wardo and him (it’s 2563 miles from Palo Alto to New York City, he knows, but it seems insignificantly small compared to where he is now). Finally, he does the only thing he can and listens to the voicemail again. It still stays the same, which is somewhat disappointing, but it also reveals the name of a hospital.
He winks a cab and ignores all the other voicemails.
One day, Facebook is going to be big, it will have millions of users, and he will have made a fortune with it. He will be able to buy everything he wants, including this hospital, or at least its emergency room. There will be a golden plate next to the reception with his name on it but people won’t need to see a name tag to know who he is. Unfortunately, he’s not there yet.
“Who are you again, kiddo?” the receptionist asks.
“Mark Zuckerberg,” he repeats once again and wonders for a fleeting second if the guy only got the job because he couldn’t do anything else. “And I’m here for Eduardo Saverin. Dark hair, about this height,” he explains and raises his hand somewhere above his head. He has no idea how tall Wardo really is, only that it always felt like they were on eye level. “He was brought here with stab wounds.”
“And you’re relationship to him is … ?”
There are a lot of easier questions in the universe, and a whole lot more Mark would prefer to answer. Wardo is his best friend, the last person to yell at Mark, the one who made sure he went to all his finals, the person who believed in his idea and gave him money to start it all, the person he was angry with this very day. “I’m his friend,” he finally settles on.
“As in boyfriend?” Another bored question, which completely throws him off his game, because that’s the part of the universe full of questions he tries to steer clear of. It’s complicated and has a lot more 1’s and 0’s than he’s comfortable with. On the other hand, if he’s only a friend, they probably wouldn’t tell him anything about Wardo. He doesn’t think he can survive that (he doesn’t think about the other possibility -- that there’s nothing to survive, because Wardo’s already gone and the last thing Mark did was being angry with him).
“Yes,” he says, because what’s a white lie compared to the feeling of not knowing? “We met in Harvard, and he is my business partner and -- “
“Do I look like I want to make a Lifetime movie out of your story?” says the receptionist and cuts off his rambling. “Go to the waiting room on the fourth floor. Your friend is in the OR.”
“Thanks,” he remembers to say (because Wardo is always polite and has better things to do right now but to apologize if Mark is rude) and turns to go.
“Don’t expect any miracles, kiddo. He looked pretty bad, that friend of yours,” the receptionist adds. It even sounds somewhat compassionate, which makes it even weirder. As if it helps Mark any to know he’s probably never going to see Wardo again. He’s tempted to say thanks again, but only because he has no idea how to react otherwise. He doesn’t need to do anything, though, because someone else claims the receptionist’s attention.
Mark makes it to the elevator and punches the button for the fourth floor. The door closes, he’s all alone and suddenly he longs for his computer. If this were code he’d knew what to expect. Code-writing gives him the results he wants, and if it doesn’t, he sees it and can go back and fix it. There’s an action and a reaction, an endless circle he knows and understands. This, he doesn’t understand. Not why it happened, why somebody did that, why it happened to Wardo.
Nothing makes sense, and he wants code to rewrite it.
Time, Mark slowly realizes, is an utter bastard.
He had needed approximately half a minute to realize something’s wrong after his call to Wardo had been disconnected, twenty seconds to get into the house and push Dustin away from the computer, a minute and ten seconds to locate Wardo’s cellphone (which has nothing to do with his skills, but all with the permanent problem that the connection speed isn’t as fast as Mark’s brain), seven ridiculous minutes to convince the lady that Wardo indeed needed help, another seven minutes to get a plane ticket and call a taxi, half an hour for the drive to San Francisco International Airport -- where he had to wait one hour and four minutes till his flight took off, wasted five hours and thirty minutes with actual flight time, three minutes in baggage claim when he didn’t know what to do, and fifty minutes for the taxi drive to the hospital.
Which -- all in all -- make about nine hours and thirteen minutes since he’s last heard Wardo’s voice. You’d think Wardo’s waited long enough to talk to Mark again. Or at least get out of surgery. Neither of these two things have happened so far, and the seats in the waiting room may actually be comfy, but still -- he has nothing to take his mind off these ominous green doors at the other end of the room, and he’s not good at waiting. Never has been, because he simply doesn’t wait. There’s always something to do. Talk, write, sleep, but never wait. Waiting is for people who have nothing to do, who have no aim, but not for him (He’d rather not think about all the time Wardo spent waiting for him to finish coding, finish eating, finish thinking, because Wardo is not one of these people without any goals in their life).
“Anyone here for Eduardo Saverin?” somebody finally asks coming through these green doors, and Mark jumps to his feet.
“I’m here for him.”
The doctor walks to him with sleepy eyes, and Mark really hopes the guy was more awake during surgery. “And you are?” the doctor asks.
“His boyfriend, Mark.” The lie is easier the second time, feels somewhat light on his tongue, even though he actively tells it this time.
“Huh, his boyfriend?” The man repeats and raises an eyebrow. Mark doesn’t understand why anyone would question that right now. Okay, so he maybe doesn’t look the type, but surely it’s not such a stretch of imagination to see him together with -- “See, I was told he got stabbed by his girlfriend.”
And that’s information that catches him off guard, and he thinks his brain just shuts down for a minute or so, because Christy? She hasn’t played any role in his thoughts about the why and how and who. Christy is just … Christy. She’s there on the edge of his vision and intellectually he knows that she is (or better was, with the recent developments) Wardo’s girlfriend, but she’s never been important. Not in a way that threatens to change his whole universe the way it does now.
“Christy … Christy did that?” he finally gets out, still not fully understanding what this means exactly.
“If that’s her name.”
“But I’m his friend,” he says, because he doesn’t know what else to say, because he needs to know if Wardo has waited yet again for him. “We met in Harvard, and he’s my business partner and … “ And then he does something he never does. “Please.”
The doctor looks at him for an agonizingly long moment (and again time, the meddling bastard, Mark thinks), but finally he nods. Mark’s not sure if the guy found something in his face or in his eyes or if there even was something to find other than barely concealed desperation, but he doesn’t care. “He’s alive,” the doctor says and is smart enough to pause after this, because Mark may need a second or so to feel his legs again. “He was in pretty bad shape when they brought him in, but she missed his spinal cord and we could repair the damage. We’ll have to watch his kidney function, but I’m tentatively optimistic that he will make a full recovery given time.” The guy still looks at him as if he expects something from him, maybe unicorns and rainbows in a basket. Mark has no idea.
“I want to see him,” he says and remembers too late that maybe a thank you would have been in order before he demands anything (Wardo would have remembered, he thinks).
“Not yet, only family in the ICU -- speaking of which, have they been informed?”
He probably looks like a deer caught in the headlights, because that’s another thought that hasn’t crossed his mind. “Not yet,” he says slowly.
“Then call them. And go and change, sleep. Your friend won’t get out of ICU before tomorrow.” The doctor turns and leaves Mark alone in the waiting room in which the real important things only happen behind the green doors. It’s endlessly frustrating and he slumps down on one of the comfy chairs again. He can’t go, because there’s nowhere to go. He knows exactly two people in New York City and one of them is a violent lunatic and the other one he’s not allowed to see. And he can’t change, because he has nothing to change into. He presumes he could just buy stuff, but it seems too much like an effort and the irrational part of his brain doesn’t want to leave Wardo, whether he can see him or not.
Which brings him to the only thing he can do -- calling Wardo’s parents, although he’s not really sure Wardo would even appreciate his parents at his bedside. His mom, probably, but his dad is a whole other story. A story Mark never got to read all the chapters to, probably only some excerpts here and there -- most prominently a bruise on Wardo’s chin after Thanksgiving break last year (Which they never talked about. But just because Mark doesn’t recite everything he sees, doesn’t mean he sees nothing at all).
He sighs and gets his cellphone out of his pocket. He needs to call Dustin and Chris and get them to find out the number of Wardo’s parents.
It’s four o’clock in the afternoon and Mark is a lot of things -- hungry, tired, thirsty, but mostly he’s just pissed. You’d think if your son just got stabbed in the back by his crazy ex-girlfriend you’d be on the next plane to JFK or just take your fucking private jet, but no, not when you’re called Mr and Mrs. Saverin. It took Mark two hours (after Dustin and Chris had finished simultaneously yelling at him for not calling earlier) to find out their number (Wardo’s random remark about how they moved from Brazil to Miami to evade hostage threats gets a whole new level of meaning) and another just to get Mrs. Saverin’s PA to listen and not just hang up on him. It’s ridiculous, but he only throws the cell on one of the chairs in the waiting room after he has the promise from the PA to book Wardo’s mom a seat on the next convenient (no, not the next one) flight to New York City. No word on Wardo’s dad, but it’s more a relief than anything else to Mark.
The waiting room is empty except for him, which he is thankful for, because he really doesn’t need any more stupid people in his life right now. On the other hand, it serves perfectly to illustrate how lonely he is at the moment, and how useless -- which is a shitty feeling, but he’s neither a surgeon, nor a nurse or even remotely someone who would know what to do with Wardo.
But he’s a genius, or as close as you can get to it, and he’s fed up with waiting around and feeling useless, so he goes and searches for the ICU. It’s pretty easy to find, with all the neon signs pointing to the right direction, as if somebody wanted him to end up there. It’s not a pretty place, though. The lights are brighter than the ones in the waiting room, it smells differently (and not in a good way, he’s reminded of the way his grandma’s hospital room smelled three days before her death), and there are people -- albeit only two, who vanish to do whatever they do the moment he enters the main room of the ICU. If they make it that easy, he thinks, than it’s a sign that he has to visit Wardo. Not that he believes in signs in general, but Dustin would say something as idiotic as The force is on your side, my son and for once Mark wouldn’t mind. He looks into three cubicles (one old man, one middle-aged woman, and a guy his age who looks as if he’s missing half his leg) before he finds Wardo. He sits down on a chair next to the bed and the nurses will only spot him when they’re standing right next to the cubicle. It’s only then that he allows himself to register what he actually sees.
The receptionist wasn’t kidding when he said Wardo had looked pretty bad. If possible, he looks worse now (at least worse than Mark had imagined). There are a lot of wires and tubes, so much that Mark is afraid to touch (not that he really likes touching, but Wardo seems. fond of it, and if now isn’t the time to leave Mark’s own issues behind he doesn’t know) when is. A nasal cannula is feeding oxygen to Wardo and he’s still -- which is not a weird idea per se, because Wardo can do still with the best of them. He always knows when to sit quietly on the couch reading a book and leave Mark to his coding. It’s just that he usually has a lot more color to his face than right now.
“I called your mom,” he whispers (and that’s what you do in ICU, you act paradoxically, because you whisper as not to disturb anyone, but on the other hand they tell you to talk to the patients -- even if they can’t hear you), “well, I talked to her PA. I’m not sure, but she said your mom would get the … um … next flight.” He stops for a while to see if he got any reaction and tries not to be too disappointed when there’s none. “Anyway, I don’t think you really need her, but she’s your mom after all. And probably everyone is better than your father, right?” He shrugs. “Also, you’ve probably noticed that I’m here -- surprise -- but you hung up on me, at least that’s what I thought then, now I think it was presumably Christy, but I needed to check if you’re still talking to me. Which you aren’t right now, but I don’t blame you for that, just so you know. Back to Christy, but she shouldn’t concern you right now, because she got arrested for what she did to … “ He waves with his hand in the general direction of Wardo, stops in midair and rests it on his thigh again. Wardo can’t see him after all. He sighs and scrubs his hand over his tired eyes. “This is probably the stupidest thing we’ve both been present for, and I saw you feeding a chicken for a week. Where is it, anyway? Did you eat it?”
“’Ark?” It’s barely a whisper, it’s barely there, but Mark knows he’s not hearing things when Wardo blinks at him, confusion written all over his face.
“Thank God,” he breathes and leans a bit closer so Wardo can see him. He doesn’t say I was worried about you, because that’s a given and he was never one for stating the obvious.
“What are you doing here?” Wardo asks quietly and his eyes start to slip close again (and Mark doesn’t panic, because that’s a normal reaction after the anesthesia and the pain meds and doesn’t mean that Wardo won’t wake up again).
“I’m … “ Mark trails off, since it should be obvious, shouldn’t it? He’s here because he’s Wardo’s friend, because Wardo had hung up on him, because Wardo got stabbed and where else should Mark be now if not here? “I thought it was a good idea.”
Wardo slowly blinks at him, and Mark starts to think he’s not going to say anything else. “Thought I had gotten left behind.”
Wardo’s asleep the next second, but Mark still feels sucker-punched.
He only realizes that he’s fallen asleep when somebody shakes his shoulder and scowls at him. “Who are you and what are you doing in the ICU without permission?” the nurse asks him angrily. It takes him a while to get rid of the memories of his dream (a laughing Wardo and a few drinks shared between them -- congratulations to his subconsciousness for being extra unsubtle), and he sleepily blinks at the nurse.
“What?” he asks with a yawn and looks over to Wardo, who blissfully sleeps on.
“I’m asking what you’re doing here?” the nurse repeats, still looking furious.
“Well, I could be proving how horrible the security in this hospital is and advise my boyfriend here to sue you, but I’m actually just making sure he’s still here, with your lax security and so.”
There’s a soft chuckle that stops the nurse from throwing Mark out the room, because now she’s more concerned with the fact that Wardo’s awake. She’s bustling around him, checking what feels like a hundred readings, and Mark can’t help but hold his breath (he’s not afraid, because Wardo’s awake and he chuckled) until she nods with a light smile and leaves to get the doctor.
“How are you feeling?” Mark asks, and earns another light chuckle (must be the pain meds).
“Left your brain in Palo Alto, hmm?” Wardo says, but there’s no real heat in his hoarse voice. He makes a slight wave with his hand to all the machines surrounding him. “Take a wild guess.”
“Sorry,” Mark says and sits down in the vacated chair next to Wardo’s bed. He fidgets a bit with his clothes and hopes that Wardo can’t smell them over the antiseptic. It takes him a moment to notice that silence is filling the room and he looks over to Wardo worriedly -- and Wardo looks at him like Mark has spaghetti sauce on his cheek (which he hasn’t, because the last thing he ate was … he can’t really remember, but he better not tell this to Wardo). “What? You okay? I mean, are you in pain -- shit, no, let me rephrase that -- should I get the nurse?”
“No,” Wardo breathes, “just … you never before said … “
But he doesn’t get an answer, because a doctor and some nurses come in and he’s ushered out of the room -- which is not a good thing because it gives him time to think. He thinks about Wardo’s words before he fell asleep and the feelings they dragged back into broad daylight, about how he has no idea if Wardo even wants him here (but he has to stay, right? Because Wardo’s dad won’t come and Mark doesn’t trust a woman who’ll take the next convenient flight) and maybe he should ask him (but he’s afraid of the answer). He thinks about what he says and doesn’t say and how that affects Wardo (and only him. Mark doesn’t care much if other people can’t handle the truth he’s telling) and if he had listened to Wardo telling him that Christy frightens him, maybe none of this would have happened. It’s a lot to think about and his brain is running on crappy coffee and next to nothing to eat, and he really wishes he could find the switch off for his mind.
“Mark, right?” The doctor suddenly stands in front of him and startled, Mark takes a step back. Only now does he recognize him as the surgeon from the waiting room who told him he couldn’t get into the ICU.
“Yes,” he says and tries to hide his fear. He doesn’t want to wait behind green doors again. “How is he?”
“Tired, but everything looks good so far. And he says he won’t sue us for lax security if we let his boyfriend back in.”
“Oh,” is all Mark can say and he breathes in relief as the doctor steps out of his way. Wardo looks half asleep again when Mark sits down on his recently vacated chair.
“You told them you’re my boyfriend?” Wardo murmurs.
Mark thinks Wardo really needs to stop saying these things when he’s asleep the next second and Mark has no chance at an explanation.