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maybe we're meant to be alone

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There are times when Eddie can feel his sense of self unspooling, and tangling up in the strange symbiote resting in the catacombs of his bones. Kind of like how time slips away when he's stuck in a work project. Not necessarily bad, but the awareness of it happening makes his brain and his heart lurch sideways as ice hot anxiety floods through him. 

When he's frustrated - or more like when he lets the frustration turn to anger - he can feel Venom expanding beneath his breastbone, and then tendrils of them crawling under his skin. His breathing ragged, dizzy with his rage and Venom's hunger for a fight, they start to get tangled together. Suddenly it's their anger, their righteousness bubbling up to the surface along with anxious coils of inky black.

It's hard to keep it in check when its them and not him. He's no longer arguing with someone, trying to wrest control even though he lacks the strength, it's just them. Singular. The same being. 

Which means if they do something, it's not like they can place all the blame on the alien riding shotgun. 

Venom. Venom...Ven. Vee. I know you can't tune me out because I can't tune you out. You can still hear me. We can't take this out on the feral cat population. 

Not a parasite. Cats are parasites. We know this. 

Eddie falters in his internal rambling. He doesn't even have to think the question, only feels confusion and then Venom is dragging his memories, conjuring forgotten images. An article about cats eating local birds, other articles about toxoplasmo-something, and then several memories of his - their - Anne's cat bringing in decapitated dead things, a few of it begging for food interspersed. 

Which was then followed up by a very accusatory series of memories; what seemed like every single time Venom had been called a parasite. 

He feels something like guilt but it's drowned out by their indignation and then anger. On their behalf; both of them. Venom is not a parasite, Eddie doesn't like the implication that he can't make decisions about his own health, that he has no agency when it comes to their health - Eddie

He relents his grasp on the tenuous barrier between them, frail like tissue paper, but not before wryly pointing out that maybe this argument won't work on everyone, since they also tend to leave decapitated dead things around. 

Bad dead things. There's a difference. Are birds bad? 

It's different. 

And then there's really nothing left to debate. Indignation and self-righteousness carry them through the city and they can't bring themselves to care that the cats probably have homes and people who will miss them. They snack until they're sated and when they get home, and Venom's hold loosens on their body, Eddie realizes his mind hasn't been flitting about from one topic to the next. He is easily distracted, lending to frustration, sloppy work, and sleeplessness for the both of them, but they have singular purpose and it's much easier to sit down and write while still a little tangled up.


When he's tired, too, is when things get a little bit harder to keep separate. Weak, and willing to give up control. His shoulders hurt, they twisted his ankle, and they have a myriad of tender bruises and muscles; all from running around, chewing through the darker parts of the city for too long. They're both hungry. They slink home, climbing through a window because they've lost their keys - again. 

We will find them. They yawn, Eddie with their mouth and Venom with their stomach. After we eat.

Ambitious of them. They'd need to retrace their steps, and the thought of it makes their head spin. Not now, they think, food now.

They shamble into the kitchen, and shovel handfuls of candy bars into their mouth. Dan had bought them, supposedly for potential trick-or-treaters but no one makes it up to their apartment, so they're just a bedtime snack. 

Dan is...

The small part of Eddie's brain that's still himself can feel the turmoil as they consider Anne's new boyfriend. Regret, sadness - hunger - an unidentifiable warm feeling - we like Dan

We know we like Dan. He's nice. Not in the hospital - he was trying to help - but it hurt. He didn't know. 

They make it all the way to the couch, cradling a bowlful of candies that they eat with delicate black tendrils. Venom suddenly shrinks away from Eddie, and it feels like the wind has been knocked out of him, but the symbiote slinks out of his skin and curls comfortingly around his neck like a scarf. 

We should sleep. 

With a rumbling purr, Venom also wraps around Eddie's arms, folding them together. Swaddled by an alien. That has to be a world first. 

We're safe. It's okay to sleep. Without thinking, Eddie strokes the only part of Venom he can reach while his arms are locked like this. His touch causes waves of...something through his companion. He can feel it echo into his diaphragm. And it's not unpleasant, it's odd but a little thrilling, like them. 

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When he feels most separated from Venom are usually unpleasant occasions. He's acutely aware of himself as inhabited by something other, and spends too much energy thinking about himself before Venom and after Venom. 

Like he wasn't doing well, but at least he could occasionally manage to hold a conversation. Sure it sometimes required sweet drinks with three extra shots of espresso - or in the most dire of situations, one of his limited and precious supply of adderall. But at least he could manage it. There wasn't enough espresso in the world to get through a conversation without Venom jumping in with a myriad of derisive comments or complaints. Nearly all of his conversations with other people nowadays felt strained, off-beat, and left him feeling like people absolutely thought he was crazy. 

Getting over it was a little easier when it was just strangers, people who'd forget about him in a week, or if not then they'd probable never see him again. It was harder with people who knew him and cared about him, and worried. Always with the confused, tilted little expressions. People like Anne. And Dan. 

She doesn't think you're crazy, Venom quips silently. She thinks you're an idiot. He can't see the stupid self-satisfied grin, but fuck he sure can feel it. A blossoming warmth and self-satisfied purr from the back of his mind and below his ribs. Venom might as well be laughing. And that's really the problem. The talking is distracting, sure, but Eddie's used to being distracted. The real problem is the physical effects that being possessed has on his surprisingly frail human body. 

Our body

His body. Now theirs. Their body that Venom could affect with his intense moods; anger, pleasure, hunger. The sudden warmth had him stumbling over his words until he came to a full stop, trying to collect himself. 

There's a beat, before Anne kindly directs him back to the conversation. 

"The building...?" She prompts. 

"Uhh," Eddie smartly takes a long drink from his glass, trying to give himself a little time to recover. "Right. I'm...looking into it."

Dan coughs politely to interject. He's sitting opposite from Anne, the two of them bracketing Eddie in the restaurant booth. It feels somewhat reminiscent of sitting between his parents. They could be asking him about his grades and the feeling he'd get would be just the same. "Are you sure it's safe? I mean - everything that happened - don't you think you need some time to just relax? Take some time to heal. You look like you've lost weight. Are you eating well?"

"Ha. Uh. I'm good. Seriously." We are good. "I...we...I mean you don't have to worry about u - me."

The pitying look he gets from Anne is the final straw, the drop that breaks the dam. He resigns himself to a miserable evening, and switches from water to whatever alcohol is in front of him, much to Venom's roiling dismay. Dan shoots him an odd look.  

He's so scatter-brained tonight that he doesn't even remember ordering, not the drink nor the very rare steak that gets put in front of him as Anne tries to unsubtly ask about Eddie's eating habits by inquiring about restaurants he likes. 

The place they call Wall Street, Venom jokes again and Eddie wonders briefly if the symbiote's attention truly is that easily diverted by the opportunity to be funny or if it's just that Venom's trying to cheer him up. 

Apparently regretting that he brought up the topic, Dan tries to switch gears, gesturing to all the food that's been placed on the table. "They look tired, Anne, maybe we should let them eat before trying to interrogate them." 

Eddie's never felt Venom perk up so fast - rising in his chest and constricting around his throat so suddenly that it feels like emotional whiplash. We've changed our mind. Dan is a good friend who knows us well. God, and then the purring. With startling vertigo, Eddie realizes that Venom is purring so much that it's actually audible, and not just a sound in his head or a gentle vibration in his chest. 

He's - they're purring in the middle of a nice ass restaurant. 

"Why?" Eddie mumbles sullenly, while trying to cover up the question with several bites of steak. All Venom does in response is replay the memory of Dan saying 'they look tired' over and over. 

They look tired. Let them eat. Them. They. 

It's a weird sensation hearing that while Dan says something about taking care of Eddie. "- not that you need taking care of, because you're an adult. Adults? But obviously Anne and I are...we care about you. And we think maybe it would be a good idea to hang out on a weekly or biweekly basis. Depending on our schedules -"

"Like friends," Anne interjects. 

"Yeah, like friends. Just dinner or drinks." 

He can't help but be a little suspicious of the offer, hesitating and chewing it over. After a moment of painful silence, Venom rises up forcefully and answers for them. "Yes. We would like that.

Dan looks relieved, and then a little flushed as Anne points at the wine glass in Eddie's hand. 

"Good. Now give Dan his drink back, you need your liver healthier than either of us." 

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When he's just waking up, either far too early in the morning or very very late depending on who you ask, Venom drips from his mind like sleep, fatigue he has to shake off. He asked once why Venom was so fond of being...them while they slept. He had gotten a vague response, something about it being boring otherwise. Whatever the case, it made waking up a little harder. It added an extra step to his routine, trying to dig through the inky black to figure out what was himself and what was Venom. Was the hunger his own or was it the cannibalistic-adjacent tendencies of the symbiote possessing him. 

Both. Eddie. 


The phone. 

Their cellphone, his phone, was still perched precariously on the edge of the bedside table. Blue light blinking. Tired. Reluctantly, Eddie reached for the phone. Their fingers drew up an inch or two short, but he refused to move - refused to stop cuddling one of five pillows he slept with, so Venom had to assist. Generously uncurling a few tendrils to bring the phone to Eddie's face. 

A text message. 

Everyone's gone. They cleared it last night, so you shouldn't have any trouble. 
16th Street. Cosson office building. 

Sorry I can't give you anything more. I'm ditching this phone. 

Oh good. Good? Maybe not good. It was an opportunity for him to finally get some information on this pharma company. He had one very, very skittish whistleblower who'd cryptically gotten in contact with him via email. All they'd sent was a phone number. Kind of strange since he had a phone number on his website. So they could have just texted him in the first place. Who was he to complain though? A source was a source, even if they were weird. 

We should go now, while the bodies are still warm. Get food on the way. 

Eddie squints at his phone, trying to see what the time is. Three in the morning. Gross. Not a lot of time to investigate, but they could always go back again the next night. Or they couldn't - and it would be a good idea to go as soon as possible regardless of how much time they'd have. 

"Nothing's open." 

Pier 39. 

"Pier 39?" 

Yes. The bread is good. And the sea lions. 

"Not exactly on the way..." 

We're hungry, Eddie. We need food. There's a pause and he can feel Venom's distaste like acid reflux. You're hungry. 

Eddie crawls out of his bed with help from Venom and they get dressed in as many layers as they can manage comfortably, because its cold as fuck outside. The bay is still conjuring fog from its belly, so everything is damp as fuck too. They shoulder a backpack and wander towards Pier 39, sleepless in San Francisco, where they can snack on a sea lion and a bit of stolen bread from Boudin. 

And then it's onwards to 16th Street. 

One of the benefits of riding shotgun as Venom is that instead of suffering the BART or the traffic and the toll bridges, they get a straight shot across the bay because Venom can swim it with no problem. They spend a second to make themselves into a vague imitation of the sea lion snack and then they're on the other side in just under a minute. After that, the buildings are sparser and shorter. Venom concedes and lets Eddie walk the rest of the way to avoid drawing attention. It may be the middle of the night, but there's no hiding Venom here, and there's no way of being sure that no one's up. 

It's spooky. Kind of. He spends 20 minutes crossing through abandoned lots and half-finished construction projects. It looks like Oakland's still not quite recovered from the housing crisis, and it's in stark contrast to the intense density of San Francisco. Sure parts of San Francisco were still rough and could use upgrades, but everything was so open. Anytime he made trips out, to Marin, or Solano, or San Joaquin, or anywhere not San Francisco, it felt like he was walking without a sky - few landmarks, wide open space; nothing felt grounded. 

Cosson Offices was...about what someone might expect from a recently-abandoned office building. Worn down, but not destroyed. Quiet, but not quite empty. From the sign on the yellowed strip of lawn, Eddie can see they're looking to sell the place still, which might make it a little harder to get in. 

Don't be ridiculous. We can break down the door. 

Oh. Right. Well, maybe it'd be best to break down a backdoor, just to keep people from noticing right away. 

Venom assumes them again and they find a security door on the north end of the building, away from the streets and looking out at a parking lot. It's no issue to pry it open, but Eddie can't assert enough control to keep the door from slamming hard against the wall. The noise echoes a little, and Venom inspects the dent in the wall with curiosity before moving on to look through the security office just inside, hoping to turn off the obnoxious alarm. 

It takes a minute but they figure out where the alarm controls are, and Venom simply takes a bite out of the whole system. It shuts off with a small whine.

"What are we looking for?" Venom asks as they recede to just the talking symbiote head, nestled against Eddie's neck like a protective snake.

"Files. Data. Any information, but especially anything that's locked." 

They spend two hours carefully picking over the empty conference rooms, and the filing rooms, and the storage rooms. Any locked cabinets, drawers, all of it's fair game. They don't stop until they come across a bunch of paper files about human trials. No IND, no FDA approval, the rushed animal trials are sketchy at best and horrific at worst. It's not great - but it's about what one might expect from a corrupt pharmaceutical company. He was hoping for more information about their financials. Who's invested in all this? Who's funding it? Who does it benefit? 

It's certainly no secret mission to bring back alien life from space. Venom rumbles quietly at the mention, but does little else as they move through building, making their way to the fourth floor. It's only because they're in the staircase that they notice it - smoke. It's still subtle, wispy and could have been easy to miss if they weren't hardwired with a healthy fear of fire. 


"I know." 

"We should leave."

Eddie still hesitates. Instinct says he should leave, but the reporter part of his brain insist that there's still more to be found. There has to be more here. And it's not like they need to leave the same way they came in. Fuck. Maybe this had been a setup. 

"There are smarter ways to do this -

"Yeah, but it's a little convenient, isn't it?" Eddie complains as he continues up the steps, still eager to get more information. "We're here, out in the middle of nowhere. Not a lot of people around. And now the goddamn building is on fire. This is some cliche action movie shit and I expected better of them."

They break into the first storage room they see as the smell of smoke gets stronger. Eddie rifles through everything while Venom starts to thrum with increasing anxiety. 

"I appreciate the patience, babe - oh, fuck." He drags a newer looking file out from a drawer marked Adv. VIR-AT/HT-0023. Something something viral, something something dispersal, ecological impact, human impact - he barely glances over some of the headers, and just that seems damning. This isn't preventative, it's something else entirely. He shoves the files into his bag eagerly and as soon as he does Venom urges him out. Out the closest window. 

They spill out onto the parking lot asphalt. Safe. Even though they hadn't faced any serious and immediate danger, Eddie can feel Venom checking them over for injuries, nudging around around their legs and curling around their arms to check for broken bones or bruises. But they're entirely in one piece, no injuries - internal or otherwise. A little tendril ruffles Eddie's hair and then urges him back towards the bay. 

They lope around the burning building, keeping a safe distance, towards the street, but Eddie stops short as he spots a lone figure standing on the sidewalk. Shit.