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Rise the Midnight

Chapter Text

Eddie.


His own name's become television static in his head. The percussive beat of Venom beneath his skin's as natural to him now as the beat of his own heart. So's the itch, too; he knows Venom wants something, and that something is food.


Eddie's sigh is a wisp of hot breath in the night air. With fall in full swing any semblance of a balmy evening's been replaced with the unforgiving chill of San Francisco’s bay. Not that he can really feel it right now, with Venom's mass heating him up from within.


It's amazing what you can get used to.


"Yeah yeah. I hear you. Fair's fair." He stepped towards the edge of a four story building like a plucky pigeon surveying its domain. After all was said and done with Carlton Drake he'd been careful taking Venom for a spin, keeping his night dining as low of a profile as possible. Settling back into routine had been a luxury after that shitshow.


"What's on the menu for us tonight, bud?"


Venom rippled over his skin, making them shiver in unison.


Drug dealers.


Eddie hadn't flirted with suicide in a long time but the pull of that drop was an unnervingly familiar companion. Ever since he could walk he'd had the urge to leap headfirst into things, no hesitation, no quarter given. There’s a reason he’s afraid of heights.


Eddie, focus.


The memories alone made Venom distressed -- and the conversations about the lowest parts of Eddie's life were as draining as they were numerous -- but hunger won out in the end over another game of 20 questions on the human psyche. Venom didn't push, he just consumed. The familiar heat of his mass twined with Eddie's fingers, his toes, coated his thighs and wrapped protectively around his waist. He was cocooned, warm, safe. The drop wasn't anything to fear.


Eddie sighed, heels teetering on the lip of the roof.


"I know, I know. Catch me, V?"


Venom chuckled and wound their muscles tight in preparation to spring, to fly like the beautiful fucking predator they were always meant to be. The sensation made Eddie's lips twitch in a smile every time.


Always.


 
The last set of victims they'd -- (bad guys , Venom would growl defensively) -- consumed, they'd left one survivor in the lot. They let him spill his guts metaphorically instead of literally about a big drug deal going down that week, this night, and where.


I'm surprised you let that guy go
, Eddie thought. He'd gotten better at the whole mental communication thing though he wasn't an expert by any means. Talking out loud was currently a bad idea, considering they were climbing on top of a warehouse probably filled with people with guns.


Didn't want to,
 Venom snorted internally, turning their head to the skylight, Your idea. They were in luck, this building had an arched roof with a few glass windows. Easily breakable with a swing of their fist. They scooted towards it and peeked down, trying to catch sight of anything through the filmy skylight.


They couldn't see shit. Helpful.


Eddie let out a sigh of frustration despite himself, backing up so he wouldn't look like one giant obvious human shaped silhouette begging for a bullet.


Are you absolutely sure they're in there?


Positive.
They sniffed at the air, catching the overwhelming stench of tainted sea water and brine, refuse, motor oil . . .


Motor oil. Fresh motor oil. Venom licked at their lips as they abandoned their vantage point, hopping down the side of the warehouse. A pair of seagulls scattered and squawked in protest, hastily soaring away to a higher vantage point. Not exactly graceful as a cat but close enough.


Maybe we should eat --


"No," Eddie whispered vehemently. We are not eating a goddamn trash bird. 


He registered Venom's displeasure as a faint rolling in his gut. Or maybe that was hesitation on his part creeping in. Sure, this wasn't the most dangerously stupid thing he'd ever done, but he wasn't actively searching for a Life Foundation repeat either.


"Remind me why we're doing this," Eddie whispered out loud again, inching forward. Their entrance wasn't usually subtle but straight dropping down on top of the unknown wasn't on his itinerary today.


We're hungry.
Venom said it simply but it's more than that, both of them know. He could feel Venom's tease coming on as he ducked his head out, catching sight of at least 3 different vans and a truck parked out front. Their decals are all standard bullshit, some non-assuming electric company's logo plastered onto them. Clever, sorta.


We're just opportunistic, s'all,
 Eddie responded. More supply compared to prowling the streets for a pervert or corrupt cop to snap up in their jaws. That's all it is.


A small tentacle jutted out to pinch his wrist and Eddie hissed, smacking at it. "Stop it. We're not doing this like, like some sorta pair of --"


Vigilantes
. Venom's self-satisfied little purr rippled down Eddie's spine and made him want to punch himself in the face so Venom might feel it. Like heroes. We aren't heroes, are we Eddie?


Eddie shook his head and stepped forward once he was sure that not a soul was in sight. No security cameras, either. One less thing to worry about, then. There was a smaller door attached to the side, probably the manager's office or something like that. It would do for a more stealthy approach.


"Nah." Eddie let his voice rise a little, hoisting himself up a small set of steps.  "Just an idiot with an even bigger idiot attached to his brain."


Hey! Asshole.


"Love you too, bud. Get this door open for me, will you? Quietly."


Venom complied with a bit of grumbling, thin tendrils sliding into the lock and fiddling about. The lock gave with a click and they pulled open the door together, sparing one last glance behind them.


It's no fun doing it the quiet way.


"Does the fact you'll get to eat some heads soon help any?"

Yes.


Eddie smiled into the yawning dark as they slipped inside. Their body rippled again in anticipation, the promise of live meat making their mouth water. Venom consumed him completely this time and he is floating, weightless. It took him a while to get used to the whole shared consciousness thing but as they stretch out their fingers it's like the most natural thing in the world, like he hasn't lived his life any other way. He is safe here, he is powerful.


We are Venom.
We are complete.

Chapter Text

It's cleaner inside than they were expecting, which isn't saying much considering the outside had seagull shit on it. It's an office straight out of the 1980's, corkboard and all. Eddie's knee collided with one of those cheap plastic chairs and he cursed under his breath, quickly scooting away.


Light.


Venom's right, there's light escaping through the cracks in the door. They press their ear to it and there's nothing out there, not a peep. They were probably clear.


Venom was careful to muffle their footsteps as they slipped out into the warehouse proper. Eddie's barely got 5 seconds to take in the high shelves stretching above them before he's tugged to the side, forced to crouch behind rows of of giant wooden crates.


Hey, we had an agreement! No yanking my body around, remember?


Someone's coming, Eddie.


Eddie curled up in a ball, tucking his feet in right when the door they just came through burst open. He held his breath tight as they marched past. 2 guys were chatting among themselves, boots slapping hard against concrete and echoing off the walls.


"Did you leave that door unlocked?" 


"Beats me. Can't remember. Probably." 


"Whatever." 


What's the point of this Eddie?
 We're not spies.


Shut up.


Venom fell blessedly silent and Jesus, Eddie could feel their pouting within him. He unfurled back into a crouch once they'd all passed and moved down the aisle, heart thrumming with excitement. Or maybe nervousness, it was hard to tell. Even with Venom occupying every organ in his body his primitive brain was a stubborn bastard, sending out warning signals that did all sorts of fun things like spike his heart rate and make him sweat. Luckily he was very, very good at ignoring his basic survival instincts. He wouldn't of made it very far as a reporter if he wasn't.


Normally Venom would tease him about his simple mammalian reactions to get him to ease up, but not now. They were listening intently too.


These men, whoever they were, weren’t exactly happy either. Something about twiddling their thumbs or wasting time with their thumbs up their ass or something.


Humans sure love thumb metaphors.


Eddie didn't bother responding as he neared the end of the row. The next line of shelving wasn't stacked nearly as tight as this one, which meant no cover for an actual view of their dinner.


Before Eddie can even ask a tendril snaked along the ground and around the corner. Good ol' Venom, he thought fondly, and closed his eyes to focus. It wasn't sight in the way mammals see or honestly any clear way he could define. It was a pulse or a vibration that curled through the air, giving him a feeling for everything breathing in that room.


There were 6 breaths that they picked up on, excluding themselves. 12 lungs to devour.


I much prefer the heads
, Venom sniffed, their wayward tentacle retreating back into Eddie's form.


Don't I know it,
Eddie thought. Picked enough bits of brain out of my teeth these past few months.


He nearly jumped at the sudden cursing of one of the men who kicked at one of the crates.


“This is fucking pointless,” one of them spat, “Been waiting here for 20 goddamn minutes and he still hasn't shown. We should just leave.”


“Jiyang would have our heads if we set a foot outside this shit-hole without his goods.”


Jiyang. Their employer was probably Chinese, then. Actually working from China? Or stationed here in --


Focus, Eddie.


Venom was right. Log the details, parse over them later. At least this was one thing they hadn't fucked up; the deal hadn't even started yet, which meant all he could do was hide out here and wait.


He could tell Venom didn't like that, cowering in the shadows like a church mouse. He didn't like it, either. Truthfully he could probably just let Venom gobble down these 6 grunts and be on his way, but . . .


Vigilante.
Venom was teasing again, slick black muscle flexing over his biceps and forearms. So antsy, his dear symbiote was. Hunger got to the best of us.


A great metal groan drowned out any further complaining. It made Venom salivate.  Eddie wiped at their mouth hastily and crept even closer to the end of the aisle, wound up tighter than a box spring.


Finally. Based on the number of footsteps their best guess was 3 new men. Maybe 4. So much meat to tear into, so little time.


“The hell took you so long, eh?” The same guy from before snapped, adjusting something that made metal tap against leather. The footsteps stopped.


“I ran into some complications on the way here.” The voice that responded was flat, smooth and dry and somehow anticlimactic. They'd been expecting someone more imposing to run a drug ring. “Your supply has already been prepared for shipment.”


“Show the supply and we'll show you the money.”


This is boring
. We should eat all of them now.


Just -- just wait a second, alright?


The scraping sound of something heavy being wheeled in was unmistakable. If anyone came this way they were gonna lose the element of surprise pretty damn quickly.


“That’s all?” A different guy spoke up this time, his voice deeper and more gruff. He probably chain smoked.


“No. 1,200 kilos of high-grade cocaine per container. I have 10 containers that must be individually rolled in.”


Shit, this was bigger than Eddie thought. Over 100,000 kilos of blow wasn't exactly a small local op. Just what had they gotten themselves into here?


Dinner,
Venom's voice deadpanned in his head, like that wasn't obvious.


The men were discussing pricing but truth be told Eddie wasn't paying attention. He wasn't used to holding back his symbiote like this and they weren't too happy about it. His investigative tendencies weren't going to win out over primal hunger for long.


He could barely hear their talk over Venom practically panting for blood in his head but one voice cut through the aching in his gut, made him sharply raise his head.


“You can come out, now.” It was the guy with the flat tone, his sentence a hollow echo.


Oh, shit. Was he talking about --?


Venom gave him no time to process whether or not it was a bluff. Biomass closed over his face and his consciousness swirled into that cozy limbo where it became impossible to distinguish from We. They stepped out from the shadows, tongue lolling ravenously and teeth bared bright, a hundred white spikes ready to shred flesh to pieces.


Well, good a time as any to make an entrance.


They weren't surprised in the slightest by the wide eyes and even wider rifle muzzles now trained on their form. If anything it spurned Venom on further.


Ten little ducklings all neatly lined up in a row,” they hissed, grin splitting from ear to ear -- well. Where their ears should be. Ten very, very naughty ducklings.


“W . . . What the fuck is that--?” One of the men choked out. Venom could see the slight tremble to the gun and a burbling laugh left their maw. Truly pathetic.


“A symbiote.” Ah, there was the one with the flat voice. He was . . . Not at all what Eddie had been expecting. He was the only guy in this entire lineup without facial hair and jesus, he was skinny. This is what stood out to Venom the most: not an ounce of fat, no meat, all gristle and bone. A marionette they'd snap in half easily between their jaws.


Wait, did he say symbiote?


Venom, they corrected, tongue tracing a line over their teeth. Sure, why not play with their prey a little? It made the heads taste more delicious if you got the blood pumping first.


This man, the man with the flat tone, had just as flat of an expression. He wasn't raising a gun in their direction. He wasn't even afraid.


“Venom.” The hair this man ran his hand through was shock white, whiter than his skin. “I see your host must have some sort of moral compass or a passion for narcotics.”


They bristled and Eddie felt their biomass tighten protectively around him at the mere mention.


Nah, Venom chuckled, Just hungry.


There was no warning. They leaped headfirst into that throng of panicking humans, just as they leaped headfirst into everything.



Eddie has to hand one thing to Venom, they're merciful when they need to be. Not that the word mercy was anywhere to be found in a symbiote's lexicon. They made his consciousness take a backseat while they went to town on every hapless fool in that warehouse.


Eddie didn't need to feel bones cracking beneath his teeth to know Venom's snapped up their first meal. He didn't need to hear screams to know the others flee, staccato gunfire and the bellowing of human fear lighting up the night like all the neon in the world never could.


He didn't need to hear, see, smell, or feel any of this. Venom told him without words through that warm inky darkness where both of them were nothing more than synapses connecting and chemicals pulsing in tandem. It's a powerful feeling, that connection.


Venom ripped and tore, and at least three bodies go flying into the shelving. Loud crashing rattled the warehouse foundations and their roar shook the entire world.


Ten little ducklings all neatly lined up in a row, devoured brutally. One after the other.


Hold up, 
Eddie interjected suddenly.


Blood smeared the concrete beneath their feet by the time Eddie came to. Venom relinquished control of his vision so he can see for himself, the aftermath. It’s messy. He didn't like messy, but they’d been antsy for some time so he can forgive it.


And then there was just one. Amusement burbled out of their mouth as they approach their last meal, who made no attempt to run. He hadn’t even tried backing out the way he came. It’s the guy with the white hair and porcelain face and he still doesn’t look scared. He’s tense, for sure, but that animal panic that Venom drank on, the heady perfume of organs pumping hormones in a vain effort to survive, it isn’t there. This frustrates them.


Don’t kill him --


But he’s a BAD MAN --


Not yet, alright? Sometimes you can catch more bad men by keeping one alive for a little bit. Remember that other guy? Let me talk to him.


Venom groaned inwardly and their tongue retreated inside their mouth. One errant twitch, one single scream, and they were swallowing this fucker whole.


Eddie can live with that.


You. They step forward and the guy's still as a statue. He hasn’t made any attempts to move away, the brave idiot. You’re gonna answer some questions for us.


“Or you’ll eat me, I presume?” It’s like he’s talking about a business venture instead of his impending death. This was starting to get a little weird.


Don’t think we can’t make a meal out of you, Venom hissed, You might have no meat but the liver is always tender.


This isn’t exactly how you get people to talk, V.


They pressed on, “One of the meat-bags mentioned a name. Jiyang. Who is that?


“A client of mine.” The guy tilted his head and the movement was too smooth, reminded Eddie of haunted dolls in shitty B-tier horror movies.


That smartass response pissed them off enough to wrap a tentacle around the bastard’s throat. A choked noise is dragged out of him, which is sorta satisfying.


Not good enough, they snarled, You want to keep your head, you’ll tell us more.


“Then keep your temper,” he rasped, “And put me down.”


How dare this inferior bag of meat tell us what to do!? 


Venom's indignant tone was booming in his head. Despite their outrage, Eddie relented. They set the guy down by dropping him like a stone. Their lips curled in a snarl as the strange man pushed himself up to his feet again, brushing at his adam’s apple.


“It won’t be hard to find him with a little research,” he said, adjusting his jacket. "He’s not the type of man who keeps a low profile." This was the first time they saw him blink. What was with this guy?


Who cares, 
Venom hissed, let’s eat him now.


Eddie was about to respond when something inside him quivered. He tried to respond through their bond but it was suddenly like trying to work through sludge, a much less pleasant dark lapping at his consciousness.


Whoa, hello, what's happening.


Eddie?
 Concern with a note of panic wasn’t a good sign. He wanted to reach out, to touch Venom’s thoughts with his own, but he couldn’t and his own panic was beginning to well up inside.


Externally they stumbled forward, Venom’s tongue hanging limply out of their mouth, milky white eyes wide and dazed.


Eddie, we don’t feel so good.


Shit, didn’t Eddie know it. The sudden jolt to his system wasn’t unlike being hit with a train car. Venom writhed inside him, desperate to find a source to their sudden distress, but there was no organ damage, nothing they could do.


What . . . did you do to us . . . They wheezed out, claws reaching toward the man with the white hair and there was suddenly two of him, which was weird -- no. Not two. His vision was doubling. If it weren’t for Venom desperately trying to hold them upright they would’ve collapsed right there.


“You are wired directly into your host’s various bodily systems. Endocrine, lymphatic, nervous, muscular.” That rasping voice was beginning to fade in and out for both of them. “You just transmitted 3 times the lethal dose of Fentanyl to your host.”


They couldn’t hold themselves upright anymore. Venom’s tendrils receded and Eddie was dully aware of the concrete pressing into his shins, the biting chill in the air. He couldn’t breathe, the cold was ice in his lungs and no no no no no nononono--


Venom? Venom oh god please, stay with me!


He wasn’t sure if Venom could hear him at this point. He didn’t feel like an apex predator anymore; he was just a sweaty guy dying in a run-down warehouse, all alone. That motherfucker was staring down at him now, unfeeling eyes blue as death, blue as the merging of two neutron stars.


Neutron stars? Those weren’t his memories, those were --


Eddie . . .


Venom’s voice was weak, quieting second by second.


Don’t go, Eddie . . .


His hand was shaking beyond control as he tried in vain to reach out for the man with the white hair and glowing blue eyes. His fingers wouldn’t respond. Inside they were both screaming and fizzling out and that white hair turned into white noise that flooded Eddie’s vision, his mouth, his nose.


He didn’t feel his head hit the concrete. He didn’t feel anything anymore.


Don’t leave us alone. 


The anguish in that cry was the last thing Eddie heard before the white noise rushed in, and then he was gone.

Chapter Text

The first thing Eddie does upon waking up is vomit. It's out of his mouth before his stomach can register what's happening and the acrid stench only intensifies the pounding in his head. He made sounds he's never made before, sounds that in hindsight remind him of the death rattles of a fucking hippopotamus. In the moment all he can do is jerk his body away from the steaming pile of half processed human bits and tater tots.


God, the taste in his mouth is awful. Everything is awful. His throat's raw and his lungs feel like they've been used as a punching bag for Muhammad goddamned Ali. At least his fingers twitch when he tells them to twitch, now. That's a definite improvement.


Oh fuck, his head. He's not sure what hit him earlier but he wished it would hit him again to finish the job.


What had even happened? He tried to work through the splitting headache to piece together the flow of events that led up to him huddled on the floor of this . . . This thing. Whatever it was. Cold, dark, hard beneath him. What was this place?


Right, he'd figure that out later. It didn't matter where he was if he couldn't even crawl out of it. Attempting to move his head to get a better view of his surroundings only rewarded him with vertigo strong enough to knock a rhino off its ass. Looks like doing that was out of the question for now.


Wait. Venom. Where was --?


“V?” He choked out. He spit a couple of times to get rid of the unholy aftertaste on his tongue. “ V?”


No response. That was really not good. Panic pounded through the syrupy pain that had become his veins and he turned his focus inward, no matter how much it hurt. He needed to feel a twitch, a glimmer, anything of his symbiote again.


Where are you, dammit? Say something. Anything! Ow. Thinking hurts.


No response but this time he felt something. It was hard to catch when his nerves were already screaming bloody murder but he caught it, a familiar faint pressure in his chest that wasn't suffocating, felt like home. Venom.


“Thank fuck,” he breathed, then let out a pained moan. Nothing was gonna be accomplished with him languishing on a dirty industrial floor.


Oh right, industry. He was in a warehouse, after --


He still needed more time to process exactly what the fuck happened at the end there. Right now every bit of energy he could spare was put into crawling on his hands and knees toward an exit. He had no idea how much time had passed, if it was night or day. Time didn't exist in that moment. All that mattered was hand forward, knee forward, dry heave, rinse repeat.


The light was blinding through the wide open garage door and for a wild second he wondered if this was like where the dead guy reaches the end of the tunnel, the white out before the nothing. A bit melodramatic sure, but he truly felt like he was dying anyway.


He doesn't remember getting to the hospital. One minute he's fumbling his way half blind out of a warehouse, the next he's blinking his eyes open in a room with pale walls and a whiteboard. There's little scribbly green lines on it, shapes that look vaguely familiar.


The last time he'd been in the ICU he was still a kid and the pain had left him a shell, all animal agony and pure instinctual reaction. This was up there, what with the way his insides twisted with nausea and his head throbbed with the force of a jackhammer.


still, some basic common sense returned to him now that the pain wasn't completely consuming every synapse in his mind, so he fumbled with the weird remote thing next to the bed that calls for a nurse. Points for him, he remembered that much.


The nurse that came to his aid isn't a nurse at all, it's Dan. Somehow this both surprises and doesn't surprise him at all. The relief he felt rushing through him is almost like a painkiller of its own.


“Jesus, Eddie, you're awake.” Dan seemed just as surprised as he is, immediately at his bedside. “Anne left earlier but I'll let her know you're up. How are you feeling?”


At least that first piece of information made it through the desiccated sponge that was his brain. He slurred out an, “Anne's here?” before attempting to sit upright. That was the biggest mistake of his life -- okay, maybe not his entire life, but holy shit it hurt.


“Easy, Eddie. Don't try to move.” It amused Eddie faintly to see Dan like this, fussing over him like a mother hen. “You shouldn't even be awake right now, after what your body's been through.”


“Yeah?” Eddie said this while squinting his eyes, trying to get a clearer view of Dan's face. He only just now realized the green squiggles on the board were his name and various patient notes.


“Yeah. Eddie,” Dan said, rubbing at his forehead nervously, “I don't know how else to put this: you OD'd. Like, hard. So hard you technically shouldn't even be alive right now.” There was a moment of uncomfortable silence where he let Eddie process that information before he continued. “Have you ever heard of Fentanyl?”


That word triggered a slurry of images in his brain: white hair blue eyes supernovas in space their combined howls the suffocating dark ripping him away from his Other half --


He blinked to clear it, heart rate obviously spiking on the monitor.


“Yeah,” he said, swallowing hard, “Heard of it.”


Dan's lips titled even further in a frown. He yanked a guest seat forward and promptly sat down on it, a sigh making his shoulders deflate. He'd always seemed so tall to Eddie before, all put together, Mr.Stable surgeon with a good reputation and a great heart, and now he was just this deeply tired guy way in over his head. Eddie could relate to that.


“Look, I uh . . . I know life hasn't been easy for you but Anne told me you seemed brighter now," Dan pressed on carefully, "The last month or so especially. I don't know how you got your hands on something as potent as Fentanyl, but you know we're always here to talk to you if you're considering--”


“What?” Eddie croaked. Dan's sudden sincerity alarmed Eddie more than the suggestion. He perked immediately, shaking his head even though it resulted in a bout of double vision. “No, no. I wasn't tryna kill myself, Dan, trust me.”


The relief and growing confusion were at war with Dan's facial features. It looked funny, funnier than it had any right to be given Eddie's current predicament.


“Did I ever tell you your life is weird, Eddie?" Dan asked, running a hand through his hair, "Because it is.”


“Yeah,” Eddie chuckled weakly, one hand moving to cover his chest, "You have." Maybe it was his imagination but he could swear he felt the heat of Venom's biomass in him, sleeping deeply. He hoped.


“It's him, isn't it?” The sudden somberness in Dan's tone was just as unnerving as the sincerity. “It's --”


“I'm fine,” Eddie said without thinking. “Really, Dan.”


Dan shook his head with an expression that clearly conveyed he thought Eddie was full of shit .


“I'm not going to pretend I get your whole. Thing,” he said, “The two of you. But I can tell you right now that if I know, Anne knew a week ago. She's not gonna be happy you lied to her.”


“Didn't lie,” Eddie coughed, turning his head toward the window. “Just didn't talk about it.” He didn't turn his head when the chair scraped on the tile, or when Dan stood up and headed for the door.


“You're going to have to talk about it sooner than later,” Dan sighed, “Not now, though. On top of enough opioids to kill a horse you've also got a concussion from hitting your head on something and a ton of abrasions. We're keeping you for a couple of days at least, got it?”


“Got it,” Eddie grunted. He knew there was no point arguing with him and quite frankly he didn't want to. There was no way he was making it out of this room on his own right now, much less back into his own apartment. So he settled into his bed, picked at the layered blankets with his fingers, and utterly totally failed to go to sleep.



Night had become day had become night again. Venom's silence within him had left him restless since he'd woken up in the hospital. He knew they were alive -- had to be, right? They were linked, body and mind and whatever else. He never forgot Venom telling him: you die, I die.


The only company he had in those mind numbingly boring hours was an hourly check from a night nurse, and to be honest he didn't feel like talking much. All he wanted, all he needed, was --


Eddie
.


The joy that surged through Eddie's body at that moment flushed his ears red with heat. He pressed his hand against his heart again and was flooded with Venom's relief, their affection, theirs.


“Shit, V. I . . . I was worried, bud.”


A few tendrils snaked out of his body to form into a small head. The look on Venom's face nearly stole his breath, which he still kinda really needed.


“We had to rest,”
they said, unfurling more and more tendrils that caressed at Eddie's neck and collarbones, past the line of his patient gown. “I am sorry, Eddie.”


“What for?” Eddie's fingers went immediately to those tendrils and they wrapped around each other, twining tightly. He was far too happy to care about the fact they were kinda sorta holding hands.


“I promised to protect you but I hurt you instead.”
He's never heard Venom this sad before; he's genuinely feeling remorse and it forms a lump in Eddie's throat. “Touching that thing allowed it to hurt you. Nothing should ever hurt you.”


The lump in Eddie's throat grew three sizes. His other hand immediately went to the back of Venom's head, cradling it.


“What? No no no, it's okay. You didn't know. You couldn't have known.” His chest aches with an emotion he's not ready to name. Venom aches with it too and god, they're really doing this here, aren't they.


“Not good enough,”
they snarl, more and more tendrils winding protectively over Eddie's skin. “This is my purpose. We can't, won't let it happen again. Nothing will take you away from me. We will slaughter anything that tries.”


He's not aware of the tears leaking out of his eyes until Venom brushes them away.


“Why do you cry?"
 Venom asked as softly as a symbiote can, "There is no need to cry when we are together. We will fix you, we will heal your pain.”


Eddie, despite himself, laughed. He didn't care if other people heard it. He didn't give a single shit if the whole hospital thought he was crazy.


“Shit, yeah,” he sniffed, “I know that. Tears are just, uh . . . People cry for a lot of different reasons, V. It doesn't always make sense.”


Here he is, run down and feeling like absolute ass, but he wouldn't want anyone or anything else to suffer it with. Their foreheads pressed together and Venom's tongue stroked his cheek in a way that is unmistakably affectionate.


So. He's kinda in love with an alien. This is his life now.


“Love does seem like the most accurate emotion to describe us.”
Venom's smile is definitely smug. “Rest now. I will heal you and we can be rid of this place soon enough.”


He finally sank into the warm welcoming dark of sleep as Venom spread out over his body, blanketing him, enveloping him in touch he’d been desperately craving. He has never felt so secure in his life.



They leave the hospital mere hours after that conversation with Dan. Eddie doesn't feel like explaining himself right now so he hastily scribbled a note on the whiteboard -- All better, call you later, Eddie -- and then Venom does their thing.


Our thing.
Venom's voice is a satisfied hiss in his ear while they plod the streets of San Francisco. Normally he'd let Venom race them along with the speed of a car but he hasn't taken the time to admire a sunrise in. Well. In too long at any rate.


Plus it gave him time to think. With his veins mostly clear of the Fentanyl he can finally try to piece together his encounter with doll-face. Wait. That came out wrong.


Skinny fucker
, Venom offered as a moniker, curling underneath Eddie's collar.


That one doesn't really stick either.


He's craving a coffee right now but he hasn't got a single penny in his pockets. Hunger was settling in his gut, too, and it wasn't just Venom's.


“He said you transmitted all of that shit to me, right?” The memory's a bit fuzzy around the edges thanks to all the goddamn drugs that were flooding his system. He's not too worried about talking aloud to his symbiote right now, since most sane people won't be up for another hour. “Through like . . . Touch, or whatever. How is that even possible?”


I felt something at first,
Venom responded after a moment of hesitation. Wait, were they embarrassed?  Like a buzzing. Ants crawling over us. They were pulling metaphors from Eddie's mental library. He admired the effort at least.


But I ignored it. I was too hungry, too eager to bite off his head.
The tendrils dug tight into Eddie's shoulder blades at the memory.


It's only then he realized that Venom felt so guilty , still. He had to bite back a chuckle at how personally Venom took it but the sincerity stole Eddie's breath again. His symbiote really needed to stop doing that.


“Like I said earlier, you couldn't have known," Eddie said with a nonchalant shrug, "It's not exactly every day we encounter a guy who's a walking talking poison dart frog.”


Venom rooted around Eddie's brain for dart frog and he could feel their disgust palpable against his skin.


A smart defense against predators,
Venom admitted reluctantly, Makes them taste disgusting, though. What's the point of being so brightly colored if they're not edible?


Eddie couldn't help it, he chortled at that. He got one weary stare from the opposite side of the street but the grin stayed firmly planted on his face.


“Yeah well, not everything's an M&M, bud.” He slowed their pace to a stop in front of a storefront displaying an assortment of TV screens which were all showing the same thing. It was some drone feed of another standoff between police and a confused, sweaty male civilian. He raised his hands in defense and then lightning shot out of them like Thor himself.


I've been there, dude
, he thought with a vague shred of sympathy, continuing on his way.


Inhuman.


That thought from Venom came completely out of nowhere and nearly made him trip over his own two feet. He quickly righted himself and shook out his hair, lightly clapping his face with both palms.


“Come on, come on, wake up.” An actual comment directed at himself, for once. He realized Venom was still waiting for an answer and cleared his throat while crossing the street. “Yeah, that's what they call 'em.”


But they are human.


“I mean. Sorta?” Eddie wasn't exactly an expert on them. His life had been such a whirlwind of wild shit lately that the idea of super powered people hardly made a blip on his radar. “They're still people but they've got . . . Abilities. Like us.”


Not like us,
Venom hissed quickly, No one like us.


“Jesus,” Eddie groaned, because he was not in the mood to deal with Venom's tendency for splitting hairs today, “Not like us, alright? I mean they've got uh, gifts. Powers. Not like a symbiote and host, but yeah.”


Venom fell silent as they processed this, combing through Eddie's memories for more points of reference. Usually Eddie would prefer if he asked for permission first but fuck it, he was too tired. Nothing wrong with someone else doing a bit of the legwork for him.


What happened in Sokovia. That level of devastation is . . . Monumental. I see why the accords were made.


Eddie felt a chill pass through him. Another 15 minutes and he'd be home, he told himself. Not for long, though; his shift would be starting before he could catch his breath. Being an adult really did suck ass sometimes.


“Yeah. It's meant to protect the average Joe and the not-so-average Joe, I guess. Not really my area of expertise.”


If we find any inhumans we should eat their heads,
Venom suggested, and Eddie nearly jogged straight into a fucking bike rack.


“Wh--? No! We are not doing that!”


Why not? Inhumans are bad. They're dangerous. They hurt people.


“It's not that simple okay?” Eddie hissed, tucking his chin into his collar as he passed by an old man who looked like he'd seen it all. “They're not . . . They're people, V. And just like people there's good ones and bad ones.”


Like the guy with the white hair.


Eddie swallowed down the bile rising in his throat, picking up his pace. He couldn't wait to scrub his mouth out with a toothbrush. “Yeah,” he said, “That guy is bad.”


A dick
, Venom offered helpfully, tendrils stroking soothing lines down Eddie's sides. That gesture was more comforting than it had any right to be.


“A dick,” Eddie agreed, and continued on his way.



As it turns out, leaving the hospital after directly defying a surgeon's orders came with consequences. His new boss looked like he'd grown two heads when he walked through the front door.


“You look like shit, Brock,” she said, whistling low. Her name was Sheena, and he liked her a lot.


We like her too.


“Yeah. Bit of a rough night,” Eddie said, reflexively smoothing out his shirt.


“Got a call from a doctor at the hospital, a Dan Lewis?” She arched one brow knowingly. “Said that if I saw you today I was supposed to tell you to march your ass right back there.”


Of course Dan did.


“Did he say why?” Eddie asked, swallowing. They'd stuffed their stomach full of chocolate to compensate for a lack of live meat. It wasn't great, but it would last them to the end of their shift.


Sheena's other brow arched just as high as the other one. “Hey, uh, I know it's not your job to memorize all the ins and outs of medical practice, but does the HIPPA law ring any bells?”


Eddie snorted, looking away.


“It’s not my business to know,” she said, leaning back in her chair, “What is my business, however, is if you can hash out a few decent articles for me today without collapsing in my office.”


Eddie raised his arms, grin just as goofy as it was charming.


“I haven't collapsed yet," he said with a shrug. "I'm fine, Sheena. Seriously. Thanks for asking though.”


Sheena didn't look convinced a damn bit. She shook her head and patted her 'fro, a tick Eddie noticed day one.


“Alright. Be free, my little worker bee,” she said, turning her attention to her computer, “But if you so much as stumble I'm dialing 911.”


Fair enough. Eddie turned around after a quick thanks and got to work.



Meeting his quota was harder than usual today, surprising absolutely no one. His heart was only half in chasing for leads when such a huge one was already occupying his mind: Jiyang. That name had been haunting him for a full 24 hours now and he couldn't leave it laying in the wind.


Fuck it, he'd justify his reasoning later. He scoured the web for that name and as it turns out there's a LOT of Jiyangs in the world, including an entire city in the Shangdong Providence.


This was leading nowhere.


Don't give up,
Venom whispered, and Eddie had been so engrossed in his search he nearly jumped out of his seat. A coworker whose name he'd already forgotten gave him a weary look and he quickly waved him away, curling a hand around his skull and stifling a groan.


Do you remember anything about those guys you ate? Anything on their clothes, or a tattoo, something like that.


Venom went silent for a moment. Eddie closed his eyes and let their memories swirl together, plunging into a haze of gunfire and blood. It was hard to parse details through the chaos and Venom hadn't exactly been paying attention to how his meals dressed.


Tattoo on one of them,
Venom piped up, wiggling just underneath Eddie's skin. Cartoon rabbit with tits on his --


“Eugh,” he said aloud before he could stop himself . God, no. Not that one.


He couldn't handle the gory imagery anymore and had to back out of it, opening his eyes blearily. He hadn't realized he was gripping the desk hard enough to turn his knuckles white.


Another co-worker was peaking over the cubicle and hastily ducked her head back down when their eyes met. He was turning into a fucking one man freak show at this rate.


Not freaks,
Venom protested, Perfect in union. They will never understand us.


It's not like many people understood me to begin with,
he laughed internally, and it was a bitter one. It's alright, V. I'm used to being gawked at. Means they're not looking at what's important anyway.


Eddie.
The sudden urgency in Venom's tone raptly shifted his attention. They went ramrod straight in their seat while Venom transmitted a single image fuzzy and stained at the edges, a blip in their senses.


It had all the clarity of a shitty 80’s TV set but Eddie saw it: a stylized tattoo underneath the collarbone of a wolf's head facing straight on, outlined in a silvery blue.


Well, shit. Eddie's fingers practically flew to the keyboard as he typed in two words: Jiyang wolf.


“Sonuvabitch,” left him in a slurred breath, because loading on his screen were literally pages and pages about Lupin Jiyang, director and founder of Silver Wolf Industries.


Stupid name,
Venom said in his head, and Eddie had to agree, but --


This was their guy. It had to be. Eddie shut off his computer and rose from his seat immediately, nabbing his coat on the way to Sheena's office.


He didn't even wait to knock, just peaking his head in to blurt out an, “Actually, y'know, you're right. I'm gonna head back to the hospital, feeling real sick now.”


“Should I call the--” she called out, but then Eddie was gone. He was already racing to his motorcycle, fumbling with his keys.


Where are we going?


“I gotta look this up at home. Work computers are about as secure as Starbucks wifi.”


You've been ignoring your phone.


Venom was right. He hadn't even glanced at the damn thing since he'd hustled his ass to work, and now the blue light was blinking at him in a way he could only interpret as disappointed.


3 missed calls, 2 from Dan and 1 from Anne. 7 missed text messages including a spam text from a haircut salon he hadn't been able to afford going to for 6 months.


The message that stuck out to him most was from Anne and all it said was this:


We need to talk about your friend. Call me the second you read this.


Ah, fuck.

Chapter Text

Eddie doesn't call Anne right away. Instead he let the familiar thrill of wind rush by him as he raced home on his motorcycle, trusting in Venom to keep him steady.


The silence of his own apartment was deafening so he turned on the TV while shucking off his jacket. He could sense Venom shifting underneath his skin, their head peeking out over Eddie's shoulder.


“Stop being a pussy,”
Venom said, “Call her.”


He wanted nothing more than to block out the world and retreat into his laptop but fuck, Venom was right. It wasn't fair to keep ignoring the only two people left in the world that genuinely gave a shit about him.


I care, Eddie.


I meant human people, V. Calm down.


The affection blooming in his chest gave him the courage to finally dial Anne back, his body aching when it made contact with the couch.


“Eddie.” She sounded more concerned than angry, and he wasn't entirely sure that was a good thing. “Eddie, jesus christ, where have you been!?”


“Hi Anne,” he said, like a dumbass, because he didn't know what else to say. His tongue was suddenly heavy in his mouth, heavier than Venom's --


That was a thought he wasn't going to linger on right now, nope. Especially  not on the phone with his ex.


“Eddie, I'd ask what the hell was going on with you but I think I already know.”


“Anne, I --”


“Look, I'm not mad. Which is a shock to me too but I'm not. I'm just . . .” Her sigh was loud and clear. “Why didn't you tell me sooner?”


Invisible strings in his chest wound tight again. Venom wrapped themselves around his shoulders, nuzzling the spot underneath his ear for comfort.


“I didn't want you to worry.” That sounded so unbelievably lame coming out of his mouth but it was the truth. He'd been trying so hard to pretend everything was fine, because for the most part it was. He had Venom, his Venom, and they were whole again. The hunger, the nightmares, the struggle of living day to day, that was just going through the motions. "After what happened with Drake's rocket and everything, I just. I don't know."


“I remember how it felt, Eddie,” she said, voice low. Was she trying to avoid attention or remembering her time as a host? “I get it. But you want to be my friend and friends don't keep shit like this from each other.”


“I'm sorry, Anne. Really I am, fuck --”


“I know you are. Just call Dan at some point today, alright? He nearly had a heart attack when he saw your room was empty.”


He couldn't have felt more guilty if he'd kicked a box of puppies. He swallowed hard and nodded even though Anne couldn't see it.


“Yeah. Yeah of course, Anne. I totally will.”


“Thank you. Take care of yourself, Eddie.”


“You too.”


The click of Anne hanging up echoed in his ears long after he turned off his phone. He scrubbed at his face and decided what he wanted more than anything in the world right then was a shower.


 
The hot water was more than welcome after everything he'd been through in the past day and a half. He scrubbed until his skin turned pink and tingled, relished in soap bubbling down the side of his face, felt a shiver down his spine when something solid and warm slid down his back and began scrubbing it for him.


Wait.


His eyes shot open and he jumped, tangling up in the shower curtain and spraying water everywhere. The solid warmth receded and he hastily rinsed soap off of his face.


“What the hell , V!?”


You were having trouble reaching that part of us,
they thought, clearly hurt, I wanted to help out.


Eddie's cheeks were warm and it wasn't because of the water. He cleared his throat and started lathering his thigh absentmindedly.


“I uh, appreciate it. Just gimme a heads up next time, alright?”


Will do.


And they did, much to Venom's credit. It was actually kinda nice to have someone helping him with hard to reach spots, until the washing turned into kneading that worked on awful knots between his shoulders. His head drooped forward and a pleased moan left him before he could stop himself.


This should've been really, really weird. Instead it felt like a little slice of heaven, reminded him of the times he shared a shower with Anne. The memory didn't hurt like it use to.


Venom was purring now and yeah, that was a little weird, but in a good way. Eddie could feel he was even more solid against his back now, near fully formed. That epiphany sent a pleasant shudder from head to toe.


Oh, god. He was getting turned on by a sentient pile of black goo.


I have been watching you,
Venom said in a way that was only a little bit creepy, The porn you browse is boring. Same thing over and over again.


Eddie sputtered and turned to face them and oh, they were. They were big . It was a miracle Venom fit in his shower.


“It's not like there's a lot of different ways to get off!” He blurted out, and then realized half a second later that that was the wrong thing to say. Venom's grin turned absolutely devilish and his claws settled on Eddie's shoulders. The points of them pricked his skin and made his heart flutter out of something that definitely wasn't fear.


“Oh, Eddie.”
Venom laughed low, throaty and deep, and the effect was immediate on Eddie's cock. It twitched eagerly in response, the traitor. “You forget so easily. I thrive in your nervous system, your spine, the synapses of your delectable brain.”


That was . . . disturbing, and also somehow pushing Eddie to a point of arousal he hadn’t thought possible. He placed his hands hesitantly on Venom's chest and felt how it rippled beneath his fingers, strong but yielding.


“We are one.”
One claw dipped lower to skirt over his ribs, making Eddie suck in a sharp breath. “We know this body of ours inside and out, the beating of your heart is ours. The pumping of your blood through your veins is a perfect system, a miracle of design, all ours.”


His mouth was dry in a tub full of water. Being a reporter he was rarely out of shit to say but that just rendered him speechless.


“You sure are chatty today, huh?” he finally choked out. Christ his voice sounded pathetic. There was no use pretending he wasn't affected when Venom was inside his head, inside his everything.


“You want me to be,”
Venom hissed, water spraying off their massive shoulders. Something much more solid formed at Eddie's back and yanked him closer. He didn't realize until then that he was panting like a bitch in heat. “I can feel it, the way your endorphins rush through you. You want me to climb inside you and fill you to the brink, wind my way around your organs and tug--”


“Oh fuck .” Eddie hadn't dabbled in dirty talk in far too long and hearing it now was like liquid heat shooting straight to his core. It wasn't regular dirty talk, it was freaky. It was Venom. It was all them . “Get on with it and fuck me already."


All common sense had been thrown out of the window. Something in him, all the heartache and pain and loneliness uncoiled into this burst of sudden need , and then Venom was lifting him off his toes and against the shower wall, both of them barely fitting in that cramped space. A tongue laved at his clavicle and teeth nicked his throat.


If his dick didn't get some attention in the next 3 seconds he was going to actually die. A frustrated groan left him when a tentacle curled around his wrist and tugged it away, preventing him from getting any sort of relief.


“V,” he choked out, eyes wild and bright as he tried in vain to jerk his hips forward, “Show a guy some mercy will ya?”


“No mercy.”


Venom was coating his thighs, his hips, working into his --


The startled moan that left him was entirely too loud. His body clenched tight and god, he hadn't done this in a while, hadn't taken cock since before Anne entered his life. The strapons she'd teased him with paled in comparison.


She'd joked about him being a size queen before. Turns out she was right on the money, because Venom knew and he was playing with him like he had an eternity to do it. He stretched him out slow, faint movements that dragged embarrassing little noises out of somewhere deep in his chest. He thought he'd need lube for this but Venom was this slick not-wet that conformed so perfectly to every contraction and twitch that he hardly felt more than mild discomfort.


“I can take it, babe, come on.” He felt what Venom felt at that name, the way every cell lit up bright with a possessive joy that nearly robbed him of his vision. It made Venom pause in their frenzied ministrations with concern until Eddie’s free hand smoothed over their back.


“I’m okay,” Eddie laughed, and it was so broken and shaky that he bit his tongue, “We’re okay.”


“You look ridiculous,”
Venom chortled, their much larger tongue dragging down his cheek with affection, “I think I like it.”


“Gee, thanks bud,” Eddie said, an inelegant snort leaving him when a tendril tickled his foot.


“You’re welcome.”
Venom did something with the tentacle up his ass that made Eddie’s jaw go slack, his head knocking against the wall hard enough to hurt.


Oh, shit, that’s uh. Yeah. Do that again.”


“Gladly.”


Eddie wasn't sure what he was saying anymore. He couldn't process anything but this creature, this other, his Other, and the declarations of ownership they hissed while raking their hands down his torso. He could feel something beyond the smothering pleasure, something so deep inside his whole body convulsed. He realized it was Venom thrumming within him, climbing up his spine, nuzzling at his major organs with adoration in a sensation that was simply fucking impossible to describe.


“V, V, oh fuck --!”


“We are Venom.”
They were spreading, melding, tentacles pushing so far up Eddie's ass it almost scared him a little bit. Others wrapped around his cock and jerked it at a torturously even pace. “We. Us. Ours.”


He sobbed and his body jerked involuntarily, light sparking behind his eyes. Venom was in his fucking brain, carefully playing with his dopamine and ramping everything he was feeling up to 11. It was too much, all too much, he couldn't--


Only there was no he, not anymore.


We are motherfucking Venom!”  Eddie, Venom, they screeched in ecstasy, and came so hard their claws tore chunks out of the wall.



Calling Dan had been a bit of a surreal experience, to say the least. Here he was apologizing profusely to his ex’s current boyfriend, still recovering from Venom tweaking the chemicals in his head while treating the rest of him like a buffet.


That had been an hour ago; it had taken him that long just to stop shaking and recover from the dopamine overload. He’d barely managed to make his way to the couch in a loose pair of pajama pants while Venom wisped over his skin, soothing his poor body with clinging touches.


“I know Anne has called you stupid before --”


“Now that’s just hard to believe.” Eddie was having difficulty holding his phone so he placed it on the table, letting Dan’s anger fill the room.


“-- But sometimes you are. You run off half-cocked without telling anyone a thing, you leave the ICU without being properly discharged, and now I hear you tried to go to work literally hours after we pulled you back from the brink of death!?”


“Not the brink,”
Venom insisted, speaking up for the first time around Dan, “Wouldn’t let us.”


The line went dead quiet and Eddie smacked a hand over his face. He could picture Dan turning turning completely pale while trying to process the fact Venom had their own voice.


“Look, Dan. You’re right.” Eddie spoke quickly before Venom could blurt out anything else. “I’ve spent a lot of my life doing my own thing. I’m not used to . . . all of this.” He hoped Dan could sense the enthusiasm with which he gestured about the room. “A lot of people depend on me but no one really depends on me, you know? I don’t have a long list of attendees for my funeral, if you get what I’m saying.”


“Jesus, Eddie.” Dan sounded like someone had punched him in the gut. “Could you not resort to morbid metaphors right now?” Yup, Dan definitely had a headache. Eddie blamed the drop in dopamine on his maudlin mood.


“Sorry, sorry,” Eddie apologized, “The point is that you even caring about me is quite frankly right up there with the Big Bang in terms of miracles, as far as I’m concerned. And I’m thankful, and an idiot, and all of that, but I’m tryin’.”


Dan went silent again. Maybe he’d said the wrong thing, he wasn’t sure.


“I know, Eddie,” Dan finally said, all the anger fizzling out into sheer exhaustion, “This is new for all of us, not just you. But you can’t leave what amounts to a handful of words on a goddamn whiteboard and expect me to be okay with it.” Much more quietly, then, “Not all of us are in your head.”


For some reason that last bit made Eddie’s throat work hard. How much more guilty could one guy feel? It turns out a lot, yay him.


“I know.” Eddie bit his bottom lip, curling forward on the couch. Venom was trying to soften the blow as much as possible on him but his brain wasn’t happy about the sudden imbalance. His skull felt like a glass case housing dozens of bees. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m in it either.”


“Just . . . Next time you’re planning to do something completely crazy, or brave, or both, tell at least one of us. Please.”


“Will do,” Eddie said, and then Dan hung up.


Welp, that went about as well as he’d been expecting.


I didn't realize that providing that much stimulation in such a short amount of time would be dangerous for you.


“It's fine, V,” Eddie said, forcing himself to get off the couch. Some tater tots would at least help him focus on his next task, which was scouring the web for every bit of info he could find on Silver Wolf Industries. “Live and learn, right? Just need a little snack before I get started.”



Lupin Jiyang looked like what he was expecting out of a suit and tie, which was perfectly cut hair and an expression that suggested he'd never had a fun day in his life. There were countless photos of him at various talks, events, and galas, and none of them seemed candid; he was always so fucking rigid in every single one of them, like he was expecting a photo to be taken of him every second of the day.


Bad guy
, Venom hissed, loosely wrapped around Eddie's shoulders. For once they weren't complaining about food.


“Yeah, you can say that again,” Eddie said, scrolling through article after article. His lawyers must've been paid exceptionally well because Eddie couldn't find an article on any reputable news site bad mouthing him. Not even a single recall for their products, of which there were many: medical technology, agricultural machinery, hell even baby formula and eyeglasses. Jiyang snatched up dozens upon dozens of smaller companies in his greedy little jaws and had done a good job of hiding it. Among all the brand names listed he'd never seen one directly tied to Silver Wolf Industries.


“Oh, shit.” Eddie dug his nails into his thigh when he found the link he'd been looking for.  Underneath all the branches of company names was a pharmaceuticals company called GeneKova. Jiyang owned a slice of fucking big pharma. He pulled up their main website and started going back through the news portion, eyes frantically digging for that connection intuition told him would be there. Anne had said jokingly once he was relentless as a bloodhound and she wasn't entirely wrong; he got the scent, all that was left was tracking it down.


40 minutes passed. He considered taking a break when a headline jumped out at him, and he bit into his knuckles to keep himself from shouting.


BRAVING NEW FRONTIERS


GeneKova is proud to announce its collaboration with innovative leaders such as Carlton Drake in redesigning the very face of gene therapy. While primarily concerned with space exploration, Life Foundation's founder has also . . .


Eddie lost focus there. He saved a link to the page, copied it, printed the entire damn thing, because like hell was he letting this information get swallowed up in a virtual void.


You keep thinking about it.
Venom was curiously tapping at the walls of his mind.


“I'm not thinking about anything,” Eddie said, rubbing at his tired eyes. Too much time in front of the screen always left him feeling drained.


Eddie.
The unspoken tsk tsk tsk in his name was enough to push Eddie to his feet. Don't lie, I was thinking about it too.


Eddie let out a frustrated groan, yanking open his fridge. Maybe if he stuck his head in far enough the frozen air would clear his head of Venom on him, inside him, around him, sucking on his tongue and wrapping around his dick and --


As expected there was nothing inside it, which did nothing to dull his disappointment. A trip to the grocery store was long overdue.


“Look,” Eddie said, rubbing at his scruffy jaw, “I'm uh. This is kinda new territory for me. I promise we'll talk about it more later but just not right now, alright?” He could swear he felt Venom deflate a little. Fuck, how did he constantly say the wrong thing to a creature that was in his head?


“Shit, I'm sorry V I didn't mean it like--”


I get it, Eddie. 
A tendril brushed against his chin in a gesture that was far too endearing. Bad guys first. We're getting kinda hungry anyway.


Finally some familiar ground. For once he was more than happy to indulge Venom's appetite, snagging his keys and wallet on the way out.


“Dinner and then a date with GeneKova. How about it?”


He couldn't see it but he could sense Venom licking their teeth, biomass wriggling with anticipation.


Sounds perfect.

Chapter Text

“So, you’re . . . “ Anne tapped at her cup of decaf with a pinched look on her face. She was obviously mulling over what Eddie told her, what still lurked inside him. “You’re going to Washington state over the weekend?”


Eddie forced his shoulders down from their hunched position. It wasn’t as awkward meeting her in public anymore, not to say that things were perfect. They never would be and Eddie was okay with that. Had to be.


“Yeah,” he said, “You told me no more hiding shit like this from you, so. I’m telling you now.”


Anne glanced around but there were like, 3 whole other people in the coffee shop. 7 at night wasn’t exactly prime time for caffeine addicts.


“What did you find?” she asked, keeping her voice low.


Eddie wasn’t sure what made him happier, the fact she cared or the fact she actually believed him this time. He leaned forward, tucking his fingers into the crook of his elbow.


“GeneKova.” The name was bitter tasting on his tongue. “Heard of it?”


“Distantly, yeah,” Anne said, looking him over warily, “I have a few friends who’ve covered cases for them before. Why?”


A copy of the article he’d saved was passed over the table. She looked it over and her shapely lips twitched in a frown.


“Is this all you found?” She handed it back. Her tone was more curious than disappointed, which was a good start.


“So far, yeah,” Eddie said, staring down at his near empty cup of hot chocolate. Venom loved the stuff, no big surprise there. “That guy I encountered in the drug bust knew what Ve-- what we are. There's no way he's not involved in this somehow, so I’m trying to land an interview with GeneKova off the clock. Boss wouldn’t budge on giving me time since they’re stationed all the way up north, so.”


“Eddie . . . “ A frustrated sigh escaped her as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “This is big pharma we’re talking about. Not to mention you already have a reputation. You’ll be lucky if they pick up the phone, much less agree to an interview.”


Eddie gave her a big stupid grin, the one that had gotten him through the impossible, had seen him through homelessness and college and public ridicule. It was the grin she had fallen in love with a long time ago. A lifetime ago, really.


“I know,” he said, downing the rest of his hot chocolate and rising from his seat, “But you know me. I’m not exactly smart enough to stop while I’m ahead.”


Her frown wavered for a moment at that.


She thought it was funny.
Venom’s whisper followed the faint but distinct sensation of them grinning against the delicate membranes of Eddie's pericardium, a disfigured halo of teeth.


“Look." Anne turned her head to the window like she was searching for something. Her sanity, maybe, given what she said next, “I can’t guarantee anything here, but I’ll see what I can do.”


Eddie was stunned. Never in a million years had he expected Anne of all people to stick her neck out for him, not after what he'd done. He must've been frozen in place for an uncomfortably long period of time because Anne finally swiveled her head back to him, brow raised expectantly.


“Uh. Thanks Anne,” he stuttered out, “Seriously.”


“Good luck out there,” Anne sipped at her coffee and looked everywhere but his face. “Try not to get yourself killed, okay?”


“I’ll be fine,” Eddie said with a wave, heading for the door, “I’ve got a guardian angel on my shoulder, remember?”


“More like guardian devil,” Anne called out. The knowingly devious smile on Eddie's face could have put a satyr to shame.



Washington is cold. Eddie thought he knew cold living in the bay area but wet cold is worse, fat droplets of rain soaking through his jacket and chilling him down to the marrow. He’s pretty sure the sun’s never shined on this state. Can't complain too much, though, given the fact he finally got an interview with GeneKova.


They'd been about as slippery as Eddie had been expecting out of a pharmaceutical company. He wasn’t sure if it was his own skills, or Anne pulling strings, or both, but after after dangling the promise of good press in front of their noses for a few weeks GeneKova relented. He’d have to thank her later.


He wasn't getting an interview with anyone actually important but it would have to do. He'd endure the shiny sales pitch some PR expert dressed in a labcoat would spout at him, then that same night he'd break in and record evidence at his leisure. It gave him an excuse to scope out the facility's layout.


You look good, Eddie.


The hotel shower had been luxurious compared to the one in his apartment. This close to Seattle a night stay was worth a solid chunk of his monthly paycheck but he was having trouble being mad about it. He'd even taken time to fix his hair and smooth the wrinkles out of his clothes. Venom was right, he did look good. Felt good, too, which he attributed to the wife beater they'd devoured the night they got off the plane. Sometimes you just gotta indulge.


“Thanks, V,” he whispered, body warming somewhat at Venom’s admiration, and strode through the glass double doors of GeneKova.


The exterior was a monolith of solid brick but the interior was all modern, wood panel floors and geometric chairs and sophisticated accent colors. Eddie was no interior designer, so whatever; the giant screen adjacent the front desk is what caught his eye. It was one of those looping recordings of a dozen employees with shiny white teeth, talking about how wonderful their working conditions were and all the great innovations they'd made and blah blah blah.


It smells strange in here. I don't like it.


Eddie had to restrain a snort as he approached the front desk.


That's the scent of vanilla bean, bud. What, not a fan of fragrances?


I don't like it because you don't like it.


Oh, right. He kept forgetting that Venom was like an extension of his own conscious. A very morbid and insatiable extension, but an extension nonetheless.


The woman at the front desk gave him a practiced smile that all good secretaries master.


“Are you Mr. Brock?” she asked, hands hovering over her keyboard.


“Yeah.” 2 elevators, 2 visible ground floor exits. If shit went south quickly they'd make their own exit. “I'm here for a tour from uh, Jenny? Jenny Sun.”


“That would be me.”


Eddie whirled around and bit his cheek at the sharp tugging pain of a crick in his neck. God, he hated airplane seats.


“Jenny, hey,” he said, shaking her hand. She had finely manicured nails and the grip of an ox.


I'm sensing a surge of testosterone in you.
Venom's tease made him withdraw his hand before it turned clammy. It's okay, I know you like a strong grip.


Would you quit it already?


Awww, you're getting
flustered.


“Good to finally meet you, Eddie.” Jenny offered her own version of the secretary smile. “I've seen enough of the Brock Report to know you like to throw some real hardballs.”


“Let's hope I measure up in person,” Eddie said, following her into the elevator. He never felt comfortable in orderly places like this, where everything was stiff and proper and no one knew what a fart was. After their freakout in the MRI he wasn't a fan of small enclosed spaces in general.


He could see Jenny's reflection in the elevator doors. Her smile turned just a touch less professional as a familiar chime indicated they'd reached their chosen floor.


“Let's hope you do,” she said, and stepped out.



Eddie had to hand it to her, Jenny was good at her job. She knew how to deflect while still making it seem like she answered your question, a skill that would throw most bad reporters off.


Eddie wasn't a bad reporter, though. He was a fucking great one. They spent 20 minutes dancing around each other in a verbal game of cat and mouse which was fun, in its own way. It had been a while since he'd dealt with an interviewee that didn't back away from a hard question or hide behind hired muscle. Now it was time to switch tactics a bit and throw her off her rhythm.


“You know I've been asking you all these questions about how GeneKova runs,” he said, breaking out his most charming smile, “but I haven't even begun to ask about you.”


Jenny shifted in her seat, tilting her head in a way that felt familiar, and not in a good way.


“I'm really very boring in the grand scheme of things, Mr.Brock.”


Eddie waved his hand dismissively, “Oh, come on now. You're the face of the company for every curious guy that wanders through the door. That's pretty important, yeah?”


“Could you be any more obvious about propping up my ego?” She was amused, not annoyed. A good start.


Things were going okay, so naturally they had to take a turn for the weird.


“At any rate, I don't need it.” Without warning she tapped a spot next to her ear, and then Jenny's face wasn't Jenny anymore. Neither was her voice which had taken on a deeper tone than before, all sweetness promptly gone.  “We both know you're not here for a corporate shpiel.”


“Whoa.” Eddie nearly tripped over his chair as he shot up out of it. “Whoa. What the -- !?”


“I have 90 seconds before the security footage resets, now please sit down.”


“But your face.” Eddie francticaly waved his hands in front of his own face to emphasize his point. “And your voice, it's . . . It's different.”


“It's called a photostatic veil. A useful piece of technology I borrowed from an associate,” she said, leaning forward. These eyes were nothing like Jenny’s either, an intense deep dark brown with an urgent gaze.


“Now listen closely. Jiyang found you way before you found him. I shouldn't have to tell you your laptop is bugged but apparently you hadn't noticed, since you spent several hours on it googling GeneKova.”


Like an idiot
went unspoken. He pressed his hands against the table to keep himself steady. Of the thousands of questions battling for dominance in his head he couldn't seem to utter a single one. He tried anyway.


“What--”


“You want an answer to your question? It's in this building. On the ground floor.” Not-Jenny pushed a small laminated nametag in his direction -- no. Not a nametag, a fucking access card. “There's an old archival room in the west wing.”


Eddie's utter bafflement made his face look like he desperately needed to shit, eyes squinting helplessly and lips puckering. He righted his chair and promptly sat back down on it.


“Why should I trust you, exactly?” is what finally left his mouth, gaze darting to the clock. He swiped the access card off the table and stuffed it inside his jacket.


“You don’t have to trust me,” Not-Jenny said, checking her nails, “You just need to be good at your job. Oh, and Eddie.” She tapped her ear and Jenny was herself again, the veil seamlessly blinking back into place. “The best way to find what you're looking for is to just be yourself.”


The irony of that comment had all the subtlety of a freight train. Before Eddie could so much as snark about it Not-Jenny rose from her seat, bowing her head. Time was up.


“Nice meeting you face to face, Mr.Brock.”


“Yeah,” Eddie said, watching her go, “You too.”



A mist had settled in that night, hugging the air and Eddie's skin in a chilly dampness. Luckily letting a symbiote hitch a ride in you came with the benefit of an on-demand skintight blanket.


“You're enjoying yourself,” Eddie said as they approached the back of GeneKova. It was comforting, the gentle flow of Venom's biomass over his skin.


I like feeling you from the outside as much as I do from the inside.
Venom was no better than a cat that got the cream. Purred like one, too.


Yup, Eddie's mouth was dry again. Asshole.


He didn't bother dignifying that with a response. The access card worked at least, hooray for small miracles.


West wing, west wing.
The place was a bit eerie at night, the screens shut off and the lights dim, but more unnerving were the giant glass windows that did nothing to shield him from any curious insomniac that happened to be walking down the street.


The security cameras alone were enough to make him paranoid. They wouldn’t be able to see his face thanks to Venom wrapping tightly around his skull, but the constant sensation of being watched was still not great.


The door they were looking for had no discernible markings beyond a single engraved plate. Archives. Simple enough. Eddie prepared to bring out the access key again when he noticed no scanner in sight. Instead there was an old school number pad, the kind with physical keys instead of digital.


“Shit, it’s locked,” Eddie huffed out loud. He wasn’t a remotely competent hacker and fat-fingering number pads hadn’t exactly led to good results for him in the past.


Take that back! It led to us.


“Yeah yeah,” Eddie said,  “Help me out, here.”


Venom wrapped around his legs and promptly kicked the door hard enough to leave a giant hole in it. With a screeching metal groan it collapsed forward, disturbing heaping helpings of dust. Eddie couldn't help but wince at the sound.


“Subtle.” He stepped through, the broken door creaking under his weight. The nameplate lived up to its name; rows upon rows of shelves tightly stacked with documents lined the sides, leaving a wide open aisle down the center.


“So uh, this is the part where we figure out exactly what we’re looking for.” He darted from shelf to shelf, scanning for anything noteworthy.


I thought you already knew.


“Sorta.” Hundreds of manilla folders were stuffed into these boxes. They hadn’t appeared to be touched in decades. He yanked one of the boxes out at random and blew on it, squinting at the tiny print written on the tab.


06 Oct - Jul,

N


Well, that was totally unhelpful. He pulled the folder open and skimmed its contents, dozens of faces quickly flashing before his eyes.


“Some sorta records. Old employees, by my guess. 2006 . . .”


If the white haired guy had worked at GeneKova at any point in time, his face would be in here. Somewhere. Like an ugly, skinny needle in a really big haystack.


This would’ve been a lot easier if they’d known even the first letter of his fucking name.


“Better get started,”
Venom said, a ripple passing through them, “ Not much time.”


“Appreciate the reassurance, bud.” He got to work, skimming through the faces again more slowly. Nope, none of them were a match.


Eddie placed the folder back in the box, pulling out another one tabbed J.


Venom was on the lookout which meant most of the work was up to him. He checked, doublechecked, then pulled out another folder. One after the other.


“M, no . . . B, No . . . “


“Why not go in alphabetical order?”
Venom suggested, turning their head toward him for a moment.


“Because I didn’t think about it when I started, alright?” Eddie huffed, slapping the B folder shut. “You probably don’t even know how to write in alphabetical order anyway.”


“Yes I do
,” Venom huffed back, teeth clacking together. Then, “ Dumbass.”


“At least I’m your dumbass, right?” Eddie yanked out another folder. He didn’t even bother looking at Venom, he could feel their shit eating grin through their bond.


“Yes,”
they purred, and turned their head to the door again.


10 folders in and Eddie began to realize how hopeless of a venture this was. There were literally rows of these fucking things and any single year or letter in them could be their golden ticket, if it was even there at all.


“Mmm, Willy Wonka,”
Venom said, licking their teeth, “All of that chocolate. Let’s watch Willy Wonka when we get home, Eddie.”


“I’m kinda in the middle of something here!” Eddie shoved his last box back on the shelf and rubbed at his somewhat sweaty forehead. Think, Eddie, think. The lady who wasn't Jenny told him what he needed was in this room, that he’d find it best by being himself.


Being himself. What did . . . oh. Oh.


“Hey, V?” he said, turning to face the disembodied head of his companion. “What’s the dumbest thing we could do right now?”


“Hmmm.”
Venom pondered for a moment, a tendril rubbing thoughtfully at their chin. Suddenly they pointed at a grungy corner of the room where a lone fire alarm was squirreled away like a naughty child in time out. It was so dusty it probably hadn’t been touched since the the lab was built in the sixties. “Pulling that lever.”


Alright, well. Fuck it.


They broke the glass and pulled the lever.



Nothing happened. The lever creaked in protest against actually being used, the sound deeply unpleasant. They stood there in complete silence for about 5 seconds before Eddie gave up hope and kicked at a shelf, cursing all the while. Of course that wasn’t going to work. Real life didn't follow the logic of a goddamn thriller novel. He wasn’t even sure what he’d been expecting -- a wall opening to a hidden passage, maybe? A fucking hole in the floor with stairs leading to a super secret basement?


In the middle of his tantrum a click perked his ears, followed by a metal groan as the tiles in the center of the aisle started to shift and recede . Eddie shook his head and wondered distantly if he was hallucinating. Maybe all those sleepless nights hounding the truth had finally broken him.


It was a vibration more than a direct sound, a shifting of unwieldy steel and dirt that traveled from Eddie’s heels all the way up to the bone arena of skull. Some great mechanical beast burrowed beneath the earth was awake for the first time in centuries. Old machine parts grinded together, obsolete but stable.


It’s real
, Venom assured him inside their head, I see it, too.


Well fuck him sideways, it was a hole in the middle of the floor. Eddie had never encountered anything remotely like this before and he stepped forward hesitantly, staring down into the dark. Where these stairs led they hadn’t the slightest clue.


“You know,” Eddie said, “I’m think I’m starting to miss my boring grey cubicle.”


No you aren’t.


“Alright, fair.” With that they plunged into the the shadows of the basement before Eddie could reconsider.


The first thing that hit him was how cold it was. The second thing that hit him was how musty it was. He was lucky he'd been able to ditch the inhaler years ago or this would've sent him spiraling into an asthma attack. Jesus, didn’t the creepy basements get janitorial maintenance, too?


It was near impossible to see in here without a light, so Venom became his eyes instead.


Coolest pair of night vision goggles on the market,
he thought, careful to keep his mouth shut. His imagination was running wild and for all knew there could be booby traps in here or some shit. Hey, V, we're kinda like spies right now.


You're saying stupid things to hide your nervousness again. 


He made it to the bottom of the stairs. No booby traps yet. He breathed in a sigh of relief and finally took time to examine just where the hell they were.


It wasn’t a particularly large room. Aside from a few gaudy tapestries of nature scenes and a strange half-circular table in the center, not much was happening in here. Everything else was just piles of forgotten junk.


Anticlimactic, much?


You're telling me. Looks like a cold war bunker but it's been completely gutted.


There had to be something more to this than forgotten storage. Eddie was getting that itch in the back of his head that wasn’t Venom so he took a step toward the table and let their senses flow together. It had been overwhelming at first, processing four sets of eyes and and two sets of ears and double . . . well, everything else. Now it was more seamless than slipping on a pair of gloves. More integral. Eddie lost himself in it, lost he in them, expanding into something more.


They heard it then. A very, very faint electronic hum, coming from the table. They stepped toward it with a grin bordering on diabolical.


“Appearances are always deceiving
,” they chuckled, slamming an inky palm on it. The cold steel quickly flashed with bright blue images, holograms darting across its surface. Something not quite like letters twisted in a dizzying pattern and reformed constantly.


A cipher?
They’d seen something like this before but the details slipped away, filmy echoes of memories from beyond their time on Earth. Their nails clacked against the table and scattered pinpricks of light between their fingers. Venom hadn't the slightest idea what they were doing but hell if it didn't look cool.


Hmmm. Not gonna get anything done here.


They pulled away from the table and the hologram quickly sparked out.


The tapestry was the only thing left to really mess around with in here, so Venom grabbed it with one giant meaty fist and ripped off the wall. It fell in a heap by their feet and the wicked grin on their face quickly fell with it.


Masked behind the tapestry were flecks of paint from a larger design that had been removed a long time ago, remnants of a circular emblem that covered a huge portion of the wall. A sinking feeling took hold of Venom's gut and their eyes narrowed in shock.


“No way,”
they hissed, “No fucking way.”


Even without paint the etching left no room for doubt. Looming over them were the 6 curling tentacles and menacing skeletal glare of Hydra.

Chapter Text

They couldn't believe it. Hydra's symbol was plastered on the wall in here, of all places, like a cockroach that refused to die.


“Parasites,”
Venom hissed, drawing closer. They despised that word but in Hydra's case it was true. Pulling from Eddie's memories gave them an acute picture of what Hydra was all about, the way they fed off of the fear of the innocent and wormed their way into positions of power to do it.


Before Eddie's dad completely hated him for existing he'd brought him along for one of his business trips to DC. Eddie had been a stubborn little shit even back then, needling his father until he took him to the Smithsonian's exhibit on Steve Rogers and his comrades. Despite a total lack of patriotism Eddie never forgot that trip, how Captain America was just a guy from Brooklyn who wanted to do the right thing.


He also never forgot the dreadful symbol Bucky Barnes had lost his life trying to take down. Here it was, the same as it had been then. Without thinking Venom punched it in a fit of rage and left a massive dent in the concrete. It gave way easily to their fist. A little too easily.


Venom drew their fist back and punched it again. It flew clean through and met empty space on the other side.


The concrete wall wasn't really concrete. Holy hell, it was another hidden door.


Secrets within secrets,” Venom chuckled, and promptly barreled into it with all their combined might.


Chunks of rock and metal spewed everywhere and collided with massive metal containers neatly stacked around the room.


“What have we here . . . “


Aside from weird looking devices wired into the walls and a drain in the floor it wasn’t furnished either. Venom carefully hefted a container off the pile and placed it by their feet.


They
became he . Venom’s biomass curled underneath Eddie’s sternum, tucked out of sight.


“Well this is getting interesting,” Eddie said, looking the container over. No seals, no logos. Not a single hint of identification which meant whatever was inside was definitely some kind of contraband. “Let’s crack this fancy nut.”


Tendrils slid out of Eddie’s sleeves and punched through the reinforced steel, prying the container open from the inside out. He leaned over and his eyebrows arched high on his forehead.


“What the . . . “


Inside were crystals, and not the fine powdery kind. These were blue and eerily reminiscent of the cheap ones Eddie saw in souvenir stores. He reached out to grab for one when Venom seized control of his arm, quickly yanking it back with a crocodillan hiss.


NO.


“What the hell, V?” Adrenaline shot through his system as a result of Venom’s panic, leaving his muscles clenched tight.


Don’t touch it. It’s alien.


“What, you mean like you?” Eddie settled for leaning forward to get a closer look but no matter how hard he squinted they looked utterly unspectacular. They were just crystals, and not even particularly cool looking ones.


Not like me. Alien from somewhere else.


A shudder shot down Eddie’s spine and he hastily brought out his phone, snapping as many photos as he could of the case and the rest of the room. He should’ve taken a photo of the Hydra decal but he hadn’t exactly been himself when he punched a hole through it. Ah well. This was pretty damning all on its own.


Eddie.


“What?” He was busy sliding his phone back into his pocket when he heard it like a dull pulse, the muffled wail of sirens shrieking from above. “Oh shit. Oh shit oh shit oh shit.” He continued to curse as he dashed out of both secret rooms and up the stairs, frantically looking around. He ducked his head out of the doorway and immediately ducked it back in. At least 3 guys with fucking assault rifles had just turned the corner and were heading his way.


“Well,” Eddie said, “here we go. Now!”


Finally.


Eddie tore out of the room like a bat out of hell. He promptly ignored all the shouting that demanded he freeze, or stop, or get on the ground, and when they realized he was going to do none of those things they unloaded full auto. Venom’s biomass absorbed a spray of bullets as they rounded the corner, coming face to face with another cluster of SWAT team members already poised to fire.


“Think fast,” Eddie shouted, a thick tentacle bursting from his shoulder to yank a ballistic shield out of the first guy’s hands. Countless rounds pinged off the shield as they charged forward, knocking over that human barricade with the force of a raging bull.


“Strike!”
Venom cackled, unceremoniously tossing the shield behind them. Eddie’s feet pounded heavy on the floor but he felt light as a feather, unstoppable, laughing with adrenaline fueled mania. They burst into the lobby where an all too familiar cluster of red dots painted their chest. A welcoming party of at least a dozen SWAT members crowded the room, blocking the exit.


“Stop where you are and get on the ground, now!”


Well, this was some major deja vu. Venom’s biomass rippled over Eddie’s face and wrapped snugly over his skin.


Just like old times, Eddie.


“Is this the part where you throw everything you’ve got at me?” Eddie shouted back, voice distorted and wickedly amused. “Cause let me tell ya, that didn’t work out so well for the last guy.”


Without warning a tentacle shot out of his hand and latched onto one of the little round lounge tables, launching it right into the throng of baffled SWAT team members. They let out shouts of fear as they were knocked over and into each other and fuck, that actually looked kinda comical. A couple of rifles went off on accident and peppered bullets into the ceiling.


Didn’t get all of them.
Venom maneuvered them out of the way of another hail of bullets, leaping straight for a guy busy reloading his rifle. The poor cop let out a scream before colliding with a pillar.


A 7-10 split’s always rough, bud.


A concussive blast hit their shoulder and sent an unpleasantly disruptive ripple through their biomass. Venom’s teeth jutted out of Eddie’s still human-sized mouth. Okay, now they were pissed.


“Hey!”
they snarled, rounding on the remaining SWAT members, “Who’s the wise guy that did that!?”


They got no answer other than panicked yelling and more bullets, which was just rude. With a roar Venom encased Eddie completely and they charged, the biomass of their right arm forming into a whip that knocked any retreating men off their feet.


Now then, time to jet. No better way out than the front door.


Those spotless glass double doors shattered into thousands of itty bitty pieces when Venom barreled through on all fours. A squadron of cop cars had formed a barricade outside and the flashing red and blue lights were borderline blinding. Cute.


“W-what the hell is that thing!?” It was impossible to tell which voice came from who and honestly Venom didn’t care. The air was awash in a delicious cocktail of hormones and pheromones that made them salivate.


No,
Eddie warned. His voice was firm in their shared consciousness. We’ll binge on chocolate later.


Venom’s grin could give the Devil nightmares. Their tongue unfurled to rub over their teeth.


“The name,”
they said, “Is Venom.” They vaulted over the barricade in the world’s most terrifying version of leapfrog, destroying the hoods of two cop cars in the process.


The rest was a flurry of sirens and human voices fading as they took off further into the city, until the shouting became unintelligible and the sirens a mosquito’s whine and all that remained was the roaring of the wind in their ears. Eddie couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this free.

Chapter Text

Eddie was used to seeing himself on TV but this time he felt an odd disconnect while he sipped at a cup of coffee. There were aerial shots of the “crime scene,” where he’d blown through the front door and made a mess of Seattle's SWAT team.


He pretended to keep working while listening in. There’d be nothing the news said he didn’t already know but a good reporter always kept an ear tuned to public opinion. That and he was curious about what sort of far-fetched lie GeneKova had spun to cover their asses.


“Police are still compiling a report of the incident that occurred Saturday evening," the news anchor said, motioning with her arm at the ruined entrance of GeneKova, "but the general consensus is that some sort of super powered terrorist was looking to send a political message. This attack happens after a surge of protests about inhuman rights and . . .”


Eddie spilled some of his coffee on his shirt and cursed sharply. Drawing unwanted attention to himself was becoming a daily occurrence. He ignored baffled glances as he raced to the break room to steal some paper towels.


He was steaming , and not just because of the coffee. Of course they'd try to pin the blame on inhumans. Of fucking course. They'd dethroned Russian hackers as the world's easiest scapegoat.


“It's crazy out there isn't it?”


Eddie turned his head sharply to a fellow coworker who he recognized and kinda wish he didn't. The guy was called Evan and the only thing Eddie found relatable about him was the fact their names started with the same letter. Evan had a wedding ring, Eddie had wrist bracelets. Evan had a down payment on a car that he loved to talk about and Eddie had just enough money on a good day to buy a sandwich. He wasn't an asshole , per se, but Eddie had no desire to talk to him in any extended capacity.  


“Huh?” Eddie grunted, “Oh, yeah. I guess.”


“These inhumans are getting out of control.” Evan sipped at his own cup of coffee and Eddie hated him, hated how he looked so laid back and hadn't a care in the world related to saving it. “It's wild to think that these people are just lobbing fireballs out of their fingertips because they feel like it.”


Eddie schooled his face into detached disinterest.


“I mean, I don't think that's exactly what's happening out there,” he said with a shrug, dabbing water on his shirt. “It's not like they had a choice in whether they got powers or not.”


Evan must've picked up on Eddie's empathy to that particular predicament because his brow arched curiously.


“Maybe not,” he said, “but they choose how to use them. And they're using them to intimidate and hurt people.”


Eddie balled up the paper towel tightly in his fist. This was the last conversation he wanted to have right now, with the last person in the world he wanted to have it with.


“Yeah, well,” he grunted, slipping past Evan hastily, “Regular people intimidate and hurt aplenty too.”


He didn't bother to look behind himself to gauge Evan's reaction, he just wanted to retreat into his cubicle and have a minute to himself to fucking think. There was no mention on the news of the basement Eddie had found, which wasn't surprising but.


But what? What had he been expecting? All he'd done was break down a door and snap a few photos. He had nothing; no tangible proof, no more leads, and absolutely no fucking idea what to do with the photos he'd taken. He couldn't bring them to Sheena because that would blow his cover, which was kind of a thing he had now. He couldn't even explain what he'd seen aside from the fact it was apparently alien.


Eddie.
Venom cut through the spiraling thoughts in his head, smoothing over his lungs in a way that should've hurt but didn't. They were helping to regulate his breath, keep him calm. He sunk back into his seat and stared at his computer screen. Our body needs time to rest. You have been pushing us too far.


Truth be told he was afraid to stop. He was afraid of a lot of things for someone who had a near invulnerable alien living inside his head.


“Can't stop,” he muttered, feeling absolutely miserable, “S'not even lunch time yet.”



There'd been more than a few times in Eddie's life where he'd hit a wall. This time, though, it was different, because the wall was a conspiracy spanning decades and continents. Jiyang, Hydra, the crystals, they were all racing through his head and he was clawing tooth and nail to make sense of it all. So he did what he always had done: he tried to focus on literally anything else.


His laptop was a no go if what Not-Jenny had said was true. His TV was the most neglected thing in his apartment at this point, coated in a thick layer of dust, so he turned it on and stared absentmindedly at the screen.


15 minutes in and he gave up. He couldn't focus on something so fucking mundane when the past and future were closing in around him, crushing him, threatening to reduce him to dust.


Eddie.


Eddie ignored Venom as he pushed himself off the couch, pacing. Was he having a panic attack? He was probably having a panic attack.


Eddie.


He would figure this out. He always did. So why did it feel like the cold suffocating dark of the sea was pressing over his head again, ripping him away from everything he loved?


EDDIE.


Eddie jumped and pressed his hip hard against the kitchen counter. The pain kept him grounded and he took a deep breath.


“Yeah, V?”


Your heart rate is elevated to an abnormally high level. Cortisol is flooding our system. Let me help you relax.


“No, no.” He didn't know why he was turning Venom's offer down. Nothing had made him feel as good as the time they -- well. He wasn't sure if he could describe it as sex because sex usually didn't involve a shapeshifting symbiote; if the nerves in his lumbar were a piano then Venom had played them like fucking Mozart.


It was sex.


“Thank you,” Eddie hissed, clearly not thankful, pacing up and down his kitchen.


Why are you ashamed of our union? It was a natural part of our bond. I think. Never done it before, so.


“I'm not ashamed, V, it's just.”


He couldn't make himself finish that sentence. Eddie wasn't the type of guy to wallow in self loathing, not anymore. Those days were long past him. Still, how did he even begin to explain to an alien that in that moment all he wanted to feel was a different kind of pain? That he ached to break things, punch his knuckles raw, impulsively add more scars to the faded assortment on his forearms? He didn't want slow tender caresses, he wanted to bleed.


The second that desire entered his mind he was completely encased in Venom's biomass, hugging him tight.


NO.


Venom sounded fucking terrified .


YOU WILL NOT ENDANGER US.


“Jesus Christ, V, okay, alright, I'm sorry.” Eddie writhed in Venom's all encompassing hold but they wouldn't relent, wouldn't let him go. “Put me down, I said I was sorry.”


You still desire to maim your own vessel. I will not.


“Fucking hell,” Eddie snarled, anger welling up inside and morphing into nausea, “I am an adult, not some stupid kid. I can make my own decisions and suffer the consequences.”


Do you think your choices only affect yourself?
Venom hissed, marching their body to the bedroom, When you hurt, I hurt. When you hurt, Anne hurts.


“Do not,” Eddie choked out, enraged and shaking apart from within and on the brink of fucking tears, “Do not try to make me feel guilty about this, you dick, I have had enough of that shit in my life.”


Not guilty, Eddie.
Venom plopped Eddie's ass down on the bed and forced him to sit there, quivering. Reminding you.


“About what?” Eddie's voice was trembling and he hated it. “That I'm a self absorbed prick? Because let me tell you, bud, I already know.” Okay, so maybe he did still hate himself a little. Just a bit.


“No.”
Venom's head had materialized out of his chest, those opal eyes unblinking, “I see, now. You rejected my offers of pleasure because you don't believe you deserve them.”


Eddie stared deliberately at the wall. He couldn't bring himself to return Venom's gaze right now. He's pretty sure he'd have a mental breakdown if he did.


A tendril tugged at his chin and forced him to anyway.


“Pain is meant to convey that something in the body is damaged,”
Venom said, “It cannot be ignored.”


Eddie's laugh was broken, cracked open with grief and so very very raw. Tears cut clear lines down his cheekbones and followed their natural path down the working column of his throat. He was tired of crying. He was tired of running from the unbelievably fucked up things that had happened to him. He was tired in general.


“I wish that was how it worked, V,” Eddie said, choking down a sob, “but pain isn't always sensible. Pain just is.”


“Regardless, there is no point in giving yourself more of it.” 


“You don't get it.” How many times had he said that line throughout his life? It’s like he’s a teenager again, admonished by towering adults who thought he was simply going through a phase, every attempt to be heard ignored.


“Maybe not,”
Venom said, tendril pulling away from Eddie's chin to wipe at his tears, “but I'm trying to.”


Eddie sat there in silence for he didn’t know how long. Venom stayed with him through it, saying nothing else, just a constant comforting weight in his body and at his side. No matter what happened they were always there.


“I’ve been thinking,” he said before he could stop himself, running a hand through his hair, “About what they said on the news, and how badly I scared Anne and Dan and . . . “ He tried to keep his focus on the moment, on the here and now. He couldn’t remember who or where he learned that trick from as he dug his fingers into his knee. Notice the pressure, the texture, the heat. Describe it. Breathe.


“Breaking into GeneKova gave me only half of an answer and came at a cost. I fucked over a ton of innocent people in the process this time. I took advantage of a vulnerable group and painted them as some sort of, some sort of fuckin' terrorist org--”


“Eddie.”
Venom’s tentacles were curling over his shoulders in a way that could almost be described as tender. Well. Tender for a man-eating beast. “You did not blame the inhumans, the news did. Humans are so strange. Why do they feel guilty over things they did not do. It's foolish.”


Eddie dragged his hands over his face and pushed himself to his feet. Venom let him this time; the urge to hurt himself had passed and in its place was a hollow ache that not even his dear symbiote could fill. “Intent doesn’t matter in situations like this, V,” he sighed, stretching his arms over his head until he felt a satisfying pop . “What matters is the outcome. I fucked up.”


“So?”
Venom’s head drifted into view again, and despite having no pupils to speak of their gaze was intense. “We fucked up. What do we plan on doing about it?”


Eddie envied Venom’s straightforward approach to everything. There was no moping, no self doubt, just cause and effect, problem and solution. All those finnicky human emotions that got in the way of being effective didn’t bother them the same way.


And god dammit, they had a point.


He’d forgotten to turn any of his lights on and now shadows had completely consumed his apartment. This darkness was a comfort at least, not the suffocating kind he endured in the warehouse. He padded down the hallway and looked at his laptop, his TV, the window and beyond where the entire world was waiting for him to do something.


“We’ll fix it,” Eddie said, drawing the blinds closed and turning on the lights. “Like we always do.”


That response resulted in a warm glow somewhere near his heart. Venom felt emotion but not in the same way Eddie did, it was hard to describe. The closest he could come to naming it was pride.


“Yes.”
Venom’s long tendrils curled down Eddie’s chest, a scarf made of ink. “Yes, we will.”



Eddie spent the rest of the night brainstorming what he was going to do on pieces of paper, because quite frankly he had no idea how to remove what was probably hyper-advanced spyware from his laptop. He’d burn the paper later. Or let Venom eat it.


He was lost in thought, sharing conversation softly with his Other when there was a frantic knock on the door. Eddie’s hands curled into fists.


Open it, it’s Dan.


A dull twinge that used to be embarrassment struck him when he looked around his apartment. He hadn’t cleaned it in god knows how long and a tray of tater tots was still laying neglected on the sad little wooden thing he called a kitchen table. Ah well.


The door opened on a very distressed looking Dan, his adam’s apple bobbing in his throat. Did he run all the way up to Eddie's floor?


“Hey, Eddie, mind if I come in?” Dan sounded slightly breathless so that was probably a yes.


“Uh, not at all.” Eddie moved out of his way and Dan briskly shuffled inside, looking around.


“Never been here before,” he muttered, yanking the beanie off his head. More loudly, “Sorry to barge in like this but have you seen Anne? She hasn’t been picking up her phone. Maybe I’m just being too clingy, I don’t know.”


Eddie blinked twice and felt his brain processing Dan’s rush of words with all the speed of dial up internet.


“Er. No. No to both questions,” he said finally, lifting the sad tray of tater tots off the table. He placed them on the counter instead and motioned for Dan to sit. “Why, did she say something?”


Dan obliged somewhat reluctantly, fiddling with the zipper of his jacket.


“No.” He shook his head and pulled out his phone. “The last thing she said to me was that she was getting drinks with a coworker at 6. I called her phone about an hour ago and got no response. Called her coworker, told me they’d both gone home around 8.”


Eddie felt his heartbeat from somewhere very, very far away. Breathe in, breathe out. Remain calm. Anne was the type of woman who always had her shit together, had saved him from being consumed by Riot. She’d been the one to point him in a direction when Venom was new and overwhelming, to help him through crisis after crisis. There was a reasonable explanation for this. There had to be.


Time was molasses while he dialed Anne’s number and waited for the ring tone. It went to voicemail instead. Eddie cursed out loud and hung up, jaw clenching tight.


Dan stared at him hopelessly. Eddie stared back and had to admit he was feeling pretty fucking hopeless himself.


“We’ll find her, Dan,” he said aloud, and tried to make himself believe it.


“I have 3 surgeries scheduled for tomorrow and one of them is critical, I can’t just --”


“He means we.”
Venom’s head sprouted from Eddie's shoulder and undulated forward, grinning. “We’ll find her. We like Anne.” Dan's face turned pasty white and he sat rigid in his seat.


Eddie cleared his throat and quickly changed subjects before things could get any more awkward than they already were.


“Where did you say she went to?”


“Think it was called Alchemist Bar?” Dan was eyeing Venom's disembodied head with a reasonable level of caution. “Something like that? It’s off of 3rd street. Hey wait, where are you going--”


Eddie was already heading for the door. He paused in the doorway and looked over one shoulder, Venom looking over the other.


“Where do you think?” Eddie said with his teeth bared, more grimace than grin, “I’m gonna go kick some ass.” He took off in a sprint, leaving a flabbergasted Dan behind with only tater tots for company.

Chapter Text

This was familiar territory for him at least. Tracking people down, following people who didn't want to be followed, he was good at it. With the wind whipping at his body and the howling of his engine he tore through the streets of San Francisco, letting Venom curl around his neck.


Plenty of heads to eat tonight, if things go well.


Your definition of things going well is completely different from mine.


The Alchemist bar was hopping for a Thursday night. Philanthropists, secretaries, and athletes all crowded into trendy loveseats and mahogany barstools. Eddie couldn’t pick out a single face that looked a day over 30 in here.


God, he felt so old. He weaved around the waiters and waitresses carrying drink trays the circumference of a small tire, squeezing himself into the space of the counter. Getting the bartender’s attention was going to be a task all on its own.


“Yo,” he called out, hoping he could be heard over the music and incessant chatter. The bartender didn’t even glance his way. “I said, yo!


The bartender reluctantly pulled away from a couple of customers, looking Eddie up and down. He wasn’t much older than a kid judging by all the ear gauges and tattoos.


“Yo?” He even had rings on his fingers, jesus.


“Do you remember --” Eddie hastily scrolled through his phone, pulling up a photo of Anne from her law firm’s official website. “This lady. Did you see her at all tonight?” Sad as it was, it had been too painful to keep photos of Anne in his gallery, so he’d shoved them onto a flash drive and then shoved that flash drive into his drawer. What could he say, he was a sentimental bastard.


The bartender tapped his ringed fingers on his forearm, brow raised in thought. “Maybe. Uh. As you can see there’s a lot of faces around here, but --” He stopped mid sentence, recognition making his eyes light up. “Actually, yeah, I think I do. She left her phone behind.” He reached for something under the bar and pulled out a familiar looking smartphone. “One of the servers found it but she’d already left.”


It was Anne’s, no doubt about it.


“Only reason I know is because her face is on the lock screen.” He clicked it on and yeah, that was Anne, wearing a red knit cap and kissing Dan on the cheek. A pang clenched Eddie’s stomach and it had nothing to do with the picture.


“Great,” Eddie breathed out, “That’s great. Can I have it?”


The bartender’s look quickly turned suspicious. “You’re a friend of hers, huh?”


“Yeah.” Eddie felt Venom stirring within him, 3 seconds away from nabbing the phone out of the guy’s hand. “I can return it to her on my way home.”


The bartender pursed his lips for a second before Eddie received his first stroke of luck in months; he relented and slapped the phone into Eddie’s open hand.


“Alright,” he said, shrugging, “If you’re lying it’s not like I’d know, anyway. I’d rather not deal with the hassle.”


Eddie was muscling his way out of the bar before the guy even finished his sentence. As he stared down at the phone he cursed under his breath. She had one of those number pad lock screens where you have to tap out the right sequence. Number pads were quickly becoming the bane of his fucking existence.


7 2 8 1 6.


How do you know that?


Watched her type it in once when she wasn’t looking.


V, come on dude --


What’s the saying you humans use, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth?


Fair enough. He’d lecture Venom on valuing the concept of personal space later. He tapped the numbers in quickly as they escaped into open air, the chill not unlike a light slap in the face.


There was a lonely app on Anne’s home screen, her notes. He opened it and read the one thing on it: an address, and a quote Eddie knew by heart.


I'll be back.


It could've been a regular message but Eddie knew just as sure as there was pavement beneath his feet that Anne was quoting Terminator. It had been a long running joke between them, tossing terrible Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions at each other to lighten the mood. Before going out for an interview, or meeting, or doctor’s appointment, the other would mimic the Terminator in quite possibly the most botched accent possible. It made it just a bit easier being an adult. She was telling him to be careful, no doubt about it.


“So this is obviously a trap,” Eddie said, sliding onto his motorcycle. He didn’t need GPS to know where he was going, seeing as it was the same exact goddamn warehouse they’d broken into before. Venom curled over Eddie’s head and formed into one sick looking motorcycle helmet.


Obviously.
The engine revved up and purred like a faithful pet under Eddie’s fingers.


“We still going in?”


Definitely.


They took off down the street, kicking up trash lodged in the gutter. The skies were clear, the moon bright, and there was a thrumming bloodlust in Eddie's bones that felt less and less alien each day. It should’ve worried him. It didn’t. Venom’s grin was his grin, Venom’s teeth his teeth, Venom’s hunger his hunger.


They were Venom, and they were ready.



Eddie left his motorcycle parked a couple of blocks away before shuffling down the street. He didn’t want to risk Venom accidentally trashing the thing in the throes of ravenous violence. There the warehouse stood, same as ever, caked in rust and seagull shit.


He shook off the memory of poison coursing through him and kept his eyes on the prize. So far he couldn’t make out a single hint of movement or sound beyond the mundane ruckus of civilian life in the concrete jungle. If anything it was quieter than usual out here.


Almost
too quiet.


I’m revoking your access to Netflix. That’s one cliche too many.


Well, no point in dabbling in subterfuge this time. They strode right up to that massive garage door on the side and prepared for another fight.


“Alright,” Eddie shouted, letting his voice ring out loud and proud, “I’m here now, you fucks. You can come out.”


Nothing. A seagull cawed at him from atop a lamp post, laughing at his pathetic attempt at bravery. So much for feeling cool.


Footsteps inside.


The garage door let out a loud groan as it opened and jesus, how no one else heard it was beyond Eddie. He stepped through while Venom’s biomass curled over arms, ready to let loose pure mayhem.


“Hey there, Eddie. Nice of you to join us on such short notice.”


His head jerked up to the mezzanine and his mind recoiled from who he was seeing. There was Anne, arms bound behind her and brow furrowed with fury. And there was --


“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” Eddie groaned. There was motherfucking Evan , holding Anne tightly in his grip. “You? You were a spy this whole time?”


Evan gave a shrug, menacing grin climbing up his face. “Spy is kind’ve an exaggeration,” he said, “seeing as I didn’t have to do much spying. You were pretty happy to keep talking to yourself loud enough for everyone to hear it.”


“So, what?” Eddie’s skin itched with Venom’s pent up hunger. “Jiyang hired you to watch me chase my own tail?”


“Mmm, more or less.” Evan lifted his pistol to Anne’s head, pressing right against her temple. “Gotta hand it to you, Eddie, the pussy you chased was always way smarter than you. The second I realized her phone was missing I knew she’d made her own trail of breadcrumbs. How did you nab a gal like this anyway?”


Anne rammed her body into Evan with all of her might but he held steady, gun muzzle digging into her skin. “I swear as soon as I get free of these ropes I’m going to hang you by the balls with them,” she hissed.


Evan laughed and played with the trigger. “Feisty, too. Goddamn, she really was out of your league.”


Eddie's felt rage in his life, tarlike poison winding tight in his ribs long before Venom ever found their home there. But this. This is smoldering brimstone and onyx grit. This is the primal beat of two beings becoming one, a being whose every atom was screaming for blood and could do nothing, nothing at all.


Eddie saw red, then black. Venom's veins were crawling through the membrane of his eyes, turning them silvery dark as the void.


“Let her go.”
It wasn't a request. It was the eye of a storm, brief calm before earth shattering destruction.


“No can do,” Evan said, pistol still pressed firmly against Anne's head. The deadness of his eyes suggested he had no hesitations about pulling the trigger. “My employer's got some big plans for you two.” He signaled with his free hand.


“Eddie!” Anne screamed -- not in terror of him, but for him.


Before Venom could do a single thing the intercom blared to life. The excruciating pain of a sonic frequency assaulted their body and the symbiote hooked desperately into Eddie's liver, his spleen, his pancreas; it wasn’t unlike the sensation of being torn apart from the inside out.


How . . .


How did he --


Know!?


He hit the ground hard, his senses scattering in a wave of nausea. Venom was stunned within him and writhing in a vain effort to regain control.


“Gotta hand it to you, Brock.” Evan's voice came to him from somewhere far away, mocking malevolence on a distant shore. “You really are stupid for being such a good reporter.” Then to someone else, “Bag ‘em and tag ‘em, we’re done here.”


Something pricked the back of Eddie's neck and the world winked out into nothing.



Eddie woke up for a second time not sure of where he was. This was becoming a really inconvenient habit.


Standing up took him longer than anticipated. Venom was still sluggish within him, oozing groggily through veins and muscle fibers. The sensation made him shiver but also nudged his body into an upright position. He nearly fell over when he finally made it to his feet.


His best guess for where they'd been shoved into was a jail cell. It had about the same commodities, shitty not-at all-private toilet included. Yet it was still too clean for a jail, too modern, all brushed steel and sterile white padding. That, and a massive observation window situated in the wall adjacent wasn't exactly a standard inmate accommodation.


Eddie wheeled his wobbly legs to it, peering in, and just about fell over again when he saw who was inside it. Anne. Anne was here in this hell with them.


Without thinking his fist slammed against the glass. The blunt pain was good, woke him up further. He shouted her name a few times before pressing his palm flat against the window.


Anne's eyes blinked open and she immediately curled in on herself, no doubt struggling with an unpleasant awakening.


“Anne! Anne, can you hear me!?” It didn't matter how loud Eddie called out to her, she never turned her head. She couldn't hear a damn thing. He watched intently as she grappled with sickness and forced herself to rise, looking around her room the same way Eddie had. Why couldn't she see him?


“You're both awake now I see.”


A flash of rage made Eddie's skin heat up under the collar. He'd recognize that flat rasping voice anywhere. The guy with the white hair was here, the motherfucker.


Anne's head turned sharply to the speaker tucked away in the corner, protected by steel mesh. Her lips moved to say something but Eddie couldn't hear it.


“Yes, Ms.Weying. He's closer than you think, actually.” There was a strange mechanical buzz and then Anne's expression fell. She could see him now, in all his desperation.


“Eddie!” Her voice was loud and clear now, he didn't know how. Didn't care either, all that mattered was that she was safe. “Eddie, oh God, I'm so sorry I couldn't --”


“Don't. Anne, it's okay, don't blame yourself.” Eddie's throat was working overtime, swallowing over and over again. “It’s my fault we're stuck in here. After the shit I pulled at GeneKova --”


“No, Eddie.” Anne's tone was forceful enough to make him pause. Her arms wrapped tightly around herself and she quickly looked away. “I really am sorry. All this time I was telling you to be honest with me, and Dan, and all along I . . . “


“ . . . Anne?” Eddie's heart was in his throat. His lungs seized. “What are you saying?”


“Remember that time you told me about GeneKova?” Her hands dropped to her sides, curling into fists. “I couldn't take it anymore, Eddie. I felt like I was just sitting around waiting for it all to crash down around me, so I started doing some digging of my own. That's how they found me.”


Did Dan know?
he wanted to ask, but then, he already knew didn't he. She hadn't told a soul.


“Why?” Eddie could hardly speak above a whisper. “Why, Anne? Why didn't you tell me?”


“I was playing everything by the book and you were getting shit done .” Anne was pacing now, messing with her hair in an incredibly rare display of restlessness. “Time and time again I'd watch you go off to do something crazy, or heroic, or both, and I had to sit there wondering if you'd even come back. Do you have any idea what that feels like, knowing you could help but you don't know how?”


Eddie was at a loss for words. Venom was finally stretching out, shaking off the vibrations that had put them in a comatose state.


Welcome to the world of the living, V.


Never leave you, Eddie.


Venom's glowing affection finally helped him look Anne in the eye.


“You’re a great person, Anne,” Eddie said, his smile deeply sad, “but boy are you a hypocrite.”


“I know, I know.” Her smile was sad too and Eddie realized he loved her, just not in the way he used to. Anne was the closest thing he had to a best friend, a partner who didn't hesitate to risk life and limb to help him out, who didn't run away from the freaky goo monster he'd become. Aside from Venom she was the only person who truly understood him.


“But what can I say?” she added with a shrug of her shoulders, “Sometimes the nightmares become too much to deal with.”


She said it so casually but it struck Eddie hard. All this time he'd been so focused on his own struggles that he'd never even stopped to consider that Anne was going through the same goddamn thing. Anne woke up in the middle of the night sweating. Anne would stop in the middle of folding laundry or washing dishes and the reality of what she'd been through would hit her, leave her shaking and dizzy and numb.


Eddie really was a self centered jerk.


“Yeah,” Eddie gulped down the bile rising in his throat, “I've been there. Next time though, we work together, you hear me?”


Anne's gaze was fond but as she opened her mouth to speak the door to her cell slid open. In came the gaunt pale fuck himself, Mr. White Hair.


Eddie's fingers immediately morphed into black tipped claws, scraping against the glass.


“Who the hell are you?” Anne snarled, stepping away from the window.


“You may call me Svelka, Ms.Weying.” So that was his name then. It sounded as weird as he looked.


“What the hell kind of a name is that?” she spat.


“Of course he's Russian,” Eddie groaned, “it's always the goddamn Russians.”


“It's Ukrainian, actually.” For every step forward Svelka took, Anne moved a step back.


Venom slammed their fist against the glass, hissing out, “Don't you dare touch her.”


“I’ve no intention of doing so,” Svelka replied evenly, looking her over. The bright fluorescent light made his gaze just that much more intense. Eddie knew that color from somewhere, the same glow in an article on nuclear reactors. Cherenkov blue. “I came here to congratulate you actually, Weying.”


“Great.” Anne planted her feet and looked every bit ready to kick Svelka's scrawny ass. “Why don't you go congratulate me out there instead? Or better yet, let us go?”


Svelka pulled one of those blue crystals out of his pocket and Venom slammed their fist on the window again, claws hardly making a dent. What the hell was this thing made out of, diamonds?


“Your test results were positive for all the necessary genetic markers.” Svelka stared at the crystal with something akin to fascination. “The room you are in is made of poly-tectic adaptive materials, so you will be perfectly safe.”


Absolutely all of this went over both Anne and Eddie's head. Eddie was far too busy trying to punch a hole through the window and Anne was busy trying not to give in to a panic attack.


“What the hell is that?” she gasped, “Get away from me!”


Alien. Bad. Will hurt her. Can't let it hurt her--


“You'll see,” Svelka said, and tossed the crystal on the ground. It shattered immediately and blue mist billowed through the room, gone as quickly as it had come.


“NO!”
Venom rammed their shoulder into the window and finally saw a crack. Their focus narrowed into a pinpoint whirlwind of need to get in that room, to reach Anne, to protect--


Anne raised a hand to her face. Between the lines of her palm crawled veins of stone.


“Eddie?” Her voice was breathless with fear. “Oh god, Eddie, what's happening to me?” She managed two more steps toward the window before her legs locked in place, encased in rock. It was crawling so quickly up her hips, over her chest and neck and trembling arms.


“Stop.”
Venom wasn't sure who they were pleading to. They weren't used to pleading at all. “Please, stop.” The window wasn't giving quickly enough.


“Eddie?” Tears were streaming down Anne's face now, stone winding over her chin, over her cheekbones and nose and eyes and -- “Eddie!”


Anne wasn't moving anymore. Her cell was utterly silent, Svelka's gaze affixed to the statue she'd become.


Venom screamed. Eddie screamed. They beat their fists against the window and screamed and screamed and screamed.


They didn't hear what Svelka said after that. The glass was close to shattering and they were so fucking ready to tear him apart, rip his head from his shoulders and flay him down to the marrow until there wasn't an inch of him left unmaimed, until his organs were paste and his bones were ash. They wanted to cradle Anne's body in theirs and sob like the wounded animal they were.


Only the frequency returned. The agony of grief and physical pain made Venom fall to their knees, and Eddie's throat was so raw but they couldn't stop screaming. The white noise was back. The white noise was their Hell.


Don't go don't go Anne Venom I love you oh god please don't leave me I love you --


Hurts hurts HURTS HURTS HURTS MAKE IT STOP --


Venom was peeled from his body molecule by molecule and this was it, Eddie was going to die. He couldn't take it anymore. Venom couldn't protect him and he couldn't protect Anne. He was ready to go. He was ready to let it all be over.


Venom's quivering black mass congealed next to him as pain wracked them both. The door to his cell opened and he reached out feebly toward Venom, his Other, the only one left in the world that gave him a reason for going on. He closed his eyes.


I'm sorry, love
, Eddie thought, and hoped Venom could hear it, I'm so sorry. The white noise dragged him under into oblivion and this time he welcomed it.

Chapter Text

Eddie awoke and felt nothing. He was confused. How could he have a consciousness if he was dead? Was this what death was, floating in nothingness forever?


If only the afterlife had some goddamn basic cable. He'd take Friends reruns for the rest of eternity over this mind-numbingly boring void.


He heard a sound but couldn't recognize what it was. It didn't matter. Nothing did.


He felt pressure. Heat, then cold.


The void swallowed him whole again.



Eddie opened his eyes and remembered this time who he was. Where he was. He willed his limbs to move but they wouldn't respond.


“Subject exhibits . . . Elev . . . Tivity . . .”


Numbers were swirling in his head. That's what brought him here to this place, wasn't it? The riddle of numbers on screens, numbers on keyboards, numbers on locks.


“Liver . . . Immuno . . .”


Numbers are what unlocked doors and phones and safes. Numbers unlocked secrets. Numbers unlocked more questions than answers.


“Acute . . . Reject . . . “


Eddie was so, so very tired of numbers, but he figured what the hell. He'd count down from 10 one last time and then he'd finally wake up or go to sleep forever. He breathed in slowly and started counting.


10.


“Heart rate ele . . . Adminis . . . “


He missed Anne. He missed a lot of things.


8.


7.


6.


“Oxygen levels . . . Replace the . . . “


5.


His vision grew blurry. Was he crying? He couldn't feel anything specific, just an approximation of heat and wet.


3.


The sound of a door opening drifted to him from another plane of existence. There was a ringing all around, like his very cells were about to vibrate apart. He'd become the white noise.


2.


“Subject stabilizing.” The voice sounded vaguely familiar in a way that made something inside him twist. It wasn't a great feeling.


1.


“You are remarkably resilient, Eddie Brock.”


Svelka was staring down at him with a syringe in hand. 


0.


“Up yours,” Eddie croaked, and passed out again.



Eddie no longer could parse dream from reality. He'd open his eyes and still be stuck in that cell, only the walls would unfold and display a dense forest where he could run, run through the underbrush and never look back, if only he had the willpower to try. His limbs stubbornly refused to respond and the trees stood there mocking him in his infirm state. Will-o-wisps hovered near the boundaries between metal and soil, civilization and the wilds, and they whispered. They whispered in a language Eddie didn't recognize but somehow understood: come join us, brother. Step into our boughs and be swallowed in the green.


Eddie would shake his head. No Garden of Eden, he'd mouth back, no Paradiso for me, sorry fellas, then the walls would close up and leave him alone again.


Svelka checked on him periodically. In between feverish bouts of delirium his gaunt face would morph into Dan, or Eddie’s dad, even though his dad had never so much as handled a needle in his life. They would chastise Eddie or berate him, asking him why he chose to lie there helplessly and let the world slip him by.


Sorry,
he'd say, while they drew blood samples or swabs of his saliva or piss from his catheter. Not ready to deal with the world’s shit today. Tomorrow for sure. Maybe.


“Your fever has improved drastically.” Svelka was talking this time, measuring vitals and whatever else mad scientists measure.


Eddie would have laughed in another place, another time, where he wasn't what he is now: empty. Incomplete. Venom was gone, which meant the most vital part of himself was gone. After being together for days, weeks, months, the thought of Venom not curling around his organs or winding through his brain was incomprehensible. Like living without air. Like scraping by on half of a beating heart.


There was a lot wrong with him. There was a lot wrong with the world, too, and Venom had been the only thing that made it feel remotely right.


“Stop talking and just kill me.” It came out of his mouth so easily. Not a thought was in his head as he said it. An inner zen was taking hold inside, the kind he imagined only monks achieve through years of self discipline and asceticism.


“That would be a waste.” Svelka moved out of sight behind his cot. “Seeing as you are such a suitable match for the symbiote.”


The implication behind that statement was more visceral than the shock of a lightning strike. It dragged Eddie out of his mock-tranquil state, hands clawing for anything to propel himself upright.


“Where is he?” Eddie wheezed, eyes wide and bordering on wild. “What did you do with him? If you hurt him I swear--”


“I have no interest in torturing the symbiote or you. Calm down.” Svelka appeared entirely unimpressed by his threats, moving back into view. “The symbiote will likely be returned to you after you've been placed in Jiyang's custody.”


Eddie only then remembered the blood running through his veins as it ran cold.


“You snake. You, you parasite --” The words slurred together as he willed his arms to flex. He was finally regaining some control of his body. “That's how you make your money, huh? Shipping off exotic specimens you find to your boss?”


“No.” It's said without hesitation. Svelka replaced his IV bag with a new one; that level of attentiveness to his wellbeing almost made Eddie vomit right there. “Jiyang is merely my client. I have no interest in helping him expand his collection. My trade is in products, not people.”


“Yeah, how fuckin’ altruistic of you.” Eddie licked at his lips, tasting bitter metal and rust. “Collection's a really fluffy term for human trafficking.”


“Inhuman trafficking, to be precise.” Svelka gestured about the room as he finished adjusting the new IV bag. "Many have found themselves in the same spot you are."


A fresh wave of nausea slammed into Eddie's diaphragm and stole his breath. The implication that there were hundreds -- no, thousands of innocent inhumans going through this, newly changed and terrified and under Jiyang's thumb, sparked a homicidal rage that coiled tight in his ribs. It's not like the cruelty of it all was anything new to a reporter but the look in this motherfucker's eyes made the epiphany so much worse: there was no look. That's what got him. Svelka didn't seem disgusted at all. For him and every sick fuck running the game this was business as usual. Product changing hands. Svelka sat atop his mountain of money and looked away as injustice after injustice passed him by, not a shred of sympathy spared for his own kind.


All Eddie could do in this drugged out state was lie there fuming. He spat at him and it landed on that pristine white sleeve. Not his face, but close enough. Svelka looked down at the glob of saliva with mild distaste.


“Guess I should've expected no better from Hydra,” Eddie snorted, glossy eyes burning with hate.


Svelka's face did a whole new thing where his eyebrow twitched. Eddie realized he was confused and let out a hoarse sandpapery laugh that turned bitter on his tongue.


“Don't tell me you didn't know.” With monumental effort he finally managed to sit upright. “The company you worked for has a super secret Nazi basement. The same company that Jiyang owns.”


“That basement was liberated by SHIELD in the 1980’s.” Svelka blinked for the second time since Eddie'd been unfortunate enough to know him. “GeneKova has no affiliation to Hydra, and neither do Jiyang or I.”


“But it did.” The metallic taste lingered in Eddie's mouth. Distantly, he wondered if it was blood.


“Yes,” Svelka said, finally stepping away, “It did.” Something was off here. If Eddie had been more inside his own head he might of been able to notice that the skinny bastard's index finger was twitching, the glow of his eyes dimmer than before. He headed for the door, only pausing when Eddie spoke up again.


“You know, you're worse than he is.” Eddie's voice was venomous even without the aid of his Other. “You sit on the sidelines watching someone snatch up people like you. You do fuckall but rake in profit. You're a coward. You're also an idiot for being such a super evil genius if you think you're going to keep me from my symbiote.”


Svelka looked over his shoulder for a moment, staring nonplussed while Eddie gave his impassioned speech. He said nothing, slipping out of the door in silence. Eddie cursed and wished there was a single thing in the room he could throw.



He had no idea how much time had passed in here. Someone had removed his catheter while he was under which freaked him the fuck out but hey, at least he'd been unconscious. He wasn't going to let his mind go down the panic-inducing road of a hypothetical who. There was too much shit to process already.


Eventually his limbs obeyed him enough to get up and walk around. He ripped out the IV hooked into his arm and felt a warm rivulet of blood trail down to his wrist bone. He wiped it off on the bed sheets. It was a small thing, being reminded he could bleed, that he was alive. The oxygen sensor he left dangling by his bedside.


A wave of vertigo made him stumble to his knees but it felt nice. Refreshing, even. It felt good just to feel something.


His clothes had been left folded over the hip-high partition that sheltered the toilet from prying eyes, thank god. Putting those back on at least helped with the chill.


Now he could actually figure out what to do. The only new addition to the room was the monitor that had been measuring his vitals. Maybe he could use the IV stand as a weapon? It looked too unwieldy to brandish.


He turned to the window and nearly burst into tears. Anne's body was stuck in the exact same position as before, still stone. Still dead. Eddie pressed his forehead against the cracked glass and saw what he looked like for the first time in god knows how long; his eyes were red rimmed and he looked sick, so very very sick, stubbly cheeks sallow and the hollows of his eyes dark.  Words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them.


“I don't think sorry can quite cut it here.” Why was he doing this? Anne couldn't hear him, couldn't hear anything anymore. “I fucked up everything big time. And I . . . “


With the medication wearing off the ache of being one half of a whole, being well and truly alone , was an icy emptiness clenching in his gut. It was goddamn unbearable  He had to take a moment to swallow down the lump in his throat before he could talk again. He was a hair's breadth away from shattering apart.


“I felt like I was invincible, you know? Venom and I, we could do anything together. That’s the thing, ain't it -- it's becoming harder and harder to separate the I from the we , and it felt . . .” His hand curled against the window. “It felt good. It felt so right, Anne. More right than anything I've felt before."


He got no response, obviously. At least it helped a bit, being able to talk out loud and organize his thoughts. He closed his eyes because it made it easier to imagine Anne was still there, alive, watching his apology with that determined look of hers. Calling him a self absorbed asshole or a reckless idiot or maybe, just maybe, telling him that it's alright. That they'll all be okay.


“I know I worried you and Dan a lot," he went on, even though the tugging in his throat climbed higher and made his eyes weigh heavy in their sockets, "Way more than is fair to either of you. And I just. Uh.” His voice was trembling again but the tears wouldn't fall. It looked like his body was beyond being able to produce them now, yay him. “I guess I just wanna say thanks, for that. For everything you two have done.”


An unexpected sob tore free as he bashed his forehead against the window. "D-dammit . . . " Distantly he knew that they'd find him soon, force him back into that damned cot and sedate him to oblivion, but he didn't care. All he wanted was to hear Anne's voice again and have Venom back in his head. He wanted it so fucking badly he was willing to tear himself to shreds if it meant a piece of him would make it out and reconnect.


Eddie's eyes shot open at the distinct sound of sediment shifting. He remembered that sound from stomping on dried up mud as a kid, how it cracked into pieces. Anne’s statue was crumbling, chunks of it falling away, and underneath it was --


Anne!”  
He beat his fist against the glass and didn’t care how much it hurt. His heart was racing to the point that his vision swam and his legs threatened to buckle.


Anne’s body broke free of the stone and fell limply to the floor. An invisible band wrapped tight around Eddie's lungs and he couldn’t breathe, couldn't breathe at all. Was she . . . was she moving?


As the seconds ticked by Eddie strained for a single sign and found himself praying in a stream of pleasepleasepleaseGodcomeonplease--


He heard a cough that was distinctly feminine. Anne's head rolled around and a groan left her.


“Holy shit, Anne. You’re alive .” Grinning hurt the chapped skin of his lips and made them bleed but he couldn’t help himself. His legs were threatening to buckle under him from relief. “I can’t believe you’re alive!”


“Eddie?” Anne looked up at him through the tangle of her hair, quickly brushing it aside. “What happened?” She looked around the room with alarm but nothing had changed. “I don’t. What?”


“I don’t know.” Eddie pressed both of his hands against the fractured glass to steady himself. If this was a dream too he never wanted to wake up. “You were this . . . this statue . I thought you were dead.”


“I kinda wish I was.” She pushed herself to her feet very slowly, wincing with the effort. “My head is killing me. What did that guy even do?”


Eddie’s thoughts drifted to the crystal. The mist. Necessary genetic markers. Oh, shit, how hadn’t he pieced it all together before?


“Hey, Anne?” he said, licking nervously at his lips, “I think, uh. I think you might be inhuman.”


Anne’s mouth twitched in a frown. “Excuse me?”  She immediately doubled over, clutching at her head and cursing.


“Inhuman as in like, superpowered. You’re. Yeah.” Eddie had to admit this was completely new territory for him. He hadn’t the slightest clue how to help someone who just discovered they have alien DNA running through their veins. He was just rolling with the punches as best he could these days.


Anne finally got her headache somewhat under control and looked up at him with utter disbelief. “What?” It came out in an undignified squeak.


Before Eddie could explain further Anne’s cell door opened and two guards stepped through.


“New orders arrived, come with us.”


Eddie pounded against the window again but he couldn’t get it to break, not without Venom giving him a hand. Anne was red eyed and terrified, backing away with her teeth bared.


“No. No. Don’t you touch me, leave me alone--!”


When they reached out to grab for her there was a shimmering light that flashed in front of their eyes. Both guards went flying right out of that room as if they’d been launched by a cannon and collided with the hallway wall, falling into an unconscious heap.


Anne yelped in surprise. Eddie just watched open-mouthed and dumbstruck with awe.


“Did I do that?” Her voice was strangled with shock. She was staring at her hands, trembling from head to toe.


“I think so,” Eddie said, craning his head to get a better view. “Hey, do those guys have any keys on them? Maybe you can open my door.”


Anne was still staring at her hands, shellshocked.


“Anne? Anne!”


She jerked her hands down and dashed to the fallen guards, hastily rooting through their pockets. She found a key card and a pistol that she checked the safety on before scooting over to Eddie's door.


The key card worked, thank god. Eddie eagerly bolted out of his cell, looking up and down the hallway. There was no way all the commotion hadn’t alerted someone in this. Uh. He actually had no idea where they were.  He could hardly focus beyond the tugging in his gut and the chill wracking the rest of him. He felt feverish, an infuriating fatigue settling into his joints.


“What way do we go?” Anne’s head was whipping back and forth, fists curled tight with tension. Beyond the keycard they had nothing but the clothes on their backs. They both jumped as an alarm sounded over the intercom.


“Warning, containment breach in cells 2A and 2B,” chimed a robotic female voice, “All personnel please evacuate Sub Level 3. Security teams will respond shortly."


Eddie raised a hand before Anne could say anything else, the alarm fading into the background as he closed his eyes to focus. A pulsing pressure had settled into the back of his skull. Venom was gone but he wasn’t dead. He couldn’t explain it -- he just knew. His symbiote was calling out to him through this unnatural heat, propelling him forward.


“This way.” His eyes shot open and he took off to the left.


“Eddie?” Anne quickly dashed after him, slipping the key card into her pocket. The gun she kept on hand. “Where are we going?" Something was off about this place. The pipes running overhead, the yellow rails, the claustrophobic hallways, they didn’t match up with any sort of facility they’d seen before.


“Trust me, Anne.” Eddie couldn't have stopped himself even if he wanted to. He was utterly entranced. The sickness scraping at his insides narrowed his focus into this single point, Venom's distress a silent beacon tugging at every part of him. His body wasn't his own, not completely. Maybe it never would be again.


“Eddie,” Anne said, grabbing for his arm. In their hurry they’d reached an intersection that led either straight or to the right. Maybe he hadn’t heard her because he didn’t even slow down, not until she tugged on his sleeve again. “Eddie, wait .”


“What?” he snapped, rounding to face her, “We can’t afford to stop, Anne, they’re --” The look on his face must've surprised her because she halted in her tracks, expression faltering. An immediate stab of guilt hit him but thankfully she was too ballsy to pull away. He shut his mouth and stopped.


“Just listen to me for a second, okay?” She released her grip when she heard shouting far away. “At first I thought I imagined it but no, I felt the floor shifting underneath us. Like a wave. We’re not on land right now, Eddie. We’re over open sea. If the only way out of here is up then they’ve already blocked all of the staircases.”


Eddie blinked at her, uncomprehending, because the thought of escaping right now had been the furthest thing from his mind. He wasn’t going anywhere until he was whole again.


“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “We’ll make our own entrance once --”


“Stop!” Two security guards were racing down the hallway on their right, pistols raised and ready to fire.


“Oh goddammit,” Anne groaned, right before Eddie yanked her past the intersection. The sound of bullets digging into the concrete wall was unmistakable. Straight ahead it was.