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Everything That Lives (Lives Not Alone)

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“We shouldn’t do this Eddie,” Maria’s expression is as disapproving as a capybara’s could get.

Eddie finds himself rolling his eyes and staring out the window, outside the snowmobile was a vast expanse of untouched white. “Not you too,” he gripes. “It’s only a few questions.” The Bugle might’ve wanted him to do this interview, but it’d taken him a while to convince Jameson to fly him up to Greenland for it instead of waiting for Drake to come back from Life Foundation’s northern compound.

Reaching out, he scratches behind Ri’s ears, which doesn’t seem to alleviate her disapproval. “Questions about severing Eddie,” even the word has her pressing closer in fear. He feels it too, though only in the abstract, based on descriptions he’s read in old books. “Even if the Magisterium doesn’t have much sway in New Denmark, the fact that they outlawed it is still something. Not even Drake would go up against them.”

“Then what about what Anne told us?” he challenges. He rubs his thumb against the back of his wedding band. Anne usually never talked about what came across her desk at the office, but this had apparently been too much even for her. “They’re up to something and the world needs to know.” If the more out there stories were to be believed, the world almost ended the last time someone did things like this.

Ri sighs and doesn’t say anything more, finally given up on trying to convince him.

Out of the white expanse, a building emerges. There almost seems something threatening about it. Eddie pushes that feeling aside; it’s not like people who built things this far north were worried about aesthetically pleasing buildings.

At the checkpoint the two guards give him a once over before waving him in. He’s just glad he doesn’t have their jobs.

The driver opens the door and Eddie scoops Ri up without thought, her heavy weight familiar. It’s much warmer inside the building itself and the both of them give a small sigh of relief. He sets her down before smiling at the woman waiting for them.

“Mr. Brock?” She certainly isn’t dressed like she works in a scientific outpost, neat skirt and blouse, her dark skin making her chameleon daemon stick out more. “I’m Shelby, Mr. Drake’s assistant. He’s waiting for you in the atrium.”

Unlike the anbaric lights that fill the rest of the building, the sunlight streaming through the atrium’s ceiling feels far more comforting, so does the greenery everywhere. It’s a sliver of the more southern climes everyone here is probably used to. Drake is rich enough to be able to afford it.

Drake himself looks even more out of place than his assistant, slick suit and hair making him look like he’s about to attend a party of some sort, not do experimental theology. “Glad you could join us, Mr. Brock.” A black-brown serpentine head rises for a second from Drake’s neck before settling back down. “I hope the trip wasn’t too arduous.” He holds a hand out.

“Not at all,” Eddie does wish they’d get the niceties out of the way. Familiar jitters tangling inside of him, he’s gonna catch Drake in a lie today, expose the whole sordid mess. “I hope you don’t mind if I record our conversation?” All the better to present as evidence. Drake’d be wary about talking at first, but Eddie’d long ago learned how to get people to forget they were being recorded.

“Not at all,” Drake’s all easy smiles. “All the better to make things clearer, I say.”

Eddie smiles back, reaches into his pocket to flick on his dictaphone, and they begin.

“...and what about the Life Foundation’s endeavors?” It’s a fight not to let the jitters out, to play his hand too early. Thankfully Ri’s as placid as always, looking at her, nobody’d suspect a thing.

“While the work doctors do is all well and good, we think experimental theology could help them improve their successes even more. The Life Foundation’s already provided equipment that’s help prevent countless deaths. Nevermind the procedures and medication’s we’ve invented.”

All true, but those inventions come drenched in blood Eddie’s sure. “So then the rumors about the deaths here are just that?”

Drake’s still smiling, but there’s a crack in it now. “Yes. Competitors trying to discredit us. Ford, Rockafeller, Stark, they’re all bastions of the old world. But this is a new world, and the Life Foundation’s the cutting edge of that world.”

Eddie can take a cue when he gets one. “I, I’ve actually heard some real bad ones if I’m honest Mr. Drake, your competitors must really want you gone. I mean everyone knows the sort of public outcry you’d get if they found there were theologians performing Cuttings.” Just like everyone knew what happened to the Oblation Board in Brytan less than fifty years ago.

“Mr. Brock,” Drake’s smile becomes far more brittle. “I believe we should end the interview here.”

Like that’s gonna stop him. “You can say the Life Foundation doesn’t do those right? I can’t imagine you’d be doing it to your own people, so how would you get others in?” Ri presses against his knee in warning.

Seconds later guards grab him, their dog daemons growling at Ri and herding her away, forcing Eddie to follow. “I’ll be back, Drake.”

“I’m sure you’ll try, Mr. Brock.”

Like Eddie’s gonna let a little thing like being uninvited stop him.

At the end of the return trip, Eddie gets all but tossed out and nearly buried under the swaths of snow that the snowmobile throws up when it drives off.

“Well, that went well,” Ri’s dry sarcasm has Eddie rolling his eyes.

Standing up, he dusts snow off himself. “We know he really is hiding something now.” It’s the only reason someone like Drake would get that defensive. “Come on, there’s an outdoorsman store at the end of the street.”

It’s telling that Ri chooses to walk through the snow instead of letting him carry her like usual.

Eddie pushes it from his mind as they reach the store. He honestly doesn’t know the first thing about trekking through snow. Sure they get it in New Amsterdam, but nothing like this, least not in the city proper. The clerk’s a nice help on that front, seemingly uncurious as to why Eddie needs all of this gear.

Then it’s back to his hotel for the afternoon; once it’s gone dark he’ll go back.

-

Before it was brought to this bright place all it remembers is dark and silence. Brief moments of pain and strange things grabbing and pulling are the only marker it has between this new existence and the nothingless mass before. The tube is safe. Except when the ones who took it unlock the tube, then it’s not safe. Then there’s pain and it cannot synthesize, be. Like the first time, it wonders how can anything live in this?

Yet the tube keeps being opened.

They always give it two hosts in cages and when it moves to inhabit the larger one there’s pain, and a rush of power that charges through it, through them.

Yet when the rush fades something is missing.

When it, they, open eyes the other host—animal, yet not, is the answer it gets when it rifles through memories and minds—is taken away. Small, and hurt. Prey-signs, yet there’s never an urge to consume as there should be.

Yet it can now live, the body fuel, the mind uncaring. Not that it is freedom. Always poking, prodding, tests. Other potential hosts observing and making notes. They dislike them.

They try to break free, but there is no escape. Crackling power courses through the walls and the watchers learn about the sounds from tests on its fellows.

Like all the others the host wears out—it doesn’t want this to happen, but it cannot stop it either, there is nothing worth eating besides the body itself—when that happens they let it go back into the tube. Where it’s safe, yet it is not living.

It is in a new host now, body different from the others it’s inhabited so far, curvier, the systems different too, yet the mind is as unresisting as always. Why?

It has learned things about these hosts having been in so many, and it fixes what it can to make it what he thinks it should be, but even that does not fix the sense of missing. Yet if it has been in every host is it wrong? They have it, how can they be missing anything?

This host will last time yet though, time enough perhaps to figure it out.

Footsteps. They listen warily, another watcher? These steps are strange though, different sounding.

Something that looks like the larger of the two hosts choices, yet is covered in something else, comes down the hall. It has heard the watchers mention something about these things called ‘bears’, perhaps this is one of them. If so it does not understand why they are worried.

It is accompanied by a not-animal like the others, strange, he thought they would not always walk in pairs, perhaps they are afraid they will escape and jump to someone new. So it is clear it will have to come up with a different name for the first set. Curiosity has it riffle through its host’s mind, human is provided. Yes, that does seem to fit the bigger of the two hosts.

This other kind walks around slowly, talking—it can understand the language when it is in a host, but their minds are so foggy that even that is not much. The smaller of the two is walking around on its four legs.

There is something mentioned about ‘torture’ and ‘crimes,’ it knows those words, but not the context.

A bright flash of light has them jerking away, it does not hurt but it is a surprise. The other hosts jump too, the top of the big one’s head falling away. Underneath is a...human face...did this human hold another type of them? How come they could be free but they could not?

Using the body will make it last less time, which seems to anger the scientists, but it is tired of them being locked away when they could be free. The hosts don’t look away as it changes its host, the power tingles but they break through eventually, determined when they were not before.

The smaller of the hosts tugs at the bigger one, it speaks too. Something that it’s never heard the other hosts do before. The bigger one scrambles away, fear filling the air.

They will not let it get away though, not when it might give them freedom. It does not care if it has to fight whatever thing is in the big one, it will take the host, take the freedom. It does not want to kill the other one, but it also does not think they would like the smaller of the two hosts after having inhabited the bigger one, the far better one.

Screaming comes from the big one, but that is nothing new; these human hosts always scream when being entered. It seeps in, surprise flickering when it realizes there is no other, there is only the human.

A human unlike any other human it’s ever encountered however—oh it is similar to previous hosts true, but that is not what it means—there are thoughts and emotions, and food. Food the other humans have never given. Why? Why was this one special?

The human scrambles, hands moving everywhere. “What?”

“Eddie,” the smaller of the two hosts is calm. “We need to go.”

Did this host have a name? None of the others had. Was that why this one was special?

It’s not that, it realizes as it begins to spread, slowly inhabiting the whole of this human. The missing is not where it expects it to be. There is something there, something the other hosts have not had. It cannot tell what it is though.

The human—Eddie?—stands. It would help but it is still spreading, uncertain of this filled space where there should be nothing.

They scoop up the other one and runs. Yes, good, it lends them strength, makes them faster.

Not fast enough. More humans, its host jerks away but the...dogs… some of these humans have encircle them.

The host stills, but it does not. It subsumes Eddie and the not-animal and attacks.

Guards flinch and scream and die as it gets rid of the dogs. The dogs themselves vanish. It does not understand, but understanding can come later. First escape.

They run only to find more guards, guards with ‘guns’ and something else they point at them that produces sound.

Screaming, it does its best to cling. It needs this. This host will get it away, will sustain it far better than the rest.

“Don’t separate them!” A voice, Drake, speaks.

The sound stops and it must retreat, recover. The not-animal slips away, making sounds of pain.

One of the guards aims and fires. It does not hit Eddie, but the not-animal, which stumbles, a woozy feeling filling Eddie.

“Put them into the cages, perhaps Mr. Brock will finally be of some use, for once in his life.”

It would fight the sedatives, but it doesn’t know where. So all it can do is let them grab Eddie. They also reach for the not-animal.

When they touch it, it’s it that is fully subsumed, Eddie’s pain and sense of violation overwhelming everything.

It tries to get it to stop, to fix it, but it comes from everywhere, from that place it doesn’t understand. It is only everything now.

“Please,” Eddie begs. The not-animal struggles weakly, an anxious huffing sound leaving it. “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.”

Fix it, fix it, fix it, is all that runs through it but it can’t, all it can do is live with the sensation, learn to hate it as much as Eddie does. “Please, let me hold her. Ri, Ri,” Eddie reaches for...Ri, but the guards keep her out of reach. “Maria.”

They should not have to beg, they are more, better. But there is no ceasing to the wrongness, to the violation. Inescapable no matter where it turns.

Familiar golden cages come into view. Ri is put into the smaller one and the absence of feeling is a relief.

Not that it lasts for long, the violating wrongness may have ended, but Eddie is still panicking. “Drake.Drake! You can’t do this. Once they find out what you’re doing there won’t even be a trial! The mob’ll just tear you to shreds.”It tries to calm Eddie’s heart, calm his body. Too much stress will make it harder to escape.

“You know what Eddie?” Drake stands in the doorway, looking back at them. “I don’t think you’ll be in any sort of shape to tell them.” He closes the door.

There is humming and it knows this part. Except everything is also new: Eddie struggling to get out, to reach Ri, Ri curled in on herself, distressed clicks escaping her every few heartbeats. “Ri we’ll get through this, I promise, I swear.”

“Don’t lie Eddie, I love you.”

Jealousy curls in it. Ri seems to be a part of Eddie, but it cannot reach her. Perhaps…

There’s a thin tube of mesh that connects the cages, it sends a tendril of himself down. Power hums but it ignores it. Closer, closer, almost… Sharp pain fills it and the screams it is so familiar with fill the room. A shiny silver blade’s blocking the way.

It cannot be worried about that now though, nor the rush of energy. Because Eddie, Eddie is hurt again, that missing void beginning in him. No, no, no! It will not let Eddie turn into the others. The violation, the pain, those might be things it does not want, but the rest it needs.

Even if it doesn’t know how it works it can try to fill the missing now, fill it with freedom and yearning and a need to belong. Fill it with itself. On and on it fights the emptiness, barely even aware of the guard picking them up and carrying them away. Other guards pick up Ri, except now there is nothing from her, not a whisper.

Were those second choices then never choices? Were these humans somehow two things at once? Ri has been the only difference it seems between Eddie and the rest. It will be better than her, she was apart from Eddie after all, and it will be inside Eddie, always.

They’re thrown into a room. Eddie is in shock and it, it is worn. Too much work on too little energy.

Together they slip into the void.

Chapter Text

Eddie wakes. He feels numb, he feels. “Ri,” he croaks. What happened to them? Weakly his fingers fumble for her fur, nothing but cloth. A smooth, viscous fills his hands. It should scare him, but there is only numbness.

Sleep Eddie. All is well.

Against his better judgement, he finds himself being pulled back into sleep.

-

When he wakes again he’s more...aware. His vision is almost too sharp, senses almost too much. “Ri?” He groans, pushing himself upright. What happened? He hasn’t feel this awful since college.

His whole body aches, but moves. The anbaric light makes his head hurt, only for the pain to slip away. Eh, must’ve been a hell of a night then. Looking around Eddie searches for Ri; warm fur and mild chastising sounds about right at this point.

Except...he’s alone in the room. His heart pounds only for a second, then it smooths back into a regular rhythm, the sensation...unsettling. “Ri?” He calls out again. The fact that the room is bare doesn’t help with his feeling of unsettlement; something’s wrong.

She is not here.

Well he knows that. Granted, it’s just like himself to state the obvious. He moves from upright to standing, his whole body aches again, only for it to slide away like the headache. Reaching the door, he tries to get it to open. No luck.

Locked, they don’t want us to escape. Drake does not want us to escape.

Drake’s name trips the cascade of memories and Eddie sags against the wall as he relives what happened. “Oh, God.” It’s not where the pain is coming from, but he presses a hand against his chest anyways. Cut, he’s been Cut. He and Ri will never be whole again.

No matter who he surrounds himself with, he’ll always be alone.

Not alone!

Eddie starts, his brain finally picking out that whatever that voice is it’s not his.

His eyes widen in something like horror—at least he thinks so, since there’s no accompanying feeling of terror—as something black and shiny exudes from his arm, growing thicker and thicker until it begins to form a face: thick white wedges he thinks might be eyes, and teeth, so many teeth.

“You are not alone Eddie. Never will be, ever again.”

“Wh-” Manages to slip out of Eddie’s mouth, his mind too much of a jumble to formulate actual words.

“I am...Venom,” the voice that leaves the...thing is sibilant and deep. The pause before the name is strange, but Eddie can’t place why. Not that he has the time, because as if done deliberately, a memory surfaces through his chaotic mind. Exploring the lab he’d found, taking a picture of the woman and his shock when she moved, somehow still alive. The inhuman way she’d moved and the fear of watching her shift and turn into something monstrous. Watching it break through the door and go right towards him. The slick darkness all but leaping off the woman and sinking into him…

Like the night before, his hands scramble over himself, as if attempting to brush off a spider. Except there’s no spider and it’d probably take more than a brushing to get this...off.

“Will not come off, I am inside you. We are together now, I cannot be taken like Ri was.”

Again his heart attempts to beat harder, only for something to stop it. “Are you…” Maybe someday soon he’ll actually be able to finish a question.

The head...nods. “Must keep you working right, otherwise you will not be healthy.” There’s an odd sort of pleasure, and there’s a flicker of unsettlement again, to the voice, as if it’s glad it figured that out. “You are harder than my other hosts, but you are more aware than they were.” A pause. “That is good though, I am as you are and we are Venom.”

Eddie isn’t sure he can argue with that, even if he wanted to he’s not sure how. So something different, then. “Where’s Ri?” Ha! There’s a full question finally. Things are...well they’re not as bad as before, not that that means much when he’s clearly at rock bottom.

“Gone.” The head ripples. “Don’t know where they took her.” Not that...Venom sounds as if...they’re that interested.

“Need…” Eddie forces himself to stand, something surging through him and helping him. “Is that you?” It feels like a rhetorical question once it leaves his mouth.

“Yes,” Venom still answers.

Okay, Eddie...Eddie can deal with this...later. Now, now… “I need to find Ri,” he tries to make his voice as firm as possible. They might be severed but he still needs her. Needs that steadiness, her weight on his legs whenever he sprawls to read, her insights. She’s still a part of him, no matter what.

Venom frowns. It would be terrifying if he could actually feel terror again. “I do not understand. I am in you, you do not need her. I will keep you safe, keep you alive . What is she that we are not?” Petulant, this...thing, should not be able to be petulant.

“She’s…” What words could he possibly use? Oh, he knows there’s poetry, the vaguely remembered theological terms from long ago classes. Yet everyone agrees that those are only a fraction of what a daemon really is. “I can’t explain it.”

The head ripples, Eddie thinks it might be a frown on the face. Something flickers inside his head and…

He’s a child again, waking up from a nightmare, Ri shifting into a bear shape, curling around him and rumbling in warning against any future terrors.

The strange sense of comprehension he’d felt when she’d settled into her final shape, like a curtain being pulled back about himself he hadn’t even realized was there. Oh he’d be wild, but Ri was always an anchoring, like Anne now, too.

Every single one of his seemingly endless college flings, Ri’s enjoyment and yet vaguely judging expression.

Them arguing, them curling up together, just the sense of her being there as he worked.

A life shared in tandem, the way it should be.

The flickering stops and the face frowns even more. “I can be that,” Venom protests.

“I don’t know you,” he protests right back. “I’ve lived my whole life with her. How can you replace that?” He still doesn’t know how to feel about the fact that something is living inside him now, kind of against his will. Yet there’s a suspicion that if this...Venom weren’t inside him he wouldn’t be aware enough to be wondering about Ri. A shudder rushes down his spine at the thought.

“Yes, I have kept you whole. You are not like my other hosts, I want you to stay that way.”

That’s...nice. Also, galling to try and think of how many times Drake’s done this and gotten away with it. And Drake probably has his camera, meaning if he manages to get back to New Amsterdam he’ll have nothing except his word against Drake’s.

“We…” For now he’s just going to have to live with it. “We need to get out, get Ri, maybe my stuff.” If Drake hadn’t destroyed it already. Get away from here, back to New Denmark at least.

Venom looks mutinous, also Eddie’s perhaps not as worried as he should be that he can pick out expressions. “Fine.” He sinks back into Eddie’s skin, the fact that there’s no accompanying sensation is disconcerting. We will escape, find Ri, find your...things.

Darkness climbs up over all of him, he has a vague memory of this from before, enveloping and growing. Large hands reach out, fingers shifting to go narrow and flat, testing the edges of the door. Finds the smallest of cracks and...the door’s gone. The sudden show of strength takes Eddie aback.

There’s a smug ripple as they walk out. See. If Eddie could, he would roll his eyes.

Despite their size, they move quiet and quick. “Avoid people.” It feels like Eddie’s saying it, except he doesn't hear it or even feel his vocal cords vibrate.

Hungry, is the only reply he gets.

Eddie decides not to contemplate the ‘why’ of that. He’s relieved when they do hear voices there’s a surge and they’re hanging from the ceiling. Which is disorienting, but he’ll deal.

He does his best to recall his piecemeal map from when he and Ri broke in, if only to keep them from wandering around long enough for someone to know they’re missing. The map only works for about a quarter of the compound however and, as far as he knows, never got them anywhere close to any daemons.

They do make it back to the labs though, and Eddie finds the same revulsion as before twisting through him. “What are they doing here?” Except for maybe him—perhaps it’s a good thing he’s cocooned as he is, otherwise he’d be something of a crying mess—Drake’s cuttings seem to be deliberately done. But what for?

The...Venom shrugs, or better put he shrugs, but it’s not him doing the shrugging. They are doing tests, could never understand them enough to find out ‘why’.

That has Eddie frowning. Yet he doesn’t really get a chance to figure out more before they’re on the ceiling again. Voices Eddie hadn’t even noticed getting closer are passing right underneath them. Not even one? The voice sounds so plaintive.

Which means Eddie does have to think of the earlier comment. He’s hungry too and yet… “People don’t eat other people!” Except, of course, when they do. But that’s not what’s appropriate for him at all.

A low rumble passes through him at that, it comes from everywhere, clearly from...the thing that’s...wearing him. Venom, is the almost amused reply.

Before he can challenge that he doesn’t know what Venom is, Venom ‘speaks’ again. Hear animals, quiet. Still on the ceiling, they move. They drop down when they reach a door. Like before, Venom manages to rip the door off its hinges and they walk in.

Eddie wants to vomit, and he can feel something moving through him to stop it, which is probably a good thing.

Cages litter the smallish room. More cages than he can count, but only fifteen are occupied.

The animals inside look like they might have stepped from the pages of penny dreadfuls or one of those Gothic novels Anne sometimes reads to him: pale and specter-like. It makes him want to throw up again, maybe go find Drake and...Eddie’s never been a truly violent man before, but he could see himself killing Drake.

Yes! It hisses around in Eddie’s head. Let us hunt him down and consume him! You wish him dead and we can do that. It’s murmured like a promise and it makes something in Eddie shudder—he will not contemplate the exact reasons why .

“Ri,” he repeats. Focus.

Venom...melts back into him, leaving him shaking for a few seconds. He forces himself to walk however, eyes searching. “Ri?” He whispers it, a part of him feeling as if he has no right to her name anymore, they’re no longer one and the same after all.

All of the other daemons react to him of course, pained, quiet sounds, but no matter how much it hurts he makes himself ignore them. When he manages to catch the sound of a soft chuff his heart races for a moment. He follows the sound to a larger cage a ways away from the others. With trembling fingers he unlocks it and reaches inside. “Ri.”

She follows his touch out, burying her face in the crook of his arm like she’s done countless times before. Except there’s no more rush of love and affection, only the heavy weight of her and the warm puff of her breathing. He holds her tighter and lets himself cry.

He doesn’t exactly feel it, but there’s a sensation of something seeping from his skin. It’s the same head as before, examining Ri closely. She is strange, Venom seems baffled by this. What is wrong with her?

“We’re broken,” is Eddie’s numb reply.

The head rears back, expression reminding Eddie of an angry cat. Not broken, I kept you whole.

Eddie wants to laugh at that, but isn’t sure he can. After a few minutes he feels tired and empty, Venom’s head disappears and he can...feel it shift around in him, as if trying to fill up that empty feeling. “Stop,” he finds himself muttering. “Not something you can fix,” there’s perhaps more bitterness in his voice than he means.

Ri’s nose pushes against his cheek. “Eddie?”

You are a good host, I do not want to leave. Eddie sort of feels that it’s his body and the thing inside him doesn’t exactly get a say.

All he gets in response to that is a snarl.

Burying his face in Ri’s fur Eddie lets out a sigh. “We...can’t stay here.”

“No,” Ri agrees, sounding almost like herself.

Even if they’re not connected anymore he can’t let her go, hauling her up in his arms and carrying her with him. His heart breaks but he leaves the other daemons in their cages, not sure letting them free would help them.

It feels almost like wandering as they make their way out of the labs and back to the hole he’d cut in the fence what feels like forever ago now. The chain link is icy-cold against his skin as he slumps against it.

“We have to keep going Eddie,” Ri sounds firm even as she trembles in his arms.

He wants to cry again but is too wrung out from the last time. “I know,” he croaks. Except...even if he can’t help those daemons, he could stop this from happening again. At least from Drake. Knowing what’s going on here and not stopping it feels like a tremendous evil, one he can’t abide.

Eddie doesn't know if he’ll survive this, if he’ll ever see Anne again. He also can’t stand by. Setting Ri down he shrugs off the thick fur coat he’d been wearing and lays it over her. “I’ll be back,” he tells her.

She sinks onto the snow, flakes rising up as she huffs. “Don’t lie Eddie,” the words make them both ache.

As the cold sinks into him he turns back to face the compound. “Venom?” It feels ridiculous to say out loud.

There’s no response, just sullen anger like a hot coal in his gut.

Gritting his teeth, Eddie shoves his hands in his armpits to try and keep them warm. “Look, when this is over we can...talk.” He can’t believe he’s even thinking of this as a viable option. “Right now, I want to stop Drake, and I need your help.” Sure he can box, but that doesn’t do much against guys with guns and whatever else sort of weapons Drake’s people might have. “Please,” it feels almost...pitiful to end with that.

Yet some of the anger fades away. We will stop Drake, is the answer he gets. It’s not quite as terrifying the third time to be engulfed. Sleep Eddie, we will take care of it.

Too exhausted to argue, Eddie sleeps.

-

It might not have been the response Venom wanted, but perhaps it’s all it’s going to get for now. Subsuming Eddie, Venom still finds something like a smile pull their teeth back as they run back towards the compound. It’d felt Eddie’s aversion to eating people, but its host is sleeping now, wouldn’t know. It would benefit them both in the end.

Now that Venom knows they have things that will try to pull them apart, it’s more careful. A second attack like that might be too much, even after some food.

Their kills are silent, every head consumed. Every time the human’s...daemon vanishes. It is still strange.

It is also satisfying to be the hunter, to be the thing these humans fear. They never see them, but the humans even still tense and pause, as if something is telling them they are being hunted. It does make things more...enjoyable.

As they make their way through the compound, Venom doesn’t see its...fellows, even though it has seen them in their own tubes. Not that it has ever had contact with any of them, it knows they are...alike and not alike. One it knows is dead, the others...are nowhere it can sense.

Yet it finds itself unworried about it, dropping from the ceiling to bite off another head. They had all been separate before they’d been brought here, nothing beyond the void they had all come from in common. They are as strange to it as Eddie is. The only worthy host here is Eddie, and it doesn’t want to share him with anything else.

Down the hall they finds those...things that nearly broke it away from Eddie. With ease they destroy them; they will not let it happen again.

More people, so many that they become full. Just killing them isn’t as satisfying as killing and eating them. Faster though.

They save Drake for last.

Outrage is not the expression they expect to see on his face. “I’m trying to save the world.”

Venom...does not care, yet it nudges Eddie. Humans are strange things, perhaps it will be important to him. It will be curious to learn. Eddie’s thoughts are sluggish as he wakes, though they sharpen as Venom prods.

“Breaking people is not saving the world,” they snarl.

Drake backs away, the fear coming off him delicious; too bad they’re no longer hungry. “As short sighted as the rest of the world,” he snarls. It’s not as impressive as their snarl. “Humanity could be so much better than it is.”

Eddie is unimpressed. Venom whips their tongue and hand out, plucking Drake up with ease. “Boring.”

Claws dig in with ease, puncturing all those fragile organs and breaking bones. Blood isn’t as tasty as heads, but it’s satisfying anyways. They let Drake’s broken body slip from their hold, falling to the ground with a sad plop.

“He deserved it,” yet Eddie still sounds sad. Humans are strange.

“Now?” Venom doesn’t know what they should do. Eddie should know. He is the one who knows the world outside of this place.

Silence.

“Eddie?”

A sigh. “We grab Ri and go home.”

Chapter Text

It’s not that Eddie ‘comes to’ when they’re at the air strip, it’s more like Venom gives back full control—it’d sunken back into Eddie’s body right before they came back into town, but had still been the one moving them—content to watch people as Eddie staggers his way to the counter.

Despite the worried look the man behind the counter gives him, Eddie still manages to charm him into letting Eddie swap out his ticket for the zeppelin going to New Amsterdam on Monday to one going to Boston in an hour. It’ll mean taking a train when he gets there, but that’s better than sitting in town and waiting for things to start going wrong.

Nothing will go wrong. Eddie wishes he could be as confident as that.

Once onboard Eddie wastes no time settling into the small cabin he has, pointedly not looking out the window—it’s not so bad at the moment, but he knows once they launch it’s going to be a problem. The only reason he’d been convinced to travel by zeppelin rather than ship is the time it’d take; Jameson wasn’t going to let him waste two perfectly good days if he had the choice.

The cabin also means that they’re alone for the moment, although he doubts anyone will be joining him considering the late hour, giving him time to finally come to terms with everything that’s happened.

He and Ri have been severed. Already he’d noticed people giving them odd looks. Ri was not looking at all like a daemon should, yet he didn’t think they’d sensed something ‘wrong’ about them. Without thought he starts petting Ri, his mind still of the idea that petting her will help soothe himself.

“We’re going to have to tell Anne.” Even if they tell no one else, she deserves to know. Deserves to have the choice of whether to stay with them or leave, no matter how much a part of him wants to keep her by him always.

Ri snuggles closer, and even though it hurts it does still bring up a ghost of the comfort it once did. “Yes,” she agrees. “About your...new friend as well.” It’s not quite distaste in her voice.

“Anne?” Venom’s ‘head’ snakes out of his shoulder this time, just as eerie as the last time.

“My wife,” Eddie finds himself answering without thought. Yes, they need to tell her about Venom too, even if that might drive her away faster than him being broken.

“Not broken!” All of Venom that he can see, and more besides, ripples in clear anger—when it passes through Eddie’s stomach he feels queasy. “I kept us from breaking.” It insists with a snarl.

An answering anger rises up in Eddie. “You kept me from breaking,” he snaps back. “But Ri’s a part of me too, and now she won’t ever be again. I can’t fully be me without her, even with you keeping me together.” It’s perhaps bitter and vindictive, but he does mean it. Drake had said he was trying to make humanity better, but Eddie just thinks the man was sick, sick enough to think people would be better off without their daemons.

It’s perhaps a good thing he hasn’t likely eaten in days, because the thought makes him even queasier.

Venom doesn’t retreat, but he does shrink. Ri’s huff is warm against his hand. “It’s not it’s fault Eddie, it’s Drake’s for deciding to do this in the first place.” Her gaze drifts to Venom. “Unless you’re the one who suggested it?” Ri doesn’t get angry often, but while Venom might have more teeth, Eddie’s got a good idea of who might come out on top if they scuffled.

“No,” Venom answers. “Before we were taken to the bright place with the watchers,” there’s a ruffle in Eddie’s mind, “The compound, we knew only darkness and quiet. Before that there was pain and desperation to survive, before that there was only the void and floating.”

Eddie gets flashes of it himself as Venom remembers. They are wholly alien and strange ways of processing and seeing the world. “In this place we cannot survive without a host, and we want that host to be you Eddie. You are the best host we could ask for.” There’s something plaintive and entreating about its voice, despite the deepness of it. “We don’t want to cause you harm Eddie, we do not know this world, or humans.”

Yes, Eddie’s starting to get that. Again he cards his fingers through Ri’s fur, seeking familiar comfort, aching when it’s not to be found.

Venom makes a pained sound, and Eddie can feel it...emerging from him under his clothes. Not too much however thankfully, the unseen oily blackness squeezing, as if trying to hug him. It’s...nice, but also not at all what Eddie wants.

“Tell us what you want and we will give it to you Eddie, I am as you are and we should not be sad.”

“There’s nothing to be done,” as much as he doesn’t want to say it. “Nothing can fix this.”

Another sound from Venom and the head, along with the rest of him, sinks back into Eddie. If he focuses he can feel it...moving around inside him, organs and veins shifting and growing as whatever Venom is passes through. The only reason it doesn’t make him feel more awful than he already does is likely because he’s still in shock.

Ri lifts herself up from the seat next to him and climbs atop him, sprawling out in his lap. “I miss you, Eddie.”

He wraps his arms around her neck and gives a hug. “I miss you, too,” he sounds choked up as he says it.

She chirrups, fur prickling against his neck.

“Please be prepared to show the flight attendants your ticket, as we will be lifting off shortly.” A soothing woman’s voice breaks through their moment over the PA system.

Right, soon they’re going to be a few thousand feet up in the air and he’s going to be even worse off than he is now. Possibly. It’s not as if he has his usual distractions either; perhaps he should’ve bought a paper or two from the newstand before boarding. Crosswords and critiquing other journalists work always distracted him.

“There’ll be papers we could buy in the dining room,” Ri provides, it almost feeling as if she’d read his emotions. Only, it’s her working off their decades-long bond. She knows how much he hates heights and what he usually does to distract himself.

But for a few seconds, he can fool himself. “That means walking to the dining room, dearest.” She can still be that to him at least. Anne is Annie, and sweetheart, Ri will always be his dearest though, even apart as they are now. “Too many windows.”

Ri snorts.

I would keep us from falling out. Venom sounds quieter than before. Even if we fell I would keep us safe.

Which is not as reassuring as Venom thinks it is. It’s the height that bothers Eddie, not the fall.

The engines rumbling up cut off any sort of response Eddie might give. He shifts from moving upright to laying down, making sure his ticket’s in easy reach in case he does get checked, Ri’s weight a comforting press on his chest and torso.

Inside him Venom...shivers as the rumbling of the engines grows louder, not quite shaking the whole zeppelin, but there’s a definite tremor now that everyone onboard could feel. Feels funny. It says unprompted. Eddie almost wants to laugh.

“What?” Ri sounds almost cranky, her breath hot against his face.

“Venom’s not sure about the rumbling.” He answers softly.

A distressed grunt leaves her. Making it his turn to ask what’s the matter. A question he would never have had to ask before.

“It knows you, and I don’t anymore,” is all she says in response. Falling stubbornly silent.

Not that she needs to say anything more. Everything circles back eventually to what happened and how their lives have been changed forever. How things were going to change even more when he got home. Jameson wouldn’t be happy about how the interview had gone, nevermind what he might suspect whenever somebody went up to the Life Foundation compound and discovered the aftermath. Anne would freak out in that way of hers when he told her what happened, probably leave him, like she probably should. The few co-workers he considered friends would drift away, never mind the neighbors, who likely wouldn’t be his neighbors anymore since…

Stop that, it’s accompanied by sharp pricklings against the inside of his skin—a feeling he’d rather not feel again, thank you very much. We already feel awful, why make it worse?

Eddie’s not sure he wants to explain the vagaries of the human psyche to the thing that lives inside him now, nevermind the fact that he’s coming to accept he’s stuck with it. It hasn’t actually tried to kill him yet.

Will not kill you, Venom insists. Keep you alive.

Eddie’s starting to get that, but that doesn’t mean he’s okay with it. Venom, it seems, is as much a victim of this as he is. And yet, Eddie’s not exactly comfortable with it living inside him, nevermind that if it left, Eddie’d be worse off than he is now. He’s also not sure handing Venom off to someone else would be...good in any way.

No, I want you to be my host, Eddie. Venom...curls up inside his chest. Eddie expects to have trouble breathing, but it never comes, which doesn’t mean he can’t feel it move and shift as his heart beats and his lungs work.

There’s a knock on the cabin door and it slides open a second later. “Ticket please,” the man repeats by rote.

Shifting Ri off him, Eddie hands over the ticket. He knows he makes small talk, but doesn’t recall the particulars of it. A few seconds later they’re alone again, and Eddie can feel the zeppelin rising up into the air.

“I think I will get that paper.” He needs to move, even if his body is tired, or it should feel tired, from everything he’s done in the past twelve or so hours. “Something to eat too.”

Ri chuffs. “I’ll stay here.” She curls up into a corner, looking sad. Eddie wishes he could provide more comfort than he can.

Standing up he opens the cabin door and heads out, don’t look left or right, he repeats to himself, keep looking forward.

Except the mantra doesn’t exactly work when there’s something inside you that can control your body and is infinitely curious. His eyes swing left to the broad swath of the Atlantic, then to the right for the smattering of lights from Vantierens Land islands. In an hour or so they’ll likely see New France, is his absent thought as his heart leaps into his throat.

“Not exactly appreciating this,” Eddie mutters. At least no one will look at him funny for talking to ‘himself,’ people likely to assume his daemon was just hidden on him somewhere. Small favors.

Pretty, Venom murmurs, as if that’s reason enough.

Eddie snorts. “Can’t exactly see much this time of night.” The clocks at the airfield told him it was four AM when he was boarding. Sunrise had to be soon, but not soon enough to see most of the land they traveled over. “You’ll see plenty more, if you’re sticking with me.” He mostly stayed in New Amsterdam for work, but he had occasional field projects like this, and he and Anne always traveled somewhere for Christmas.

Good, it’s accompanied by a curl of pleasure.

The conversation’s distracting enough at least that he makes it to the dining room. His walking around the tables means he’s closer to the windows, but he’s not interested in paying enough attention to avoid tables and waiters. He finds the patisserie case, which does indeed have a small rack of newspapers next to it.

He snags the Bugle and the Times, eyes scanning over the case hoping something catches his eye. Chocolate au pain, sounds about right. Even if it won’t likely be as good as the stuff he remembers from his childhood, or what he buys at the patisserie by the Bugle’s building, it’ll be warm and nostalgic.

Newspapers in one arm, plate piled with chocolate au pain in the other, he heads back to the cabin. He’s grateful this time his head’s not being jerked around to ogle at anything. Ri’s asleep when he comes back in, and Eddie sighs.

Settling the plate on his lap, he opens the Times and starts reading, occasionally nibbling on a chocolate au pain.

Venom prickles to attention. What is that? The head appears again, another tentacle oozing out of Eddie’s hand to pick up another chocolate au pain.

“Sweets,” Eddie replies absently. “Chocolate and bread basically. You...can have one.” A weird thing to offer in Eddie’s mind, where did what Venom ate go? Eddie doesn’t like it, but he does know Venom...ate while they were going through the compound. Yet Eddie’d still felt hungry when he’d gotten control back of his body.

“Process differently,” Venom answers. It’s almost funny to see him try to eat the pastry like Eddie had, the small bites seeming at odds with his large mouth and teeth. “Good,” he can feel ripples of Venom’s pleasure. Very good.” The rest of it vanishes into Venom’s maw. “More?”

Letting out a small sigh, Eddie hands over another one. It’s perhaps good he’d bought a few. “Let me have some though, glutton.”

“Of course I’ll share with you Eddie,” Venom sounds insulted.

-

Another few hours later, he’s back on Danish soil and it’s good to be back home. Boston has a different sort of feel to New Amsterdam, but it settles Eddie even so. English and Danish swirl around him as he descends from the zeppelin, grateful that the train depot is only a short distance away.

The train’s going to be more crowded than the zeppelin was. But it’ll at least be on sweet, solid ground, which counts for a lot in Eddie’s book.

As he walks, he finds Venom using his eyes even more, taking in the hustle and bustle of Boston and the swathes of people and daemons around them. It’s easy enough for him to not think about avoiding others daemons, just as they give Ri her own wide berth—although there’s the occasional worried look.

Once on the train, he finds an empty pair of seats, the two women across from him engrossed in their own conversation about flower arranging. It becomes a sort of white noise as he keeps his attention on the Times’ crossword. In a few hours he’ll be home, and then, and then… Eddie doesn’t quite know, but it’ll be a damn sight better than all of this.

The sounds of rowdy boys—definitely skipping school if he’s right about it being Friday—come from behind him. Their conversation is a slight more distracting than the women’s. It picks up even more as the train pulls out of the station.

“Swear it’s true! Train coming in from Chicagou a year or two ago all got gobbled up! They say…” He launches into the story, something about monsters and passengers vanishing off a train. It’s a good scary story, full of chills and just the right amount of ‘real’ to make you wonder if it’s possible.

We could do that, Eddie starts. Venom’d been so quiet he’d nearly forgotten it was there.

“We are not going to eat everybody on this train,” he mutters at the paper.

Ri’s head lands in his lap, and he finds his arm moves to rest on her head without his say-so. Too full, Venom almost sounds reasonable. But we could, if we wanted to.

“Well I don’t want to,” Eddie murmurs back. He’s not exactly pleased that he’s contemplating the fact that Venom...ate people back at the compound. Or that he will have to again at a later date. “Why do you even need to anyways?”

Food, Venom answers. That...chocolate helps, but would need too much, people are better.

Eddie hisses between his teeth. Giving up the crossword as a lost cause he folds the paper up and stares out the window, hand petting Ri absently as he watches the world zip by.

The boys get off at Trenton, leaving the car a much quieter place. It’s only thirty or so minutes later that they enter New Amsterdam, the train slowing as it comes into Grand Central.

Almost home.

-

So far the world has been a much vaster place than Venom could even imagine, if full of people they’re not allowed to eat.

It’s content to float in Eddie as they make their way ever closer to this ‘home’ Eddie’s desperate to get to. More and more and more people—too many to even contemplate eating in face— are all coming and going and all wrapped up in their little worlds. It knows it won’t leave Eddie given the choice, but there is a fascination to watching these other people.

They board another train, this one smaller and more compact than the first—no children telling each other stories either. Yet everyone is doing their level best not to touch each other’s daemons. If it hurt as much as Venom remembers, it understands why.

They depart with a swarm of other people, heading down stairs towards the street. There’re fewer people here, more plants too, and houses apparently called brownstones. Eddie’s heart rate picks up and Venom shifts to slow it, but not by too much; it knew Eddie didn’t like it doing that.

There’s a woman sweeping the steps of one of them, she smiles at them and Eddie puts on a smile in return. “Eddie, you’re home early.”

May Parker, Eddie’s mind supplies to Venom. Her, her husband Ben, and their nephew Peter, are neighbors and friends. “Things weren’t going so well for me, May,” Eddie responds.

Venom bristles at the implication. Eddie’s fine.

“You and Ri do look awful,” her expression shifts to concern. “You tell Anne when she gets home that I’ve got a chicken noodle soup recipe guaranteed to get you back up on your feet in no time.” On her shoulder her daemon appears, a tarantula. Venom finds itself mimicking the form on the back of Eddie’s own shoulder, under his jacket.

Eddie twitches. “I’ll try to remember, May,” he answers trying to be as neutral as possible. Worry comes off him, hoping that this May doesn't find out.

If she does can we eat her?

A wave of revulsion and anger passes through it. Venom sinks back into Eddie’s skin, a no then.

May seems to notice it, too. “You alright, Eddie?”

“No.” It can feel Eddie wince at how sharp he sounds. “I think Ri and I just need to go and lie down, you’re right about me feeling awful.” Scooping Ri up, he turns and heads up the stairs on the right. Grumbling, he tries to find the right keys.

That one, Venom supplies, trying to be helpful. It gathers Eddie’s done this hundreds of times, how he could not know which key was right is baffling.

The response it gets is a snarl. Venom rumbles back in return, not understanding the animosity.

Inside, Eddie sags against the door, emotions passing through them in a tangled mess. It does its best to ride through them, but they are so complex and baffling that it’s hard.

After a minute or so, Eddie pushes himself back onto his feet and with Ri following they head upstairs. Taking the moment of relief, Venom glances around. This ‘home’ is...interesting. Further exploration will have to come later though, Eddie entering the bedroom, and falling onto the bed. He clings to Ri when she joins them.

Gently, Venom nudges Eddie’s mind towards the sleep he wants. But although he sleeps, Venom and Ri do not.

Growing a head for itself outside of Eddie is easy. It stares at Ri for a long moment. It guesses the other humans have been right that she doesn’t look well, pale and washed out compared to the other daemons it’s now seen.

“Ri,” it keeps its voice as quiet as it can.

She shifts but doesn’t answer. It knows she heard it, so why doesn’t she answer?

Shifting, it moves so that it looks Ri in the eye. “Ri.”

“I don’t want to talk to you,” she answers. Turning her head, she buries it in Eddie’s neck.

Venom frowns, not sure what to do. It wants to understand better, but if Ri won’t answer it’s questions how can it? “Why?” Perhaps she’ll at least answer that.

A minute of silence, before Ri makes a sharp sound. Yet she turns again, looking it in the eye. “It might not have been your idea, but you’ve replaced me like Drake wanted.” Her teeth scrape as she clicks them together. “I don’t have to like that one bit. Eddie was mine and now he never can be again. And even with me staying, he doesn’t need me anymore, because he has you.”

Before Venom can answer she wiggles herself out of Eddie’s hold, hopping off the bed and leaving the bedroom.

Retracting back into Eddie Venom floats, gingerly prodding at the place it’d filled.

-

Eddie wakes to a dim bedroom, feeling about as awful as he has ever since Drake. After a few seconds he realizes Ri is gone and his heart tries to pound itself out of his chest.

Up until the point where Venom slows it down some. What is wrong?

“Where’s Ri?” Even though he doesn’t believe Venom didn’t have anything to do with it, anger still colors Eddie’s voice.

Somewhere in the home, Venom answers. She left soon after you fell asleep. It almost sounds...contrite. As if it had something to do with that.

Eddie’s torn between rushing to find her and leaving her be. Before, Eddie’d always been happy to share things with close friends and Anne, but Ri had always kept to herself unless Eddie prodded. He wishes he could know what she was going through, perhaps though giving her some space wouldn’t be a bad thing.

A groan leaves him as he sits upright. He squints to try and see the clock better, only for his vision to shift just a hair, letting him see the clock perfectly. Four PM. Anne would be home soon, then. Someone else for him to start worrying about, even with his resolution to tell her.

You do not have to, Venom prods. Would be safer.

He doesn’t doubt that. “She deserves to know the truth,” he responds firmly. “Keeping it from her would only make things worse later on.” No matter how much he might not like it.

Venom doesn’t answer, but he feels something slide through his chest. It’s uncomfortable, but not for the reason he expected. “Stop that,” he finds himself muttering as he stands. There’s perhaps something...amusing about treating this thing inside him like an errant pet instead of whatever Venom actually is.

Still no answer. Shaking his head Eddie heads downstairs, finding himself moving aimlessly around in the kitchen for a few minutes. He makes himself leave, heading instead to the living room. Pulling a book at random off the shelves, he curls up in his favorite armchair, and starts reading, hoping the story’ll be distracting enough.

It’s one of Anne’s books—granted that doesn’t mean much considering how wide and varied her tastes are—but the mystery in each story is engrossing enough, Blake engaging in more action that Eddie expected.

The door opening draws his attention back to the world. As he uncurls he’s surprised to find Ri curled up at the base of the chair. He doesn’t say anything, but does reach down and rub behind her ears the way she likes. She chuffs and raises her head higher, encouraging him.

“Eddie?” Anne’s voice fills the quiet. He looks up to see her standing a few feet away, surprise on her face. Dan’s curled up in her arms, but he hops out of them with ease. With enthusiasm some would consider unbecoming of a cat he bounds up to Ri, dislodging Eddie’s hand when he headbutts her chin. “We missed you,” he purrs.

Carefully Eddie steps around the two of them, feeling Venom shift inside. His eyes feels strange for a moment, it’s almost like on the airship, but Eddie finds he can move them himself. “Hey Annie,” he says quietly as he pulls her into a hug. This might be the last one they share and he’s greedy for it.

Anne hugs back just as tightly. “You’re home early.” In that Anne way it’s both a question and a statement.

“The interview kind of went bust. Decided it was better to head back home early instead of freeze my ass off.” True enough, nevermind that it leaves a whole world of events out.

A soft laugh leaves Anne as she pulls away. It fades away quickly, concern replacing it. “What happened Eddie? You look terrible.” Her gaze drifts away from him towards Ri and Dan. “Ri looks even worse.”

Before he can think to respond she pushes him towards the couch. “Sit,” her tone brooks no argument. He goes, turning enough to watch her stride into the kitchen.

She is...interesting.

Eddies doesn’t know whether the curiosity’s good or bad. If he’s stuck with Venom, then he guesses it might be good that it likes Anne, might make things easier if she doesn’t leave him.

The thought has him clutching the arm of the couch tightly. The cycle of awful thoughts from earlier starting up again.

Stop that. Eddie’s pretty sure his stomach did an actual flip thanks to Venom. It’s an excellent distraction from his own thoughts, on the other hand. Another distraction comes from Venom rifling through his memories again, hunting and seeking out something. Not that Eddie knows what. She will stay.

Well that’s all well and fine for Venom to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s the truth. “You don’t know that,” he mutters into the back of the couch.

Venom makes his skin prickle on the inside again. Your own memories say she will. The prickling dissipates. She...loves you, bemusement and curiosity are just barely there at the edges of Eddie’s mind. And she does not balk at tough situations. It’s perhaps a little strange to have a thing that has had little to no knowledge of humans until now attempt to parse intentions. She will stay, Venom repeats.

Something warm presses against his hip. Looking down he sees it’s Ri, who pointedly looks at him before she settles on his legs. He also feels something seep out of his chest, his shirt shifting as Venom encircles him and squeezes.

“Here,” again Anne’s voice slips into his strange little bubble. Blinking, it’s as if he can see her again, a steaming mug in her outstretched hands.

He takes it, using both his hands to hold it, soaking up the warmth. Inhaling he smells chocolate and chicory. “Thanks, Annie,” he has a nostalgic fondness of the stuff from his own childhood, but knows she hates it.

She flashes a smile before she returns to the kitchen and grabs a second mug. As she walks back, Eddie attempts a sip of his chicory. It’s a little too hot, but the flavors more than make up for it. Chicory, chocolate—which has Venom perking up—and whiskey.

As the warmth seeps into him he watches Anne return to the couch, sitting at the other end. Her legs, skirt, and Dan take up the rest of the couch though as she slips her feet under his thigh. “Tell me what happened.”

He couldn’t refuse if he wanted to. The interview, going back later on foot, finding the lab where Drake had been doing his experiments, being attacked and trying to escape, only to run into Drake and his cronies. Some distant part of him thinks it sounds almost like an adventure story, almost too fantastical to believe.

Except, if it’d been a story, he’d’ve gotten away just in the nick of time. “Drake...took me and Ri to a chamber.” Anne and Dan both make pained, sympathetic, sounds. “He put us in cages and…” Eddie’s grip on his mug tightens and he stares at the brew inside, better than looking at Anne right now. “He...he severed us Annie.” His voice chokes up, but he has to push through, to finish the story.

He can feel Anne all but trembling, yet they’ve been together long enough that she knows he’s not done, and so keeps silent.

“Woke up alone in a room, well, not alone…” It’s almost easier to tell her about Venom, because it’s not at all worse than severing.

“We left after finding Ri,” not exactly a lie. He just doesn’t think he can spring the fact that the thing inside him ate people just yet. A few things at a time. “Practically ran home.” He finishes off his chicory and sets the mug on the floor. No use avoiding it now, he makes himself look at her.

It’s no surprise Anne’s crying. How could she not with what he’s told her? She must have finished off her own mug while he was talking because he can’t see it anymore. It does mean there’s nothing holding her back from throwing herself on him, arms squeezing tightly. “God, Eddie.” She somehow manages to squeeze even tighter.

He returns the hug tentatively. He wants her to be hugging him because of empathy, but has a suspicion that it’s really out of pity. Because right now she might be accepting, or at least accepted, what happened to him, but give it time and she’d probably realize how much he was holding her down. Far too broken to deserve her.

“Not broken!” He almost doesn’t notice Venom slipping out of his shoulder. The black head bobbing in the corner of his eye.

Anne starts in surprise at Venom’s voice, and when she sees Venom she jerks away in shock. She doesn’t scream, but she stares wide-eyed at Venom. Her mind probably realizing that hearing and seeing are two different things.

Thankfully Venom seems content to wait, letting her stare her fill. Dan recovers quicker than she does, hopping onto the back of the couch and trotting closer to Venom, who thankfully doesn’t try to touch Dan, actually pulling away some when Dan leans in to sniff at them. “You smell cold, and dry.”

With that strange pronouncement Dan goes back to Anne, walking across her shoulders to drape around her neck. “I don’t think it bites.”

Eddie fights to hold back laughter.

Even with Dan’s reassurance, Anne doesn’t move or speak for another minute. Finally though, she shifts slightly. “What...what are you?” Eddie can forgive the tremble in her voice, recalling how he’d felt the first time.

“I am Venom,” there’s no pause like the last time it’d introduced itself. But Eddie can feel a sort of uncertainty somewhere in the region of his shoulder. “Pleased to meet you.” Again Eddie tries not to laugh, Venom trying to act like any other person would is not funny.

“Oh,” Anne doesn’t exactly relax but her shoulders loosen. “I meant what are you?”

Eddie can feel Venom flick through his mind again. I do not understand.

It’s something of a challenge to clarify without saying anything. Venom eventually seems to understand however. “I am...unknown.” Anne frowns and Venom likely picks up from Eddie that it’s Anne’s ‘that’s not satisfying’ frown, because it continues. “Before humans took some of us there was only vast nothing where we consumed and spawned. We did not name ourselves, we did not…” Venom ripples inside Eddie, searching through him for whatever it is it needs. “...be as humans do.” The head shrinks back into Eddie some.

“It’s just another thing Drake was experimenting on,” Ri supplies.

Venom bristles, but doesn’t say anything to protest. Not liking it, but there’s an air of not feeling like it can say otherwise. Eddie’s not sure how it makes him feel.

Almost as if through fog, Eddie can feel a touch. Blinking, he realizes that it’s Anne touching Venom, who seems just as surprised at the touch as Eddie is.

-

It does it’s best not to move as Anne’s fingers brush over it. The sensation is one it likes, but it also doesn’t want to scare her. It wants her to stay with Eddie because Eddie loves her, a feeling that it does not understand but wants to. Having her stay will help it understand.

“Soft.” Thanks to Eddie, it knows that her voice is wonderment.

Eddie’s mind is a confusing and pained jumble. It does its best to soothe that away. Eddie should be happy. It was right that Anne’s not leaving. Eddie should be happy about that. Yet he’s not, and it’s baffled.

“Eddie?” Anne’s hand leaves it and moves to Eddie. The touch is just as nice though, her hand soft against Eddie’s face. “What’s wrong?”

A shaky breath leaves Eddie, his fingers dig into Maria’s fur and she huffs. “I’m...It’s just...been a lot. I didn’t think you’d be this...calm.”

The corners of Anne’s eyes crinkle when she smiles. It knows it won’t ever leave Eddie, but Anne is acceptable. “It’s a lot to take in, I don’t think I quite have just yet. Give me time.” Anne’s daemon... Dan...slips off her neck. “We can panic about it later,” his tone is firm but soothing. “You’re hurt and we want to help.”

“Not hurt,” it protests. It fixed Eddie, as much as it could. Again it finds itself prodding at the strange space part of it inhabits. There’s something faint and familiar there. Something it should understand but doesn’t know why.

“He is hurt,” Anne argues back.

It draws it’s teeth back in a silent snarl. Before it can say anything, Maria speaks again. “You can’t fix a soul, you’re just going to have to accept that.” When it turns to her to snarl again, she snaps her own teeth, clearly not impressed.

Unwilling to continue the conversation it sinks back into Eddie, things it can’t quite put a name to filtering from it to Eddie.

“I think you’ve hurt its pride.” Pride?  “It seems to think since it kept me as me and not…” a shudder races down Eddie’s spine. It doesn’t like the sensation. “Whatever I might have been, that I’m as I should be.” His fingers tighten in Maria’s fur. She makes a sound of protest and Eddie uncurls his fingers. “It wasn’t in me for very long before Drake severed us.” As if that’s somehow explanation enough. “It doesn’t understand.”

It knows that, even if it’s that odd feeling over again, and recalls perfectly how strange Eddie’s mind had been before Drake did what he did. That space is still full, still works as it should, isn’t that the same as being fixed?

No one but it seems to think so and it lets itself sink deeper into Eddie. Searching, poking, prodding, exploring every last nook and cranny it can reach. It trusts Eddie’s faith that they are safe here, that it can let the outside world disappear as it familiarizes itself with the interior world that it inhabits.

The body done, it carefully treads into the mind. It is a thing so complex, it could spend all its time here and it perhaps would not fully understand as it would like.

And time it does spend. The focus and attention it gives means it only has a passing awareness of the world outside of Eddie—and that only because it’s willing to burn through the reserves it’d built up—but it’ll be worth it, it has to.

It’s current place means that it experiences as Eddie does when Anne leaves for a few hours. Eddie paces and there’s a rising wave of defeated panic that it does its best to sooth away. Memories of Anne doing this before and returning are easy to find. They help some.

It experiences Eddie’s shameful relief when she does return, it notes that Eddie doesn’t feel he deserves this. It’s enough that it uses more energy to send an angry bristling through Eddie. Because Eddie is perfect, deserves everything he wants. Why he doesn’t believe that is baffling.

Sleep is a strange thing, although it makes exploration easier, Eddie’s mind quieter except for the occasional burst of activity.

Another day, another night, still it hasn’t explored its fill, has not gotten the satisfaction it seeks.

Day again and this time Eddie leaves the house. He’s lucky it’s got a veritable ocean of energy to draw from to keep them safe. Although, splitting its concentration more means slower going inside.

It stumbles across a warren of connections and crackling energy as Eddie enters a building. Ah, it realizes it’s been here before for memories. Now it takes a full accounting, each memory adding to its understanding.

In the middle of a memory of an old birthday, Eddie still just a child, Maria shifting and changing into shapes trying to make him laugh as they explored deep forest, it hears a man angrily talking. There is amusement in sending out a brief thought of hungry, and Eddie starting in surprise. Not that it would eat this angry man—a leap ahead into a newer memory tells it this is Eddie’s boss—the glut from up north will take weeks to burn up.

Eddie considers this place safe, so it focuses inwards again. Committing memory after memory, even old, little recalled ones, to its own thought-space. Examining every facet, endlessly fascinated.

There is perhaps a beginning of understanding it thinks, realizing that Eddie had been right, that he was not fully himself without Maria. That while she had a different name, her own thoughts, feelings, and opinions, she was Eddie, just a different perspective of him.

It pulls away some from Eddie’s mind, spreading to the spaces it’s made for itself inside him. Its own desperate and jealous memory rises to the surface, of how it’d been willing to supplant whatever might be residing in Eddie for its own freedom.

How true that turned out to be, even if it hadn’t done the breaking itself.

When it reaches out into the world again Eddie is home. The house smells thick and meaty, smells that are good but don’t interest it. Eddie’s own hunger ripples however.

Leaving him to the food and Anne, it dives in again. This time to the place it’s only prodded before, the place it filled. Carefully going over every piece, taking even more time here than anywhere else.

There is surprise when it finds that a part of this place goes outside Eddie. Focusing on that place it reaches to see where Eddie is. Home again, good. Unafraid now of discovery it follows this strange connection.

The world looks different as it travels along, moats of...dust floating along everywhere. Beautiful, and distracting when it feels the dust calling to it. If it would gain anything by it, it would snarl at the dust; it will not leave Eddie, not even for the strange promise of the dust.

Reaching the end of the connection is abrupt. It just stops, yet even so the connection seems to be reaching for something. Something in the vicinity of where Maria is, or perhaps it reaches for Maria herself.

It retreats back fully into Eddie.

“Venom?” Being addressed is a surprise after they’ve been so quiet for so long.

Yes?

Eddie falls back further against the couch. “Did you...do something? Felt funny for a sec there.”

It flutters inside him, unsure of what to say. I was...exploring, found something...strange. It tries its best to share with Eddie, but fears that it doesn’t work as well as it would like.

A frown from Eddie is the only response it gets for a long moment. Then: “Huh, I think that was…”

Was what? It prods when Eddie doesn’t finish the sentence.

Eddie doesn’t respond right away, making it bristle. It could go find what it needs on it’s own, but it wants Eddie to like it, to want to keep it around. So it keeps quiet, this ‘patience’ not exactly to its liking.

“I think...I think that was the bond between Maria and I.” He sounds confused and hurt. A sensation that makes it roil, wanting to fix the problem but unable to. “I didn’t realize you could do that.”

I did not either, it replies. I found it inside of you though. It’s not quite an accusation, it doesn’t think Eddie was hiding that from it, Eddie sounds just as surprised as it had been after all. Why is it like that? It unspools from Eddie, making a face and watching as he gets up and moves.

“Because of what Drake did,” it’s a rote answer by this point. One that makes it want to rumble in displeasure.

Instead, it goes hunting in Eddie’s memories, trying to understand better. It finds memories of dusty papers and books, emotionless theological words that describe the process without talking about the trauma it causes, recountings from people who were there the last time it happened, and one singular interview with a woman who’d been severed who survive Bolvangar.

“What is Dust?”

“Uh,” Eddie paces. “I mean I guess it’s a part of people? I know it’s what daemons are made of. I mean, I’m not exactly a theologian, kinda out of my area of knowledge.” He shrugs.

The answer isn’t satisfying, but there’ll be time to research further. “Take us to Maria...please?”

Eddie blinks a little at the request. “Uh, sure.” They go upstairs, finding Maria in the study.

“What?” She sounds tired.

“Wait, please.” Before Eddie can respond it sinks back into him. Zipping along until it’s at the same place before. It follows the thread, noticing this time that the dust in the air floats towards Eddie, but avoids Maria.

Like it thought, there’s another broken thread floating from Maria and reaching for Eddie. The two parts seeming unable to touch each other no matter how close they get.

It also finds it can sense a piece of itself, inside Maria, dormant but there. The surprise is enough to pull it back into Eddie fully. I need to think, it tells Eddie. Retreating inwards, the only sensations it registers are the pulses and grumbles of Eddie’s body.

When it emerges, it’s night again, a different night though. Eddie is eating with Anne. It wrinkles in disgust at the dead food.

As much as it wants to tell Eddie now,it waits, letting him have this time.

He and Anne both stand, clearing up dishes, when it emerges. “I think I can fix you.” It’s not exactly smugness that fills its voice as it says this.

Anne and Eddie both start in surprise. It continues before either of them can ask. “The pieces between you and Maria can be connected again. But it will take time.”

They say nothing for the longest time. It bares its teeth, having hoped for some response.

“How?” Dan leaps up onto the counter, green-gold eyes scrutinizing.

“The floating stuff, and...myself.” It knows it can do it, but is unsure of the exact details of how. It does not even know if it might come out of it as itself.

Anne blinks. “Floating stuff?”

Maria trots up to Eddie, pressing against his leg. “I think it means Dust.”

“How long?” Eddie’s voice is shaky, and it can feel the buffeting storm of emotions coursing through them as he asks.

“I do not know,” is the honest answer. “Minutes, hours, days? Time.” Is all it can answer. There are so many things it needs to do, to try and make it right.

Eddie’s breathing becomes staggered. Vanishing inside him, it fixes it. Honestly, it’s clear Eddie needs it, how else could he make himself work? His hand reaches out for Anne’s and she clasps it, fingers squeezing tightly.

“Do it.” Letting go of Anne, Eddie crouches down, holding Maria to him tightly. “If you want me back that is.”

Maria’s teeth dig briefly into Eddie’s shoulder. “How could you survive without me?”

It doesn’t give them the chance to change their minds, subsuming the both of them inside it.

-

When Eddie comes to, he’s laying on the kitchen floor. He feels strangely tired and achy, like his body’s been stretched too thin.

Sitting upright takes forever, so does looking around.

He has no idea what time, or even what day it is.

Curled up on the floor next to him is Maria. With hesitant fingers he reaches out for her. “Ri?” He digs into her ruff, giving her a shake. The fact that she didn’t wake when he did is worrying. Perhaps whatever Venom tried didn’t work. Inside him Venom does seem awfully quiet, not that Eddie can exactly prod around for it.

Annoyance flickers through him. “Let me sleep Eddie,” she mutters. “Just carry me if you need to go out. So tired.” Eddie knows how she feels.

It takes his mind to realize that it’s not just a saying. It’s the truth.

Maria yips when he scoops her up and hugs her tightly, crying into her fur. “Eddie…” Her annoyance is undercut by her own surprise and joy.

He doesn’t know how Venom did it, but they’re them again.

Did I...do good? Venom sounds quiet, almost small in fact.

Ri starts in Eddie’s arms, seeming to have heard it too.

“Yeah Venom,” Eddie’s voice is choked but he doesn’t care. “You did amazing.”

Chapter Text

Anne wakes up in the middle of the night, Eddie’s side of the bed cold. Ri however is still curled up at the end of the bed, fast asleep. It should scare her, but after the past two months she’s...getting used to how much stranger Eddie’s life is now.

Dan prowls over and curls in her lap, “I’m worried too.” She buries her fingers in his thick fur, scratching absently.

It seems she doesn’t have long to wait however, the soft grating sound of the window being opened filling the room, the curtains fluttering as inky darkness shot through with starlight slips in.

As she stares at Venom a small voice whispers in her head, and the angel said unto her, fear not… She’s never been as religious as some, but it sticks in her head every time. Not even Venom seems to know quite what they are; as terrifying as it is, perhaps it is as otherworldly as an angel.

“Venom,” their head jerks at her voice. Wide, lidless eyes watch her.

They creep forward a few steps and stop. “Anne,” the voice rumbles through her, as inhuman as always.

“Where have you been?” Dan, fearless as always. Her fingers dig slightly into his skin, not in warning, but in worry herself.

“Out,” they answer.

If things were even close to approaching ‘normal,’ she’d almost think they were avoiding the question because they had a mistress. “Out doing what?” she pushes. She relaxes her hold on Dan and he slips out from under her fingers, settling himself on top of Ri and gently grooming her.

Venom ripples, snaggletoothed grin seeming to shrink for a change. “If we tell you, you will not be happy.”

Anne doesn’t think it...touching, but perhaps an odd sort of sweet. On the other hand… “Tell me.” Shying away from the truth now feels wrong to her. This can’t be any stranger than Eddie sharing his body with...Venom.

Such a hulking body should not be shy, yet when Venom sits on the carpet her mother made her and Eddie for their wedding gift, it’s all she can think about. “We went out to...feed, on people,” is the answer she gets.

That...that is beyond even anything she could have imagined.

Before she can even think to comment, although what on earth would she say?, Venom speaks again. “But only bad people. Eddie’s rules are very firm.”

It’s that out of everything that makes her laugh. She shouldn’t be laughing though, he’s talking about eating people. “So Eddie knows then?” Dan asks for her.

“Yes, he sleeps now, but when he wakes he will know we have fed.” Venom sounds abashed, continuing, “he doesn’t like to know the details.”

No, she supposes Eddie doesn’t. Anne wants to regret asking, yet even though she doesn’t like the answer Venom at least told the truth. Although the sliver of her that wants her old life back wishes it was a mistress. “Do you...need to eat people?” Perhaps her earlier thoughts as to what he was is far more wrong than she’d thought, not that it makes much difference.

Venom creeps closer, as if afraid they’ll scare her. Again, it’s strangely sweet. “Yes,” they answer. “Brains make chemicals we consume, if we ate only Eddie’s he would be...lesser.” It’s clear Venom doesn’t like that prospect.

Anne finds she’s not partial to it herself, Eddie’s, Eddie. She almost lost him once and losing him again is something she doesn’t want to contemplate.

Dan hops off the bed and trots to Venom, who pulls in, careful not to touch him. “You can touch,” Anne finds herself saying without thinking. Eddie, she’s noticed, is even more hesitant about daemons, for good reason. Venom seems to have picked up on it.

Venom’s wedge eyes stare at her for a few seconds before large claws reach out. Dan shifts himself, face rising up to meet a claw.

The touch is light, but it feels like a shiver down her spine.

Dan shifts back and turns to hop back on the bed.

Almost with even more hesitation she holds out her own hand. She doesn’t quite know why it scares her more, Venom touched Dan , a far more intimate act.

There’s just as much hesitation, Venom creeping closer. The touch is...slick. Whatever passes for flesh is far too smooth and yet softer than she’d thought it would be. She wraps her hand around it as best she can. “Come to bed.”

Perhaps later she’d be scared and terrified. She wonders what sort of person would just let this pass by without declaiming it.

Now, now she just wants her husband.

Venom flows over her, as they settle into bed the darkness and starlight sinks away, leaving Eddie, who murmurs as she curls around him.

-

“Is Eddie alright, Anne?” Anne looks up in vague surprise at Trish.

“Why do you ask?” It’s a reasonable question, and it also lets Anne’s mind have some time to recover. She’s not exactly expecting the question at this little get-together with a handful of friends.

Trish strokes the back of her hare daemon. “He just seems more...absent minded at work is all.” It was how she and Anne’d become friends, through Eddie. “Seems to talk to Maria more often than he used to.” Anne takes a quick sip of her coffee to cover the fact she wants to laugh.

“He’s cheating on you,” Jessica sounds almost bland about it, slugging back the last of her coffee.

On Anne’s other side, Steve heaves a small sigh. “Not every man cheats on his wife, Jessica,” his tone is exasperated. The argument isn’t exactly a new one. His magpie daemon clacks its beak at her.

His comment earns him an eye roll from Jessica. “In my line of work, they do.” If not for Trish, Anne’s sure she and Jessica would never have met. She’s not quite sure where that falls on the good or bad scale.

“Indifferent,” Dan murmurs. Anne scratches behind his ear. “He’s still a little shaken up from what happened up North,” she answers Trish’s question, cutting off whatever new argument Steve and Jessica might get into. “He’s been perfectly fine at home though.” True enough, although she’s had to get used to paying attention to his tone when he speaks. It’s a good enough measure of whether he’s talking to her or to Venom.

“Oh, good,” the worry doesn’t melt off Trish’s face, but it does lessen. “I’ll tell the other ladies at the paper then, should be enough to give him some space.”

Again, Anne wants to laugh. Dan’s claws digging into her thigh keep it from happening, thankfully.

“The thought’s appreciated, I’m sure.” Although she decides not to mention it to Eddie, not yet at least. A glance at the cafe wall has her giving a little start. “I really should be going.” Gentleman that he is, Steve stands when she does. “I’ll talk to you all later, I’m sure.” They meet weekly, although the size of the group changes depending on who had the time to make it.

Jessica and Trish’s goodbyes are absentminded, although Steve gives her a real smile. “Walk you to the station?” He hooks his bag over his shoulders; if she hadn’t seen him do it hundreds of times before she’d worry that the bag weighed more than he did.

She smiles back. “Thank you.” Steve’s company is always enjoyable. “If it’s not too much of an imposition.”

“No,” Bart answers for Steve, fluffing his feathers. “Buck’s probably already wondering where I am anyways,” Steve continues, voice fond.

“You two should come to dinner sometime,” she’s sure they’d both appreciate the full meal.

Steve’s cheeks pinken some. “I don’t know, think my calendar’s full for the next few weeks.”

She laughs. “I’m sure if I ask Bucky the next time I see him I’ll get a different answer,” she teases. Of course Bucky coming to the cafe is a rare occurrence.

Bart laughs with her, in her arms Dan sighs.

“I’ll talk to Buck,” Steve hedges. Lucky for him they reach the subway stop. “I’ll be seeing you then, Anne,” he doffs an imaginary cap at her.

“Take care, Steve.”

-

Coming home before Eddie isn’t a rare occurrence for her. Kicking her shoes off at the door, she heads into the kitchen, setting down the pot pie she’d picked up at the butcher’s down on the counter with a small sigh. Dan hops off the box and onto the floor, winding around her feet for a few seconds before heading towards the living room. The slight stretch is only vaguely uncomfortable.

It eases as she joins him. She sprawls over the couch as he stretches across the back. “He calls it darling,” Dan seems to say out of nowhere.

However, she knows it’s something that’s been lingering in the corners of their minds for a while now. Dan’s clearly of the mind that they should talk about it now, however. Anne raises her hands above herself, spreading her fingers as wide apart as they’ll go. “I know.”

She doesn’t quite know how to feel about it. Venom is now as much a part of Eddie as Maria is, the fact that her husband feels affection for it in some capacity is unsurprising in that regard. Pet names are a logical conclusion of a sort. “I’m still his Annie though, his sweetheart,” it’s not a protest so much as a statement of fact. Maria’s his dearest, as any daemon should be, and she’s his sweetheart.

Dan makes a thoughtful sound, for a second his head comes up to butt against her hands. “The other night,” they haven’t quite made a habit of staying up whenever Venom and Eddie ‘go out’, but they do it more often than not. “It called you sweetbread,” Dan sounds more bemused by this than offended.

Anne however, laughs. For Venom, she guesses that is an endearment, if one perhaps a little more gruesome than most. “There are worse things to be.” It’s perhaps not in good taste to joke about.

Green-gold eyes stare at her, Dan clearly not as amused by her joke as she is. “Anne…”

Lowering her hands she pushes herself upright some. “We’ve always had an inkling we wouldn’t be enough for Eddie.” Most wives would find that a fault; a woman should be able to hold all of her husband’s affections, or risk losing him to another woman who could. Anne’s always wondered if perhaps there’s something wrong with her that she’s never tried to do that. This, in a way, is just proof.

“We’re not going to lose Eddie,” she says more seriously. “If we were, it would have happened after Drake.” Eddie, after all, had  thought she would leave him over that. Her husband, so willing to give out affection, yet so baffled when others returned it.

Dan rolls off the back of the couch and onto her lap. “Always good to say it.”

Rolling her eyes, she buries her fingers in his fur. “Could you be any more obvious?”

He purrs, stretching out even more. “Obvious would be pointing out ‘honey’ would be far more appropriate.”

She doesn’t even mind that a few minutes later Eddie walks in to them laughing.

-

Behind her, Eddie grumbles as he tries to get his bowtie done. Venom likely won’t be much help, considering Eddie himself was never very good at it.

“Leave it, Eddie,” she sighs at her own reflection. “Help me with my hair, then I’ll do your bowtie.”

He dutifully comes over. “Why do we even bother going?” He accepts the chunks of hair she hands him, freeing up her own to do another part of the braid.

She gives a soft laugh. “Because we both happen to like the opera,” she reminds with patient fondness. “And with Jameson giving the tickets out we might as well use them.” It’s become something of a tradition at this point, go to the Daily Bugle Christmas party, be given tickets to whichever opera the Met was putting on that season—Rimsky’s Scheherazade in this case—then the next day head off on their usual Christmas excursion.

The old habits are helping smooth some the fact that this year, things are far more unusual than normal.

Some of the hair she’s trying to braid slips out of her grasp, ruining it and making her curse. Four hands are seemingly not enough. She could do something far more simple, but she has so few chances to dress up that she enjoyed going all out.

“Um,” Eddie’s voice is a bit more strained to be just a reaction to her outburst. She understands why he’s so uncomfortable a few second later when she feels slick smoothness gather up her hair, the mirror revealing black tendrils seeping out of Eddie’s hands.

Eddie might be worried, but she’s not. “Thank you, Venom,” she does her best to make it sound almost expected that it’d help. It’s been almost five months now, not being used to it is more baffling than growing accustomed to it. She understands why Eddie’s hesitant, but honestly.

Together they all manage to get her hair done. Venom’s tendrils weave their way out of her finished style. Without thinking, she wraps a finger around one before it can vanish completely, bringing it to her face and laying a kiss on it.

The kiss makes Eddie still, and she holds back a sigh. Since he came back, he hasn’t really touched her beyond light kisses and hugs. It’s getting to the point where she’s tempted to hold him down in some fashion and tell him, in no uncertain terms, that Venom doesn’t bother her and she’d very much like it if they started having sex again.

She lets the tendril go with a small sigh, although she smiles to see her deep red lipstick on Venom. The smile grows when that tendril doesn’t sink into Eddie like the others. Venom must say something in Eddie’s mind because he sighs. “Yes, darling.”

Letting out a brief laugh, she stands and turns to face Eddie. “Chin up,” it’s both a tease and command. “Venom, perhaps if you pay attention you’ll be able to do this better than Eddie.”

“Anne,” Eddie groans. She laughs again.

The tendril she’d kissed appears from under Eddie’s collar, growing into a full face. “Do what?” Her lipstick’s on its ‘forehead’ and she finds the sight brings her nothing but fond affection.

“Do up a bow tie. Eddie’s horrible at it,” she answers. She demonstrates slowly, letting herself enjoy this little moment.

Venom watches with the same intensity it does with all new things. When she finishes it flutters. “I could just be that,” it’s not quite a pout. “Could be all your clothes if you let me.”

Eddie makes a choked sound that is almost laughter. “I’m good darling, thanks,” his voice is strained in a way Anne knows well. He likes something about the idea, but doesn’t want to admit it.

Anne knows when to back off however, and finds herself hoping Venom does, too—perhaps she’s not as alone in this as she thought—giving Eddie’s bow tie one last brief fuss before stepping away. “We’re going to be late if we don’t hurry.”

This is a fact which Eddie seems to welcome. He scoops up Ri, who’s been usually silent, and Dan, who’s been unusually silent, trails after Anne as they head downstairs, pull on their outerwear, and go outside.

Icy air bites at all of them as the make the brief trip from the doorstep to the waiting cab. She lets Eddie chat on with the driver while she stares out at the passing world of New Amsterdam and plots how best to seduce her husband.

Chapter Text

Eddie can’t help but feel antsy as he follows Anne up the steps to the Met and inside. As they take their coats and other winter wear off, he can feel Venom shifting and moving, curious, but knowing it can’t show itself. Despite his nerves, Eddie can’t help the fond smile on his face, Venom still so pleased that Anne kissed it.

Eddie himself doesn’t know how to feel about it. Anne’s been so very accepting and understanding these past few months, and he keeps fearing that that’s going to change, that she’ll realize he’s a monster and leave as she should.

Stop that, Venom bristles along Eddie’s kidneys. Anne loves us, she will not leave.

“Eddie?” Anne’s voice sounds next to him, keeping him from answering.

“Sorry,” he gives her a smile. “Got distracted.”

Anne hums and laces her arm through his own as they move through the crowd towards their box—Jamison’d been for more generous this year. Granted Eddie had done the last interview with Carlton Drake before his mysterious death. Even with the wariness and fear Eddie does feel a puff of smug pride at the eyes she draws in that black and gold smeared dress. The pride grows as Venom agrees. Yes, we do not share, but their desire is delicious. She is only for us though. Like always, Eddie gets a little uncomfortable when Venom mentions desire, as if the two together make no sense. You draw their eyes also, Eddie. Venom sounds just as pleased by this, and Eddie can feel one of Venom’s claws trace a line up his spine. But you are just for us, too.

Ri bumps into his calf. “Stop that, you two.”

Anne casts them a curious look, eyebrows raised in silent question.

“V’s...curious,” Eddie hedges. It’s somewhat the truth. Venom is curious about this whole endeavor, wondering how different it will be from the radio or film. It should be an interesting experience for all of them. A lot of things have been, since Venom just seemed to slot into Eddie’s life. Eddie just doesn’t want to contemplate what else might go so well.

Anne’s curious look turns into a warm smile. “Well I hope it enjoys it as much as I’m planning too; it’s been a while since they’ve done Scheherazade and I’m eager to see it.”

Despite Eddie’s general case of nerves, he can’t help but smile at her excitement. He enjoys the opera as much as she does, but she’s always more interested in the technical aspects, how each new production is different from the last. Fond memories from previous years bubble up, likely spurred on by Venom.

Reaching their box, they settle in, Dan hopping onto the parapet and sitting sphinx like, eyes fixed on the stage. Ri sprawls out between Eddie’s feet and the parapet, having no particular interest. He and Anne take their seats, him starting briefly when Anne’s hand rests atop his own.

He’s distracted from that thought by Venom’s small head re-emerging from his clothes, Anne’s lipstick mark still visible.

“This does not seem all that interesting.”

Anne laughs softly, and Eddie finds his attention snatched by the feel of her fingers lightly grazing the back of his hand. “It hasn’t started yet. We’ve got about ten minutes, then you’ll see what all the fuss is about.”

“It’s alright,” Ri adds. “Films are more interesting, shorter too.” So far Venom’s enjoyed going to films, although Eddie is a little hurt that it prefers the Texan Talkies like Anne does, instead of the more prevalent silent films that are Eddie’s choice.

Dan twitches his tail, making it land on Ri’s head. “Heathen,” he teases fondly.

Eddie just shakes his head, fond smile on his face. As the house lighting begins to dim, Anne pulls out her opera glasses. Eddie doesn’t need anything like that anymore thanks to Venom, who’s own tendril spools out more, as if getting closer to the stage will help it see better. Eddie’s only a little worried that someone else will see.

A spotlight reveals the woman playing Scheherazade. If he asked Anne she’d probably be able to tell him her name, a violin from the pit joining her in duet as she begins singing the backstory. Eddie knows it all of course, but he can feel Venom listening intently—it’s a good thing this version is in English and not Italian, otherwise they’d both be lost.

The stage is illuminated more as more violins join Scheherazade, showing off an impressive ship set and in the corner, a pile of pillows where the sultan awaits Scheherazade. The two of them have a brief back and forth, the orchestra softly mimicking the conversation before the sultan agrees to hear Scheherazade tell a story.

The lights around the two of them dim, and the orchestra breaks into loud fanfare as the story of Sinbad begins. Not that Eddie notices, something jolting him into complete and utter awareness of himself.

It’s only when the orchestra falls quiet again that he starts to realize what happened. “Darling?” Venom’s tendril has lost seemingly all of its shape, Venom only an inky puddle in Eddie’s lap now. Little purring clicks and an intense feeling of bliss echo in Eddie’s mind.

“What’s wrong?” Anne’s question is soft, her fingers resting atop his hand again—which only makes Eddie aware of the fact that he’s half-hard and that Venom keeps sending him waves of pleasure.

Eddie shifts, trying to...he doesn’t know,draw less attention to himself? Thankfully there seems to be only familiar concern in Anne’s face. “It’s Venom, it’s…” Eddie stops himself before he can say ‘aroused’, which is what it is he’s realizing is what’s happening to Venom. “The sounds are…”

“Is it hurt?” More concern. Eddie’d told her about Venom’s weakness to certain sounds just so she knew why he might have to leave something. “I hadn’t thought the music would be that loud.”

“No,” Eddie shakes his head. “It’s, ah, kind of the opposite.” Venom’s begun to reform as a tendril, although Eddie has no idea how long that will last—he knows there are quite a few more orchestral parts like this first one to come however.

“Good,” Venom hisses, his snaggletoothed smile somehow wider than usual.

Anne clearly gets it, because a blush forms high on her cheeks. She looks away, returning her attention to the opera, but her fingers start up that gentle stroking again. Eddie almost suggests they leave, but the music crescendos again and his mind becomes something of a muddle.

When his thoughts start to martial themselves, he finds he’s biting his lip, thank god. Anne’s kept up her petting with her fingers, light movements that still send more sparks of awareness through him than they usually would. Venom isn’t a puddle, or anywhere visible anymore, completely sunken back into Eddie and all but vibrating inside him.

Eddie feels hyper aware of everything, and is certain the moment he moves everything’s going to go off the rails. Anne seems unaware of his predicament, her focus on the opera below. He does his best to focus too, fingers digging into the armrests of the seat, watching as the lights over the ship set dim to darkness as ‘dawn’ breaks.

-

As Scheherazade begins her next aria, Anne shifts her attention to Eddie. She knows he’s been tense, but seeing it is different.

Perhaps the problem with looking is that Anne likes what she sees, Eddie tense and trying not to show it, Venom’s little head finally reappearing on his shoulder. It loops around Eddie’s shoulders a few times, before coming to rest on her own shoulder. “We like this,” it takes Anne a few seconds to realize that the sound coming from Venom is a purr.

“Most beings do enjoy pleasure,” she agrees. Reaching up, she gives Venom’s head a brief scratch.

“Annie…” There’s a blush riding high on Eddie’s cheeks, as well. Of the two of them he’s always been the more easily embarrassed by certain things. She’s always found it sweet, but now she thinks her enjoyment is of a different sort.

Moving her hand away from Venom, she rests it on the back of Eddie’s neck. “Deep breaths love,” she soothes. She’d thought she’d need to seduce her husband, but it seems as if the other being inside him is doing all the hard work for her. Which, she’ll admit, miffs her just a little, but she’s also not going to turn up her nose at the situation. “Venom, honey, could you try and ease it back some? We don’t want to wreck Eddie.”

“We will not hurt Eddie,” it bristles at her.

Realizing it misunderstood her, she does her best to correct. “Overwhelm him,” perhaps only a little better. Eddie’s look is grateful though, clearly thinking she’s on his side. “Too much too quickly can be all well and good, but there’s...far more enjoyment in delaying the gratification.”

Eddie’s expression shifts to betrayal and she rubs her thumb against the knobs of his spine. “Trust me Eddie, please?” She understands that he’s nervous now that he’s changed, but she feels part of that is that he’s convinced himself not to make the attempt in an effort to be ‘safe.’ Which is not something Anne agrees with.

On stage the lights come up again, showing off the palace set the stagehands have set up while Scheherazade sang. The Princess and the Tiger has always been Anne’s favorite story in the opera, and luckily for Eddie it’s more muted in its musical accompaniment, at least until the end.

She can feel him shift under her touch, trying to make himself more comfortable and perhaps hide the growing bulge in his pants. “Alright,” even with his verbal agreement she knows she’s won by the way he leans into her hand, her thumb digging into his skin just a little more with his action.

“Thank you,” Anne smiles and leans over to give him a brief kiss. “Think of it like the tides Venom, in and out. Ebb and flow. Enjoy the sensations, the reactions.”

-

As Venom becomes more used to the music and the sensations, it finds it is a little easier to pull away from them. Still enjoying it, but in a different way. It does its best to follow Anne’s suggestion now that it has something like control again.

This is nothing like it expected though, far more intense than the radio and films. It hadn’t realized that loud sounds and vibrations could be enjoyable.

The music here is quieter though, giving them time to recover. It can feel the heat and ache dying down in Eddie some, Ri’s faint panting easing into normal breathing. Everything is returning to the way it should be. The whole unit of them begins to relax, enjoy what they’re watching and the story being told.

Anne’s hand slips from their neck to their hand again, fingertips and nails absently moving and stroking. It can feel the way Eddie’s attention shifts ever so briefly to those touches, something in him tensing as if expecting more. Her own attention doesn’t shift from the stage however.

Their sweetbread, who would be the most delicious person of all if they were to eat her—not that they would, she is theirs. Who kisses them in thanks, it doesn’t like that the mark is now gone, and seems to be willing to teach them how best to enjoy this... pleasure.

It has seen all of Eddie’s memories, but the pleasures from sex never felt like this to it. But if it is always like this, Venom understands why humans enjoy it so.

“Here it comes,” she murmurs.

Venom doesn’t understand what she means. Then it begins to feel the music swell as on stage as the princess confronts the sorcerer who’s trapped the prince as a tiger—a strange story, but Venom finds it likes it.

It does its best to brace itself, sinking fully back into Eddie and spreading out as much as it can.

The violin speaks alone for a second, lulling it into thinking it’s over.

Anne’s suggestion of thinking of it like the tide is not wrong, the music crashing over them like a wave. Venom’s not caught as off guard as before however, which it finds makes it a little easier to ride the pleasure.

Eddie seems to take the brunt of it though, his and Ri’s systems growing excited once more. Dan leaps off the parapet and onto Ri, brief flickers of sensation as he begins to groom her filtering in. Anne turns Eddie’s hand over, thumb stroking the pulsing veins there.

All of it seems to make Eddie shudder, and Venom can feel pleasure of a different sort rise in them. It does its best to feed that pleasure with its own, just slowly instead of all at once.

The music dies away as the story goes unfinished, but it does its best to keep Eddie in this state. Gently it pulls thin tendrils of itself out, brushing them along Eddie’s skin, feeling the way he starts at first at the sensation before shivering and gasping.

Venom thinks its starting to understand what Anne meant by delaying the satisfaction.

-

Once again Eddie is completely and utterly aware of himself, even if his attention seems to be pulled every which way.

Anne’s petting touch on his wrist, her attention on the stage making the gesture feel like the afterthought of a habit.

Dan grooming Ri, claws kneading into her as he purrs.

And Venom...Venom is far more attentive, but Eddie can feel it trying to keep things at a constant state and not push him further still.

Eddie’s grateful for that. He also knows that if he asked them to stop they would, and he could deal with the fluttering sensations of embarrassment and mortification in relative peace. Yet knowing that he doesn’t want them to stop, he’s been so afraid of this for so long now, letting everyone else but him deal with it is...attractive in a way.

There is also a brief air of familiarity about it, having ceded control in bed-play to Anne more than a few times. Although none of those times have been like this.

He can feel warmth against him as Anne presses closer. “They’re about to start Ali-Baba.” There’s amusement in her tone as her breath ghosts across his cheek. He knows why she’s amused though: Ali-Baba is his favorite part and he’d have to fight through what was happening to him if he wanted to pay an ounce of attention to it—the end also marked the halfway part of the opera. Intermission was going to be...interesting.

Hmmmm, Venom seems content to let him have his focus for now. Eddie doubts it’ll stay that way, however.

The music helps in that regard, quiet and tense as Ali-Baba follows the thieves to their cave and gets trapped inside. Eddie knows the story, but he still finds himself being pulled in, forgetting for just a second.

Something slithers around his cock and Eddie stills. Don’t forget. There’s a Cheshire smile in Venom’s voice. The tendril doesn’t move, just sits there. Of course now Eddie can’t not think about it. He’s aching hard and relief would be a blessing. Yet no such relief comes.

“Eddie?” Anne’s tone is indifferent curiosity.

He can’t answer, afraid that if he opens his mouth some unholy sound will come out and they’ll get thrown out of the Met and possibly banned—a fact that would make none of them happy after the initial amusement.

Venom seeps out of Eddie’s hand and curls its way up Anne’s arm to her ear—it doesn’t escape Eddie that it curls the same way it did around him. “He was forgetting,” Venom’s voice is deeper than the rolling thunder of the timpani. “I made him remember.

A delighted giggle leaves Anne, one that she quickly muffles with her hand. “Thank you, honey,” she responds when her giggles die away. Turning her head, she gives Venom another kiss, which sends another wave of pure delight through them.

Now she’s kissed me twice and you not at all tonight. As far as bragging goes, it’s not very effective. It makes Eddie smile more than anything.

Venom unspools from Anne, but stays puddled along Eddie’s palm and forearm, so that Anne’s touches pet them both. The doubling of sensation is odd to Eddie, but not off putting.

Eddie tries to focus at least some of his attention on the stage, to middling success. He can follow the story well enough, although that’s more due to the fact that he knows it already, but his attention keeps drifting. Anne and Venom more distracting than they have any right to be. Distracting enough that he can barely even feel Dan’s ministrations on Ri.

As the vizier that Ali-Baba spoke to realizes he can’t recall the password to escape, the music swells and fills the air with tension.

Inside Eddie, Venom seems hellbent on mirroring that tension. Tendrils writhe all over Eddie, save for the one around his member, whose touches are barely felt, feathering things. Eddie bites into his lip hard enough that he tastes blood, afraid that if there’s any more he’s going to release.

Something thick and solid wells up in Eddie’s mouth, forcing his teeth apart enough that his abused lip slides free. It tingles as Venom heals it. This is much better. Venom seems pleased that it’s managed to gag Eddie.

Eddie sort of is too, but there’s part of him wishing it were more, and that sort of indecency is just not welcome right now.

Venom seems to agree, keeping things as light as before.

The story comes to its conclusion and as the stage lights dim, the house lights are raised. People begin to stand and mill around as the intermission begins.

Anne stands, giving Eddie’s cheek a brief kiss. “Would you like anything?”

Venom’s mouth forms in Eddie’s palm. “Chocolate?”

“Alright,” Anne’s smile is indulgent. ”For you, Eddie?” Dan leaps from Ri to the chair, making it easier for Anne to scoop him up.

The gag in his mouth disappears thankfully. “Whiskey,” he sounds ragged and hoarse. Thankfully Venom doesn’t protest like it usually does when Eddie tries to drink these days.

“Don’t have too much fun while I’m away,” Anne teases as she seems to glide out the curtains and into the hall.

Eddie groans as Venom chuckles inside him.

Ri’s head and forepaws land in Eddie’s lap. “I’ve never hated the opera as much as I do now,” she grouses.

Even if he agrees with her some, he does laugh briefly, digging his fingers in behind her ears in apology. “Sorry, dearest.”

“We are not sorry at all,” Venom purrs. “We like the opera, and would like to see more in the future.”

The comment earns Venom a brief nip from Ri. In response, Venom curls around Ri and lifts her onto Eddie’s lap, which at least manages to hide how rude his pants are at the moment. Ri doesn’t seem to mind the handling, resting her chin on the armrest. Her chuffing sounds are contented, but her words suggest otherwise. “Another two hours.”

Yes, Eddie is well aware of that. Another two hours of being touched and fondled and having to experience music in a way Eddie’d never thought of before. Another two hours where he has to try and keep himself together, if only by the barest threads. Longer even, considering the ride back to their home.

But think how good it will be when we get there, Venom draws out old memories of Eddie and Anne. Eddie shivers as he remembers each and every one of those encounters.

“What’re you going to be doing?” He digs his fingers into Ri’s fur. It’s the question he’s been afraid of asking these past few months, why he hasn’t tried anything with Anne beyond hugs and chaste kisses. Anne had been fine with it he’d thought, letting him get used to how vastly different his life is.

Tonight though, he has to wonder how much of that was her just biding her time.

“Watch, observe. Help,” as Venom speaks the tendrils encasing Eddie pulse. “We are curious about all of it.”

Eddie does his best to bite back a groan. But before he can think to comment in any sort of fashion he hears Anne’s voice.

“Eddie, love, look who I ran into downstairs.”

Venom hides away under Eddie’s clothes and skin as he turns his head, grateful he has Ri in his lap as an excuse not to stand. An excuse that’s quickly taken away from him, as Venom shifts Ri off Eddie’s lap. Granted it makes up for that by fully encircling Eddie’s cock, obscuring it quite well from anyone who might look.

“Hi, Claire right?” He smiles at the woman and her date, a man Eddie’s pretty sure he’s met before but can’t place just yet.

The woman smiles as her honey badger daemon trots over and sniffs at Ri. “Good memory, Mr. Brock.”

Eddie gratefully accepts the glass of whiskey Anne hands him when he joins them, holding out his other hand to the man. “Eddie Brock, although I have the feeling we’ve met before.” He can feel Venom flickering through his memories, clearly trying to help.

“Luke Cage,” the man smiles and takes Eddie’s hand—his own other is holding his armadillo daemon. Damn, that’s a helluva handshake. Venom rumbles in Eddie’s chest and he feels his own grip growing stronger for a second before Eddie pulls his hand away. “Maybe you’ve been to my place? Harlem Paradise?”

Venom tosses up the memory. “Right. The Bugle Christmas party, last year.”

“I was telling Mr. Cage on the way up that we’ve been hoping to go back sometime, but the days just keep slipping away,” Anne smiles before picking up one of the pieces of chocolate she has on a plate and biting into it.

Our chocolate, Venom pouts. As if in retaliation it squeezes around Eddie, and it’s a fight not to gasp at the familiar yet alien sensation.

“If you two do manage to make it back, I’ll make sure you get a bottle of the good stuff,” Mr. Cage’s smile grows a hair more.

Claire rolls her eyes and gives her date a light shove. “You keep giving bottles away like that and you’re gonna run yourself out of business.”

Polite laughter ripples through all of them, Eddie’s getting choked off by Venom squeezing again. He takes a quick drink of whiskey to try and cover his slip.

The four of them converse for a few more minutes about music and the occasional amusing stories from their various jobs, all of which clearly bores Venom from the way he keeps caressing and teasing Eddie under his tux. Eddie’d threaten it, if he thought it’d do him any good.

After what feels like forever, the house lights dim, then brighten, then dim again. “That’s our cue then,” Claire gives them both a wide smile as she loops her arm through Cage’s. “It was nice to catch up with you both.”

“Yes,” Anne smiles back. “I hope we see each other again soon. It was nice to meet you Mr. Cage.”

He inclines his head before he and Claire walk away.

Eddie lets out a shaky breath and sags against the wall, eyes falling shut.

“Eddie?” Anne’s touch feels gentle on his chin.

He opens his eyes and takes a few deep breaths. “I’m good. Just...Venom was bored.”

Anne gives a soft laugh and with care leads him back to his seat. Scandalously, she doesn’t take her own, but sits in his lap. “I think I have a good way to distract it.” She picks up the half eaten bon bon and wiggles it in the air.

Venom’s head shoots out of Eddie’s neck. Once it reaches Anne though, it delicately takes the chocolate from her fingers, clearly trying to mind all its teeth. It gives that clicking purr as it swallows it down. “Good, but you ate some,” it pouts.

“I’m sorry,” Anne offers up another piece of chocolate. “I’ll make it up to you later, I promise.”

Eddie very much tries not to think about how Anne might do that. Afraid if he does, he’ll do something embarrassing.

He’s sure that if someone looked at them they’d think he had all the power, a beautiful woman on his lap hand feeding him chocolate while he sips an excellent whiskey. But he feels so powerless right now it’s almost laughable.

The house lights dim for good this time, the stage lights flaring on a few seconds later. The orchestra bursts into life at the same time the stage does. Eddie buries his face into Anne’s bare shoulder as he’s assaulted once more by Venom’s sensations.

-

Anne does return to her own seat after she’s finished feeding Venom. There’s still an hour minutes left and she can feel the anticipation building in herself now. She has no idea how Venom will play into things once they get home, but she’s curious to find out.

When she’d been younger she’d devoured Gothic novels, their sensuous and sexual nature appealing to something in her. Over time her tastes have broadened, but they still hold a special place in her heart.

Right now she can’t help but think Eddie is one of those sweet, young heroines, caught up in something that both arouses and scares him a little. Not that Anne isn’t scared a little too, but she finds the fear thrills her more than anything. Perhaps Eddie is the same.

She tries to be good and keep most of her attention on the opera, but eventually she has to admit she finds herself focusing on Eddie more than what’s through her glasses. The flush on his cheeks comes and goes with the music, and if she pays close attention she can see Venom by the way Eddie’s clothes move and shift. His and Ri’s heavy breathing occasionally drown out the music, a music all their own even.

Everything about them makes answering sensations in her, a warm heat rising in her belly, patiently waiting for things to change.

As the opera comes to an end, Scheherazade victorious over the sultan, and having won his promise to never kill another wife, Eddie gives a pained whimper.

Reaching out she turns his face to her. “Eddie?” She knows Venom wouldn’t hurt him, but that doesn’t stop the crest of worry in her. Something’s clearly happened.

“Venom,” he breathes heavily for a few seconds, competing with the white noise of the other watchers as they begin to rise and make their way out. “It stopped,” Eddie shifts.

Ah. Anne bites back a brief laugh. Poor Eddie. “Let’s go home.” Leaning in, she gives him a brief kiss, mindful of her lipstick.

She isn’t surprised when Eddie sticks close to her, using her as something of a shield as they walk downstairs and join the line at the coat check. She’s seen his erection after all. It’s wonderfully enticing to her, but she understands why he’d rather everyone else not see it. It makes her smile that it’s only for her—well, her and Venom.

Eddie seems relieved when they gather their things, his thick coat hiding everything. But as they climb into the cab they manage to hail a few minutes later, she can see inky darkness curl around his neck in simulacra of a scarf and Eddie stills.

It is a tense sort of quiet that fills the cab this trip, no friendly conversation with the cabbie, no thoughtful musings. Only the realization that when they step over the threshold of their home things will change, for better or worse remains to be seen. Anne knows which she’d prefer, but knows that preference doesn’t mean she’ll get it.

Their brownstone is a welcome sight, and even with the tension, she finds herself smiling as she spots Peter and his own friends climbing up the stairs next door, looking as if they’ve just come home from caroling perhaps.

Then the front door closes behind her and Eddie, and they are well and truly alone.

Anne doesn’t let herself think. Reaching out she grabs Eddie’s coat and pulls him down to her, kissing him with every pent up emotion from tonight and the past few months.

He makes a surprised sound, but quickly returns the kiss. She can feel his own hands digging into her fur coat, the silk lining rasping against her bare skin as it moves and shifts with his hold.

All of them are breathing heavily as she and Eddie break apart, save Venom whose head watches them with avid curiosity.

It’s got good reason to watch, though. Eddie looks wonderful, blush high on his cheeks, her lipstick a brighter red smear across his lips. As she watches, Venom’s appendages undo and slip Eddie’s coat and gloves off, undoing his bowtie and letting the ends hang loose.

Part of her just wants to do it here, just let the wildness between them out and come what may. But she also wants to do this right, do it in the way where there can only be certainty that everyone enjoys it. Reaching out she grasps the ends of the bowtie, using them to tug Eddie gently into following her. “Bedroom.”

It’s something of a challenge to walk backwards in her heels, but she knows the house almost as well as she knows Eddie and manages with only one stumble as she’s going up the stairs, Venom steadying her before she even realizes what happened. There’s no need to say anything just yet as they keep going, the door to the bedroom giving way and the lights flicking on—not that Anne would be able to tell you who exactly turned them on.

She and Eddie kiss again, and on the edges of her mind she can feel Ri and Dan playfully tussling near the bed, pleased sounds leaving the both of them.

Anne breaks off the kiss by shoving Eddie towards the bed. He lands on it and stares at her in confusion for a moment. With care she strips off her own gloves and slides her coat off her, tossing it aside with the gloves. Even in their room, her dress draws the eye as she glides towards Eddie, her fingers tipping his chin up so he can look her in the eye. Absently she wonders if Eddie even knows Venom’s begun to undress him.

“Eddie, love,” she rubs her thumb against his lips, spreading her lipstick further. “I’ve got to undo my hair and take off my makeup.” She could do it later sure, but that would be more work than she’s willing to put in when they reach that unknown ‘later.’ “While I do that,” she takes a breath. “I want you to teach Venom what you like.” The mirror on her vanity has a wonderful view of the bed, and she’s sure her nightly toilet will take far longer than it usually does because of this fact.

Again there’s a brief flicker of confusion, she lets him have it though. Thinking is perhaps a little hard for him right now.

“Yes,” like it had in the opera Venom loops around Eddie’s shoulders and squeezes. “Show me Eddie,” it purrs. Its tongue slips out from between its teeth, catching her fingers as it licks Eddie’s cheek. The sensation she finds is a bit like being groomed by a cat, a not entirely unpleasant sensation.

Eddie starts and gives a soft moan. A loving smile crosses Anne’s face as she leans down, her kiss more soft and familiar this time. “Can you do that Eddie?” She needs to hear him say it.

His pupils have swallowed his iris completely, and just briefly in the light she can see them flicker a spidery gray. “Annie,” it sounds almost like a plea.

“You can give yourself release,” she strokes his cheek and chin gently. “We’ve got all night to have our fun.” And she can be patient when it comes to the actual act. After all, foreplay was more fun when you took your time. Nevermind that one could argue the last four hours have been nothing but foreplay for Eddie.

“I...I can do that,” he sounds breathless, but gives her a smile.

She smiles back. “I’m going to take my makeup off now,” her fingers trail across his skin as she steps away and to the bathroom.

As she goes through the motions she can hear clothes, and a few moments later a reedy moan. The sound sends a shiver through her, the heat in her growing. When she exits the bathroom she’s greeted with an enticing sight.

Eddie’s naked, not that you can tell in some places, Venom a dark swirling mass growing and shrinking around him. He’s stretched out on the bed, one hand, interlaced with darkness, pumping up and down his swollen cock.

Anne says nothing as she moves to her vanity, content to be an observer for now. She sits, her fingers fumbling for the pins in her hair as her eyes are glued to Eddie.

“Eddie,” Venom’s rumble fills the room. As she watches, Venom shifts the both of them, as if wanting to display Eddie better, turning him so that his cock is more visible, thick appendages wrapping around Eddie’s knees and thighs, pulling them apart, just enough. “Anne is watching.”

A punched out breath leaves Eddie and she watches him force his own eyes open. Her gaze meets his through the mirror and she can see the shudder that passes through Eddie, fingers grasping tighter. From his new angle she can see his other hand is buried in Venom’s mass, clenching and unclenching.

Ting, ting, ting, go her hairpins as she undoes them. In the mirror Eddie’s hand moves faster and faster. She can see, but she thinks Eddie can’t quite feel it, an inky thread wind it’s way down from Eddie’s cock towards his hole. Ting, ting… Anne stills as Eddie shouts and arches, his hand moving faster until...

Orgasm has always looked good on Eddie, the fine lines of worry vanishing completely and his body going fully lax. Venom becomes even more shapeless, Eddie’s semen disappearing in its darkness. After a few minutes a mouth appears. “Almost as good as chocolate.”

Anne gives a soft laugh and Eddie a faint snort. At the foot of the bed, Ri is sprawled out and panting, Dan nuzzling her face.

With fewer distractions, Anne’s work goes quickly. Her hair undone, she stands and walks back over to them. “Venom honey, could you get my dress?” She turns enough to offer it the zipper.

The tendril is silk smooth as it brushes her skin, the zipper undoing slowly.

When Venom reaches the base the tendril rubs its way up her spine, the feeling sensuous and drawing a pleased sound from her. She pulls away long enough for the dress to drop from her, leaving her only in her underwear and stockings. Eddie’s dark eyes watch her as she sits on the edge of the bed and pulls her stockings down. Once they’re gone she slips out of her panties and joins them on the bed.

Her legs brush Eddie as she moves to the head of the bed, the metal of the headboard cold against her skin. She parts her legs, just enough to create a small space, and crooks her finger at Eddie. Almost languidly he rolls over and crawls to her, settling his head on her thigh. Venom is an inky pool on his shoulder and neck, one that clings to her fingers as she runs them over Eddie.

“Good?”

Eddie turns his head up a little, kissing the crease of her hip. “Good,” that blush rides high on his cheek again. “Just…”

She silences him before he can go further. “Don’t Eddie. This is how our life’s going to be now, I’m more than willing to accept it.” She enjoys Eddie. In her eyes, Venom is just a new part of Eddie to learn and enjoy as well.

He sighs against her fingers. She runs her hand through his hair, and gives the ends a brief tug. “You’ve had your fun. I think it’s my turn now,” she pointedly spreads her legs a little as she meets his dark eyes. “Eat me.”

The puddle of Venom stills, then forms into a head. “If we ate you we would be sad. Although we know you would taste delicious.”

Anne laughs, grateful when Eddie joins in.

As their laughter dies Eddie shifts down, moving her legs over his shoulder. “Not what she means, darling.” His breath is warm against her folds and the heat in her steps to the fore. “Although it’ll still be delicious.”

She laughs again, although it’s cut off by his first broad lick. He might have been hesitant about the whole thing, but it seems now that they’re in the thick of it he’s applying his usual enthusiasm. Her fingers dig into his hair as she rolls her hips. She’d known about this before she’d met Eddie, but she’s never met a man who does it with such gusto, or without having to be asked.

Eddie’s fingers slip inside her, prying her open enough for his tongue. Her body slumps and she moans deeply.

He works her higher, and she thinks he might be taking a little revenge from the opera, backing off when she almost reaches her peak. She tugs at his hair. “Cruel man,” her tone is playful, if more breathy than usual.

She can feel him smile against her thigh before he resumes his ministrations. This time, however, there’s something new. There’s his tongue, but as he works her higher again, something new slides in.

It’s soft with a rough texture, and works into her father than Eddie’s own tongue ever could. It curls in unexpected ways and seems intent on exploring every part of her. It brushes against some part deep inside her and she shrieks, body locking tightly as she orgasms.

When her world starts to settle, she peers down to see Eddie resting his head against her thigh again, Venom’s own face still lingering nearer to her slit.”You taste delicious.” Its tongue flicks against her lightly, sending sparks through her.

“Thank you.” A trembling hand reaches out, tangling into Venom.

They lay there quietly for a few minutes, bathing in the barest touches of afterglow. She finds herself growing intent again however. Reaching out she gives Eddie’s shoulders a light push. He rolls over without protest, and as she crawls on top of him she smiles. “I love you,” she leans down to give him a deep kiss.

“We love you too,” Eddie responds, eyes flicking gray again. The change catches her a little off guard, but she’s distracted by Venom, its tendrils and appendages surrounding the both of them and exploring her body with the same curiosity it used to eat her.

The texture of them is somehow different, feeling like crushed velvet as they roam over her and Eddie. A moan leaves her as one brushes over a nipple, making her rock her hips against Eddie. A few seconds later she feels him still beneath her, before his body arches and he cries out again.

She has a good idea why he does it and the thought makes her pulse race. She shifts herself down, meeting some resistance from Venom before it gives way, leaving Eddie’s cock between her folds.

“Eddie?”

Venom continues to shift and move around them as Eddie’s eyes meet hers and he nods.

-

Eddie’s growing excitement mirrors Venom’s own. The past few hours have taught it so much that its all the more curious and interested in the end.

As Anne raises her hips, it helps her, tilting them to a better angle and raising up Eddie’s cock to line up perfectly. It lets Anne lower herself however, slowing down the appendage thrusting in and out of Eddie to match her movements. It can feel Eddie’s dismay at this and grins.

It moves more as Anne begins to rock against Eddie, rubbing itself all over her and enjoying the sounds it draws from her, teasing her by only occasionally brushing her nipples or clit.

Anne grows quieter the closer they get, but Eddie makes up for it: gasping and groaning and whimpering as Anne and Venom take him.

Eddie now is close, so close, the pleasure almost greater than what it experienced at the opera. It encases both their hips, locking them together but giving just enough room for them to still rock. Oh so carefully, it slips its tongue inside Anne, curling around and around Eddie’s cock as it goes deeper inside her.

She shrieks again and Eddie’s shout joins her. His brain overloads and Venom feasts, rubbing, brushing, tasting, toying, anything it can to prolong the sensations. It feeding them back to Eddie with it’s own thoughts and feelings: how good they all look intertwined as they are, how pleased it feels at what its done, how delicious he and Anne taste together.

As orgasm begins to fade it eases, some. It stops moving the tentacle inside Eddie, but keeps it there, like it keeps him and Anne together but removes its tongue for now. It will give them some time to rest before it starts to encourage them to do it again.

It feels Eddie shift and helps to move him upright, copying Eddie when he wraps his arms around Anne. Eddie kisses her throat and it takes control of his tongue long enough to lick Anne there. Anne hums and gently rocks her hips—perhaps it won’t have to do anything.

Eddie however makes a soft sound. “You’re gonna wring me dry.”

Her lips feel soft as she kisses the top of Eddie’s head, an amused sound leaving her. “The way I see it, we’ve got five months to make up for and I’m just getting started.”

“We agree,” it doesn’t quite have the strength to fully form, but it can still use Eddie to speak.

“Hey!” Eddie doesn’t sound too angry, though, as he speaks. “I’m pretty sure I get a say in this, too.”

Anne gives them a kiss. “You do love, but I’m pretty sure Venom’s and my argument speaks for itself.”

Yes, it says privately to Eddie. Practice makes perfect, and we want to be perfect. It briefly rubs against that spot in Eddie that drives him wild, Anne gasping as Eddie bites into her shoulder to muffle himself. Venom purrs in delight. Anne’s blood is almost as delicious as the rest of her.

“Sorry,” Eddie murmurs as he lets go, lapping at the wound—it doesn’t even have to encourage him to do it.

“Mmm, you’ll make it up to me I’m sure.” She smiles and gives Eddie a lingering kiss.

Venom manages to pull itself out enough to make a head. “You still owe me,” it would like to believe it sounds reasonable about this.

Anne turns her attention from Eddie to it. “I do, don’t I.” Her hands rise up to rest on either side of the face its made, tugging it to her. It perhaps can’t close its eyes like she can, but it does its best to mimic her as they kiss.

The sound Eddie makes as he watches is intriguing, Venom feeling smug. Gently it snakes its tongue into Anne’s mouth, tracing her blunt human teeth—while trying to be mindful of its own—and tickling the roof of her mouth. She moans into it and when Venom pulls away its toothy smile is broader than normal.

“Annie, darling sweetbread,” it purrs, feeling satisfied when she laughs lightly and presses her face closer to it’s.

Pulling away from her, that smile grows even more when it looks at Eddie. It could feel his brain and body responding to the sight, but it likes seeing it too. His eyes wide, and his skin flushed.

Unable to help itself, Venom licks Eddie again, chasing the blush for a moment before slipping its tongue into his mouth. Perhaps it is less cautious in kissing Eddie than it did Anne, but it knows what Eddie can take, what it can heal.

Eddie moans around its tongue, blood beginning to rush back down to his cock. Venom encourages it along, enjoying the sensation of them swelling when already inside Anne. Anne herself gives a pleased hum against Eddie’s shoulder, moving her hips a much as Venom will allow. It slips its tongue deeper into Eddie for a second, teasing his throat before pulling out, wanting to hear the sounds he makes without obstruction.

Anne pulls Eddie’s head towards her for a kiss of their own, their bodies moving to copy the actions of their mouths. Venom gives them a little more room to move, but also takes control of Eddie’s hips, thrusting into Anne with more vigor. Eddie breaks away from the kiss with Anne. “Venom…” He’s too far gone for it to be a true chastising.

She is not so fragile, she can handle what we give her. Indeed she seems to be enjoying the sensation, her nails digging into Eddie’s back and a piece of Venom as she tries to move her own hips more.

It shifts the part of itself holding them together so that when Anne moves her hips it rubs her clit. Each time she gasps at the sensation, it pumps the part of it inside Eddie. Pleasure builds and builds and when it overcomes the three of them, Venom has its fill again, this time dissolving completely back into Eddie.

Eddie and Anne collapse onto the bed, pulling apart enough to seperate but keeping close otherwise. It can feel Eddie begin to drowse and forming a hand and arm it shifts the blankets out from under them. As they settle in to sleep it also reaches out and scoops up Ri and Dan, giving a little hum of satisfaction with Anne’s delighted shiver at the touch. Finally it snakes out and turns off the light.

Disappearing back into Eddie it floats through him, pleasure of a different sort filling it as these humans slip into their resting state. They are so perfect and wonderful, and Venom is so glad they are its.