Chapter 1: Fire and Ice
Welcome to my NANO2018 project! I wrote it in 10 days because the Venom movie got me that deep in my feelings.
Pain was familiar to him.
That’s how it was when you grew up in New York City. Sometimes you got hit by a stray cab, your bullies pushed you into a wall, or you tripped down the stairs of one of those grand public buildings tourists loved flocking around. Eddie had broken bones and known pain plenty of times in his life. That was before all of this. Since this started he'd been chewed up and spit out by all manner of shitty situations.
Hell, hours- or was it days- earlier, he’d been in a bike crash that would have been fatal for anyone else.
Anyone other than them.
Venom had said they were outmatched- but when the injuries were to both of them. It hadn’t mattered. Venom was able to fill those spaces as they came.
Still. Eddie felt the pain. It wasn’t his body- it was their body. Every bullet that Venom failed to catch he pushed out of Eddie’s body, letting black filaments knit the flesh back together while they kept fighting. Venom’s presence was a balm to all of the wounds he had sustained in the past few days- and not just the physical ones.
And then it was ripped from him in a moment during a whirlwind fight.
It was instint to reach his hand out across the void to catch a few filaments of black shining in the light of the launchpad. There was a moment of pure bliss in their unity before the noise of the fight crashed back around them as Drake and his symbiote attempted to overpower them like a parasite.
Eddie reeled from the overwhelming wrongness that was the fusion of the four of them. It was nothing, nothing like the subtle, bone deep connection he shared with Venom. One that slumbered in his veins for almost a day before he realized that the subtle warmth of a second pulsing thrum through his body wasn’t the exhaustion from breaking out of the facility or the aftermath of running through a tree.
The piercing noise that played over the speaker came as a relief when it separated the four of them.
Still. When it came to fighting dirty, Eddie thought he had Drake beat. That good old NYC upbringing should have given him the upper hand.
Turns out he was wrong.
The shard of alien metal through his spine and heart registered as nothing but mild shock and discomfort. Surely, Venom would fix it. He’d fixed everything else. They were right together. The world spun as he listed to the side. His shoulder meeting the launch pad and jarring the metal taking up the space in his heart that was meant for something else.
It was all he could do to hold onto the shard of metal with numb fingers.
He wanted to reach out like before, but he couldn’t. He was frozen under the weight of his past mistakes. Leaving Venom in the hospital. Screwing up Anne’s life. Getting Maria killed. Not doing more for his community.
Feeling was fading from his limbs.
Idly, Eddie realized that this was death. A slow crawl into nothing. Certainly not the headfirst slide he’d imagined for himself when he thought about all the ways an investigative reporter could wind up dead in a ditch.
Things were starting to get dark. He hadn’t taken a breath since the initial exhale from the shock of being skewered. He gasped in a tight breath at the thought. Like he opened up a floodgate, pain started rushing in. Nothing like he’d ever felt before.
His heart wasn’t beating.
Drake might have said something witty, but he was a little too busy dying to notice. He was just glad the fucker was leaving him to die in peace.
Time started slipping. It could have been seconds or hours as he faded in and out. He couldn’t see anymore.
His hand was icy now.
Then it was moving.
More accurately, their hand was moving, Venom surrounded him in moments. Catching Eddie’s consciousness moments before it could sink into the abyss. He offered an alternative to that void. One just as inky but full of warmth and the thrum of not being alone. Never being alone.
Eddie hadn’t realized how lonely it was to die.
He let out a soft exhale and surrendered to the familiar darkness.
At least if he died now, Venom was with him.
You’re not going to die, Eddie.
Eddie stirred, feeling a hum of anxiety and power flush the ice from his system.
We’re going to live.
They stood together as one, Venom compensating Eddie’s lack of balance due to the shard. Together, they let out an exhilarated yell. The shard came free of his chest and Venom was right there to fill it in like before. A dull flash of light sealing the wound away from the air. It was final.
A true acceptance.
The fire blooming around them reminded them that they didn’t have time to examine what this changed. What a desperate drive to make sure the other survived led them to. Eddie didn’t want Venom to die. Venom didn’t want Eddie to die.
So they lived. The scaled the rocket as it launched and ripped Carlton Drake’s dreams from the sky.
As they went down in a ball of flames, Eddie thought that was more like it. They do it together or not at all.
If he thought that Eddie was just going to sit back and let him sacrifice himself; he had another thing coming. He didn’t want that emptiness to take residence beside his heart again. Eddie held on as they plummeted through the sky. They felt the pain as Venom tried to shield him from the flames- but they were bound together tighter than any other souls in the universe and what Venom felt, Eddie felt too. It burned.
Eddie had almost succumbed to ice, he wasn’t going to let Venom fall to fire.
He concentrated on that spot next to his heart, urging Venom inside. For a terrifying moment there was no response from Venom, then there was a pulse of light from beneath his sweatshirt and then it was ice all over again as water swallowed them up. Eddie kicked upwards, following the feeling of bubbles against his skin in the darkness. He was swimming. He had to swim for both of them.
Had to get out of this situation for both of them.
Debris rained down from the failed launch, most of them falling along an arc instead of straight down- the route they had taken. Every few moments he could hear a splash as another unimaginably heavy piece of spacecraft plunged into the water.
He was exhausted- he had just died. Venom had just died. Eddie knew that as surely as he still drew breath. Venom had brought him back, now it was Eddie’s turn to hold Venom together in the aftermath of the fire. He swam as hard as he could towards shore, only visible because of the trees arching up over the dark waters of the Bay.
He wouldn’t let anything happen to Venom, the world could count on that. He’d given everything up to help Eddie save the Earth, and Eddie would not see that rewarded with death.
As he stumbled out of the water, police helicopters were starting to arrive on the scene in the aftermath of the explosion. It was going to be a mess getting out of here undetected.
Maybe he should talk to police. Get something on record about what the Life Foundation had done. Death was too good for Carlton Drake, Eddie would see his legacy burn as well. But… the Life Foundation was also the legacy of people like Dr. Skirth. Maybe it could still help build a better future for humanity.
Besides, talking to the cops would mean the possibility of someone deciding he knew too much- or they wouldn’t believe him about Venom.
What would he even say?
‘Sorry Officer, Venom’s a little rambunctious but if anything happened to him I would die on the spot out of principle.’
Venom sent him a weak pulse of warm, fuzzy feelings in response to that. Eddie shushed him out loud so he would save his strength, which incurred a weird look from a stranger that did a double take seeing a soaking wet thirty-something man walk out of the woods and stumble onto asphalt.
Hey, he was doing his best here.
What the hell was someone doing jogging down a dark road near where an explosion had just happened anyway? He should be the one thumbing his nose at them- not the other way around.
Okay, maybe he hit his head a couple times there at the end and Venom wasn’t really in a fit state to do anything other than keep them from bleeding out. It was fine, things were fine. They both lived, hadn’t they? Once the big fight was over and heroes had prevailed the story was done. Right?
Except life wasn’t that simple, and Eddie knew that a careless driver could probably end their tale right here and now. The world didn’t stop after the bad guy was defeated. The heroes were left to pick up the pieces. Movies didn’t show that much. Neither did the news.
Eddie started walking down the road in the opposite direction of the jogger. He thought it was the road that led to the Golden Gate, from the non-city side. It was heading up a hill- as most roads in San Francisco suburbs did at some point- and Eddie got at least a mile down it before swearing.
Where was he going? His apartment was trashed. It was definitely compromised by some big government agency at this point. All they’d find was some off-the-books black ops squad knocked the fuck out sleeping on the remains of his furniture.
Maybe he should have tried to talk to the cops.
Actually, maybe his best bet was hanging out in the woods for a while. Then calling Anne on a payphone to let her know they weren’t dead. Girls appreciated that sort of thing. Didn’t they?
He laughed a little and pressed the heel of his hand to his temple to stave off the pain the action caused. They had definitely hit their head one too many times tonight.
So hanging out in the woods wasn’t working. There was nothing to eat besides joggers. Which Eddie really didn’t feel like doing. It would be hard without becoming Venom. They weren’t really in a state to bite anyone’s head off and Eddie’s teeth alone wouldn’t get the job done. It should have bothered him that his teeth were the limiting factor in his ability to eat another person.
They’d been walking down the road for less than an hour and he was already ravenously hungry, so everything was looking like a good option when it came to food.
A few road signs back he’d started stripping pine needles off of low branches and shoving them in his mouth. Venom hadn’t liked that one bit. Truth be told, Eddie hadn’t liked it much either. They needed fuel though, and he remembered something about pine needle tea from an episode of Bear Grylls he’d watched in college. So it probably wouldn’t poison them.
The echo of a snapping branch bounced through the trees and Eddie looked up. Before them was a deer, and he had a split second to contemplate trying to catch it before it turned and bounded away.
So yeah- not working. He wasn’t really a paragon of stealth.
In the distance, there was a glow to the road that revealed itself to be one of those gas stations you could only find in the middle of the woods. He paused to take his hoodie off and writing most of the leftover water out of it. It didn’t make him more presentable.
A bell chimed as they entered, and Eddie made a beeline for the candy aisle. The first thing he grabbed was a kingsized Hershey bar which he stripped of its wrapper and shoved in his mouth.
He looked up at an apathetic looking teen behind the counter, staring at him with wide brown eyes. The vest he wore over his shirt with the brand’s signature colors didn’t do his dark brown complexion any favors, Eddie noted idley.
“ ‘ve got money,” Eddie said through a mouth full of chocolate.
The teen nodded, “Okay.”
“You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had,” Eddie continued to fill the silence. He stuck a handful of circus peanuts in his mouth only for Venom to direct him to spit it out.
“Okay.” The teen looked down at his phone.
Eddie started grabbing all the chocolate he could and shoving it in the pockets of his hoodie.
Walking over to the probably days old taquitos rolling around on a warmer, Eddie grabbed a handful of those too and downed them.
After a second. He grabbed a water bottle.
“Good for now?”
The kid looked up from his phone, “What?”
He waved the kid off.
Yes, Eddie. More later. Fresher.
He walked over to the counter and started fishing out his waterlogged wallet.
The kid looked at him as he held out a soggy hundred dollar bill- it was the last thing in his wallet. One he’d tucked underneath his library card in case of emergency.
“Listen,” the kid leaned over the counter. “You look like you’re really going through it today. I’ll just say a couple of stoners came in and raided the snack aisle while I was checking one of the pumps.”
There was a pause as the kid seemed to glance over Eddie’s shoulder before leaning in.
“Also I saw you on twitter. With the bike. And the thing. And that explosion? That was you too. I Wouldn’t have recognized you but you look like shit and you’re wearing like. The same clothes. Minus the goop.”
Eddie’s mouth dropped open.
“You know, there’s not much going on West Coast hero-wise. Used to have Stark. I think there’s some kids running around here and there trying to do good. But-” the teen shrugged in Eddie’s general direction.
“We aren’t a hero.”
The kid set his phone down and raised an eyebrow at him. “We? Interesting pronoun use.”
This kid is running you in circles. I like him.
The kid raised his hands in a shrug.
“No, not you. Ugh. Bye. I’m leaving. Forget you saw me. I’m going to live in the woods or something.” Eddie said, shaking his head and grabbing a few more snacks on the way out the door.
“Love you too, Goop-man!”
He wasn’t sure why he’d yelled that on his way out. Maybe the kid would get word out. Neither of them wanted the press to be going around and calling them Goop-Man or something. This was all Spider-Man’s fault. And Iron Man. Who was insecure enough to need man appended to their title?
“See, sounds stupid.”
Out of habit, Eddie fished out his phone and tapped the home button. Staring at it and waiting for it to unlock.
I might be wrong but I don’t think those work after water.
Eddie’s flush made the air around him feel even colder. “Right, I forgot.”
There was a pulse of warmth next to his heart that reminded him of the purring of a cat. You are tired, you need rest.
“We need rest,” Eddie said, putting his hand over the center of his chest. He’d been so close to losing Venom- it was incomprehensible to think that he could have been trying to make it down this road by himself. If he didn’t have the drive to get Venom somewhere safe then he didn’t know if he’d have the determination to keep walking.
He chomped down on a Slim Jim, cramming the left over wrapper into his pants pocket.
Respite came in the form of a quaint roadside motel. This close to San Francisco, even a cheap hotel ran almost eighty bucks a night. He was suddenly glad for the kid back at the gas station. He wished he’d gotten his name.
It was David Alleyne.
He had a name tag.
Eddie laughed softly, “What would I do without you?”
Do you want too?
“What?” he asked, stripping out of his clothes and doing his best to wash them in the sink, hanging them to dry and stepping into the shower. He hadn’t showered with Venom yet but he was too tired to go to bed without a hot shower. Whatever weirdness he should feel about it was masked by exhaustion
Be without me.
“Listen, Venom, I know you’re new to this. But the whole desperately reaching out for your hand while you tried to die for me generally means I want you around.”
Venom chuffed. Yeah, okay, you can elaborate later.
His expression softened, “We can talk tomorrow. There’s… there’s a lot to talk about. But you and me? That’s an us thing.”
Eddie toweled off in the silence of Venom’s approval.
The clothes he’d draped over the radiator were only slightly damp he put his shirt and boxers back on. The TV was awful, but they had a few news stations. There was a lot of covering up going on already. The media had been trying to spin it as an accident after a dry run of the launch, but after flipping to the next local channel, it seemed like some of the Life Foundation employees had decided to talk to the media.
Well, Eddie applauded them for their courage. It wasn’t easy to strike out against a large company like that.
Reaching over for the pile of snacks on the bed, he munched on them and drank his water. He was tired but he didn’t want Venom to start snacking on his spleen if he tried sleeping in. Actually, Venom could probably have his spleen. It’s not like he was using it. Maybe a kidney and a lung too.
I’m not going to eat your organs, Eddie.
“ ‘m just sayin. Not really using those ones. But you can only have one of each.” His jaw cracked in a yawn.
I’ll keep that in mind, now sleep. Stupid human.
“Goodnight to you too, sweetheart.”
His consciousness was slipping away by the time Venom’s rumbling response of approval registered in his mind.
Chapter 2: Tidying Up
Eddie woke up and then wished he hadn’t.
Everything hurt, and he meant everything, they must have been taken apart cell-by-cell and put back together all over again like a puzzle. Actually, that probably wasn’t far off from the truth if he remembered everything from the last… day? Week?
His head was too fuzzy without coffee to remember right now.
Though the prospect of shitty motel coffee didn’t fill him with glee.
“V? Y’here?” Eddie mumbled, grimacing at the taste of day-old gas station food in his mouth.
He blinked and realized that he’d forgotten to close the curtains before passing out. Good thing he could sleep anywhere; he’d needed that talent last night with this bed.
Sitting up didn’t improve his situation much, but he felt more human. It left him off kilter, thinking of himself as human for some reason.
The symbiote still hadn't responded to him. “V?”
He chuckled and patted his chest. “Well, alright. I’ll go find us some food then. You keep sleeping.”
Gathering up all his things and throwing away his trash, Eddie made some terrible instant coffee and got ready to face another long day of walking. He could probably call Anne and let her know they were alive now without everything falling apart.
Actually, getting in touch with Dan might be a better choice. He was sure he could find Dan’s number in the hospital registry if he looked hard enough...
He barely glanced around the room before leaving it behind- not like he had much of anything to forget. It was past noon now, and much warmer than yesterday. His mood was helped by the fact that his clothes were dry and moderately clean. Pity that his phone was a lost cause at this point- it would make getting into contact with Dan and Anne much easier, but he didn’t have a bag of rice or a charger, so there wasn’t much he could do. It was too late to salvage it.
“If you don’t open this door your sister’s going to do what you can’t, bitch.” A man yelled, hammering on the door. It wasn’t the kind of person that you expected to see in a place like this: pea coat still on and wearing a scarf that Eddie could clock as cashmere from yards away.
A muffled “Go away!” came from the other side of the door.
He didn't want to intervene, but it was happening literally in between him and the direction he needed to walk so there was no helping it, really.
“Hey, buddy, I don’t think you’re getting anywhere here.” Eddie drawled. He made sure to let a hefty dose of New York into his voice. He found it got him further when playing the part expected of a homeless looking street reporter.
After all, there were lots of ways a kid from New York could end up in a major California city.
“Why don’t you fuck off, buddy, and mind your own goddamn business.” Eddie felt Venom’s consciousness stir before melding into his own. They were both in too much pain and too tired to put up walls between each other.
“Please! Can you please get security or something.” Came the voice from inside the door.
He didn’t think a place like this had any security.
“Do you want to eat him?”
The man looked rightfully aghast. “Excuse me?”
He got the sense Venom was sizing him up. There’s not really much meat on him. Is there? We don’t really need that much calcium.
“Very sensible.” Eddie nodded, relishing in how crazy he must seem to this man.
It seemed to be working though, the man (whom Eddie was mentally thinking of as Money-man, see, there was that -man thing again) started edging back towards an ostentatious silver car. Eddie could tell from here it was a rental, maybe Money-man didn't have as much money as he tried to show off.
Want to scare him?
I got you. Maybe next time.
“Fuck, whatever.” The man said, turning to the car and fumbling for the keys.
Eddie leaned forward, putting a hefty dent into the side of the car and getting in the man’s face. He let just a little bit of their Venom voice leak through. “If you ever even think of touching that family, I’ll tear your hands off and feed them to you.”
“Dude fuck this! What kind of crazy Captain America hobo shit,” the man yelled, scrambling into the driver’s seat and pulling away.
It’s good to be a good guy.
“Betcha he doesn’t have the insurance for the rental car either,” Eddie turned, a whistle on the tip of his tongue and a spring in his step.
The door behind him opened. And a young woman with mousy brown hair and even richer brown skin. “He’s such a creep. I don’t even have a sister.”
This was quickly becoming a very awkward situation that he very desperately wanted to not be in anymore.
Eddie coughed to cover up a laugh.
“Yeah well, have a great morning- er, afternoon?” He was wanting to leave now. Very much.
“Thank you…” She trailed off like she was waiting for his name.
“I’m a notorious hoodie thief. I’ve stolen hoodies all over the country. Goodbye, I have to go.” Eddie made a heel turn and started walked away from the motel.
It was worth it, he thought, to hear Venom’s mental amusement echo off of his own.
“We are moving back to New York,” Eddie declared as he finally crested the last hill leading back into San Francisco. He’d had to walk over it instead of under it, unlike the highway. It was too packed to walk through the tunnel leading to the Golden Gate if he didn't feel like getting hit by several cars.
He still had to walk across a bridge though, which he eyed with disdain. It would require a toll to get across- and there goes the rest of his money. He was lucky to have landed in San Pablo Bay instead of closer to Alcatraz. From what he knew from television the currents around there were murder.
Still it had been a huge walk.
There’s many people to eat in New York?
“You bet your ass there are.”
He kept walking, fearful that if he stopped now he’d never start back up again. The city was so close, once he was there he could melt away into the haunts of San Francisco's homeless population. It would be good to check on everyone else he knew. Make sure that the Life Foundation hadn’t stolen anyone else away in the time he was gone. Those experiments were over- they could hope- but he still worried for them. Sometimes it felt like if he didn't, no one else would.
He’d also get more chances to sleep and maybe they could eat some feral cats after that. The thought wasn’t very appealing but he knew that Venom needed to eat something more than road trip snacks.
Those are the animals you keep subconsciously associating me with?
“You’re very cat-like,” Eddie said into the collar of his hoodie. As much as he loved talking with Venom it wasn’t something he could really do out loud now that they were back in a society. Maybe he could get a bluetooth headset. Were those still a thing?
Or maybe he could just preface everything he said with Alexa or Siri. Maybe Google.
Please don’t call me any of those.
“You got it, V.”
They walked up the gentle slope of the bridge, Eddie kept his eyes forward on the city and didn’t look down. Normally this was because of the height, but now he knew what the cold hard water below felt like. How it felt to fall into it and have your breath stolen from your lungs by the shock as you hit the salty concrete surface- he’d thought about jumping into it, a time to two. He wasn’t proud but he’d been a dark place after more than a few of his spectacular fuckups.
I would catch you.
Eddie smiled and tucked his hands into his hoodie and smiled at that.
Venom was good for him. And hey, he wasn’t sweating that much anymore, which was a relief. Since it made him look less like a maniac. The lady taking tolls hadn’t even blinked twice at him. Motel sink clothes-washing and showers for the win!
“Maybe we should have tried to take a ferry.” Eddie said, still not looking down.
You didn’t remember where any of the terminals were.
“We could have asked someone.”
The city wasn’t very visible from the bridge, so Eddie looked ahead to the Golden Gate Visitor Center. He’d take a smaller road into the city from there.
It was still a long walk, one that he really didn’t want to make.
“Think we might have just enough left for bus fare back into the city.” Eddie said, placing his hand over over his heart again. He looked kind of a idiot walking around like he was saying the pledge of allegiance, but it made him feel better with another layer of protection between Venom and the world.
I don’t need protecting.
Eddie raised his eyebrows. “You’re allergic to air, I think you need some protection.”
The was suddenly a strange spasm in his stomach, causing Eddie to bend over like he’d been punched. A hoarse noise escaped from his throat.
“Did you just blow a raspberry on my stomach from the inside?” he asked once he got his breath back.
A smug feeling was Venom’s only response.
“You’re a little shit you know what?”
A tourist turned and looked at him and Eddie walked faster until he got to the bus stop outside the visitor’s center. They collapsed onto the bench and let out a sigh. They were both tired and Eddie was really, really missing his phone.
He pulled out the last candy bar that he’d… liberated from the gas station and inhaled it while they waited for a bus into the city to come in through the terminal.
The buses in San Francisco were a melting pot where you could encounter any kind of person: international tourists, working people, homeless people, tourists that drove in but were smart enough to know that parking in the city was a nightmare- which wasn't many of them.
They were lucky enough to catch one of the double length buses, with a circular joint in the middle. Eddie always liked those ones- some childish part of him loved to stand in the center of the circle as it turned and surf down the hills of San Francisco. He was going to stand there and think of what to do next when someone familiar called out to him.
“Eddie! Thought you’d died. Heard some scuttle about you getting wrapped up in that Life nonsense.”
They turned, and saw someone that Eddie knew to be Henry. He was a homeless veteran, a former sailor, and one of the best men Eddie had met in the past year. He looked out for his fellow homeless people, and sometimes threw his status as veteran around to get the police to take concerns from the homeless seriously. He was a good man who always deserved Eddie’s time, Eddie walked to the back of the bus and smiled at him, he was rewarded with toothy smile over chapped black lips in return.
“I got wrapped up in something alright,” Eddie said, clapping the old man on the shoulder. He’d secured a seat at the back, which meant he probably planned to ride around all day. “Maria’s gone, they’re tried to cover it up but I wasn’t having it. Anyone else that got sucked in is probably gone as well. I’ll have to see if I can find out what they’re doing with the bodies. That shit was fucked, Henry.”
“Seemed like it, but you blew it wide open, eh?”
Eddie laughed, and Venom laughed with him. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Eddie, I have to tell you something.” The man gestured him forward and Eddie leaned in to listen.
Then Henry smacked him on the back of the head.
“You ain’t subtle, son.”
“Ouch, hey? What?”
“You think word didn’t get around of your wild goose chase through the city? So many people saw that, and a lot of them were our people. We were worried.”
His heart sank, or maybe Venom was getting comfortable. It was easier to blame it on Venom than it was to acknowledge that he might be losing one of his last ties to the city that kept him human in the darker points of his life. “You guys don’t have to worry, we’re not going to eat anyone.”
Henry went to smack the back of his head again but this time Eddie ducked in time, “Idiot, we’re not worried about that, we’re worried for you, you fool-ass bleeding heart.”
He blinked and bristled immediately, “Hey! This bleeding heart just saved the world, thank you.”
Henry just laughed off his ire, “Always said you’d end up doing something like that. Thought it would be the reporting though. The word on the street is that you’re trustworthy Eddie. True, not everyone talks to each other- but enough of us do. And word gets around. You covering people’s medications, helping others get Naloxone, hell, word is you helped someone with their college application.”
“Tommy was a good kid. Just needed some things cleared with the right people.”
“That ain’t the point, Eddie.”
Eddie just made a vague gesture and put his hands in the air.
“Good to know I’ve blown my secret identity before I even knew I had one.”
“Nah, it ain’t like that. We ain’t snitches.”
His disbelief must have shown on his face, because Henry adjusted his hat and looked out the window. Eddie wasn’t even paying attention to what part of the city they were in right now. The bus was as good a place as any to get some rest. Especially since they were dangerously low on funds.
“Brock, I’m not saying rumor won’t get around. But enough of us know you that there’s been all sorts of other rumors spun around the truth. It’s not a great solution, but hey, you didn’t give us a heads up.”
He shook his head, “It’s more than enough, Henry. Don’t let anyone put themselves in danger for me though, I'm not worth that.”
“You know as well as I that nobody in this town listens to a goddamn thing. Stubborn as hell, all of us.”
He leaned back in the chair. “If that ain’t the truth.”
“You look tired as hell, Eddie, get some shut eye. This bus ain’t due to return to the compound until this evening.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
He tugged his hoodie down over his face and leaned back. There was still a lot to figure out. What to tell Anne and Dan- how he felt about those two was still up in the air right now. Dan was a good guy, Eddie had crawled into a lobster tank in front of him and the man had still tried to help. Carried him out of that restaurant like a baby.
That was good people if he ever saw it.
Besides, Eddie and Venom might need medical care, and it’s not like they could just go to a free clinic. I like Anne, and Dan… Anne loves Dan, I saw it when she helped us.
We’re going to need to talk about that. No more body hopping my ex and getting her to kiss me, okay?
Well, Anne seemed to agree my kissing plan was the quickest way to reunite us.
What? Your kissing plan? Eddie almost jolted forward in his seat. That was your idea?
Venom seemed to retreat closer to his spine, like he wanted to wrap himself around something vital that Eddie couldn’t live without- as if Eddie would react badly to this information. Maybe he would have before he knew what it was like to be whole in a way that no other human would understand. To be thinking about ‘We’ instead of ‘I’ all the time.
Was it your plan to kiss me because you wanted Anne to kiss me?
Sleep, Eddie. Talk later. I’m tired too.
Alright, but don’t go anywhere.
As if anyone could convince me to do so.
Eddie grinned and tucked his head against the window to catch an hour or two of sleep. They were going to talk about this later; but until then, they needed their rest.
Chapter 3: This Isn't Kansas Anymore
“Hey, this is your stop.”
Eddie woke up to his shin getting kicked by a five foot something brunette in a sweater.
“What?” Eddie said, his lethargy tainting the cadence to draw out the word into something almost unrecognizable.
She crossed her arms. “You are so lucky I am in town, and that I am as awesome as I am. Or you’d have some serious shit breathing down the neck of that tragic hoodie.”
The woman tapped her foot. “You heard me, up you go. I’m not about to wait for this bus to circle all around the city again to get to the safehouse.”
Eddie sat up and wrapped his arms around his torso. Something about talking to this woman was like standing in the eye of a hurricane. It made him feel on edge. She seemed to get fed up with waiting for a response and continued, “I’m Darcy, I think you know my brother. You know. Good looking doctor?”
Eddie rubbed his face with his hands. “Dan is your brother?”
She smiled, all sharp corners lined in red. “Yes, glad you’re keeping up with us, can we get this conversation moving off the bus now? Maybe then your friend can join us.” She fished a wallet out of her oversized bag and brandished a New York driver’s license proclaiming her to be Darcy Lewis, and judging by her birth date she was Dan’s younger sister.
Part of Eddie wanted to keep his ass glued to the chair to be contrary, but if this was Dan’s sister- then he wanted to see what she had to say. How did she know? Had Dan spoken to anyone else? He needed to find out fast, and his phone wasn’t working. So talking to the sister it was.
“This has been a very weird few days,” Eddie said as he stumbled to his feet.
“Buddy, you have no idea the kind of weird shit you sign up for when you stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.” She pat him on the shoulder in a way that felt vaguely patronizing. “Just wait till you hear some of my war stories. If you’re gonna be in this mess, you’re going to want to walk into it prepared.”
She stepped off the bus and threw her scarf back around her neck where it had come loose, then pulled a knit cap out of her bag and pulled it over her unruly hair. The gesture reminded him of Maria.
He felt Venom move at the thought, and Eddie internally shushed him. He didn’t blame Venom for what had happened- it was a shitty way to be introduced to humanity. Shoved in cages and then forced to try and make something work when the pieces didn’t match.
She showed me you, when you tried to help her- well you tried to help us. She knew that even if you didn’t know that, you’d be glad to know you were helping two people instead of one. I wanted to see what could cause that kind of belief in someone- because I certainly didn’t think that highly of Riot or anyone else on the team.
Eddie shrugged in response. He wanted to formulate a reply, but it also was a conversation he didn’t want to have around Dan’s sister. At least not before he got to the bottom of why she was here.
“You are like, top three in the brooding category by the way,” Darcy looked at him critically, “I’m very impressed.”
What was he supposed to say to that?
“I’m not brooding, I was just thinking.”
I am sticking my tongue out at you, in spirit.
Honestly, he was relieved to leave the heavier topics behind as Darcy came to a stop in front of a nondescript building. She held her hand up to a nondescript brick and the door opened.
She tapped a bracelet on her wrist. “Love this thing. Much easier than fumbling for keys in the dark.”
Eddie nodded at her, looking down the street to make sure no one was following them.
I wouldn’t let us be followed.
You’re supposed to be resting.
“Gonna stand in the doorway all night?” she asked, holding the door open and gesturing.
What do you think? Good idea?
She’s no Riot, what’s the worst that could happen?
The apartment; well safehouse, smelled like Chinese food. It was the first thing he noticed, because it reminded him that he was still ravenous.
He was moving to the table and upending a container of lo mein into his mouth before he realized what he was doing. He’d like to blame Venom on the fact that he could inhale a container of Chinese food in under a minute, but it’s a talent that he always had possessed.
Darcy started to giggle behind him as someone at the table cleared their throat. It was a woman with dark hair up in a bun and blue eyes. Eddie immediately got that military or post-military vibe off of her. Private security? No. Something else. He couldn’t put his finger on it.
“Well, help yourself I guess.” The woman said, looking at Darcy with an exasperated, yet fond look.
We could eat them.
Glad you’re feeling better buddy, I got worried when you hadn’t suggested murder in almost two days.
I think I like sweetheart better than buddy.
Eddie coughed, and choked on the lo mein before he felt Venom tug it out of his airway and down his throat. Which was an awful sensation- but an appreciated gesture.
“You okay?” Darcy asked, dropping her bag and kicking her feet up on the table, completely heedless of the irate look from the other woman.
“Getting there,” Eddie said after clearing his throat. Thanks.
No problem, sweetheart.
His face burned at the comment and he wished he still had the box of lo mein to hide behind.
Darcy now had her chin propped up on her hand. “That’s fascinating, but kind of rude. Bet Bruce would love to be able to do that. Maybe he’d hate it. Maria?”
So the military lady’s name was Maria too.
Darcy sat up straight and placed both her arms on the table and looked at Eddie directly. It was a move that reminded Eddie of Anne. It was also a complete shift in demeanor. “I bet you’re all wondering why I’ve asked you here today.”
Her composure held for a second before she was laughing again. The other woman- Maria, broke her composure for a single indulgent smile.
“Sorry, I’ve just always wanted to say that.”
“You say it every time you’re first to a meeting,” Maria reminded her.
“And yet I still always want to say it.”
“Can we uh- get to the point?” Eddie asked, sliding a container of sesame chicken closer. He could feel Venom eyeing it. He was rewarded with another flush of warmth in his chest.
Darcy and Maria exchanged a look that Eddie didn’t much like.
“Well, you’re an investigative reporter, no doubt you’ve heard of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
“Ah, that makes sense. Mercenary wasn’t really your vibe- wait, you’re Dan’s sister. Does he have something to do with that whole mess?”
“Nah, I stumbled into it all on my own. Kind of hard not to when you hit Thor with a jeep.” Darcy twisted a piece of hair around her finger. “Which you shouldn’t technically know but, Maria here’s like. The boss behind the boss, and I’m not about to let you run around with half the information. Especially when I know you’re going to be dragging my brother and future sister in law into all of this.”
Eddie frowned, “I tried to keep Anne out of this- which was stupid, because I’m pretty sure she saved the world. Maybe she’s the one you should be talking too.”
Maria snorted, “Oh trust me, we’d love to talk to Anne Weying.”
“Family's supposed to be off limits,” Darcy said over her.
Supposed to be, huh?
“Do you guys have any chocolate?” Eddie asked, he sensed there was some history here that he didn’t want to get into.
Darcy reached into her bag without taking her eyes off of Maria and handed him one of those huge bars from Trader Joe's.
“You’re our favourite.” Eddie said, taking the bar and breaking off a chunk.
Maria rolled her eyes, “Back to the topic at hand.”
“Edward “Eddie” Charles Allan Brock, thirty-two, war correspondent until you stepped on the wrong general’s toes, later investigative reporter, disgraced, but you were right in the end.” The S.H.I.E.L.D agent flipped through a manila folder as she talked.
“Now there’s a lot in here that we’re missing- but you’ve been doing your- what did you call it Darcy? Your 'best Addams family impression of the Hulk' around town, and that hasn’t gone unnoticed. We’re still going through the Life Foundation’s files. Aliens, wanting to take over the planet. Again.”
“They’re so original,” Darcy cut in.
“Care to shed some light on the subject? Or I could try shooting you and seeing what happens.”
“Don’t-” Eddie said to both her and Venom, who riled at the thought. He held his hand out to Maria and then covered his chest with the other. It was becoming a compulsive habit of his. “Listen, we’ve both had a tough few days. I’ve died. Like twice. He’s died. Let’s just not have anymore dying. Or tempting it.”
“He?” Darcy brightened, “Interesting.”
“He, his name is Venom- well, our name is Venom. It’s-” he waved a hand but couldn’t come up with a gesture to express how complex the situation was. “He’s a symbiote, can’t survive without me- I can’t survive without him. Maybe I could have- before, but he’s sort of literally holding me together right now.”
Eddie pulled down the collar of his hoodie and showed them the smooth black scar veined with white. “It goes all the way through. Another symbiote, the one using Carlton Drake, was called Riot. Not really important right now- they did it while Venom and I were separated. So he couldn’t fix it the way he normally would have. We can heal- usually without much consequence.”
“So this is a consensual partnership?” Maria asked, marking down notes.
He didn’t hesitate before answering.
“Yes, of course. In the beginning neither of us really knew what was happening- but we’ve separated… twice now I think? Each time the choice for us to rejoin was conscious on my part.”
Tell them that you wanted me back even when you thought I was eating your liver.
“I’m not telling them that you accidentally ate my liver.”
There was a beat of silence and Eddie looked up, Darcy had her hand over her mouth to hide a smile. “We already knew that. It was Dan that called me, remember? That’s part of the reason why we were concerned- and why we’re taking this through… mostly unofficial channels. Trust me, you’d hate the guy that normally rolls up when someone accidentally becomes a superhero.”
“We are not a superhero.”
“Are you sure? Cause you did tell that vet you saved the world. I was sitting like, three seats away dude.”
“So we stopped a pair of douchebags from starting a parasitic-” Venom bristled under his skin at the word, “-symbiotic alien invasion. They’re not all like Venom- actually, I don’t think any of them are like Venom.” That last part seemed to soothe Venom’s discontent.
“Why did you save the world?” Maria asked.
“Cause I live here?” Eddie said, looking at her like she had three heads.
She shook her head, “No, why did both of you save the world.”
Eddie, can I talk?
If you’re up to it.
He took a mental step back, and knew the strange glaze over his eyes looked odd to an outsider. Venom didn’t manifest beyond that visual sign, adding a deep gravel to Eddie's voice.
“I wanted to stay here. On this planet. With Eddie.”
“Love conquers all, right on dude.” Darcy held a hand up and Venom looked at it, Eddie took over before they could leave her hanging, completing the high-five.
He knew he was blushing again. Didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t like that- except that it kind of was. Another thing they needed to talk about later.
“He was injured just as badly as I was- am, it’s… he’s regaining his strength. So we’re needing to eat a lot haven’t been back to my place yet- not sure I should go back.”
“I’m having a friend clear it out and set up a few flags on the police files so that those reports wind up… misplaced.” Darcy said, picking at the chipping edge of her purple nail polish. “I was a political science major, so I'm good at twisting red tape. I can make that tape skip rope if I want.”
“You are terrifying.” Eddie said blandly, pulling another container of chinese food close.
She preened, “I’m unappreciated in my time, is all.”
“Anyway,” Maria said. She was clearly trying to steer all of them back on track. “We’ve confiscated Dan’s records of your health and what images they were able to get out of the MRI-” Eddie and Venom both flinched. “So that word won’t leak out that way. Darcy is going to organize a secure way for Dr. Lewis to be able to view your records.”
“Got them mad hacks from Stark, before he became a douchebag again. Been avoiding his mess recently.”
Ugh, Avengers. Eddie didn't want to touch that subject with a ten foot pole.
Maria nodded, “But we still need to know… more information.”
Venom began to speak to Eddie, and he held up a hand to stop Maria from talking over him. Eddie would have to work on listening to more than one person at a time.
There shouldn’t be any more klyntar coming- if a survey ship doesn’t return. The planet is marked as- I’m trying to find a word for it in English. It’s like forbidden and dangerous- not inhabitable. It can mean either there’s no way of being hosted- or any other reason.
The rest of them are dead- Riot included. So they’re going to mark the mission off as a loss. There’s plenty of other planets out there.
“Venom says that since the scouting party failed to return, the symbiotes will mark the planet as uninhabitable.”
“Well that’s good news, I think.”
Eddie shrugged. “It works for me; I don’t want anything to happen to him if any more of them show up. They're not all friendly.”
He drank a few sips of water and took a second look at Darcy with all the information he had at his disposal now. She didn’t look like much at first, but her eyes were constantly cataloging information. She was much more than she seemed- but he could see her as someone that they could rely on in the future. It would be good to have more people in their corner. Especially if they had to defend their right to exist against people like the Avengers.
You know klyntar reproduce asexually. We could have reinforcements.
I’m going to pretend you didn’t just suggest using our hypothetical children as soldiers.
Venom paused, Ah, I see why that would not work. It is different for us- but we can talk more on that later. You’re turning an alarming shade of red.
“Anyway, questions?” Eddie coughed.
“Where does it all go?” Darcy leaned forward “You’re going to regret asking me to ask you questions.”
“I… don’t know. He’s sitting kind of in my chest? It’s an awareness of my organs that I usually don’t have. We haven’t had time to figure out the science behind any of this. Cause there’s a lot of mass when we’re Venom that has to go somewhere. I think he’s concentrated in my chest because its easiest for him. Before he’s been- well it’s more like he’s everywhere. Like a heavy blanket. But then I died- and he died, and neither of us wanted to let each other die.” As he spoke his arms came up again to wrap around his midsection. “Not sure how that worked- in the moment it was like… we chose to fully unify. For us to die- I think we'd both have to die or be separated by a great deal of distance.”
“So you’re immortal?” Maria asked.
Eddie looked at her, alarmed at the very thought. “I… don’t know.”
“You’ve already come back from the dead once.” She pointed out.
Darcy seemed to sense the tension in the air and pushed the chocolate bar so it was in front of Eddie and Venom.
“Why don’t you tell us the whole story, from the beginning, and we can go from there. Okay? The future can wait for tomorrow.”
You okay with this?
Yes, they are like Anne. Help is good. We have learned that. Anne saved the world. Maybe they will too.
They took a deep breath, “So really this started when I got cocky and tried to take on the Life Foundation from the wrong angle-”
By the time Eddie was finished, he was falling asleep at the table. They had managed to eat the whole chocolate bar and a few more containers of Chinese food during their explanation. Darcy was laughing now.
“I can’t believe you climbed in a lobster tank and Dan didn’t tell me!”
“If I’m being honest it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I was already causing a scene so I went for it. Eating the lobster wasn’t as planned- and didn’t taste as good as you’d think. But it also wasn’t that bad.”
“Speaking of eating-” Maria stopped as Eddie’s jaw cracked with a yawn. “Actually we can break for now and get to that tomorrow. I have a few ideas.”
She pushed away from the table. “There’s a spare bedroom. Down the hall and to the left. Bathroom’s en suite. If you can find any clothes you fit, you’re welcome to them.”
Eddie just nodded. “Darcy can I use your phone?”
“Sure,” she said, chucking it at him. He caught it, barely.
“Great, thanks, I’ll leave it on the table when I’m done.” Eddie escaped before another conversation could start. They were exhausted, but Anne and Dan deserved to know he was alive- especially since Dan had made this possible and Anne had; you know, saved the entire world.
The phone had a lot of contacts for him to scroll through, and most of them had really inventive names. There was ‘Big Green’, ‘Little Green’, ‘Annoying Green’, ‘Hawkguy’, ‘Hawkeye’, ‘Red’, ‘Annoying Red’, and so on. He scrolled until he saw ‘Fraternal Spawn’. Taking a guess, he clicked call on the contact.
“Darcy? Did you find him? Please say he’s not dead, because Anne’s gonna be really upset if she ate a guy’s face and they died anyway.”
“I’m not dead, Dan. Did you know your sister is friends with a bunch of superspies?”
“Kind of? I’m not supposed to know but when Tony Stark pays your student loans you tend to get suspicious of your little sister going off the grid after some weird shit in Arizona. Hold on, I’m putting you on speaker. Anne! Annie, they’re not dead.”
A distant “are you serious” came through the phone, somehow sounding both relieved and annoyed.
Eddie laughed. “I gave it my best shot, but no, we’re not dead.”
Anne’s voice came through the speaker, “Don’t joke! I saw you get stabbed and then blown up!”
He rubbed the back of his neck, “I didn’t realize you’d seen that.”
“Yeah I saw it, you dick!”
He laughed a little. “Well I only died a little, and V’s still holding on. Everything’s good. Dan’s little sister has some weird friend, and even weirder phone contacts.”
“Well, you must be feeling better, if you’re joking around like this.”
“Yeah, the eating my organs thing was a mistake. We’re doing alright now but it’s slow going. I need to eat and rest.”
“No more heads!” Anne said over Dan’s thoughtful hum.
“We don’t have the energy to do that right now.”
“But you’re okay?”
“Yeah, we’re okay.”
“Good, get some rest. We’re going to talk in person about this though.”
“Of course. Dan- thanks.”
“No, thank you Eddie, for saving the world.”
“You should be thanking Annie for that, goodnight you two.”
He hung up the phone and walked out to leave it on the table, he snagged a box of terrible Chinese takeout rice on his way back to the room. Just in case. He waved at Darcy on his way back to the room.
We did good. I like doing good.
“Yeah, we did good.”
They fell into bed with a grateful sigh, it was much better than the motel bed or the bus seat had been. Eddie was asleep in moments and Venom followed not long after him.
Chapter 4: You ____ Me, You ____ Me Not
When they woke up an unknown amount of time later, Eddie treated himself to the longest, warmest shower of his life.
When they were done, Eddie wiped off the mirror and looked at Venom’s face staring back at him.
“You know, not that I’m not happy to see you, but how am I supposed to shave?”
If you don’t want the hair to grow, I can stop it.
“You can do that? Because razors are fucking expensive. Stop away.”
Venom chuckled, and the image in the mirror changed to match it. After a second of indulgent smiling, Eddie realized that he was mooning over his symbiote. He brought fingers up to brush the reflection in the mirror, while the other hand brushed the line of his own jaw. His muscles remembered how it felt to stretch open like a snake’s mouth, large enough to swallow someone’s head whole.
The idea should have disgusted him, but the only thing he could feel was relief that Venom’s reflection was staring back at him. Their reflection, technically. When Venom was alone- he didn’t look like Venom, he looked like a pile of black slime. But it was still Venom all the same. He grabbed a toothbrush and brushed his teeth… for what he realized was the first time since he ate someone.
He made a face in the mirror and Venom copied it, his comically huge eyes as expressive as Eddie’s eyebrows were. He stuck his tongue out at Venom and laughed when the symbiote stuck his tongue out a tiny bit in response.
The laughter didn’t stop as Venom joined in. It was like they were releasing the last week’s worth of tension in one moment. When it subsided, Eddie leaned his head forward until it touched the mirror.
“I’m glad you’re here, V.”
He felt their awareness extend as Venom manifested outside of his body for the first time since the event, just a single tendril that curled up his neck to rest on his cheek. He cupped his hand over it, relishing in the cool pulse of Venom against his skin. Logically, he knew Venom was always with him- but seeing it visually and feeling him on his skin was reassuring. He knew that he wasn’t imagining it. The tendril curled around his finger, reminding Eddie of the time he’d held a snake at the Central Park Zoo as a kid.
Venom molded into a vague approximation of a snake’s head and blew a raspberry at him, sending Eddie into another fit of laughter.
“That’s not what a snake sounds like, bud.”
“We talked about this, I like sweetheart better.” Venom’s voice from the tiny snake head was soft and barely audible.
He rolled his eyes, but ran his fingers along Venom’s back. “Yeah okay, sweetheart.”
Venom curled again around his neck until he was a seamless band of black laying over his collarbones, half hidden by the hoodie.
I know you like to be reminded I’m here.
“Only if you’re up to it.”
I am feeling better. We are feeling better. But fresher food would help.
Eddie walked out of the room, “You know, I don’t know if I’m up to eating people.”
“Cats are kind of too cute to eat.”
He went straight to refrigerator, opening it and letting his eyes scan over its contents. Someone had been shopping. He suspected Darcy because there was now half a shelf of pound-sized chocolate bars. He grabbed a bar and a pack of raw stew meat. It wasn’t very appetizing for him, but Venom was pleased when he popped a raw chunk of meat in his mouth.
Better than cats.
When he turned around, he did not expect to see Maria upside down against the couch with a bowl of popcorn in her hands trying to throw pieces into Darcy's open mouth.
“Congrats, you emerged from the cave just in time for movie night,” Darcy said as a piece of popcorn bounced off her glasses.
He sat on the far edge of the couch, “How long have I been asleep?”
“Three days,” Maria said, not getting off the floor. She obviously knew her cover as a super cool spy was blown.
“Oof, what are we watching?” Eddie asked, because this was kind of like college, and he knew how to deal with this brand of weird.
“It was Maria’s turn to pick, so it’s a romantic comedy. You’re lucky, if it was my turn you’d have to sit through a political thriller.”
“Good, I don’t want V’s first movie to be weird.”
“Aw, it’s his first movie?”
Maria silenced their conversation with a handful of popcorn. She was rightside up again. Where the popcorn landed on Eddie it slowly disappeared.
Darcy noticed and started throwing her own food at Eddie.
“Ladies please,” Eddie said, after this continued for fifteen minutes into the movie.
“What? It’s funny.”
“Yeah, Eddie, it’s funny.” Venom said out loud, a mouth emerging from the black ring around his shoulders. No head, just a mouth.
“Oh hey lil’ dude, nice to see you. Here I’ll get him his own bowl.” Darcy said, hopping up and heading back to the kitchen.
Eddie watched her leave, “Is she always like that?”
“Rolling with the punches so well? Adaptable?” Eddie scratched the back of his head.
The spy nodded, pulling a throw blanket off the couch now that Darcy was no longer sitting on it. “She wasn’t kidding, she’s been through a lot when it comes to… superheroes, which is kind of a stupid way to say that. Like it’s not all superheros- things aren’t always that simple.”
They nod, Eddie eating more of his stew meat.
“Thought we were going to talk more,” Eddie said, as he heard popcorn popping in a microwave.
“It’s movie night. We can talk tomorrow. Not my fault you slept in for three days. I’ve come up with a few lists of questions that I’ve written down. You can look over them if you can’t sleep. We’ve also got a laptop, just don’t use it to do anything stupid.”
He nods at her, “I understand. You two have been… very kind to us, I’m under no illusions that there’s worse places we could have ended up.”
“You’ve got a lot to learn still, according to Darcy. I think she’s been writing up a dissertation of important things to know- I’m supposed to be signing off on the information she’s giving you but it’s-” she waves her hand in the air, “if Darcy wants to say something, she says it. Damn the consequences. Don’t know what the hell you’re going to do with Tony Stark’s favourite coffee order, though.”
“Bribery,” Darcy says, sitting down and plopping a bowl on Eddie’s chest. “Everyone has a price.”
“And for some it’s popcorn?” he asked as Venom inched down and stuck a tendril into the bowl. There was a small chewing noise from the bowl, and Eddie smiled- until he caught Darcy smiling at him- after which he looked back to the movie.
As the movie went on and the two star crossed lovers still managed to miscommunicate their intentions at every turn, Darcy slid onto the floor next to Maria, leaning on her shoulder and stealing popcorn from her still mostly full bowl.
I’m glad that we don’t do this.
The purposeful misunderstanding- if they just talked to each other. Things would be better.
Talking isn’t always easy.
I know, that’s why sometimes I have to listen to your emotions instead of your words. But your words are good too.
He ran a rough finger along the band of black that had inched up closer to his throat. They needed to talk, but now wasn’t really the time. Now was a good time to relax and show Venom a little bit of Earth's good side. Those small comfortable moments where you just exist with someone that gives you comfort. Watching a silly movie was a perfect way to do that.
“Well, we’re going to bed,” Maria said, nudging a sleepy Darcy with her foot. “Laptop’s on the table, password is notfuckingpassword.”
Eddie coughed, but didn’t comment. She was practically daring him too but he was going to let this one go.
They walked down the hall and Darcy gave Eddie a wave as they entered their room. The light in the hallway went out, and Eddie retrieved the laptop. After a moment, he realized he could see just as well as he had before the lights went out- just in muted tones of grey instead of color.
“Did you do something to my eyes?”
You were missing a layer behind your retina- the dog had it, and it’s night vision was far superior.
“Okay, not going to lie that’s kind of cool- but let’s make it a point to ask before doing any other modifications that aren’t for healing purposes; wait, when were you in a dog?”
Before Anne, and I would argue this was for healing purposes, but your point is made. Even if it’s stupid.
“Glad to hear it.”
Venom went suspiciously silent.
“You did something to my ears already didn’t you?”
They were inefficient- and I wanted to make it up to you. For eating your organs.
“I already said that was fine.” Eddie said, exasperated.
He opened the laptop, turned down the brightness a little, and got to work doing a comprehensive check on what information had gotten out about the Life Foundation. There wasn’t much more than he expected. A few blogs had some blurry pictures of Venom during the end of the bike chase- and some from the fight at the news building- mysteriously, anything portraying Eddie without Venom was suspiciously missing. The motorcycle chase, the transformation in the lobby- Darcy’s people were very good.
He checked his emails, replied to a few. There were a few job offers her marked to look at later. It was funny how once you were proven right everyone started to fall all over themselves to prove they had your back the whole time. With Venom though, he might need to keep a more low-key, mobile kind of job. Maybe aim for the printed word instead of a show.
His fingers paused, hovered over the keys.
Had Darcy and Maria gone into the same room?
Silently, he reviewed what he’d learned about each of them, did the math, and smacked a hand over his face. “I’m oblivious.”
Yes, you are.
He rested his palms against the laptop and resisted the urge to pout at his symbiote. “I’m doing my best here.”
Venom didn’t feel convinced.
“No, talk to me, V. I can’t read your mind.”
You’re the one who isn’t looking.
He shut the laptop and laid it to the side, bringing his knees up to sit cross-legged on the couch. He put his hands on his knees- then clasped them on top of his lap. They got the feeling this wasn't going to be like those meditation sessions.
He closed his eyes and focused on the cool feeling of Venom against his collarbones; imagined it spreading over his body and dropping him into a serene void of blackness. Breathing in and out in tandem with a pulsing awareness of life within and around his body. Knowing that he was protecting half of that life from suffocating on the air around them- within them.
When it was truly them.
Eddie chased down the feeling right after the explosion, when they had both been too tired to keep themselves separate.
He released a breath slowly, blowing it out past teeth that were blunted. They were capable of being sharper. Venom didn’t like it when Eddie peeled him back and showed Eddie’s face. It prevented them from being one, and yet it was a necessary evil when it came to explaining things to humans. He’d seen that from Eddie’s interactions with Maria and Darcy.
Speaking of Maria and Darcy, he saw something. Something that made him burn with jealousy.
Jealousy. Why Jealousy?
Venom roiled, it was evasive.
They were bound together. Intertwined and whole, neither of their thoughts hidden from each other- but Venom didn’t always think in words of feelings. Sometimes it was chemicals- sometimes it was something else.
He struggled to follow it. Want, want, want, a sense of ownership- a sense of belonging. Mutually whole. Pining, learning the sense of the word. Want- confusion. Learning so much, this planet was new, new, new.
He was new.
They were new.
And new wasn’t always… another spurt of chemicals. Something Eddie’s brain scrambled to translate from what appeared to be a native Klyntar language.
It was something Venom didn’t have words for.
Venom pulled away and Eddie pursued, he wanted to get to the bottom of this- the bottom of them. The core of the Void that carried the stars in the sky. For a moment he was breathless at the visions that followed that- a swath of stars he had no name for. Planets he had never seen. Exploration. Wanting to get away from all of that.
He had something better now.
Eddie felt a shudder pass through their body. It shook his mind loose of their union enough so he could try and process what he’d seen. It hit him all at once like a freight train to his system.
“You love me?” Eddie whispered in disbelief.
The room was dark, and the blinking light from a digital clock provided the room with a soft blue glow. It made this place seem like one of the safest he could bring the topic up in. It was just them. Nobody else.
Black rose up from his throat to sluggishly face him. It wasn’t the snake’s head from earlier, but something more like the first manifestation Venom had shown him.
“You didn’t think I would turn my back on my hive for just anything, did you?” Venom’s voice rasped more than it rumbled, reminding Eddie that the symbiote had almost died.
“You also died for me- do not think that went unnoticed.”
“I died for us,” Eddie answered without thinking. “I mean- not just us, but all of us, but-” he shook his head. “The planet.”
Venom wasn’t buying it.
Hell, Eddie wasn’t buying it.
Come here. Eddie’s thoughts bled through before he could follow through on his actions- his hands reaching out to cup the sides of Venom’s face, the texture smooth like silk beneath his fingertips. The dug in, bringing Venom’s head forward.
They kissed, and it was nothing like the kiss that had included Anne. It was better. There was no foreign shape beneath Venom’s skin. Nothing intruding on their bond as it connected. Like static had been wiped away. Teeth that could rip the flesh from his bones and flay him down to his basest building blocks knew just how much pressure to exert on his bottom lip.
The broke apart- their lips, not their bond- for a moment. Eddie looked up into those expressive eyes. “You fell in love with me in two days?”
“Eddie, it barely took two minutes.”
“Oh. Well….” What do you say to that? “I don’t know what you see in me.”
“Don’t say that- you. You are infuriating. You question what I would see in you- yet don’t question what Anne could have seen.”
“Anne isn’t an alien from outerspace that could have anyone as a host- well, actually. If we’re speaking metaphorically that kind of works; and Anne left me because of my own stupidity.”
“I have seen what Anne saw in you, what Maria saw in you, and then, what I saw in you- and what we became together.” Venom paused. “You… do not give yourself enough credit, Eddie. After being- for lack of a better term, infected by me- and everything was going wrong. A lot of that was my doing, it was a lot to take in at once. Still, after the car chase- you said that we were cool.”
Venom looked away and eddie got the feeling he would be blushing if he could.
“That’s why we got hit by a car, because I called you cool! You got distracted?”
“No, shut up!” Venom sighed, mostly for Eddie’s benefit because V didn’t need to breath while they were one. “It was… the first positive thing that any host; or anyone really, had ever said to me.”
“You can’t love me because I was the first person that was nice to you.”
His other growled in response, “You’re still not listening. You forgave me, even after I ate part of you to survive. You thought it was fun when we fought together. And the world was beautiful when we were both on the same page.”
“Why are you so determined not to be loved.”
“Because I’m not worth it! Okay. No one should trust me with their heart again after what I did to Anne- I’m fundamentally a selfish person.”
“Good thing I don’t have a heart, I’m sharing yours. Looking out for yourself looks out for me too. You’re not as selfish as you like to think, Mr. Pays-Twenty-Bucks-For-A-Free-Paper.”
He ducked his head, feeling heat radiate off of his face. “Well, when you put it like that we sound perfect for each other.”
“Glad you noticed, idiot.”
“Parasite,” he said in response, with fondness that the word couldn’t disguise.
Eddie kissed Venom again, feeling that warmth twist around his heart. His hands cupped the back of Venom’s head, pulling him closer until he was flush against Eddie’s chest. “You still need rest.”
“So long as you’re not going to get stupid and maudlin again. I love you, Eddie.”
“Alright, goodnight sweetheart,” Eddie said as Venom melted back into his skin.
It occurred to him that he was dating his symbiote, a possessive rumble was all he got in response from Venom. The feeling soothed Eddie, and he pulled out the laptop to get some more work done while Venom slept. He still had time to get some work done on those questions Darcy had left him.
An hour later, Eddie looked up when he heard a yelp from down the hall.
“Do you know your eyes totally glow in the dark?” Darcy asked, paying no mind to her pajamas and sleep mussed hair.
“I’ve been made aware of it.” Just now. By her.
“Oh, okay.” Darcy padded down the hall and got herself a glass of water. On the way back to the room, she paused again. “Do you also know your neck is full of hickies?”
Without waiting for an answer, Darcy walked back to her room and shut the door.
He raised a hand to his neck, shut the laptop, and went to bed with the ghost of a smile on his face.
Chapter 5: Sleeping At Last
SQUEEZED IN RIGHT UNDER THE TUESDAY DEADLINE
also there's some discussion of the non-consensual riot/drake/eddie/venom fusion and eddie and venom figuring out how they feel about that whole mess in this fair warning.
Together, Maria and Darcy put their heads together and decided that he needed to learn a few things about fighting beyond what he learned on the streets and from watching movies. He had some small amount of training that he'd managed to accrue during his time as a war correspondent that they used as the foundation for their teachings. Which mostly consisted of giving him pointers for fighting against superpowered opponents as a normal human- just in case Venom was ever indisposed.
He could see why Maria was so high up in S.H.I.E.L.D, the woman was terrifying in a fight.
They worked together on his fighting skills when they weren't busy answering each others questions. Venom was just as curious about Earth as Darcy was about space. It was easy to settle into a routine with them. They didn't threaten to separate them, or expose them to any other party, so Eddie found himself relaxing as the days passed.
Almost a week passed before something happened to change their carefree new routine.
After five nights of restful sleep- Eddie woke screaming, every muscle in his body tight. He grabbed the blanket off his bed and rolled off of it, pressing himself underneath the bed until he was wedged against the wall. It was the darkest, and tightest spot he could find.
It took Eddie an unknown amount of time to stop shaking and hear Venom trying to speak with him.
His hands were clenched painfully tight around the blanket- he released it in favor of placing his hand against the bumpy patch of black scar tissue in the center of his chest. Venom seeped out of his skin and wrapped around his hand. Instantly, his breath slowed and he reached a manageable level of panic thrumming through his blood. Because Venom was there. Venom was here and not Riot.
Riot and Drake were dead.
Shhh. Eddie, I know. It’s just us. They’re not here.
Eddie’s voice was almost silent in the dark, as if raising it would pull ghosts from the shadows. “It was nothing like us. Riot and Drake were… wrong- and trying to be four wasn’t; it wasn’t working for anyone.”
Venom manifested a head and nuzzled against Eddie’s cheek, whispering into his ear. “Riot was trying to force it, it’s one of the powers he had. It’s how he got from the crash to Drake in the first place. He’s able to force a substandard bond with a host that doesn’t match.”
“Humans have a word for that.”
They were silent then. Neither of them wanted to say it out loud.
“Anne saved us from them.”
They curled together under the bed, more tendrils joining the ones wrapped around Eddie’s hands, like a hug reaching up his arms. Eddie didn’t think that Anne knew what she had really done to help them. He didn’t know whether they should tell her that, let her know that she had saved them from something so… he sighed.
“We’re sure he’s dead?”
No symbiote could have survived that blast’s epicenter. We nearly died on the periphery.
“Nice, SAT words there, nerd.” Eddie teased.
Learned it from you.
Eddie smiled. They didn’t go back to sleep, but sat there holding each other until the morning.
It wasn’t a one time deal, but the next nightmare was different.
Anne had smiled at them, her blonde hair catching the light as she turned back to whatever she was tending. And then it was gone. Bitten off at the stem.
And they had done it.
The taste of her blood in their mouth- Eddie woke screaming again, his hands coming up to his throat and pressing down. Cutting off his own oxygen for a moment before he realized he wasn’t choking on her blood. He coughed and hiccuped.
Tears streamed out of the corners of his eyes.
A head nudged against Eddie’s chin, tilting it back against the pillow and keeping the tears from streaming down his cheeks. He wrapped his arms around the form that emerged behind it. Almost an entire torso wrapping its arms around Eddie and cradling his face.
After a moment, Eddie realized that Venom was humming against his skin. It wasn’t a song- not one that Eddie knew- but it was soothing. Eddie let himself be wrapped up in those arms and held on just as tightly.
We don’t have to eat people- we’ll figure something out. We’ve done okay so far.
Some people deserve to be eaten. Eddie thought, his mind flashing through corrupt politicians. CEOs that knew their companies were driving climate destruction and reveled in their money regardless. Rapists. Serial killers. People that the world would be better off without. Those who had many chances to do good and chosen the wrong choice every time.
But then again, everyone had an Annie. A mother- a sister, someone that they loved who to them; those horrid deeds meant nothing. Sometimes a father, a brother, a close friend. Every death was a loss.
Maybe Carlton Drake had been someone’s Annie.
“This seems like a question of morality.”
“It is, I don’t really want to think about it right now. The world isn’t always black and white. How about for now we limit ourselves to only eating people who are actively trying to hurt or seperate us?”
“I see loopholes in this, what if someone good decides we’re bad, and tries to take us out.”
He drew his arms closer around the torso, Venom’s malleable flesh indented where he held on too tightly. “Eat them anyway. I won’t be separated from you.”
“Aw, Eddie, you do care.”
“Of course I care, asshole.”
“Go back to sleep, no one’s eating Anne. She’d eat them first.”
He laughed, “Yeah, alright. That tracks.”
Maria was dressed up in some clearly tactical gear, with all sorts of weapons strapped to her person. The look had an air of finality to it as she strode up to the breakfast table and grabbed a protein bar out of the tupperware in the center.
“As good as this holiday has been,” she started, “-duty calls. I’m confident with what you’ve shown us so far Eddie that you’re no immediate danger to society. Well- good society. So long as you don’t go around eating people for fun then there’s no problem here. We’ve let crazier shit slide.”
“Remember Wade?” Darcy asked.
“I’d rather not. The point is. I’ve got to get back to my actual job now, Darcy’s decided to stay a few weeks to visit with Dan. I strongly suggest that you check in with them pretty regularly.”
He snorted, eating a bite of his own breakfast. Sounds like we’re on parole, V.
We did a lot of property damage, that’s frowned on from what I hear.
Eddie smiled into his waffles. He’d made enough for everyone but Maria Hill was clearly in a rush. On the other hand, Darcy had no issue piling three waffles on her plate so they weren't going to waste. Venom had his own plate, topped with enough chocolate syrup to choke a horse.
Wiping his mouth with the back of his arm, Eddie brushed his hands off on his pants and stood up. Stubbornly, Venom's head stretched behind him to keep eating his waffles.
“It was good to meet you, Agent Hill.” It was odd to call her Agent after knowing her as Maria for the past week. “If you ever need a favor, give us a call.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” she smiled.
“Bye!” Darcy said, jumping up and leaving a sticky kiss on Maria’s mouth- leaving the agent red in the face. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
“Don’t write me a blank check, Darce,” Maria said.
They turned back to his waffles to give the couple a moment alone, only to find that Venom had finished off both of their plates.
“Aw, come on.”
Venom just licked his lips and retreated back into Eddie’s skin.
What? It ends up in the same place.
Eddie crossed his arms and shook his head. “It’s the principle of it.”
The symbiote made it up to him by gathering the dishes and taking them to sink while Eddie grabbed the waffle maker from the counter to wash. Having a bunch of extra tentacles- er, arms, helped a lot when it came to mundane chores.
Darcy came back from the door and flopped down on the couch, narrowly missing the laptop.
“That’s cute as shit,” she said, holding out her phone and taking a picture.
He rolled his eyes and swatted one of Venom’s tendrils down before it could stretch out to take the phone.
“I want the picture.” Venom said, forming a mouth near his shoulder and nuzzling into it.
“You’re not convincing me, convince her.”
“Aw,” Darcy said, snapping more pictures. “I’ll send them to you.”
“Still gotta get a new phone,” Eddie said. “Sometime. Ain’t got the money for it really right now.”
“Oh, Maria didn’t get to that? S.H.I.E.L.D’s NDA agreements come with a stipend. Surprisingly, people stay quiet when you’re paying them.” She popped her lips together and tapped something into her phone. “Also you should sue the Life Foundation.”
“I don’t want people to know about V, though.” Eddie said, walking over to the couch and sitting down on the other side.
She waved her phone in the air furiously. “For losing your job because of libel, dummy.”
“Right,” Eddie rubbed the back of his head. “Speaking of, I’ve been thinking of taking some writing jobs.”
“Hell yeah, put your skills to use.”
“Need to get a laptop for that.”
Darcy rolled her eyes, “Did you think that laptop was mine? Nah, I have my own. That’s kind of the safehouse laptop. Safehouse rules: you need it, you take it.”
Eddie shook his head and nuzzled into Venom for a moment before replying with a curious eyebrow raised at her, “Does the safehouse have a smartphone?”
“Nope, just burners.”
He chuckled, “Sounds like we need to go shopping then.”
Shopping with Darcy was almost more tiring than fighting Drake had been, and he told her so. Multiple times. Each time she laughed and adjusted the large bag on her shoulder. She seemed to keep everything in there- it had to be some sort of endless pocket dimension.
Eddie was wearing a new hoodie, at Darcy’s great insistence. It was black.
“A friend of mine once said you have to wear black or red if you plan on getting blood all over your clothes.”
Red was too attention grabbing. So black it was. Venom seemed pleased by that, he kept pressing through Eddie’s skin and weaving through the fabric, changing the pattern on the hoodie. His eyes were the most common thing to appear. But sometimes it was his teeth.
He got the feeling if Venom had more strength they could forgo the hoodie entirely. It would probably be more economical than getting a new every time they got destroyed.
Which might happen a lot, given how Venom had destroyed his grey hoodie over the course of two days.
Darcy suggested they hold a viking funeral for it. It had been in a lobster tank. There’s no coming back from that. But he wanted to keep it, because of sentimental reasons that only Venom needed to know.
It was amazing what new clothes could do for you, especially after you’d been falling off of buildings and into bays. He felt better.
We feel better.
He caught Venom’s reflection in the window of the parked car, he smirked at him- his tongue rolling out of a sharp toothed maw. He felt a jolt up his spine. Both of them knew what it was. The symbiote only smiled wider.
“I would shove you right now if that were possible,” Eddie muttered, using his fingers to fix his hair like a normal person would do when looking at their reflection- instead of blushing at it.
Eddie set his grin to match Venom’s and turned to face Darcy as she returned from a sunglasses booth with a pair of huge pink shades on her face.
“I got these for you,” she said, holding out a pair of overly large, white winged sunglasses in the approximate shape of Venom’s eyes. They were mirrored lenses that showed the absolute gobsmacked expression on his face.
Eddie put them on.
“You’re both menaces.” He said, delighting in Venom’s amusement.
“If you put the hood on no one could tell the difference.” She said.
“Your fashion styling, as always, are impeccable,” he said with a smirk before turning away.
Her boots clicked on the pavement after him, “What’s that supposed to mean! Eddie!”
There wasn’t enough time after their shopping trip to drop by Dan and Annie’s for lunch, but there was time for Eddie to stop in with a few people on the streets. He passed what money he could to people- and passed words to others. Sometimes when you were homeless all you needed was someone to treat you like a real person.
He could feel Venom paying sharp attention to his actions.
They also stopped by Mrs. Chen’s store to pick up more chocolate. It seemed to be what worked best for giving Venom energy. He didn’t know if it was the caffeine in it, or the sugar. Maybe something else. Didn’t matter much to them so long as it worked.
Darcy stood by the drink section, picking out every flavor of milk she could find.
“It’s time to pay up.”
“Please, I can’t keep doing this.”
Eddie. Eddieeddieeddieeddie. Please.
Just scare ‘em.
Then the man looked towards Darcy with an expression Eddie did not like.
Venom was spreading out over his body. Their body- it changed wholly. He wasn’t wearing a venom suit- their teeth were their teeth, their tongue was there tongue. It was a shift between separate and whole.
Eddie let Venom take the lead in what they said, which made it hard, because Darcy was giggling in the corner and Eddie was also trying very much not to laugh. They opened their jaw wide like they were going to bite the man’s head off- and then blew a raspberry at him. The man shrieked and Darcy lost her battle with laughter.
So did Eddie, letting Venom melt away until he was a toothy hoodie surrounding his arms.
“You need to get out of the gang you’re in. It’s destroying you from the inside. Next time we meet, we might not be as nice.” Eddie said, letting Venom’s tongue roll out of his mouth.
The man stumbled backwards out of the store muttering about a church and his mother.
Darcy was still laughing.
“What?” he turned to her, sourly.
“You’re still wearing the sunglasses.” She wheezed. “With the tongue!”
And then he saw that her phone was out.
“Oh come on.”
“It was gold! A turd. In the wind!” she shrieked, holding her sides and slumping against the glass door of the drink aisle.
“Don’t stifle his creativity!” Eddie said, holding his hand to his chest in mock outrage.
Mrs. Chen tapped on the counter, “Excuse me, Eddie, what was that?”
He turned to her, “I’ve got a parasite,” and shrugged.
Darcy piped up, “It’s not contagious.”
“My brother has something for that, you come back here if you need medicine.” She said, pushing the chocolate back across the counter without ringing it up.
“We won't need any medicine, the meditation worked wonders,” he said with a wink, taking the gift for what it was.
As they left the story, Darcy made one final comment, “Is it bad that I’m kind of disappointed you didn’t eat him?”
“I wanted to save room for the chocolate.”
“Put on your best hoodie, Brock, Dan and Anne have invited us for dinner.” Darcy said after checking her phone when they got back to the safehouse. They hadn’t been doing much- Eddie and Venom had been on their new phone trying to decide what the backgrounds would be. They’d just agreed on the photo of them in the kitchen for the home screen.
“See, that’s why I didn’t want to eat that guy- I’d have spoiled my dinner.”
“Yeah, yeah, no one’s questioning your masculinity or anything for not eating him. Chop chop.”
Eddie just settled further into the couch as Venom wrapped himself into a hoodie shape. “I’m ready when you are.”
“Don’t forget your key this time,” she said, chucking the metal bracelet at his head. Venom reached up and caught it before it hit them in the face.
“Thank you, darling,” Eddie said, slipping it onto his wrist. He put his phone in his pants pocket so Venom wouldn’t be on it the whole time. But he slipped his wallet into the hoodie pocket.
Limitless pockets, another side effect he didn’t expect from sharing his body with a symbiote. Venom was still regaining his power, but they were at the same level they had been at when everything had gone down. But that wasn’t Venom’s full power- that was Venom after he’d been experimented on and trapped- trying to survive in an alien world where nothing worked the way it was supposed to.
The hearing and the eyesight was also a pretty good bonus- call him sentimental but his favourite thing about being bonded to Venom was having him around as a constant companion.
The apartment looked the same as ever, the cat was there. Everything looked normal. Until Darcy entered the threshold and launched herself into action. Which is to say she attacked her brother in a hug and started talking a mile a minute.
Anne’s laughter was like a bell through the room. Both Eddie and Venom perked up at the sound. It was good to see her happy again after the nightmare from last week. She turned to them and gave him a hug before pulling back and looking at his sweatshirt.
She poked it and Venom’s eyes opened.
“Hey, V.” She said, patting Eddie on the shoulder. “You certainly don’t look like your organs are being eaten.” Her brown eyes darted back and forth, before smiling at them. “It’s good to see you two.”
“It’s good to see you too, we were worried about how you’d gotten out of there-” he gestured her over to the side and continued, “-we wanted to thank you. You stopped Riot and Drake from trying to assimilate us, and that sucked. A lot. So thank you.”
She rubbed his cheek. “I’m glad to have helped, but I’d feel better if we don’t have to do anything like that again. It was stressful.”
“We’ll try not to get into situations where we have to save the world again, scouts honor.”
“It sneaks up on you!” Darcy yelled back from where she was… giving Dan a noogie.
Anne exchanged a look with him, “I thought she was the little sister.”
“Darcy defies logic. As do most of the people she knows. You’ll fit right in. I’m pretty sure she likes you already because of the stunt with the control room.” Eddie said, bumping shoulders with her. “And Dan’s a good guy. I think he really saved my ass, calling her.”
“I’m glad you like him, it didn’t feel right, not having you in my life. You were always a great friend.”
Eddie shrugged and felt the way Venom’s form shifted over him to mimic the movement of a real hoodie, “I’m glad you found someone to treat you right.”
Anne turned to him and squinted, “You really mean that don’t you?” A second passed and she squinted at him harder. “Oh my god, Eddie!”
She sounded scandalized.
“What!” he clapped a hand over his neck. Was there a hickey? There had to be a hickey. How else would she know?
“You’re fucking Venom!”
“We’re not fucking!” Eddie said, his voice cracking on the word.
Venom felt now as a great time to smugly look over his shoulder and speak. “Yet.”
She walked over to one of the white dining room chairs and pulled it away from the table, bracing against it as she leaned over and let out the loudest laugh he’d ever heard. “I knew it! You should have heard him when we teamed up. It was Eddie this, Eddie that, ‘do you think Eddie’s okay?’, I knew it! Once again Eddie, I don’t know how you get into these situations.”
Both of them felt embarrassed at Anne’s exclamation. At least Dan and Darcy were still having some kind of squabble in the living room. Siblings.
“I think it’s sweet, really,” she said after a long moment where Eddie's blush nearly strangled him.
“Well, uh, thanks for your support?” Eddie said and scratched the back of his head so that he had something to do with his hands that wasn’t covering his face with them.
She snorted, “That sounds like something you tell your Christian parents after they don’t disown you for being bisexual.”
“Well thank you for not disowning me for finding out I’m dating an alien.”
“Eddie, I helped that alien kiss you.”
“You are our greatest ally,” he said with false gravitas.
She brandished a pot holder at him. “Don’t you forget. Grab that trivet for me. The lasagna is ready.”
Chapter 6: San Francisco Drift
So I had a 12 hour road trip to a funeral yesterday so this is late.
Darcy was needed back in New York, she said she had work to catch up on that she'd put off for too long. Which made sense. She had to have an actual job, somewhere. Even if Eddie had trouble conceiving of a boss that would be able to deal with her. Maybe she was her own boss, but at the same time, she didn’t strike him as the small business owner type.
The last thing she said to him as she got onto a bus was, “Don’t worry about the Sokovia Accords, I’ll keep your clear of them.”
Until she left, the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.
The whole Sokovian Incident and its aftermath occurred right after Anne had broken off their engagement, in the middle of what Eddie liked to refer to as his depression spiral. He could recognize it now that he was thinking of his life differently and in new terms. Now that he had Venom, and had to think about the symbiote’s health as well as his own.
Before Venom, Eddie really hadn’t been in a good place.
The symbiote curled around his neck and nuzzled underneath his chin at the thought. They were on top of Eddie’s apartment building. It had been cleared by Darcy’s people but he really didn’t want to go back in there.
What if he walked through the doorway and he went right back to being how he was before?
Eddie, you know that won’t happen.
“I know,” he took a deep breath and let it out, closing his eyes and listening to the city. It was the same familiar sounds he’d been living with forever, but it wasn’t New York.
Do you miss New York?
“I do, but we can’t go back there, not now, it’s a hotbed for superheros. Darcy said she’d keep us under the radar but that only works if we do our part to go unnoticed. Which means no more scaring my neighbor for no reason.”
It wasn’t for no reason, he was a dick.
He leaned back and looked up at the stars. Eddie liked looking at the stars, but Venom preferred the lights of the city. They’d compromised tonight. Maybe tomorrow they’d become Venom and climb up a skyscraper.
He found that if Venom was with him, the thought of being up high didn’t scare him anymore.
A return to normalcy wasn’t in the cards for Eddie. Shit was pretty chaotic in San Francisco today as comically large objects started flying around the city for no reason. Seemed like high speed superhero chases were raging up and down the street- not exactly business as usual for the west coast.
It looked like a fun time, but Eddie was serious about trying to stay under the radar. Throwing himself into the first superhero fight he found wasn’t very stealthy.
That would have been the end of it if he hadn’t been hit by a car.
The occupant freaked out, but Eddie just bounced right back up with the help of a few subtle tendrils pushing off from the asphalt.
Even weirder, he recognized the man behind the wheel.
The response was high pitched and wild, “Eddie?”
There was a large overlap in San Francisco’s ex-con population and its’ homeless population, so Eddie kept his eyes on both. He’d thought Luis was on the straight and narrow after he started the X-con Security Consultants, but he looked high on the kind of adrenaline that Eddie knew too well- and he was driving a car well above an ex-con’s paygrade.
“Dude, I was going like ninety- and like, I know this is like a twenty-five zone. But shit’s been going down Eddie, and we’ve been trying to help. I punched a guy, and like, okay, are you okay? I hit you pretty hard. Speaking of can you forget you ever saw us? Also did you dent the front? Cause you know we gotta be inconspicuous. Like, my cousin loaned it to me and everything and-”
And he was off in that signature babble. Eddie opened the door without rolling his eyes. “Luis, I’m getting in the car.”
Luis stammered, “I mean yeah man, alright like okay. Just know you’re stepping into kind of a big mess here.”
“What do you know about this shit going up and down all over town?” Eddie asked, slamming the door and trying not to smile at the adrenaline and awareness already creeping through his system.
“I mean why would you think that I knew anything about any of that, like, you know I’ve got a big contract coming up and maybe I just felt like splurging early? Like. I can make money too. White people ain’t got a monopoly on money, they just like to think so, you know. And like, shit’s been pretty wild with us regardless, like. Scottie’s been on parole you know? He’s been doing great. House arrest. Seeing his little girl a lot. ”
Okay, this wasn’t getting him anywhere.
He let Venom flow out of him, up over his head to cover his face. They weren't merged fully yet, but they could be in an instant. “Luis stop fucking around, we can help.”
“Oh, shit, you’re that dude. The dude. Oh, how many superheros do I know and just not know? You know-”
“Hey, okay, alright, Ant-Man and the Wasp is fighting this freaky chick called Ghost, but like, Ghost’s also in the right a little bit here. But They’re tryna get Hope’s mom back from the quantum realm and Scott’s on house arrest like I said so we’ve been tricking his parole guy and I’ve got the remote and we need to make the lab bigger and-”
“Okay, drive. I’ll help you get where you need to go.”
“Aight, okay, drive. I can do that. I can do that!”
Luis couldn’t drive for shit, which was actually helpful in getting through San Francisco. No one else knew how to drive here either.
It wasn't an unusual high speed chase until the car started shrinking and getting bigger trying to avoid the cars that were clearly tailing them. Eddie bit down on a surprised yelp. Out of reflex, Venom shot tendrils out to secure them in the car as it bounced and rolled around. He was the one who wanted in on the action- now he was in the middle of it. While the car normal sized again for a decent enough chunk of time, Eddie cracked the window and used Venom to punch through one of the tires of the cars following them. Causing it to flip forward and crash behind them.
He rolled the window shut again.
“You know, Eddie, like, you look really fucking scary, man.”
“You’re supposed to be driving.”
“I can multitask.”
Eddie laughed as Luis swerved.
“The big guy yours?” They said pointing forward to a rather large man scooting down the hill on the back of a car.
“Yeah, that’s Scott.”
Eddie rolled down the window and leaned out. “Hey Scott, you’ve put on some weight. Luis said you needed this?” Eddie said, using a tendril to jump from Luis’ car to Scott’s. He handed off the remote and turned.
Which of course is when Scott crashed the car.
Venom held them together but it would have been another story without his symbiote. Still. He felt the road rash as Venom healed it.
“Nice going,” Eddie mumbled to himself.
“I’m good, I’m okay!” Scott yelled, well Ant-Man, but Eddie couldn’t even think the words Ant-Man without laughing. There was no way he was going to say it out loud.
“Don’t you need to take that remote somewhere?” Eddie prompted.
“Right, okay! Stay with Luis, you freaky goop man.”
“It’s Venom!” they yelled after him.
He looked back to the car for Luis but he was already gone.
Ugh, okay, he was going to start a San Francisco vigilante club just so they could all learn the importance of communication. Ducking behind a pretty fucked up fruit stand, Eddie let Venom fade back into to his favoured hoodie form and beat a hasty retreat from the crash scene.
No use getting Venom more wrapped up in this than he already was. Ant-Man had been involved in that Sokovia accords after all. They'd pushed it far enough with the high speed chase.
He started walking in the direction Scott had run. It seemed like the hero (ex-hero?) was heading towards where the city’s legendary piers jutted out into the bay. Unfortunately those were also one of the most highly populated areas of the city. Which meant people would be in danger, and Eddie was going to have to go it alone. Venom would be seen and remembered in front of large crowds.
A drip of disappointment flowed into Eddie’s consciousness through Venom.
I want to have a good fight.
“We’ll get one, darling, but I won’t put you in danger,” Eddie said, twirling the string of the hoodie around his fingers. Still, he ran towards the commotion, as any good reporter would. He arrived just in time to see Scott try and call an ant to ride on only for it to get swallowed up by a seagull. Without Venom, he wouldn’t have seen it.
This was pathetic, he had to do something. “Hey, Scott! I can throw you.”
“What? Huh, Eddie. You look good man- wait. Were you-”
“You want to get to the ferry right?”
Eddie picked Scott up, which was, hilarious, but he was trying to be serious.
Hey, Venom, remember baseball?
I got you.
“Fastball special, coming right up.”
He threw Scott, and really, really wished Vine was a still a thing as he watched Scott get bigger on the way. Talk about a yeet.
You're so embarrassing.
“Woah, Eddie, that was like, cool.” Luis said, in a vast show of restraint of his usual babble as he rushed up to the railing.
Suddenly, there was a woman standing next to him.
“Who is this?” She asked, looking at Luis.
“Hi, Eddie Brock, I’d call myself an acquaintance. Used to be a reporter, still kind of am.”
“I'm the Wasp. Didn’t you do a piece on Pym Technologies?” She asked.
“Yeah, a few years ago.”
She graced him with a smile, “I loved that. Very acerbic.”
“That’s one way of putting it. Hey, is he going to be okay? He’s like the size of a building.” Eddie said, jerking his head back in Scott's direction.
Luis and the Wasp looked at each other.
“I’ll take that as no.”
Wasp was moving, going tiny again and flying towards Scott, who was now lumbering back towards them with something in his hands. He placed a Lego-sized building down on the boardwalk.
And then he fell backwards into the ocean with a very impressive splash.
“Is he going to be like, okay?” Eddie asked.
Then someone else was stealing the Lego building and Eddie had to wonder what was so special about this thing. Obviously it was a normal building, just small sized, if today’s trapeze all across the city had anything to go by. Maybe it was the aforementioned lab.
“Hey!” Eddie said, Venom leaking into his voice as he took off running after her. She lead him through some switchbacks to a less populated area of town before she made the building big again.
Luis ran up after him, wheezing, “I told Wasp so she could follow us, she had to save Scott.”
Eddie just nodded, Venom flowing over him in a moment. Instead of their normal form, Eddie had offered the suggestion that they use more of a tactical form that was a little more black ops a little less hulking alien. They would attract less attention this way.
It was easier to get through low doorways at least.
He skidded into the lab, using a few tendrils to drag himself to the ceiling.
There was some kind of tunnel in the middle, full of light and color. The thief was headed towards the tunnel right as Wasp and Scott ran into the room.
There was a pause as everyone looked at each other, and then a loud sound as something emerged from the portal.
Scott was moving and pushing the woman out of the way while Eddie was shot out a few tendrils to pull them further to safety as a vehicle crashed into the room. When the cacophony faded away, Eddie lowered both of them back to the ground before following himself.
Then people were climbing out of something that looked straight out of Body Wars, and there was crying, and yelling, and really, Eddie had no fucking idea what was going on here anymore.
Rolling his shoulders, Venom retreated back into the safety of Eddie’s skin since no one seemed to be in danger anymore. The woman in the white tactical suit was crying after a second mystery woman placed her hands on each side of her head. From the scattered reunion, Eddie realized belatedly that the new players were Janet van Dyne and Hank Pym.
He still had no clue what was going on, but the fight seemed to be over now. Which meant they all needed to get out of dodge before the super cops came to arrest them.
“Uh, not to break up the reunion, but Scott aren’t you on house arrest?” Eddie asked.
Scott’s mouth dropped open. “Shit! Think you can throw me to my apartment?”
Wasp, who had been exposed as Hope van Dyne after her parents came through the portal, threw an arm over Scott’s shoulders. “I have a better idea.”
Scott turned to her, and Eddie turned away to give them some privacy. He walked over to Luis and clapped him on the shoulder.
“You did good, Luis, you did good.”
“A regular man in the chair. They couldn’t have done it without you.”
“You know Eddie, you’re alright. How’d you become all. Y’know?”
Eddie almost laughed, for Luis, that was a straightforward question.
“You know, it’s a long story, meet my alien boyfriend, Venom.”
Venom emerged in a head, nuzzling into the stubble of Eddie’s chin before turning to Luis. “Hello.”
“Dude! Right on. That’s like. Inspiring bro. Really. Star crossed and everything? How’d you meet an alien, Eddie? Last I heard things weren’t going so well for you.”
He scratched the back of his neck, “Well, it’s a long story.”
“But a good one.” Venom added.
Chapter 7: For The Sin Of Swallowing Up The Afternoon Sun
so this is a slightly remixed chapter of the drabble that originally jumpstarted this fic! the original can be found in in the other part of the series. things start really popping off from here.
Unfortunately, Eddie didn't start a San Francisco vigilante club after that. Scott had somehow tricked his parole officer and bailed his company out in the same day, so the man had a full plate putting his life back together as a free man. Ghost, the woman Eddie later learned was an ex-shield asset named Ava Starr, was retired now, and Hope had her plate full catching up on lost time with her parents.
Still. They kept in touch. Maria had offered Ava a formal apology and a pension. It didn't make up for everything, but it was a start.
It was the start of a lot of new things. Like Eddie's work, for one thing.
He'd started publishing again. Freelance mostly, but he'd also slowly built up his own website from scratch. It had a pretty decent following now, he hadn't exactly been a no name in the world of investigative reporting, even if people had written him off for one reason or another.
They had returned to San Francisco from a work trip the night before and were out to get some fresh food to restock their apartment.
Well, he called it a work trip. The eating people thing wasn’t going to be tax deductible as a working lunch, but hey, what was one less trafficker in the world?
The San Francisco fog blanketed the morning in cotton. Insulating them from the world. It made the morning feel like it was something to be shared just between the two of them. The sunlight was just beginning to burn it off; casting away the chill that came with the haze. The bay area was like that, cold as all hell in the mornings.
Venom had laughed at his mild discomfort, but moved to cover more of his body underneath his hoodie without words. And then just like that.
The word echoed around his skull like the banging of a drum as everything in the world slipped away at once. It had been a normal day up until that voice curled through Eddie's mind like ice.
People were falling to the ground. In the street, children held by their parents slipped to their knees onto the hard concrete, looking around for something, someone, anyone- anything to explain what had just happened.
Eddie, I can’t- I don’t want to- my-
There was a sound of deafening silence, as if the world had suddenly ground to a halt. Then there were crashes from all around him. Cars suddenly veered off of the road. Dust flew into the air.
Pitch black dust seemed to seep from his skin. Slipping through his fingers as he instinctively moved to catch it. The shock of it numbed the pain. Which flared immediately when he realized just how wrong everything was. It felt like he was being hollowed out. Like there were spaces inside his heart that didn’t know how to be empty anymore. It beat, sluggishly, and off tempo. His breath started to come quicker than his lungs could keep up with. Each of his cells seemed to scream as its counterpart was ripped away.
He could still feel the echo of Venom’s last words. Of their last words. Spoken together but heard alone. It ground through his subconscious like a bucket of gravel. An empty code bouncing off the walls of his mind.
The feeling overwhelmed him and the emptiness drove him to his knees.
A few silent tears fell from his eyes to stain the concrete of the sidewalk. Darkening it like oil. The sheen snapped him back to the moment. Through the pain he clenched his hands, feeling his knuckles scrape against the concrete and bleed without anyone to patch them up.
Eddie Brock wasn’t a man to live on his knees.
He stumbled to his feet and ignored the pain that lanced through his body. Like his bones were heavy and empty at the same time. Without thinking, his arms reached out for a screaming child with no parent left to hold it before it could run into the street.
The world stood stock still as everyone tried to process what had just happened to it. What kind of violence that had been inflicted upon the universe.
Whatever just happened, it was bad.
He was alone now.
We were gone, he remained, and for the first time since the explosion Eddie felt afraid.
The child in his arms hiccuped and Eddie couldn’t help but rub his back in his best impersonation of a competent caregiver. Thankfully, the child seemed too stunned to cry.
Pulling the collar of his shirt down, he looked at the scar over the center of his chest, directly into his heart. The one that Venom had filled to save his life.
It was black and branching out into his chest like vines, the same way it always was.
As his head adjusted to the ringing silence, Eddie realized something.
Though Venom was gone- Eddie could still feel something. It wasn't the same as before. Somewhere, Venom was out there. If he had died- Eddie knew as much as the sky was blue he also would have been dead before he hit the ground.
He adjusted the child on his hip and looked around. People were huddling together. Starting to organize from the ground up. He could be a help here... he glanced at the kid who was just staring at the blinking red stop light. There would be a lot to do.
These people needed help, but they had each other.
Venom only had him.
Maybe the heroes in the world had finally failed. Not that Eddie could speak to that. He'd never considered himself much of a hero- but if Venom needed one, then that's what he was going to be. Symbiote or no symbiote. His free hand covered his scar.
Someone had taken Venom from him, and they were going to pay.
Chapter 8: Humans Are Persistence Hunters
Long time no see here's some aftermath.
Eddie Brock had been described as a dog with a bone when it came to a problem; it was what made him such a good investigative reporter. He’d always been driven to do too much, to go above and beyond- no matter the personal cost.
It’s what got him run out of New York when he stuck his nose in the wrong person’s business. He should have known better than to try and leak news about that kind of corruption without a backup plan.
He was glad for that tenacity now as the dull beating pulse of his heart stuttered off-tempo and shuttered with each breath reminded him that Venom was gone- gone but not for good, and that feeling threatened to overwhelm him like a tidal wave.
There had been a terrifying moment when that feeling had faded and his heart sputtered and stopped for a moment. As quickly as it had come, the feeling went away and his heart kicked back into tempo. He got the feeling that Venom had been in danger. They had both been in danger for a moment.
There was something uneasy about that, like something was trying to block his connection to Venom but it had remained open, which was all that he could hope for. He could sense things if he closed his eyes and concentrated on the inky void inside himself that he shared with Venom, he could see a vast sunset orange sky. And a heartbeat that wasn’t right because it wasn’t his.
Venom was bonded to another host.
He suspected why, but still he couldn’t know for sure. He hoped that Venom would do whatever it took to survive until Eddie could find him. Because Eddie was going to find him.
They could count on that.
He had no idea who had fucked up this time. It stood to reason that eventually someone was going to fail when it came to saving the world by the skin of their teeth. Humanity's last minute luck pulling off the impossible had to run out sometime.
Maybe if they’d called Venom in, they wouldn’t have failed, but he didn’t have all the information. The bits and pieces that Agent Hill and Darcy had given him before they both went radio silent weren't enough to judge the situation.
He flipped open a burner phone and tried calling another one of Hill’s numbers. It didn’t answer. That wasn’t good, in fact, he didn’t like that.
Darcy’s number was next.
It picked up after only one ring.
“Maria got dusted, so I’m gonna need everyone I can get my hands on. Thanos is going to pay.”
Eddie didn’t laugh at Darcy’s terse phrasing for everyone getting disintegrated, “They got V.”
Her tone shifted from determined to pained. “Oh, Eddie, I’m so sorry!”
“No, I’m sorry about Maria. Listen, they’re not dead. I can still feel V. They’re just somewhere else. Somewhere orange?”
“Hold on, let me check something.”
There was a rustling of papers over the line. The burner phone’s sound quality wasn’t great, but thanks to Venom his ears were a little more sensitive than the average bear’s.
“I have to talk with some people about this, keep your phone on you. Contact your friends and family. Most everyone with powers is in Wakanda right now. We’re going to regroup in New York since I’ve got Stark’s keys.”
“Darcy you never said- and she hung up on me. Nice to talk to you too, Darce.”
He flipped the phone shut and took a small visceral satisfaction in the familiar motion. Smartphones just weren’t the same. Any sense of normalcy was worth clinging too in times like these.
Missing Venom was more than a physical ache, it was an emotional weight that Eddie struggled to breathe through as it pressed on his chest like a ton of rocks. If losing Anne was something that sent him into the world’s worst depression spiral- the only thing keeping him from going on similarly inspired rage spiral was the fact that Venom needed him.
And from what he’d been able to learn so far, it might be more than Venom that needed him.
Regular phone lines were chaos right now, so Eddie ducked into the public defender’s office after jogging all the way there. His eyes scanned the hectic crowd for a head of blonde hair he prayed he would see.
“Eddie!” Annie yelled, pushing a chair over and running across the room. She hugged him tight and her hand slid around the back of his head through his hair before landing on his cheek. “Are you two okay?”
It must have shown on his face.
“Oh, Eddie, oh no- are you okay?” she placed her hand over the center of his chest as if to see if a gaping hole had opened up overnight.
She wasn’t far from the truth, it felt that way.
“It’s okay, he’s alive. Everyone is alive. I can feel him. Have you heard from Dan?”
“He passed word through a friend in emergency services, he’s fine.”
“Darcy says Maria didn’t make it.”
Her eyes went hard but she didn’t blink, “But if you’re right.”
“But if I’m right. I can find him. Find everyone that was taken.”
Anne placed her other hand on the side of Eddie’s face. “I have faith in you.”
He covered one of her hands with his own and turned into it. It didn’t do much to soothe the ache in his soul. “Are you sure that faith in me is warranted?”
“You’ve already saved the world once,” she said, pressing a kiss to his forehead.
He huffed, “That time I had your help and his.”
“And you’re going to have my help again this time. And Dan’s. And Darcy’s.”
“I think Darcy is organizing. She said something about most of the superheroes being in Wakanda, which isn’t super helpful- but the closest Wakandan embassy is in Oakland. Might be able to learn something there. It’s closer than New York anyway. In this chaos, I don’t think I’m getting there unless I choose to walk.”
Annie bit down on her lip, Eddie poked her in the cheek to keep her from bloodying it.
“Dan and I-”
“Are going to stay and help people. I know that already. Dan’s a doctor, and when half the world’s population disappeared. Their things didn’t. There’s a lot of accidents out there. I stopped to help triage a few people and make sure kids got to a trustworthy feeling adult on my way here. It’s why I took so long.”
“Call it a telepathy sharpened gut feeling.”
She wrinkled her nose, “So you read minds now?”
“Just Venom’s. There’s stuff that… changed over time being bonded to Venom. We wanted to be at our best. Some changes I was conscious of, others just sort of happened without either of us noticing. It’s not like we were getting sick.”
She sat him down on her chair. “And now that he’s gone?”
“I don’t know. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m living on borrowed time, but I don’t feel anything beyond his absence. It’s hard to feel anything else when that feeling is so... all consuming.”
“Have you eaten?” she asked, pushing her coffee into his hands.
Eddie started laughing at that and didn’t stop. To keep from spilling the coffee he had to quickly push it back into her hands and cover his face with his hands. “We were going to get some breakfast after getting back into town. We’d gone out to handle something based on some information one of Darcy’s friend’s slipped us. Ate a few people.”
She pushed the coffee back into his hands.
“Sucks to digest it without him doesn’t it?” she said, obviously attempting humor for his sake.
The general buzz of activity around the public defender’s office had started to slow as people adjusted to the facts. Humans were resourceful, and most weren’t willing to give up. Especially when no one knew what had happened. If Eddie knew, he would put it out there for people.
He got a text through his burner phone.
Flipping it open, he read Darcy asking if he minded if she used his website.
He sent back his blessing.
There was a renewed rush of activity as someone shouted for everyone’s attention. They had a website up on the projector.
Well, Darcy was nothing if not efficient.
It was a text article. He couldn’t read it from here. But he saw it contained a link to something on a Stark Industries site. He stood up and walked forward. It was obviously written by Darcy even though it had been published under a pseudonym. It gave a short detailing of what had gone wrong. Thanos’ invasion, and the presumed failure of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, Eddie almost snorted at that. That was a bit presumptuous. So what, the Avengers stopped one alien invasion and then a bunch of problems that they started? Hardly the Earth’s best there. He had his doubts that the first invasion wasn’t their fault as well. From what he’d uncovered about the situation, it seemed like a failure of Asgardian parenting.
“Click the link!” Someone shouted.
“Hold on, I’m still reading.”
“Fuck, Brad, pick up the pace it’s the apocalypse!”
“I’m clicking it anyway!”
“Fuck you guys.”
The link led to a secure Stark Industries page, which prompted a boo from someone in the back. Eddie covered his mouth to smother a hysterical laugh at that.
There was a video box, the person controlling the computer using the projector clicked on it and white bloomed into frame. It was Pepper Potts, flanked by Darcy and another woman with long brown hair that Eddie didn’t recognize. Must be important if she’s with Darcy.
Pepper was midway through making a speech and that’s when Eddie realized this was going out live.
“-even though our heroes have failed, humanity hasn’t. We must move forward with hope. We have information that suggests those who were vaporized may have been displaced instead of killed. We’re currently pursuing avenues of information on how to get them back.
In this time we must rely on each other. If you have powers- and you’ve been laying low due to the Sokovia Accords, now is the time to come out. They obviously haven’t worked, and what’s left of the UN has suspend it, effective immediately, with a unanimous vote. Make your way to the closest UN embassy and we will work out how to best use your talents.
Even without powers, every one of us can help. Turn to your churches, your temples, your community centers, your local parks. People need to be fed, others need looking after. Check on your neighbors, the young and the elderly.”
She smiled, it was tight, and pained.
Darcy stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. Pepper straightened up and continued.
“We wish we had better news to bring you, but what we do bring you is hope- and belief. Belief in humanity, belief in each other. We will make it through this.”
The video ended, and a circular play button appeared on the end frame of Pepper’s unshakeable serenity.
Eddie pulled out his phone and called Darcy without looking.
“Can’t talk Gumby! May, can you please help me? Talk to Eddie, you know everything important.”
Eddie just looked at the ceiling tiles and willed himself to have patience. There was the sound of the phone being passed to someone else.
“Hello, this is Eddie Brock.”
“Oh yes, you’re that investigative reporter. My son used to love your pieces on corruption in New York City.”
“Oh-” Eddie paused, not sure how to take that. “I’m sorry if this is insensitive but-”
“Ah, yeah, information huh? Mind you, I just learned most of this myself. There’s no word on which of the heroes survived out of those that were fighting in space.”
“Is that where your son was, Ma’am?”
“So I’ve been told. Couldn’t help but dive right into trouble could he?” May laughed, but it was strained.
“I lost my partner in the snap,” Eddie blurted out. It felt like the right thing to do, she probably already knew- if Darcy had told her anything about him.
“Oh I’m so sorry,” May said, and for some reason, it rang with gentle sincerity.
“He was- well he was a symbiotic alien, so that makes it a bit… things are usually difficult to explain.”
May chuckled, “Not the craziest thing I’ve heard. Peter was always getting into those kinds of hard to explain situations.”
A kind-hearted boy that wanted to help someone- even after everything he’d just gone through. Someone that Venom felt protective over and was helping to heal. Orange, like neon, too fast, too strong, but too young. Images flipped through his mind like an old film reel. Missing his mask, the thing that he hid behind to protect himself- shelter the part of himself that was too young to fight the battles thrust upon him. A teenager that got bored easily and was trying to help everyone at once to stave off the boredom that tasted like creamsicles. Spider-Man was just a teenager.
Eddie staggered back into the windowed wall separating Anne’s office from the main floor. Pain bloomed behind his eyes and shot through his temples. He pushed his hand hard against his forehead, digging in to try and ease the shooting pain.
Spider-Man was just a teenager, and he was a teenager hosting Eddie’s symbiote.
“Aunt May, I’m- I mean, Peter’s alive- and I think he has my alien.”
“I- who told you to call me that.”
“No one- I mean, ugh-” Eddie pulled out one of Annie’s drawers, rooting around in it until his fingers found chocolate. “Venom- the name of my symbiote partner, he was taken by the snap.”
“You said that.”
“Yeah, and, I can still feel him. It’s a- well this is going to sound cheesy but it’s a soul deep bond. Not even death could separate us, but it’s not death that the snap has done. It’s put everybody somewhere else.”
May sighed on the other end of the line, “The soul stone, Shuri supposed that. But Thanos still has it as far as we know. We haven’t heard back from the people that went to Titan otherwise.”
“There were a lotta words in that I didn’t get, but Thanos is the person behind this?” He made a mental note, Thanos was going to die.
“Oh yes, I was supposed to be explaining all of this. Thanos, big purple alien. Has a gauntlet, bunch of crazy magic stones. Those stones have actually been causing trouble for a while. Tesseract was one, so was that red stuff during the dark elf invasion. Ultron was another mistake with one. Honestly, it’s a mess, Mr. Brock.”
He laughed, a bit of a hysteric edge, “Please, call me Eddie, Mrs. Aunt- I mean-” crap.
Her answer was amused, “Just call me Aunt May, it seems easier for you.”
“I’ve been thinking about going down to the Wakandan embassy in Oakland.”
“As good a place as any to group up, Wakanda’s embassy should be able to help get you in contact with the other embassies and possibly get you up here. If that’s where you’re needed.”
“Thank you, Aunt May, I’m glad I was able to tell you that Peter’s okay- well, okay as anyone else is right now. Your people can probably figure things out better than I can. I hope to have more information for you soon.”
Now that he was aware of it, Eddie felt like he could almost close his eyes and see out into the expanse of orange. Venom was okay, he was with someone trustworthy.
If Eddie didn’t make it, they would rescue Spider-Man, and Venom was with a strong host. He could move on.
He sighed and rubbed his forehead. Thoughts like that didn’t help anyone. He was too stubborn to roll over and die.
With renewed strength, he slipped the phone back into his pocket and grabbed a notepad off the desk and a pen. Writing things down would help him work through his thoughts.
Annie was coming back from the crowd, a dark blue backpack in her hands. “I found some supplies for you if you’re going out there again. Good luck.”
“You’re a peach, Annie,” he said, returning his gratitude with a kiss to her forehead. “You and Dan be safe. I’m heading off to Oakland.”
He shouldered the pack and turned to look over the office. People were buzzing around seeing to whatever tasks that they could.
They were going to get through this. He was going to get through this. His hand released his death grip on the notepad and slipped it over his shoulder into the pack.
It was going to be a long trip, but they'd be okay in the end. He had to believe that.
Chapter 9: Mistakes Were Made
This chapter is a bit short but I dearly love it.
Halfway through his trek to Oakland he remembered something.
Scott, Hope, and Ava were also in San Francisco right now. Scott had texted him something before the snap about needing to get Ava more particles for her spacial displacement. All the stuff about the Microverse baffled Eddie, if he was being honest, but Scott, Hope, and Ava were good people and sub-atomic portals were notoriously unstable.
He closed his eyes and tried to listen to that vague dissonance that Ava carried with her like the high pitched whine of an old TV. She was on the move. Which was good. It meant she was alive.
He pulled out his phone and called her.
“Eddie?” She didn’t sound out of breath but the word was clipped short. She must be having a bad pain day and Eddie felt bad he couldn't do anything to help with that.
“Hey, have you heard from Scott and Hope? They’re calling in all people with powers.”
“Scott was going to the quantum realm to get me some more particles this morning. I don’t- I don’t know if he ever came back. What if there’s no one there to bring him back?”
“Do you know where they are?”
“They were doing it mobile using Luis’ van.”
“So probably a parking structure.”
“I think I might know where they are,” she said.
“Can you operate the portal if they’re gone? Scott might be stranded.”
Ava didn't hesitate, “Yeah, I’ve got it handled.”
Eddie chewed on the corner of his fingernail, “If you get Scott, tell him to suit up and head to the Wakandan embassy in Oakland.”
“Will do, I’ll even show up myself.”
“You shouldn’t have to, Ava, you’ve done more than your fair share of fighting in your life- and none of it by choice.”
Silence rang from the phone. “I want to. I live on this planet too.”
“Okay, just be safe, call me if you run into any problems. Text me when you find Scott.”
Oakland wasn’t that far but it was steadily approaching evening, and he still had to get across a few bridges in his way. His route took him took him out of the city and right by the Life Foundation. It hadn’t shut down in the year since the accidental launch and Eddie could see the lights of the building from the road.
Eddie didn’t know what went on there now, he’d had other things on his mind than checking up on a corporation he'd assumed would go under.
This was the best route he could think of to get to the Wakandan embassy with all the chaos going on, regardless of the fact he'd be happy if he never saw the place again.
Part of him wanted to stop by the hospital and see Dan, assure him that Darcy was alright- but he’d probably seen the news already. They’d be rebroadcasting Pepper Potts’ speech for a while. It was the most information anyone had given out so far and the only thing that the mainstream media had to latch on to. Oh, it must rankle them to have to use Eddie Brock's site a source. If it wasn't the apocalypse, Eddie would be taking a vicious amount of pride in that.
As he passed into the forests skirting the bay towards Oakland, there was a crash from his left. The noise startled Eddie, and he followed his gut instinct to cross his arms over Venom to keep him from reacting badly to the sound before he could think.
Whatever he thought could have made that noise, Eddie certainly didn’t expect it to be a white symbiote crashing through a tree, screaming at the top of its lungs. It was clearly having problems settling within its host. It’s shape kept changing, twisting and bending like they couldn’t decide what was best.
“Woah, woah, hold on.” Eddie held out his hands and then opened his mouth, a subsonic sound reverberating out in part of the Klyntar tongue. “Stop.”
The white mass shuttered, and melted, leaving the shape of a young man on his hands and knees.
Eddie walked forward and reached out to put a hand on the man’s shoulder, “You have to talk to them, you- wait where did you even get a symbiote?”
The man stumbled backwards, his back thumping against a tree. “Dude, dude, dude, what the fuck, dude holy shit.” The kid, and Eddie could tell now that this was a teenager, was freaking out. Which- okay, fair. Eddie had also started freaking out when it had happened to him.
But he was an adult, and this was-
“Flash?” Eddie said, and then slapped a hand over his mouth. He had no way of knowing that- except.
The haze of orange was back. Tinting the edges of his vision.
“H-how do you know my name?” the kid stumbled to his feet.
“Okay, okay. You know Peter Parker? I’m his-” think quick think quick, “-cousin.”
“Peter Parker talks about me?” Flash asked, looking pleased, as if he’d completely forgotten about the situation with the symbiote.
“Right, right, I’ve got ADHD, sorry.”
“Explain,” he said, gesturing to Flash’s everything.
“What? I thought you were the one that was going to explain!”
God help him have the patience to deal with teenagers, because he suddenly got the feeling that this was going to be a reoccurring issue.
“I meant explain how you got the symbiote.”
Flash brightened at that, “Right, okay. So. My dad, he’s like, rich. Like, loaded. And he was running a trust that was doing grants for the Life Foundation. And I got in some trouble because his car got wrecked on my watch and so I’m not really left without supervision anymore. So I was with him on this trip to see if the Life Foundation was still worth the grant money after the big blow up earlier this year.”
“It was last year but go on.”
“Do you want me to explain or not?”
“Anyway, so my dad wasn’t looking impressed but then they pulled him into this secret area with heavy security and they had this. Thing. In a glass case. I wasn’t paying attention. They said something about synthesizing from samples and something about some venom. I thought it was like for antivenom- like for snakes. Or something. ‘Scept it kept moving. They were explaining more when everyone started disintegrating. Except you know it didn’t happen all at once and one of the scientists landed on the button that let it go and the- boom! I’m being attacked by someone’s slime hobby. Dude, I think my dad is like, dead.”
“My name is Eddie, not dude, and your dad isn’t dead. Everyone’s just been displaced.”
Flash looked relieved at that, “Okay, but that like, still leaves the antivenom stuff!”
“You can’t call them Antivenom.”
“Because my symbiote is named Venom and it’s weird!” Eddie said, trying to keep in the hysteria brought on by Flash's story. How could they be so careless? He’d assumed the Life Foundation had lost all of their symbiote research with the death of Venom’s crewmates. How was he supposed to know they had samples of Venom?
Or that they could grow something from it.
So, if he had the situation right, they were dealing with a juvenile symbiote, already bound to a juvenile human. In the middle of the apocalypse. And Eddie didn’t have Venom.
Okay, he could work with this. New priority, keep the kid safe. Second priority, take him to the Wakandan embassy.
“You have a symbiote? You don’t look like you have one of these things.”
Eddie held up two fingers, counting them down as he spoke. “First off, he’s not a thing, and second, he was taken in the snap.”
“Oh-” Flash paused, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay, I’m going to get him back.”
“What do you mean?”
“Walk with me, we’ve got to get to the Wakandan embassy in Oakland.”
“Woah! Wakanda, oh man, Michelle is going to be so jealous.”
Eddie started walking again, and glanced back at Flash, “You need to talk with your symbiote, can you hear it in your mind?”
His expression changed from one of wonder to one of almost intense constipation, then surprise, he looked to the side like he expected someone to be standing behind him.
“He says he likes the name Antivenom though,” Flash said after a minute.
“Of course he does,” Eddie sighed under his breath. Teenagers. Patience.
“You still didn’t explain what you meant, why’d you call it the snap?” Flash asked, going to pull out his phone and jumping a little when a white tendril jumped to bring it into his hand.
“Kid, you’re about to get a crash course.” Eddie rubbed the back of his neck. “Big purple alien guy named Thanos collected a bunch of stones, used them to snap his fingers and displace half the universe instead of killing them. I know cause I can still feel Venom, and I know he’s temporarily bonded to another host.”
“How do you know it’s temporary?” Flash asked, he was batting the tendril away like it was a ping pong ball and grinning.
Kids these days.
“Because Peter’s holding on to him for me,” Eddie said, and then abruptly remembered that Peter’s secret identity was a secret- and he needed to shut up before he let slip any important information.
“So Peter has it now? And you know that?”
Eddie tugged the collar of his shirt down to expose the top scar in the middle of his chest. “Thanos couldn’t take all of Venom from me, I think because uh- there’s a part of both me and Venom that’s just we. A single entity, sort of a like a third party when we are completely in sync. We’re usually pretty in sync but there’s moments where we’re an I instead of a we. Usually when one of us was pulling the other back from the brink of death.”
“You seem to be, on top of this. Why didn’t you try and take Antivenom from me?”
“One, he’s getting a nickname, because I'm not calling him that, and two, they’re not interchangeable. Venom is a part of me.”
“Not cool to say, but in this case, you’re correct.” Eddie said, flicking Flash on the forehead and speeding up to leave him behind. He was trying to keep from busting out into laughter.
He lost the battle. The laughter bubbled out again.
“Are you kidding?”
The teenager was fidgeting and avoiding eye contact. “Is that like… required?”
“Oh, okay, good.”
Eddie glanced back at him, Flash was frowning. Kid almost looked disappointed. Eh, he had time to figure himself out. He couldn’t help himself, he had to ask, “Eat anybody yet?”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
He slung the backpack around and dug through it, digging out a chocolate bar. “Eat this, we figured out that it contains a chemical found in brains that the symbiotes need. Doesn’t really matter which brand. Pretty much any chocolate has it. Phenylethylamine can also be bought as a supplement, but I don’t have any on hand.”
Flash took the bar. “You don’t too convince me to eat chocolate.” As he unwrapped it, his symbiote poked its head out. As if he were curious, Eddie remembered Venom being much the same when presented with new things.
Part of Eddie ached. Venom should be here. He remembered how they’d talked about what they would do if they decided to have kids- well, it had been a passing thought but the possibility had always been something that made both of them feel secure. A someday they’d reach on their journey. Not the end of it but a stop along the way. Maybe when they were older, when things were more settled, they’d revisit the possibility.
Now it looked like the choice was out of their hands.
He picked out another bar of chocolate, a smaller dove bar this time, and unwrapped it. Holding it forward for the symbiote.
He looked at it, and Eddie gestured encouragingly. At least he hoped it came across that way.
The symbiote took a bite of its own.
“Oh that feels weird,” Flash said, covering his mouth while he spoke.
Antivenom opened his mouth and ate the rest of the bar in one go, shivering and looking back at Eddie. It was so much like Venom that for a moment Eddie wanted to scream that it wasn’t fair.
When the symbiote spoke, it was in a smaller voice than Eddie expected- it had a subtle rumble to it like the purr of a cat instead of Venom’s diesel engine roar. “Thank you, Eddie.”
Eddie smiled and patted him on the head. “If we’d known, we’d have gotten you out. I want you to know that.”
“I believe that. But I’ve got Flash now. This is a good human. I will keep.”
“Yeah, I don’t know what I would have done about finding you a host. Are you two compatible?”
“Hello, right here,” Flash said, waving his hand.
Eddie rolled his eyes, “It’s kind of important we figure this out before they eat your organs to survive. Venom had a good snack on mine during an emergency once.” Eddie gestured around,"Doesn't get more emergency than this."
“Why would I compromise the integrity of my host? He rescued me.”
“You are very smart,” Eddie said seriously. You were supposed to encourage and compliment kids, right? He was going to have to find a parenting book after this mess was over.
“Thank you for noticing.”
He had to wonder what socialization the symbiote had before being bonded to Flash, if it had any. There was no hivemind for it to benefit from. It didn’t even have Venom to learn from. Now he was really wishing he’d asked Venom more about symbiote life cycles.
“I’m also smart, I’m on the decathlon team,” Flash said.
Right, symbiote and host. There were two levels to this.
“Sounds like you two are a pretty good match, eat that chocolate and you’ll get through this with your liver intact.”
His phone buzzed as he received a text from Ava confirming their fears. Scott had been stranded in the quantum realm all day. They had no idea what kind of effect it would have on him- but he was back in the real world now. That was some good news at last.
Flash and Eddie walked in silence for a bit as the woods gave way to more suburbs outside Oakland.
“I don’t know if I want to get through this."
"What do you mean?" Eddie asked, alarmed.
"I mean. I don’t wanna split with AV.” Flash said, picking at the hem of what must have been a nice blazer, before he ran around in the woods with an alien piggybacking his body. “It’s the coolest thing to happen to me, kinda ever. And last year I almost died, there was an elevator. And Spider-Man saved us, but I couldn’t help but feel powerless to do anything about it myself. Like, my Dad’s got all this money, and I’m smart, but I’m no Tony Stark. And my Dad hardly gives me the time of day most of the time, unless I’m making trouble. Together me and AV can do some crazy things, and... I just dunno. This seems like a chance to help.”
“Well,” Eddie said looking at the smattering of government subsidized apartment buildings that marked the beginning of Oakland proper in the distance, “We’re going to need help. So you hold on to that feeling, Flash.”
Chapter 10: You Can't Cloak Pain
our bed and breakfast is built practically on an 1800s graveyard, wild.
also like, fuck shuri getting taken in the snap because that's dumb as hell.
Oakland was, for lack of a better term, thriving. It was used to being left to its own devices and in the face of large scale tragedy, people put aside their day-to-day differences to come together and make things happen. Even the gangs had turned around and started keeping the peace where existing social structures had failed.
Eddie kept a hand on Flash’s shoulder to steer him through the relatively quiet streets. They had talked more on the way over and Avi, as Flash had started calling him, had taken a shine to settling over Flash's shoulders in the form of a sweatshirt. A white hoodie stood out less than a blazer in this part of town.
Without Venom, Eddie was down a sweatshirt and Anne hadn’t been able to find him one in the public defender’s office. It was strange how being without one made him feel naked, but he wasn’t Eddie Brock, down on his luck reporter anymore. He was Eddie Brock- sometimes hero, sometimes cannibal, and he was going to fuck shit up until he got his alien boyfriend back. Depression hoodies need not apply.
A long haired man in a Gulf War Veterans’ hat broke from a crowd on one side of the street and walked towards him, “Eddie!”
He startled a smile out of Eddie. “Henry, what are you doing out here in Oakland?”
“Organizing, trying to figure out who’s gone from the homeless population. You know how slippery the usual ones are that slip through the cracks. Trying to make sure no one takes advantage of the situation to pull any shit.” The man clasped Eddie's forearm and pulled him in for a half hug.
“Right on, let me know if you need any ass kicked,” Eddie said, clasping the man’s shoulder. “Things are holding up okay?”
“No more chaotic than usual, in fact it’s almost like things are working better because everyone understands how serious this is.” Henry's yellowed smile belied that assertion with it's worn edges. Things were rough on everyone right now.
Eddie nodded. “I’ve seen that yeah.”
“And who’s this whippersnapper?” Henry asked before placing a grimy hand in Flash’s gelled hair and giving it a ruffle.
“This is my cousin’s friend, Flash. He’s from NYC and his dad got dusted, I’m helping him get somewhere safe.” Eddie said and pulled Flash in for a side hug. “It’s been a day.”
“Ain’t that the truth. Keep yourselves safe.”
They walked a bit further down the street before Flash ducked to hide behind Eddie and try to run his fingers through his hair. It was done for though. “Who was that, ugh, my hair!”
“Bigger picture, Flash,” Eddie took a chance and ruffled Flash’s hair even worse, “and that was Henry, aka, one of the few people that know about Venom and I.”
“Oh, is he like your homeless gay dad?”
“Not Venom and I like that , the crime fighting and eating people part!”
Flash held his hands up in surrender, “You weren’t specific.”
Eddie just pulled the hood over Flash’s head. “I bet you get into all kinds of trouble speaking first and thinking later. You’re gonna have to work on that. Avi can probably help you figure out some sort of filter if you ask him nicely.”
“He’s very smug you think so,” Flash said, sticking his hands into his pockets. Was that a sign of teenage moping? Eddie wasn’t sure. He really needed to pick up a parenting book like: ‘What To Do When You Accidentally Acquire A Pair Of Sons (Oh And One’s An Alien)’. Somehow, he got the feeling he’d have to write it himself.
“How do we find the embassy?” Flash asked, after a minute.
“I want you and Avi to listen, Wakandan technology has a hum of vibranium to it, like this bracelet. It’s a very watered down derivative of common Wakandan technology. Darcy explained it to me once.”
“A friend, now listen.” Eddie tapped Flashes temple and closed his eyes to set an example. “What do you hear?”
He couldn’t tell if Flash was listening or not, but his expression shifted to one that looked almost like he was in pain. Is that what he looked like when he was concentrating? He didn’t think so. While Flash was busy, Eddie took a chance to take a deep breath. It escaped through clenched teeth. Today had just been one thing after another. The snap, missing breakfast, fearing that everyone he loved was gone- but no, it was only Venom the world had seen fit to take. The one person he couldn’t live without.
But he was doing it. He was living. Because he had to. Because Venom was out there doing his best to get back to him. Because he wanted to get Peter back to his Aunt.
Now he had another reason, he thought, watching Flash turn his head towards a building with his eyes closed- he wanted Venom to meet Avi. See what he thought about their… son. It was derived from Venom, so it was Venom’s child. At least.
His lips pulled down. Did he have any claim to Avi as a paternal figure? If Venom was here, he felt sure his other would smack him upside the head. They were Venom. They were sometimes Venom and Eddie, but what had he said to Flash earlier? Sometimes there were moments where they were one. No layers between them. No walls. Where one had claim, so did the other. Annie was Venom’s family, and Avi was Eddie’s.
Did he want to take on the role of somebody’s father? His had been shit. Would he be a good one? Not that he thought Flash would think of him as one. Flash still had a father, even if he was shitty, and distant, and gone now.
Okay, so maybe part of him wanted to protect Flash. Sue him, he’d taken a day to get attached to Venom. Seemed fitting he’d take less than that to become protective of Flash and Avi.
“I think I found it!” Flash said, smiling. With his hair down in messy curls, he looked younger.
He gave the kid what he hoped was an encouraging smile, “Yeah?”
From the outside the Wakanda's embassy looked like a normal Oakland apartment building, but to Eddie- and he supposed to Flash as well, it looked like a normal Oakland apartment building with a big fucking jet parked on top of its roof.
“Think it’s cloaked?” Flash asked, excited.
Eddie nodded, “I think there’s a lot more in store for us than a cloaked jet.”
They were stopped at the entrance.
“This is Wakandan soil,” said one of the guards, but she sounded nervous. They had probably pulled everyone they could to fight the war against Thanos. He didn't blame the skeleton crew they'd left to run things in their absence for being jumpy.
“We’re reporting in to help.” Eddie said, lifting up his bracelet and showing it too her.
She squinted at it and then looked back at him. “I’ve heard about these, they’re not true-” she said a word that Eddie didn’t know- “… you two better get in here.”
Inside the Embassy was chaos, a beehive that had just been kicked and then tossed in a washing machine. Eddie got the feeling they were missing a vital piece of information. No one seemed like they had the time to stop and explain things to two lost looking Americans either.
He flipped open his burner phone and dialed Darcy.
“Hey, Eddie,” came Aunt May’s voice from the other end of the line.
“Hey Aunt May, you would not believe who I found here. Say hi to Aunt May, Flash.”
He held out the phone for Flash to say hi.
When he returned the phone to his ear, May was whispering in a furious tone, “What is he doing with you. He’s too young-”
“Oh like Peter? He’s got a symbiote. Apparently the Life Foundation weren’t as finished with symbiote research as we’d thought. Is Darcy busy? We’re at the embassy but things are a bit chaotic.”
Her voice softened again, “Oh poor dears, of course it is, King T’challa was taken in the snap as well. They’re relying on their Queen and Princess to get them through things right now. Darcy is currently coordinating with Princess Shuri. Just help them with what you can and then catch a ride to New York.”
“Okay, understood. Thanks, Aunt May.”
The phone snapped shut with another satisfying click.
“Flash, you’re about to get a crash course in what I like to call, ‘doing what’s needed’ it’s something you learn when you intern with a news agency.”
Eddie walked up to someone who looked like they were in charge. “I’m an investigative reporter, what do you need?”
She startled a bit at his abrupt introduction, before shoving papers into his arms. “I need you to cross reference these to see which of our war dogs are alive and who can be recalled to regroup. Who are you?”
“Eddie Brock, this is Flash Thompson, my charge. Uh, I was told by a Darcy Lewis that this was one of the best places to try and regroup.”
“Ah, everyone knows of Darcy’s misfits.” She nodded, shoving more papers into Flash’s arms as well.
“All the people that Darcy worked to keep from getting trapped under the Sokovia Accords, she had a few things set up with Wakanda. It was being kept quiet of course.”
He barely kept himself from sighing. “You know, that does explain a lot.”
“Hey! It’s you!”
Eddie turned, only to see the kid who had given him and Venom candy on the day they’d almost died. The one from the gas station.
“David? What are you doing here?”
The teenager looked at Flash behind him, and back to the Wakandan woman who hadn’t introduced herself yet, before shifting nervously. “I saw on the news that people with powers should report to their nearest embassy. I’m, um, psychomimetic. It’s a form of telepathy that lets me store and mimic’s people’s knowledge and skills. It actually kind of sucks, but if I can help than I thought I’d better try..”
Eddie had a flash of insight. “That’s how you knew who I was, you hadn’t seen anything on the news!”
“Guilty,” David said with a sheepish smile.
“Well, get over here and help us cross reference these. Put that big brain to use. David this is Flash,” he said, gesturing.
Opening the backpack that Annie had given him yielded another cellphone, which he gave to David and Flash to share as they went through the list trying to recall the various Wakandan assets. It took an hour to go through the list, but at least Eddie felt like he was helping now.
“I wonder if I can put knowing Wakandan down on my college applications,” David whispered. "I've picked it up after being here all day."
Flash shrugged, “I don’t think anyone’s going to check if you did. I know I can’t put 'host of alien symbiote' down on mine.”
The two teenagers shared a laugh, and Eddie shook his head at their antics. He was almost done with the list he’d been given when they called everyone with powers up to the jet. He left a note to tell them where he'd left off and passed his papers back to the woman who'd given them to him in the first place.
He thanked her and then herded the two boys up the stairs, only to run smack dab into another face he never thought he would see again.
“Tommy?” Eddie asked the same time as David.
“Mr. Brock? David?” Tommy turned around. His hair was still dyed shock white, but he wasn’t sure about whether it was actually dyed now or just part of what made Tommy, Tommy.
David dashed forward and punched him in the shoulder, “I thought you were going to college!”
“I was- I mean, I am. I mean- I don’t know if they’ll let me back in under my track scholarship when they find out I’ve been. Um, hiding super-speed," he rubbed his shoulder and shrugged.
Eddie patted Tommy on the shoulder, “Cheer up kid, we’re coming out of the woodwork now that the Sokovia Accords are suspended. They’ll remember what good we can do now. Maybe we can get you on a superhero scholarship fund?”
He looked back when someone tugged on the back of his shirt to see Flash looking impatient. “Talk later, invisible flying jet now!”
He held his hands up in surrender, teenagers were going to be the death of him. “Alright, alright.” He suddenly got the feeling that he was babysitting. Babysitting a bunch of super-powered teenagers, while he didn’t have his powers or his backup.
“Nobody kill each other on the flight, okay? Okay.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” That voice was familiar, Eddie turned to see Scott and Ava running up the stairs.
Scott bent over at the knees and huffed to get his breath back. “Thank god you guys didn’t leave, and that you sent Ava to get me.”
“Oh my god, turn it down,” David said, closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead.
Scott turned to him. “You hear it too?”
“Between you and Mr. Brock, it’s hard not too.”
Eddie held up his hands, “Sorry, I’m lost, can we re-wind this conversation?”
David looked between Scott and Eddie, before pinching the bridge of his nose like he was the one being put upon for an explanation.
“Well you,” he pointed at Eddie, “are banging an alien that shares your body and you have telepathic connection with- which apparently still works across dimensions. And he-” he pointed to Scott, “Has a quantum entanglement with his girlfriend’s mother to a point where she sometimes hijacks his body.”
Flash started to laugh and only stopped when Eddie stepped on his toe.
“Wow, I mean, I thought my situation was weird,” Eddie said with the straightest face he could manage. It wasn’t very straight.
Scott grimaced, "Laugh it up, but Janet’s been yelling at me ever since I got out of the quantum realm.”
“Give any thought to calling it the microverse?”
“You know, I like it, but the van Dynes would never go for it, and they like, discovered it. So I think they’re in charge of what it gets called.”
“Are we going to get on the invisible jet or not,” Flash asked impatiently.
Eddie's eyes met Scott with a look before rolling his eyes when Scott snorted at him. Kids.
The ride was torture for Eddie. Mainly because he was intimately aware that he was high in the air with no Venom to catch him.
He missed Venom. He hadn’t had a lot of time to sit and reflect on the fact that Venom was gone, from the get go it had been action and planning nonstop to keep his brain busy- to keep his mind off the splitting ache in his body and soul.
Digging through the backpack again yielded a bottle of Tylenol. He took five. It wasn’t the extra strength kind so he’d be okay.
It still hurt.
Eddie rubbed his head and looked at the floor of the jet. It was the most technologically advanced thing he’d ever seen, and the boys were eating up every scrap of information that the other people in the plane would give during the trip.
Somehow, the jet still gave off the feeling of being a military transport. Maybe it’s because it was packed full of people. There were all sorts. It was mostly Wakandan citizens, probably war dogs, but there were also other people with powers. Scott and Ava for one, who he was lucky enough to count as friends, but others he didn’t know. He could who had powers by the way they glanced around, like they were afraid of being caught out. At least Tommy, Flash, and David seemed to be keeping each other occupied. Flash was telling the truth about his intelligence, he was smart enough to keep up with David most of the time, and Tommy was fast enough to keep up with them even if he didn’t always understand.
He was glad that they hadn’t been pushed to fight Thanos, the way they might have been if they’d been found out under the Sokovia Accords. Even though they were all on this plane now, heading to New York and an unknown fight ahead.
Had David told his parents? Flash’s dad was gone and he said nothing of his mother. Tommy was a self proclaimed orphan. Whether that was the truth or a lie he told to cover his tracks. It didn’t matter in the end.
If Venom were here, he’d tease him about being sentimental- but that teasing would be tempered by fondness and amusement.
God, how he ached for his other half back. It was almost all he could think about now. He glanced over at David, the least he could do was try and keep it down for any telepaths on the plane.
He closed his eyes and leaned back against the bulkhead. They would be in New York in a matter of hours. Then he’d be back on the blessed ground. His ears picked up on the shattering sound of Ava’s synchronicity, hum of Scott’s entanglement, the constant staccato tap of Tommy’s jittering, thrumming of the bond between Avi and Flash, the odd silence of David. There were other sounds too, the distant rush of air outside of the plane. The soft cadence of Wakandan being spoken. There were noises from the other powered passengers that he couldn’t put words too.
Listening wasn’t helping. It echoed around his skull and reminded him just how empty he was without Venom taking up space next to his heart.
He placed a hand over the scar on his chest, feeling the soft rise of flesh against his fingertips, he was numb there and for a moment, he could imagine he was touching Venom as he pooled against his side on the couch- watching TV and existing together. Even then, he could feel what Venom felt. It wasn’t the same.
Following an exhale, he took a deep breath just to feel his ribs expand against his skin. If he tried hard, he could pretend it was Venom shifting around his heart, moving under and through his skin.
Turning his head to the side, he curled up against the bulkhead. At least he could try and catch an hour of sleep alone in his own skull. It was how he’d spent the first thirty something years of his life, after all.
He drifted, it wasn’t enough to qualify as a nap but it was better than nothing. At times the sleep would be so close he could almost reach out and grab it, but each time it slipped away before he could fully slip under.
“Eddie, wake up.”
He blinked open as his arm was shaken, looking over to see Flash. He looked nervous. “We’re here. They took us right to Stark Tower.”
He stood and popped his back. He ached all over on top of the pain he felt without Venom. He’d forgotten what it was like to wake up sore because he’d slept wrong.
Was he kidding himself thinking that he could succeed where the Avengers had failed? Him, normal Eddie Brock, someone without super strength or enhanced healing. He probably didn’t have a chance, but he had to try for Venom. To get him back he’d do whatever it took.
He waited for everyone else to get off the plane first, he wasn’t in a rush. He hadn’t planned much beyond this point. Get to New York, see what he could do, try and find a way to hit Thanos with a jeep or something.
The teenagers were looking around, wide-eyed to the point of tripping over each other. It was David who turned first to see who had entered the hanger.
He didn’t think, he just felt the rush of air leave his lungs. Aunt May was safe, he knew that Peter would be glad to hear that. Maybe Venom could tell him. He was already moving to gather her up in a hug. Bless her heart, May hugged him back and he almost burst into tears.
But now wasn’t the time for that, he had to get May’s boy back for her.
“What no hug for me?” Darcy asked, and Eddie laughed a little to hide the tears he could feel forming in the corners of his eyes. She got her hug in short order.
“I brought some of your misfits,” he said to her. He smoothed her hair back and placed a kiss to the top of her head.
“I’m sorry about yours.”
“I’m gonna get him back, but I’ve started a collection of sons.”
Darcy chuckled and patted him on the head. “Eddie, this is-”
“Shhhh.” He used her closeness to whisper to her. “Flash thinks that I’m Peter’s cousin. I didn’t want to explain. Sorry about that.” He said, turning to May.
She shook her head. “You brought me news Peter’s alive, you can be an honorary nephew if you want.”
“She’s right, without you we wouldn’t have been able to figure out that they people who were taken in the snap were taken and not killed.”
“You would have figured it out, Scott’s still connected to Mrs. van Dyne. Janet, not Hope.”
Scott came over and slung an arm around Eddie’s shoulders. Which just made him feel short. “Yeah, but without you and Ava who knows if I would have been freed from the microverse.”
“You said it! No take backs.”
Eddie motioned over Flash, and with Flash came Tommy and David. May took a moment to give Flash a hug as well. His hearing was good enough to catch the whispered words between them.
“You’re doing a good thing. Don’t be scared. We’re all scared.”
“Eddie doesn’t seem scared.”
“That’s because he’s in too much pain to show it.”
He turned his head and looked at the wall. He could see inconsistencies in the glasswork of hanger. Probably from accidents. Actually, it could have been from the Chitauri invasion. There was no way for him to tell.
David caught his eye and raised an eyebrow at him. Right, low level telepathy. He shrugged, hoping it conveyed that he was just trying to do his best. Saying Peter was his cousin protected Peter’s identity. That was important to Peter, so Eddie would do his best to keep the secret.
Honestly, if he had to put up with Jameson slandering him in the news he wouldn’t want his identity getting out either.
The click of expensive shoes echoed down the hall and Pepper Potts entered the room with purpose. “If you could follow me, I’ll get you to the guest quarters. We’re still waiting on word from the away team, but long range scanners are picking up a few promising signals.” She turned to the Wakandan guests and said a short greeting in Wakandan, which impressed the hell out of Eddie, but the Wakandan contingent just looked pleased. “I understand that you would like to be on your way to Wakanda, if you need to rest or refuel know that all of our facilities are at your service. If the rest of you would follow me.”
It was phrased like a question but clearly a command.
The group followed without pause, Eddie had only known Pepper Potts for three minutes now but he was already sure he’d follow her to war. Which was good, because that might just be where they were heading.
“Alright, intake forms. Basically this was meant to be a part of a training program, but we’re using it for organization right now. You’re not Avengers, but-” she looked over them, with a Starkpad in her hand, “I cannot think of a better word to describe those of us that remain. The Avengers failed. We must not. Answer everything as honestly as you can, it will help us get a sense of your capabilities.”
Darcy and May passed out Starkpads to everyone and Eddie looked down at the form on the device. He hated filling out forms, but this one was especially difficult for him to get through. He had to be honest about his capabilities without Venom. His sight and hearing was little better, and hell, he could probably still give Scott and Ava a run for their money. He had the muscle memory from fighting as one with Venom. That didn't make him a superhero.
He went down the sheet and answered as well as he could until he got to the end. Where a box had been added asking why they wanted to fight.
After a moment, he answered as simply as he could. For love. And hit send on the form.
He went to hand the pad back to Darcy, but she just looked at it and scoffed. “You don’t give back free tech, Eddie, you keep it until someone asks for it back.”
He shrugged at her before placing the pad into his backpack.
Chapter 11: First Impressions
so i finally saw captain marvel and gotta say. one of the most faithful adaptations of the comics that i've seen lately.
The room he was given was spacious enough to leave him alone with his thoughts.
It was late into the night with the time difference between NYC and San Francisco and it had been a very long day. Which lead most of the new arrivals to decide it would be better to get some rest and start fresh in the morning.
Rest was the last thing on his mind. He'd never thought he'd be back in New York City, especially not without Venom. It felt wrong to be so high up in a tower looking out over this skyline without him. Everything felt wrong without him.
At least he had peace of mind about the kids for a moment. Flash was in a suite down the hall with Avi, and David and Tommy had also picked rooms on this floor to stay near each other. Ava had opted for one closer to Darcy, while Scott insisted he could live in a shoe- which only made Flash laugh and Pepper shake her head- so he got the smaller room across the hall from Eddie.
The bed was too soft, the shower too fancy, the TV too big, and there wasn’t any chocolate in the drawer next to the bed. This wasn’t his home, but he already knew that. His home was sitting under orange skies next to a kid from Queens.
He would open a window just to hear the soothing sounds of a familiar city, but the tower was too tall and he would hardly be able to hear anything over the sound of his blood rushing through his body from the height.
Instead of getting out of bed, he wrapped himself tighter in his blankets and wiggled between the mattress and the wall. It wasn’t the void he missed but the tight wrap of the blanket made him feel a little better.
Focusing as hard as he could, Eddie tried to reach out to Venom, hoping for a response in words. He got a vague feeling of attention like Venom was listening. Eddie focused on trying to pour all of his love and heartache across their bond in order to let his feelings of hope and love wrap into one pulse of emotion centered over the scar on his chest. He got no response in words- but he felt like he’d been heard. Maybe it was just wishful thinking.
He sighed and pressed his face into the pillow.
Hours later, the sun was coming up through the sparkling glass pylons of New York. He couldn't say if he got any sleep. After a jaw cracking yawn, Eddie jumped in the shower for a few minutes before getting dressed in a black t-shirt and sweatpants.
No one else on the floor was awake yet, which didn’t surprise him. What teenager wanted to get up before noon?
Or Scott, because he was basically a really old teenager.
“Friday? Can you point me to the gym?”
“I did not think Ms. Potts included me in her debriefing.”
He paused, “I’m Peter’s cousin?” He tried.
“You aren’t, but in light of recent events. I’ll let things slide. The gym is three floors above you, straight down the corridor from the elevator.”
He scratched the back of his head. “Thank you, Friday.”
When he stepped into the gym, Eddie abruptly realized that this was a gym built for superheros. Maybe they’d even used it at some point. He didn’t know if the Avengers had ever lived in the tower together, but they might have stayed in it from time to time.
Eddie took off running, because it was something he could do without his mind getting in the way. One foot in front of the other, driving each step further to the beat of his heart. He tried to match it to the pulse of the bond that was missing; timing his footfalls to the pulses of pain that still drove through his body.
He slowed when someone else entered the gym, mostly because he hadn’t expected it to be Pepper Potts.
“Don’t stop on my account, Mr. Brock.”
“Eddie,” he said, pausing to take a drink of water from the wall fountain.
“Eddie, then.” She inclined her head and then walked past him to the punching bags. She started a routine of impressive punches and kicks that flowed with practice.
The track held his attention for almost an hour before he cooled down and ended with some stretches. He felt better after exercise than he did waking up this morning. He hit the gym showers to freshen up.
Whatever the day held in store, he’d get through it- whatever stood in between him and Venom needed to watch out, because he wasn’t going to give up.
He nodded to Pepper on his way out of the gym and followed Friday’s directions to the kitchen. There was a lot of 'hurry up and wait' going on, but at least he could make some pancakes to keep himself busy for another half hour or so. He was sure the kids would appreciate them when they decided to wake up.
There were a few time he reached out with limbs that weren’t there to grab things off the counter. Vertigo that expected arms to stretch out and grab things from the fridge without turning around. It was harder to remember with domestic tasks that Venom wasn’t with him. When he was in public he was used to hiding their abilities. In a private setting he was used to embracing Venom and using their abilities without a second though.
Darcy lumbered down the hall a few pancakes into his endeavor.
"Pancakes, awesome, thanks guys,” she was already shoving a bite in her mouth by the time she realized her mistake.
He tried not to wince at the reminder that Venom was gone.
She swallowed and looked down, “Eddie, I’m sorry-”
“Don’t worry about it.” He waved it off and opened the fridge to hide his face. He pulled out more butter and whipped cream, sliding the can down the island towards Darcy. In return for the whipped cream she gave him a tired smile.
“You’ve been busy, Darce,” he said, going back to the stove and setting a few more batches of pancakes to cook.
Something pinged off the back of his head, and he looked down to see a blueberry rolling around on the counter.
He looked over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow at Darcy.
“Don’t look at me," she said.
There was someone giggling above his head.
He looked up and didn’t see anything immediately, but then the giggles got louder and he could see a shiver in the white against the tiles of the ceiling.
Avi and Flash. Eddie shook his head and pointed a spatula at them. “Get down from there.”
The symbiote covered teen started laughing for real, and stood up from their spot on the ceiling. “I’ve always wanted to do this. Ever since I saw Spider-Man do it. Ceilings are prime real estate. But eating upside down is hard.”
“Really? I hadn’t guessed. Do you want real food or are the berries enough? Pancakes are only for people standing on the floor.”
“Pancakes please?” It was a pleading tone that the pair took on, and Eddie rolled his eyes. If he didn’t know any better he’d say that he couldn’t refuse Avi anything.
Venom was going to laugh at him so much for this.
“Yeah, alright, but you have to eat at the table. Go wake your friends.” Flash was already scrambling off when Eddie thought to add, “And don’t drop onto them from the ceiling!”
Darcy was still smiling at him but now it was genuine.
“What?” he said defensively, turning back to the pancakes and flipping them.
“Nothing, you make a good dad.”
Eddie waved his hand like that could disperse her comment. “I’m nobody’s dad. All of my everything would indicate I’m not cut out for it. Just look at my collection of depression hoodies.”
“Mhm. Which you are distinctly lacking right now.” Her eyes glittered.
“Usually, I just wear Venom.”
Darcy took a sip of orange juice. “Kinky.”
He opened his mouth to retort but let it die on his tongue. He’d almost brought up Maria and that wouldn’t have been cool. Darcy looked like she was actually in a good mood after Flash's shenanigans. He’d let her have this one.
There was a nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he was proving her point with that choice.
The boys barreled into the room, obviously racing. Flash had cheated by trying to stick to Tommy’s back, but David already had that idea so they just crashed into some beanbags and pillows that sat off to the side. Clearly someone liked to meditate or do yoga here in the mornings.
He couldn’t see Tony as the type, strangely.
Truthfully, Eddie didn’t know Tony Stark that well. He’d been at that conference though, both of them actually, the one where he announced he would stop weapons production and the one where he announced he was Iron Man. At the time he'd been pretty impressed, better late than never and all.
Eddie still thought it was a shame that Tony Stark had to be blown up before he thought weapons might be bad. He’d seen enough of that shit in the Middle East, he’d told his higher-ups that there was double dealing going on and gotten hushed and black marks on his record in return .
People didn’t like hearing things they were willfully ignoring.
Maybe Tony Stark wasn’t as smart as he thought he was, but apparently Darcy could stand him. So Eddie would try. Maybe. The man had probably been through a lot in the past few days.
Turns out that resolve didn’t hold.
There was a big commotion a few hours before noon and a little digging told Eddie that it was because there had been contact with the away team. It was bad news about things they already knew.
He got the feeling there was more than just news that Eddie wasn't cleared for yet, but it was bound to make rounds through the tower soon.
Eddie found himself holding May while she cried while Flash tried awkwardly to pat her arm. He couldn’t just watch an old lady cry and do nothing, apparently.
Not that Eddie thought of May as old.
They’d been on their way to a briefing room with the goal of going over what resources they had and seeing if they could send aid to Wakanda when May cracked after Friday had helpfully relayed some information about the away team. The AI balked at the response the news got, cutting off before she could finish her report. The briefing rooms up here were well equipped with almost anything one could need.
Just not with tissues, Eddie thought wry as he looked around. Tommy scrounged some up from somewhere and offered them to May.
Flash kept talking quietly. “You know, Peter and I weren’t exactly friends, but even I knew that- he’s really smart. Smarter than me. The team does a lot better with him than without him. So he’s gonna- he’s gonna be okay. Especially if he’s with Venom. If Venom’s anything like Avi then he’ll keep him safe? Right?” Flash looked to Eddie, who nodded.
“Thank you, Eugene,” May said, patting him on the arm and giving him a hug. To his credit, Flash didn’t flinch at the use of his given name. Even Avi poked his head out to give May more of a hug.
A familiar voice from across the room said, “Who is that?”
Eddie looked up and saw a very haggard looking Tony Stark.
He looked like shit.
The roaring in Eddie's ears confirmed that Stark was about to look even more like shit, he made it two steps forward before May’s hand on his arm stopped him with a vice grip. An open plan hallway was not where he intended to have this confrontation anyway.
May walked forward, keeping her eyes downcast until she was face to face with Tony.
She breathed in with shaky lungs. “I’m sure that you did all you could.”
-and then she socked him the jaw.
“Oh damn,” Flash said. Eddie was pretty sure Aunt May had just become his hero.
Privately, Eddie agreed. That was a good punch, as expected from any New Yorker. If he was impressed, he thought Peter would be floored. Maybe Friday would show him a recording when they got him back.
“Language,” Eddie said under his breath.
Tony ducked his head with a healthy amount of shame. "May, we didn’t mean to get everyone killed.”
“Oh, you didn’t get everyone killed. That’s what you get for going in with half the information and stumbling around.” Eddie said, pulling himself up to his whole height and trying to channel Venom’s presence. He longed for his fingers to lengthen into claws, for his mouth to fill with a rolling tongue over rows upon rows of teeth. That darker part of him that didn’t mind biting off heads wanted to taste blood. Even now, he was confident he could snap that man’s neck through anger alone.
“Again, who is this? Why is he in my tower?”
“I’m the reason that they know our people are alive. Those who were dusted were displaced, remember that whole thing about how energy cannot be created or destroyed? Come on Stark, that’s basic science isn’t it? Imagine the displacement losing half the organic matter in the universe into energy would cause. I'm Eddie Brock by the way. Also known as Venom, you know, the guy who stopped an alien invasion that wasn’t originally my fault without destroying a whole city? Currently missing half of myself because your little club doesn't know how to ask for help. By the way, that other half is talking with one Peter Parker under orange skies, which is why we know they're not all dead.” Eddie almost spat the words. Deep down, he knew the blame for this couldn’t all fall on Tony Stark, but damn if it wasn’t easy to let it fall there.
His nails felt sharp against his palms. They were a far cry from Venom’s talons but they were claws in their own right.
As he ran his tongue along the back of his teeth, they felt different as well. Maybe his body had muscle memory of what he and Venom became. Good, he wanted to be able to rip someone apart; he might have to in order to get Venom back.
“What do you know about Peter?” And oh, that was the wrong thing for Stark to say. What gave him the right to decide when to throw a child into a war to save his pride and soothe his own ego. How dare he?
Eddie bit down on the impulse to roll his tongue out and unhinge his jaw. As much as he wanted to rip the man’s head off- digesting it without Venom would be a hell of a time. Instead, he growled again, “A hell of a lot more than you apparently!”
“What the hell is a Klyntar doing here?” Someone completely alien behind Tony said. She was blue. And she wasn’t even looking at Eddie.
She was looking past him. To Flash, more specifically, to Avi sitting on his shoulders.
He could tell she was going to move, and Eddie moved faster due to the anger already roiling in his blood. He caught her wrist as she went to pass him by, flipping her forward onto her back without a word.
“You do not touch our son.” Eddie hissed at her with a tongue just too long for his teeth- that were also too sharp. He had no idea how that had happened.
“You’re a host too- but that’s impossible. Klyntar overpower and devour their hosts in days.” She struggled against his grip, but Eddie didn’t have anything left to lose except for Avi- he wouldn’t see anything happen to something that came from Venom if he could help it- and Flash was a good kid. They were a good match and Eddie would do anything to protect them.
“No. They don’t. I was bonded to Venom for over a year before the snap happened.” He spat the words out, his tone losing some of it’s venom as he went on. “And I can still feel him- which is how I know everyone who disintegrated didn’t die.”
“Not everyone was lucky enough to be disintegrated by Thanos,” she hissed back at him, “some were killed outright!”
Her emotion gave Eddie pause and her dark eyes for a moment reminded him of a pair of pearly white eyes. He let up on his grip and stood up. Offering a hand. She smacked it away but didn’t make any further movements towards Flash.
He sighed, “That doesn’t give you a right to attack the first thing you don’t understand.”
“Can someone please explain to me what the hell is going on?” Tony griped, holding the side of his face. May must have got him good.
The elevator doors opened and Pepper walked into the room. David and Tommy slunk in after her. Abruptly, Eddie realized that Tommy must have gone off to get her when it started looking like violence was in the cards.
“Tony,” she said with a relieved sounding sigh. She marched up to him and hugged him. For a second he thought Pepper was going to step back and punch him too.
“This does not explain things. I want things explained! I’ve had a very shitty few days. Pep, Pep please,” Tony’s whines tapered off until he was mumbling into Pepper’s hair.
She brushed some rubble from his hair, then from the shoulder of his hoodie. Suddenly, Eddie was furious. How come Tony Stark got to wear a depression hoodie and he didn’t? The fuck?
He breathed out through his nose and tried to calm down. He knew he was being irrational. Side effect of seeing a reunion that wasn’t his own and the raw grief that the blue woman was clearly projecting. A glance at Darcy showed him eyes that mirrored his own feeling back at him. When she turned to face him, Eddie let his tongue roll out of his mouth and made a face.
Instantly her face lit up again and she smothered a giggle with her hand.
He turned his attention back to Tony and Pepper, they were talking in a hushed whisper that was probably too quiet for- well it probably wasn’t too quiet for David or Flash, actually. Teenagers loved to eavesdrop and they loved to gossip even more, Eddie could probably ask them later if it was important.
Taking his chance to escape the reunion, he put an arm around May and steered her into one of the briefing rooms with a couch and sat down beside her. Flash had trailed after them. After a moment Darcy nodded at them through the doorway and went to talk with the blue woman.
Darcy had a kind soul, he only hoped it didn’t come back to bite her in the ass. She probably knew more than he did about her situation. Maybe she could help.
Taking another steadying breath, Eddie closed his eyes and concentrated on that creamsicle tinted thread connected to his heart.
Quietly, he spoke, “Peter’s talking to another person named Peter, who doesn’t know any good pop culture references. Well, he does but they’re all from the '80s so he thinks they’re old. It feels like a serious argument about what to do devolved into this instead. Oh my god.”
“What, what is it?” May asked, leaning forward.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking that the snap left all the responsible people here.”
She sniffed a little and smiled, “I don’t think that’s entirely true. Peter can be pretty responsible.”
Flash rubbed his arms and didn’t say anything. Eddie suspected there was something on his mind that he didn’t want May to know about. He made a note to ask him if everything was okay later.
“So,” she started.
“Those permanent?” She nodded towards his hands.
Eddie looked down to the black tipped claws that his fingers ended in. He had an idea where they might have come from. Placing a hand over his heart he confirmed his suspicions. The scar over his heart was smoother with a less noticeable bump to it.
“Guess so. I’m not… trying to have them right now but they’re sticking around. I don’t mind, helps me keep him close.”
Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Flash was creating and willing away a set of white claws like a curious kitten.
May smiled. It was watery and half hidden behind her coke bottle glasses, but it made him feel better.
They were getting somewhere now. Tony and the blue woman would have more information. There might be more heroes that survived Wakanda’s battle that would help them regroup. They might even come up with a better plan than Eddie’s ‘go and beat the shit out of Thanos until he got his symbiote back’ one.
He could admit to himself that it wasn’t a very good plan.
May stood up and wiped at her cheeks. "I think I’m going to go and help Darcy talk to that poor woman. Thank you, Eddie.” She stood on here toes to give Eddie’s forehead a kiss and left the room. Her absence caused an awkward hush to descend over the room.
He looked at Flash, Flash looked at him. Neither of them spoke. Which made for a very boring two minutes as Eddie tried to find something in the room worthy of attention while Flash worked through whatever emotional block was holding him back.
It was sudden, when it came. Flash turned to him with wide eyes and asked, “Is it bad that I don’t want my Dad back?”
Okay, that was not where he thought this conversation was going.
“It’s not inherently bad, I don’t think. Sometimes the families we end up with aren’t the ones we were born into.” Was this where he was supposed to put a reassuring hand on the kid’s shoulder? Fuck, he didn’t know. For the millionth time, he wished Venom was here. At least then he’d have someone to debate their course of action with.
Flash didn’t stumble over Eddie’s indecision, “He’s not like- he never hit me. And there’s kids out there that have it way worse but. Nothing I ever do is good enough. Since he’s been gone. I haven’t wondered if every action would make him proud. Or if something I did would finally get his attention for more than a few moments at a time. Avi says it doesn’t matter if he didn’t hit me if I ended up hurt in the end anyway.”
He felt a pang in his heart, Avi was just a kid as well- and he was already so smart. Venom would love him. Eddie was sure.
He nodded, “For what it’s worth, I think Avi is right.”
Flash looked up at him, “You’re not really Peter’s cousin, are you?”
“Maybe, maybe not.” Eddie shrugged, “Who wouldn’t want Aunt May as their aunt?” Flash nodded at that, and looked content not to push it any further. “My family is mostly people that found their way to me over the years. Darcy is my family, because her brother Dan is in love with Annie. Who I was going to marry but it didn’t work out, turns out we worked better when the romance was taken out of the equation.”
“That sounds like a soap opera.”
“And what do you know about soap operas huh?”
“I know that there’s things happening around me all the time and I never get told about them.”
“Way of the world kid, way of the world.”
He relaxed against the couch and let his muscles go slack. His claws didn’t disappear, neither did the just too sharp and numerous teeth- or the tongue that curled in on itself just to fit in his mouth. Logically he knew that his body had taken these forms before- underneath Venom's inky shell. Sometimes Venom was like a second skin to him- and sometimes he was like a skeleton to Venom. They had stopped paying attention to which point in the balance they shifted to. It didn’t matter. They were one.
As he looked at his claws, he couldn’t help but feel like being one was incredibly lonely. He’d much rather this be a we thing.
“You do- uh, need to explain what happened back there with the blue lady.”
Eddie rubbed his face. Oh yeah, this should be a we thing. He might have doubts about his ability to parent anything more sophisticated than a cactus, but he definitely had serious issues with trying to be a single parent.
He turned towards Flash, he wanted the both of them to know he was serious.
“Well, Avi was grown out of samples the Life Foundation had taken of Venom, my symbiote. The distinction between Venom and myself- well it’s complicated. But it kind of makes me Avi’s dad. Venom and I had discussed the possibility of something like that but-” he couldn’t help but laugh, “I never thought it would be something unplanned.” Flash didn’t say anything to that, so Eddie just babbled on, “And depending on when the samples were recovered, after the fight or before I broke in. There might be parts of me in there too.”
A tiny head poked out from behind Flash. He could have hidden in Flash’s hair, if Avi had Venom’s coloring instead of the reverse. “But you are not like Flash's father.”
“I don’t really know the best examples,” Flash said, looking awkwardly between his symbiote and Eddie. “Eddie could be a really good dad- I mean, uh, he’s kind of already kept us safe, kept us fed, looked out for us-” he paused and turned more to Eddie, “We should get him one of those father of the year mugs.”
“I really don’t need a mug, all forms of gratitude can be taken in chocolate,” he joked.
Flash only nodded seriously at his joke, “I talked to Tommy.”
An eyebrow crept up Eddie’s forehead, “About?”
“He told me about how you helped him cover his tracks and helped him get into college. You’re a good person. It’s not… it’s not me calling you dad or anything, but I was wondering. When this is all over. Do you think could could help me become an emancipated minor? I was talking to Avi and, well, I don’t want to put him through that. I want better for us.”
He scratched his jaw. “You know, Annie happens to be a very good lawyer. She would be glad to help if the two of you asked nicely.”
“Thanks.” Flash said, while Avi nodded over his shoulder.
Damn, Darcy had been right. He couldn’t stop trying to take care of people. Whether it was homeless Maria with the newspapers, who he failed, or Flash, who he could not afford to fail. It seemed like he was trying to take care of everyone at every turn.
He’d say that saving the world had given him a hero complex, but if he was honest, he’d always been this way. It was why he became a reporter. Why he stuck his nose in places it didn’t belong.
One day that was going to get him into trouble.
Chapter 12: We Don't Have Time For Avengers Melodrama
some people who need to talk do some talking. some people have some revelations. so it goes.
Tony Stark rounded the corner and immediately tried to unround it when he saw Eddie.
The man held his hands up in a 'stop' gesture before Eddie could say anything. “I’m not equipped to deal with your parasitic steamy alien love life.”
“Good? I wasn’t planning on consulting you on it. Gotta say though, your partners could never… unless they had tentacles of course.” He allowed himself a smug smile seeing Tony Stark to blanch and backpedal out of his overly familiar banter so quickly. He was not in the mood to deal with it. They weren’t friends. He didn’t want to be friends with Tony Stark.
Stark was quick to try and recover, “Nebula did try to explain, said something-something lovecraftian space horror.”
“The blue woman, huh? Was wondering where you picked her up. She doesn’t really seem like your type, Stark.” He felt a little bad about that- he didn’t know Nebula. She was probably going through it by how she’d reacted to their almost fight.
Stark bristled like an irate cat, “Listen, I don’t know what your problem with me is-”
Eddie turned to face him, his vision going blurred as white took over his eyes.
“My problem with you? My problem with you is that you pushed legislation to ease your conscious even though it hurt everyone far more than it helped.
Do you have any idea how many people have reported in to their local embassies now that the UN has voted to suspend the Sokovian Accords? Any idea of the help you could have had if you hadn’t driven almost all of us into hiding?
You did that, Stark.
You headlined that and told people it was for their own good; when clearly it was only for yours! You put Scott right back in prison after he'd gotten his life back together, you kept him from his daughter. Not to mention how you kept minors under constant torture in your fun little prison.
Maybe you’re just ignorant, it wouldn’t be the first time you’ve not kept track of the repercussions of your actions.
You made weapons and you didn’t watch them. Well, everyone makes mistakes when they’re young. If your dirty laundry causes massive collateral damage then oopsie daisy, right? Could you even tell which time I'm referencing?
You always think you know best and you never learn. Or you flip and think you can’t be trusted therefore no one else can be trusted either. We’re not all you. We don’t stroke our egos or push our daddy issues onto government organizations. We don’t all build machines to replace the people we’ve lost. We grow up. We move on. You’ve lived almost fifty years on this Earth, Stark, and you haven’t learned a damn thing about asking for help. So yes, I have a problem with you. Several. I could make an itemized list if you like- but unlike you I also realize there is a situation going on that requires all of my attention. So I don’t care about how you feel, Mr. Stark. We all feel like shit. Some of us don’t have the luxury of dwelling on it.”
Eddie tilted his head back and bared his teeth at the man, “You came back here with your tail between your legs thinking that things were over. Well, newsflash Stark, it’s not over. So if you’re ready to hang it up; get out of everyone else’s way. We’re just getting started.”
He breathed deeply, and realized he’d sliced into the meat of his palms with his claws at some point to keep from sinking them into Stark’s shocked face. He shook them out and watched as lazy strands of black pulled the sliced tissue back together. Without looking back at Stark, he sighed. That outburst was more than he’d meant to say, but it had been a rough day.
He’d never expected that other aliens might be aware of symbiotes and object to their presence. In the back of his mind he worried that even if he got Venom back, they might be facing an uphill battle against the universe for their right to stay together.
When Stark spoke again, Eddie was jolted out of his thoughts.
“You’re right," he just sighed and leaned against the wall- sagging like a puppet with cut strings. “I’ve made a mess of everything. I didn’t have anyone I trusted, and that was partially due to self-sabotage.”
Well, that was a surprisingly mature response. Maybe he’d give him a chance after all. “Don’t need to explain that to me. I'm familiar with the act.” Eddie joined him in leaning against the wall.
“I was ready to accept that I had failed. Part of me thought that we couldn't succeed from the beginning because of a vision I’d had. One that the Scarlet Witch had shown me years ago, before everything.” Stark fiddled with something attached to his arm. Might be some kind of watch or a part of his Iron Man gear. “I remember you, you know. You were one of those reporters who always tried to air the true story, damn the consequences. It was someone a lot like you who opened my eyes to the double dealing of Stark Industries in the first place.”
Eddie glanced over at him, “I’m really not qualified to be your therapist, Stark. I can't absolve you of anything.”
“Too bad, you put the quarter in the jukebox and now you get the whole song.”
He snorted at that, “If it makes you feel better, shoot.”
“Really,” Stark asked, looking at him.
Eddie shrugged. Giving Stark a moment of kindness wouldn't hurt their situation, and he felt bad about going in on him like that. Missing Venom was beginning to wear on him in more noticeable ways than fingers tipped with inky claws. He crossed his arms over his chest and waited, which probably didn’t make him look like the picture of patience.
“I held a child I was responsible for I my arms as he died. Well, I thought he was dying. His last words were that he didn’t feel well and-”
“I know, he feels awful about that, by the way,” Eddie said without really thinking.
Stark turned his head to look at him, mouth hanging open. “What?”
“Oh, did you not get the whole story? Uh, Peter has my alien right now. I’m mentally linked to Venom, so I’m getting vague impressions from Peter if I focus really hard. I’ve tried communicating just with Venom, but it uses more energy for him to talk to me than it takes me to eavesdrop. I think.” Eddie shrugged.
“That sounds all levels of wrong.”
“Venom would have asked first. I mean, he asked Annie for her permission when he used her as a host so that he could get back to me. Usually when people are a host to a symbiote- it isn’t the way it works between Venom and I. We’re different. Special. And he’d never hurt a kid either. He’s a big softy.”
“Would Peter be eavesdropping in return?”
“I doubt it, he doesn’t have the right-uh, neural pathways? I don’t even know if he’d be able to mentally communicate with Venom. Annie said she wasn’t able to. Oh, Annie’s my ex-fiance, she’s dating Darcy’s brother. We’re still close.”
“That sounds like-”
“If you finish that sentence with soap opera I am taking back my free therapy services.”
“Just protective of my family.”
“Speaking of family,” Tony said and looked at him with an expression Eddie really didn’t like. “Your son?”
Eddie kind of laughed. “Well, that- uh. Half of him is anyway. Avi- which is short for Antivenom- is Venom’s biological legacy. Flash came up with the name. Once a symbiote and a human settle into a bond, it’s pretty much impossible to get either of them to change their minds about it. I don’t see Flash or Avi willingly giving each other up anytime soon. Especially now that they’ve found out they can walk on the ceiling like Spider-Man. Speaking of, Flash is Peter’s classmate, so that’s been a fun game of ‘trying not to give away someone else’s secrets’.”
“Wow is one word for it. Listen, I’m sorry that I went off on you. It’s been a difficult past few days.”
“What’s it like?”
One look at Stark's face showed only curiosity. Eddie figured that he might as well open up in return. “Painful, like having a phantom limb but it’s almost every cell in my body.”
Eddie tugged his shirt down to expose the scar over his sternum. It was smooth now, with the pearlescent veins skittering across it pulsing with light every so often.
A loud laugh from Stark startled Eddie. He pointed to his own chest where the arc reactor used to lay. “We match.”
“Mine was a big as fuck alien deciding to stick a fork in me cause he thought I was done.”
“Mine was a missile that literally had my name on it.”
“Can’t say my death experience was engraved, but it sure was personalized.”
“Brock, you’re not too bad. I think, against all odds, that I actually feel better now.”
“That’s good,” Eddie said, “Because I do intend to get Venom back come hell or high water, and I fear we might actually need you to defeat Thanos for good. But enough of that, have you met everyone yet? You’re going to love David, he’s easily three times as smart as you and you’re going to relish it.”
Tony did, in fact, love David, but once they started to talking got scary for everyone else. Which left Tommy and Flash to entertain themselves.
They had energy to burn and spent it chasing each other around the gym level. Darcy was challenging them with nerf darts or throwing the floor is lava challenges at them. Some of which they had to work together to overcome.
Eddie could see what she was doing. In her own way, Darcy was training them. Preparing them for the fights ahead. Even if… god forbid, they didn’t find a way to get back everyone who had been taken there would still be people in the world that needed to be stopped.
Eddie picked up a few punching tips from Pepper, as well as a mean kick movie that Venom was going to love. After spending about an hour together, Pepper confided in him about her own superpowers. Knowledge of Extremis wasn't public, and Eddie promised to do his best to keep it that way in the interest of full disclosure. They were going to need every resource available, and that included Pepper’s brawn as well as her brain.
She was still the unofficial leader of the resistance. That hadn't changed when Tony returned; which was good, because he didn’t think people were in the mood to follow Stark at the moment.
The heroes who were left after the fight in Wakanda were preparing to coming home. They would arrive sometime in the next twenty-four hours.
After the gym, people started to mill about the common room near the kitchen for lack of anything better to do.
Every so often Tony would look over to a corner where Eddie suspected a bar used to be housed. He wondered if it was removed because Tony was in recovery or because Darcy knew some of her misfits were going to be reporting in.
He hadn’t had another chance to talk to Darcy about her role here, but she seemed to be acting as a liaison between what remained of S.H.I.E.L.D and the independent contractor of hero types. She’d brought Ava a hot chocolate that was piled with marshmallows, and she only did that when she felt particularly bad. She must know some of what Ava went through at the hands of S.H.I.E.L.D. He doubted if the others were aware that S.H.I.E.L.D had their own Ghost to combat the Winter Soldier.
It always astounded him how many layers there were to war. Rockets, threats, nukes, spies, and then superheroes going at it. Some of it in public and others avenues so deeply hidden as to barely existed behind the scenes. Yet, Hydra had still lived. Thanos had still won.
Guess that the good guys didn’t always win. It was probably dumb luck that Eddie and Venom had beaten Riot and Drake. It was only their hubris and absolute belief that they couldn’t be beaten that left Eddie with the perfect weapon to destroy them. Even if it had been lodged in his chest.
“Overconfidence.” Eddie suddenly said out loud. He needed to find Pepper, and find her now. “Friday! Where’s Pepper!”
She directed him away from the common floor and up to Pepper’s penthouse.
He repeated his revelation over and over in his mind as he took the elevator up. He couldn’t forget this. It was too important. He marched through the door and started speaking as soon as he entered Pepper’s home office.
“Pepper! Overconfidence. It’s overconfidence. Thanos thinks that he’s won and gotten what he’s wanted. As far as he’s concerned, the movie is over. The chapter is closed. He won’t be expecting any sort of fight or resistance now. We don’t need an all out assault. Especially if we can hit from two sides.”
Pepper turned to him and smoothed out her white pencil skirt. “It’s something we were thinking about. If I’m honest, I’ve thought about this from the angle of how I would take Tony down,” she sighed and sat down on the couch and rubbed her forehead. “But Tony isn’t Thanos.”
“Riot, the symbiote that I fought, left me the weapon I needed to defeat him embedded in my chest thinking that they were leaving me for dead. What did Thanos leave us with?”
They looked at each other at the same time, “Nebula.”
“Of course I want to kill my father, he killed my sister. For years her mission was to destroy him I would do that for her if I cannot bring her home.” Nebula said, looking over the table at them. “I just don’t see how it’s possible. I’m not Gamora- she failed and she was the best of us.”
“Would she have said that? Nebula I don’t think you’re giving yourself enough credit.” Darcy offered.
“You’re sweet, Terran, but Gamora knew what she was and more importantly who she was. And who her friends were,” Nebula looked at the window, Eddie tried to imagine how this foreign planet looked to her eyes. He only knew what it was like to look at the world through Venoms eyes, and it wasn’t the same.
Nebula grinned at Darcy, but it wasn’t a kind one. It was one full of lines of pain. Ava had smiled the same one at him that day when he helped Scott pull her out of the way of the microsub.
He looked across the briefing table to see Ava looking at Nebula with concern in her eyes and a frown on her lips. Maybe there was something there- but it wasn’t his business to dig into anything that wouldn’t help them. Ava was healing, it was slow going but she was, Nebula could heal to if given time and the right tools.
Maybe helping her to defeat Thanos was one of those tools.
“Hey, Venom, woohoo.”
Eddie looked up as their- his name was called by Stark. “Yeah?”
“I was asking if you think your guy could take control of the stone from within?”
He looked down at the table. “I don’t know, with a strong enough host, it might be possible.” He didn’t voice that he thought Peter was possibly the strongest host Venom could have formed a temporary bond with. “The problem with that is trying to communicate a plan that complicated. I’ve only sent vague emotions through to Venom so far.” He clasped his hands together over the table. “But if we get closer to the stone- if that’s where they all are. I should have an easier time communicating with them. If we could sneak up, I relay the plan. Peter and Venom, and others ready inside the stone and us on the outside... Nebula could talk to him, distract him and lay down the signal for everyone else to strike. It’s a longshot, but…”
“It’s a shot.” Pepper nodded.
“It shouldn’t be the only plan we come up with.” Tony said.
“Plan? Plan? We saw how your plans ended last time,” a new voice said, and Eddie turned to see an unfamiliar bearded man walk in the room with an angular shield strapped to his arm. He couldn’t place the man, but Tony turned white like he was going to pass out. The man looked ready to march up to Tony and throw him out of a window. Which, fair, Eddie had felt the same way yesterday.
Before the man could cross the room, Flash- as Antivenom, moved to intercept and stand in front of the man. Eddie couldn’t help the pride he had when they unrolled their tongue over a large toothy smile, it set the man slightly aback.
“That’s my boy!” Eddie said, giving Flash a thumbs up. Avi’s face turned on the side of Flash’s head to look at Eddie and smile.
“What Avi means is that fighting here does nothing,” David said, not looking up from his game of cards with Tommy.
“I was getting there,” Flash protested.
“It was a good start,” Eddie said, motioning Flash to come to where he was. As much as he was proud of them, this didn’t really seem like the kind of situation they wanted to get in the middle of.
He ruffled Flash’s hair as Avi retreated to his shoulders. “You were very intimidating.”
“Really, cause I thought about adding some spikes.” Flash said.
Eddie nodded, “If Avi has no problems holding the form, I don’t see why you couldn’t.”
There was yelling going on in the background, but Eddie really didn’t have it in him to get in the middle of Avengers drama. Not when they finally had a plan. Ava and Nebula didn’t look very impressed either. Scott on the other hand was trying to sink underneath the table and pretend he’d never been born.
Darcy had her eyes closed and looked ready to explode.
“Shut up! Both of you. Shut up! Steven Grant Rogers sit down and shut up. Tony! Stop being defensive. You didn’t get like this when Eddie spoke to you, and Steve, honestly you act like no one here has ever criticized a single thing Tony has done.” She poked him in the chest. “You are not the only person who lost a loved one.”
“What? Don’t know what it’s like? I don’t know what it’s like? Sorry if my girlfriend isn’t as important as your brother-in-arms. You’re not even close to having lost the most here. Nebula lost her family, her place, and herself. Ava lost the best chance she had of curing an incurable disease. Scott lost his girlfriend and his mentor and was stranded in the microverse because of it. Eddie lost- well what Eddie lost is hard to describe but like? Fuck you, Steve.”
“I lost a sentient alien life form that was sharing my body and with whom I was also in a relationship. Oh, and he was my life support system, the only thing keeping me whole, etcetera,” Eddie offered.
Darcy waved her arm around. “Yeah, that!”
“Don’t give me that man out of time shit either! You signed up for a war. The rest of us? We didn’t. Yeah, you couldn’t know the risks. But life is all of us doing the best we fucking can. Do you think that Tony wanted things to turn out this way? No. So grieve, but don’t bring everyone else down with you. We’re trying to plan here. Either help or get out.”
To Eddie’s surprise it was Nebula who stood and walked over to Darcy, putting a hand on her shoulder and steering her over to the couch where May was sitting. He wanted to go to her, she was like a sister to him after all, but he doubted he could do more for her now than May could.
May nodded at him and put her arm around Darcy’s shoulder. It was such a mom gesture that Eddie almost felt an ache for his own mother. Almost.
The man, who Eddie now knew to be Captain fucking America, collapsed heavily into an empty chair and rubbed his face. It looked like he hadn’t stopped to take a shower since being in the battle at Wakanda. A few more people entered the room, looking a lot better than Steve did. He recognized Bruce Banner, though the last few years must have been hard on him. He recognized Thor even with the haircut. The Asgardian paused as he entered the room and looked at Flash, Eddie put a hand on the teenager’s shoulder and glared. Thankfully, Thor didn’t seem inclined to start a fuss.
Avi flowed over Eddie’s fingers in a gesture of gratitude, just like Venom often did. He gave a tight lipped smile and turned his attention to the rest of the members entering the room. Black Widow entered with a man that Eddie recognized as Colonel Rhodes. He’d thought the man had been retired.
Then a fucking Raccoon, of all things, walking upright and looking about as awful as Eddie felt entered the room.
“Is this everyone that wasn’t dusted?” Pepper asked, straightening up. Eddie could see the lines of luminescent orange that pulsed underneath her skin. She’d been ready to step in between a fight if need be. His admiration for her ticked up a notch.
Remind me to introduce Annie to Pepper , Eddie said to Venom before he remembered. He inhaled slightly and let it out through his nose. It was okay. They had a plan to get everyone back.
Flash glanced back at him but Eddie waved him off. In a room full of his heroes, Flash had looked back at him in concern instead of obsessing over taking all of it in. He really was a good kid.
“Princess Shuri, Queen Ramonda, Chief M’baku, and General Okoye are trying to put Wakanda back in order,” Rhodes said, taking a seat in a chair that didn’t creak under the weight of his mechanical exoskeleton.
“They were most pleased to hear that those who were taken were merely displaced and not killed,” Thor said, setting a massive ax down on the table. He caught David eyeing it with interest. This was probably an smorgashboard of information for him.
“We were just coming up with a plan.” Pepper said gently. Eddie felt that she knew everybody in the room was traumatized in some way. They’d all just fought in a war.
No one said anything, which was a good sign, it meant they hadn’t given up yet. They just looked at Pepper and waited. She nodded and stepped to the side and began the briefing all over again including Nebula and Eddie’s ideas.
Chapter 13: Enter Competency
I FORGOT WHAT DAYS OF THE WEEK WERE AND MISSED ALL MY UPDATES DURING THE FIRST HALF OF THIS WEEK. easter threw me all out of sync.
Their biggest problem was that they had no idea where Thanos was. Eddie knew he was in this universe, because he could feel Venom- so wherever Venom was wasn’t gone. Ergo, the gauntlet should still be somewhere in this universe and he doubted that Thanos would part with it. So... Thanos was around. They just had to find him.
They couldn’t tour Eddie around the universe playing a game of ‘hot or cold’ until they found him. They needed to network with other worlds on a planetary level to pool resources in order to find him.
A man named Coulson (Darcy’s contact in S.H.I.E.L.D. who had taken over after both Fury and Maria were gone) had phoned in that they’d found a strange device at Fury and Maria’s last known location. He’d brought it by with some of Maria’s things for Darcy. It had a symbol on the screen that Eddie didn’t recognize- Rocket offered that it looked like a Kree symbol but the colors were all wrong.
Rocket and Nebula weren’t visibly happy to see each other, but still sat next to each other in a window seat. Everyone had dispersed after the briefing. Stark and Banner wanted to try tracking the signal from the device and seeing where it led, but Pepper put her heel down on the project’s throat before it got started saying that they both needed rest first.
The tower was full of people now. He could hear the hum of electricity from the arc reactor in the basement working hard to fill all the rooms in use with power. When he laid down on the couch it thrummed against the back of his head and helped soothe the silence left by Venom.
Scott was entertaining the teenagers with a video game system Eddie didn’t even know how to turn on. With everyone new that had shown up, he didn’t want to stray too far from Avi and Flash. Most were too traumatized to think about starting a fight for any reason but he didn’t want to bank their survival on that. They were too important. So he was couched in the common room with precious little to do.
He pulled out the flip phone he’d gotten from Anne and typed out her number. He hoped by now that the cell lines around San Francisco had cleared up now that people had a better idea of what was going on and who they had lost. It was a callus way of thinking about it but he had a lot of things that he needed to update his family on.
He hit the call button after putting Anne’s number in. It rang six times before she finally picked up. “Eddie?”
“Hey, Annie, guess where I am.”
He laughed, “Close, New York City- Stark Tower actually.”
“So they let you in the door, huh? Hold on, let me wake up Dan, he’ll want to hear you’re okay.”
“Let him sleep, Annie.”
“I’m already up, you’re on speaker now Eddie,” Dan’s voice carried the tone of someone who needed to yawn but were suppressing it.
“How are you guys holding up?”
“We’re home now, hospital was busy as you’d thought it would be. Some people were going on their fourth consecutive shift before they were bullied into going home,” Anne said pointedly.
“Oooooo, Dan, you’re gonna get in trouble.”
He laughed, “Yeah, Eddie, I’m the one out of the three of us that’s going to get into trouble.”
“Speaking of trouble,” he looked a Flash seated in front of the TV with Avi’s whole head stuck in a bowl of M&Ms. “I have a kid now.”
“You what?” Anne yelped. To her credit, she didn’t yell.
“Well, actually, Venom has a son. Life Foundation grew him based out of samples they’d taken. Flash had the great idea of calling it Antivenom but I’ve gotten them to shorten it to Avi so it’s less confusing.” Both of the boys mentioned looked up at Eddie and he waved them off.
“You- they… who’s Flash?”
“Kid of one of the people funding the Life Foundation, was in the right place at the right time and ended up pulling an Eddie.”
Anne giggled, which she only really did when she was tired. He felt bad for calling them now. He’d thought they would be up though. “You know, the scary thing is I get what you’re trying to say.”
“Is Avi eating him?” Dan interrupted. Ever the doctor.
“Nope, he’s actually super energetic and his temperature is stable. I think it’s cause I’ve been keeping them supplied with chocolate and calories.”
Avi still had his head angled towards him, and Eddie pointed to the phone. “Do you want to say hello?”
After a second of indecision, Avi nodded and nudged Flash so they could get up.
“Hello? I’m AV.”
“Aw! He sounds like a little Venom,” Anne said, “Hello to you too, it’s nice to meet you.”
“Let Eddie know if you guys start feeling weird,” Dan said.
Flash looked at Eddie before leaning into the phone. “We uh, will?” Before giving Eddie the universal ‘I would like to stop talking on the phone to these relatives I don’t know’ look.
He waved them off. “Go back to your game.”
“See. All good.” Eddie said, laying back down on the couch and covering his eyes with his arm. He turned toward the back of the couch and whispered. “Dan, uh, I’ve got claws and teeth and like. A long tongue. Me. Like- that’s probably weird? I don’t know. It doesn't seem very weird except there's no fun venom flavored candy coating over it right now.”
“I’d have to run tests, so there’s not much I can tell you from over the phone. It’s probably a good idea to try and get Venom back quickly. I’m not sure how long your system can last without him.”
“I was thinking the same thing.”
“Call me if it gets worse. Are you-”
“In any pain? Yeah, a lot. All the time. It’s been pretty constant for the past few days. Sleeping has been- uh, not happening.”
“For the past few days? And you’re not hallucinating.”
“No, I don’t really feel anything other than the pain.”
Dan sighed on the other side of the line. “Call me if things change, remember.”
“I’ll try, but I also might be going to space. It’s up in the air.”
Annie sighed, “Well, if you do, call us before you leave. Then call us when you get back.”
“You make it sound like I’m taking a weekend trip to Malibu.”
She snorted, “Just be safe Eddie, and tell V we miss him too when you find him again.”
“Will do Annie, get some more sleep Dan. Darcy’s probably going to call later.”
“Yeah, okay, bye Eddie.”
He closed the phone and slipped it into his pants pocket. He still wasn’t wearing a hoodie. He’d tried one on that he’d borrowed from the tower and it felt wrong against his skin. Losing Venom had ruined hoodies for him. Just another reason to hate Thanos. He snorted to himself.
“Excuse me, I kind of couldn’t help but overhear, I’d like to run some tests to see if you’re going to die on us.”
Eddie moved his arm to see Dr. Banner looking down at him over the arm of the couch. “Dr. Banner?”
“Yeah, that’s me.”
He knew about the Hulk, who didn’t? Venom had been fascinated by the Hulk, wondering if what happened between them was anything like what they experienced. Eddie never really had the heart to explain that not everyone came around to sharing their body with someone. Especially if they felt that someone had destroyed their life.
“What kind of tests?”
“The kind that tell me if you’re dying, you’re kind of integral to the current plan. I need to know if we’re working on a time crunch.”
“And you’re not curious at all about someone who has a monster that lives in their veins and see if we have similar experiences?”
Dr. Banner held his hands up. “You got me, that too.”
Eddie levered himself up off the couch. “Lead the way, Doc. Scott, if anyone gets in a fight break it up.”
“You know me, Scott ‘the Peacekeeper’ Lang.”
“No one has ever called you that,” Eddie said as he walked out the door.
The elevator cut of Scott’s response of “Nu-uh.”
The medical bay that Dr. Banner showed Eddie was clean in an empty way. Like it hadn’t been used in a long time. Still, it was well stocked and sterile-looking, which is more than Eddie could say for some places he’d received medical attention in over the years.
“You know, we’ve met before,” Eddie said, hopping up on a table.
“Crossed paths in the middle east, you were giving free healthcare in a village. I was reporting on corruption in the ranks.”
“Bet the military didn’t like that.”
“They really didn’t.”
“But you didn’t report on me? I imagine finding the Hulk would have been quite the feather in any reporter's cap.”
“Who would it have helped?” Eddie said, looking over as Dr. Banner began the process of taking blood and other samples. He’d been through similar with Dan before.
“What do you mean?” he asked, connecting vials to the needle that would draw his blood.
“Well, who would it have helped? You were doing good where you were, reporting on you probably only would have increased the military’s presence there and led to a fight. Which would have gotten civilians caught in the crossfire. Call me naive but I’ve always wanted to be one of those reporters that does good.”
“Bet that got you into trouble.”
“Well it got me an alien boyfriend that shares my body, but it also got me chased out of my hometown of NYC and cost my career a few times over.” He shrugged after the needle was removed.
“Open your mouth, I need cheek swabs.”
Eddie opened his mouth, letting his tongue hang out. It was a weird sensation. Dr. Banner looked a little alarmed.
“How are you not choking on that?”
“Used to it, I guess. It’s weird the kind of things you can get used too.”
Dr. Banner nodded and kept taking samples. “Have you ever had your DNA tested?”
“Nope, didn’t have a secure lab to do it in. Could only do what Dan could do himself.”
“Dr. Dan Lewis, Darcy’s older brother. He’s dating my ex-fiance.”
“Huh. That’s who you were talking to on the phone?”
“Yeah, we’re concerned for Avi and Flash. They seem to be doing a lot better than Venom and I were in the beginning, but I also had no one to tell me what was going on- and Venom was adjusting from being traumatized. It was a mess. First day I had V, I crawled in a lobster tank in the middle of a fancy restaurant where Dan and Anne were having a date. Oh, and no MRIs, they’re not good for symbiotes and I don’t know what would happen to me without Venom in one. Best to just steer clear of ‘em all together.”
Dr. Banner nodded "X-ray okay?"
Eddie nodded, "Take your best shot, Doc."
Their conversation lapsed while Dr. Banner brought over a portable x-ray machine. He opened his mouth to comment when Dr. Banner took the x-rays without leaving the room before he remembered that radiation probably can't do shit to the Hulk.
"So that's everything I can think of right now, but...”
“Well, actually I don’t really have that much to ask you. I just- I’m just now beginning to think of Hulk as his own person. Separate from me yet intrinsically linked. Maybe we had the same problem of adjusting. Just for a longer period. I mean, it’s not like his birth was very easy. Spent most of his time getting attacked.”
“Only advice I can offer is to give it time, and if it’s possible, communicate. If you’re not on the same page of how you’re dealing with each other things won’t work.”
The door opened and Thor entered, his stride faltering as he saw someone else was in the lab. “I didn’t know you had a patient, Bruce.”
From the slightly panicked look in Bruce’s eyes, there was a conversation here that needed to be had that he’d been avoiding.
“We were just finishing up, bye Doc. Hi, Thor, thanks for not trying to murder my kid.” He slapped Thor on the shoulder on his way out the door. When else was he going to get another chance to do that?
He let the door close on the awkward conversation behind him.
Eddie was asleep when all hell broke loose, or at least he had his eyes closed and had his mind drifting through orange tinted amber waves. Then there were all sorts of klaxons and annoying sounds ringing out so ignoring the problem and waiting for it to go away was off the table. He rolled out of bed and into some clothes, grabbing his backpack and ripping the phone from it’s charger. He was hopping on one foot to put on his shoes as he stumbled out into the hallway. Damn he missed Venom. If shit went down they were always prepared.
Stupid fleshy human bones.
“You’re muttering to yourself,” Flash yawned. He shot out a tendril to mash Scott’s door open. “Mr. Lang! Get up!”
“Where’s everyone else?”
“David’s taking an alternate approach and Tommy is probably already in the thick of things.”
“Any idea where things are?”
Friday’s voice piped up helpfully, “Dr. Banner’s lab.”
The uh-oh proved not to be warranted, because when they got to the lab they were greeted by a very perplexed looking set of individuals. There was Dr. Banner, a half naked Thor, Pepper Potts in a band t-shirt and shorts, Darcy in a blanket, and a woman standing in the middle wearing a spacesuit.
“Do none of you have the right code?”
“Listen lady, Fury up and died without telling us shit about this thing! And he took my fiance with him.” Darcy was clearly not having any of this.
The woman hit a button behind her ear and the helmet covering the top half of her face folded revealing a normal looking blonde woman in her forties.
“Not dead. Dusted like half the galaxy.” A woman who Eddie had never seen before with jet black hair corrected her. Where were all of these people coming from?
Darcy brightened though, “Hawkeye, you came!”
“Yeah well, Hawkeye got dusted, so I figured I’d step up and fix his shit.”
Carol waved her hands around to get everyone’s attention back, “Okay where is Phil then?”
Darcy looked puzzled, “Well he died, then he undied, and he wasn’t dusted, so probably on the bus still since he’s in charge. Well, Pepper’s in charge here.” She pointed at Pepper.
“Nice- uh, I think so anyway? Didn't follow a lot of that, so this is awkward. I’m Captain Marvel.”
“Can we please bypass fake names,” Tommy asked, “Not everyone has a cool hero name yet.”
“Really, cause I was thinking about calling you Speed,” Darcy teased.
“I don’t want to be named after a drug. Drugs aren’t cool.” Eddie felt an irrational swell of pride in his stomach right after Tommy said that.
“If we could focus on the topic at hand,” Pepper pleaded, trying to bring the room back under order. It wasn’t working well, but that’s what happened when you woke up a bunch of people that were already running on empty.
“My name is Carol Danvers. I used to be in the Air Force. The Air Force is still a thing right?”
“Yeah, it is,” Rhodes said, not laughing but looking like he wanted too. “I heard about you, you disappeared.”
She scratched the back of her head, “I had things to do.”
“For twenty five years?”
“A lot of things to do?”
“If this isn’t a break in to my lab, I’m going to sleep. Goodnight people.” Dr. Banner said, pulling a reluctant looking Thor off behind him, and huh, he never would have guessed that one. “Eddie your results should be done in the morning!” He yelled as an afterthought.
Eddie cupped a hand around his mouth and shouted back, “Thanks, Doc!”
This shifted Carol’s attention to Eddie. “Are you…”
“Bonded to a klyntar yes, no he isn’t eating my liver, yes Thanos took him but I’m going to get him back. We’re dating. It’s a long story that isn’t actually that long I just don’t want to tell it again. Besides, Darcy tells it better than I do.”
“That’s true, I do. Because I have a slideshow that goes with the story.”
He wondered if he was going to have to throw down for Venom’s honor yet again- but Carol only broke out into a laugh. “You’re going to have to tell me how that happened. Because it might have won me a bet, oh, Richard’s gonna be so mad.”
“Help me get Venom back and I’ll help you win as many bets as you need.”
She gave him a thumbs up in response.
“We’re kind of operating under a pick a bed and fall in it style of room assignment right now,” Tony said, leaning his head against Peppers arm. “As much as I’d love to pick your brain for new information we can use in the fight ahead. It should wait until tomorrow. Someone will fill you in at breakfast. Ask Friday for help if you need any, she’s everywhere.”
People started to file out of the lab at that point, with Carol stopping to turn off the beacon that had drawn her back here.
As he walked back up to his room, Eddie wondered. If people had shown this kind of unity before Thanos had arrived and fucked everything up, would the Titan have stood a chance? Humans never knew when to quit and always came up swinging. The way he adapted to Venom was proof enough of that.
What was it about tragedy drew a bunch of broken people together to make a unit that wanted to do good?
The fact that he was thinking such deep questions made Eddie realize that he needed to try and get some more sleep if he could.
His bed was just as warm as he remembered it. Not perfect. Not home. But good enough that he could follow that strand of consciousness to the line between wakefulness and sleep that stretched underneath an orange sky. It wasn't sleep but it was good enough.
Chapter 14: Dawn Of The Final Day
okay i have 3 chapters left after this one, one of them being more epilogue-y and i wanted to get it all out before endgame but that just isn't gonna happen so whoops.
Carol won points in Eddie’s book for attempting to help with breakfast- attempting being the key word.
How had she fucked up eggs this badly? They were almost welded to the pan and didn't want to part with it no matter how hard he scraped. Nebula took the spatula from her and banished her to the counter while Eddie tossed out the results of her labors and got a new pan out of the cabinet. Tony could afford it.
“These electric stove-tops get up to temperature really quickly,” she said defensively at Eddie's questioning look as Nebula handed her a sugar bowl. “They didn’t used to heat up so fast.”
Nebula’s deadpan expression didn’t change as she pointed towards the coffee pot. “Go and put that next to the caffeine dispenser. Half of the Terrans depend on the stuff.”
Carol did as she was told and then squinted at the machine, “God knows I used to, but then I found this berry from Xandar that really wakes you up," with a soft noise of insight, she pressed a pattern of buttons and stuck a mug under the dispenser.
Nebula snorted, “I was told Terrans couldn’t stomach lereese.”
Carol laughed and turned to her with her mug cupped in her hands, “Who told you that?”
“Peter Quill, Terran that had a thing for my sister.”
“He sounds like a wimp.”
Eddie tuned out the rest of their conversation and tried to salvage breakfast. There was plenty of cereal but he doubted enough milk for everyone. He'd figure something out. At least the most important dietary needs were taken care of, he’d hidden a whole jar of Nutella for Flash after dinner last night. The teen could share it with others if he wanted but he doubted Avi would let him.
They’d made a lot of pancakes in the past few days- and the mix was running low, but they did have a lot of bread. After a bit of substituting and finagling he managed to make a decent kind of french toast. “Now this has egg in it, sorry if anyone’s vegan. Didn’t have much else to work with. Couldn't find applesauce.”
“What’s a vegan?” Nebula asked, which sent Flash into a fit of giggles. Though he didn’t say anything.
Grinning at Flash, he reached under the counter and presented him with the jar of Nutella alongside his plate of regular toast.
“Hey!” Tommy said trying to grab it, but Avi smacked his hand away with a tendril. Tommy pouted, “Not fair, I love Nutella.”
Eddie shook his spatula in Tommy's direction. “Flash and Avi need chocolate unless you want them to eat someone’s brains, so deal. Ask nicely and he might share.”
Flash turned towards Tommy and held his arms up in his best zombie impersonation. None of the teens were immune to it, and laughter started to stir up around the table again.
“So that’s how you’re getting around it.” Carol said as she piled food on her own plate.
Eddie laughed, “Yeah, well it's not my fault no one on other planets bothered to wine and dine their symbiotes, the alternative was pretty easy for us to find.”
“To be fair that’s more of a you thing than a humanity thing, Mr. Brock.” David pointed out.
“You really don’t have to call me Mr. Brock, it makes me feel old.”
“You are old.” Avi said while Flash's mouth was full of toast.
He put a hand over his heart and let his claws dig into the fabric as he leaned back. “Betrayed by my own kid.”
“By that logic, Mr. Stark is ancient.”
Eddie turned to look at Tommy, and then looked behind Tommy.
Tommy made a face. “He’s standing right behind me isn’t he?”
Tony rolled his eyes, “All that speed and you couldn’t take a millisecond to look behind you?”
“Hell yeah, stick it to old people,” Cap said walking in behind Tony and purposefully ignoring him. He gave Tommy a lazy high five.
“Aren’t you like ninety?” Flash asked.
“I was only awake for like twenty five of those years. Doesn’t count compared to grandpa over here.” He nodded in Tony’s direction. The only acknowledgement he’d given the man all day.
Tony let out a sound not unlike a strangled cat.
“Alright, settle down, it’s not good for grandpa’s blood pressure.” Pepper said, reaching across the large island to grab what was left of the blueberries.
Tony let out a huff. “This is my house!”
Carol took a sip of her coffee. “And it’s very lovely, Mr. Stark.”
“You’re only ten years younger than me!” he said, pointing at Carol.
“I was in space it doesn’t count.”
The elevator door opened again and Tony whipped around, “Aha- Thor is by far the oldest out of any of us. If anyone’s a grandpa, he is.”
“By Asgardian years Thor’s only like twenty-two,” Dr. Banner said. “And I’m splitting my age with the Hulk so I’m only like twenty-three.”
Tony squawked, “That isn’t how that works!”
“Prove it.” He said, retrieving a mug to make tea in the same machine Carol had used to make coffee.
Pepper took pity on him and pressed a cup of coffee into his hands with a smile. Tony still looked ready to argue but reconsidered when Eddie pushed a plate of french toast at him.
“Don’t let the media know.” He mumbled.
“Too late, there’s already a reporter on the premises!” Eddie needled at him just to make the man grimace.
The conversation soothed a lot of people’s emotions and gave them on a level footing to start dealing with things. With what they had ahead of them, they all needed this moment of stability to get their bearings back.
“Eddie, can you stop by my lab after breakfast?” Dr. Banner asked. He wasn’t eating much, but Eddie didn’t think it was his place to try and mother the Hulk. If Dr. Banner didn’t feel like eating breakfast that was his business.
He nodded, “Sure thing.”
“Everybody else stop by my main lab, I’m going to be trying to come up with support items that will give us an edge. Brock, don’t think you’re getting out this, we'll be testing things in the gym afterwards.” Tony said, trying to get back on top of the situation. The man had to have some kind of attention seeking complex.
Venom would have laughed at that. It was the first time he’d thought of Venom consciously all morning. Of course he missed the convenience of being able to grab things from across the room or have a second person helping him cook but he hadn't let those thoughts consume him. There wasn't time to mope if he wanted to see Venom again soon.
He looked up from his plate after Tony called his name again, his toast had gotten cold while he was thinking. “What? I’m not a superhero.”
“Going to pretend I didn’t hear that.” Tony said. “I’ve seen footage of you running through a hail of bullets and that was before you fell in a tar pit.”
“That never got released, the military had it destroyed because it was a ‘friendly fire’ incident,” Eddie put air quotes around friendly fire. It had been anything but.
Rhodes looked to the side, “I may have had a copy smuggled out to Tony. For weapons development purposes of course. It was badass.”
“Still, a lack of any sense of self preservation doesn’t make me a superhero.”
Darcy lost it first, laughing right in his face. It spread around the table until Eddie was having a hard time not joining in. When it didn’t subside after a minute he ducked his head and smiled at his plate.
“Okay, so maybe it’s the defining characteristic.”
“I’d say so.” Pepper said primly. “It’s why I’m not one, even though I have powers.”
Tony looked at her, “And the Rescue suit.”
Pepper waved her hand. “Yes, but I’ve given that to Darcy since I can blow people up without it.”
Darcy saluted with her fork to Pepper when she was addressed.
Tony shrugged, “Fair enough.”
“Alright, I’ll stop by after I meet with Dr. Banner. But that is in no way an admission of being a superhero.”
“Whatever you say, power ranger.”
What he wouldn’t give for a spoonful of peas to launch across the table right now... he settled for one of Pepper's blueberries instead.
Bruce’s lab had somehow become the center of a cyclone since last night. It hadn’t looked this chaotic when Carol had landed herself in the middle of their mess. The scientist had evidently gotten an early start to his day.
“Thor was helping me work on some things. He’s very smart.” Bruce said, looking around the lab. “Not a big fan of cleaning as he goes, though.”
“Mother always said it was a failing of mine.” Thor shrugged, and kept walking until he disappeared down another door.
It had been so strange to walk into an elevator and wait alongside the God of Thunder; it was absolutely fucking wacky that this was his life now- a kid from midtown walking down hallways with gods and heroes of old. Darcy had tried to warn him about this sort of thing.
“Didn’t know he was much of a scientist, just thought he just liked scientists.”
Dr. Banner’s face flushed red, a rare occurrence. “Oh yes, he helped figure out how to repair the Bifrost before it was destroyed again. Most people on Earth have only seen him throw a hammer around.”
He shrugged, “I just figured that Darcy would have mentioned it.”
“Well she doesn’t have to wrangle him, unlike some others in the tower I could mention, so it probably wouldn’t come up in her weekly complaint fest.” He said. Dr. Banner turned around and started pulling together a bunch of papers from different desks.
Eddie cleared off a spot on one of the counters away from the more delicate looking machines. Stacking the papers to the side by topic the way he would if he were going to go through them for information for an article only took a moment, hopefully Banner would be able to understand the order he put them in. Eddie hopped up onto the clear space he'd made on the counter.
“Why does everyone want to sit on the counters? We have perfectly good chairs.” He heard Banner mutter under his breath.
Pulling one of said chairs across the room, he turned it around and sat on it with his clipboard in his hand.
“So, your results came back.”
That was never how anyone wanted a conversation with a Doctor to start.
He straightened one of the piles of paper next to him and avoided looking at the scientist. “Give it to me straight, Doc. How much time do I have?”
“That’s the weird thing, if you were human I’d say you had a week, maybe less.”
Eddie’s head snapped up, his mouth hanging open, “If I were human?”
Bruce lowered his glasses and looked down at the clipboard. “Well, I have no baseline to compare it too. Maybe you were always this way, but there’s some stuff here that very much does not belong. Extra organs. Different methods of production in the marrow samples, those aren't even producing blood at this point. From the X-rays, there’s some shadows that suggest there are like parts of your body that work like a highway for something to circulate through it. Like a second circulatory system.”
“I mean, I guess that makes sense.”
“Your senses are enhanced, and your muscle fibers are built in a way that honestly makes no sense to me. There’s vertical pathways in the middle of your fast twitch and slow twitch muscles. The parts that worry me are the places that show a lack of things. I assume that’s where your symbiote rests. I would expect these hollows and pathways to collapse in a human, leading to all sorts of failures or internal bleeding, but…”
Eddie leaned forward, hand covering the hole in his heart. “But?”
“It seems like there’s enough residual changes or material from your symbiote to keep you in a sort of stasis. Have you been drinking a lot of water?”
“You should be.”
Bruce looked down at the clipboard again, “Your DNA isn’t… well it’s like there were matching pairs of chromosomes that were linked to yours but they’re gone now. It shows, for lack of a better term, scars from their absence.”
“So my DNA isn’t human?”
“Well, it is and isn’t. There’s a whole string that the computer failed to segment entirely. I assume that’s where some more- excuse the word, tampering could have occurred.”
“What about uh-” he pointed to the center of his chest.
“Well those cells are completely inhuman. The structures are different to what I’d expect to find them. You have part of your spine made out of metal, and part of your sternum. No idea what kind without further tests.”
“So I’m going to set off metal detectors for the rest of my life?”
“Depends on the metal it’s made out of.”
“I’m not really keen to have you digging into my spine to take samples.”
“I don’t think it’s necessary at this stage.” Banner set the clipboard to the side and leaned forward with his elbows braced against his knees. “I’m going to be straight with you, I’m a bit of an expert of trying to figure out what the fuck a human body’s doing in this kind of situation, but I’m pretty stumped as to how you're not already dead. In your x-ray, you have something in the center of your chest that’s almost- it almost looks crystalized. No clue what it is but it rests so close to your heart that trying to get a look at it would endanger your life.”
“When Venom saved me life- when the shard of metal that skewered me there was ripped out- it was an alien metal, made by a different symbiote named Riot. He was different from Venom. When it happened- there was a flash of light where the wound healed. I never thought about it in the moment- busy saving the world and all, but-” he shrugged uselessly. “I should have asked Venom more about it, but odds are, he’d be just as stumped as I am.”
“Venom was more of a foot soldier than a researcher. Just like if you pulled a human out of a crowd and introduced them to aliens not everyone would be a Tony Stark. Some of us would be regular people that couldn’t tell you anything about how the human body worked or anything.”
“I see your point.”
“It’s kind of why we clicked together so well. We were both- in his words, losers.” Eddie laughed and shook his head. “Just a couple of losers out to save the world so we could go home and eat double chocolate chunk and watch How It’s Made reruns.”
“Not the worst reason to fight I’ve ever heard of.”
“Heard of many?”
It was Dr. Banner’s turn to laugh this time, “You’d be surprised how many people see doctor in front of my name and think I’m equipped to sort out their psychological problems. Doesn’t matter that I’m not that kind of doctor.”
“Cheers,” Eddie said, tilting his head back. “So the only suggestion you have for me is to drink more water?”
“ ‘fraid so,” Dr. Banner said, setting aside his clipboard. “Now you have to go and face the music of Tony trying to show affection through making things for you. You should have seen the Hulk-proof pants he whipped up this one time. They were purple.”
“You don’t really strike me as a purple pants kind of guy.”
“It does clash horribly with the green, doesn’t it?”
Eddie laughed and hopped off the counter. “See you later then, Dr. Banner.”
“You know, you can call me Bruce.”
“See you later then, Bruce.”
The gym was a mess. Flash was stuck to the ceiling, Darcy was bobbing up and down inside a suit of armor that she’d somehow painted in purple and black. When had she had the time?
“The stabilizers, Lewis! The stabilizers.” Tony yelled out.
“I’ll catch her!” Antivenom yelled. Flash and Avi had settled on a spiky, more military outfit. Or a teenager’s view of what a military outfit was like based on video games. Rhodey was yelling corrections at him.
“Don’t catch me, I’ve got it I’ve got it. I’m rusty.” Darcy yelled in a voice tinted by robotics.
Pepper let loose a blast toward the target range in the background. Damn, she didn’t need a suit, that’s for sure. Tony had fitted her up with something to stabilize her so the power of her own blasts didn't knock her on her ass. Many people were trying out new equipment with comical results. This seemed like a really easy way for people to get blown up.
“Venom, get your ass over here!” Tony shouted, Eddie turned before he realized he’d answered to Venom alone. He hated that.
“What have you got for me, a tactical belt full of snickers?” Eddie asked, leaning against the boxing ring Tony had transformed into a workshop table and mock storefront.
“Ha ha, very funny but I will give that thought. Venom 2, the sequel to Venom, might need something like it.”
“If me and Venom fuse in order to beat the shit out of Thanos, we might eat him.”
“Don’t think anyone would object.”
“He might give us indigestion.”
He leaned against the boxing rope and looked at the spread around them.
Tony looked up at him, covered in grease, but with a fire in his eyes that was missing from him when he’d returned from Titan.
“Can you use a gun?”
“Sure, but I need a boost to my mobility more. If I can get in close and get to Venom somehow I won’t need anything else.”
“Can we have a gun?” Antivenom asked, dropping in from the ceiling like Spider-Man.
Tony answered first but Eddie wasn’t far behind.
Tony and Eddie glared at each other, before Eddie relented, “Fine, we need everyone as prepared as possible to fight against Thanos.”
“Can anyone here wield the stones aside from Thanos?” Eddie asked.
Nebula looked up from where she was sharpening a knife with her leg dangling over the edge of the ring. “Peter Quill, with the help of the Guardians did, but he was half Celestial.”
“Jane Foster did as well, but it was slowly killing her.” Tony said, before counting on his fingers, “Loki wielded two of them at separate times. I’m sure I’m forgetting some people. That can't have been all of them.”
“Seems to me all you need is to be really fucking stubborn.”
Nebula laughed. “Well, that is one way of describing Thanos.”
Eddie nodded, taking a pair of rocket boots from Tony and strapping them to his feet. He’d been stubborn enough to destroy his career, ruin his own life and keep going, then stubborn enough to give Venom pause enough to change his mind about Earth.
Fucking up an alien’s perception of Earth was kind of Eddie’s thing, and he didn’t intend to stop now. Infinity stones or no infinity stones.
He thought they were done with people dropping out of the sky to set everyone on edge but this time took the cake. A teenager that didn’t look any older than Tommy and then another one that looked like a mini Hulk got out of what Eddie assumed was the real life equivalent of a puddle jumper which they’d parked helpfully in the middle of the gym.
“Look, I just followed a distress signal, it was easy. I was curious and since, you know, half of the universe turned to ash I don’t see why I had a reason not to check it out.”
The alien shrugged and Tommy mirrored it. “That checks out to me.”
The black haired female Hawkeye nodded her agreement at that.
“That’s because you’re like ten.” Tony said derisively.
“I’m eighteen, thanks.”
The teen alien that had introduced himself as Noh-Varr said something in a language Eddie didn’t know but understood meant something along the lines of ‘for fucks sake’.
“I’m uh- Teddy.” The hulking one said as Carol pushed her way to the front of the crowd that had gathered in the gym.
Carol snorted, “Dorrek, please, you look too much like your father to be pulling this. Earth isn't safe.”
The green one lit up, “Aunt Carol! I was right, you were coming here. I want to help.”
“Kiddo, I admire your resolve. But you’re supposed to be in hiding.”
“Who’s going to look for him on Earth, honestly?” Noh-Varr said with a dismissive wave.
Carol pinched the bridge of her nose, "He's supposed to be with his father.”
The one that had introduced himself as Teddy visibly drooped. “Gone in the snap.”
She sighed, “Of course, I should have checked. But I was trying to answer the distress call I got from these idiots.”
Teddy leaned forward, “Phyla took on the mantle. She’s trying to keep order out by Xandar with uncle Richard.”
“You know Richard isn’t really your uncle.”
The green boy waved a hand, “He’s all but adopted Noh-Varr.”
Eddie held up his hand, “Excuse me, I’m not one to interrupt some juicy family drama but ground rules, don’t fuck with the Klyntar you may see. They’re not consuming their hosts but they might consume you if you’re a threat. I’m starting to think we might need to put that in a pamphlet. Just cutting it off at the pass because we’ve had a couple Non-Terrans come out swinging.”
Nebula piped up from the back, “I said I was sorry!”
David piped up from the back, “We need to talk about inter-dimensional travel, Noh-Varr’s an expert.”
“Oh good,” Tony said, clapping his hands together. “The pocket dimension part of the plan is the part that we’re most unsure about. Scientists, to the labs, heroes to the- I don’t care.”
Darcy huffed, “If you’re not out by dinner I’m coming after you in the suit!”
Noh-Varr was swept up into a gaggle of scientists, spearheaded by David; Tommy trailing behind them. Flash looked from Eddie to the group and followed after Eddie waved him off. He was smart, there was no reason for him to hide it. They needed all the sharp minds they could get on this.
On the other side of the room Carol was still speaking to Teddy, putting an arm around his shoulder. Dr. Banner looked like he had questions he wanted to ask, but didn’t want to intrude on a family moment. He’d noticed the doctor didn’t fare very well in situations that revolved around family.
He wasn’t smart enough to contribute to the science side of things, so he walked over to where Darcy sat in her armor and plonked down.
Their shoulders bumped together and he asked a question that had been on his mind after Tony's conversation, “Where’s Jane?”
Darcy laced her fingers together, looking down at the repulsors attached to her palms. “Well, when she and Thor broke up it was kind of awkward, because I was dating Maria and I was still involved in the superhero aspect of things. She’s moved on to other research. I wish she were here though, we could use her help. She hasn’t answered her phone and I have no way of knowing if that’s because she fell to the snap or if she’s too busy to pick up.”
“Worst case scenario, judging from what you’ve told me about her, she’s probably trying to memorize all sorts of data about being in an alternate universe pocket dimension.”
“You’re probably right.”
“Have you called Dan yet?”
“I’ve been putting it off, I haven’t exactly told him about…”
“The moonlighting as a trainee superhero thing?”
“I’m not- now I sound like you! I just want to step up and do my part.” She smacked at his shoulder.
It took a second for Eddie to pull her into a hug, but she looked like she needed it. “You’ve done great so far Darce. Think of all the stories you’ll have for Maria.”
“She’s gonna be so mad she missed this, she’d have loved Carol- and the alien family drama dropping in every five minutes. Why is it everyone brings their family drama to Earth?”
“Who knows, maybe we’re just the fucked up family drama singularity. Kinda like how lost things find their way to Sakaar. Dramatic shit finds its way to Earth.”
She elbowed him and then clunked to her feet. “Maybe so! But enough of that, lets see how you work the rocket boots, paperboy! Race you.”
Chapter 15: One For The Money
is now a good time for me to admit i haven't even seen infinity war?
Eddie bolted out of bed and smacked a hand against his forehead. “Oh my god, I’m an idiot.”
He’d been so consumed by trying to fight Thanos he couldn’t think of the obvious angle. The titan was a sociopath- a genocidal freak who thought he was some kind of crusader. The man would love an audience, and Eddie was a goddamn reporter.
Talk about leaving the weapons of your own destruction in the hands of your enemies.
He had to talk to Nebula. He grabbed a jacket from beside the door and walked in the quiet of midnight to Nebula's room on another floor.
Despite the late hour, she opened her door without hesitation. Eddie gave her a nod and didn't comment on the fact that she had half of her prostheses disconnected. It looked like she was cleaning some of them for the upcoming fight. She tilted her head to the side but allowed him to slide into her room as the door clicked closed behind him.
“I need you to introduce me to Thanos, I’m a reporter- uh, I assume the have news in space?”
Nebula rolled her remaining eye. “Yes, Brock, we have news in space.”
“So I just need to get close to the soul stone and take it since that’s where everyone is. All I have to do is say I’m there to get the real story for humanity. Play into his ego and lull him into a false sense of security. Get my hand on it during the interview, that kinda thing. Then the real fight can happen.”
“It’s worth a shot. I think he’d be unlikely to use the gauntlet on one human. Especially one that hasn’t put up a fight before. It would be a laughable level of overkill.”
Eddie could feel the bottom of his stomach fall out, if he did this, if he really tried this. It might work. It would be risking his life, but what wouldn’t he do for Venom? Venom. Who gave up everything to stay with him. Not knowing if Eddie would ever feel the same way.
What changed your mind?
You, Eddie. You did.
Remembering it made him want to run until he held Venom again. He knew that he couldn’t- hell, he didn’t have a ship.
Everyone on the team needed to okay this slight change in plan before he got his hopes up. It wasn’t that different from what they were originally planning to do; except now everyone would be waiting to fight instead of trying to surprise Thanos with an all out attack while a few of them tried to get the soul stone.
Nebula gave him a once over, “Go get some sleep, Brock, if you insist on this plan this night could be your last.”
“I haven't been able to sleep for days. When I close my eyes I just feel spaces in my bones where life should be.” He said, scratching at the back of his head and looking away.
Nebula looked over all her spare parts spread out across the room, “Yeah, I know the feeling.”
“I’m sorry about Gamora.”
Nebula sucked in a hiss of air, “Me too.”
“If I had a chance to use the stones... I think I’d try to return everyone. I don’t know how I would do it but- I’m stubborn. Sometimes that’s all it takes.”
He turned around and walked to the door, leaving Nebula looking down at her robotic eye on the table.
He tried to take Nebula's advice, he really did. Sleep just wasn't happening for him. It had been almost a week, why would he suddenly be able to sleep now?
After a while, Eddie just lay there and let moments from his life play out against the black screen of his eyelids. His mind called up his first night with Venom, the first fight they’d had together, how Venom had saved him by getting out of the Life Foundation in the first place. Walking home from the explosion and feeling that exhausted lump in his chest that told him Venom was alive. He was safe. They’d done it.
The ache was overwhelming.
If he failed- if something happened he had to make sure Flash would have the resources he needed. If Eddie died without reuniting with Venom- Avi and Flash would be their legacy, they had to be protected.
They were working well together, and the few times the topic of Avi finding another host had come up in conversation, neither of them reacted well. Maybe that’s what formed the strongest bonds. Coming together during a time of crisis against all odds.
He looked at the ceiling as dawn's light started painting the futuristic white tiles different colors. Venom would have loved the tower- it was tall, of course he would have loved it.
With Venom, the view from here would have been worth the tingle of vertigo in his fingertips.
When he had Venom back, they’d come back here. They’d sit on top of the tower and watch the sun rise and set over one of humanity’s glittering gems.
He placed a hand over his heart and felt it beat. It was even and sluggish. It hadn’t felt right for days. Banner said he didn’t know how long Eddie’s altered physiology would win out over logic and Eddie didn't think he had all that much time left. He wasn't meant to be alone anymore.
Eddie sighed at the thought. There was no use being morbid. He got up and dressed in a pilfered black blazer with dark pants over a white shirt. He couldn’t stop himself from picking out a red tie and tying it loosely around his unbuttoned collar. He grinned in the mirror. If this were a normal day, Darcy would tease him and Venom about becoming one of those couples that dressed the same.
No matter what happened today… it was the day. He could feel it in the air.
“Absolutely not,” Darcy said, not even humoring him over the breakfast pizza Friday helped Nebula order before Carol tried to burn down the tower again.
“If it’s what Eddie wants to do, I say we give him a chance.” Carol said, munching on a french fry- where had she gotten a french fry?
“Eddie was an excellent reporter-” Pepper said, taking a small slice for herself.
Eddie made a pained sound that was only half faked for emphasis. “Was? I’m still an excellent reporter.”
“Yes, yes that’s what I meant, it’s early. Excuse me, Eddie.” Well when she put it like that it seemed silly to get upset over.
“I say if you call Anne and Dan and they say okay, then you can do it,” Darcy said smugly.
He laughed, “What are they? My parents? No. I’m going to do this.”
That didn’t make Darcy look any happier. Tough. He could feel it in his heart. This was the way to get Venom back. Flash also didn’t look happy, and neither did Avi from where he sat coiled around the teen’s neck- tough. He was the adult here and was the one that should be risking his life.
“So send Eddie and Nebula down in one ship. Cloak the rest of us. Be ready to fight after that.” Tony shrugged, “Doesn’t sound too complicated. But now I feel silly for having designed a superhero outfit for you.”
“Maybe next time, Tony.”
Eddie scratched behind his ear, “Only issue now is how to find Thanos.”
“Actually, we may have come up with a solution to that, thanks to Noh-Varr and David,” Bruce said, filling his cup with coffee instead of tea. Seems like it was a serious day for everyone, not just him. “We boosted the way I tracked the tesseract for S.H.I.E.L.D. we’ve got a heading now.”
“Do we have two ships?”
Carol popped another fry in her mouth, “Leave that to me. I’ve already got some people coming in.”
“And we can take my ship, Brock,” Nebula said, kicking her feet up on the table.
Tony made a face and pushed her legs off the table, muttering.
“Can we really be ready to do this today?” Steve said, looking doubtful.
“Well, I haven’t slept in like a week so if we want to wait longer, we can, there’s no guarantee how long I have before I just drop dead though. Dr. Banner already said it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened yet.” Eddie shrugged.
“Wait, you haven’t slept in a week? You haven’t touched coffee this whole time.” Darcy said, looking at her own cup like it had betrayed her.
“Just haven’t been able to. Each time I close my eyes I see orange.”
Scott nodded like that made perfect sense, “Dude, same! Except I also see quantum bullshit layered over everything.”
“Quantum bullshit,” Noh-Varr repeated, “Do you know how much-”
“Yeah, yeah, science whatever. Do you know how hard that makes it to sleep at night? No? And I’m not even a scientist.”
Eddie ate another bite of pizza, “Aren’t you a computer engineer?”
“Wait, Lang’s an engineer?” Stark asked.
“Where were you when he went to prison for hacking a company and re-distributing it’s wealth?” Eddie asked him.
“I believe that might have been after you got blown up several times.”
“As riveting as this is… if we’re going to do this. Everyone should contact their remaining family members.” Black Widow said, and god, Eddie had almost forgot she existed. Where had she been this whole time?
The room cleared quickly after that, leaving most of the teens and aliens to clean up. They were the ones without family left to call. As he looked around at them, he couldn’t help but feel like he was seeing the beginning of a family form. The way Flash, David, and Tommy had stuck together. How they effortlessly included each new misfit they came across.
He shook his head. They had the clean up in hand, and Eddie had to call his family.
The walk to the elevator wasn't nearly long enough for him to sort out his thoughts on what he was going to say, nor was the ride to the ground floor. Today was the first time he’d left the tower and Friday stopped to print him a clearance band to get back in before he wandered out the doors.
He started walking in the direction of the nearest green area he could smell on the wind. It took him ten minutes before he got to a park. There were people congregated there, mostly sharing food and stories. He just wanted a warm spot in the sun to lay down and pretend that life was okay.
After a few more minutes he found the perfect spot and laid down, hidden behind a rock and feeling the dappled morning sunlight dance through the trees to land on his skin. He closed his eyes and dialed Annie’s number from memory. It rang four times.
“Eddie! Dan’s at work, but what’s up.”
“Sorry I missed him, but I just wanted to let you guys know about, well...”
“You’re really going out there and risking your life huh? Just you. No Venom.”
“Yeah, I am, Annie- I have to.”
“Just come back home, Dan’s going to be pissed he missed saying goodbye.”
“I’m sure Darcy’s going to call him. It’s an all hands on deck kind of situation.”
The connection went silent as Eddie sat in the grass, thinking about all the turns in his life that had led him right back here. This could have been any number of Saturday mornings from his childhood, finding a place to escape too in the city. A place to belong. He wasn’t sure he’d ever found a place like that until Venom.
“We love you, Eddie, please come back.”
“I’m going to do what I can, Annie.”
She sighed on the other end of the line. “That’s really all we can ask.”
“Bye, Annie. You know I won’t come home without him- I can’t.”
“Don’t say it like it’s the last time I’ll hear from you! So help me, I will punch you the next time I see you!”
Eddie laughed, “Love you too, Annie. You and Dan take care of yourselves for us while we're out.”
Anne's voice sounded choked up on the other end of the line, "We will, just come home."
Chapter 16: Two For The Show
finally saw infinity war and endgame and may i just say. what the fuck.
Space wasn’t anything like he remembered it, how Venom had remembered it. The void and stars made his heart ache for his soulmate instead of inspiring the promise of tomorrow in countless stars.
Every few minutes someone would radio in and disrupt the quiet of the ship’s engine. Nebula wasn’t a talkative road trip partner and Eddie couldn’t blame her, they were going to kill her father. Yeah, he was a murderer- but Eddie understood having a complicated relationship with an abusive father.
Stark had come in over the radio and suggested they try and get some sleep on the way to their destination, which neither of them dignified with a response. If anyone slept on the way to confront Thanos, Eddie would be surprised.
The landing was uneventful. There were no air traffic control towers to call in with, in fact, the place looked almost deserted. An isolated island paradise with gentle wind swaying purple branches over a kaleidoscope shore. It was a beautiful planet, and one that Thanos definitely didn’t deserve.
The readings led them up to a small shack, one that a giant purple man sat outside of- was he getting ready to go fishing? Seriously?
Nebula cleared her throat, “Father, I’ve brought a Terran inquisitor. He wants to chronicle what has happened for the planet’s histories.”
The purple titan turned. “Nebula, daughter, I never thought I would see you again.”
“I’m merely here to escort,” she said, bowing her head and looking out of the corner of her eye at Eddie.
Here goes nothing.
“Hi, Thanos was it? I’m Eddie Brock, investigative journalist. I want the people of Earth to be able to hear all sides of the story.” The words were sour on his tongue as he said them. “The snap hasn’t been all bad, it’s really brought people together. Those that survived have a renewed determination for life.”
Thanos laughed. He laughed and Eddie felt every hollow in his bones sing. He struggled to keep a lid on the power at his disposal. It wasn't much but it was definitely enough to get him in trouble.
“That was one of the outcomes I anticipated.”
Eddie inclined his head. “Can we take this inside, I’ve got a fair complexion.”
“Ah, Terrans are so weak. Your people put up a brave fight against all odds.” Thanos opened the door to his hut. So far so good.
“I’ve always been more of a runner than a fighter,” Eddie said as he ducked into the building. Nebula made no move to follow them for a second, then walked forward. They were flying black ops now.
The gauntlet was sat over a makeshift mantle. An item that had destroyed half of the lives in the universe sat over a fire like someone’s fishing trophy. He swallowed down a tongue that wanted to loll out over rows of teeth.
“I have a few questions to start with if that’s alright?”
He’d been told that Loki died trying to stall Thanos with honeyed words, so that’s not the approach he would be taking. “I’d like to know your thought process behind halving populations you’d already culled? For instance the Asgardians were already suffering from the destruction of their home planet, then they were culled, and then the remaining populations were included in the snap. How does that leave them with a population that isn’t doomed for failure?”
Thanos looked almost pleased at his line of questioning.
“Asgardians are a strange bunch, they live on such long timescales that they don’t need as large a population to sustain their culture.”
“So you’re interested in preserving culture?”
“Then you’re aware that Terra doesn’t have a unified culture system. There were already groups that were struggling to survive before the snap that have been doomed by it.” He wasn’t actually sure of the facts on that one, but it sounded right, he could check it later.
He walked to the side and realized that, as his view of the gauntlet shifted, the orange glow of the soul stone was missing.
“What happened to the soul stone?” Eddie blurted. “Sorry, I’d read that all of them were needed to accomplish the snap.”
“That’s an odd one, you have to sacrifice what you hold most dear to acquire it, a soul for a soul as it were. It disappeared shortly after my goal was accomplished.”
Nebula’s expression soured which meant the clock was ticking down on how much time they had before she tried to punch her father in the face.
A soul for a soul, what he held most dear.
Fuck that, fuck this, he made eye contact with Nebula. She was almost shaking with her fury. He called on every remnant he had of Venom and grabbed the gauntlet. It burned where it touched his skin. But he threw it across the room and Nebula caught it, slipping it over her mechanical arm. It hissed and burned, but she showed absolutely no sign of feeling pain. The gauntlet sized itself to her arm. If she had the power of the stones- they could fight Thanos. They could win.
They would have to do it without him.
The refracting burn of the gauntlet didn’t stop as he let it go and Thanos’ expression changed to one of fury.
Annie and Dan were going to be so mad when Darcy told them how he died.
But they would live to know.
Hopefully Venom loved Avi just as much as he did. He knew Venom wouldn’t want to find another host, but they would help him get through it.
With nothing further to lose, Eddie balled up his good hand and laid a right cross across Thanos’ stupid lumpy chin. It didn’t even phase the titan, but he’d done it. Him. Normal, puny human Eddie Brock had punched the Mad Titan in his stupid face. Aunt May would be proud.
Thanos grabbed Eddie’s arm and threw him at Nebula, wrenching it out of socket. He didn’t stop after hitting her, his body traveling through the wall behind her and into the water beyond.
The burn from the stones crept up his arm and cut across his face. Water slipped past him as stabs of pain reached his heart, causing him to gasp and inhale. There were lights above him. The fighting had started. He’d surrendered his life for them to have a real chance. They’d have to find the soul stone without him.
Something pulsed in the dark water surrounding him. When Eddie closed his eyes it was to a startlingly empty orange sky.
His limbs were like ice, weighing him down in the water against the twinkle of the sky meters above him. He took a moment to remember the feeling of sunlight on his skin as he thought a fervent goodbye to the closest thing he had to a family.
The glow pulsed again, and he let out a final breath as his back hit the ocean floor. The empty space in his chest ached as bad as it had the first moment they had been separated. The reminder that he was dying alone hurt worse than Riot’s shard.
Death was welcome after that because he could feel Venom bloom and spread along his skin. The way it was meant to be. Dying made him whole. Those spaces in him that were empty filled with ice and fire.
He gasped as a bright orange light flashed behind his eyelids. Water filled his lungs and then pushed back out through organs in his body that hadn’t been there a moment ago. Slits that brushed against his shirt and were aggravated by the tie around his neck. His skin burned like fire in lines across his neck like scratches from his lover.
Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.
The voice devolved into inaudible shouting as Eddie’s back arched. The glow from the center of his chest had been orange. Orange that highlighted the tendrils of black leaching out from the scar tissue in the center of his chest to wrap his skin in darkness. The stone.
Venom pushed himself off the bottom of the ocean and hurtled through the air to land on the beach with an unholy scream that paused the entire fight. They heaved a breath as his arm turned around and popped itself back into socket the right way. Everyone was staring, but they were on a mission. They were starving. And their prey was right in front of them.
Launching tendrils out to dig into the dirt, they threw themselves forward and landed on Thanos. They bound his arms, pinning them to his side as their jaw stretched impossibly wide.
With rows and rows of teeth they bit down with all their fury and grief.
They swallowed. It tasted like any other head, if they were honest.
“Come back from that, Bastard.” They growled as blood dripped from their mouth. The looked up. A blue woman still held the glove. They had the stone.
Venom staggered back, a massive clawed hand held to his chest to cover the orange glow.
Their mind ran around in circles as their two selves struggled to line up. Both of them kept talking over each other, unable to contain the excitement of being reunited. It left them standing like a statue that shivered against the air that burned their lungs and a bond that was deeper than surface level.
Nebula was the first to recover, using the gauntlet to smash Thanos’ corpse into tiny pieces. That was a waste, they could have eaten that. They opened their mouth to tell her so and stopped as a white form drew closer to them, putting them back on the defensive.
“Mr. Brock?” A small white symbiote asked with its host. Instinct led him to want to lash out but Eddie’s swirl of emotions and thoughts swamped them over the fear of another symbiote threatening his host.
Venom moved then, bending a knee to pull the smaller white form close in a hug. The symbiotes connected for a moment. Not like it had been with Riot, but a surface connection to transmit information quickly. They pet Antivenom on the head, giving what they hoped was a reassuring smile.
The others are scared, worried about us.
Don’t blame them. We were almost catatonic.
For someone who carried the soul stone around for a week, you did alright.
I don’t think it was active until I died.
And what did I tell you about dying without me!
I was never really without you- I just didn’t know why or how.
As if the universe could ever separate us.
They smiled- moving as one as their minds synced together. Eddie thought of all the empty spaces that Dr. Banner had pointed out that were made for Venom. They were whole again.
The more things settled, the more they became aware of their surroundings. Nebula was swearing up a storm, snapping out a green light and then growling when it didn’t accomplish what she wanted. They walked forward on unsteady legs and placed a hand on her shoulder, they dwarfed her now with their combined height.
“Nebula,” they said, offering her their hand. She looked at it for a second before taking it. He could feel the gems connect to each other, and orange veined out from the center of his chest to connect with the light coming off of Nebula in waves. She was living up to her name.
To his left, Antivenom took his other hand.
There was a moment before everyone there dropped what they were holding to link hands. Nebula took in a ragged breath as Thor placed his hand on her other shoulder to complete the circuit. Leaving her with one hand free to hold the stones. The power of it burned through the circle, but no one flinched away from it. Not even Aunt May bowed under the pressure of the stones’ combined power. They were all stubborn as hell.
Holding the gauntlet forward in front of her, she spoke as tears streamed out of her one good eye and light burned from each her her cybernetic parts. White light wisped from her fingers and eyes as she bore the brunt of the power. Not to say that others around the circle were unaffected, the light pulsed through everyone. Escaping from eyes and cracks that would run up and down their arms like cobwebs.
“Bring them all back to us.” With that whisper, she turned her palm up to the sky and closed her fist.
A boom shattered the silence around them, light burst out from the gauntlet. Eddie felt a stab of pain as the stone melted from his chest and appeared, centered on the back of the gauntlet. Forms streamed out of it the light like ghosts appearing from mist to solidify into familiar faces. They were ringed by the souls that called them back as they appeared in the middle of the circle. There were people he recognized, and those he did not. Everyone held their breath as the light dimmed around the circle as the power of the call subsided.
Flash, bless him, blurted out: “Holy shit, Peter! You’re Spider-Man?
Aunt May was already running forward and throwing her arms around him. She wasn’t the only one breaking the cycle though. Thor was running forward and throwing his arms around his brother, before punching him in the shoulder. Loki just laughed. Nebula was running forward and collapsing- still crying, into the arms of a likewise crying green woman. He looked around the circle to see Maria yelling at a smiling and entirely unrepentant and armored Darcy before turning to yell at Tony Stark- who was already being yelled at by some dude in a cape. Carol was speaking with a black man and laughing- that must be Director Fury.
Peter looked around wide-eyed at their gathering of misfits, before saying, “Aunt May, you’re in space!”
Eddie just laughed, bringing Peter’s attention to him. “You did it! V, you just disappeared all of a sudden but you said you’d get back to him and you did.”
“Yeah, kid, we did.”
Flash waved his arms around, “Hello! Did we all know Peter was Spider-Man or was I just supposed to learn that on my own?”
Peter looked around at everyone and then threw his hands over his face. “Oh no, no mask! Wait, Flash? What is Flash- oh, okay I see. I go take a nap in a rock and everyone lines up to get superpowers.”
“It was an accident,” Flash said, dropping Antivenom from his face.
“That’s what we all said,” Venom said, growing a second head and torso to wrap around Eddie’s shoulders to hold him close.
Eddie leaned into the feeling of the embrace and tilted his head, “I don’t care what we all said, this,” he gestured out with his arm to the reunions happening in front of them, “didn’t happen by accident.”
“Sure, it happened because you were stubborn.”
“Stubborn enough to change your mind.”
“Of course, my love.” Venom rumbled, and Eddie leaned into it the way a cat would stretch in a patch of sunlight.
“Gross! Dad, there’s people around.” Avi said, as he tried to cover Flash’s eyes.
“Dad? Dad! Congrats,” Peter hopped up, dragging May with him to try and shake their hands. Which was hilarious. He couldn’t seem to decide which hand to grab. Eddie took pity on him and put a hand on his shoulder. They leaned forward and gave Peter a hug. “Thanks for looking out for V in there- I don’t really know what it was like. Other than orange and boring- but it means a lot.”
“Orange and boring just about covers it.”
“Wait! You’re not even Peter’s real cousin are you!” Flash cried.
“Am so, Aunt May totally adopted me. It’s as good as binding.”
May laughed, putting her chin on Peter’s head like a mamma bird protecting her chick. “That’s true. That’s legally how it works.”
Eddie placed a hand on her shoulder and looked back at their motley group of heroes. People were singed around the edges a bit. Clearly the fight with Thanos hadn’t been as simple as Nebula whooping his ass. They had softened him up for Venom. Self consciously, he wiped his mouth. Everyone had just seen them eat somebody’s head. Sure, it was Thanos so no one really cared, but that could change later.
The Ant Family was back together- Janet already had her hands on Ava’s temples to halt the regression of her condition. Scott and Hope were glued together at the hip, yet still yelling at each other.
The Hawkeyes were hugging, which led to the teen heroes gathering around them as the female Hawkeye, Kate, explained how she’d met Clint when his shitty apartment was getting singled out by the mob. That didn't sound quite right to Eddie, hadn’t Fisk been doing shit with apartments in New York? Maybe it was in the Bronx. He’d always been a Midtown kid. Now that he thought about it, so was Flash. Maybe there was something in that New York City water.
Venom hummed his approval against Eddie’s skin- warming up all the pieces of himself that had caused him pain.
He held a hand to his neck and felt the rough edges of skin there where Venom had made a split second decision that they needed gills. It hurt, but the good kind of pain. The kind he didn’t bear alone.
Chapter 17: The Beginning
This is the end of the ride people. I hope you enjoyed! Thanks for reading.
That wasn’t the end of it, of course.
The soul stone disappeared from the gauntlet after bringing everyone back. The metal looked empty without it where it had fused to the back of Nebula’s cybernetic hand. She looked like she'd rather remove her arm and go without until she was able to get a new one engineered, but one glare from Gamora stilled her hand as she reached up to her shoulder to detach it.
Venom and Eddie were both glad that they didn't have a permanent visual reminder of their time carrying the soul stone.
The other stones were easy enough to contain. Carol produced shielded containers for each stone and they were scattered to parts unknown with the help of Dr. Strange (yeah, that was his real name) and Loki. The two wizards (seriously this was their life now) took turns chucking them through portals to god knows where. Strange sniffed at some of Loki's hiding spots, and said locking his in a time loop stuck at the creation of the universe was a much better solution. That kind of sounded like bullshit to Eddie but he was far from being an expert on magic.
The ride home was cramped with the Guardians having moved back into Nebula’s ship; which was actually not hers at all. Turns out the ship belonged to Peter Quill- a hilarious man his own age from Missouri, of all places. Eddie could see how a broken family like the Guardians could form around that kind of loser. After all, it had happened to him too.
He missed most of the celebration happening on the ride home. As soon as they had a moment to sit down-both Venom and Eddie passed out. The lack of sleep had finally caught up to them, and Eddie found that being relieved of the constant pain from their separation was enough to knock out cold as soon as they stopped moving. He woke with Venom wrapped around his body like a blanket that cuddled him back where he snuggled further into it. Blackness settled over his head like a pillow blocking out the noonday sun after a night of drinking.
Someone poked them in the side.
“N- five more hours.”
“You sure? Cause Darcy says to tell you to get ready to catch.”
He rolled over, not truly moving but letting Venom shift around him until the were sitting up against the bulkhead. “Flash, that doesn’t make any sense.”
“That sounds like a Darcy problem, not a me problem, but speaking of me problems. You promised you’d help me become an emancipated minor.”
“Yeah, I did.”
“My Dad’s probably going to notice really quick that I’m not in the Life Foundation lab.”
“Did everyone reappear where they’d been left?”
“Everyone except the people that Nebula pulled directly to us.”
He wasn’t sure if that was what had happened. The stones were finicky things and everyone put their own intentions into supporting Nebula's call. Why else would Loki return? He wondered if they weren’t so focused on righting Thanos’s wrongs... maybe they could have pulled anyone back from the dead. At least while they had the soul stone.
They couldn't dwell on the what-ifs, it was time to move forward.
He was glad that the space next to his heart no longer felt cold and empty. Instead thrumming with life that beat right next to his bones and wove through his flesh. It almost felt like Venom purred inside his chest. It was a nice feeling.
Get up, lazy bones. You’re a reporter, not a poet.
“I’m getting, I’m getting.”
Flash's head tilted sideways, looking a lot like Avi in that moment, “You do know that you can talk to him in your head, right?”
“Yeah I do, but I do it out loud because I like talking to him.”
Speaking of reporting, someone would have to write all of this down. Ugh, he wasn’t looking forward to that. The Avengers might not have an obligation to keep the public informed- but a lot of high profile people had been involved in making the confrontation with Thanos possible. Word would get out what happened even if no one made a press release.
The world would want to know what exactly had happened and who to thank. He swayed and grabbed a piece of the ship for support. Oh god, they were going to try and say he saved the world.
Venom formed a head and moved in front of his face, “What is so bad about that? You did save the world. A lot of worlds, actually.”
“What I actually did was get thrown through a wall after doing something stupid that wasn’t in the plan. I didn’t save the world.”
“You saved me- and to you, aren’t I the world?”
A smile broke through the panic building in his chest, and he leaned forward to press his face against Venom’s, forehead to forehead. God, he’d missed Venom so much. More than he would have ever thought possible. He looked down at his fingers, knowing they could become tipped in claws of his own at any moment. “You left me with enough reminders that I couldn’t stop missing you.”
“They might have taken me from you, but they couldn’t take we from you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Doesn’t it?” Venom asked as an impossibly wide, lazy smile stretched over his face.
Reaching out and curling his fingers through the strands that connected them, Eddie pulled Venom close enough for a kiss. Tendrils wound through his own hair as he leaned in, adjusting his weight so they wouldn’t topple over as Venom formed arms just large enough to hold him.
They were home.
“Hey, are you guys gonna make out in the car all day, or are you going to face the music?” Flash said, covering his eyes with a hand and using the other to cover Avi’s face where it stuck out of the top of his hoodie.
“Darcy says Dan and Anne are waiting.”
Venom started to laugh at Eddie’s expression, not reacting as his human half tried to swat at him to make him stop. “It’s not funny she’s going to be so mad that I died again! She might try and kill me herself.”
“Like I’d ever let that be permanent. You have nothing to fear.”
Some of the heroes had already dispersed to find their own families and see where they were needed by the time Eddie made his way off the ship.
Steve and Bucky were in the process of hopping on a jet to Wakanda as soon as their boots touched the ground. Eddie didn’t blame them. The Falcon and Scott bumped the sides of their wrists together as the former followed Barnes and Rogers out of the tower. He hoped things in Wakanda were okay, he knew they could more than handle things themselves, but maybe he'd hear if his short time helping at the embassy helped someday.
On the other hand, some of their families had come to them. He didn’t have time to look around the tower's common floor to see whose families had shown up because Anne and Dan were actively trying to knock him over the moment he entered the main room. It was only Venom’s quick reaction forming around his legs and back that kept them all from falling over.
“Hey guys.” Eddie said, as Venom formed a head over his shoulders and added his own arms to the hug.
Annie turned her hug on Venom, pulling Dan in as well to hug the symbiote independent of Eddie. It was such a cute image that Eddie couldn’t help but join the hug again; squishing Venom between the three of them. One of them started to laugh, and it spread to the rest of them. Eddie pressed a kiss to Anne’s forehead and leaned his head against the hand Dan had on the back of his neck.
Eddie’s answering grin was goofy. “Told you we’d come back.”
Anne smacked him in the arm while her other hand held on to Venom’s. “No! You made it sound like you were going to die!”
“Well, he did die.” Thor said as he passed by, and Eddie shot him a look that he hoped communicated how betrayed he felt.
“You died again!” Dan asked, smacking a hand to his forehead. “I swear, I turn around for two seconds and you have another medical emergency.”
“Didn’t crawl in a lobster tank this time.”
“Yeah, because Thanos threw you into the actual ocean,” Tony offered.
Anne glared at him. “Can we get back to how you died! Again?”
“He sacrificed himself. It was very stupid.” Nebula said on her way to take a mug of something to Gamora who was sitting on the couch.
Why were all the heroes out to get him? “Hey! My stupidity got you the soul stone didn’t it?”
“That is not as good of a comeback as you think, Eddie.”
“The soul stone? I thought Thanos already had that?” Anne asked.
Eddie shrugged, “He did, then he lost it.”
Tony turned around in his chair, spinning it around and around like a child, and laid his head on his arms. “From what we know of the soul stone, it appears when you sacrifice the thing you care about most in the universe. But it doesn’t buy you a continued ownership of it. Thanos got it by killing Gamora. Eddie got it because- we haven’t figured that out yet.”
“It’s because if I die, Venom dies. I knew that and still held four infinity stones for a split second to throw the gauntlet to Nebula. I should have been vaporized where I stood.”
Tony nodded. “And then you weren’t, probably because you already had the soul stone and didn’t know it.”
“Dr. Banner did say there was crystalline structure in my chest. I thought it had been from my fight with Riot, but-” he shrugged.
Anne paced back and forth for a moment before turning back to Eddie. “So you found a loophole.”
“Not intentionally. I thought the plan blown to hell anyway and wanted to go out in style. Which I probably shouldn’t have said,” Eddie added, looking at the irate look on Anne's face.
He'd managed to shift Dan's attention to his sister and he was now busy fussing over Darcy- who still hadn’t taken all her armor off. Eddie understood the feeling. After all, he had Venom wrapped around him in the form of a leather jacket instead of their previous go-to hoodie. It was their own form of armor. The red detailing along the zipper and the teeth lining the collar really sold it for Eddie, he loved the reminder to everyone else that they were Venom.
The white spider symbol on the back was Venom’s idea.
Peter had loved it when he saw them walking down to the common floor, of course, and Flash had been quick to copy him with the symbol appearing in black on his white hoodie. They had to represent their adopted family after all.
“I’ve actually got no idea what happened after I got thrown into the water, was a little busy drowning.” He held a hand to the side of his neck and felt the line of scar tissue that had formed around the gills. They weren’t gone- or healed. Venom reasoned that if Eddie fell into another body of water- since it seemed to be a habit of his- he should at least be able to breathe in it.
“You drowned!” Anne yelled.
“Yeah, well it won’t happen again,” he said, giving her a cheeky smile and fluttering his gills a little. The air made them sting so he shut them again.
Anne opened her mouth and let out a noise like a flat tire. “Dan! Eddie’s done something weird to his body again.”
“I take it I forgot to mention the claws, the teeth, and the tongue too.”
He let his tongue roll out of his mouth, then grinned at her with his too sharp teeth. “They were a lot more impressive before V came back, now I just look like a knock-off.”
Dan came over and picked up his hand, turning it around to get a better look. “You mean these are yours? They’re not Venom’s?”
Eddie shrugged, the gills fluttering a bit. “Dr. Banner sequenced my DNA, I’d be interested to see if the answers changed.
Dan’s eyes went wide, “Dr. Banner… the expert in radiation- did you think that maybe I, a radiologist, might want to meet him?”
“Don’t look at me! Darcy’s known him for almost a decade! I met him a week ago.”
There was a shriek and Eddie merged with Venom before he could think, turning towards the sound with a back-flip to get Anne and Dan behind him. The shriek evolved into squeals, and Eddie saw they were coming from a half-armored Darcy.
Maria was a bright shade of red with her hands covering her face.
“I knew it! I knew it! I didn’t touch any of your stuff because I was afraid I’d find it.” Darcy struggled with the gauntlet on her left hand before letting it clunk to the floor and holding it out for Maria to slide a simple ring onto.
“Whooo! Get it, Darcy.” Eddie whistled, which did not help Maria in her quest to not look like a strawberry at all.
Venom’s presence in the back of his mind was quiet as the room came together to congratulate Darcy and Maria. Fury didn’t look like he was celebrating though- was probably thinking about how he was going to keep S.H.I.E.L.D. together while Maria was on her well-deserved honeymoon.
They reached Darcy and tossed her up into the air, catching her and giving her a hug before directing her towards Dan and Anne.
He felt a shimmer of heat around his finger, and when Venom melted back into his bones there was a band of striated black metal around his ring finger.
I would have asked first- but I had to make the ring before I could present it to you. Venom said in his mind, tendrils that began to pull the ring off his fingers were halted by his closed fist. He took a stumbled step back as he tried to calm the giddy feeling in his head.
“I know you’d die for me, and I’d die for you, but would you live for me? As well?” Eddie whispered taking a step back from the commotion into the shadows. They walked into a quieter part of the tower away from the bustle of reunion and joy, each step like a hammer in his heart. He felt it too- the overwhelming relief that seemed to permeate the air like a heatwave.
The annoying part of his mind thought that that’s all this was. A split decision made in joy. One that would bring pain later- but honestly, this wasn’t like him and Anne. He’d already said goodbye to this not working.
“ I' m supposed to be the one asking you.”
“I don’t know if we can- I mean, legally.”
“We won't know until we try.”
He sat down on the smooth tile floor and leaned his back against the metal wall. It was cool against his skin but not enough to quell the blush he felt all over his body. Eating someone’s head in front of his friends. Sure. Getting proposed to in secret in front of them? Somehow more embarrassing.
Well, no. Flustering not embarrassing.
Shaking his head didn’t do anything to clear it. It was sweet that Venom would ask- but, well he’d always thought Annie had been his one chance at something like marriage.
Aren’t we already like that, though? Aren’t you already committed to this? Mind, body, and soul?
“Yeah, when you put it like that- of course. I’ve died for you twice, love.”
And each time I pulled you back.
“Spending a week without me is enough to make you panic and pop the question, huh? I’d have taken a vacation sooner if I’d known.”
You are deflecting with humor.
His hands held in his lap didn’t hold any answers for him, no matter how long or hard he stared at them. His left hand still clenched so Venom couldn’t take back the ring. If he was honest, he knew where all his hesitation was coming from. What if Venom was taken from him again?
They couldn’t. They wouldn’t- Venom was the only reason they’d been able to undo the snap. They’d had the soul stone the whole time. If they put themselves out there. If they asked if they could make something happen within the law… well, it was likely there were people in their corner who would do whatever they could to make the request happen with the Earth’s governments.
Not to mention they knew a very good lawyer.
In front of his eyes, Venom formed- hands first, holding his in their massive grip. Black tendrils rose from his skin to flow into the hands as Venom’s form grew into its own distinct person- connected by their hands.
Oh my god, Venom was kneeling in front of him.
“Eddieeee.” Venom crooned.
He ducked his head to try and hide the intensifying blush, but it did nothing to deter Venom. “Eddie, Eddie come on, you have to answer meeee.”
“I love you, Venom. You know that.” Eddie lifted Venom’s hand and placed it against his face. He opened his hand to let Venom take the ring.
Venom moved his hand back to hold Eddie’s, the ring was held in his hands between black claws. “I’ll ask you properly, Edward-”
“Oh god, please don’t.”
“Fine, Eddie Brock, will you marry me?”
Tears leaked from his eyes as he laughed, his hands reaching to hold each side of Venom’s face. “Yes, Venom. I’ll marry you. You realize if we get married technically neither of us are going to be losers.”
“You’re still my loser.” Venom said, licking the side of his face. “My salty, salty loser.”
“Oh stop!” He was full blown laughing now.
“Mmm, nope. You’re tasty.”
“You’re supposed to put the ring on my finger now.”
“What if i just ate it instead?”
“The ring or the finger?”
Venom slid the ring back on to Eddie’s finger, where it had been moments before. The metal was dark, but shimmered in the light like oil. It felt smooth and warm against his finger’s.
“What is it made out of?”
“A metal that I don’t know the human word for.”
“Huh. Fancy that.” He pulled Venom forward and kissed him, not being very mindful of the way sharp teeth nicked human lips. Scratches would heal.
Kissing Venom was never much like kissing a human. Human lips had their limits, but the way Venom changed to fit Eddie- knowing exactly the kind of kiss he wanted. There was no describing it. It could be as hard and biting as anything or it could be light as a feather.
His back slid against the metal of the wall and Eddie forgot, for a moment, that they were on like the sixtieth floor of a building. For all he cared they could be flying.
Tendrils tickled around the skin of his neck and teased at the soft frills of skin hidden under the slashes there, making him squirm as he pulled Venom with him to the floor proper. Fuck it, they had just fixed the universe, they could make out on the floor like teenagers if they wanted to.
Besides, they weren’t going to take the thunder from Darcy- though he doubted hers would be the only proposal spurred on by the snap’s undoing. It would probably be a while before anyone came looking for them in the celebration.
He thought wrong.
“Oh my god, are you guys, like, fucking? Really? In front of my salad?”
“You spend too much time on the internet. And no, this is just making out, Stark. Also I doubt you’ve ever eaten a salad in your life.”
“Ugh, can we eat him? He’s interrupting our post-engagement plans.”
“Okay, but it is my floor- did you say engagement? Huh. Love finds a way, I guess.”
“It’s life finds a way, nerd.”
“Don’t call me nerd like you have some upper hand getting dry humped on my floor!”
“I ate Thanos and I can eat you too, don’t test me.” Eddie let his head fall to thunk against the floor. “What do you want?”
“Darcy wanted celebratory selfies, and for some reason, Annie and Dannie didn’t volunteer to go and find you two,” Stark said, valiantly looking anywhere but at Eddie.
He drew his lips back in a snicker, “Oh man, they played you. They knew exactly what we were doing up here.”
“Wait- ugh, at least let me leave.”
Stark turned on his heel and walked off, muttering about floors and floor cleaning robots and children. Venom started to laugh before he finished turning the corner.
“You’re awful, he really thinks we’re gonna fuck right here on the floor now.”
“Maybe if you say please.”
If Eddie looked smug upon his return to the party, nobody noticed, though Tony was pointedly not noticing.
“I have something you’re going to love.” Eddie said, curling his fingers through the lazy blob on his shoulder. Venom’s purr was instant- curiosity apparent in the hum of their bond. Neither of them spoke on the way through the halls. Friday didn’t say anything as Eddie entered the elevator and pointed to the top. A soft ding sounded it’s arrival to the roof without any fanfare.
He didn’t feel the bottom of his stomach fall out as he walked to the edge. All he felt was warmth that wound through his bones like vines around a trellis.
The glittering buildings of New York spread out beneath them like the ocean. Light glimmered off of windows to reflect stars and beams. Theirs was not the only party taking place tonight. Color bounced off buildings like notes in a song sung by a million rescued souls.
There would be thousands of hangovers tomorrow.
But who cared about that when you could live for tonight?
“Let’s go higher.”
“Yeah, you’ve got us if we fall. Which we won’t.”
Black twisted from his skin and solidified over his bones, they scaled the rods on the top of the tower to the very top. It wasn’t the tallest building in New York, but it was the one they had. One day, maybe he’d climb the tallest one just to show Venom the view.
This is your home.
“One of them,” Eddie agreed.
I’m glad we saved this planet.
“And I’m glad this planet saved you.”
The planet didn’t do that. You did.
The stars were all the company they needed up here, aside from each other. The stars and the wind winding through the streets below.
What is it?
“I don’t want to leave. I know San Francisco is really all you’ve known of Earth until now, but being in New York again- meeting Peter and his family. Part of me wants to stay.”
What about Anne and Dan?
“We could always visit them. Or live here in the summer and there in the winter.”
Like old people?
They laughed, the cold air at the top of the tower filling their lungs and leaving in a puff of vapor. It was quiet up here. The kind of quiet that undercut the soft, distant sounds of the city and reminded him the world was alive. A place like this was never really quiet. In San Francisco, there were places you go go and look into the sky and the noise would fade away. New York was a constant companion.
Maybe that’s another reason why he adjusted so well to Venom cohabitating in his body.
Warmth spread through his bones again.
He leaned his head back against the spire they’d climbed. It was probably a radio antenna or something of the sort but Stark had designed it aesthetically with metal that Venom could stick to it with ease. Their mind wandered to other things, maybe Spider-Man did something like this to gather his thoughts, maybe Flash would too.
Flash was another issue.
He couldn’t help but feel protective of the teenager, and Venom growled his agreement. Anne would probably be able to help them get Flash emancipated, and if that didn’t work they could always suck it up and ask Tony for help.
Avi is good.
“Yeah, yeah he is- hasn’t eaten anyone’s head yet.”
They had you from the start to tell them what they needed.
“Not really, we didn’t find out about him until after the snap- I can’t help but feel like we should have looked, should have broken into the Life Foundation and made sure they didn’t have anything else. We’ll have to go back eventually- make sure Avi doesn’t have any siblings that are still trapped there.”
Yes. Venom agreed solemnly.
“I won’t let him go back to his father- not if that’s what he doesn’t want. He helped save the world and there’s people in his corner. Do you think he knows?”
He has Avi, of course he knows that he has someone in his corner. Always.
“You’re a sap.”
So are you.
They wrapped their arms over their chest against the chill of the night air. Neither of them thought that children would be a thing that would happen anytime soon- especially when they didn’t know where to begin finding hosts for them- but that would only be a problem if they had any more.
They were lucky it was Flash that Avi had chosen, and not someone who would have taken advantage of him. Like, god forbid, some corrupt scientist that had probably been in the same room during the snap. That thought was quickly pushed from their head before they could go down a dark path of what-if.
Speaking of corruption, he still had an article or two to write. Now that he thought about it, he'd never finished the article on that serial killer that was due almost a week ago. Ugh, that sounded like a lot of writing to do; maybe he’d just forget about that one in order to write the story of how the snap had been undone.
All of that could wait though. Tonight, he was happy being back with Venom. They would figure out what they wanted to do with their life later. He knew one thing, they couldn’t go back to the way things were before. They were known to S.H.I.E.L.D. and other superheros now. They had missed their chance to go back to eating the occasional drug lord and minding their own business.
I leave for a week and you become an Avenger.
“Ugh, don’t say that. I’m going to claim teamship with the Guardians. You’re an alien so we apply.”
Don’t think that’s how that works.
You could be both.
“Don't even joke about that .”
“When, exactly, were you planning on telling us you got engaged?” Anne asked with her hands on her hips.
He coughed, “What?” Eddie looked at Venom, like he was the one who blabbed even though Eddie would have been there if he had. “Who told you? We were keeping it secret so Darcy didn’t get outshined!”
Tony gestured to him over a pint of ice cream, “Oh, so we’re all just supposed to not notice the ring on your finger?”
Annie cocked one of her hips to the side and pointed at him. A universal sign that they were both in deep shit.
“That’s my cue to leave,” Tony said, swiping his phone off the counter and high-tailing it out of there.
“Coward!” Eddie yelled.
“Who’s a coward?” Scott said, entering the room, reading it, and then turning around and walking right back out the door.
“Everyone here apparently,” Anne muttered, rolling her eyes.
Pepper stood gracefully, “Be kind to them, Anne. Few are prepared to face the wrath of a woman head on.”
“Oh no, you’ve been introduced, the world is doomed,” Eddie deadpanned.
“You’re just digging yourself a deeper hole,” Anne said.
“Gonna see if I can get to the other side if I dig fast enough.” Eddie said, switching tracks, “Aren’t you happy for us, Annie! You’re our number one supporter aren’t you?”
“Oh no you don’t,” Annie said, though her hold on her anger was visibly strained.
Venom formed a mouth on the blob laying over her shoulders, looking up at Anne with imploring eyes. “Annie, Annie aren’t you happy for us?”
She sighed, “Goddammit, yes! I am happy for you. You stupid loser idiots.”
Small victory, but a victory all the same. One that he took with a hug and a smile. Judging by the amount of giggling she was doing as Venom wrapped around to hug her neck, she wasn't really all that mad. The common room floor was mostly empty aside from them now; only Pepper and Tony had been indulging in an early brunch. Eddie was having a late breakfast.
His waffles were definitely cold now.
Not that cold waffles ever stopped Venom before, they probably wouldn’t stop him now. To test the theory, he threw one of them over his shoulder and never heard it hit the floor. Which was good, Stark really didn’t need another reason to yell at them about the floors.
Darcy entered the room and made a beeline for him. “I have to hear from Scott Lang of all people that you and Venom got engaged! From Scott! Not even from my own brother?”
“Darcy please, we were trying to let you have your moment, and for fucks sake, Friday announce it to everyone if you must. I expect we’ll have Dan run in a few minutes anyway. Might as well beat him to the punch.”
“Understood, Mr. Brock.” Friday’s voice chimed from the ceiling. “Attention heroes of Earth and the Universe, Eddie Brock and the Venom symbiote are engaged to be married. That is all.”
He was going to die and his friends were going to kill him. Slowly. With embarrassment.
Darcy kindly waited for Friday to finish blasting his personal business to the tower before continuing. “Fuck my moment! I was a political science major. We’re gonna have to do some serious hobnobbing to get interspecies marriage legalized in the next few years. Oh this is going to be so much fun, I’ve been collecting blackmail material on people for years. We have to strike while the iron is hot from you two saving the universe and shit. Oh man, I’m so excited.”
The elevator dinged, and about half a dozen people fell out of it trying to get out first. “We heard that there was another engagement to celebrate-” Thor said, flipping his cape so that it was no longer falling in front of his face from his spot on the floor.
Ava lounged back from her spot on top of half a dozen superheros looking very much the queen she was. Her ghosting power probably had a lot to do with why she ended up on top of the pile. “Congrats, I guess we can call him Venom Brock now.”
Darcy clapped her hands and looked around, “Where’d Pepper go? I need her big beautiful sexy brain.”
“Stop seducing Pepper, Darcy, you have your own beautiful spitfire.”
“Yes, yes, and she’s busy beating someone over the head right now I’m sure.”
“Nah, it’s early yet,” Eddie offered. “She’s probably still scheduling who needs a beating.”
“No,” Darcy said, “I’m thinking on it more and you’re right. This is definitely an all hands on deck puzzle. Eddie! Get writing, you’re going to publish what happened on your site, right? Might as well get some opinion pieces attached. Let everyone know just how the universe got around to being saved.”
“Love and stubbornness?” Eddie asked.
Love and stubbornness. Venom echoed.