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A Flower for Your Smile

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Eddie came to a halt in his writing, frowning at Flash’s laptop. There was a word for this, he knew. It was in his brain, somewhere. Tip of his tongue.

Love, a little help?

He could feel his other rummaging around his head. It would be a disorienting feeling, were it not for their bond. As it was, the curious curl of his symbiote’s tendrils on his synapses felt as natural as breathing. Not that he needed to breathe, with his other around, but—

Ubiquitous.

“Thanks, darling,” Eddie grinned, typing out the word. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Flash confusedly perk up in his seat on the couch, only to slump back down as the veteran realized Eddie wasn’t talking to him. The journalist’s gaze flicked fully to Flash, brow furrowing. The other man knew the symbiote. Knew Eddie pretty well, at this point. He normally wasn’t surprised by Eddie talking aloud to his other.

Flash fidgeted in his seat, staring pensively at an empty corner of the apartment.

Abandoning his latest article to alleviate the distraction, Eddie leaned on his hand. “You alright there, Thompson?”

Flash turned to him, surprised. “Huh?”

“Last we checked, watching the wall wasn’t quite as engaging as, say, your television,” Eddie commented, indicating the football match that Flash had supposedly been watching.

“Oh.” The veteran glanced at the game, but ultimately shrugged. “Nah, just...Getting used to the new place, I guess. Feels a little empty.”

Eddie hummed, looking from the same empty corner Flash had been staring at, to the rest of their Philly apartment. They’d managed to get a couple posters of Flash’s up on the walls, but said walls were otherwise largely bare. The veteran had a few picture frames, too, of friends and family. Old trophies. Knick-knacks. It wasn’t completely devoid of decoration, but as Eddie and his other had no keepsakes to contribute, he could see what the veteran meant when he said the space felt empty.

Flash sighed through his nose, trying to focus on the game.

“What would you get to fill it?” Eddie asked curiously.

“Fill it?” Flash turned back to the older man.

“The apartment,” Eddie clarified.

“I dunno,” Flash pursed his lips as he thought. “I’m not like, an interior designer or anything. It just feels…” he frowned at the walls. Then the empty space along the kitchen counter.

“Barren?” Eddie suggested.

“Kinda?” the veteran tilted his head to the side, as if the angle would help.

Eddie followed Flash’s gaze, taking in the plain, beige walls. They weren’t bad—not nearly as depressing as some of the places he’d stayed in with his other.

Still sad-looking, the symbiote observed. Not homey.

“It’s not very inviting,” the journalist settled on, agreeing.

“Yeah!” Flash perked up again. “It needs like, flowers or something, right? Home stuff.”

“You want flowers?” Eddie asked, mildly surprised.

“Sure, something to brighten up the place,” Flash elaborated, leaning on the arm of the couch. “I can’t take care of flowers for shit, though.”

There is a flower shop on the way back from your office, the symbiote pointed out to Eddie, briefly flashing an image of the storefront in his mind.

“We could pick up a variety that doesn’t require much maintenance,” he told Flash.

“Or, better idea,” Flash grinned deviously, “ You could take care of them.”

Eddie shot him a deadpan glare. “I’m no botanist either. Besides, you’re the one that wants them.”

“Maybe it’d be therapeutic,” Flash continued grinning. “Give you something to take care of that isn’t the symbiote. Make the apartment more inviting and be a big plus for everybody’s mental health! Win-win!”

Eddie rolled his eyes, returning his gaze to the laptop screen.

Could get something pretty, Eddie!

“God, not you, too,” the journalist groaned, shutting his eyes.

“Convince him, bud!” Flash laughed.

“Absolutely fucking not. I take it back. We aren’t any getting flowers.”


 

Eddie found himself standing in front of the flower shop, legs frozen in place by the symbiote, even as he glared at their reflection in the glass door.

Please, Eddie! Look how pretty they are!

“Why do you even want flowers?” he grumbled to his other, hands shoved firmly in his coat pockets. He said no. They weren’t going in there. Absolutely not.

Would help your mental health, the symbiote argued. And Flash wants some.

“Oh, I see,” Eddie sneered. “This is all for Flash, isn’t it?”

Would make you both happy! it argued, even as Eddie rolled his head petulantly to the side. You like seeing Flash happy!

Eddie’s jaw clenched. He couldn’t argue against that. Not anymore. The veteran would give him no end of grief for caving, but Flash would probably laugh through it all. Smile more, too.

You want to!

His legs moved unbidden, and Eddie protested valiantly as he was steered inside the flower shop. The little bell on the door rang gently, though the man nearly stumbled as his other relinquished control back to him. The journalist looked over the many tables of flowers with a discomfited grimace. Rows and rows of flowers, most of which he didn’t even know the names of, stood brightly in multitudes of colors.

He had to admit, they were pretty.

With a soft, resigned sigh, he stepped forward into the shop, eyes searching for something he recognized. Something small. Simple. Easy to take care of, especially if Flash was going to insist that Eddie be the one to water the damn things. As he recognized a few varieties—roses, tulips, lilies—he hesitated.

What kind would Flash even want?

No, wait.

He wasn’t getting these for Flash, he was getting them for the apartment . As a whole. Not specifically for Flash.

We should get him roses.

God, no,” Eddie hissed.

Yes! his other insisted. Red roses!

“That’s for lovers,” Eddie whispered harshly, scowling at the offending flowers.

Aren’t you lovers?

“No!” Eddie blurted out, shrinking some as he caught the eye of the cashier. He turned his head away, keeping his voice down. “We’re not—We’re just sleeping together, it’s not…” His eyes narrowed as a small pang of pain rippled through his chest, that he knew wasn’t coming from his other. He ignored it. Willed it away. “It’s just sex. It’s not romantic. Roses are...too much.”

The symbiote wriggled somewhere around his stomach, disgruntled. But Eddie, you like Flash.

Eddie’s fingers brushed the phone in his coat pocket, almost tempted to text the veteran and just ask what kind of flowers he wanted. That question, though, would send a message that Eddie in no way wanted to convey. In his other pocket, his hand clenched into a fist as he muttered, “Don’t remind me.”

“Excuse me, sir?”

Eddie startled, turning to the florist that had suddenly appeared by his side. She was young, hair tied back in a simple ponytail, which swayed to the side as she canted her head and smiled. “Can I help you find something?”

“I, uh…”

Get something, Eddie, his other urged. Even if it’s not roses.

“...Yeah,” Eddie nodded to her. “I’m not sure what to look for.”

“Are you looking for a bouquet for someone special?” she asked.

The journalist stiffened.

We are, the symbiote mentally nudged.

“Yes?” Eddie said, and instantly regretted it.

“Okay,” the girl continued to smile, entirely unbothered. “Do you know if they have a favorite type of flower?”

“...No,” Eddie admitted, now regretting not asking when he and Flash had discussed all this in the apartment. That would have been the perfect time. Nothing awkward about it, in the context of getting flowers for their place of residence.

Now, though. Now it would be weird, after Eddie had been so firm about not getting any.

Especially now that he was buying a damn bouquet.

“That’s fine,” the florist chuckled. “We have plenty of beautiful varieties—What about a favorite color?”

Flash likes purple.

“Purple?” Eddie repeated.

“Great!” the florist chirped, leading Eddie over to another section. “We have some lovely purple hyacinths in stock, or you could go with carnations—They're good for people with pollen allergies.” She gestured to another vase, the flowers in it sporting deep, purple petals with spots of yellow. “Or, if you're looking for something fancier, we have some irises.”

Help,’ Eddie pleaded.

The irises are nice.

“I’ll take these,” Eddie told the florist, indicating the irises.

“Okay, and how many would you like in the bouquet?” she asked. “Just a regular dozen?”

“Yeah, that should...That should work,” Eddie agreed. ‘ Right? ’ He couldn’t remember buying any flowers before now. At least, nothing more complicated than roses, for Anne, for Valentine’s Day. He could get those bouquets from street vendors. He didn’t have to think so much about it. This was so much more complicated than he thought it would be.

The florist picked out the irises, bringing them to the counter to wrap them up for him.

Could have gotten roses, the symbiote reminded him, still mildly irritated its other had vetoed the choice.

Roses mean something,’ he shot back, irritably, taking out his wallet. As he flipped through dollar bills, though, he paused.

All flowers meant something.

There was a whole language, devoted to flowers. Different bouquets, with different meanings.

He had no clue what irises were supposed to mean.

“Here we are,” the girl commented, finished with wrapping up the flowers.

“These...These mean something, in flower language, right?” Eddie fumbled. “What, uh…?”

“Oh, yes,” the florist confirmed. “Irises are the emblem of France, so you’ll see them primarily associated with that. They also can be a symbol for strong friendships, wisdom, valor—that sort of thing!” She began to ring up the transaction, asking, “Is this all for today?”

There was palpable relief in Eddie’s chest. Those were all safe meanings. Nothing romantic about them at all.

Fit Flash, too , his other noted.

“Yeah,” Eddie agreed, handing over his money. “That’s perfect.”


 

“Holy shit!” Flash laughed, immediately spotting the beautiful, bright purple flowers sitting in a simple vase on the kitchen counter. “I thought you said you weren’t gonna get any!”

“It’s just a bouquet,” Eddie grumbled, keeping his eyes on the book he’d been pretending to read for the past thirty minutes, too anxious about Flash’s arrival to comprehend any of the words. “They’ll end up dying.”

Flash rolled over to the kitchen counter, studying the irises with a curious gaze. “Yeah, true.” He smiled to Eddie, looking pleased. “They’re really pretty, though.”

The journalist tried not to let his eyes linger on Flash’s dimples, responding with a grunt.

“What’s that grunt mean?” Flash joked, grinning broadly.

Eddie narrowed his eyes at him, hardly aware of the black tendril that extended from his shirt sleeve.

The symbiote formed a face, grinning back at Flash. “We chose purple ones, for you.”

Flash regarded it with surprise. “Me?”

At that, Eddie’s heart-rate skyrocketed. “Just—! The florist wanted us to pick a color! You picked purple!” he explained in a rush, snarling at the symbiote.

To the journalist’s surprise, Flash looked thoughtful for a moment, and then smiled softly. “Thanks, sweetheart,” he told the klyntar.

As the symbiote chittered happily, Eddie huffed, resituating himself on the couch and focusing on his book.

“Thanks for buying them, Eddie.”

The journalist didn’t want to look up. Didn’t want to see if Flash was smiling at him again. Didn’t want to see if his expression was soft and heartfelt, like the way the veteran looked at the symbiote.

The way he didn’t look at Eddie.

“...You’re welcome,” Eddie muttered.


 

It didn’t take long for the irises to wither, though Eddie had hoped they would last longer. They did brighten up the place. The apartment did feel more welcoming. It was a small difference, but something about the flowers helped the place feel a little...happier.

That, and probably the quiet smile on Flash’s lips every time the veteran saw them.

So, when the irises started to lose their vibrant hue, Eddie resolved to buy more flowers. He opened the door to the shop himself this time, rather than getting piloted in by the symbiote. Still, he felt a nudge in his shoulders, directing him toward the section of multicolored roses.

No,” he hissed through his teeth.

Flash deserves roses!

“We aren’t even dating,” he whispered. “Stop it.”

Eddie… his other whined.

“No.”

This time, he’d done some research beforehand. Eddie pulled out his phone, bringing up the site he’d found with a summary of which flowers had which meaning. He wouldn’t have to worry about any misunderstandings, should Flash end up looking up flower language, too.

So, so many of them were for love.

Granted, they were all codes for Victorian-era flirting, which he was absolutely not trying to do. Never in a million years. They just needed something to replace the irises.

Could just tell Flash how you feel.

“You must be joking,” Eddie muttered, stepping over to a set of hyacinths. General association: Games and Sports. Rashness. They might work.

You want to do more than have sex with him, his other pointed out, irritation obvious in the way it slithered over his spine. Why not say so?

Eddie frowned at the specification for purple hyacinths (sorrow, please forgive me, I am sorry). “I can’t,” he stated firmly, wondering if he should try a different flower after all. “We’re...I’m on thin ice with him as-is.”

Why? He cares about you.

The journalist found himself unable to read the words on his phone screen, as he tried to think of an answer.

Flash cared. That was obvious now. He cared enough to keep them both safe—The symbiote, and Eddie, as a whole. He cared enough to try and help, not just for his old partner’s sake, but for Eddie, personally.

He’d done so much already, and yet all Eddie wanted was more.

More, more, more . Almost like his other’s hunger, in his own insatiability. More care, more affection, more of Flash’s attention, all for him.

He didn’t deserve it. He wasn’t sure he deserved all the assistance Flash was giving him now . He had no right to ask for more, even if he craved it.

“He wouldn’t want that, love,” Eddie whispered.

The symbiote was quiet, curled up in the back of his mind, sulking and sorting through the wave of feelings its host was unwillingly projecting.

He knew those feelings were upsetting it. He knew it was upset that he was sad. That he’d never admit that he was sad, not to anyone else.

But he was, and it hurt, and here he was in a flower shop buying flowers for a man who would never look at him the way he wanted.

Eddie ended up bringing back some red carnations, confident that Flash would never bother to learn what they meant.


 

Buying flowers for the apartment became some sort of habit, or tradition, that Eddie picked up. Flash wasn’t entirely sure why the man didn’t just buy some that could be potted, and take care of them the way they’d initially discussed, but the veteran didn’t really mind. Some weeks the flowers would be repeated—colors or varieties that Flash was beginning to recognize, like yellow tulips.

Other weeks, they would switch to some entirely different type. Purple heather, though Eddie maintained they were lavender, not purple. Or jonquils, Flash, not just daffodils, the distinction extremely important. All of the choices were seemingly according to Eddie’s mood. Whatever whim struck him, when he made his trip to the flower shop after a day at the office.

No matter which kind he bought, though, they were beautiful.

Flash enjoyed coming home and finding Eddie at the sink, replacing the water in the vase for a new bouquet. He enjoyed teasing the other man, about how Eddie had been so adamant about not buying any flowers, and now he was the official flower purchaser of the apartment. He enjoyed the blush that would spread over Eddie’s cheeks, defensive and determined to brush it off as no big deal. The way he’d argue, only to get caught taking tender care of the newest batch a few hours later.

Flash enjoyed the snarky banter. Snipes at each other that no longer held any heat. The way Eddie’s eyes lit up when Flash complimented each new bouquet. The soft smile on the older man’s lips, when he thought Flash wasn’t looking.

Mostly, Flash just enjoyed coming home, these days.


 

When they got back from their trip to New York, the gardenias on the kitchen counter were, predictably, dead. Eddie wanted to go out, to replace them, but Flash held onto him. Pulled him back into the apartment, luring him with a kiss.

A kiss which, for once, didn’t lead to anything more than holding each other. Clinging, all of them—Flash, Eddie, and symbiote—grateful to be alive. To be home. Together.


 

“Oh, wow,” Flash breathed, staring openly at the gorgeous group of tulips. Some were a pure red, or yellow. Others had stripes of other colors, striking and different from the batches Eddie had brought home before. The bouquet was also decidedly larger, and Eddie arranged it carefully in the vase.

“Wanted something bold,” he told Flash. Off-handedly, as a tendril reached out to correct the position of one of the flowers, he commented, “I know purple carnations apply personally, darling, but this one isn’t about that.”

Flash huffed a laugh. “Purple carnations?”

Eddie flushed, finishing up with the bouquet. “...it’s nothing.”

“Eddie,” Flash chuckled. “C’mon.”

“Don’t worry about it,” the journalist maintained, turning to Flash with a nervous glance. “Well?”

Flash knew by now what he was asking for. “They’re gorgeous,” he acknowledged with a grin. “Good pick. Now,” he curled a finger in Eddie’s direction, “C’mere.”

Eddie approached him dutifully, kneeling next to Flash’s wheelchair with a proud smirk on his lips.

The veteran cupped Eddie’s cheeks, grinning wider as the symbiote wrapped a tendril around his wrist. “You gonna start bringing me flowers on date nights?” he asked Eddie, leaning in close for a kiss.

Eddie hummed, kissing back before answering, “We can, if you want.”

“Buy ‘em for me, instead of the apartment,” Flash snickered, rubbing his thumb over the shell of Eddie’s ear.

There was a look in the journalist’s eye that Flash couldn’t quite place, but he didn’t have the time to ponder over it—Eddie leaned in again, one hand cradling the back of Flash’s head, keeping him in place as the journalist kissed him breathless.


 

“I dunno, coach,” Andi sighed, tapping away at her phone as she walked next to Flash. “This is Eddie we’re talking about.”

“Andi, it’s just...a thing he does,” Flash explained, frowning at the girl. “He started it ages ago. They’re just a decoration.”

She shot him a deadpan stare. “You said the bouquets were getting bigger.”

“Well, yeah,” Flash shrugged, turning his gaze to the sidewalk ahead of him. “He’s been learning more about flowers, I guess. I don’t think it’s some big conspiracy.”

“Again,” Andi rolled her eyes, “Eddie Brock. You seriously expect me to believe he wouldn’t take things just a smidge too far?”

“With flowers? ” Flash scoffed. “How would he even—? Okay, yeah, maybe he’s a bit...How you kids would say, extra—”

Andi stopped walking, ignoring the other passersby whose gait she’d interrupted. She deadpanned Flash again, looking thoroughly unimpressed by the veteran’s knowledge of slang.

“...That’s not what the kids are saying anymore, is it?” Flash asked with a wince.

“It is not,” Andi confirmed, a smirk on her deep purple lips. “It’s okay, coach. You tried.”

“I did,” Flash sighed.

“Isn’t there like, a flower language or something?” Andi asked, resuming her walk-and-text. “What kinda stuff has he been getting?”

“Uh…” Flash pursed his lips, trying to think. There was some new type the older man had gotten that stuck in his mind. “...Zinnias, I think? That was one.”

Andi scrolled with her thumb, her brow furrowed. “...What color?”

The veteran threw a hand up, at a loss. “I don’t know, dark pink-ish?”

“You mean magenta?” Andi clarified with a snicker.

“Ugh, god,” Flash groaned. “You’re as bad as he is.”

“Gets grumpy when you get the color wrong, does he?” Andi grinned, scrolling again.

“I don’t know why he doesn’t just get purple,” Flash huffed. “He knows I like purple. But he’ll get like, white gardenias, instead.”

Andi paused as she scrolled, suddenly snorting.

Flash halted, looking back at her in askance.

The girl looked to him and immediately burst out laughing, doubling over and leaning on the edge of Flash’s wheelchair for support.

“What?” Flash demanded. “What did I say?!”

“Oh my god, coach—!” Andi cackled, trying to hold up her phone to him. “He’s even worse than I thought!”

The veteran regarded her with confusion, until he took her phone from her. On the screen was a website, with a cheat sheet for flowers and their meanings, alphabetically. He found gardenias, and his eyes widened as he read.

You're Lovely; Secret Love

“No way,” Flash stated.

“Yeah, way!” Andi laughed, tapping the edge of her phone. “Go on, look up the others!”

He did, rapidly scrolling through and latching onto the names he recognized. Magenta zinnias: Lasting affection. Red carnations: My heart aches for you.

“That—He’s—!” Flash spluttered. There had to be some mistake. All the flowers meant something flirty, right? It had to just be the flowers.

Then he read the entry for orange lilies. Hatred.

Eddie had never bought those. He never bought any of the flowers on the list that had negative meanings.

Further down the list were tulips. Beautiful eyes, for multicolors. A declaration of love, for red. There's sunshine in your smile, yellow.

Eddie bought yellow tulips, most often. They were sitting in a vase back home, at this very moment.

“I love these, the veteran recalled Eddie murmuring, brushing his lips against Flash’s dimples. “Love your smile. It’s like sunlight breaking through a cloudy day.

“That sneaky fucking bastard!” Flash shouted, causing Andi to burst into another bout of laughter. He took her hand, roughly shoving her phone back into her grasp. “C’mon, we’re going.”

“Wha— Where?” Andi asked, still grinning. “I thought you had to head home?”

“I have to stop somewhere, first.”


 

Eddie arrived home with the groceries to find Flash waiting for him, a large, elaborate bouquet in his hands. Despite the beautiful flowers, the veteran did not look remotely pleased. A little pissed off, even, if the narrowed eyes were any indication.

Eddie paused in the doorway, mentally questioning his other for a clue as to what he might have done that warranted both a glare and flowers.

The symbiote only responded with its own, questioning chirp.

“Hi,” Flash said flatly. “Welcome home.”

“...Hi,” Eddie responded uneasily, slowly shuffling to the kitchen counter to place the bag of produce down. “What’s, uh…” he gestured weakly to the bouquet. “What’s this?”

“They’re for you,” Flash explained, holding the gift out for him.

Eddie hesitated, tense and suspicious. Flash looked too mad for this to be a simple expression of affection. Something was wrong. “...You bought me flowers?”

“Yep,” Flash affirmed, still glaring. “The florist assured me that this mix means ‘I Love You, But Also Fuck You For Not Telling Me About the Secret Flower Messages.’”

At that, Eddie’s jaw dropped, gawking at the younger man.

He’d found out. Flash knew. All those little messages, everything Eddie had been too afraid to say, in the moment—Flash knew.

“How long were you doing it?” Flash questioned, waving a hand to the tulips on the counter. “You’ve been buying flowers for months!

“I..It didn’t start that way!” Eddie admitted in a panic. “I just—I couldn’t say a lot of it—”

“Why not?” Flash pressed. “You’re a writer! You love embarrassing me with words!”

“It was too soon!” Eddie argued, pointing at the tulips. “We weren’t dating yet! It would’ve been weird!”

Told you to just tell him,” the symbiote tittered, slithering across Eddie’s shoulders. It nudged its host cheek, and then tilted its head at Flash. “Said to get you roses.

God,” Flash groaned, running a hand over his face as he leaned back in his wheelchair.

With a wince, and another moment’s hesitation, Eddie ultimately approached the veteran. He took the bouquet from Flash, lips twitching into a smile. He could recognize some of the more negative flowers, but the primary ones—the focus of the bouquet was very clearly the I Love You bit of the message.

“You’re just absolutely—What’s the word?” Flash sighed emphatically, hand still over his eyes. “Annoying as hell. Starts with an i.”

Eddie let out a light chuckle, as his other wound down his arm to reach for Flash’s hand. Eddie followed suit, squeezing gently on Flash’s fingers, their hands wrapped together by symbiote. “...Insufferable, maybe?” he suggested warmly.

“That one,” Flash used his other hand to pull on Eddie’s shirt, bringing the older man down so he could press his forehead against Eddie’s. “You’re insufferable,” he said, fingertips scritching along the short hair on the back of Eddie’s neck.

The journalist couldn’t help but grin under the affection. “That so?” he murmured, leaning lower to peck Flash’s cheek. “I suppose I’m lucky that you’re so willing to suffer through my company.”

Flash rolled his eyes at him. “You’re just lucky you’re really, really hot.”

Eddie laughed quietly.

“And sweet,” Flash added, slowly smiling. He looked at Eddie with a soft expression, bemused and adoring, all at once. “...And thoughtful, really.”

Eddie melted under the gaze. “You like the flowers?”

Flash let out a huff of laughter, his cheeks tinged pink. “I love the flowers.”

The symbiote chittered between them. “Will keep buying you bouquets,” it assured, knowing Venom was entirely united on the promise.

“I already know which will be the focus of the next one,” Eddie declared, cupping Flash’s cheek with his free hand.

Flash leaned into the touch, beaming at him. “Oh yeah?”

“Roses,” Eddie grinned back. “Red ones.”