He wonders if Flit’s sudden teleportation makes the Negative Spirit sick, too, if it can get sick. And then, immediately afterwards, when it sets in, he wonders why the fuck - where the fuck - what the fuck—
She lets go of his arm, but her other arm lingers over Rita’s, intimate, until Rita herself pulls away, scoffs, clutches her stomach. “Flit,” she says. “Where are we?”
“San Fran,” says Flit, smiling wide. “Duh.”
“And why, exactly, have you brought us to San Francisco?”
California, Larry thinks. This is where he resided, before the accident, before his life shattered and reformed. Replenished, he now knows, but it still hurts, and part of him thinks about visiting his children, if they’re still—
“Larry said he - and I quote - ‘just wants a break from it all’, so well, here we are. Here’s your break, Larry.”
Larry sighs. Sharp. “I meant from the Negative Spirit, Flit, not Ohio.”
Her bright smile twists into a sad expression, and Larry regrets his words immediately; she was only trying to help, she was only trying to give him what he wanted, and despite the pain that surrounds this area, he should be grateful.
“It’s fine,” he says, attempting to make things better, to get himself out of the deepening hole of fuckery he’s buried himself in since this began. “Don’t be upset. We can, uh… stay, for a while. It’s nice.”
“Larry, you can’t seriously be—”
Rita rolls her eyes, stops mid-sentence. Of course he is serious. Of course.
“Look,” Larry says, moving in to a whisper. “Why not? We do need a break.”
“But what if I—”
“Yes, what if I ‘blob’. I don’t want to ruin another town.”
“You won’t,” he says. “You’re not the same person you were when that happened. Trust me.”
Rita groans. “Fine,” she says. Reluctant. “ Fine. What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know,” says Flit. “Kinda hungry.”
He’s trying to read his fucking newspaper, and he can’t even do that in peace.
Whatever. It’s not like there’s anything particularly interesting today; surprisingly, the only news reports are, for once, positive, which seems to have pissed Venom off. No bad guys to track down, no bad guys to eat. Ugh. Can something interesting happen? He’s not sure if he’s feeling Venom’s impatience or his own, but it is - overwhelming. It’s been days of silence, and he really enjoys having a liver, so. Something needs to happen.
Eddie, hot chocolate.
“What? It’s like 80 degrees out.”
Go into the Starbucks.
We are going into the Starbucks whether you like it or not.
They are going into the Starbucks whether Eddie likes it or not.
The barista takes one look at Larry and legitimately laughs, because of course she does, makes an overly enthusiastic comment about Larry trying on his Halloween costume a few months early, and what is he even supposed to be, anyway?
Until he says that he wears the bandages for medical reasons. That stiffens her. She looks down at the counter as she takes their order; a large black iced coffee for Flit, four chicken paninis for Rita. Nothing for Larry, because he doesn’t feel like killing everyone around him.
“ And after that,” Rita whispers to him, “you still insist on staying?”
So can we talk, or are you going to keep avoiding it?
No? I don’t?
You haven’t been with anyone since you met me—
“No, we are not talking about that,” Eddie says. It’s verbal, a roar and whimper; everyone else in the room is staring at him now, whispering to one another. He undoubtedly looks out of his mind, which isn’t far from the truth, because they are not going to have The Talk. Not here, not in a Starbucks, not at home, not ever.
Yes, we are. I can tell that it is upsetting you. And—
He feels something poke at his neck, turns to find Venom’s eyes and teeth hovering over his shoulder. Venom hisses. He’s staring at something on the other side of the room. Something is bothering him, but:
You can’t do that in public.
Because someone is gonna see you and freak out. Go back in.
Fine. Venom retracts into his body. Over there.
A tentacle sticks out, points across the room, to a table in the far back. Two women, one… man? The back of his head is completely white—-no, wait, are those bandages? Eddie takes in the full sight: he’s completely wrapped in bandages. Something inside of him is screaming this is not normal, and for once, that thing isn’t Venom.
“Looks like trouble,” he says, and finally. “What do I do, just… what, sit down with them and wait for the bandage guy to do something evil?”
If I let you eat him, will you promise to never bring it up again.
“How’s your chicken, Rita?”
Larry has a lot of regret.
Some of those regrets include love, some of those regrets include the Negative Spirit, and some of them include bravery—
but his most prominent one at the moment involves letting Flit take them to San Francisco and staying in San Francisco. There is so much emotion buried in California; he cannot bear it, feels like he’s suffocating. The accident, his final move with his wife and children before the accident, everything—
“No,” he says. “Not here.”
“Um,” Eddie whispers in alarm, leaning forward in his seat. The hot chocolate burns his tongue. “His chest is glowing.”
I can see that.
The man pulls his inappropriately thick coat over his chest, but Eddie can still see the light, faint and blue, pulsing, inhuman.
Go over there.
Eddie obeys, always obeys, stands up shakily and moves towards the group - slow, cautious, but he’s still moving. The light intensifies. It’s like there’s something inside of him—
One woman gasps upon seeing him, hides her face in her hands instantly. The bandaged man places a comforting hand on her shoulder—- Venom, I think you might have gotten this one wrong—- just wait —- and the other woman looks up at him, clenches her teeth.
“Who the fuck are you?”
“Hammerhead, don’t,” says the man—
“Shut up, Larry.”
Oh. Oh, no. Eddie feels something touch his waist. You think his voice is hot. It slithers down, tugs at the waistband of his jeans, and recoils instantly after Eddie feels his face begin to burn. You like it.
“Sorry about that,” he—Larry—-says. “Can I help you?”
Venom is right; he does have a nice voice, deep yet soft, like honey, like every beautiful noise in nature—
God. Yeah. It has been a while, hasn’t it? Venom was right.
“I was just,” he says, “um—” Tell him he has a nice voice. No. No, are you crazy? “I just… are you okay?”
“I saw your chest, and—”
“I told you, Larry, I told you this was a bad idea—”
The glowing immediately stops.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Larry says. “Leave me alone.”
“I literally just saw your chest glow.”
“No, you didn’t.”
Eddie pulls a chair over to their table, sits down.
Venom pulls a chair over to their table. Eddie sits down. This is not going to end well.
“You sick, or something?”
I am sick, Larry thinks. But.
“Okay,” says Hammerhead, standing up. “It’s time for you to go.” She grabs him by the shirt, raises a fist...
“Uh, Venom, a little help—”
“Who the fuck are you talking to?”
An appendage manifests from his back and pushes her into the table, and—
“Oh, God,” Larry says. He stands up, and grabs Hammerhead by the arm. Eddie blinks; Larry is soaked in iced coffee, his bandages now brown and wet. “Shit. Flit, take me to my room, now. ”
Eddie picks up a napkin from a nearby table. He reaches over and begins to rub his hands, awkwardly, over the bandages, muttering shit. Subtle, Eddie. Fuck.
“Get off of me.”
“No! It’s fine, I’m sorry, it’ll come out if I just—”
“Don’t talk to Flit.”
“Flit, if you don’t take me to my room right now these people are going to die.”
“Huh? No, it’s not that bad—”
“I don’t control that, asshole—- hey. ”
And there’s darkness.
Darkness, and nausea, and—
They’re not in Starbucks anymore. He’s in a room—-small, slightly claustrophobic—-and his hand is still on Larry’s arm.
“Okay, we just teleported,” Eddie says, swallows, nervous. “Okay.”
“No. No, no, no. Oh. God. No—”
“Are you okay?”
“Listen to me,” Larry says, but he’s backing away, ducking into a corner, “uh—”
“Eddie, you need to leave---wait, you can’t, if you open the door the radiation will leak out and—”
“I don’t have time to explain, but I don’t know what to do—”
“Uh. Venom. I—- We—- we are immune to radiation, right? You can stop that from killing me, right?”
Larry is so perplexed by the statement that he freezes in shock, and moves toward Eddie, like an instinct. Or perhaps something more, says Venom, back of his mind, maybe he—
“Apparently I am immune to radiation,” Eddie says. “Why are we talking about radiation?”
“Who is Venom?”
Eddie takes a deep breath in, exhales, and each movement feels like a blade. He’s really going to tell Larry, isn’t he? Yes, he is.
“So, I kind of have an alien using my body as a host. You probably think that’s crazy, but that’s what knocked Hammerhead down, so…”
Larry stiffens, again. “Is it kind of… transparent and electric?”
“No, he’s more… tentacle, and—” he pauses. “Wait. Why?”
“The reason I wear these—” Larry gestures to the bandages, “—is because I’m lethally radioactive. They… hold in the radiation and allow me to leave this room, which is radiation-proof and keeps the rest of the manor from… well. Dying. When the coffee spilled on me, bandages got messed up, and the radiation began to leak out.”
You want him. I can tell.
You’d be his first. Do you think he knows any other people he can touch without killing?
“I am radioactive because I have…”
Larry’s head tilts to the floor. Eddie can tell he’s choosing his next words carefully, running over the sentences in his mind.
“I have my own… guest.”
“Oh,” Eddie says. “Huh.”
Did you know about this?
“So, what are you going to do about it?”
Larry shrugs. “I guess I have to change my bandages.”
“Okay. Don’t let me stop you.”
He begins to unwrap his arms, but—
“Do you mind?”
“Oh,” Eddie says, covering his eyes. “Yeah, sorry.”
He can’t help himself, though. Eddie peeks through his fingers, expects to find — anything that isn’t what he’s actually seeing, which is an arm that seems to be covered entirely in third degree burns.
Not to sound horrible, but I don’t think that’s sexy.
You do not?
Then why do you feel aroused?
No, Venom, I do not get off to burn victims.
You like his voice. You want him to talk to you. Inappropriately.
“I do not want--- no. Shut up. ”
Oh. Fuck. He said that out loud.
“Sorry. Not talking to you.”
You want to hear him moan.`Like this....
I hate you sometimes.
No you don’t.
You’re right, I don’t.
Something boils within him. He shifts, covers his disturbing — Problem — with his hands. God, Jesus—-he can’t leave the room, he can’t do anything, and he’s pretty sure he’s not even in California anymore, so, essentially, he’s fucked, and not in the way he wants to be. Larry is going to notice, and then he is going to Die.
I won’t let you die.
Not what I meant.
“Ugh,” Larry says, and Eddie expects to get yelled at, but: “Some of it got on my face. Just… hold on for a second, and then we’ll call Flit and get her to take you back.”
“Okay,” Eddie responds, and immediately regrets doing so; his voice sounds strained, afflicted, and—-
fuck, Larry is staring at him now, his head half-bare, half-wrapped, and he definitely notices.
“Can we please just… pretend like this isn’t happening.”
Larry’s eyes shut, tighten. This isn’t happening; it’s been decades since anyone has seen him bare, open. It has also been decades since anyone has had this kind of reaction to seeing him bare and open.
Part of him wants to give in. It has been so long since has touched another person, it has been so long since he has felt intimacy, and he craves it, a death to his loneliness—
The other part of him—-the logical part of him—-wants to run.
There is nowhere he can run. Not in an un-bandaged state; he is stuck.
Larry continues unwrapping himself, tugs at the bandages around his lips and nose, peels them off like shedding a past-life touch starvation…
Eddie is moving toward him. Larry feels like prey, momentarily, and then realizes that the feeling is anticipation, nothing like fear.
“This is stupid,” says Eddie, and Larry can feel his heart race, can feel himself open up—- truly open up.
“It’s not stupid.”
“No, it is. It is! Because—”
“I don’t mind,” Larry says, like his body has its own mind and that mind is set on betrayal—- he needs to run, needs to get away, this isn’t happening—- his words and body overpowered by yearning, this isn’t like him—-
but they continue to move towards one another, an enchanting pull, magnetizing, until Eddie has two hands on each side of Larry’s face and they’re kissing, holding one another with a force that is gentle yet influenced by hunger, it has been so long— -for both of them—-so long—-
“On second thought,” says Larry, his rigidity unraveling for this man—-this man he just met, what is he thinking—- “you can stay.”