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When the Bones are Good

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There are a lot of habits Dan has gotten good at compartmentalizing away from his image as The Head of the ED. Most people aren’t exactly coming into the emergency room because they’re having a great day, and they certainly won’t feel at ease with a visibly anxious surgeon trying to calm them down.

It took years, but medical school and residency burned a lot of lessons into Dan that he still holds onto. In the emergency room, Dan stands up straight and keeps his voice calm and doesn’t really move anywhere without a purpose. He’s been called a stiff by his newer residents before they’ve been around long enough to adjust to his quirks.

Sitting in his office after his shift, though, Dan turns the lights off because they’re too bright, jiggles his leg, and presses his keys into his fingers to ground himself after the chaos of a 20-hours-on shift. It wasn’t hell, not quite; there were far more wins than losses, but that doesn’t mean he’s not tired and wildly overtaxed.

Eddie had dropped by the hospital to bring him dinner last night and gave him a look that said he could tell exactly how long of a day it’d been. Dan was grateful for it—for the understanding, the food, and the tight hug that came with both—but he’d only gotten to eat his dinner cold, two hours ago, standing in the breakroom under intense scrutiny from the nurses. For the most part, the newbies are too prim to ask outright what the whole deal is with Dr. Lewis and his fiancée’s ex, at least not where he can hear, but his veteran staff are giving Eddie looks.

They haven’t gotten to the point of being bold enough for outright questions, but he’s never exactly known his nurses to be shy. It’s only a matter of time.

Sighing in his office, Dan jiggles his keys—the copies of Anne and Eddie’s pressed into his palm—and makes himself stand. It’s still pretty early in the day, but unfortunately not enough for the sun to be respectably low in the sky. He smiles at his coworkers as he’s leaving, tries not to squint too obviously into the sunlight.

Dan’s place is closest to the hospital. That’s the whole reason he has it, but he’s spent so little time there lately that he can’t say with any confidence that the sheets are clean. Also, as tired as he is of the noise and bustle of the emergency department, the idea of trying to rest in the empty silence of his own home sounds… distinctly unappealing.

Anne will only just be getting out of court soon, as far as Dan knows, but Eddie should already be home researching his next target. For his news show, of course, because Dan carefully doesn’t think too hard about Venom being involved in Eddie’s line of work.

It’s been a good while since Dan has been afraid of Venom. Honestly, he got over it so quickly that he had to sit down and spend some time making sure he wasn’t intentionally blanking out any traumatic emotions. He’d rather quickly decided that Venom hurting him in panicked self-defense wasn’t exactly uncalled for, and that was all it’d taken for him to come around.

Venom had also done an admirable job of appearing non-threatening—or, well, as non-threatening as a carnivorous alien predator can be. Dan has to say, he has a hard time being scared of a head the size of a cat, blinking up at him for petting.

Case in point: when Dan unlocks the door, Eddie is already walking towards him, but Venom reaches out first, swelling out of Eddie’s shoulder to wrap gently around Dan’s neck. The weight makes his shoulders come down a fraction, relaxing. “Hey, darling.”

You’re tired,” Venom tells him as Eddie kisses him hello.

“Long shift,” he replies, turning to Venom, amused as always when his eyes squint shut to let Dan kiss his head. “Nothing major, just need some sleep.” He gets pleasant goosebumps when Eddie runs a hand through his hair, massages his nape.

“Lucky you, Anne bullied me into doing laundry last night,” Eddie replies, letting him go. Dan immediately misses the contact, but he can barely turn in time to keep from yawning right in Eddie’s face. “Your pajamas are, uh… in the basket, somewhere.”

Dan snorts a little, kissing him appreciatively. The negotiated terms for keeping chores done have their limits, but he’ll settle for clean if slightly wrinkled clothes to sleep in. He does find a pair of his own pants, but doesn’t bother splitting hairs about whose t-shirt—it’s Eddie’s, Dan has never intentionally listened to Led Zeppelin—he’s wearing when he’s at home.

The fact that he calls Eddie’s apartment home is not new but still sends joy pulsing through him. He’s home anywhere his lovers are. Lovers also sends a jolt of joy through him, but he’s slowly getting used to it.

Eddie’s bed has clean sheets even if they’re never actually made up, but Dan isn’t going to be precious about something like that. He’s tired and he can hear the low rumble of Venom’s voice from the other room and smell Anne’s shampoo on the pillow. There’s a heart-clenching swelling of love in his chest before he drops off to sleep.

-

Dan eases back into the waking world to the sound of Anne’s laughter and the smell of cooking food. He’s still half-asleep, and will probably go right back to sleep after he eats something, but he does spare a dazed moment to think his life is really, really great.

Rolling out of bed into the dark bedroom, Dan scrubs at his eyes as he makes his way to the bathroom before he steps out into the warm light of the living area.

The kitchen is in the kind of narrowly-controlled disarray it always is when they let Venom help with the cooking. Eddie is leaning against the counter just taking up space, smiling at Anne as she lets Venom wrap around her wrist now that he’s done chopping.

Muzzy with sleep, Dan feels a little like he’s staring at a dream. He gets caught up in the flirty twist of Eddie’s mouth and the gash of darkness where Venom is wrapped around Anne’s wrist. They’re both barefoot and soft-looking, happy in each other’s presence and they look good together. Dan is a lucky man, is what he thinks immediately. He’d been worried at first, back when, but there’s still no jealousy, just… compersion, there’s a five-dollar word.

Even just seeing them leaves him all wrapped in love and happiness at the idea that this is his life.

“Something smells good,” he says as he goes to join them.

“Hey, hon!” Anne says, Venom slipping off her arm to let her come forward and greet him with a kiss. “How was work?”

Dan lets himself be ushered into a chair as they fold him into the conversation. Anne sits with her knee pressed against his while Eddie and Venom handle doling out the food. He’s still a little tired, but they chat about their days over dinner, all happily ignoring when Venom winds up with the lion’s share of the potatoes off everyone’s plate.

There’s nothing particularly special about tonight. But Dan is again, and surely not for the last time, caught up in the thought that he wants this to be the rest of his life.

“Dan looks like he’s thinking big thoughts,” Eddie comments with a smirk, drawing Dan out of his musings.

“I was thinking about getting you a ring,” Dan replies, without thinking at all, actually.

The complete silence he gets in response clues him in that maybe that hadn’t been the line of thinking the others had been following. He lifts his head to find Anne and Eddie both staring at him wide-eyed.

“A ring for me?” Eddie clarifies.

Dan hadn’t really meant to spit it out like that, but, well… “Yeah,” he says, looking over at Anne who is—maybe a little surprised, but not appalled, so that’s good. “Yeah, I would like that,” he repeats more firmly, turning back to the awe-struck look on Eddie’s face. “I know it won’t make honest men of us, but I can at least say I tried if my parents ask.”

Anne laughs when Eddie’s eyebrows skyrocket. “Well, I guess that’s fair,” she says, smile softening as she reaches for her wine. “There probably should be at least three rings between us if we start coming out as married.”

Dan loves her more than words. “I mean, I’d like that.”

Eddie looks like he’s watching a particularly shocking game of ping-pong. “I would like that, too,” he admits hesitantly. “But you don’t have to…” His face screws up. “You’d tell your parents about us?”

This isn’t a conversation they’d bridged quite yet. There had been a lot of talking at the beginning, Anne doesn’t ever walk into anything blind, but it had mostly been about them, their feelings. Anne and Eddie had some old baggage to unpack before they could ever reach for each other again. Dan had to consider what it would be like to navigate being a fiancé and a boyfriend at the same time, whether or not that was something he would be able to handle.

The outside world hadn’t really factored in; in all honesty, Dan knew that if they decided to go all in on this relationship, they would make it work. Whatever the outside world had to say about it, supportive or otherwise, it wouldn’t make or break them.

“My parents were hippies.” Dan shrugs, because his relationship with Eddie is a secret kept out of courtesy and simplicity, not out of shame. The Lewises want their kid happy, and Dan is as happy as he’s ever been; he doesn’t foresee them making a fuss. “Given some of the pictures I’ve seen of them, they wouldn’t really have a leg to stand on to take issue with this.”

“And, well,” Anne continues, fidgeting with her nails. Venom threads through her fingers before she can nervously start on her cuticles. She squeezes him knowingly, but continues without pause. “You already know what my mom thinks about you…”

Dan winces, but Eddie just snorts, nearly rolling his eyes. “Yeah, she’s never been subtle.”

“I don’t intend to be either,” Anne replies firmly, because yeah, she is her mother’s child on that front. She asks Eddie unflinchingly, “We’re getting it right this time, aren’t we?”

That wipes the dry humor off Eddie’s face, immediately sobering as he reaches to lay his hand over hers, still wrapped in Venom. “Yeah, Annie, we are. I—We…” he pauses, looking down at where Venom is wrapped around his wrist. “There are parts of this that always have to be a secret,” he says delicately, redundantly, before he motions between the four of them. “We get if we have to be, too.”

Venom materializes a head out of Eddie’s shoulder. “We do not care about other humans and their ridiculous courtship customs,” he summarizes dismissively.

Dan would venture that Venom doesn’t really care about any humans outside of this room except tangentially, but he’s willing to not examine the morality of that too closely.

Anne rolls her eyes. “Well, yes, I don’t think mentioning aliens to the in-laws would be the best course of action, no offence—”

None taken.

“—but you, the two of you are a part of us,” she continues gently. “Our relationship is nothing that has to be secret unless we want it to be.”

I am already a secret part of Eddie,” Venom replies. “I don’t care as long as I’m the part that doesn’t have to socialize.

Eddie chuckles, turning to kiss the side of Venom’s head. “We already share a body, we can share a name as far as your—your families.” He stumbles over the word, turning back to face Dan head-on. “You know you already have us, right? We’re in this for the long haul, Dan, you don’t have to—”

Dan may have misread that hesitation if he didn’t know Eddie better, but they’ve gotten better at this, at reading each other and being honest about what they see. “Eddie, I love you,” he says, and Eddie cuts off. “I want to buy you a ring because that’s the kind of thing I do.” He reaches over for Anne’s left hand and she allows it easily, smiles when he strokes over her engagement ring.

There’s an image Dan knows he gives off, something that paints him as a traditionalist. In spite of the fact that he’s in a queer, polyamorous four-way with an alien, he doesn’t feel very far off from the strait-laced guy people expect. The structure of his life led him through all the ‘right’ steps—college, med school, job, wedding—and he wishes, in a way that he tries not to dwell on, that the world was ready to accept a relationship like theirs.

“I know there are things we can’t do the conventional way,” Dan continues, because they’re all well aware of that, “but I would love to get you a ring. This is still…”

This is a marriage,” Venom cuts in, “and Eddie likes jewelry.” Dan can only laugh.

“You got me there, darling,” Eddie mutters, fondly. “Three rings, then? Can we do that for you, too?”

Dan ignores how he gets butterflies at the thought. “Of course, Eddie, I’d appreciate any gesture either of you care to make.”

I don’t care about the jewelry,” Venom says, stretching to nuzzle up under Dan’s chin. “I want to possess you.

The words should probably be scarier than they are, but they aren’t said with menace, not any more than the usual sound of Venom’s voice. And it makes Eddie flush like he’s embarrassed, not alarmed.

“I don’t know if that’s gonna work, buddy,” Eddie says, though. And to his credit he sounds genuinely apologetic, not like he’s dodging. “Remember how sick I was when we first got together?”

I didn’t know what I was doing yet,” Venom defends sulkily, “I will never make you sick again.”

Eddie looks at Venom fondly. “I know that, darling,”

And Dan is a doctor. He knows how these finicky bodies work better than you do.

Hey.

“He’s not wrong,” Dan agrees, patting Eddie’s arm with a laugh at his betrayed look. “It’s not like we haven’t been preparing for this,” he shrugs. “We haven’t been giving up our bone marrow for show.”

Granted, that hadn’t been the reason, not exactly. The process of extracting hematopoietic cells was much less of a hassle with Venom than it would be with a surgeon, but Dan had only suggested it as a safety measure. Venom could heal them in an emergency, but Dan would like to not have their immune systems attack Venom in the process or find out the hard way that he could send them into anaphylaxis. If Venom wants to possess them, for purely sentimental, romantic reasons, Dan certainly has no reason to deny him.

Eddie is gaping at him, though. “You courted us with stem cells?”

We accept your proposal!” Venom exclaims, sounding inordinately delighted.

Anne and Dan laugh, but Anne speaks up first. “Well, I gotta say, having had the experience, I do recommend it.” She waves her hand lazily. “Minus the terror and all.”

You’ll be lovely to be inside if your body is done fighting me,” Venom replies.

Anne lets out a startled laugh, a faint blush tingeing the tips of her ears at the phrasing. “You’re welcome to pay me a visit anytime, darling,” she says, reaching over to pet Venom’s cheek where he’s still nuzzled up under Dan’s chin. “I think Dan gets first shot, though.”

“Vee,” Eddie says quietly, and all the tendrils of Venom slip back into his body. He stands and comes around the side of the table to get down on his knee before Dan.

For all that Dan has been through and done with Eddie, he feels a little silly for the giddy butterflies he gets. “I haven’t even got your ring yet!”

Eddie gives him a lazy smirk. “I trust you to follow through,” he says, taking Dan’s hands. Then his smile melts into something so openly adoring Dan nearly gets choked up about it. “We love you.”

“I love you, too,” Dan replies without hesitation, squeezing Eddie’s hands, “and I trust you.”

There’s a pause where Eddie just searches his face. It’s a courtesy, perhaps, to allow Dan time to reconsider or to check for any fear Venom may be able to sense in him, but Dan just waits patiently. It’s been a long time since he’s been afraid of Venom; he’s not going to start again tonight. He looks down at their joined hands when he feels the smooth motion of Venom welling up against his palm, connecting him to Eddie. Then watches with wonder as Venom melts through his skin.

Oh!” Dan says, curiously. It feels… a little like the sensation of peeling off a scab, but… in reverse? And with none of the incidental pain. Sticky tendrils of Venom creep up his forearms to slip into him faster and the feeling makes Dan shudder. Almost as much as the moment Venom just disappears; fully inside Dan where he can’t see him, can’t even feel him anymore.

“How’s it feel?” Eddie asks softly.

Breathe, Dan.

Dan startles to hear Venom’s voice from the inside, but settles easily at the way Venom strokes the center of his chest, a gentle ripple of pressure from inside. He lets out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding while searching for the feeling of Venom under his skin. Now, he can feel it, the way Venom intentionally makes himself known. He can feel a current, almost like faint electricity in his whole body. Something about it makes him want to move, to run like he could take on the world, but also he wants to sit very, very still and just feel this, but he also wants to curl around himself protectively, squeezing the life within him, safely nestled against his cells so that nothing will ever harm it again.

This level of intimacy is the most dizzying mix of power and vulnerability Dan has ever experienced.

“You have to know how hard that question is to answer,” Dan says, raising his hand and watching Venom seep out of his skin with wonder. “It’s a very alien sensation.”

Eddie laughs. “That’s fair.”

Is it unpleasant?

“No, it’s not unpleasant,” Dan answers quickly, raising a hand to rub at his sternum where he can feel Venom, almost like a pulse. “It’s just… odd. I’ve never felt anything like you, darling.”

A happy rumble emanates in his throat, a sound that so obviously doesn’t belong to Dan it startles him to find he’s even capable of making it.

I want to show you something.

“Of course,” Dan answers, and then the world suddenly becomes… intense.

Not overwhelming—Venom is always very careful with his humans—but it’s still a lot. Dan can sense almost everything in the room. He could find anything nearby by the scents he can taste on the air. All the individual spices in the food, even the food in the pantries, the lotion on Anne’s hands, the nervous sweat between Eddie’s shoulder blades, the dish towel hanging on the stove, the plants in the window—the litterbox, unpleasantly enough. He can hear Eddie and Anne’s heartbeats, can hear their breathing almost like it’s right against his ear, as safe as can be. For a hair-raising moment, Dan swears he can feel his own blood circulating.

And over all of that, he feels Venom’s awareness of it.

Venom is constantly conscious of all these things. He knows the rhythms of their bodies as intimately as he knows his own, would notice the second their breathing so much as hitched the wrong way. The smell of their happiness delights him, the feeling of their bodies and the taste of their love seeping through him is as close to elation as he ever feels. They both look down at Eddie, watching them lovingly, and Dan feels the kind of peace that only comes from being at home settle over him like a heavy blanket.

“Dan?” Anne calls and he turns to look at her, the open curiosity on the face of the most beautiful woman he has ever laid eyes on. She smells familiar, even through Venom’s heightened senses. Anne smells like everything he wants in his future. She smells like happiness.

The love he feels for her echoes and ricochets, Venom’s feeling doubling his and his doubling Venom’s. How on earth Eddie ever looks at either of them without falling in love all over again is beyond him.

It occurs to Dan that Eddie probably does; he lives through these feelings, this love, swelling and shared with his Other, every day, doesn’t he?

“Oh,” Dan says, voice trembling a little. He smiles, shaking his head when Venom picks up on Anne’s concern a half-second before he does. “No, I’m fine, I’m great. This is…” he lifts his arms and Venom feels what he wants from the inside, wraps around him for Dan to cradle close like a hug. “I love you exactly that much, too.”

The warm contentment that pulses through him, filling the air from either side of him nearly brings tears to his eyes. What a wondrous thing, to be so loved by people he so loves, too.

We love you, too, Venom thinks at him privately, his pleased rumbling the only sound escaping them at the moment.

“Does it—Do I feel okay?” Dan asks as Eddie stands, a little reluctantly, like he feels pulled towards Venom even when they’re apart.

You tickle,” Venom answers aloud, “but it doesn’t hurt.

Dan laughs at the thought of his cells tickling an alien, like they’re curiously prodding a guest instead of attacking an intruder. He can live with that. “Had enough of being tickled for now?”

Venom hums. “Not yet,” he replies, and Dan doesn’t protest.

They finish up dinner almost like normal, even if Eddie can’t keep the amused twist off his face every time Dan twitches when Venom moves out of his body. He can feel when Venom starts to grow tired of visiting him—and that is what this feels like, like he’s a familiar and well-loved vacation home—but he isn’t bothered.

Ready to go back to Eddie? he thinks, as they’re cleaning up. He isn’t sure how directly Venom can understand his thoughts, but he tries to shape the image in his head. It’s enough.

Yes, Venom answers, and manifests a head to kiss Dan, with teeth held carefully out of the way and a little too much tongue, just like always. “Thank you.

“Thank you, darling,” Dan replies, only to make a vaguely confused noise when Venom sinks back into his chest. Before he can ask about it, he gets the truly bizarre experience of his body moving with no input whatsoever from his mind. “Woah! Okay, and we’re walking…”

Eddie looks up at the exclamation. He laughs at the look on his face, even as he sets aside his dish rag to hold his arms out. “Warn a guy, Vee,” he chastises gently.

Sorry, Venom thinks, entirely unapologetically, the menace. He doesn’t bother speaking aloud when he moves Dan’s arms to reach for Eddie, who accepts the kiss they give him easily.

When Venom goes back to Eddie, it feels like relaxing out of a hug.

The weird push-pull-peel sensation of Venom leaving his body is even stranger on his lips and face, but he sighs as his body returns to the patterns he’s used to. He fights down a smile when Eddie keeps kissing him well past when Venom has fully settled back into his skin.

Anne, I want you tomorrow,” Venom says from somewhere on Eddie’s back. Dan pulls back from Eddie’s kiss-flushed lips to see Anne smiling, leaning to kiss between Eddie’s shoulder blades.

“You can have me any day you’d like,” she assures him, then threads her arms through Eddie’s to rest her cheek on his shoulder. Venom is wrapped back around her hand when it settles on Eddie’s chest. “We can do this whenever we want, darling.”

That night, they give into the sentimentality of retiring to the same bed. They normally keep such odd hours that it isn’t always practical to shove three adults into the same bed. Still, Eddie’s tendency to starfish when he sleeps alone means he’s got a king they can all get into, at least.

It’s a good night whenever Dan gets to settle into bed behind Anne, his arm thrown over her side so his hand settles on Eddie’s stomach. Tonight feels especially good, of course, as Dan settles in, still tingling with the knowledge of how very, very loved they all are.

Dan drifts off to sleep easily cradled in that thought.

-

Anne wakes up first, because of course she does, the beautiful, godless morning person that she is. She stretches, and Dan still tries to hide in the crook of her neck a moment longer, kissing at her shoulder. His attempts are aided by Venom coiling around her hip.

“Good morning,” she murmurs.

Morning. Annie?” Venom says, then when Anne hums sleepily at him, “Let me help you get ready for work?

“Oh!” Anne replies, pleased and already sounding slightly more awake. “If you’d like, darling, come on. I’ll find you some chocolate.”

I can make chocolate pancakes!

“Do not let him make you pancakes,” Eddie mumbles, rolling onto his back. “Hey!” he complains and Dan laughs, unsure of who even swatted at him for that. Dan rolls away enough to let Anne sit up between them. She looks down at Venom, stroking over where he is coiled around her waist.

“Shall we?”

Venom doesn’t answer that Dan can hear, but Anne laughs as Venom slowly sinks into her skin. She hums happily, stretching her arms up over her head.

“How do I feel?”

Much better,” Venom rumbles. “Still tickly, but no pain.”

“That’s a relief,” Anne says, smiling. She leans over to kiss Eddie’s head as he looks up at her sleepily. Dan smiles when he gets the same treatment. “Sleeping in?”

“You didn’t ask me,” Eddie teases.

“It’s before ten, I know you’re not getting up,” Anne replies dryly.

Dan laughs, absently rubbing her back just because he can. “May as well,” he says, because he’s got a full 24 hours before his next shift. “I’ll pick up lunch if you think you’ll be home?”

“I should be. You’re a gem,” she tells him, kissing him once more. She turns to climb over Eddie to get out of bed, petting his cheek on the way past. “I’ll bring Vee back before I go.”

“Thanks for babysitting,” Eddie replies. “Ow!” he laughs when Venom shoots out a tendril to snatch Eddie’s pillow from under his head and whack him in the face with it. “Jerk.

Loser!” Venom shouts before Anne walks into the bathroom, laughing even as she coos at him, coaxing him back into her skin.

“You started it,” Dan laughs when Eddie tosses the pillow off his face.

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie grouses, but moves into the space Anne left.

Dan opens his arms easily, letting Eddie settle on his chest, pressing a brief kiss to his collarbone. He sighs as he’s comfortably pressed under his weight.

The sound of the shower kicking on makes Dan feel even more contentedly sleepy. Half dozing, he wishes there was a way to explain the exact feeling of this moment to other people; what it’s like to know that the people you love are thoroughly loved, too, safe and within reach. Eddie’s breathing is slow and even and Anne is laughing at something Venom is saying. It’s not been an easy road here, not even a normal one, but if even most of Dan’s mornings go anything like this, it’ll be worth it. He wants to put that into words—and he’ll try for his parents, when it comes to that, or in his vows, when he writes them—but that’s a concern for later.

Right now, Dan strokes his fingers along Eddie’s shoulder and lets himself drift. He’s going to lie under his beloved—two of his beloveds, in a moment—and get a little more rest.

The future will still be there when he wakes up.