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we're on a highway to hell (with a little bit of heaven)

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Peter hasn’t been outside in years.

He knows this because he’s forgotten what the wind feels like. He remembers how it sounds, but he can’t imagine it on his skin. He can’t hear birds anymore, even with his heightened senses. The room they keep him in doesn’t have any windows. Why would it? It’s a reinforced vibranium, he can’t break through it, he’s tried.

The thing inside him as tried too. They have a scientific name, but Peter’s taken to calling them Venom. At first, he didn’t name them. He didn’t want them inside him; he didn’t want to acknowledge them. But they’ve been the only thing he can talk to, and they know all his thoughts anyway. After having them in his head for a year he’s hesitant to say they’ve grown close, but they have. If Peter dies, they die. If Peter’s starving, they starve. It’s simple, really, and at first it was overwhelming, to have his already heightened senses grow even more sensitive, but he’s gotten used to them, like one gets used to a constant itch. After a while, it becomes normal.

White noise.

Venom is Peter’s white noise.

That doesn’t shut up.

‘they’re going to make us fight today’ Venom says as soon as Peter wakes up.

He doesn’t sleep anymore, he goes days without it, so him passing out is as close as he gets to really sleeping. There’s no bed, in his room. Just a pillow and a sheet and a toilet, and Peter doesn’t like his back facing the door at the other end of the room. He likes to have eyes on who comes in and who leaves.

“Why do you say that?” Peter asks, rubbing his hands over his face, ignoring the dried blood that flakes like dried paint behind his ears.

He looks at his veins. They stain black against his kin, and he must look horrible, like someone who was supposed to be dead, not alive. He doesn’t feel alive.

‘they’re late,’ Venom explains, their voice a hiss in Peter’s skull, ‘they’re only late when we get to kill something’

“Sometimes,” Peter says, sitting up and ignoring the tightness in his shoulder. “Did you try and take over last night?”

Venom doesn’t answer, but Peter can feel them under his skin, slithering along his muscles and mixing like a film in his blood.

He’s known Venom long enough to know when they’re withholding information.

“I thought we were past that,” Peter sighs, standing and making his way over to the toilet.

‘you were taking too long to wake up,’ Venom says, and Peter tries to not focus on their voice as he relieves himself, ‘if you let us out today we–‘

“We’ve tried that,” Peter interrupts, harsher than he means to.

‘we want to know what birds sound like’ Venom admits.

“How do you know about birds?” Peter asks.

‘we can hear them,’ Venom says, ‘in the small lab’

Peter doesn’t answer. He doesn’t want to think about the lab, or what being in there means. He flushes the toilet and looks to the door, but no one has tried to come inside.
Someone should have come to take them by now. Time is always strange here, but Peter knows that when he wakes up on his own it takes the guards exactly three hundred seconds to come into the room. When he oversleeps they wake him up.

“Something’s not right,” Peter says and Venom turns under his skin.

‘perhaps they died’

Peter doesn’t answer the death-obsessed symbiote as he approaches the door, looking up at the three security cameras in the corner of his room. They’re blinking red, meaning they’re recording and following him. He presses his ear as close to the door as he can without touching its surface. It hasn’t worked in the past, and it doesn’t work now, he can’t hear anything beyond the reinforced walls. But something is wrong, and it’s unnerving that he knows but can’t leave the room. It’s a large base, Peter assumes, he doubts everyone inside is dead. They couldn’t be.

They wouldn’t leave him to die in this room, would they?

‘yes,’ Venom answers even though Peter wasn’t asking him.

“I wasn’t asking you,” Peter snaps, stepping away from the door, all the sluggish aftermath of sleep washing from him in a spike of adrenaline that he’s used to feeling following a surge of fear, “stay out of my head.”

‘break the door’ Venom says.

Peter ignores them.

He looks back to the security cameras. They can see him. He looks back to the door. He remembers the last time he tried to rip it open. He remembers the electricity that knocked him out. The pain of it is something that still makes his hair stand on end. He can’t tell if his spidey sense is the sensation buzzing in his skull or Venom, but either way he’s alert and awake.

This institution is all about protocol. It runs on accountability and routine, the people who work here are more robots than humans, and in Peter’s three years here nothing has even gone off schedule. Usually if Peter stands next to the door for as long as he has been they shock him to just get him back. They don’t let him think this long. Something has happened, something that’s messed with the routine and what if this is Peter’s only chance at getting out?

What if this is it? What if, and he knows it’s a stretch but he can’t help thinking it, what if he gets to feel the sun again?

“Absorb the shock for me this time, big guy,” Peter says, making his decision and reaching out to the door. Venom crawls. He gets his hands up against it, palms flat, and expects to feel his skin burn. It doesn’t. The metal is cold and still, not hot, not vibrating with contained electricity. Venom is as confused as he is.

“Right,” Peter breathes, heart hammering in his chest, “um. I didn’t think we’d get this far.”

‘kick it in,’ Venom hisses, excitement making it restless.

Peter backs up, balances, and kicks at the door with all his might. Venom helps, a thin black shine coating Peter’s bare foot. It works, the door concaving in the middle. It doesn’t fall off, not yet, because it’s still vibranium but the door is weaker because of its gaps and Peter aims for those on his next kick.

Three more tries and the door crumbles in and Peter can push it the rest of the way. It falls heavy and stiff to the linoleum white floor of the outside hall and Peter expects to be shot down right there. Instead, what hits him first is the alarm.

The noise is so jarring he has to cover his ears, and Venom’s screeching so loud Peter can feel blood, warm and wet, trickle down his neck. The halls, once white, are washed in strobes of red, the alarm systems blaring, loud, ‘too loud!’ and Peter falls to his knees, grinds his teeth and tries not to focus on how his brain feels like its melting in his head.

‘out!’ Venom screams, ‘get us out!’

Peter isn’t even sure he can stand; with his heightened senses and Venom’s own hindrance to high frequency noises the onslaught of the alarm is too much, especially with the echoed acoustics of the narrow hall. Then, as suddenly as it all registered, the alarm stops in a scratch of static feedback.

Then, silence. The red alert lights are still blinking but the sound has been cut off, and Peter falls back against the wall behind him, legs trembling, as tries to get his bearings. He can see Venom like pulsing spikes over his skin, trying to disconnect. They shiver when the alarm stops, and slowly dissolve back down. Peter watches them with mild panic.

“If you wanna leave I won’t stop you,” he pants, talking because he doesn’t want to draw attention to how terrified he is.

‘hurts,’ Venom says, and yeah, Peter feels like his head’s been split in two.

He swallows against the sudden nausea, and half expects a guard or lab monitor to come running for him down the hall. When he can’t hear anyone he stands, using the wall as support for the first few steps. His head still hurts but he doesn’t feel like his brain is stuck in a pressurized container anymore. He tries to listen for footsteps and he hears some about six floors up.

“Huh, we’re underground,” he says, absently.

‘quiet’ Venom supplies.

They’re right. High frequencies can’t reach them as well under the earth, and Peter is more inclined to low passes anyway. They don’t feel like nails on a chalkboard.

Peter walks down the high ceiling corridors, taking it all in. He’s never seen the halls before, or any part of the institution that wasn’t a lab. They blindfolded him for this part, and Peter understands why. It’d be too easy for him to find his way out. He’s lost now.

“Where is everyone?” he asks and Venom shrugs, dancing like smoke over the skin of his arms. It used to freak Peter out, how Venom can come and go from inside of him, but now he finds comfort in the added strength he knows Venom provides. They’re armor, and without his spidey suit he feels too vulnerable.

‘armor’ Venom repeats from Peter’s thoughts, ‘strong’

“Yeah, buddy,” Peter whispers, his spider sense growing more insistent in the back of his head.

He turns a corner and stops. The white walls are painted in blood, the sterile corridor alive and singing red. There are about twenty bodies scattered in horrified piles, discarded useless weapons loose in their lifeless hands.

Peter recognizes some of them.

The man to his right, for instance, likes to cut his stomach and see how fast he can heal.

Liked.

He’s dead now and Peter can’t say he feels too bad about it.

His spider sense spikes at the same time Venom says, ‘look’

Peter looks.

At the end of the corridor, under the strobe lights of red on red walls and red wounds and red blood is the figure of a man dressed in the same dead red. Peter can’t tell where the blood ends and the man begins. He’s whistling, Peter realizes, low under his breath as he steps on each limp hand he walks over. He’s not touching the ground, using the bodies as macabre stepping-stones. Peter’s disturbed.

Venom’s curious. It’s a mix that makes Peter uneasy.

He doesn’t know if this stranger is friend or foe, but it’s obvious he’s a killer. He’s holding a katana in each leather-gloved hand, and he doesn’t seem like he notices Peter standing there.

‘say something,’ Venom encourages, sounding way too excited for the situation they’re in.

“Shut up,” Peter hisses but it’s enough for the man to still and in the next second there’s a katana blade pressed to the side of Peter’s neck and his spider sense barely had time to warn him.

The shock of someone being able to surprise him holds Peter in place. The man is taller than him, broader, and Peter wonders if he’s a mutant. Peter knows there’s more people held here, there has to be for a place so big, and he knows the scientists here have a thing for mutated genes.

There’s bullet holes riddling the stranger’s leather suit but the man is standing like he shouldn’t be dead.

The two are still in the middle of the stranger’s massacre, and Peter can feel Venom covering his arms, stretching over his chest and neck to prevent the katanas’ blade from piercing his skin and, you know, killing him. The man notices, and the whites of his masks’ eyes widen comically.

“What the shit?” he exclaims, voice loud and booming in the hall.

Peter flinches at the pitch of it. The man sounds like he’s been smoking since he was two years old, his voice gravely and rough like jagged stone. He sheaths his katanas in a practiced fluid movement and bends down, too close.

“I don’t wanna alarm ya, kid, but you got a little something on your neck. And shoulder. And chest,” the man says and Peter…Peter doesn’t know what to do.

The man obviously killed everyone, and he doesn’t seem like he’s here to hurt Peter or else he would have done so already…right?

“What’s wrong? Is it my breath? I haven’t been able to brush my teeth since yesterday so I know it smells like someone left mayonnaise in an old man’s favorite shoe, but if it helps the leather is trapping all of it in. Is that it? Hello? Can you talk? Shit, are you deaf? My bad, here–” and the man starts fucking signing and Peter only knows a little ASL but he’s pretty sure the killer just asked him if he’s seen any of his movies. Right.

‘he’s unstable’ Venom says.

Peter silently agrees.

“No, I can talk–” Peter begins before the man cuts him off.

“Please tell me you’re not, like, twelve.”

Peter bristles. He knows he’s on the shorter side, and he hasn’t been able to properly exercise or eat regularly in years so his muscle mass has kind of deteriorated but c’mon.
“I’m twenty-four,” he snaps, crossing his arms over his chest and finding a strange comfort in feeling Venom there, “stop calling me kid.”

The man holds up his hands, palms and fingers covered in blood. It’s supposed to be a calming gesture, but on the man it looks like he’s doing jazz hands. He is doing jazz hands. A speck of blood hits Peter’s cheek.

“Just checkin’, baby boy, I know HYDRA is sick as my shit but I’m almost ninety percent sure there’s only one captive they’re holdin’ here and no one gave me an age, so I’m guessin’ you’re the jackpot!” the man says, his voice excited but Peter’s immediately on the defensive.

Is this man here to take him? To use him like HYDRA has? Venom spikes up, and Peter crouches, just slightly, to find his base.

“Why are you looking for me?” he snaps, and the man still has that sunny disposition but his eyes narrow and he tenses as well, looking a little dangerous as he regards Peter.

“Baby boy, who isn’t looking for you?” the man asks and that catches Peter off guard because he’s been here three fucking years, of course no one has been looking for him. HYDRA liked to tell him that all the time. Suddenly, his chest is tight, his eyes prickling. He’s not going to cry, that’s not it, but he’s feeling something and it’s suddenly a little difficult to breathe. The man must read it as fear, or Peter getting more defensive, because he does the jazz hands again.

“I’m not here to fight you,” he says, “that’s like, the opposite of why I’m here. Iron Giant would gut me ten times over if I hurt ya. And being gutted isn’t a good time, I mean, it’s a great detox, I’ll tell you what, but it kind of is the most painful thing. Like, picture–”

Peter feels like he’s going to pass out.

“I know what it feels like,” he interrupts and the man goes freakishly silent. He unclasps a glock from his thigh holster and, without breaking eye contact with Peter, shoots the nearest doctor in the head. Brain and skull and hair kind of burst out in a horrific bloody firework and Peter’s definitely going to pass out as some of it lands warm on his bare feet.

“Well, good thing they’re all inside out, no one is gonna be experimenting on you anymore, baby,” the larger man hums.

Peter wishes he hadn’t done that.

“You said people have been looking for me,” he says after finding his voice again, “what kind of people?”

“The good guys,” the man says and at Peter’s expression backtracks, “I ain’t one of them, per se. They hired me for this here little stunt ‘cause they were kind of failing spectacularly for years. Ya know, for the earth’s supposedly mightiest heroes they kind of suck at their jobs. I mean, sure, if you need someone to destroy New York and then halfheartedly pay for the damage then they’re your guys, but personally I think…”

Peter can’t hear the stranger anymore. He feels like his limbs have turned to jelly.

‘snap out of it,’ Venom hisses but Peter can’t breathe.

They were looking for him.

The Avengers have been looking for him.

He better not start crying, that’d be really embarrassing. Nonetheless, he can’t help his shaky exhale. It must’ve given him away because a handkerchief is pressed under his nose. Peter starts, and the man only waits patiently.

“You got some snot,” he says.

Peter takes the handkerchief. It’s very dirty, but he uses it anyway. It’s the nicest thing someone’s done for him so…there’s a lot there. He hands the scarp of fabric back and the man tosses it carelessly over his shoulder.

“So you’re here to break me out?” Peter asks, just to be sure.

“That’s my job!” the man says, sounding proud.

“Did you have to kill everyone?” Peter can’t help but question.

“If it makes you feel better they were horrible people?” the man says, and Peter is suddenly struck with what all this means.

“Wait,” he asks, because he can’t believe this, “I can leave?”

The man’s shoulders drop and he almost looks sad, which is ridiculous because he’s wearing a mask and masks aren’t supposed to be expressive.

“Yeah man,” he says, “let’s get you outta here.”

For a moment, Peter doesn’t know what to feel.

He thinks he’s in shock.

‘you are in shock,’ Venom confirms.

“There might be more,” Peter hears himself say, but he’s disconnecting, he can tell in the way he can’t feel his fingers, can’t feel his skin, can’t feel Venom– “there’s probably more guards. They’ll come for me, what if they’re on their way now? What if Doctor–”

“Hey,” the man interrupts, voice gentle but firm, demanding Peter’s attention but not forcing it, “I killed everyone. Literally. There’s no one left but us. I was hired to break you out, get you back to where you belong alive. No one’s gonna so much as look at you, got it? Pinky promise.”

The guy holds up his pinky.

Peter swallows.

He hooks his own pinky around the man’s and they shake.

“Now for introductions because we’re moving past the exposition,” the man says, “I’m Wade. Wade Wilson, or Deadpool, or Merc with the Mouth, or ‘Personal Pain in the Ass’.”

“What do you prefer?” Peter asks, following when the guy starts to skip down the hall.

“For you? Daddy would be nice,” the man tosses over his shoulder with a salacious wink and Peter doesn’t know whether or not he’s kidding.

“I’ll call you Wade,” Peter decides, moving on shaking legs because there’s now cold blood making the bottoms of his feet sticky.

“That works,” Wade hums, his voice light and happy as they make their way through winding halls.

They climb three flights of stairs with Wade singing and talking under his breath, and Peter doesn’t bother to ask who Wade is talking to because Peter talks to himself too. He gets it.
‘are we sure we can trust him?’ Venom asks, speaking up for the first time in a while.

‘dunno,’ Peter thinks, taking a moment to study the broad swipe of Wade’s shoulders, the muscles of his back and thighs, ‘he looks strong.’

‘we should leave him,’ Venom says, ‘we can’t trust him. what if he’s lying?’

Unease rests in Peter’s stomach like lead and anxiety in his chest. Venom is right. There’s nothing Wade has said that Peter can confirm. Yes, it looks like he killed everyone, but Peter knows that HYDRA has enemies, enemies that are just as bad if not worse, and he’d be damned if he’s gotten this far from his cell only to be taken to another.

‘we run when we get outside,’ Peter thinks, trying to stabilize his heart with deep breaths, ‘i’m going to need your help’

Venom answers by sliding like melted tar over his body, leaving his head visible, not taking over entirely. It’s a strange feeling, letting Venom commandeer his movements, but they’re on the same page with this situation, and Peter’s legs are feeling weaker by the minute.

This is the most he’s walked in a long time. Wade has led them into what looks like an ornate lobby of a hotel, and Peter hates the thought that he’s been hidden underground, under people, all this time. Wade is talking, he seems to always be talking, but Peter isn’t listening. He can only hear the frantic beating of his heart because Wade is stepping through a hole where a door used to be and Peter can see mountains, trees, the sun–

For a moment, after stepping out, it’s hard to clarify what he’s looking at. His eyes take a while to adjust, and they’re burning with the effort. The air tastes clean. Fresh. His bare feet land on grass, and it tickles. There’s a cool breeze carrying through the mountains, and it feels nice in his dirty hair, against his stiff clothes. He could be crying, but he isn’t sure.

He can feel the sun.

“All right, baby boy, I’m parked just over–”

Under any other circumstance, Peter might feel bad. But he’s lost the ability to second-guess himself. It’s already cost him everything.

Venom has them moving fast, hands wrapping around Wade’s wrists, pulling back his arms, and pressing his foot between Wade’s shoulder blades. He moves so suddenly that Wade only has time to say–“this is kind of a kink for me”–before he’s kicking and breaking both of Wade’s arms. The man stumbles, cursing, but Peter doesn’t wait around. He runs.

He runs as fast as he can.

He doesn’t look back.

He can feel the earth under his feet.

He can feel the sun.

He runs.

And Venom hears the birds.

 

///

 

It turns out, when you haven’t eaten in two days, or slept well in weeks, and are still trying to get a grasp on your entire world changing in an hour, you pass out.

Peter doesn’t remember falling asleep, and he certainly doesn’t remember climbing a tree, but he’s made a nest out of his webs and is swinging gently in the wind. It’s like the sky is rocking him to sleep. Venom is under his skin, tired as well. If Peter isn’t doing well, neither is Venom. It used to be the opposite, but HYDRA didn’t prepare for a host to bond emotionally with a symbiote as well.

Apparently, Peter is a softie.

He almost doesn’t believe it, waking up to the sun on his skin. He hasn’t felt this warm in a long time.

The peace is shattered when Wade’s voice screeches up at him.

“Yo Web guy! Not cool dude, you shattered my shoulders!”

Peter nearly falls from his makeshift bed, his spidey sense not alerting him to the other man’s presence. Venom stirs and Peter peeks over the side of his webs, eyes narrowing in the high afternoon sun. Wade is glaring up at him, hands on his hips like he’s disappointed. He should be mad. Why isn’t he mad?

‘insane’ Venom says.

Oh yeah.

“I’m not about to be captured again!” Peter calls down; shifting so that he’s crouching and can swing away at any time.

“Bro, I literally just gave you a page and a half spiel on why I’m trying to helping you!” Wade calls up.

When Peter doesn’t respond the man sighs, rubbing the back of his masked head awkwardly.

“Look, I really just want to drop you off with Iron Dad so I can get my money and buy some tacos, kay? Also Bea needs a new polish, she’s lookin’ a little crusty,” Wade pulls out one of his katanas, and yup, dried brown with blood, nice.

“How do I know you are who you say you are?” Peter asks.

‘kill him’ Venom urges.

“I’m not killing anyone,” Peter snaps, and then, “wait, I thought I broke your arms?”

“Shoulders,” Wade corrects.

“Shoulders,” Peter amends, curious as he leans further over the edge of the web, despite Venom’s hissing protests.

“You ain’t the only one around here with sexy powers, baby boy,” Wade sings, pointing a finger up at him, “now come on down, I wanna go get some grub. Killing people takes a lot of energy.”

Peter wrinkles his nose.

“I still don’t think I can trust you,” he says.

“I got you out, didn’t I?” Wade counters.

“Doesn’t mean you’re not gonna use me,” Peter argues, but the tension in his shoulders and legs are lessening the more Wade talks.

It’s strange, that the killer is the calmer out of the two of them.

“I dunno if you’ve ever heard of me Petey-pie,”– not at all, Peter hasn’t ever heard of “Deadpool”– “but HYDRA got a hold of me too. They’re the nastiest of all things nasty. You can’t tell just by looking at me, but under all this skin tight leather I look like an inside out toe that someone threw up, and that’s on them. You can either trust me and we can go get some food, or you can not trust me and I drag you to go get some food. Either way, you’re comin’ with me and we’re getting food.”

Peter hesitates on principal. He doesn’t like being told what to do, hates it, but he is hungry, hasn’t eaten a real meal in years–

“I want a hamburger,” Peter says.

He can’t tell, but he’s pretty certain Wade’s smiling up at him by the way the mask is stretching over his jaw.

“We can make that happen,” Wade says.

'we can take him,' Venom urges, 'he's going to hurt us–'

"With extra pickles," Peter continues, ignoring Venom's protests. "And fries. And a chocolate milkshake."

He can't describe how he feels. But it isn't depression, or fear, or anxiety, so if talking about getting food with Wade is making him feel anything other than cold then why shouldn't he do it?

"Anything else, your highness? Want me to dip it in gold?" Wade is joking, his hands on his hips, and now Peter knows he's really smiling because his mask is stretching over his lips.

‘we don’t like this,’ Venom drawls, ‘you’re going to get us killed’

“I want a burger,” Peter says, and then drops down.