Eddie’s 400 words deep on an article that’s supposed to be somewhere along the 2,000 mark and was due roughly 45 minutes ago. It’s not his fault that he – no, that they – got distracted last night, but Halloweekend is prime time for creeps of all sorts to be prowling around. The cheapest housing just so happens to be near colleges, which makes that number uptick even further.
And they’d been hungry, so. It sort of worked out.
Eddie absentmindedly settles his thumb on his lower lip, worrying his teeth along the skin there. It’s a habit he’s had since he himself was in college, and joining the fast paced world of journalism hadn’t made it end.
After everything that had happened in the past year, it had only gotten worse.
Eddie grunts in response, still wrapped up with the multitude of tabs open on his computer. He’s got headphones in, not playing anything. People around seem concerned about the length of his supposed “phone call” but he’s not really worried all that much about their opinions. He’s been at this for long enough, and even before he took up a bodymate, people looked at him strangely.
Stop doing that.
He huffs a little in response, before muttering, “Doing what?”
Eating your own fingers. It’s not fair.
Eddie pulls his thumb out of his mouth, staring blankly at the computer screen in front of him. His basically blank word document doesn’t offer enough reflection for him to see Venom, but he can feel his Other settled somewhere against his ribs, in between his resting state when they’re hungry and when they’re relaxing.
“How the fuck is it not fair?”
We’re not allowed to eat good people. You are good people. So stop eating; it’s not fair.
“Hey, I’m not –”
But he pauses, because technically, Venom’s not wrong. He doesn’t like to think too much about the routine procedure by now, how he sometimes swallows the skin and sometimes wipes it off his tongue and discards it on the side of buildings, his pants, the edge of tables. It’s been going on for years now; he’s not going to change it suddenly.
Venom waits, uncharacteristically patient with him. Usually when it came to efforts of self preservation or self care, Venom was the one urging for Eddie to take care of himself. When it came to this, it seemed like it’s somewhere between genuine miscommunication and actual care.
“…I wasn’t planning on swallowing.” The words bring a burn to his cheeks, and, unbidden, the other connotations for the word comes to mind. A few people turn to look, and at this point Eddie knows he should just go back home. Maybe he can get this done in a place where others won’t judge him so much.
We weren’t suggesting that. Eddie can practically feel the way his Other shifts a little, perhaps still uncomfortable with the idea, and Eddie can’t blame him. Sex is weird even when both parties are completely human, and Eddie wasn’t really feeling up to giving him “the talk” just yet.
Even if it meant constant blue balls.
We were just saying. It’s not fair. Eat something else.
“Okay, okay,” Eddie murmurs, closing his laptop and sliding it into his backpack. “Want Starbucks?”
Yes love. Hot chocolate. And those chocolate croissant things.
“You got it.”
“Eddie, this is the second article this month that you’ve gotten to us not one, not two, but three days late. I was able to pull in some last minute ads to fill the space, but you have got to do better about your deadlines.”
His boss, Xoe Thomsen is on the warpath, and it’s completely fair for her to be that way. He has been fucking around lately, but how is he supposed to explain that Venom has been taking up residence in his life, more and more lately? His teeth catch on his lower lip, pulling at the skin there in worry.
Let’s eat her.
NO. Eddie has learned he has to think rather explicitly in words if Venom is to actually pay attention to it; otherwise, he’ll just tuck it away with the billions of other half-thoughts and images that are how they experience their daily life.
He pulls too hard, and now his lip is bleeding. Licking away the blood, he tucks his hands under his armpits, practically hugging himself, while also trying to feebly constrain his Other within his torso.
“There’s no room for fuck ups like this, Eddie.” She rounds her desk and puts her hands on her desk and looks at him, green eyes imploring through her clear framed glasses. “I need you to look me, in the eyes, and tell me that you’re going to do better than this.”
Glasses will be hard on our teeth, but we can do it. We’ve eaten ear pieces before.
Anxious, both from Venom’s words and the tone of the conversation, he begins to pick at the skin along his nails, surreptitiously licking the blood off his lower lip. Trying in vain to ignore Venom’s words, Eddie tries to answer. “W-well, you see, I’m still getting over something and-”
There’s a sudden shiver from deep within, barely restraining from getting to the skin. Then there’s sudden inky blackness coating his lower lip that targets the bleeding spots. Eddie panics, and sucks his whole lower lip into his mouth, effectively ending his speech. There’s another shiver, with a different, more pleasurable tone to it, and Eddie’s not sure he can handle looking into what that’s supposed to mean.
“Eddie.” She sighs and finally sits down in her chair. “I understand that you’ve been through a lot in the past year. We’ve given you a second chance. Please. Just don’t give us a reason to get rid of you.”
Inwardly, Venom bristles at these accusations. She wouldn’t dare-
He haphazardly shoves some images towards Venom indicating that this is about his job, not his life, which unfortunately sends him down an internal spiral of every other time he’s been in this position before. Usually, the quality of his work would make it better.
It appears Xoe isn’t going to fall for it.
“I understand, and I appreciate the offer. I can give you better articles, I know I can, just let me try.” He can’t afford not to have a job, their appetite wouldn’t let them do so, nor would their landlord or anything else. That Life Foundation check was still sitting in his bedside drawer, not put into any sort of bank account. Every time he so much as touches the paper, he remembers the horror and sacrifices that it took to end up in his current state. He doesn’t want that blood money in his name.
“I believe you. My boss does not. We’re giving you the rest of the week off to think about it. If you can give us better work that is on time, it will be fine.” She looks genuinely contrite, and Eddie feels a bit bad for the position that he’s put her in.
Venom somehow feels like he’s pacing, caged within Eddie’s body and conscious. He’s pissed, and Eddie can begin to feel that unique stretching feeling whenever Venom starts to take over his body. It only lasts a split second, but he’s getting better at predicting these things.
Time to go.
He stiffly stands up, and drops his arms to his side, hooking his thumbs into his pockets. “Of course. Thanks, Xoe.”
She gives him a sympathetic look, and waves him away, turning back to her computer. Eddie lets his Other turn them around and walk them out of the room and into the elevator. Once they’re back onto the streets of the city, Venom pulls them both into an alley.
Venom snakes out of his body, coming around to face him. There’s judgment in those blank white eyes. “Stop eating your own flesh.”
“I’m not doing it on purpose! It’s not like I’m hungry, it’s just something that happens!”
“So you self-destruct when you feel discomfort?” Venom leans close, tilting his head. It’s almost like a puppy, only the movement is too far and sudden to make any sense.
“I-I guess? I’ve always done it.”
“We know this.”
Eddie frowns. If Venom already knows this, then why bother asking? The symbiote doesn’t offer anything else, just staring at Eddie, waiting for some kind of response. But what is there to say?
“So what do you want me to do, stop?”
“That’s not in the cards buddy. I’m sorry.”
Venom doesn’t frown, per say – his jaw is hinged too high to really allow for a downward motion, and Eddie doesn’t really know what to think of muscle mass when it comes to his Other – but it’s still visible in the slight shuttering of Venom’s eyes. The symbiote says nothing, simply retreating back into Eddie’s body.
Eddie bites at his lower lip, only to get a mouthful of black ink in response.
You die, I die. Wasn’t that how Venom had phrased it? Did pain go the same way? (Eddie tried not to think about the burning sensation as he fell into the ice cold water, nor to think about the way Venom refused to budge from the dead center of his chest for up to a week after they’d rejoined.)
Normally, questions such as that would be answered with some sort of sarcastic message from Venom himself, but the symbiote is curiously quiet. Eddie can still feel him though, still settled somewhere about the nape of his neck and along his shoulders. It’s comforting, almost like a hug.
But hugs aren’t going to fix his possible impending joblessness, so he goes back out onto the street and heads back home.
He gets lunch with Anne the next day, although he feels a bit like an idiot pre-gaming before hand. It’s not his fault though; if he goes out with the express purpose of eating, Venom often capitalizes on that, and Eddie winds up with a $50 McDonalds order that he wasn’t intending on getting, which Venom often makes him throw back up again because the meat is too fake for even he to break down and use.
So he inhales three steaks, a whole 40-ounce bag of tater tots, and four king sized chocolate bars before he goes to the bistro where Anne had wanted to meet. His Other is suspiciously quiet, not even raising to the taunt of parasite themed jokes, but he can still feel him, so that’s okay.
It has to be okay.
It’s funny, how he’s been feeling more and more like his old college self. Just as out of control, just as anxious, and just as small. Anne takes one look at him and asks, “You haven’t been taking your meds, have you?”
Eddie freezes in the middle of eating his carbonara, looking up at Anne with a few noodles still hanging out of his mouth. Out of habit, he refrains from using his tongue to guide them into his mouth, knowing that if Venom were up to his usual assholery, it would not be a human tongue that would appear, but his own prehensile one.
Venom isn’t in that kind of mood right now, but at the mention of medication, a healthy dose of fear enters his body. There’s brief flashes of the MRI, of what it feels like to have an intruder in a territory that is theirs, of past hosts who have tried to oust him with medicine and the recovery that it takes from absorbing so many toxins.
Eddie coughs, looking off to the side as he tries to soothe Venom’s…well, anxieties. When he looks up, she’s staring at him with a raised eyebrow. “What makes you say that?” he tries.
“Eddie, I’ve known you for…for a long time.” True. They’d met in undergrad. Undergrad seems so far away now. “I know when you’re lying to me. And I know when things are getting bad again.”
“I know you miss him,” Anne gently interrupts. “And – I say this with…care – I’ve given you enough time to try to handle this on your own. I’ve been talking with Dan, and he’d be more than willing to write you a prescription.”
“He’s not a psychiatrist.” Venom swirls and twists, or maybe that’s his own emotional scape manifesting as his Other, but either way, they’re scared. “I don’t…I don’t want to do that again, Annie.”
“Eddie. We need to get you healthy again. I may not have known Venom for long but when we…” She pauses here, as she often does when it comes to their forest encounter, the kiss, or what it’s like to be a symbiote’s host. A symbiote she believes to be long gone, though Eddie doesn’t think she believes him anymore. “When we were…you know, together…he. I didn’t get a lot from him, he wasn’t talking to me like how I assume he talked to you. But everything was about you. Getting back to you, finding you, saving you.”
Anne looks at Eddie, a set stubbornness in her jaw that is familiar in affect, but alien on her face. Venom gives him that look all the time. Or maybe that’s just his face.
Sometime, over the course of the conversation, Eddie feels Venom start to settle down, the fear ever present, but listening more intently now. His Other is gathered somewhere near the hollow of his throat, their attention focused entirely on Anne.
“You can’t honestly tell me that he would want you to not take care of yourself like this.”
Venom’s voice, so sudden after 24 hours of silence, makes Eddie jump a little bit. He doesn’t do a good job of hiding it, but it’s timed just as a truck blows by in the street, and he’s always been a bit jumpy.
“I don’t want to go back on the meds.”
“We can’t afford therapy.” Fuck.
“Eddie, we can help-”
He shakes his head. “Anne, I don’t have time for another commitment. Xoe told me to take the rest of the week off because I keep fucking up my deadlines, I wake up from nightmares every night, and I don’t know how to…” He gestures, helplessly.
Anne reaches over, and puts a hand on his wrist, slowly stroking over the pulse point. She used to do this for him when he was having panic attacks, to ground him and to keep track of his heartbeat. It pulses strong now, alive for two, and he feels the way they collectively relax at her touch.
“I won’t force you to get into this. Just keep in mind that you can do this. You don’t have to be alone,” she says softly.
“I don’t like being alone,” he agrees quietly.
Never. Never alone. A possessive grip settles all along his body, and Eddie has to check to make sure his skin isn’t covered in inky black. It’s not, it’s his normal tattooed skin, but it’s kind of nice being held between one love and another.
What did Anne mean when she said medication? You haven’t been seriously ill before.
“I didn’t realize my medical history was common knowledge,” Eddie grouses from where he’s laying on their couch. Venom is spread out over him, thick webbing of comforting, warm blackness, across his body and draping off the couch some. He’s not sure which of them is actually holding the remote, but they’ve been channel surfing for at least twenty minutes.
Your medical history is common knowledge to me, Eddie. I can see the imprints of all past illnesses in your DNA, an instructional guide on how to deconstruct intruders. A beat of silence, then a smug, Prior to me, of course.
Eddie doesn’t know what to make of Venom’s relationship to his white blood cells or whatever kind of cells are in his body. “Well, thanks for being the best immune-booster I’ve ever had. Far better than orange juice. Bit more annoying, though.”
You shut your mouth and answer the question.
“Kind of hard to do that, bud.”
Telepathically linked, idiot.
He gives up and lets his head fall back onto the couch, staring up at the ceiling. Venom’s attention is still on the TV, and Eddie lets him control his hand, continuing to manipulate the TV into whatever he wanted it to be.
“I haven’t ever had a serious illness, or infection or anything. Like, nothing that would activate them to fight it. I’ve just been fucked in the head for a good chunk of my life. I’d take medication for that.”
Is this why your brain is so dry?
Eddie goes to sit up, but is promptly thrown back down to the couch, keeping him pinned down. “Is this why my what is so what?”
We need phenethylamine, mostly. Dopamine and serotonin are nice too; all the chemicals that exist in your brain. The first, we get from chocolate. Though brains are better.
“What does this have to do with –”
The other two, though, we also get from chocolate. But not quite. You produce more when you eat chocolate. But you don’t produce as much as other hosts I’ve had.
“Yeah, that would be the anxiety and depression. Wait, you can taste that?”
Venom does something akin to a hum, and Eddie has to mull that information over for a while. “Is…Is this why you’re so hungry all the time?”
No. That is normal. This is different. Sooner or later we need to eat other things. Lungs, pancreas, liver – all good food. The chemicals are the baseline; it is what we all need. Kind of like water, for humans. Eventually, we all have to eat something. Water just helps.
“When were you planning on telling me this?”
I just did.
At this point, Eddie turns to look at the TV, only to find it off. Venom is still draped all over him and the couch, and he’s not entirely sure what to do with this new information. Venom not only needed to eat other things, but he was, in effect, subsisting on the chemicals in Eddie’s brain. The chemicals that he doesn’t make enough of, which leads him to needing to take supplements. He hasn’t actually needed to take them in a while, mostly because he’s gotten better at hiding it. And working in journalism meant that while he was on camera for most of it, he also was responsible for a good amount of work at all hours of the day; it was expected for him to be exhausted.
Maybe Anne is right. Maybe he did need to go back on the meds. They changed his brain chemistry, but surely it was for the better, right?
A feeling of alarm spreads through his body, and he automatically reaches to soothe.
What do you mean, change?
“It would make me produce more of the chemicals that I don’t already produce,” Eddie explains. “Sort of like…there’s a lot of science in it but it’s basically like my brain’s inhibitors take too much serotonin from me, so the medication would basically be like, slapping them on the hand and keeping them from taking so much. So I wouldn’t reabsorb as much, it would actually get to be in my brain.”
Eddie shakes his head, and feels Venom begin to seep back into him. Apparently the gravity of the conversation has lessened such that he doesn’t feel the need to keep him pinned and captive. “No. It’s a natural drug.”
Venom does the humming thing again, and settles alongside Eddie’s heart. He feels warm, and softly strokes his thumb over his worn t-shirt, as if petting his Other through his skin. “I wouldn’t do anything to harm us.”
No. We trust you, Eddie.
Eddie smirks a bit, shuffling into the kitchen. “I know, love.”
The next day, Eddie’s in the middle of trying to continue with the piece that had gotten him his impromptu vacation the other day. He’s thinking about what the best way is to slip in his own personal opinion without detracting too much from the facts of the argument when his email pops up with an alert. It’s a message from Anne, that contains contact information for an actual psychiatrist who specializes in loss, generalized anxiety, PTSD, and paranoia.
Think about what we talked about. The body of the email is very short, but that’s par for the course with Anne. Just the line of the email, however, is enough to get him thinking about their conversation. About the fear of having to open up again, the fear of having to explain to someone that not only does he not want to be left untreated for his anxieties – it made him sharper in the field, he had claimed, emboldened already strung out senses for the truth that left him susceptible to normal dangers. The danger of isolating oneself from their loved ones, or the danger of being exposed in the future of his field. That brings his thoughts to the timeline, to the blank email he has still sitting in his drafts to Xoe, trying to come up with a defense to explain why he will continue to have erratic hours but not for a lack of trying.
Maybe that’s part of it; maybe it’s the knowledge that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll never really be completely normal once more, and the bolt of fear that comes from even entertaining the possibility that he could be “normal” again. He doesn’t want to be the only one in his body anymore, and maybe that’s part of it? Maybe it’s the fear of having something so intimate ripped from him again? Like if he has to completely give in to his boss’s timelines – a healthy decision, really – he’ll lose what he has with his Other? And what does he even have with him?
Venom stirs from somewhere below Eddie’s sternum. What is it?
Eddie knows he’s not asking about the email, but more about the psychosomatic response to such an email and all the thoughts thereafter. Not that he wanted to get back with her – Dan was a much better choice for her, in every single way – but he more or less thinks that he will always love her, in some way.
Apparently he doesn’t answer fast enough, because Venom starts moving closer to the surface, settling up closer by his throat. Awareness runs through his body, far too in tune with his surroundings for comfort. “Hey, it’s okay. Anne just emailed.”
There’s a beat of silence, before his Other responds. Not the same as before.
“What?” He doesn’t want to admit that he’s beginning to spiral, not that Venom would know what that means, but perhaps he can feel it.
Hell, maybe he can taste it.
Venom gives up on speaking, and instead begins to envelop Eddie; not quite the same as the suit, nor the same as when they’re hanging out together in their apartment, but somewhere in between. They look down at their hand, seeing Eddie’s palm exposed but Venom’s hand everywhere else. A strong wave of possessive protection sweeps through them, but they’re at odds for how to handle it. Venom wants to fight his way out, though there is no discernible threat. But Eddie is demanding that they stay at their seat, and force through it.
Being them – being truly Venom – is a heady experience, one that had Eddie hooked from the second time that they’d done it, back at his work building. Usually the focus is entirely on the power flowing between them, on the possibilities spread out before them, the thrill of the hunt echoing in their bones; but now, it’s all internal. It’s a strange feeling to feel their arms wrap around them, and Eddie is the one being comforted and restrained.
Physically talking is too much to ask right now, so Eddie surrenders his consciousness and lets himself be protected.
When Eddie comes to, he’s tucked into his bed, feeling more well rested than before. There’s no grit in his teeth – the only left over in his own mouth after Venom has fed on his choice cuisine – and his mind is curiously calm. Quiet.
He sits up sharply, pawing at his own chest. “Venom?!”
Shhh. We’re here. We’re safe.
The voice comes from within his mind, strong and safe, and Eddie collapses back onto the sheets in relief. Tears spring to his eyes, and he doesn’t bother to wipe them away. “Don’t do that to me, darling. Please don’t leave me again.”
We thought we were helping.
“You help the most when I can feel you. When I know that you’re safe too.”
His hands relax, rubbing over his own chest, as Venom radiates something that could really only be called shy smugness.
How do you feel now?
“Now that I know I’m not alone? Relieved,” Eddie sighs. “But, uh. Before that, I felt pretty good? Like, a pretty good approximate to what it was like on the meds. Why?”
You don’t need meds when you have us, Eddie. We know your body better than any drug; we know your mind better than any therapist.
He has a point. Eddie makes sure to let him know that, an affectionate nudge that results in more shy smugness. It’s almost like he’s trying to hide something, but doesn’t quite know how. Secrets aren’t really in his nature, after all.
“You’re right, love. But what did you actually do?”
We can be your medication, Eddie. We can help.
The shy smugness turns into a shy hopefulness, almost as if encouraging Eddie to agree with him. And, Venom’s right; he does feel better. But how much energy is that taking from him? And isn’t it hard to work with the chemicals and not, like…consume them too?
We do not just take, Eddie. I’m not…I want to help.
“I know this. I just, didn’t expect it.” He sits up again, surveying the room. Nothing’s too out of place from when they were together, and his curiosity is answered as Venom begins to uncover memories from the two of them. They’ve learned from experience that it’s not always the best to leave them fresh in Eddie’s consciousness, and Venom doesn’t mind being the secret keeper. If it’s to protect Eddie, he’d do anything.
It just looked like they had stayed pretty stationary for a fair bit longer than Eddie had realized, before they’d gotten up and made their way to bed. Venom had been in complete control, but aside from having to learn how to pilot Eddie’s legs as opposed to his own, they’d made a pretty solid effort to get them into bed.
“I know you want to help, love. As long as it won’t hurt you-”
I hurt when you hurt. When you are healthy, so am I. We need this, Eddie.
Those words send a shiver down his spine that he doesn’t want to analyze. “Okay, okay. Eggs?”
Venom learning how to be an anti-depressant is a lot smoother of a transition than he’s ever had previously. Probably because Venom works so much faster than just regular pills, and works in a much more targeted area. So when Eddie’s starting to flag on his energy, or he can’t focus on his work, there’s suddenly a minor uptick in the ability to focus, or to give him the confidence to actually send his piece in to his editors before he can fully review it.
It also helps that Venom gives him comments the whole time, but that’s moreso for personal comfort.
There are times where – and he can be more honest with himself now – that he’s about to have a panic attack or to have some kind of break from reality. They’re both less and more frequent; less because Venom is there to intervene, and more because he’s actually calling them what they are now.
In a lot of ways, Venom is taking on more jobs than he’d like to. Venom is a service dog and anti-depressant all in one, and it’s way more than he would have ever asked of him. But every time he starts to go down that road, his Other’s discontent – almost like a warning growl – echoes between the two of them.
I told you; you are mine. I’ll do whatever I need to do to keep us safe. This message is often accompanied by affectionate frustration, or in other cases, just plain affection. More than once Venom has licked away his tears, which sounds like it would be horrifying, but it’s actually quite comforting.
The next time he sees Anne, he apparently looks much better. He has to admit having his job back is helping quite a bit, but she sees through it. Her smile still makes his heart flutter, but in a way that one does when they make someone else happy, especially someone who means so much to them.
“Are you seeing the therapist I recommended to you?” she asks, sipping innocently out of her coffee.
“Oh, uh –”
Someone much better.
I know, love.
“…something like that.”
But you still bite your nails too much.