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Eddie is good.

The concept is nebulous, strange, as lacking in form as Venom is. He learns it from a dying woman.

They’re together long enough for him to learn about walls and captivity and fear, though the last is difficult to grasp for how wide it is. She's scared of everything and of Venom most of all, but not of death, which is ironic because with every breath and beat of the organ at her center, she gets closer. Venom is eating her alive, almost by accident.

He learns about boredom, too. The cell is dark and fear gets old. Earth is worthless if this is all it has to offer.

This is how he learns humans and he knows them well enough to tell that the man creeping down the hallway is creeping. Lit up in dark blues, half-hidden in the shadows with his little box held up in front his face. He doesn’t want to be seen.

The moment the woman sees him, all bad things fade. The new feeling is bubbling, giddy, like joy but desperate. Later, he’ll know it’s hope, but in that moment it’s twenty dollars gifted for something that should have been free and an honest question on a cold night, a kind smile every day, being cared for—being human.

Venom wants it. Venom wants him.

 


 

He wonders if it goes both ways. He wonders if Eddie can feel this little joy that threads along their bond, a constant burn. The Earth is covered in possibility. He could live there a hundred years never be bored. We will, he thinks, a thought for himself alone while Eddie sleeps and a show about baking—which is like cooking but harder according to the gruff man on the screen—plays on the box.

Someone makes a pun. He loves puns. One day he’ll make one that will surprise Eddie and make him laugh. He needs to study them first.

Eddie isn’t peaceful in sleep. He dreams of the things he’s seen and the places he’s been, the mistakes he’s made. When he kicks his sheets off at two, Venom pulls them back up. When he starts sweating at four, Venom pulls them back down. It would be easier if he let Venom be his cover instead of this spider’s webbing he calls cotton, but every time the suggestion is brought up he mutters something ridiculous about counting threads. Venom makes the executive decision for Eddie after a week. If he notices, if he minds, he never mentions it.

Sometimes, Venom watches him sleep, staring from a foot away and then inches, until inevitably a stray bead of something that isn’t drool—it’s not drool Eddie stop calling it that—lands on Eddie’s cheek and he pulls back lest the man wake. He’s handsome by human standards. He must be. The women and men in Eddie’s memories look at him with hunger.

Pride and jealousy war in him at those memories. So many emotions. He’s starting a collection.

“Can you bake?” he asks Eddie in the morning.

Eddie turns to him where Venom is perched over his shoulder and then squints. “Me? Bake?” His mind flashes to an empty refrigerator and beer and burnt tater tots in the pan that never scrubs clean anymore no matter how hard he tries. “No. God, no.”

Venom tries the next night, but without flour and eggs, the results are less than palatable. One might even call them inedible or toxic. Not Venom. He wraps himself around Eddie’s torso while he wafts the smoke out of the kitchen and opens doors and windows. When Eddie asks, “What possessed you?” Venom does not think of warm food and providing and a smile.

“You hated that pan,” Venom growls in his ear, not looking at him. “Now you can get a new one.” Everything is eye contact for him, but Eddie doesn’t know that and like they say on the box: what he does not know cannot not hurt him.

Eddie blinks and then snorts. It’s not a laugh and not a smile, but close enough.

 


 

The city isn’t that big. Or—the city on the box is bigger. New York. Maybe one day he’ll convince Eddie to go there. Or maybe he’ll take Eddie. They could climb the building like the giant—the giant thing. Monkey. Ape.

What is the difference between monkeys and apes?

Eddie pushes his bangs out of his eyes and takes another sip of coffee. There are bags under his eyes, but Venom can’t help if he decides going to sleep at three and waking up at six is an acceptable window for sleep, as he does sometimes. He didn’t shave, either. It’s somehow not a bad look on him. But then, nothing is.

Eddie.

“I don’t know.” He hums closes his eyes, pushes the hot paper cup to his temple. “Tails?”

Tails. Venom slides down his spine softly, carefully, just to check. He knows every atom of Eddie’s body, but it’s worth a second glance. Eddie’s ass is, according to a dozen or so good memories, above average by most human metrics. When he curls below the waistband of Eddie’s pants, he jumps and screams and spills some of the coffee down his shirt.

“No tail,” Venom mutters with a little caress. Eddie seems to have temporarily lost his ability to speak. “...Are you awake now, Ed—”

“Yes. Yes, I am fucking awake.”

 


 

At heart, Eddie is still a reporter. He likes to dig for information, know all things, pick for secrets until someone bleeds. Himself, more often than not. Venom gets good at patching him up—even scratches and bruises and all the little marks he might have left any other time.

He gets so many. It’s a wonder he lived until Venom got to him. He eats the wrong things or eats nothing, is scared of heights but not of guns, makes enemies like the people on the box make friends.

 


 

He can protect Eddie. That’s not in question. The issue is that he needs food to do it, and while tater tots and chocolate are at least a quarter of the reason he decided to stay on Earth instead of dragging Eddie off to some far-away system, they aren’t sustenance. They aren’t living blood-and-breath food.

And if he doesn’t eat, he can feel it starting. He can feel himself start to absorb, start to consume, as his kind does by the millions. Hosts are food. This keeping and caring is a new dance. He knows Eddie loathes it. He loathes Eddie hating him for it, but it’s still better than the alternative.

We need to eat.

Eddie doesn’t reply, but his mind hums with agreement. It’s been a long day. It’s going to be longer before either of them rest—but Venom doesn’t need rest. He needs food.

Eddie.

“I know. I know, sweetheart.”

Sweetheart. Love. Eddie uses these names for him. Nothing in Eddie’s memories informs their meaning. He’s never used them before. They ooze sweetness, but Venom isn’t sure it’s not sarcastic, too. Sarcasm is new, but he’s getting better at it. I could eat you, he warns, half-tease, half-threat, that thread of real fear sneaking in under it. This is fear.

Eddie jerks in place. He’s glancing around a corner, trying to spot a patrol. Venom can hear it down the hallway, at the crossway at the end. “Please don’t,” he mutters, and runs for it.

They make it across the hallway and before Eddie can ask, Venom takes out the handle on the door, quietly. It’s dark inside, but they both spot the wall of files and Eddie lets Venom take over his eyes so they both can read the file markers until they find what they’re looking for. Another week, another case. Eddie and he, they’re not private eyes, not police, not soldiers, not doctors or bakers or businessmen or any of the thousand and one things humans call themselves. The box tells him nothing.

“What are we, Eddie?”

Eddie’s fingers fumble a file. He straightens, blinks, and Venom manifests so he can look Eddie in the eye—though it defeats the purpose if his human eyes can’t see the look Venom is leveling at him. “What?” he asks.

Venom hates that word. “What are we?” he repeats.

The man looks back to the files, but he’s not really looking. He’s frozen. “Partners,” he offers, voice catching on the p.

Partners. Venom sounds the word out loud and then barks a laugh. “We are not lawyers, Eddie.”

“No—not that kind. God, you’ve been watching too much television. We’re friends.”

That’s closer, but still off. “...Then I am Rachel.”

Eddie bows over the files and thumps head against the cabinet, muttering something a little insulting but better than his usual parasite comment. “No?” Venom asks, hunger starting to gnaw at his mood. “You are not Rachel.” Eddie is better than the poorly dressed man or the one who talks about himself constantly, but he doesn’t have the necessary spark. Venom is all spark.

“No, no. You got me there. You’re Rachel, sweetheart.” He thumbs through the files another moment and then exclaims, “Ah—got it.” He lifts the file with a satisfied sound and presents it.

“How do you know that’s it? You can’t even see.” It is, of course, the right file.

“Thickest one,” Eddie says, ever so smart, and does a thing with his eyes where one brow goes up and one goes down and he blinks with one eye. It’s strange. Venom almost asks him if he has something in it that he needs help getting out—it’s a special skill. Long claws and trust and the slight stickiness of his substance has its uses—but the patrol is coming back.

The door is closed. They’re safe, secret, but the smell of them seeps in under the frame. Hot blood, living flesh, breath and crunch and he’s hungrier than he thought—

“Venom.”

He’s snaked over Eddie’s arms, curled around his chest, ready to take control. Hungry, he begs, pleads, apologizes. They are bad people. Hunger is always with him. It’s what he is. With a guilty shudder he tries to extricate himself, but he doesn’t want to, so he can’t. He succeeds only in spreading himself thinner, covering more, the lines of him bleeding across Eddie’s chest and face, curled with an emotion that might be embarrassment.

Eddie stares down at his body and then sets the palm of his hand over his heart, over Venom, and says, “Just don’t get it on the file, okay?”

It’s all the permission he needs.

 


 

On the walk home, Venom spreads across Eddie’s back and torso under his clothes, feeling both like the satisfied, sun-warmed cat in Eddie’s earliest memories and like the boy petting it. It’s dark. No one will see him. He lets himself snake up Eddie’s neck like one of the sweaters the thin men with high cheekbones and distant stares wear on shop windows and billboards. They can be fancy, too.

“Turtlenecks aren’t fancy,” Eddie says offhand. He’s good at picking up thoughts now. He doesn’t always need to reply out loud. Maybe he likes it. Maybe it feels like a conversation. Venom can be that. He can be anything Eddie needs.

Thank you, Venom says for the second time at least. They tasted very—

“Nope! No, that’s okay. I got the gist.”

Thank you, he repeats anyway, and tries with a subtle nudge to shift Eddie in the direction of a real grocery store where they’ll have flour and sugar and chocolate and baking powder.

 


 

It takes roughly ten tries—though one and two are more of a marathon failure where he first forgets the sugar and then adds salt instead—but in the end, he manages okay. Eddie wakes to a plate of almost serviceable brownies, only a little black, only a little too sweet, and his smile sticks with him all day long.

 


 

Venom watches a new channel on the box that night. It’s a movie more than a show and there are sunsets and bright-eyed people. They stare at each other and wind moves their hair, on hillsides, in front of little wooden houses, and they wear dresses and hats and say sweet words to sweet songs. Eddie is not a hillside sort of love. He looks silly in hats and his frame isn’t suited for dresses like those. The music he listens to is not for sweet moments. His eyes are indistinct; Venom can’t recall the color of them when they’re not before him.

Eddie is none of that, but Eddie is good. He aches with it. Venom curls about him in the moments when his heart is out on his sleeve and tries to feel it on him, tries to absorb it. Maybe one day he’ll have enough to be that, too. Maybe, one day, Eddie will look at Venom and see the same thing Venom sees in him.

What he’s learned in small degrees over weeks and months is that Eddie doesn’t see it in himself. Eddie doesn’t think he’s a good person.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronaut,” he says one night. His voice is like the dripping of rain outside, rough and slow with—with sadness. That’s what it is. He’s unhappy. It’s a new concept, one Venom is only beginning to understand in full. He wraps tighter around Eddie’s torso and then slips down his legs, too, without regard for the cloth in his way. Eddie doesn’t shift.

“We're an astronaut,” Venom tells him—out loud, right in his ear. “We have been to space.”

You're an astronaut,” Eddie corrects softly. It's almost a laugh, but not a happy one.

“No—we.”  Maybe, one day. Maybe he could take Eddie to the stars—but not yet. Too dangerous. Too much risk.

That’s another new concept. He’s never had anything to fear losing. It’s unclear how humans live with it—with having so much and losing so much and never knowing when good things will come and go. Venom curls tighter, this time over his hands and under them. Eddie lets him manipulate them, turn them over, turn them back.

Fighting crime makes messes. Crime is a mess to begin with. Neither of them mind that—the apartment is a beloved one itself—but sometimes people get hurt. People that don’t deserve it.

Children are the worst of what they see. One day they will have their own and the thought of someone taking them is another fear.

Eddie tried to protect them. He succeeded, but Venom was spread thin, and the shot that got through pierced Eddie’s chest. There was blood, and too much of it, though all things are fixable. Venom can still smell it. He would be able to even if it weren’t still spread over Eddie’s ruined shirt and down his pants and this time the smell of blood is nothing like food, nothing like hunger.

Venom fixed his wound and then, with care and with violence, killed everything in the room that was not small or Eddie. When he was finished, the walls were painted red and the children were safe—but not the first one. Not the one Eddie protected with his blood and bone. The bullet got through and children are so small and weak.

Eddie held the body and Venom held him. It was only a minute. Only until the sound of sirens. It was selfish, but in his heart,  he was glad it wasn't Eddie and he was glad the child was someone else's, someone nameless. It wasn't a kind thought. It wasn't good.

He doesn't regret it.

Venom strokes up his arms, wraps around his neck, pulls across his chest where there was nothing, where Venom had to rebuild him cell by cell. The hole in his shirt is still sticky.

You are filthy. Humans need clean and they need heat. In the shows, people that lose blood get cold and die first and fastest with the saddest music. He prods Eddie in the direction of the shower and he goes without objection.

Venom stays exposed on him as he strips in the bathroom. He could fade back in, but he doesn't want to leave Eddie alone right now. He’s fragile and human. Without Venom, he could break at a fall or a bad breath of tainted air or choke on his food or bleed out from the smallest cut because they heal so slowly—

“Hey.”

The word is quiet, but it breaks Venom out of his trance. He's been vibrating, shaking like a human in terror, he realizes. The only part of Eddie still exposed is his head, and only just. He doesn't apologize, but slips back quietly, making himself a necklace of a thousand strands as Eddie steps into the shower.

Under the spray, he waits until Eddie's eyes are closed and slips down his chest to rub off the blood there.

Eddie freezes. “What are you doing?”

Cleaning.

“I don't need—”

Venom passes over something that makes him jerk away—but not in pain. Not pain at all.

He manifests, gives himself eyes and hands and height even still half-suspended air and mostly formless, and then looks. Eddie’s memories are full of beautiful people. Anne is beautiful according to all Eddie’s memories, with her pale hair and long legs. Eddie is none of that, but still—something. Venom thinks of beauty in fractured pieces. The scar on Eddie’s shoulder, the asymmetry of his smile, the specific way street lights reflect off everything in the rain, and the more abstract. There’s the smell of the city in summer, the absence of light between stars, opportunity and winning and—and goodness. These are beautiful things.

Eddie is so many of them.

Without asking, he presses Eddie into the wall of the shower, right into the corner where he’s easiest to pin and protect. Eddie jerks at the hold on his wrists, so Venom softens it as he calms and breathes. He’s not wounded anymore, but he’ll need to rest and eat and heal in other ways. He can think of one shortcut.

“What are you—fuck—

Venom is good at this. He’s good at taking care of Eddie. He’s good.

Pulling things apart is second nature for their kind, and it doesn't take much. This kind of ruin is easy and better than killing, better than blood, almost better than food—though maybe, this can be a bit of both. He traces muscle and scar, memorizes every place that makes his breath quicken, every movement that sends endorphins rushing through his brain.

Eddie is reduced to single-syllable words. Most are curses. Some are not. Once, he says Venom's name.

Are we good at this, Eddie?

Eddie twitches any blinks and says, “Yes,” like he's angry about it or confused.

It's a contact high. Before he realizes it, he's wrapped around Eddie and there's nothing between them, not even air. It feels good. He's going to find every corner, every edge he can push him over.

Eddie’s forehead falls against his half-formed chest after minutes, breathing hard and open-mouthed. We can be any shape you want, Venom wants to tell him, but this is a moment for silence as pleasure rises, rises, and finally peaks. He makes a soft sound, like pain, and then quiet. He's wet with water and sweat and something new. They both are, now.

“Eddie,” he repeats. “Eddie.”

 


 

It doesn't change much, but the next day when Eddie steps in the shower, there's anticipation in his body and heat in his heart.

You took a shower yesterday. Eddie colors red about his ears and cheeks. He doesn't reply. He doesn't need to.

Eventually, they dispense with the excuse all together.

 


 

Life isn't always a fight, even if Venom might prefer it to be. After a run of quiet weeks with nothing more eventful than an attempted mugging, the event of the month is Anne and Dan invite them out for dinner.

“Me. They invited me for dinner,” Eddie insists, trying again to make his hair look some specific way in the mirror. He’s given up and started over three times.

It’s a double date. Like on that show.

“What—what are you watching that there are double dates? Jesus. I should cancel cable. Make you read a book instead.”

No!

Eddie squints in the mirror and rearranges the same bit of hair again. If he cuts off cable, they still have Netflix—but Eddie doesn’t know that. He doesn’t know about the Hulu, either. Or the magazine subscriptions. Venom keeps them under the bed. The ones with animals are the best. And food.

I can do the hair for you if you want, Venom says after a moment.

Eddie shakes his head and doesn’t speak to him again until they get to the restaurant.

It’s a nice one. Not live lobster tank nice, but they aren’t allowed back at that one anyway. Eddie put himself in half of a suit for the occasion and when Venom offered to be an accessory like a bracelet or one of the chokers that the magazine with the girl on the cover assures him are in season, he refused that the same way he refused the help with his hair. He’s in a mood.

Why are you nervous? Venom asks when they're all seated and greetings are out of the way. Anne and Dan are smiling at them across the table, a patina of anxiety sweat over Dan’s forehead the only sign that Eddie ate live shellfish in front of him the last time they were together like this.

“I'm not,” Eddie replies under his breath. “What do you want to eat?”

Anne starts to answer but realizes her mistake and smiles instead. “You look happy, Eddie.”

He does. He’s healthy now, strong, getting all the nutrients a human needs as per the advice of several four-in-the-morning talk shows that think the key to immortality lies somewhere between avocado smoothies and fermented pomegranate juice. It’s a shame Eddie doesn’t own a blender.

The steak.

“Yeah, of course,” Eddie mutters and then looks at Anne. “Well. You know.”

She doesn’t. She quirks a brow at him. “Oh-kay. Are you and—and your friend getting along?”

Oh, yes, Venom says and isn’t sure which of them comes up with the image of sweat and hands curled in sheets and blackness everywhere. Eddie slaps a hand over his mouth and Venom realizes he made him say it out loud. Anne’s other eyebrow goes up and Dan is—very red. He’s a doctor. He should have that seen to.

Eddie turns back to the menu and flips back and forth at random, trying to distract himself. Half the items on it look fake. They can’t be real. Venom wants to try all of them, after the steak.

What is a strozzapreti?

“Hell if I know.”

Eddie. There's a joke about that phrase. Do you want to hear it? It has elephants in it.

Eddie ducks his head and covers his mouth with one hand. Maybe later, he thinks.

Anne and Dan are trying to watch them from across the table and not be obvious about watching them. They’re poor at both. Venom wants them to understand that Eddie is happy and that Eddie is healthy and this is thanks to him. He’s done this. He’s good at it. He’s good.

The steak comes rare. Eddie prefers medium, but he’s been in the mood for compromise lately. He eats everything that's palatable for a human and when the waitress comes to take the plate away, he asks her to pack the leftovers. “I’ve got a… dog,” he says lamely. The waitress nods and takes it away and Venom wraps around his chest under his shirt, a silent appreciation thrumming through him.

It’s pleasant. He likes listening to their conversation, to all the little words they use, all their small talk. They talk about work and the weather and the construction downtown as their voices lull and dip for minutes.

Even Venom picks up when the atmosphere changes.

“So, Eddie…” Anne folds her hands in front of her on the table. Venom can’t pick out what she’s getting at but evidently Eddie does because he tenses and his heart skips and—oh. There’s a ring. “Dan and I are engaged. I wanted you to know first.”

The energy at the table is tense and Venom is ready and willing to take control and flip a table if need be. There’s no tank full of anything to deface, unfortunately, but then creativity is one of his best traits.

Eddie’s mind is quiet though. He nods and says, “That’s great. I’m really happy for you guys.” He’s being honest. He’s bad at lying even if he’s good at sneaking and subtlety, so it’s a surprise. Venom gives a wiggle of approval and Eddie smiles. “You guys are—that’s great. When’s the wedding?”

Anne laughs and rolls her eyes, but she leans into Dan and they both get to spend the next half hour insisting that they haven’t started planning it yet. Venom begs Eddie for dessert and they both get to enjoy a triple chocolate cake. It’s a good evening.

I love double dates, Venom tells him on the walk home.

“It wasn’t a double date,” Eddie insists for the dozenth time. He doesn’t mean it. When they get home, he gives Venom the rest of the steak and then lets Venom lay him out in bed for a couple hours.

All said, it’s a lovely night.

 


 

How do people get married?

“It's… like when you love someone. You want to spend your life with them.”

I’m not a child, Eddie. How?

Eddie sighs and flips on the blinker. “There are papers. A ceremony in a, a church or something. Depends.”

...You love me, Venom says after Eddie finishes the turn. He doesn't make it a question because it can't be one. It's a solid fact, a statement, and any answer but the right one would be—not good. Not acceptable. Maybe he's starting to understand a new kind of fear. Anxiety.

It’s early. Eddie packed a bag, threw the thin-like-paper thin-like-skin clothes in the bottom of the sack, put his wallet in his back pocket and hopped on his bike. His mind was quiet. Now, it’s barely past dawn and they’re high enough to see the fog over the city. It’s not a real sigh, not the kind that gusts out of him when Venom has stepped too far, said the wrong thing, done bad.

His mind hums with agreement. “Guess so.”

The ring he got for Anne is still in the bottom of a drawer in his room, cast aside and forgotten under socks and underwear and it’s silly that they need names for every little thing they cover themselves with. Eddie’s mind strays to it now and then. Diamond, as if that’s something prized, as if Venom hasn’t seen planets formed of it, as if he couldn’t walk into any of the shops they see every day and find him one bigger and better—for free.

There was a blue one in a movie he watched while Eddie was asleep three nights back. A woman dropped it to the bottom of the sea. Venom could get him that one, too, if Eddie wanted, but he doesn’t. The bike, the apartment, food that is not people, staying warm, doing good—he keeps a running tally of all the things Eddie needs and wants. It seems too short a list.

Where are we going?

“For a drive.”

He knows that. Eddie is being deceptive. He's good at it, but not like Venom is, and he can see the shape of Eddie's thoughts. Eddie forgets that sometimes. Now, he's thinking of the road and the sun and the sky and—and the dark. The way it clings and consumes, and no. No. The thoughts double back in on themselves like a loop, like an echo. Not the dark, but what it's inside it. Them. Venom.

...Are you happy?

Eddie takes a moment to answer. The bike slows on the curving cliff road. There’s no other traffic. “What’s gotten into you? Yeah, I’m happy.”

He’s not lying. It still means something to have him say it aloud.

Words are difficult. They cloud his mind, tie his tongue. It takes time to pick the right ones for the right thought, the right want. Eddie. He's pulling the bike off the road, to a gravel pull out that looks over the sea. Eddie... You hate heights.

“It's not a height. It's a view.”

It is. The water is blue-black and there's is mist and rocks and trees. Little pink flowers litter the cliff and cling to the rocks. Venom reaches out to the one closest to Eddie's foot and plucks it. Do you want a flower, Eddie?

“Nah, I'm good.”

But people love flowers.

“Ah, really. That's okay.”

Venom grows fangs, grows claws, stretches out before him. “Take the flower, Eddie.”

He does, quickly, delicately, and holds it in one hand like it's glass. This isn’t a hillside but it’s close enough and there is a breeze—though it's bitterly cold. In the shows, this is the place for flowers and declarations, but Eddie already loves him. This doesn't have to be difficult. Words are overrated. Venom makes himself into a scarf to ward off the cold and settles back in.

“What… do you want me to do with it?”

I—I don't know. Put it somewhere. On your head. Eddie is shaking. Not with cold. It's not funny.

“Yeah, yeah,” he laughs outright and pulls his jacket tighter around himself with one hand, tucks the flower into his pocket with the other so it's sticking out the top. Not like the movies. Not at all.

There are birds in the sky flapping about. Big, black ones. They think they're so special with their wings and aerodynamics and hollow bones, unlike Venom, who can barely walk in this fragile, human world without crushing something. He used to love crushing. He still does, but maybe Eddie minds it.

I can get you a ring, too, Venom mutters.

Eddie freezes and glances down at him. “What?”

He hates that word.

You said it was for people who love and are together. We only need a ring. The church is a little more difficult, but there are a few in the city. They won't appreciate Venom's presence. Maybe if Eddie explains, and maybe Anne and Dan will come and maybe, maybe there will be snacks.

Maybe after, Eddie will let him—

“No.”

...No?

It's surprise more than anything. Venom feels himself disassemble and come back together. He's not wrong about this. The facts are simple: Eddie loves him, and Eddie is good, so the things he loves must be at least some good, too. Maybe… not good enough, though. He pulls back to look Eddie in the eye, but they're downcast.

His mouth is twisted in a small smile. “That’s moving pretty fast. Let's try a date first, okay?”

A date. There aren’t any carnivals in the city. They’ll have to go somewhere else entirely. It sounds like needless effort.

...What is a date? He knows what a date is, but it's still not the answer he wanted, and he wanted it. And, he’d like to hear what Eddie thinks a date is if it's not fighting crime together and not having someone inside you in all sorts of ways and not sharing a body and a bed and letting someone drool on you in their sleep

Eddie rolls one shoulder. “It's when you take someone out to some place you think they'll like. Like—some place new. Spend time. Enjoy… Enjoy the atmosphere, I guess”

There's a beat, a pause. Venom is new to Earth and humanity, but not that new. Their customs are strange, but not that strange. And he can read Eddie's thoughts, too.

This is a date. You brought us here for a date.

He doesn't reply. He’s watching the bird—the raven—wheel above them. “You've only seen the city,” he says after a moment. “But that's not what makes the Earth a nice place. I just thought you'd like to see more.”

That's a date by any definition and Venom finally has a name for the chemical that's surging through Eddie's head. Oxytocin. For people in love. For them. Eddie. You shouldn’t have.

“I can drive back right now.”

No!

They stay there for minutes, Eddie shuffling back and forth to avoid the cold while the sun rises over the hills behind them and glitters off the water. It’s a little bit like a movie, Venom decides. Enough like a movie.

“Eddie,” he whispers. “Eddie, what do you get when you mix an elephant and a rhinoceros?”

Eddie closes his eyes and shakes his head. It's a terrible joke, the kind of humor only a human could appreciate, pathetic and not nearly as fun as ruin, but he's been holding onto it for weeks, waiting for a low moment and a cheap laugh. “Eddie. Ask me.”

He shakes his head again but asks, “What do you get?”

Venoms slides up his neck and says in one ear, “Hell if I know. Get it?” He curls tighter to feel the air rush into Eddie's lungs as he draws a breath. He doesn’t want to laugh. He’s going to laugh. “Eddie? Do you get it? Say it out loud to yourself—”

“I regret this already.”

He doesn’t mean it.