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They watch everything through Eddie’s eyes, the strobing lights overhead unpleasant and jarring, people pressed in too tight all around them.  Not the worst place they’ve ever been, but close— Eddie is chasing a lead, has been for months; something about human trafficking and immigration officials.  The finer details are there if the symbiote needs them, all wrapped up in Eddie’s thoughts; mostly it doesn’t matter. They’ve been trailing after men in suits, and lurking in smoky bars.  Digging through papers, typing on Eddie’s laptop— it can play videos, too, but they’re never as good as the ones on tv, and the symbiote tends to lose interest.

 

 

No part of Eddie’s day job is fun, exactly, but the clubs are the symbiote’s least favorite, and not just because they’d rather be doing hero work.  

 

People look at Eddie like they’re hungry for him— men and women both.  The way Anne used to look at him, the memories tucked away but vivid; memories Eddie never calls up willingly, because when they come, he hurts.

 

The symbiote would like to fix it, but it feels like a wound that can’t be healed all at once.  Something that needs coaxing, and care, and time.

 

Something that needs delicacy, but they want to try.

 

Eddie draws stares when they go to the club, blatant interest, and the symbiote doesn’t like it.  Eddie belongs to them, now.

 

People call them lots of things, most of it unkind, but the symbiote has never felt monstrous quite like it does on nights like this— with men and women running their hands down Eddie’s arm, pink lips bitten between bright white teeth.

 

It isn’t the first time.  It isn’t even the first time tonight, but this time they can’t keep quiet.

 

Don’t like her, Eddie.

 

Eddie pulls away from the woman with a forced grin, eyes roving over the crowd, looking for his mark.

 

“I’m here with someone,” he says, and the symbiote preens.

 

Eddie is always with someone, but there’s a possessive slant the words, now, and they like that.

 

They like that a lot.

 

Eddie pushes back with his thoughts, me neither, and the symbiote likes that, too.

 

It isn’t new, this incessant ache they feel, but it grows more insistent every day.  Harder to ignore, the way they yearn to keep Eddie all swathed in black, just to feel his skin.

 

How they’d like to hold him, and soothe the world away.  Be everything he needs.

 

Everything he wants.  

 

The woman’s smile doesn’t falter, but widens instead, head cocked to the side as she looks down at Eddie’s hand where it curls around his glass. Amber whiskey, warm and smokey and strong, and Eddie could drink all night and not feel a thing.  They keep him sober.

 

Keep him safe, like no one else ever could.

 

“I don’t see a ring,” she says, leaning into his space again.  

 

Eddie moves back, mind swirling, thoughts lingering briefly on Anne and ring.  An image surfaces, the ring nestled in a drawer at home, but there’s less loneliness than they expect, less pain.  Mostly Eddie is annoyed, and the symbiote wants to snap at this woman.

 

They don’t have lips to bite, sultry and suggestive, but they have a lot more teeth.  Sharper teeth.

 

Better teeth.

 

I don’t see a ring, she’d said, and the symbiote riles and pulses under Eddie’s skin.

 

They can fix that, next time.

 

-

 

They hadn’t been together all that long the first time Eddie took himself in hand in the shower.   ‘Not a fucking word,’ he’d said, and the symbiote had been confused, but only for a moment.  Then it was a rush of sensation, Eddie’s whole body gone loose and lush, that knife’s edge of hunger they always lived in fading back as they were flooded with heat.  Better than chocolate, better than flesh, and they hadn’t meant to say anything but after a while it spilled out all the same.

 

Oh, Eddie…

 

He’d whined, and twitched, and come, that euphoric wash of chemicals in his brain tinged with the barest hint of shame.

 

They’d seen it in Eddie’s thoughts before, but knowledge and memories and mechanics were miles away from feeling it, and they’d slipped into Eddie’s mind afterwards, unable to help themselves.

 

No, Eddie.  Don’t feel bad.  Feels good.

 

He’d snarked something back that they hadn’t entirely understood at the time, something about voyeurism and putting on a show.  The symbiote had curled itself around Eddie; around his mind, but also around his body, black ink laid over him like a second skin.  Soft, and clinging.

 

An embrace, unlike any the two of them had shared before, and they found they didn’t want to let go.

 

Liked that, Eddie.  Liked it a lot.

 

Eddie hadn’t said anything, but he’d run his fingers over the black tendrils on his skin, something tentative and fond sifting through the tangle of his emotions.  

 

After that, it was easier.

 

Easier, and agonizing.

 

They will take everything of Eddie they can get, but this stokes a hunger in them that they don’t know how to sate.  Makes them want more, and more, and it’s frightening.

 

To want a thing, and know they’d do anything to have it.

 

Eddie climbs into the shower every day, head falling forward on his shoulders, fingers wrapped snugly around his cock.  He splays his other hand out on the shower wall, water slicking down his body, muscles flexing and relaxing as he works himself.  The symbiote cannot help themselves, shuddering into being on his skin, coiling over his biceps, sliding around his throat.

 

Eddie, Eddie, Eddie, and his breath catches in response, going ragged and fast and overwhelmed.  

 

Eddie swears, and shakes apart, and the symbiote snakes out to catch his come and swallow it up in darkness.  All of Eddie is delicious, and this is no exception— it would be a mistake to let it go to waste.

 

They regret every drop they’ve let slip away already.

 

Eddie leans against the tile, panting in the warm spray sluicing over them both, feelings all riled and twisted in his chest.  He’s happy, but thinks he shouldn’t be, and when they try to push into the thoughts Eddie pulls them back as best he can.

 

Does it bother you, now, Eddie?  When I’m with you like this?

 

There is hesitation in his answer, even if there isn’t in his thoughts.  It doesn’t bother him, Eddie likes it, but he doesn’t want to say that.  There’s that tangle of feelings again, want and shame and need and belonging and guilt, until they feel dizzy waiting for a response.

 

They have long since learned that what people think and what people say are not always the same, but it’s Eddie’s words they have to listen to, even when his mind contradicts his mouth.

 

Should I stop?  Don’t want to leave you, Eddie, but I can be quiet.  Can be still.

 

“No!” It comes fast, and loud.  Eddie winces and tries again. Softer, gentler, fingers flitting over the black lines on his belly.  “No, it’s fine. You’re fine.”

 

They want to be more than fine, but it will do for now.  They pour themselves over Eddie’s fingers like water, fit themselves to his skin, unable to stop the contentment that surges into Eddie from them.  He smiles, and they settle, and he’s right.

 

Everything’s fine.

 

-

 

It takes a while to convince Eddie that he doesn’t need clothes anymore.  That they can be anything he wants to wear, anytime; that everything will fit perfectly, and be just warm enough, just cool enough, just soft enough.

 

If they’re separated for any reason, Eddie will have bigger problems on his hands than nudity.

 

Eddie insists on wearing boxers, and they argue with him about it, but only because his thoughts go warm and flustered.  They don’t push the issue too hard, really.

 

Now they get to spend the days and nights nestled against his skin, with him in a more tangible way; a constant, visible presence.  Eddie runs his palms over them sometimes, over the false fabric of his shirts and jackets, the imitation denim of his jeans. Curls his toes into the soles of his shoes.  They press back as much as they can without giving anything away to the people around them, but Eddie feels it.

 

He knows.

 

It’s one less thing for Eddie to worry about when he already has too much on his plate.  The two of them rove through the city at night saving people. More often when they are hungry, but they’re hungry less and less nowadays, Eddie’s body giving them more of what they need.  When he is happy they are happy, and the need to eat is faraway, a weak and muffled urge that’s easily ignored for days or even weeks at a time.

 

The idea that it’s them making Eddie happier is almost drugging, but the symbiote tries not to fixate on it.

 

Even happier, Eddie is usually tired, and distracted.  Hero by night, reporter by day, and the symbiote finds themselves turning off the lights that Eddie’s left on when he inevitably falls asleep at his desk or on the couch.  Carrying him to bed, easing him down in the softness of his mattress. They’re his blanket, now— it’s better that way.

 

They like keeping Eddie warm.

 

They’re good at taking care of Eddie in ways he can’t take care of himself— shielding him from bullets, keeping him out of danger— but months pass before they realize just how bad Eddie is at the rest of it.  Getting enough sleep, drinking things that aren’t coffee, eating for himself. He showers every day, which is a drastic improvement over the twice a week he’d managed before, and the symbiote can’t help but wonder if it’s because of them.  

 

Because of those moments when they’re breathing together, moving together, losing themselves.

 

It’s hard to figure out what normal is when the only person they have to learn from firsthand is Eddie, but the people on tv and in Eddie’s memories make it easier to piece together.

 

Eddie is terrible at being a human.

 

So they bring Eddie food, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.  Rifling through Eddie’s thoughts for information isn’t always straightforward, especially when it comes to impersonal things, but little by little they learn.  Fruit is easy, but most things need to be cooked, or put together in a certain way. It seems needlessly complicated, stacking everything in specific orders, or cutting it all up and mixing it around when it would be simpler to just eat the ingredients one by one.  

 

Eddie’s stove doesn’t use fire, but it does get hot enough to burn his skin, and they aren’t sure how humans have survived so long without symbiotes if they’re so needy and fragile.  

 

They aren’t good at everything— there’s a lot of baffled confusion from Eddie as he’s presented with piles of things that don’t actually go together, or are assembled ‘wrong’.   Chocolate doesn’t go on anything, or not much of anything, and that seems stupid but they let it go and stop trying to sneak syrup into his snacks.  Eddie wasn’t much of a cook before, and the food channel on tv is full of chefs yelling at people when he watches late at night.

 

Sandwiches and noodles in cups and cereal are better than nothing, though, and they don’t even spill anything on the floor anymore.  Eddie complains about not liking water, but he drinks it when they bring it to him, if grudgingly.

 

Sleep is trickier— they don’t always have the time, and Eddie is more stubborn about staying up late and working on his stories than he is about eating and drinking, even if they’ve been out playing hero.  He doesn’t usually listen when they tell him he needs rest.

 

Turning into a blanket and laying themselves over his shoulders works sometimes.  ‘Passive aggressive,’ Eddie says, and they’re still not sure what that means— but he laughs, and runs his fingers over them with warmth swelling in his thoughts, and that’s good enough.

 

-

 

Eddie dreams.

 

Eddie has always dreamed, but they watch more often now, curious about the odd forms his subconscious takes at night.  Much of it is nonsensical. Impossible things, or bizarre situations, shifting from one location to the next without explanation, time dragging on unnaturally more often than not.  Sometimes Eddie is in the dreams, trying to accomplish strange goals or get to unusual places, and sometimes he is watching them, nothing but an observer.

 

There are nightmares, too, but Eddie doesn’t watch those, anymore, doesn’t let them play out.  Doesn’t let Eddie fall from whatever great height he’d managed to dream himself to, no symbiote there to catch him.

 

Eddie dreams that they leave him.  Not once, not twice, but again and again.  Eddie watches as the symbiote melts from his skin and slinks away, and he’s too slow to chase them, like he’s wading through water.  His voice doesn’t work when he tries to call out, and he stumbles over his feet, and crawls after them on the ground. There’s glass, and fire, and noise, and he drags himself through it, reaching out with bloody, shaking hands, don’t leave me alone.

 

At first they woke him up, shoving into his mind and wrapping around his body, Eddie, it’s just a dream, and he’d sit up gasping for breath and clutching at the black on his skin.

 

Looking at them like no one ever has, stark relief mingling with those warm, swirling emotions they can’t quite put a name to yet.

 

They’re better at it, now, when Eddie dreams of falling.  When he dreams they’re slipping away, never to come back.

 

They slink into his dreams like they were there all along, dripping through Eddie’s subsconscious, warm and thick and safe.

 

With you, Eddie.  Always, and the nightmares fade back, and let Eddie sleep.

 

There are other dreams, too.  

 

Eddie tangled up with someone else, all flushed skin and hot breath and messy hair, the two of them breathing hard and pressed in close.  Nameless, and faceless, and it didn’t matter. They still didn’t like it— didn’t like to watch it, something ugly and newly familiar surging up in them, but even without dipping into Eddie’s dreams they could feel it.  His heart beating faster, his breathing picking up, cheeks flushing warm and muscles tensing.  It’s all wrong. Eddie is theirs.

 

Now, though.

 

Now they don’t mind watching.

 

Now all of Eddie’s best dreams have them there, swimming over his skin, beautiful in the shades of need Eddie paints them with in his mind.  Eddie sinks his fingers into them, and they are everywhere— slinking around his thighs, pouring across his chest, spilling into his mouth.

 

Into him, and they take form to wrap a clawed black hand around around his cock and stroke.  Eddie shoves his face against theirs, against the sharp needles of their teeth, kissing them softly.  Their tongue licks over his lips, and presses between them, and Eddie opens, opens, opens. There is no disgust, no repulsion, no hesitation.

 

Eddie’s hungry, and he wants, and they are there to give him everything.

 

They feel what Eddie feels, what he imagines he would feel, and the bliss is so vivid and potent that it aches.  

 

Seeing themselves through Eddie’s eyes is a revelation.  He loves them.

 

He loves them.  They never understood exactly what it meant, could never catch the nuance of the word before that— but it’s more than the shuddering, desperate heat of the two of them twined together, wrapped up and bound until they can’t be unraveled.

 

It’s everything.

 

It’s Eddie watching them ooze over his fingers to swallow up a piece of chocolate with soft eyes, heartbeat uneven and mouth curved in a smile.  It’s Eddie creeping through back alleys long after midnight, unwilling to let them go hungry, even if finding a meal is complicated and dangerous.

 

It’s watching the sun come up over the city, hands petting over them in absent little gestures, like he doesn’t notice he’s doing it anymore.

 

Like he just needs to touch them.

 

Like he knows they need to feel it.

 

It’s that moment when Eddie slips— just before they catch him, and there’s no terror, anymore, no heart-pounding shock of surprise.  

 

Eddie knows they have him, and he’s not afraid.

 

-

 

The next time Eddie brings them to the nightclub chasing his story, they coil around his ring finger, leaving behind what looks like a black metal wedding band.  

 

Eddie notices; can’t help but notice, and it has less to do with the ring itself, and more to do with the satisfied thrum of their thoughts as they put it on him.  He lifts up his hand, fingers splayed, and obvious question in his mind even if he doesn’t speak it aloud.

 

Don’t like it when they touch you.  You’re not for them.

 

Eddie blinks, and nudges the ring with his thumb, spinning it slowly in place.

 

“Who am I for, then?”

 

The answer comes without intention, just like Eddie’s breathing; something natural, something necessary.

 

Me.  You’re mine, Eddie.

 

They’ve told him before, but it didn’t feel like this— hot and suffocating and freeing all at once.  They think of all the people who put their hands on Eddie, bright eyes and soft palms and lilting voices, and the urge to roll over Eddie like a storm is overpowering.

 

To fuse with him entirely, so that Eddie is tucked away unseen.

 

So that they have all of their teeth, and their claws, and the merciless growl of their voice.

 

They don’t.  They never do anymore, not without Eddie’s permission, not unless it’s to keep Eddie safe.  They can feel Eddie’s surprise, the way he’s prodding at them in his mind, like they’re a puzzle to be solved.  Something a little bit uncertain, and a memory is drawn up, a scene out of a movie. A man on one knee, holding a box up at a woman, and oh, they remember, now.

 

The humans ask each other before putting the rings on.  They coil around Eddie’s finger again, swallowing the ring in black.

 

Want me to take it off?

 

Eddie’s right hand closes over his left, fingers sinking into the inky swirl there, thumb and index touching either side of the ring.

 

“No, no.  Leave it, I… it’s fine.”

 

It’s more than fine.  Eddie likes it there, the same way he likes them there in the shower, the same way he likes them there in bed at night.  The way he likes them in his dreams, and in his thoughts, and in his chest. The way he likes it when they bring him food, or ask questions about his cases, or watch tv with him.  

 

The way he likes taking care of them, and being taken care of, and fine is enough but they still want more.

 

They always, always want more.

 

Fine?

 

Eddie snorts and turns the ring in circles on his finger, stroking over it, settling it more securely against his knuckle.

 

“It’s beautiful, darling.”

 

Darling.  

 

They purr, black tendrils sliding up from Eddie’s collar to nuzzle against his jaw, and he rubs his face against them in the dim light of the club, and smiles.

 

No one touches Eddie that night, or asks if he wants to come home with them, or tries to get him to dance.

 

No one except them, and the way they dance together is better, anyway.

 

-

 

When they finally get home the sun is rising.  

 

They’d ended up chasing a couple of kidnapped girls across the city, and biting the heads off of a few traffickers, leaving the rest for the police to mop up.  Eddie has everything he needs to finish his story, and as soon as the door to their apartment is closed, the symbiote lets Eddie’s clothes go black and tight and liquid.  

 

They slink over his skin, until Eddie is dressed in nothing but boxers, and ink, and the ring on his finger.  He spins it with his thumb, again, thoughts lingering on the band, and how it feels.

 

How he likes it there, and they slide up his throat, and over his jaw.

 

Wanna leave it there, Eddie.

 

Eddie lets out a breath, drifting slowly towards their bedroom, stroking over them with gentle touches.

 

“Wanna leave it there, too.”

 

They thrill at the words, and cling to his hands, covering them in black as he kicks off his boxers and sits on the bed.  He’s tired, but they don’t want to sleep yet, not until…

 

Shower, Eddie.

 

Eddie smiles, and lays down on top of the sheets, knees thrown wide as he runs a palm down his abdomen.

 

“We don’t have to shower, love.”

 

They shiver in a way they didn’t know was possible, all of them trembling and euphoric. Eddie’s affection pours through their bond—  sweet, and heavy, and they can hardly think through the fog of it all.

 

They surge partially into being on top of Eddie, face shoved into his throat, arms curled around his back.

 

Again.

 

Eddie’s smile goes puzzled, brows furrowed and one eye squinting as he runs his hands up their body.

 

“Again, what?”

 

Say it again, Eddie.  Like when you call me that.

 

Eddie presses a kiss to the side of their head, still smiling, arching his neck to give them room as they mouth messily at his throat.

 

“Love,” he says, and they quake, and cling tighter.   “Darling.”

 

Mine, they think, but it comes out of their mouth, too, scraped with sharp teeth into Eddie’s skin.

 

They spread themselves out over Eddie’s body, still kissing his throat but needing to touch him everywhere at once.  They stop just short of his hips, and the curved jut of his cock between his thighs— eager, and hungry but they need to ask first.

 

Need Eddie to want it, too.

 

Can I, Eddie?

 

Eddie takes his hand, dripping black and coated in them, and closes it around himself.  He quakes, and rocks into the touch with a rough exhale.

 

“Of course you can, love.”

 

After that, it is easier.

 

Easier, and agonizing.

 

Eddie gives them everything, and they take it, and want more.  

 

They are around him, and inside him, pressing him into the bed and taking him apart.  It is just like Eddie’s dreams, except nothing like them at all, because Eddie is real, and they are real, and everything is hot and slick and wet and delicious.

 

Eddie opens, and opens, and opens, and they fill up all the empty spaces in him.

 

Bind them together, until they can’t be unraveled.

 

Eddie calls them love and darling and sweetheart, and they slip their tongue into his mouth, and down his throat, and he takes it, and whines, and shudders.  They pull back, and curl it around his neck instead, drool dripping messy over his collarbones, teeth laid carefully against his shoulder.  Eddie whimpers, and clings, and rocks.

 

Begs softly, baby, please, and they swallow every part of him again.

 

It is a long, long time before they are satisfied, and by then Eddie is pliant like they’ve never seen him, lidded eyes and blown pupils and flushed cheeks.  Sweaty, and panting, boneless on their bed, fingertips trailing over the black tendrils that swell up lovingly everywhere he touches. Sleep looms, threatening to take him, and they tuck themselves around him, and whisper into his thoughts.

 

Again, Eddie.

 

Eddie huffs a laugh, eyes closed and cheek nuzzled into his pillow, stretching lazily on top of the sheets.

 

“Love you, darling.”

 

Love you, Eddie.

 

“Goodnight, darling.”

 

Goodnight, Eddie.

 

A hand shimmers out of Eddie’s wrist, and they tangle their fingers with his as he settles in to sleep.  They can’t join him, but Eddie’s pretty like this, sated and warm and blissful.

 

They watch him him breathe, and hold his hand, and it’s more than enough.