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Cold Hands, Warm Heart

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Moving from New York to San Francisco had been a relief, weather-wise. No more scorching, garbage-smelling summers, and no more knee-deep snow. Eddie tended to forget that seasons existed at all here, which meant it always caught him by surprise when it started getting cold enough at night that he felt it in his ears and fingertips.

Anne used to shake her head at him as she pulled on sleek color-coordinated gloves. She would say things like, It's December, Eddie. Winter! She'd bought him nice gloves and hats a time or two, but he always wound up losing them before the end of the winter, so it was just as well to buy cheap ones at Mrs. Chen's.

He made a mental note to do that soon, rubbing his hands together as he walked down the street. It wasn't even December yet. Under his breath he muttered, in imitation of what idiots on the major networks would no doubt be saying, "Where's my global warming, huh?"

Is something wrong with your hands, Eddie?

Eddie raised them to his lips and blew between his palms. "Nah, V, it's fine. Just getting a little chilly at night."

But I keep you warm. Aren't you warm enough? If I make you warmer it will be a fever and it could hurt your brain.

Venom had been reading up on proper human body maintenance and now he hassled Eddie about eating stuff with vitamins in it and optimal heart rate and, apparently, body temperature. But...

Eddie stopped walking and actually looked down at his hands, turning them over and flexing his fingers.

They weren't cold. He could feel the air was chilly, but his actual hands weren't cold, weren't red at the fingertips. He raised his right hand to rub his knuckle over his lips, but it wasn't remotely cold-chapped; it was baby-soft and sleek. And warm.

Maybe she's born with it, Eddie thought, smiling. Maybe it's an alien symbiote.

He made a mental note to ask Venom to do him some eyeliner the next time they went out--not now, he'd need a mirror to make sure Venom didn't get carried away. He got... enthusiastic, sometimes, when Eddie asked him to do stuff.

"Yeah, I'm warm enough," Eddie said, dropping his hands and getting back in motion. "It's just, ah, human brains, you know? We trick ourselves sometimes. The last thirty-five years my hands would've been cold if I didn't have gloves on, so now I--" Eddie looked down and realized he was rubbing his hands together again. "I can't quite get my head around being warm without 'em, that's all."

So it's not enough to keep you warm, Venom growled. I have to make you remember all the time that you are warm.

"No, hey, hey, you're doing great, this is great! You don't have to--"

Put your hands in your pockets, Eddie.

Eddie did, bracing himself against the exposed feeling of having his hands stuck in one place--but it was only a second before he felt the familiar cool liquid layer covering his hands. He stopped walking again. "Uh, V..."

You can take them out now.

Eddie did, glancing around warily to make sure no one would see, but the black layer covering both of his hands looked like nothing so much as rich, soft leather. It had a softer shine than Venom's usual surface. It still looked a little uncanny, with no seams or stitching--but as soon as he thought it, lines appeared down the sides of the gloves. Black on black stitching fanned out over the backs of his hands.

Better?

Eddie grinned, ducking his head as he set out again. The Venom-gloves were just enough of a weight and contact on his hands to remind him they were there, though he had no doubt he could work his phone through them and do anything else he needed to. Plus, now he could catch bullets. And his hands felt toasty. "Yeah, V, they're perfect. Thanks."

He had a little bounce in his step as he continued up the block, flexing his fingers again and again just to feel his perfect gloves--to feel Venom wrapped around both his hands to keep him warm.

"Hey," Eddie said, another block on. "Can you do a scarf, too?"

Venom let out a put-upon growl; Eddie tried to picture a scarf as clearly as he could, particularly the little V-shapes of knitted stitches that made it up. He felt something bulk up under his jacket and unzipped it just enough to draw the scarf out and wrap it loosely around his neck. No need to tuck the end in; it would stay put no matter what.

It was black, of course, but even softer than the gloves--fuzzy and silky at the same time. Eddie ducked his face down into it and pressed a little kiss against it before he mumbled, "Thanks, babe."

He felt Venom preen, inside him as well as the gloves squeezing gently on his hands and the scarf writhing a little around his neck, rubbing back against his jaw.

He felt another little weight materialize in his jacket pocket. "Oh, hey, yeah," he said, already thinking of the kind of black stocking cap he liked to wear, even if it would crush his hair--Venom could fix that for him, and it wasn't like he was that good at styling it anyway. It always just looked like he'd slept on it funny.

But what he pulled out of his pocket wasn't a knit cap. It was jet black and oval-shaped and furry.

Earmuffs, Venom informed him proudly. Your hair gives natural protection to your skull, but your ears may think they are cold.

Eddie grimaced. "Yeah, but... earmuffs, V? Not exactly..."

The blackness of the furry earmuffs was shot through with lighter threads, sparkling with the same opalescence as Venom's eyes.

I could make them pink if I concentrate, Venom offered.

Eddie considered trying to explain to Venom that earmuffs were not exactly his look, but last time he tried to argue with Venom on something like that it had ended with Venom scolding him about performative masculinity. Eddie had had to do a lot of apologizing and coaxing and feminist theorizing before Venom would fuck him that night, and even then Venom had kept expressing faux concern about Eddie's fragile ego and had teased him half out of his mind before he got down to it.

"Nah, don't put yourself out," Eddie said, slipping the earmuffs on. They weren't actually connected by anything, they just clung firmly to his skin. Eddie could still hear his own footsteps, and snatches of music from somewhere, but the clatter of traffic and the barely-noticed snarls of a distant argument were instantly muffled. He would worry about not hearing things he didn't want to hear, but it wasn't like Eddie needed to avoid cars or muggers; Venom would handle that. "Thanks, V. This is nice and cozy."

And a little bit pretty.

Eddie grinned, hiding the expression from everybody who didn't need it in his scarf. Venom pressed the scarf back against his lips in a soft, fuzzy kiss, which wasn't even remotely the weirdest sign of affection he'd shown Eddie in the last twenty-four hours.

Still, when they were on their way home, he ducked into Mrs. Chen's to squint at the gaudily colored gloves at the front.

Eddie, Venom said, squeezing his hands with the gloves again. You don't need those. I will keep you warm, and knowing you are warm.

"Yeah," Eddie said. "But I can't let you fall out of my pocket when I pass somebody who needs gloves more than I do, can I?"

Venom was silent for a moment, then observed, The red ones are nice.

Eddie bought two pairs.