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Rocket fuel burns at 5,800 degrees Fahrenheit, Eddie reads later. At the time, as they fall into the fire, all Eddie knows is that they’re being burned alive, flesh flaking off their body like ash, fat sizzling, and he can feel the symbiote healing them as fast as they’re burning up, but not fast enough.

Venom is pouring everything they have into Eddie’s soft, fragile body but this isn’t broken bones, or even atrophied organs, this is annihilation, and the symbiote is equally vulnerable to the fire.

They’re dying.

Goodbye, Eddie.

Eddie hits the water and cracks three ribs. He doesn’t heal. His face is stinging like he’s been sunburned, clothing charred and shredded.

He surfaces, hacking up water, and claws his way to the shore.

“Venom,” he says, groaning in pain, sheer bloody-mindedness the only thing getting him onto solid ground. “Motherfucker, you couldn’t fix my ribs?”

He gags up more water. Breathing feels weird, his lungs are crackling like he’s got bronchitis. Every part of him is scraped raw and hollow.

“Venom, you shitbird,” he says, drowning, desperate. “Pussy. Useless parasite.”

His ears are ringing in the silence.

He knows. He knows it in his bones, in his chest, in his guts: Venom is dead.

Anne finds him lying on the scorched rock of the shore. She’s already on the phone with 911, cellphone pressed against her ear. She kneels next to him, bare knees black from the dirty ground.

“You’re okay,” she says firm and no-nonsense. “Help is on the way. Don’t move, you might have a spinal injury.”

She’s not the boss of him any more. Eddie flops over so his head is in her lap and he can hold onto her legs. He can’t breathe but it doesn’t matter. He’s alone again.

“Venom’s dead,” he says, weeping. It’s the pain, it’s just the pain.

“Oh, Eddie,” she says, and holds him, gentle as a feather against his burns and broken bones.

xxx

Eddie’s ribs take twice as long to knit together as they ought to because it turns out sobbing is bad for healing. He feels like the planet’s biggest loser, but he can’t seem to stop. He’s been like this before but he always managed to pull himself together. Sort yourself out, his dad used to say. But this time he can’t.

“I think he’s depressed,” Dan says to Anne. They’re in Eddie’s living room because they came over to make sure he was okay. Dan made him dinners he can heat up so he doesn’t have to tax his healing body by cooking. Not that he would’ve been cooking anyway. They both cleaned the place up as much as anyone could. Anne even managed to convince his neighbour that he’d been having a bad trip and that Eddie wasn’t actually a shapeshifting monster who’d killed half a dozen evil goons.

They’re good people, Annie and Dan. Eddie actually really likes Dan even though he doesn’t want to. Dan is good people, Eddie is just a lousy host.

Eddie is lying in bed, wrapped tightly in his duvet, hoodie on, hood up over his head. He’s sweating but he feels cold. He needs a shower. He needs to get up and eat something. He needs to go to the bathroom if nothing else but he can’t find the energy. He doesn’t want to die, he just doesn’t want to be alive any more.

He can hear Anne sighing. “Yeah, no kidding,” she says. “But good luck getting him to talk to a psychiatrist. God knows I’ve tried.”

They come into the bedroom. Anne chivvies him into the shower while Dan changes the sheets. One of them even took his laundry away and brought it back, cleaned and ironed.

Eddie sits on the couch and cries into his lasagne. He can’t help it. There’s nothing more pathetic than crying while you’re eating, but Anne just sits next to him and strokes his hair. Dan is cleaning his fridge and pretending he can’t hear the gross gulping noises that come tearing out of Eddie without his say so.

They have to leave eventually, they have lives to live.

But Dan comes back and he’s got a bottle of anti-depressants in his hand. “Sit up,” he demands. Eddie is curled up again, back in bed. “Take this.”

“I don’t want it,” Eddie says.

“Man, I don’t really care,” Dan says. “I’m not letting you self-destruct on Anne’s watch. It’s not fair to her.”

“Get fucked,” Eddie says.

“Nice,” Dan says. “You know Anne’s working through a lot, too. She carried the parasite just like you did. There were aliens in San Francisco. We’ve all got shit going on.”

“When do I get to give up?” Eddie demands, voice choked up so bad it comes out high and cracked. “Huh? How much do I have to take before I get to quit? Who says I’ve got to keep dragging along?”

Dan’s handsome face is carefully neutral. “Eddie,” he says. “Do you think about hurting yourself?”

“Who doesn’t,” Eddie says in disgust. “Four second fall from the Bridge and it’s all over. I’ve fallen once, I can do it again.”

He doesn’t tell Dan that suicide is the reason he’s in this mess in the first place. He didn’t go to the Golden Gate Bridge to throw Anne’s engagement ring into the water, he went there to throw himself but got distracted by Dr. Skirth’s messages and justice against Drake instead.

“Okay,” Dan says, nodding. “At least now I can do something.”

He walks out.

Eddie wants to laugh, but that would take too much energy.

Eddie’s wrong though, Dan isn’t leaving like everyone leaves. It’s much worse than that.

Next thing he knows there’s an ambulance crew in his home. “I’m his doctor,” Dan is saying. “He has a plan to hurt himself, a history of depression, suicidal ideation, and self-destructive tendencies. I’m putting him under a fifty-one-fifty.”

Eddie sits up. “Don’t you dare,” he says, but it’s too late now.

Dan puts his hands in his pockets. He looks as tired as Eddie feels. “I’m sorry, Eddie,” he says. “But we’re trying to help you.”

xxx

The psych ward isn’t the worst place Eddie has ever been but the nurses are relentless. They won’t let him lie in bed like a sad burrito, they make him get up and walk around. They make him practice personal hygiene, and eat, and only let him sleep at a normal time.

Sobbing in the shower isn’t quite as pathetic as crying while eating. The water hides most of it, but you’re still standing there naked, crying.

The psychiatrist takes his medical history, and his family history. He can’t explain Venom to her because he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in prison or locked in some secret basement lab but he can spin it in terms of losing a loved one. She wouldn’t understand anyway. There isn’t a person on the planet who can understand what he’s going through, except Annie, and she’s not built like he is. She’s not weak like him. She moves on.

“It’s not your fault,” Dr. Okafor says while he struggles to find enough energy to even sit up properly in the chair. “It’s like having diabetes. Depression is just a medical condition and it can be managed with the proper medications.”

Of course. He can’t even regulate his own fucking body. Even if Venom was still alive Eddie would be a lemon of a ride and eventually the symbiote would want to find some other, not-deficient skinsuit.

They won’t let him out if he’s not compliant. Eddie takes his pills and even though they extend his hold for the whole fourteen days they can legally hold him, by the end of it he’s grateful. He feels a little bit less like he wants to die, and a little bit less alone.

“The drugs take four to six weeks to kick in,” Dan says. He and Anne came to pick Eddie up once he was finally released. “Don’t worry if you don’t feel like your usual self yet.”

“Let us take you to dinner,” Anne says, because he’s stable enough that he’s just numb and not actively crying every five minutes. Her pretty face is still creased with worry. He doesn’t want her to worry about him, but he can’t seem to stop dragging her down after him.

Eddie wants to say no, but he’s craving Italian pork salami. He’s never wanted anything so specifically before and he’s embarrassed to make any requests but he’s broke as fuck and he’s starving. Dan reassures him that it’s good he wants things, even if it’s just salami.

Once Eddie starts eating it’s like a dam has broken. He’s ravenous. He gorges himself on salami and shrimp and then a piece of chocolate cake the size of a small planet.

Dan is industriously tapping away on his phone while Anne watches with poorly disguised disgust but Eddie can’t stop eating. He feels better for the first time since he fell.

“I’d like to test your phenethylamine levels,” Dan says. “I think you have a deficiency. Based on what you’re craving.”

Eddie grunts around a mouthful of cake. He can’t afford any of the medical treatment he’s already had. One more test won’t make the debt much worse.

xxx

“Yikes,” Dan says looking at the test results.

“Pretty sure doctors aren’t supposed to say ‘yikes,’” Eddie gripes without really meaning it. Dan’s kind of a friend now even if that’s weird and humiliating in its own special way.

“You don’t seem to produce it at all,” Dan clarifies. “I’m going to prescribe you a supplement. It’ll help with the depression.”

Dan’s a pretty good doctor, and he’s not wrong about this. They pump Eddie full of phenethylamine and he does feel better. The hollow places in him feel like they’re filling up with every treatment but Dan keeps making confused faces every time he tests Eddie’s levels.

“I don’t get it,” Dan says, over what has become a weekly dinner. “We’re giving you levels that should mimic taking amphetamines and it doesn’t even show up. Eat more eggs.” He pushes the plate towards Eddie, laden with scrambled egg-whites.

Eddie eats more egg. “Figures, can’t even get high properly,” he says.

Dan has a doctorly gleam in his eyes. “You’re a medical mystery.”

Anne pokes him. “Eddie’s not a toy,” she says. Then, “Do you think it’s because of…”

Dan shrugs. “Can’t be, you’re fine. Seriously, Eddie, eat all the eggs. I’ve called a specialist.”

“I can’t afford that,” Eddie admits. He’s got a few job offers now, but he’s not ready to call anyone back. He still feels fragile and on the verge of collapse at all times.

Dan pats him on the back, casually kind the way that Anne is, and they’re generous enough to share it with him even though he doesn’t deserve it. He hasn’t been anything but trouble for them. “Don’t worry about it, you’re interesting enough he’ll do it for free.”

“And you’re really okay?” Eddie says to Anne, swallowing shame.

“Dan ran all the tests,” Anne says. “I’m totally fine. Not even a little bit different. And I’m not craving anything.”

Eddie goes home stuffed full of phenethylamine and dinner and embarrassment. Of course it’s just him. Anne’s always been so much stronger than him.

He’s still running hot, but always feeling cold, so he wraps himself in layers and breaks open the discount chocolate he picked up at Mrs. Chen’s. He’s going to get fat, Eddie thinks, but if anything he’s actually lost weight, even though he’s been stuffing himself full of chocolate and seafood and cottage cheese off Dan’s advice.

“Fuck this,” Eddie says, once the chocolate is gone.

He straps on his running shoes and goes for a jog even though he hates running. He’s never had a runner’s high in his life and he doesn’t get one now but he does it anyway. When he comes back, sweaty and gross, he lifts weights for a while and studiously doesn’t think about Venom tossing one of the dumbbells into Drake’s goon’s head.

He finally crawls into bed after taking his anti-depressants and his supplement. When he sleeps, he dreams of Venom, those few moments when they were working together, so close to perfect symbiosis.

xxx

Eddie wakes up slowly, not with nightmares, or pain, or hunger. He’s too warm and a little sweaty—a lot sweaty—but he feels okay. He squeezes the fingers laced through his own.

“G’morning, darling,” he slurs, still half asleep.

Good morning, Eddie, Venom says.

Eddie sits bolt upright. There are black tendrils coming out of his forearm that end in a large clawed hand that is currently holding his own hand with the utmost gentleness.

“Venom?” he says, voice wobbling.

Eddie. Venom’s voice is weirdly quiet, almost hard to hear even though it’s coming from inside Eddie’s head.

The hand squeezes his before withdrawing back under the skin.

Eddie claws at his arm. “Come back,” he begs, “don’t leave me.”

I’m still here.

And Venom is. Eddie can feel it in his chest: that full-up feeling he’d attributed to the drugs, it’s the symbiote.

“You’re still alive,” he says, gasping for air. He puts his hands on his chest. “You’re alive.”

We’re alive, Venom agrees. Don’t be sad, Eddie. We’re together. Always. Just tired. Needed time to recover.

“The phenethylamine,” Eddie says. He’s not a total idiot, he can put two and two together and not get bagel as the answer. “You feed off it?”

Yes. Venom does sound tired, weak even.

Eddie gets up and goes to his laptop. “Okay,” he says. “I can fix this.”

Eddie’s so good to us Venom sighs happily. Perfect match.

“Not so perfect,” Eddie says. “Deficient.”

The symbiote doesn’t reply but he can feel it, curled up inside, expanding, growing stronger with every supplement, sheltered in the cage of their ribs, wrapped gently around his heart. Eddie grabs the bottle of phenethylamine and just chugs it against medical advice, but medical advice didn’t count on him carrying an alien life form that’s trying to heal from near death.

He shoots Dan a quick message telling him a crackhead stole his phenethylamine and he needs more.

Smart for a human, Venom says, because they’re kind of an asshole.

Eddie pinches himself for lack of anything better to do to get to Venom. “Do you want it or not?” he grumbles, but he’s smiling wide and stupid.

xxx

Lobsters Venom says hopefully. We like those.

They peer into the tank at the fish market where the lobsters crawl despondently over one another, claws held shut with rubber bands. Eddie doesn’t like to look at them, but Venom doesn’t feel sorry, just hungry.

Alive.

“I can’t,” Eddie says. “I can’t digest raw meat like that.”

The guy behind the counter is either a hipster or a young but legitimately beardy, salty lobsterman. “Actually, you can totally eat raw lobster. It’s just not a good idea, because it might have parasites.”

Eddie starts to laugh but Venom does something nasty to his insides so it comes out like a squeak instead.

Eat the lobster live, Venom says. Coward.

Eddie can feel the symbiote curl around—in?—his stomach.

“Okay, okay fuck,” Eddie says. “You’re the worst.”

The guy behind the counter looks pretty ticked off at being called the worst.

“Sorry,” Eddie says waving vaguely at his own head. “I wasn’t talking to you.”

“Oh, right on,” the guy says. “You know, if you’re not sure if the voices are real or not, try wearing headphones. If you can hear them clearly over the music you know it’s not real.”

Rude, Venom says. Not a voice. Not a parasite. Let’s eat him.

“I’m buying you lobster,” Eddie says. “You don’t need to eat anything else.”

He buys them ten lobsters from the dude who thinks he’s a schizophrenic, and another ten from another seller, because he thinks that one mentally ill guy buying twenty live lobsters is going to draw attention and he’s not interested in that.

He’s also super not interested in actually eating live lobsters, once he’s lugged them home. The lobsters scrabble around in their containers. Eddie feels a little bit sick looking at them. Then again, he’s done stupider things for people he cares about. He can’t think of anything worse than eating live crustaceans, shell and all, but he’s sure he could come up with something.

Had it before, Venom points out.

“Ugh, yeah,” Eddie says, trying not to think about climbing into the tank at a very pricy restaurant and the horrified faces of the diners. He stares at the lobster he’s holding. It tries to pinch him. “Fuck, dude, you have to do it.”

Relax, Venom says, you’re more upset about this than eating humans.

“Humans can be jerks,” Eddie says. “The lobsters didn’t do anything to deserve being eaten alive.”

Humans are confusing, Venom says. Good, bad, innocent, guilty. Who cares? We can eat whatever we want.

Eddie shuts their eyes, but they’re already ripping the head off the lobster with their teeth.

It’s so gross Eddie thinks unhappily, but doesn’t try to stop Venom from chowing down, shell and all.

You’re gross, Venom says. Eating dead flesh.

“Evolved,” Eddie counters, once they’ve swallowed.

Gross.

They’re so happy, it’s like nothing either of them have had before.

xxx

Lots of emotions produce strong chemicals. Maybe not the one Venom needs to survive, but Eddie eats a lot of things he doesn’t need to survive. Some things just feel good and are nice to taste.

“Hey, V,” he says, while he’s doing his laundry. “What else do you like to eat? Other than my organs. Is it stress hormones, or fear?” It seems like the best bet, since they seemed to enjoy eating people after scaring the shit out of them.

No one looks at him talking to himself even though he forgot his headphones, again. In this particular laundromat Eddie thinks there might actually be more people talking to themselves than people who aren’t. One guy, who is hogging half the dryers like an asshole, has been having a really intense argument with what’s either an angel or Jesus about the implants the doctors keep putting in them and if they’re going to prevent him from going to heaven.

Eddie jots down the idea in his notebook. After the Life Foundation, he’s not going to discount the idea that someone’s tagging the mentally ill or the homeless.

We like… Venom pauses and Eddie can practically feel the symbiote rifling through his memories, trying to find the words. When we kissed. After. You were delicious.

Eddie’s memories of that time are kind of confused. First-off, he was dying from organ failure and was about to be shot in the woods by the henchmen of an evil genius. Second, his ex-fiancée had just eaten a guy’s head because she was hosting the alien parasite that had been killing Eddie and he was genuinely worried about her and if she was going to die, too. Thirdly, Venom slipped him some tongue before absorbing back into him and he’s only just really realizing that now. It was just this weird fever-sex-dream blur of Venom, and Annie, and Venom’s tongue and Annie, and then Venom back inside him, safe.

Together, Venom agrees. Always us.

Eddie scrubs a hand through his hair. “Okay, buddy,” he says.

Not ‘buddy,’ Venom says. Love. We love Eddie.

That’s one hell of a mindfuck, but Anne said as much. He’d thought she was trying to save face. Like maybe she wanted to kiss him. But of course she didn’t. He betrayed her, and she has Dan.

Don’t like this one, Venom says, a full body shiver under his skin. Sad Eddie makes us sad.

Venom seeps out through Eddie’s forearm, forming a big hand that he can hold onto Eddie’s with.

Eddie looks around but no one has noticed.

A long wet tongue drags up the side of Eddie’s face and then pokes into his ear. Eddie yelps and tries to jerk away. As much as you can jerk away from the thing coming from inside you.

“Did you just give me a wet willie?!” Eddie says. “You’re the worst parasite. I should’ve got ringworms.”

Not a parasite. Neither are ringworms. It’s fungal.

“Thanks, Doctor Google,” Eddie grumbles. “So you don’t like stress hormones, from me at least.”

Oxytocin. Dopamine. Endorphins. Love, idiot meatbag.

They say ‘idiot meatbag’ the same way some people say ‘sweetheart’ or ‘darling.’ Eddie can feel himself blushing. God he’s such a mess of a human being. He’s such a dumpster fire.

Our dumpster fire, Venom says, with brutal kindness.

“You’re a real sweet talker, V,” Eddie says, but his insides feel like Venom is squirming around in there, or maybe it’s just butterflies.

There are no insects inside you, Venom says. Just love.

Eddie’s not sure that’s better. “You…” His brain kicks up a memory from the neuro-sci class he accidentally signed up for in university and was too stubborn to drop out of. He can give Venom all those chemicals and hormones with great ease. All he has to do is rub one out.

Rub what? Venom says. Then, Oh. Yes. Eddie, we want that. Why have you kept this from us?

“It’s kind of private.”

Private? Venom scoffs. What could be private from the self?

Well. When you put it that way. “Just give me a little time. I know we’re us, but it’s kind of a thing for humans.”

He can feel Venom’s sigh rattle through him. Humans are stupid, Venom says, but Eddie’s pretty sure they don’t mean it.

xxx

Eddie can’t stop thinking about it, now that they’ve brought it up.

He thinks about it when they’re buying groceries, and when they’re arguing with the insurance company over his medical bills, and when he’s talking to Anne about the lawsuit against the Life Foundation, and when he’s interviewing Cletus. It’s getting kind of distracting.

“Fuck it,” Eddie says.

He goes into their bedroom, strips down to his skin, and settles onto the sheets. He thumbs idly at his nipples, warming himself up.

“Okay, asshole,” Eddie says. “Let’s do it.”

Don’t be mean, Eddie. We’ll be so good together. Feel so good together.

“You want the Cliff’s Notes on how this works or should I stop the narration?”

We don’t need narration, Venom says, and they sound alarmingly smug. We are one. We already know.

Eddie isn’t sure how he feels about that but at least he doesn’t have to explain masturbation to an alien life form while trying to jerk it at the same time. “Cool,” he says, but isn’t sure what to do, now that they’re finally here.

Do you need narration?

“Now who’s being mean?” Eddie says, but he can feel his ears heating up with embarrassment. So sue him, he likes a bit of dirty talk, some teasing. Annie was always so sure about what she wanted and wasn’t shy about telling him. He loved that about her.

Stop thinking about someone else! Venom says, head manifesting out of Eddie’s shoulder so Venom can yell at him face to face. “Rude!”

“I wasn’t!” Eddie says. “I was…”

He was thinking about Anne, but more about the way she’d tell him: I want it hard, I want it gentle, put your mouth on me, let me put my mouth on you, use the vibrator, let me ride you, let me fuck you with a strap-on, let me, let me, let me, and he always did. He wanted what she wanted. He was happy when she was happy.

“Eddie was looking for a bond,” Venom says, like they’re testing out the idea. “Eddie likes…oh, oh, sweet Eddie. We’ll take such good care of you. My love. We won’t make you ask, or question. We’ll give Eddie everything we want.”

Venom spools out from under his skin, soft, strong black bands over his thighs and biceps, holding him. And then holding him down, pressing him back into the sheets and spreading him out.

“Oh god,” Eddie says, his body is achingly hard and he’s so desperate for it already. Just being held down like that is enough to make him go from mildly interested to rock hard. “Are you sure?”

We love you, Eddie. Of course we’re sure.

Eddie makes a noise he’ll be embarrassed about later. A thready, gasping sound. “I love you too,” he says.

Shhhh, Venom says, and licks up Eddie’s cock, tendrils forming over his chest, and around his throat.

Eddie is pinned down, and no matter how hard he struggles this isn’t a tie, or the fuzzy handcuffs he managed to snap in half, and there’s no getting loose. This is Venom; in him, on him, part of him. His hips twitch up as far as they can, and Venom forms around his cock so it’s like he’s fucking into the tightest cunt or ass he’s ever felt.

Venom draws together into something like shoulders and arms, looming over him, and pushes two fingers into Eddie’s mouth, claws gentle against his tongue, the rest of their enormous hand cupping his face and jaw, holding him steady. Eddie gags and can feel himself drooling around the digits but he’s already wet with sweat and Venom’s dripping saliva onto his chest, licking at his nipples, razor teeth a hair’s breadth away from skin. He sucks on Venom’s fingers, grateful to have something to keep his stupid mouth busy.

“Not stupid,” Venom says. “We don’t mean it. We love how you sound.” They lean in, even though Eddie can hear them in his head, just to say rough and low into his ear, “We can hear your pleasure. It’s delicious.”

More of the symbiote separates out, coiling over his hips and spilling down between his asscheeks, spreading him. Eddie chokes out a moan, fucking up into Venom. A tooth scrapes against his chest and every muscle goes tight, straining, not sure if he should push into the sting or away from it.

Venom pushes into him, and Eddie’s not sure if they’re relaxing his body, or if they’ve slicked up somehow but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t hurt, an easy slide, his body giving way and then he’s fucking Venom, and Venom is fucking him, pulsing against his prostate, stretching out fat and ridged against his rim, so he can’t do anything but suck on the fingers in his mouth, eyes watering with grateful tears.

“Eddie,”Venom says. “We feel so good.”

We do, Eddie thinks. We do, darling. Please, please…

He doesn’t have to ask, Venom is already sliding fingers out of Eddie’s mouth. Eddie presses up against the hold on his throat, half choking himself, and Venom comes closer, still cradling his head in its monstrous claws.

Eddie presses kisses to Venom’s face: its jaws, its teeth, and then the tongue is pushing into his mouth in a brutal facefuck of a kiss. The bands around his arms tighten, and then its like when they’re Venom, both of them working together, fucking, being fucked, and Eddie gives into it, can’t do anything but feel as he gets the ride of his life.

A tendril creeps down the slit of his cock and Eddie groans around the tongue in his mouth, eyes watering. It’s so much, it’s perfect, they’re so full and they’ll never be alone, they can be like this forever, working in perfect harmony. Maybe Eddie is in control of this, maybe it’s the symbiote, but it doesn’t matter. Not with them.

The tendril pulls back out of the cock and then they’re coming, endless feedback of pleasure and pleasing, and pleasure until the symbiote shudders and slowly begins sinking back under their skin.

“Holy shit,” Eddie says, when he can speak again.

Venom licks at his wet face. Yes, they say, in his mind. Holy shit.

Eddie curls up on his side and realizes he’s still being held, pressure against his back, around his chest and waist. More of the symbiote wrapping around his arms and thighs until Eddie is held tightly.

“Are you spooning me?” Eddie asks.

Yes.

“Okay.” Eddie can barely form a coherent thought, but he kisses the nearest patch of black. “Love you,” he says, already half asleep. He thinks he might have actually blacked out for a second there, he came so hard. He’s a gross mess of saliva and sweat but he has exactly zero desire to get up and move. Future Eddie can deal with it.

xxx

Dan isn’t exactly pleased when Eddie tells him he’s not going to do any more tests. In fact, he’s downright worried.

“Is there any reason you’re calling it off? Any reason at all.”

Eddie sticks his hands into the pockets of the jacket Venom is masquerading as. “Nope.”

“…Nothing at all?”

Eddie shakes his head. “I feel good,” he says. “I think the supplements are…” They both look down at his jacket, where Venom has manifested eyes and is blinking at Dan. “Um.”

“Your coat is smirking at me,” Dan says.

“Damn it, V,” Eddie says.

”He didn’t believe us. ” Venom produces a little head to talk with. “No more tests,” they say.

Dan, to his credit, barely reacts. “Well, you guys just won me $20, so that’s something.”

“Annie thought V died?” Eddie guesses.

“Nah, I had a bet that you’d give up the truth in two weeks or less, she thought you’d drag out the lie way past plausibility.”

“Oh,” Eddie says. “Wow.”

Dan pats them on the shoulder. “No more tests. But…Can I monitor your health just a little bit? Just to make sure you’re both getting what you need.”

“We take care of Eddie!” Venom says, insulted.

“You were eating his organs!” Dan points out.

“We were fixing them,” Venom says. The symbiote sounds a little guilty.

“He knows you didn’t mean it,” Eddie says, soothing. “We were still figuring things out.”

Dan holds up his hands. “I don’t want to upset anyone, I just want to make sure you’re both getting all the nutrients you need so maybe…you know…less…” He makes a weird biting face.

“Eddie’s a depressive,” Venom says. “But we’re working on raising his hormone levels. Exercise. Supplements. Seeing the sun.”

“That’s great!” Dan says.

“Also sex.”

Eddie goes bright red. Dan isn’t faring much better.

Dan says, “Uh,” like he’s stalled out and can’t actually think of words.

“So much sex.”

“V!” Eddie says, swatting at the symbiote. “Jesus, he doesn’t want to know about that.”

“It’s very good sex. The best.”

“It’s not a competition!” Eddie hisses.

“If it was, we would win.”

Dan has a slightly glazed look on his face. “Is it sex? Or would it count as masturba—you know what, never mind. Keep taking the supplements. And…congratulations, I guess.”

“Thanks, man,” Eddie says, as the symbiote goes back to looking like a normal jacket. Except that there’s a smug feeling coming from it. “I’ll see you.” He flees before it can get any more awkward.

“So we’re going to have a talk about who you can share personal details with,” Eddie says.

After lunch, we’re hungry.

“Damn straight we are. Sushi? Or do you want to just jump in the bay?”

We want wasabi.

Inside the pockets of the symbiote-jacket, part of Venom coils around his fingers and gives them a small squeeze.

“Love you too, babe,” Eddie says, and heads out of the hospital into the sunshine.