Actions

Work Header

taking everyone for a ride

Chapter Text

 

 

 

 

 

“YOU’RE A LOSER, EDDIE,” says the disembodied head floating in front of him, and a familiar feeling suddenly overrides Eddie’s terror. It can best be summed up as: are you fucking kidding me?

Because hell, he just got through weeks of his boss, his girlfriend, and seemingly the entire universe telling him that. Not to mention himself, after a miserable while. Helping Dr. Skirth was supposed to be a step in the right direction. He wasn’t so presumptuous as to believe he could fix anything, but he thought maybe he could at least begin to move forward. Now Maria is dead, Skirth might be dead too, Carlton Drake’s out to kill him, Eddie got possessed by a goddamn Eldritch abomination—and this is what it tells him?

Hell. Maybe he’s actually having a very normal day. Just the continuation of his trainwreck of a life.

It’s objectively an insane thought, but it punctures his panic attack. The monster’s just staring at him now, all nightmare teeth and glistening goo and huge milky eyes. Venom. Somehow, Eddie’s stuck on that name. It just feels so—unnecessary, like it’s compensating for something. That thing’s already an oozing nightmare. At a certain point the edgy names and growled threats start to feel like overkill.

The buoy bobs gently in the dark water. Eddie catches his breath. The alien’s waiting for him to talk. It saved Eddie’s life. Several times over. And Eddie said thank you, because he couldn’t afford to stay traumatized by every single near-death experience after five uninterrupted minutes of them. Shock cancels itself out, leaving only the absurd urge to play it cool.

“You... you gonna eat anybody else?” Eddie finally tries.

“MOST LIKELY.”

All right, fine, the fear isn’t gone; all Eddie’s doing is turning his back to it. But that’s a goddamn start.

 

*

 

His terror levels take another lurching dive a few hours later, when Anne calls him and the parasite perks up. WHO IS ANNE? YOUR PULSE HAS QUICKENED.

And there goes Eddie, stuck on a detail again; it’s the reporter in him, he knows, always looking for the catch in the story. Hold on, hold on. Didn’t that thing just say that it was in Eddie’s brain? That it knew everything about him? Strong words, but if it doesn’t even know who Anne is—she’d be hard to miss, front and center of Eddie’s mind at any given time—then the alien’s full of shit. 

Which is why Eddie says: “That is none of your goddamn business.”

Part of him braces for retaliation, but the monster doesn’t hurt him. Instead, it gets hurt. EVERYTHING OF YOURS IS MY BUSINESS, EDDIE, it protests. WE HAVE NO SECRETS!

Eddie almost says something about possessive girlfriends, but keeps his mouth shut at the last minute. This thing might just take it literally, and then where would he be? Although, maybe that’d distract it from its insane rocket-based world domination plans.

Because of who he is as a person, Eddie tries pushing again. “Yeah, well then you know exactly why I’m going here before we get to your rocket.”

SURE. I'M NOT UNREASONABLE.

Monsters usually are, but Eddie’s not about to point it out. Better leave the catch in this story alone for now.

 

*

 

As he gets to his old workplace, Eddie’s mind is still generally frantic, but he also seems to be having a permanent out-of-body experience that allows him to wave at his trauma from a distance. The reporter in him, who’s having a field day at this point, notes that it’s been almost twelve hours now and the thing—Venom, since that is its ludicrous name—still hasn’t killed him.

In fact, it’s being more and more accommodating.  When Eddie fails to get past security and the parasite offers to eat the guard’s brain, all Eddie has to do is yell and it hurriedly backs off. It makes no other attempts to hurt anyone as Eddie backs out of the lobby. It’s almost sheepish, fretting at the edge of Eddie’s consciousness.

It’s like this thing doesn’t actually know what it’s doing, either, and struggles to maintain its monster-posturing. Or hell, maybe it’s not even trying anymore, because as soon as Eddie helplessly looks up at the building, there’s a rumble in his brain.

YOU WANT UP?  WELL, WHY DIDN'T YOU JUST SAY?

And the next thing Eddie knows, he’s in his former boss’s office, standing on a carpet of broken glass, panting but unscathed.

There’s no denying anymore that Venom is actively trying to make itself useful. Eddie thinks back on how offended it got at being called a parasite, and remembers Skirth calling it symbiosis. Either way: it means Venom needs Eddie, like a guy that’s down on his luck needs a couch to crash on. And it’s doing everything it can to make itself agreeable.

“YOUR WORLD ISN’T SO BAD,” it remarks, looking around the room before retreating inside Eddie again. And sure, San Francisco at night makes for a nice view, as long as you’re not afraid of heights. Which Eddie still very much is, alien symbiote notwithstanding. That climb didn’t do his shocked system any good.

“You’re gonna get me killed,” he mutters, grabbing a pen with shaking fingers.

YOU DIE, I DIE, Venom growls.

In a way, that’s the most reassuring thing Eddie’s heard all day, but it’s not even his priority right now. Do the right thing, he scrawls on the notepad—and then, remembering they can’t fire him a second time, he adds SHITHEAD in block letters. Then slaps his phone on the table.

There. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen to him now, but at least he got the proof out. He did his job as a reporter.

JUMP? Venom offers when Eddie starts looking around for the exit.

He’d rather not. Of course the alien has some choice things to say about that, too.

 

*

 

They team up with real intent for the first time not five minutes later, against yet another bunch of armored men trying to reduce Eddie to a smoking pile of ashes. Venom is delighted at how they mirrored the Mask! Copy! thing and how cool it looked. No wonder it picked such a desperately adolescent name. It’s so… It’s trying so hard to make itself important. It’s so very much like Eddie himself that way.

Eddie shouldn’t think like that, shouldn’t humanize it, but it’s getting harder to remember.

When Anne steps around the corner, all of Eddie's fear crashes down onto him again. When he begs her to help him—he shouldn't, he's dangerous, but he's so scared he can't help himself—she does, inexplicably, damn near manhandling him to her car instead of getting the hell away from him. Venom purrs I LIKE HER and flat-out starts giving him relationship advice. The worst part is that it’s very sensible: Eddie should have apologized a long time ago, instead of waiting around for an alien parasite to point it out to him. He feels like complete shit when Anne waves his concerns away. She’s so worried for him. 

It makes Eddie more vulnerable than when he was all alone and thinking the world was against him. He has to meekly ask before he allows himself to borrow Dan’s sweater. He barely feels warmer with it on. What he tells Anne when she asks is true—he’s not in pain, but he’s shaking and cold and exhausted, and he doesn’t feel so good about himself.

That fragile state of mind follows him into the hospital, where Dan’s waiting for them and keeps being absurdly nice to Eddie. In those circumstances, hearing that Venom’s been killing him after all—it’s not great.

THAT’S NOT TRUE! Venom protests in his head, increasingly frantic—it can probably feel Eddie’s mounting anger, his betrayal. THEY’RE WRONG! I CAN HEAL YOU! THEY DON’T UNDERSTAND US!

It shrieks when Anne expels it out of Eddie’s body—because Venom just told Eddie how to do that. It trusted him completely; didn’t even imagine Eddie might use those confessions as a weapon, didn’t even realize why he was on his way to the hospital in the first place. But Venom was also killing him, and feeling cheated is so fucking stupid, but Eddie’s not thinking clearly. And he won’t ever think clearly anymore, because he’s dying. Already his body feels wrong in a terminal way. Atrophied heart, Dan said.

It’s only much later, after everything’s over, that Eddie remembers that detail and snorts at the irony.

 

*

 

Days after the failed Life Foundation launch, Eddie’s still checking every two minutes that Venom’s alive. He felt it shrivel and burn inside him, dwindling almost to nothing, and he spent a miserable night sitting on his couch, holding a vigil, waiting for death to come inside his living body. But then instead of giving out, the flecks of Venom took root again and grew. It spoke again, just as dawn came, a few tired words to ask Eddie why he was crying.

“You still here?” Eddie mumbles, so quiet he almost can’t hear himself over the shower.

The answer rumbles into his bones. OF COURSE.

He exhales and shuts off the water, stepping out to grab a towel. “And you’re okay, right?”

AS LONG AS I’M INSIDE YOU, I WILL ALWAYS HEAL.

Eddie clears his throat a bit too loudly. He’s used that same phrasing, himself, talking about it with Anne the day before. Inside you. And they were both quick to look away.

Venom feels him thinking about that conversation and perks up. WE KISSED YOU, EDDIE. IN THE FOREST. THAT WAS NICE.

“Shouldn’t have,” Eddie mutters. “She’s with Dan, you know. And she’s made it pretty clear she doesn’t… And—and Dan, he’s a nice guy. Deserves good things.”

YOU TOO, EDDIE. Venom oozes out just enough to wrap around him from behind, tendrils lacing around his arms and waist. It feels so bizarrely good—warm and enveloping like a mud bath.

“Thanks,” Eddie murmurs. Venom’s alarming tongue licks up his cheek as if to get a taste. “Hey. Could you dial back the—”

He can’t finish that sentence because Venom’s tongue slithers past his lips and brings the whole flowing mass of its face against Eddie’s.

Eddie would call himself an idiot for not seeing that one coming, but he’s got other problems at the moment—namely that he can’t breathe at all; Venom shoving its tongue down his throat is not a goddamn metaphor. But after a few frantic seconds, it becomes obvious that as long as one of them can access oxygen, they’re both fine. Still, even though he’s not technically choking, Eddie’s getting light-headed. He stumbles back until he hits the wall. The oozing warm weight of Venom is plastering itself against his body, and Eddie’s still damp from his shower, and he’s also completely fucking naked against the twisting, squeezing, massaging mass—

“HUH.” Venom unsticks itself and looks down. “WHAT’S HAPPENING TO YOU?”

“Nothing! Just stop, just—stop,” Eddie says, trying to push Venom away even though he knows it’s completely futile. Indeed, Venom’s goo just lets his wrists through and then closes again around them, bringing them together above Eddie’s head.

A tendril slithers down to investigate. “FEELS GOOD, THOUGH.”

“I said stop!” Eddie yells, jerkily pulling his wrists loose. Venom lets him, blinking. “This is—this is—” Going too far, he wants to say, but who the fuck is he kidding? What’s too far anymore?

“WELL, YOU LIKE IT,” Venom retorts, impatiently wrapping up Eddie’s wrists again and going exploring some more.

Eddie knows it’d back off if he yelled again. And yet he… doesn’t seem to be doing that. He's staring, completely frozen except for some reflexive twitching. What is he fucking waiting for? Fuck, but his body has a mind of its own—as if his head wasn’t crowded enough—and it’s been six long, miserably lonely months, and—

“AH,” Venom growls like it’s just put two and two together. “SO THAT’S SEX.”

“Who told you about sex?” Eddie asks, indignant.

“IT’S ON EVERYONE’S MINDS.” Venom licks the side of his face again, hot and slick. “LET’S GIVE IT A SHOT, EDDIE.”

Its whole mass pins Eddie to the wall again. It’s covering him completely this time, pushing his limbs apart until he’s spread-eagled, and its tongue is down Eddie’s throat again, so thick it’s stretching his lips. The black slime suction-molds itself to Eddie’s entire body and rubs down over all strategic spots. Of course, it can feel everything Eddie feels, so it instantly knows where to work him. It’s like being vacuum-sealed inside a sentient full-body massager—one that’s intent on wringing pleasure from him like water from a dish rag.

Eddie tries to struggle, but he’s completely stuck, gagged and blind, it’s everywhere—well, almost—not quite—which is a stupid, stupid thought he can’t keep from crossing his mind, which unfortunately means that it crosses Venom’s mind as well as it sometimes happens. 

OH, it says, THERE, TOO?

And the suctioning mass is swallowed up into Eddie’s ass.

Eddie can’t scream. His mouth is full. Venom goes in deeper, shoves and swells and stretches, and Eddie think he might just fucking die. It’s not like he’s even done this the normal way before. His synapses are bursting like petards in his brain. That plus everything else—it’s too good, as in literally too good, threatening to break his mind, because there’s no corner of his body he can retreat in, all of him prodded, stroked, invaded.

Eddie thinks of someone walking in and seeing this, thinks of how loud they’d screamor maybe just stare in frozen horror at the outlines of his body under the black slime, gradually noticing that it’s moving between his legs, that it’s into his mouth, and maybe they wouldn't want to understand at first but then they'd have to realize that yes, there’s a man under there, and he's been caught by some kind of alien monster that's violating him—

It’s that self-image—the idea of what’s currently happening to him—that acts like the flick of a final switch.

Eddie’s mind explodes, and Venom cries out in shock as his earth-shattering climax washes over them both, the writhing black mass clenching up and twisting like it did in the fire, shriveling and retreating from Eddie’s body in pulsing bursts, along with the tide of his orgasm.

Eddie gasps for breath as soon as the gooey limb slithers out of his throat. His cock’s limp, his ass gaping. He’s shaking so much he wouldn’t be able to stand by himself, but of course Venom’s already wrapping around him again, all aflutter.

“WELL NOW!” Some tendrils are still around his cock, milking him to the last. The rest are just hugging him. “OH, WE SHOULD DO THIS ALL THE TIME, EDDIE.”  

Eddie still can’t talk. Or think. He knows his eyes are too wide.

Venom prods at him. “EDDIE? ARE YOU ALL RIGHT?”

Eddie can’t deal with an alien’s crisis on top of his own right now, so he manages to scrape some of himself together. “Yeah—yeah, love, that was a just—a lot.”

The endearment’s automatic. It’s how he’s always called everyone that’s ever given him an orgasm. If Eddie hadn’t already crossed the line of sanity twenty goddamn times in the past week, this is where he’d go mad. As things are, his state of mind doesn’t change. Which isn’t saying much.

Venom squeezes him tighter, oozing delight and grinning with all its fangs. “AGAIN?”

Oh, God, positive reinforcement was probably not the way to go here.

“Not… right away.” Eddie straightens up on wobbly legs. “Let’s—let’s grab something to eat, all right?”

“IT DID MAKE ME HUNGRY.” Venom retracts entirely into Eddie’s body. I WANT TATER TOTS.

“We got tater tots yesterday,” Eddie mumbles, picking up his abandoned towel. His hands are shaking.

THEN I WANT BRAINS.

“We’ll go round the butcher, see what they’ve got. Let me just—let me just get dressed.”

ALL RIGHT, LOVE, Venom purrs, and quickly slips its head out to flick its tongue at Eddie’s ear.

 

*

 

“Hey, Eddie.” Anne hugs him tight, then pulls back and holds him at arm’s length. “And hi, Venom.”

“What?” Eddie says—but he doesn’t even have time to try and look innocent before Venom pushes right through his face. “HI.”

Anne jerks back, then starts laughing with shock. “Eddie. Oh my God, I knew it.”

“You weren’t supposed to show yourself!” Eddie hisses at his other half.

WHY NOT?

“I don’t know, it’s—” He rubs his face, nervously. “God, look—Annie, you can’t tell anyone, all right?”

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t even say that.” She puts her hand on her hip. “And if you think I’m not telling Dan, you’ve got another thing coming.”

Speaking of Dan, there he is, coming up the stairs with a goddamn bottle of wine. “Eddie, buddy. How’re you feeling?”

“Fine. I…” After everything that’s happened, Eddie doesn’t know what to do with himself in front of Dan. “I’m okay. I mean, well. Venom’s still there.”

Dan and Anne share a knowing glance.

“Well, we figured,” Dan says, sympathetic. “The state your body’s in—you wouldn’t have survived if Venom was gone.”

WE’RE GOOD, Venom rumbles. YOU AND ME, EDDIE. I’LL ALWAYS HEAL YOU, AND YOU’LL ALWAYS HEAL ME.

“Yeah. It’s.” Eddie swallows. “We’re making it work.”

He’s done his best to keep Venom distracted from sex—food’s always the answer, really—but he knows it won’t last forever. He can’t think about it now, though, not in front of Anne and Dan. How they’d look at him if they knew. It’s making his insides shrink with shame. Or maybe that’s just Venom getting bored and starting to digest his liver.

I LIKE ANNE, it offers. AND SHE LIKED HAVING ME INSIDE HER.

“Please, don’t—just—” Eddie mutters, dragging a hand over his face. “This isn’t good dinner conversation, okay?”

Anne’s got a smile playing on her lips. “You all right there, Eddie?”

“It, ah, talks a lot. You know. Very—enthusiastic.” He sighs. “It’s happy to see you.”

“Right back at him.” Anne says him, because she’s used to Venom molding itself after Eddie’s shape. But Eddie’s been bonded to it long enough to know that Venom has no concept of gender. Hell, its species as a whole have no concept of sex.

They’re fast learners, though.

Now Anne’s giving him a look Eddie knows only too well. “I can’t believe you tried to hide that he was still there. Did you really think I wouldn't figure it out?”

"No." That much is true, but—“I... I thought maybe you'd like an out. You’ve done enough for me, Annie, you don’t need—”

“You don’t have headaches anymore, right? Still a bit of fever, maybe?” Dan interjects brightly.

“I’m—I’m good, it’s—oh, there you go, okay,” Eddie says when Dan presses a hand to his forehead. “We’ve stabilized. Really.”

“Sorry.” Dan takes his hand back, still beaming. “You just had us really worried for a while, bud.”

He says us, like he’s in a goddam symbiotic relationship with Anne, and he calls Eddie bud. By all accounts, Eddie shouldn’t be able to stand this guy. But he just helplessly likes him. Likes them both, really, more than he could say. Nobody would have blamed them for getting him arrested, back in that restaurant. Dan’s claims are still echoing in Eddie’s ears. Don’t call the police! He’s my patient, he’s sick! Complete lies, and a huge risk. What kind of man does that for his girlfriend’s unstable ex?

And Anne—she had no qualms breaking up with Eddie when his recklessness hurt her. She had no qualms telling him to his face that his problems were his own fault. And when he was terrified out of his mind, when he didn’t know if he was going insane or dying or both, she had no qualms helping him and very nearly dying herself in the process.

And now, after everything, they’re coming over for dinner, keeping him company, texting, calling, making sure he’s okay. They know about Venom, they knew it was still there, and yet they’re still there, too. They just—care.

“Let’s eat,” Eddie says, clasping his hands and putting on a smile. He can be good company. He owes them that much.

 

*

 

I LIKE THEM, Venom says when they’re gone.

“Me too,” Eddie exhales, closing the door.

He briefly thinks about poor Maria. He liked her, too. Technically, Venom killed her, but it can’t be blamed for that. There are still so many things it needs to learn.

Speaking of which.

Venom’s oozing out again, and steel-strong tendrils are lacing around Eddie’s torso. They’re alone and they’ve just eaten their fill. It’s late at night. Eddie’s pretty much dug his own grave here.

YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT, EDDIE.

Already there’s a limb slithering past his belt. What Venom wants is to sodomize Eddie within an inch of his life so they’ll both go half-mad with pleasure. Eddie’s having trouble breathing, but his cock’s already filling up—and that last part is what really freaks him out.

“Hey—hey, listen,” he says shakily, clutching at the oily black vine across his chest. “Hold on, we should—”

Venom’s head emerges, opens its maw wide, and its tongue slithers out to wrap around Eddie’s throat. “YOU LIKED THE CHOKING,” it says around the pink tendril. “I COULD TRY STRANGLING YOU THIS TIME.”

Eddie’s so hard he could hammer nails. Alien parasite aside, how fucked up is he, exactly?

“Okay, okay, hang on, Venom! We can’t do this again. All right? Can’t,” he says firmly.

“WHY NOT?”

“Because—because it’s wrong,” Eddie laughs, shaky and fake. “Jesus, that shouldn’t be so hard to grasp. Right? We’re different species…”

He trails off. It’s wrong by his standards, his complicated, arbitrary human standards; but the entire principle of Venom’s existence is to fuse with new and unknown species. It’s designed to interlace with its host in all possible ways; for a human, there’s no logical reason it shouldn’t include sex.

But Venom’s already flowing back, eyes wide.

“WRONG?”

Its worry squeezes Eddie’s brain. Fuck, he should have thought this through. Venom doesn’t dissociate sex from the symbiosis. And of course, why would it? It cannot exist without invading Eddie’s body. To its alien mind, drawing a line at what’s technically a lesser form of intimacy is probably absurd.

“IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, HOW CAN IT BE WRONG?”

Oh boy. That’s a whole other can.

“It’s—it’s just a lot,” Eddie says lamely. “Like I said last time. A lot.”

“BUT. YOU SAID. LOVE.” Venom’s getting agitated, bubbling around Eddie’s body like an anxious gooey scarf. “MY LOVE.”

Eddie feels very much like a loser right now. “I—well—look, the way I said it—”

“I’M NOT A PARASITE, EDDIE!” There’s a frantic edge to its anger. “I’M NOT!”

And suddenly Eddie can’t stand it anymore. “No, I know, hey—I’m sorry, love, I’m sorry,” he says, reaching out for his fretting half. “Here, I’ve said it wrong.”

Venom settles down by a fraction. Eddie sits down on the couch, bringing the swarming mass of petroleous anxiety close to his chest, like the world’s most disturbing lapdog.

“It did feel good, what we did.” And damn him, it’s true. He couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t see—he could just take it, and he enjoyed it so consumingly he’s trying not to look directly at the implications. “I just need you to…”

What? Not ever do it again? There’s no logical reason to ask it that. And their relationship is already an abomination to outsiders, already invasive, disturbing, technically wrong. What’s Eddie afraid of, really? Co-dependence? If he had a shrink, they’d already be dead with laughter.

“WHAT, EDDIE?” Venom prompts.

“This is going to sound, ah—a bit weird, maybe, but it’s another human rule.” Eddie clears his throat. “Here goes. You need to ask me everything out loud.”

“ASK?” It’s puzzled, and kind of ticked off. “I CAN TELL, EDDIE. I’M INSIDE YOU.”

“That’s not enough—that’s not enough.” God, Eddie’s bad at this. “You also need to ask. Even if it seems pointless. All right? And hey, don’t worry, it’s not just you. Goes for anyone, really.”

Venom bristles, literally. “NOBODY ELSE IS ALLOWED TO—” The snarling stops and the floating head smoothes over, tilting to the side. “EXCEPT FOR ANNE. AND MAYBE DAN.”

“Let’s—talk about that later.” Eddie’s future self can deal with so many problems. “It’s just us right now.”

“YES. MY LOVE.” Venom’s tongue is out again, caressing Eddie’s face. “CAN I STRANGLE YOU?”

Eddie swallows.

“SEE, I’M ASKING.” It smiles with all its teeth. “DON’T WORRY. YOU WON’T DIE.”

“Well, look,” Eddie breathes, growing ever harder in his jeans, and where is that coming from, really, what the fuck? “I suppose there’s no harm—in, ah, trying, but remember that—”

He can’t get out another word; Venom’s formed a limb and is squeezing his throat. The rest of its slithering body slips under Eddie’s clothes, wrapping around his cock and balls and already—God—pushing into his ass, so fucking thick Eddie would choke if he weren’t already choking. Venom’s not exactly one for foreplay.

“RELAX, EDDIE. GIVE IN.”

There’s not much else Eddie can physically do. Venom’s cutting off all of his air supply; once again, it’s only their symbiotic link that’s keeping him alive. He hasn’t got enough oxygen left to move, barely enough to think. Venom's tight hold around his throat says very clearly that it'll break Eddie's fucking neck if he struggles. All he can do is sit there and helplessly watch as his body starts to shake apart with arousal.

“RELAX…”

Eddie pushes a wordless thought into their shared pocket of mind. Since this is happening again, it might as well happen properly—which is him trying to stay sane inside insanity, with highly debatable results.

“REALLY? IN AND OUT?” Venom says with interest. “I THOUGHT IT WAS ABOUT STRETCHING YOU AS FAR AS YOU COULD MANAGE.”

The tentacle inside Eddie’s ass starts thrusting instead of just expanding, and Eddie nearly passes the fuck out. He’s literally asked for it, so he can’t blame anyone but himself, but it’s—so much—

Venom pulls him out of his underwear and lowers its enormous head, and its tongue—its fucking tongue—slips out to wrap around Eddie’s cock, several times around. Again, Eddie can only watch, eyes too wide. Its jaw is wide open, with its nightmare teeth right there, drool slipping out like he’s about to bite it off—

YOU LIKE IT WHEN I SCARE YOU.

Eddie would say something except he can’t think, and Venom strangles him tighter and fucks him deeper, punching into him slowly with this bulging mass of muscle, rolling Eddie’s balls between its huge teeth, as if toying with its food, and rumbling in delight at Eddie’s pain, at his fear—

His eyes roll back in his head and then they’re both gone, Eddie shaking apart, Venom collapsing in a shapeless, sticky heap all over him, groaning, writhing, unable to maintain a coherent form.

For the longest time afterwards, Eddie just sits there, so stunned with the afterglow it's all he can do to stare at the ceiling. When his brain starts coming back online, he weakly glances down and watches his own come get absorbed right back into Venom’s body, sticky white into sticky black.

EDDIE, it slurs out, wrapping all of itself around him. OH, I LOVE DOING THAT.

It’s too soon for Eddie to speak again, which is just as well. His hand only reaches out by itself to stroke the blanket of black, slimy warmth spread over him. And it strokes him in turn.

 

*

 

Venom’s changed the way Eddie approaches everything in life, starting with his job. He used to plan around dangerous interviews with his own safety in mind, because you can’t expose the world’s underbelly if it’s already digested you. But now that he’s damn near invulnerable, Eddie can pretty much make his own justice, which is a concept he’s got to approach with care. Apart from his own failings, there isn’t much left he needs to be afraid of. He still hasn’t quite wrapped his mind around that, around the sheer power.

Between that and the mind-rending sex with an alien predator, well. Going outside the house is good. Grounding. The sun makes him feel real, the people, too. Venom keeps grumbling that it wants to eat heads, but it also perks up at the sight of chocolate ice cream. Eddie buys a cone and lets a monstrous tongue steals some licks while nobody’s looking.

WHAT ARE WE DOING TODAY, EDDIE?

“Series of interviews at AIM. Afraid it’s gonna be a pretty normal day, love.”

The loves come right out, now. Eddie just can’t give a shit anymore. Venom purrs deeply and licks some more ice cream, tongue flicking out of Eddie’s sleeve. ALL RIGHT. BUT WE SHOULD EAT SOMEONE SOON.

Cannibalism disturbs Eddie less than alien sex, and that’s a fact he’s gotta deal with. People have been eating each other for centuries, after all, in various corners of the world; and deep down Eddie’s always felt that things would be better with some dickheads out of the way. Carlton Drake’s death certainly didn’t prove him wrong. It’s also possible that Venom’s fucked with his mind and lowered his sensibility thresholds for violent murder. Or maybe he’s just gone numb after nearly getting violently murdered one time too many, himself.

“Only bad people, V,” he sighs.

I KNOW, Venom says, affronted, and gobbles up the rest of the scoop.

“Hey! Leave some for me!”

YOU ALREADY HAD HALF.

Parasite, thinks Eddie. But doesn’t say, because he doesn’t want to hurt Venom’s feelings.

 

*

 

The whole day, Eddie keeps snickering inside his own head with Venom, who might be unclear on when it’s okay to eat people but certainly got the hang of roasting them. All of his interviews go perfectly well, for him at least; and if he still comes off a little unhinged, well, that’s just how he is these days. Throwing people off their game is an excellent way to make them say things they didn’t mean to let out.

Eddie works and works, writes some articles, sleeps a lot, eats even more, and they don’t actually kill anyone else for a while there.

They do fuck again, though. Nearly every day now.

Every time, Eddie still can’t do much but let things happen to him, and the truly fucked-up part is that he likes that more and more. He’s always in for a very brutal ride, but experience has taught him he always ends up okay, so fear’s turned to thrills. Venom hasn’t forgotten their conversation, either. It makes genuine if clumsy attempts at asking permission, but sometimes it forgets completely, or sometimes asks OH, WAS THAT ALL RIGHT? after the fact. Most of the time Eddie can’t speak or think anyway, and Venom always takes his lack of answer for consent. As a rule, it’s always trying to find new and exciting ways to violate Eddie, because it knows those things will make them come harder than anything.

Eddie knows it’s not ideal. To say the least. But as they keep it going and he still fails to put an end to it, he begins to realize that he’s more worried about the fact that it’s not ideal than about it happening at all. As if someone might jump out and point at him yelling Hey! This guy’s getting his rocks off on assault! Let’s get him, boys!

The thing is, Eddie could reasonably argue that every moment of his day is a violation, regardless of what they’re doing. Except—he just—he just doesn’t feel that way. The reporter in him mumbles about rationalizing abuse, but even deeper down, in a place that’s not complex enough for denial, Eddie knows the truth. Can’t be abuse if he wants it. And God help him, but he fucking does. It’s like a metaphor for their greater bond: past the first moment of shock, Eddie can’t get enough. It’s the best sex he’s ever had by goddamn lightyears, and it’s all thanks to the fact that Venom barrels right into what actually gets him going, without a care for those pesky human social conventions.

Besides. Even though Venom might not be too good with the particulars, it will always obey a hard no.

Eddie could bend steel around that certainty—has put it to the test enough—simply because Venom loves Eddie more than anything in the universe. Which is something Eddie can physically feel. It’s so odd at times, to walk around all day being loved this much in his every cell. Sometimes he just has to sit and breathe and let the feeling wash through him. This love keeps him awake at night, in a way sex never could.

 

*

 

But Eddie’s still human—a good chunk of him is, at least—and he’s always been the very fallible type. So all it takes to undo his tentative peace of mind is a knock on the door.

“Eddie? Eddie, are you there?”

“Oh, fuck,” Eddie gasps, struggling against Venom’s hold. “Stop, V, stop, that’s Annie—”

I CAN OPEN THE DOOR, Venom says, sneaking a limb across the room.

“No!” Eddie shouts, so loud Venom shrinks, white eyes going huge. “I said stop! Let me go, I gotta—fuck—”

He shakes himself free and shouts, “Coming!” when Anne knocks again. He pulls up his pants, grabs a shirt from the floor, and tugs it down one-handed as he opens the door.

Anne takes stock of his disheveled hair, his rumpled clothing and bare feet. By the time her eyes have traveled down and then back up, she knows. Well, of course Anne knows what coitus interruptus looks like on Eddie.

“You… weren’t answering your phone,” she says slowly.

“And so what, you just ran here?” Eddie says, because he’s a tactless asshole in a panic.

She raises an eyebrow. “It’s Thursday, Eddie. Remember? Lunch?”

“Oh, fuck.” Eddie’s always been bad with meetings and dates and anniversaries. Anne used to do most of the work for him—and really, he should’ve seen their breakup coming even before the whole Life Foundation thing. Now that he’s the responsible one, he keeps getting blindsided by how terrible he’s at it. “I’m so sorry, Annie, I—”

“Eddie, are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean…” She lowers her voice. “I’m not saying you should be celibate for the rest of your life. I’m actually really happy you’re putting yourself out there again. But whoever you’ve got in here with you, what if she—”

“There’s nobody here,” Eddie says, defeated.

“Eddie.” She sighs. “It’s okay. We’ve been separated for nearly eight months now.”

“No, Annie, I mean, it’s just—it’s just us.”

His throat’s so tight he can barely speak. The idea of losing her now feels somehow more terrifying than losing her then, when they still thought they were getting married. But he’s gotta bite the bullet sometime. She was always going to find out.

“Oh, come on, who do you think you’re—” and then her expression abruptly changes.

The long silence that follows is broken by a familiar rumble.

EDDIE?

“What?” Eddie mumbles, turning his head even though there’s nothing for him to look at.

SHE THINK IT’S WRONG. Venom has never sounded so quiet. LIKE YOU SAID ONCE.

Eddie sighs. “It’s complicated, love. Human-complicated.”

“Eddie,” Anne breathes when she hears the pet name. “Eddie, you… and him.”

“Yeah.” Eddie stares at the floor. “And… and look, Annie, I know it’s weird, but I can explain, I…”

His voice breaks, he’s damn near tearing up, panic rising again—and he jumps when Anne cups his face.

“Hey, it’s—it’s all right, Eddie.” She’s making a valiant effort to smile. “Don’t get so worked up. I’m not gonna run screaming.”

“No?” He laughs and sniffs. “Damn. Starting to wonder what it’s gonna take, at this point.”

She laughs too, the same kind of shaky. When she pulls him in, he clutches the back of her pricey sweater and shivers for a little while, pressing his face into her shoulder.

Venom’s very silent throughout.

They let go, jerkily, and Eddie clears his throat. “I can’t… I can’t imagine what you’re thinking right now, Annie, but I—”

“Well,” she sighs. “It’s just a logical continuation, isn’t it?”

And it is. Under a tight lid of denial—some things you just don't discuss—they both knew sex was very likely to come into play. It’s not like Venom was being subtle. But for her to say it out loud now—to agree that it makes sense, outside of Eddie’s subjectivity—it’s such a damn relief he shivers some more. She’s not running screaming. She gets it. She’s still there.

“Yeah.” Eddie shakes himself up. He’s got to take care of his own. “V? Come out, love. It’s all right.”

It’s a very small expression of Venom’s head that pokes out of Eddie’s body.

“YOU THINK IT’S WRONG,” it mumbles warily, staring at Anne.

“Not wrong,” she says. “It’s just that sex is—very special.” She hesitates for a moment, then adds, “Sacred.”

“SACRED?”

Eddie hadn’t thought of putting it that way, but it’s apparently resonating with Venom. Eddie can feel its shock, finally rising to match what he felt during those panic-ridden first times. Sacredness must be a universal concept.

“The human body is sacred, really,” Anne says. “So when you bonded with Eddie, it was… a shock for him. And sex is—another way to bond. So this is… another shock.”

Venom’s panicking now; it boils around Eddie’s body, barely touching him, as if afraid to do so. “EDDIE? I DIDN’T KNOW. I DIDN’T UNDERSTAND. EDDIE? DID I HURT YOU?”

“No, love,” Eddie says, stupidly emotional. “We had that talk, remember, and—and you listened to me. You tried. You did good.”

“BUT IF IT’S SACRED. WE CAN BE MORE GENTLE,” Venom assures him, frantic. “OR WE CAN STOP! YOU ONLY HAVE TO SAY.”

“Well, I mean,” Eddie says, with the mild panic of a man faced with the potential loss of his daily hard fuck. “I’m not sure gentle would cut it, y’know? The way you—” Then he meets Anne’s eyes and remembers she is still, in fact, standing there. Her eyebrows are flirting with her hairline.

“EDDIE?”

He clears his throat. “We—we’re going to talk about this some more, love. Let’s go have lunch, okay? Anything you want.”

 

*

 

Anne pokes at her anchovy pizza while Eddie devours his third one in a row—the staff’s watching him from the back with a mixture of awe and fear. She can’t take her eyes off him.

“Fuck, okay.” Her fork clinks in her plate. “I just have to ask. How does it work?”

Eddie swallows his mouthful. This is the part where he should freak out again, because he’s still got a laundry list of things to be ashamed of. But against all logic, a half-smile tugs at his lips.

“Fishing for details, Ms. Weying?”

Some people hate talking about sex. Others could talk about it for days on end—and the less conventional, the better. Eddie’s always known Anne belonged to that second category, but it’s still a kick to see her lean forward like he’s about to tell her the winning lottery numbers.

“You’re gonna laugh.” He fiddles with an olive, looking away. “Let’s, ah. Let’s just say it’s not me that tops.”

She lets out an undignified, high-pitched sound, full of delighted outrage. “Eddie.”

“What,” he smirks. “C’mon, Annie. Everything that’s happened, is that really where you’re drawing the line?”

Suddenly, it’s so easy to be unashamed. He ate a whole goddamn person in front of Mrs. Chen and then just walked away. And he’s still shopping there and she’s pretending nothing happened, only she refuses to take his change now, always rounding it up in his favor. The world can absorb a lot of weirdness because at the end of the day, it's still going to keep turning. Venom was right: they can do whatever they want. There's not much else they could do.

“Had you ever—done anything like that before?” Anne asks, lowering her voice on instinct.

Eddie raises an eyebrow.

She waves an impatient hand. “You know what I mean.”

“What, anal?”

His bluntness very clearly delights her all over again. Eddie has to hold back another smile.

“Not with you, no.” He clears his throat. “Not with anyone else.”

“So,” she hesitates, “no guys? Ever?”

“I would’ve said when we were dating.” He rubs the back of his neck. “So it’s all a bit—new, sure. But Venom, uh, takes real good care of me.”

A hopeful push inside his head. I DO?

“Yeah, love.”

Venom does the mental equivalent of blushing. THE PIZZA’S GETTING COLD. EAT THAT ANCHOVY’S HEAD.

“Just do it yourself,” Eddie says, picking up the little fish and zipping open his jacket so Venom’s tongue can slither out, Alien-style. “Lazy bum,” he says fondly.

“But you like that? It doesn’t hurt?” Anne insists, still stuck over the idea of Eddie taking it up the ass, rather than the fact it’s an alien giving it to him. God bless her.

The answer is, it does hurt. A whole fucking lot. Because Venom’s making sure of it, because Eddie fucking loves it—and can’t blame alien influence here. He knows only too well that this is his own human software sparking up in new and appalling ways. He never suspected the sheer depths of his own depravity, and he wouldn’t know how to explain them now.  Sure, he could say the pain’s an active factor when it comes to overloading his brain into terminal orgasm—but even in their special circumstances, there is such a thing as too much information.

“Venom wouldn't harm me on purpose,” he answers, carefully not lying. “It’d just… well, harm itself.”

“Right.” She thinks for a second. “Hey, Venom?”

Venom pushes out of Eddie’s chest again. “ANNE.”

“Wow. Hi.” She leans close. “Why are you having sex with Eddie?”

“WE SHARE EVERYTHING.” It grins. “CARE TO BE SHARED?”

“Oh my God,” Eddie hisses, pushing the monstrous head back inside him while Anne cracks up. “Don’t be crass!”

“Oh, thank you, no,” Anne breathes when she’s done giggling. “Been there, done that.”

But Eddie can’t help noticing she bites her lip a second later.

 

*

 

Venom’s so silent on the way home that, even though it doesn’t feel distressed, Eddie gets a little worried. “You okay, love?”

YES. Under Eddie’s clothes, Venom trickles out to wrap around him in a multi-limbed embrace. I NEVER WANT TO HURT YOU, EDDIE.

“Hey, turns out I like it rough,” Eddie says. People glance at him on the street, and he could pretend he’s talking on the phone, but honestly, he can’t be bothered. “Don’t change. I’d be disappointed if you did, really.”

PEOPLE’S BODIES ARE SACRED. SHE SAID.

“Yeah, and that means you need to be allowed in, right? And it’s okay, love. You always were, with me.”

Venom squeezes him tighter. WE’RE NOT ALLOWED INSIDE OTHER PEOPLE, THOUGH.

“That’s right. Unless they tell us different. Remember, the asking?”

BUT EATING THEM IS OKAY, Venom concludes.

Eddie raises an eyebrow. “How do you figure?”

WHEN WE EAT THEM, THEY GO INSIDE US. AND THAT’S ALL RIGHT. It grins inside Eddie’s head. THEY’RE ALLOWED.

“You know what, V, that’s flawless logic,” Eddie says as he ducks into Mrs. Chen’s bodega.

 

*

 

They oversleep the next morning until Venom suddenly squeezes Eddie awake.

SOMEONE’S AT THE DOOR.

Eddie emerges groggily. “M’ still asleep. They can come back later.”

THEY SMELL WRONG.

Okay, now he’s a bit more awake. “Wrong how?”

LIKE THE LIFE FOUNDATION.

Absolutely fully fucking awake. Eddie stumbles out of bed and pulls on a pair of trackpants. His first instinct is to reach for his old gnawed-on bat, but he stops when he remembers he won’t ever need a weapon anymore.

Someone knocks on the door, maybe for the second time. It’s hurried but not angry. Eddie hesitates, shuffling across the room. He takes a deep breath, counts to three in his head, then pulls the door open.

The woman on the other side squeaks and jerks back. Eddie blinks at her.

“Dr. Skirth?”

“Eddie,” she gasps. “Oh, Eddie, thank God.”

Eddie lets her in, bewildered, closing the door behind him.

“You’re alive," she breathes, "I didn’t even know if… I would’ve called, but I suppose your phone was destroyed in the… when the…”

“Yeah,” he answers, belatedly. “Yeah, I lost your number. I didn’t want to look you up, in case it'd draw attention to you.” And to be perfectly sincere, he'd assumed she was dead.

EDDIE! SHE WAS IN THE LAB, Venom protests. LET’S EAT HER.

“No, she’s the one who called me in to investigate. She’s the reason we met, love.”

Eddie can feel Venom’s opinion of Dr. Skirth doing a beautiful 180°. He can also see Dr. Skirth staring at him and turning grey.

He’s a fucking moron. And he's not nearly awake enough to handle this.

“Eddie?” She takes a step back. “Eddie? Who are you talking to?”

“It’s okay,” Eddie begins, “it’s not what you—well, no, it’s probably exactly what you think. But listen, it’s fine.”  

“Oh my God, oh my God. Oh no. Oh my God.”

“Just—calm down. Please. Look.” He raises his hands, steps pointedly away. “We’re not gonna hurt you.”

WHY ARE YOU ALWAYS RAISING YOUR HANDS?

“Because it’s a good way to make people feel safe!”

Dr. Skirth’s hyperventilating.

“Let’s talk about something else. How… how are your kids?” Eddie tries.

She lets out a sort of strangled scoff. “Drake used to ask me that a lot.”

“Oh no. Uh, didn’t meant anything sinister by it, I promise. I just…” Eddie drops his hands. Venom’s right, it’s useless, and it’s making them look like a tool. “Hey, you can leave if you want, Dr. Skirth. See the door? It’s right there. You’re not trapped. You’re fine.”

She’s frozen to the spot. Eddie can’t imagine steering her outside is going to end well for anyone.

“But I gotta say I’m—I’m happy to see you,” he goes on. “I’m glad you’re okay. I was worried. And you’ve pulled me out of bed, so… I’m gonna make coffee. And I’ve got a cup for you, if you want it. Do you want to sit down? Dr. Skirth?”

Normalcy is a powerful hypnotic. Skirth sits down very slowly on a stool.

Eddie putters around his messy kitchen, trying not to come too close to her. He can feel her vibrating with tension.

“Is it still there?” she blurts out, like Eddie might be playing a prank on her.

“Yeah. Look. Uh, V—could you grab my phone, please?”

A tentacle shoots out of Eddie’s back and retrieves the phone, bringing it straight back into his hand. Skirth’s hand flies up to her mouth. She says nothing, sitting there petrified, eyes wide.

Eddie shoots a text to Anne. He could use some back-up.

Anne shows up not ten minutes later—she doesn’t live that far away from Eddie’s new place, which might be one of the reasons he’s picked it, and also he sent her EMRGNCY COME OVR PLS which, in hindsight, was a bit too alarming. But Skirth jumps a mile when Anne knocks on the door and, yeah, extra support won’t hurt.

“What’s wrong?” Anne gasps as soon as she walks in—then stops and wrinkles her nose. “God, Eddie, when was the last time you aired out this place?”

“Didn’t know I was gonna get visitors,” Eddie says, steering her towards the kitchen. “Hey, Dr.—uh, Dora? Look, this is Anne.”

Explaining who Anne is takes a while. Explaining who Dora is takes even longer. Through her broken, tense answers, Eddie learns that she very nearly didn’t make it—as it turns out, Carlton Drake locked her inside a symbiote’s cage and let it free.

“I was in a coma for two months,” she says, eyes flicking at Eddie every other second. “And I’m still—unwell. How are you so… How…”

“Well, it’s symbiosis. You said it yourself.” Eddie opens his hand, and a shiny black replica grows out of his sleeve to come hold it tight. He squeezes and looks back up. “We get along, I guess.”

SHE’S SCARED OF US.

“Yeah, love, but we can’t blame her.”

“Maybe I should go and get Dora another cup of coffee,” Anne says firmly, getting up. “Somewhere in a place where the host isn’t talking to himself. And where the sink isn’t overflowing.”

“Neither of us like to do the dishes,” Eddie quips, earning himself a swat over the head.

Dora follows Anne in a daze. She has the look of someone who wasn’t expecting to come out of the apartment alive. She keeps looking around as if waiting for the walls to ooze out aliens.

“Hey, Dr. Skirth,” Eddie says right before she leaves—and winces when she tenses up. “Sorry. Just—you’ve only got friends here. And that’s a fact.”

She nods, still pale, extends her hand on what’s obviously pure instinct—then squeaks in horror at her own gesture and snatches it back before Eddie can touch her.

“There’s no risk,” he tells her, a little smugly. “It likes me best.”

She laughs, and if she sounds a little crazy, Eddie can hardly hold it against her. He’s sounded much crazier for much longer than that. She’s actually doing great.

“Let’s go, Dora,” Anne says gently. Eddie decides he’s going to buy her flowers.

“You take care now, all right?” he tells Skirth. “And—you don’t have to come back here if it’s too hard for you. We won’t mind.”

Skirth actually looks like her shock’s beginning to ebb, leaving her confused and floundering. “Goodbye, Eddie. Sorry… sorry I…”

“I know. It’s all right. You just get out of here, now.”

“It’s all my fault,” she blurts out. “Eddie, I should’ve never gotten you involved. I’m so sorry about everything.”

Eddie gives her a half-smile. “I’m not.”

That, more than anything else, looks like it hits home. She goes quiet, staring at him with something like awe instead of fear now. Then Anne kindly steers her out of the apartment and closes the door.

All right. Eddie might as well tidy up the place now that he’s up.

 

*

 

I DO LIKE YOU BEST, Venom rumbles as they scrub the dishes, and Eddie smiles at the sponge like a fool.

His phone rings. It’s an unknown number, but when he picks up, he’s not surprised to hear Dora Skith’s voice.

“Eddie—hello. Anne gave me your… your number. I hope that’s—all right?”

“Of course, Dr. Skirth.”

“I think you can call me Dora at this point.” A strangled laugh. “I’m really sorry, I… I feel like such an idiot. Breaking down like that."

“Hey, considering what’s happened to you, I can’t imagine it was a good surprise.”

“You could say that.” This time her laugh sounds less breakable. “Anne’s very nice.”

“She’s lovely, yeah. Can you believe she used to date me? Thank God she’s upped her standards since then.”

Venom rumbles at Eddie putting himself down, but doesn’t say anything and just keeps doing the dishes, leaving Eddie’s hands and mind free for his phone call. It’s so tactful.

Dora sounds more and more like herself. “If what you told me is true, then my God, Eddie, this—this changes everything. This is the scientific discovery of the century, I—can we meet again soon?”

“No labs, doc.”

“No, my God, nothing like that! I just—those things—after what I saw, what I felt… I never thought a cooperation was actually possible. I have so many questions for you.”

“We could answer some of those, yeah.”

“We,” she repeats. “You and the symbiote—are you—communicating?”

Eddie’s lips tick up. “We’re getting there.”

 

*

 

Going to Anne and Dan’s makes him feel vulnerable in a way not much else can achieve, these days.

They’re always happy to see him. Anne kisses him on the cheek, a bit too close to the mouth, with the knowing half-smile of an ex. She laughs when he offers her an absurd amount of roses. Dan straight-up hugs him. He’s the one who cooks, and Eddie doesn’t know what the main course is, but he can smell that it’ll be chocolate cake for dessert.

“You guys,” he mumbles.

“So how are you both doing?” Dan asks like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

It’s all anyone needs, Eddie thinks, sitting down at the table. Whether you’re a plain regular man or bonded to an alien symbiote. As long as you can find a few people who make you feel normal—not many of them, even; two, or maybe three—then you’re fine. 

They watch a movie after dinner. Venom is slowly eating its way through the bowl of popcorn. Eddie’s thick hoodie doesn’t do anything to keep him from feeling Anne’s and Dan’s warmth. They’ve sat on the couch with him in the middle.

The credits are rolling, they’re stretching and making noises about herbal tea, but Eddie keeps sitting there, with something soft and almost painful beating in his chest like a second heart.

YOU SHOULD TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM, Venom rumbles.

It's always given him good advice. Eddie exhales shakily.

“Hey, um,” he rasps out. “Guys.”

They can hear it’s important. Anne sits back down on the couch next to him, squinting like she’s already trying to guess what he’s going to say. Dan settles on the chair by the coffee table, projecting friendliness like it’s his goddamn job.

Eddie swallows.

“You… Look, what you’ve done for me, it’s… I know how chaotic it’s been. I know I’ve embarrassed you in public, and put you in danger, and probably gave you fucking nightmares—and you still… I can’t… I can’t tell you how much…”

“Eddie,” Anne begins, kindly offering him an opportunity to stop making a fool of himself.

“I see the worst of humanity about every other goddamn day,” he forges on, even though his voice is shaking. “I see how petty and—and cruel and evil anyone can be. And yet I know I’ll never, ever lose faith in people. Because I’m lucky enough to have met you. The both of you.”

“Aw, buddy,” Dan says.

“Okay, I’m done.” He averts his eyes, snorts a laugh. “Sorry… sorry you had to live through that. Um. Let’s all just—”

His words get lost, because Anne’s hugging him and Dan's come to the couch to hug him, too. Eddie closes his eyes and grabs onto their arms. They startle when black slime oozes out of Eddie and wraps around them; but then they’re laughing, a bit shakily, maybe, and squeezing Eddie tighter, and Venom squeezes them all, and Eddie feels again this immense all-encompassing love beating in his every cell. The depth of it is like looking up into the night sky.

 

*

 

They eat four people the next day.

According to Dora Skirth’s careful texts, Venom needs a chemical with an unpronounceable name that’s found both in human brains and chocolate. Technically, it could subsist on Nutella alone, but there’s also the fact that it enjoys eating brains and that Eddie’s job puts him in contact with more bad guys than good—loving faith in people notwithstanding.

His dealings with AIM must be going somewhere interesting, because whoever’s in charge decided that it might do everyone some good if Eddie were to spend some time dead. That’s not accounting for Venom who perks up with carnivorous enthusiasm as Eddie finds himself backed in a dark alley.

BAD, RIGHT?

“Edible,” Eddie breathes, and that’s all Venom needs to surge and envelop him completely.

It’s not the same as just sharing their body. When Venom takes over, it’s like LSD on fucking steroids, this feeling of infinite power, this savage joy that comes from being a predator and doing what a predator does. Eddie’s safe inside but can’t control his limbs, only watch through Venom’s eyes, hear through its ears, taste through its mouth.

Human flesh tastes so fucking good.

Venom tears and rips and rends. It doesn’t always eat people whole but always does eat their heads, ripping them off like corks off a champagne bottle. The scent of blood is everywhere, hot and pungent, spurting in dark fountains like rich wine. Within minutes, the fight’s over; but Venom doesn’t take a back seat just yet, climbing onto the roofs to bring them both home. It’s in a hurry and Eddie knows why.

YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT, Venom growls as soon as they’re back, peeling off Eddie’s body.

“Yeah,” Eddie breathes, lying on his back on the carpet and Jesus, he’s soaked in blood, but—“go for it, God, what’re you waiting f—”

He nearly sobs when Venom shoves up into him, so forceful it’s tearing him up. There’ll be no wound left by the time they’re done, but for now the pain knocks him right out of his own head. It’s late at night and Venom’s always oddly concerned with noise, so strands of black glistening goo wrap over Eddie’s mouth to keep him quiet. For good reason, as it turns out. There’s one hole Venom still hasn’t tried yet; but it must be hungry for new ways to torture Eddie because a thin adventurous tendril slithers into Eddie’s urethra.

Eddie fights and lets out muffled shouts, but Venom’s got him in a tight hold—and this is what Eddie loves beyond anything else, being forced and being made to enjoy it. It doesn’t matter what Venom does to him, as long as it’s not leaving him a choice. Eddie couldn’t ever put himself so completely in someone else’s hands, not even Anne; it’d be objectively insane, too great a risk for him, too great a responsibility for her.

But Venom’s not quite someone else.

And Eddie knows for certain he’ll come out the other side unscathed. That’s all he needs, in the end, to let go of himself.

The tendrils grow thicker and push deeper into his cock; others wrap around it to form a rippling sleeve. Eddie’s held at the wrists and ankles, breathing hard through his nose, and he’s barely even struggling anymore; after a while, he tends to give in and just take it. Venom fucks them both into oblivion and this time, Eddie actually passes out when he comes.

 

*

 

When he wakes up, Venom’s nowhere to be found. Eddie can tell it’s still inside, of course; he remembers how he felt when Venom was ripped out of him in the hospital, the awful sensation of cold and frailness seizing him at all once, like aging come too fast. Nothing’s wrong now. Venom’s there, in his heart and lungs and brain.

It’s completely knocked out, barely reacting as Eddie gets to his feet, undresses and shoves his bloodied clothes into the trash rather than the hamper—he knows a lost battle when he sees one. It’s only when he steps into the shower that Venom finally stirs. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH, EDDIE.

Even its mental voice sounds drowsy. Eddie watches the blood wash off him and circle the drain. There’s bits of flesh as well.

“Love you too, my darling.” His voice’s scratchy with emotion.

Venom hugs him from the inside. It’s the nicest thing Eddie’s ever felt.

 

*

 

Because Venom’s brought them home the fast way after their cannibalistic rampage, Eddie’s bike has been woefully abandoned on the other side of town. He’s seeing Anne and Dan again on Friday, and going out for a tentative drink with Dora Skirth on Saturday, not to mention the whole AIM case he must be about to crack open, since they tried to murder him. Bottom line, he just has to get the damn bike back today.

It’s a beautiful morning, so he takes a cable car to get there. Looking out the window, he can’t help but remember his disastrous last time in one of these. Back then, terrified and sick, he couldn’t have imagined feeling so good not three months later.

“Shit,” he says, coming down at his stop. His bike’s there all right, but something else isn’t. “Did someone steal my helmet?”

WE THREW IT AT SOMEONE.

That’s right. Eddie remembers the crack of bone, the screaming angle of the man’s broken neck. Things get blurry after that, at least as far as the helmet’s concerned.

Well, he’ll just have to buy a new one. It was old and shitty anyway. But as Eddie gets astride his bike, his entire body stops moving, Venom holding it.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING?

“Uh. Getting home, V.”

YOU DON’T HAVE A HELMET. IT’S DANGEROUS.

“Are you serious? Four guys tried to kill us in a back alley just yesterday.”

WE WERE INSIDE OUT THEN. WE’RE MUCH MORE EXPOSED NOW.

A woman on a bike roars past Eddie. She’s wearing a shiny black helmet.

“Come out, then,” Eddie says.

WHAT?

“Just over my head. Can you do that?”

Venom’s silent for a moment. Then Eddie feels a tell-tale tickle around his neck. It swallows his head completely, then clears out a window for him to see through, like an afterthought.

Looking around, Eddie can tell nobody’s noticed. He’s not surprised; much of his journalism studies was learning how to notice stuff. It’s an acquired talent.

“Feels perfect.” Sounds aren’t muffled, his hair isn’t being flattened, his skull remains unsqueezed. Eddie catches sight of his reflection in the windows of a passing bus. “Damn. Looks good, too. Could you be anything else, do you think?

A JACKET, THE NEXT TIME WE’RE GOING SOMEWHERE DANGEROUS. The helmet ripples around Eddie’s head. OR JUST WHEN YOU FEEL LIKE WEARING BLACK.

Eddie chuckles and revs the engine. “You’re just my style, love.”