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Retail Therapy

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1.

Eddie rubs his eyes and reaches for his coffee. Staring at his laptop all morning has given him a headache that's beating behind his eyes like a drum. It's too early for that kind of shit, but he stayed up pretty late last night. Late enough that Venom eventually got tired of his lame excuses and dragged him to bed.

You didn't complain.

Not the point. But that's an argument Eddie can't win, so he rubs his eyes again and huffs, "Deadline," under his breath. "I have a deadline."

Eddie feels an irritable ripple under his collarbones. Shivering, he reaches for his notes. When he stopped by St. Anthony's on Friday, Sister Margaret gave him some good stuff on the recent rise in homelessness among families. If he could just find it. He sighs, then tries that thing where he snatches up a piece of paper at random and hopes it's the right one. It isn't. He shivers again, this time because a blast of cold air hits the back of his neck.

"What are you doing?"

Venom's just a pair of wrist-thick tentacles poking around inside the freezer. One grabs a frostbitten yellow bag; the other closes the door. Cooking.

"We had breakfast an hour ago."

Predictably, Venom ignores this. They flop the bag onto the counter and start rooting through the black hole of a cupboard underneath the toaster oven.

"You—?" Eddie frowns at the bag. "Are those mini corndogs?"

Venom ignores this too, but Eddie feels a guilty quiver behind his ribs.

"Gross." He really needs to pay more attention to the crap Venom tosses in their grocery cart. "You're not eating those with my mouth."

Wasn't planning on it.

Venom snags a baking tray from the clutter in the cupboard. A scorched frying pan slides out after it, then a saucepan with a cracked handle. Then a double-sided griddle pan with four circular depressions on the bottom. Eddie's never seen it before.

"Hey, what's that?"

Venom goes very still for a second. Then: It's a Perfect Pancake Pan.

"A Perfect—dude." Eddie shakes his head. "What did I tell you about Amazon?"

Unethical tax exemptions.

"And?"

Can't just buy everything.

Eddie watches as they gently tuck it back into the cupboard. "V, you don't even like pancakes."

You do. Venom's voice is tart. And you always burn them.

 

2.

Eddie says, "Alright," and frowns at the contents of the fridge. It's mostly raw meat, chocolate milk, and beer. There are also two sleeves of slice-and-bake cookie dough that he doesn't remember buying. "What do we want for dinner?"

Venom snuggles around Eddie's neck, like they do when they're trying to butter him up. A tendril curls out of his shoulder and brushes the dip behind his ear. Livers.

"I think we're out," Eddie says, poking a take-out box so old it's probably hosting new lifeforms. Disappointment thrums at the top of his spine. "We'll pick some up on the way home from work tomorrow."

Venom grumbles out a cranky noise, then starts coiling around Eddie's arms and legs like they're thinking of schlepping his body to the butcher shop in the rain. Eddie just waits them out. Eventually, the tendril teasing his ear drops down to nudge at his jaw.

Fine. Bacon.

"Okay," Eddie says, because bacon sounds pretty good. Better than the family-size bag of chicken wings in the freezer, which Venom would undoubtedly want to eat bone-in.

He finds the bacon in the back of the fridge, behind a jug of orange juice and and a clamshell of moldy strawberries. It's the kind Venom likes — thick-cut, hickory-smoked, and fatty. As he sets it on the counter, Venom whips a tentacle into one of the drawers and pulls out a weird plastic rack about the size of a shoebox.

Use this.

Eddie stares at it. "What is it?"

It's a Bacon Wave.

A Bacon Wave, Jesus Christ. He really needs to change is Amazon password. "So it... cooks bacon in the microwave?" He runs his finger over the slots. "Why?"

Venom sighs like Eddie's the dumbest person alive. No more greasy pans.

 

3.

The doorbell rings when Venom has Eddie bent over the couch with two tentacles up his ass.

"What—?" He closes his eyes and clutches at the cushions. He's so close to coming he can feel it everywhere — at the back of his neck, the base of his spine. "No. I—I'm—"

Venom grabs his hips and works the tentacles in deeper. Ignore it. Just a delivery.

"You—delivery?" The couch creaks. Eddie's toes curl as Venom thrusts in and in and in. Fuck. "What—what now?"

Chocolate fountain.

Eddie can't really process that. It doesn't make any sense, and — more importantly — Venom is finally touching his dick. "What?"

It's a chocolate fountain.

"We don't—we don't need a chocolate fountain."

We don't not need one.

Eddie can't argue with that because he's too busy coming. Then he figures Venom can have as many chocolate fountains as they want.

 

4.

Eddie dozes off with Venom pooled on his chest and a Law & Order rerun buzzing in the background. When a police siren jolts him awake about forty-five minutes later, Venom is cradling his laptop in a swirl of tentacles. They're scrolling through Amazon with their face too close to the screen. In the bright-white glare, they look blueish instead of black.

Yawning, Eddie asks, "What are you buying now?"

Shower massager.

"We already have one." It was the third thing Eddie bought once he was back to having a steady paycheck. It has seven settings and Venom absolutely loves it.

Eddie. Venom pokes the screen, where a picture shows a rainbow of LED lights glinting through the water. This one's pretty.

"No way," Eddie says, snorting. "We're not turning the shower into a nightclub."

Disappointment churns in Eddie's gut, prickly and sour. No fun.

"Yeah, I know." Eddie sits up and strokes the tentacles acting as Venom's neck. "Come on. Let's hit the sack."

Still looking. Venom switches tabs and pokes the screen again. Want a NutriSlicer.

"A what—?" In one picture, a smiling woman is cutting paper-thin slices of cucumber. In the next, she's turning a zucchini into noodles. "You hate vegetables."

It has a shredding attachment. We could make tater tots.

"We can buy tater tots."

Venom thrums under Eddie's ribs. Organic tater tots.

Eddie snorts again. He never should've let Venom watch Food, Inc. "Sweetheart, those traffickers you ate last night definitely weren't organic."

He tries to stand up, but Venom ripples down to his hips and pins him to the couch. A tentacle loops around his waist. Venom butts their head against his jaw a couple times, then pulls back and flashes him a grin that's all tongue and teeth.

What about a Snuggie?

"Why?

To keep you warm.

You keep me warm. Eddie says, "I'm good, thanks," and runs a hand over Venom's mass. "Come on. Time for bed."

 

5.

"So, this is your new place," Anne says, glancing around. "It's nice."

Eddie wouldn't go that far, but it's definitely an improvement over his last dump. "It's alright. Do you want something to drink? I've got beer, and—" he winces slightly "—chocolate milk."

"Chocolate milk?"

"Venom likes it."

Anne's mouth twitches. Then she shakes her head and says, "No, thanks. I'm meeting Dan for dinner at six-thirty. I stopped by because I—well, I need a favor."

Eddie figures he owes her about five hundred favors, so he says, "Yeah, of course," and waves her toward the couch. "Whatever you need."

"I—" She huffs out a breath, then pauses like she's giving herself a pep talk. Then: "I have this client I just know was wrongfully convicted. But we lost our appeal, and I can't convince the DA to reopen the files. I want you to look into it."

"Yeah, sure," Eddie says, nodding. "If you think it'll help."

"I don't know, honestly. But you're good a drawing attention to things. You ask uncomfortable questions. You irritate people."

You are very good at irritating people.

"Shut up," Eddie grunts. Anne makes a soft, sniffy noise, and Eddie sighs. "Not you. Venom's just—" He waves a hand at his head.

"Of course."

The TV jumps in volume as Ghost Adventures cuts to a commercial. Eddie says, "Wait," and gropes around for the remote. "Let me turn that down." It's not on the back of the couch, and it's not between the cushions. He leans down and looks on the floor, but it's not there either. "V, have you seen the remote?"

A tentacle lifts from Eddie's side and prods the Couch Cozy Venom bought last week. This wouldn't happen if you put it back where it belongs.

"Don't do this right now."

When should I do it?

"I lose the remote one time," Eddie tells Anne. "One time, and—"

Try every time.

"I don't know why it bothers you so much. You can reach the TV from pretty much anywhere. You can reach it from the fucking shower."

Not the point, Eddie. You—

Anne chokes like she's trying to swallow a laugh. Her shoulders are shaking, and her face is the color of an overripe tomato.

"Are you okay?" Eddie asks.

"Yes. I'm just —" She bites back another laugh. "You two sound like an old married couple."

 

+1.

"This one," Eddie says, tapping the screen.

A tentacle winds down his arm. You sure?

Eddie says, "Yeah," and hovers over the picture to enlarge it. They've been looking for nearly two hours, and this is the one he keeps coming back to. It's a black tungsten band with a design etched around it — a thin, jagged line that kind of looks like Venom's teeth. "I'm sure."

Venom swirls through Eddie's chest, warm and pleased and bright. A tentacle wraps around his waist, and another loops over his shoulders. Then, slowly, a thin tendril curls around his ring finger. It ripples and shifts until it looks just like the picture.

Good?

Eddie smiles. "Perfect."