Riot picks Carlton Drake purely out of convenience.
He is the one with the resources to bring the rest of Riot's kind to the little watery planet Drake calls home. Unlike the others, Drake is eager to ‘bond’ with Riot. Honored, he says in the insulated cavern of his mind. Riot snorts at the man’s naivety. Carlton Drake is nothing but a vessel to him. They are not friends or brothers. Once Drake’s body can no longer sustain Riot, he will discard the man’s rotten corpse just like the previous hosts, but he keeps this information to himself. He will play along to the idiot’s fantasies.
Riot needs Drake, at least for now.
He also needs to find Venom.
Venom, or Idiot #2, should not have been sent on the infiltration mission in the first place. He’s too soft, too easily swayed to the enemy's side. Riot cannot believe the dumbass is going to abandon their entire race for just one pathetic meat suit he’d met less than 24 hours ago.
Eddie Brock is strong, yes, he’s willing to admit that. But aesthetically speaking, Brock is no where near the quality of Riot’s host. It’s like comparing an old Ford pickup to a million-dollar Maserati. He knows what they are because Riot may have watched all of the in-flight commercials during the long plane ride to San Francisco in the little girl’s body, including that thirty-minute observation of an animation involving an annoying yellow sponge and a fleshy pink star.
For research purposes, he tells no one in particular.
They fight on the launch pad and Riot envelopes Venom and his precious host. It lasts only a few seconds, but he feels Venom’s emotions shockwave through his system. Fear, anger, worry, and a mushy, touchy-feely sense of…
Riot gags and expels the disgusting pair.
Or maybe it’s the high-pitched screeching noise coming from the speakers in the compound that had caused the separation, but they slap each other around some more. It does the two symbiotes virtually no harm, well, except for the part where Riot is about to be royally late for his space trip. He has not failed before and he does not plan to start now.
Drake is a quiet encouraging hum in the back of Riot’s mind, his pathetic little body cocooned inside the symbiote. They, no, he is unstoppable, Riot thinks triumphantly when he stabs Venom’s host through the chest and with a few loping bounds, slips inside the ascending rocket. But no, the weakest link in Riot’s team just refuses to die because Venom’s ugly-ass face appears in the window seconds later and mouths something indiscernible at Riot.
The rocket explodes in a shower of fire and heat.
Riot is in so much pain that he almost does not hear Drake’s faint words.
“Get inside me!” His meat suit yells desperately as the hot flames lick at Riot’s disintegrating form. Drake is trying to shield him from the fire.
Drake, the pathetic Earthling, is trying to protect him, an all-powerful being of—
Riot blacks out.
When Riot comes to, it is dark overhead.
Thy are floating in salty liquid and something with sharp teeth is munching on his meat suit’s left leg, sending hot stabs of sensation up Drake’s tattered body. He’s missing at least one of his four limbs, Riot notes with detached annoyance. It is pathetically weak, the human body. Drake’s consciousness is still there, cushioned from the explosion by Riot’s presence. It is flickering like a weak candle, too damaged to respond when Riot prods at it. He suddenly realizes that he is famished.
He rears out of Drake’s body and chomps down on the massive shark demolishing the man’s leg. Fuel for the tank, Riot tells himself. He eats the entire thing and slithers back inside Drake. The man is beyond saving, well, not technically, but beyond what Riot considers worthy effort and energy expenditure.
Drake had tried to protect him in the blast and Riot hates owing people favors, so he shakes off the lethargy and spreads himself throughout the man’s tissues, slowly rebuilding the fleshy bits step by step. His host’s make and model are written in the little microscopic strands of DNA in every cell of Drake’s body. Riot spreads their limbs over the water and drifts with the man’s eyes open. The occasional sea bird that wanders too close gets snatched and devoured, and little by little, Riot feels his strength seep back. By then, the sky overhead has gone from inky black to a cascade of pastel pinks and purple.
It is pretty, the moon waving goodbye to the world on one side and the rising sun, a golden orange ball, screaming its presence on the other.
Hours later, Riot loses track of how long, they wash up onto land. Like operating a lifeless puppet, he pulls Drake’s naked body upright and walks them up the empty beach.
“It’s all gone,” Carlton Drake whispers. They are standing outside a shop window, staring at a picture of Drake’s face on the news. They have yet to find the body, says the CNN reporter, police are still looking.
He’s wearing oversized clothes Riot had stripped off of the first male they had come across. The guy had been over 300-pounds and his clothes hung off of Drake’s lean body like an open parachute.
“We lost,” He murmurs, taking a few tottering steps away from the window. Riot growls, but he is too tired to form words. Healing his meat suit had taken more out of him than he had expected.
“All I ever wanted was to make a difference,” Drake goes on, ignoring the weird looks he’s getting from the other pedestrians for talking to himself, “the human race is killing itself. I was going to rescue us, make a better tomorrow for the children. But I couldn’t do it, and now it’s over, Riot. I’m sorry.”
He probably would not be so quick to apologize if he knew what Riot’s team was really up to.
Shut up, the symbiote says instead. Get me something to eat. I am starving.
Drake buys them a sandwich from a food truck with the money in the fat man’s wallet, but it is not enough. The pressing hunger is still there. Riot needs something alive. There are a few mangy rats digging around in the garbage behind a Japanese restaurant. He manages to catch four and devours them whole. The rest scatters into the little cracks and crevices in the brickwork. The door leading to the back of the restaurant creaks open and a pudgy little man walks out to dump the trash. Drake presses their body behind the dumpster and keeps still. They could eat the man, but it would bring unwanted attention and that’s the last thing they need right now.
“We?” Drake suddenly says, “you referred to us as ‘we’ just now.”
Had he? How embarrassing.
“I know I’m weak and poorly designed,” The human goes on, “but what am I to you, Riot?”
Something soft and tender like hope unfurls inside Drake’s chest. It’s a weird emotion not dissimilar to the gross mushy nonsense Venom had felt for his precious Eddie. It makes Riot sick to his stomach.
“Useless garbage,” The symbiote answers bluntly. The words are met with silence for a moment, then, Drake laughs. It is a hollow, mirthless sound, like the croak of a dying bird. His host’s eyes are leaking a strange salty fluid and as Riot observes dispassionately, Drake scrubs angrily at his flushed face and sniffs. He straightens his spine with tremendous effort and runs both hands over his wrinkled clothes.
“Fair enough,” Drake says with an air of his old power-hungry self, “I guess I should make myself more useful then.”
Riot supposes in hind sight that he probably should have become suspicious when Carlton Drake stepped foot into the hospital ER. After all, they had only agreed upon secluded areas, and the ER was stuffed full of people.
“You need another rocket,” Drake says as he walks down the corridor, “I can’t give you one, not anymore. The government is going to take all my assets. You know, Riot, when you came to me, I thought I had finally found someone who could understand me. But in the end, that’s all wishful thinking, isn’t it?”
What are we doing here, Drake? Unease simmers beneath Riot’s bravado. His host smiles as he steps into a room with a long, white, coffin-like object and several computer monitors in an adjacent space.
“I think you should find yourself another billionaire host, someone who’s not useless garbage,” Riot catches a glimpse of Drake’s expression. He is no longer smiling. “Someone like Tony Stark perhaps.”
Before the symbiote can intervene, Drake slams his left palm into the red button and everything shatters into a million, excruciating pieces. The horrible, horrible noise beats relentlessly down on Riot’s battered body. He feels each strand of their connection snap and shrivel away.
In all the chaos and pain, Riot sees Drake pull himself to his feet. They are separated by a pane of glass. Riot slams against the solid surface, anger pulsating through his entire being. Drake’s pale, colorless lips lift briefly. He presses two fingers to his temple in a mock salute and turns to the white-faced nurse that has appeared in the doorway, “Call SFPD and tell them Carlton Drake would like to turn himself in.”
Then, without another backward glance, he walks out of the MRI room.
They place his host in a glass castle at the top of a very tall building.
House arrest, Riot hears the people whisper, only the rich and powerful get such a light sentence for such heinous acts.
No, not rich and powerful anymore. Carlton Drake no longer has the resources Riot needs to bring his brethren to Earth. He should take the man’s advice and leave. Find another more useful host.
The pigeon shuffles out of the rain and closer to the window, shaking droplets of water out of its grey feathers. He’s reduced himself to stalking his old host inside a winged rat. Riot thinks it can't really get any worse than this.
Safely protected from the weather outside, Drake is curled on a cushioned alcove with a book in his lap. He’s lost some weight since their last encounter, but the dark purple bruises beneath his eyes are mostly gone and he looks well-rested. The only signs of his incarceration are the thick bullet-proof windows, steel bars, and metal tracking bracelet around his ankle.
Riot hops closer and taps his beak against the window. Sensing movement, the man glances up. He smiles and waves tentatively at the bird. There is no hint of recognition in those large brown eyes. He has no clue that it is Riot nestled inside the fat bird perched on his sill fifty floors up. Riot wants to bite Drake’s stupid head off.
Instead, he settles for sticking his ass up in the other man’s face and spraying the window pane with a fountain of shit like an ice cold motherfucker.
He has conquered galaxies, been to more planets than Carlton Drake’s primitive little brain can comprehend, but none of his hosts have left any impression on Riot. Except for Drake.
He supposes it is because of the man’s almost reverent attitude. Drake had been desperately hoping for something to come along and fill that empty void inside of him, to give him purpose, and Riot had somehow answered the call.
Well, he’d hung up pretty quickly after their spectacularly humiliating defeat in the name of love.
Fuck Venom and his sentimental drivel.
Riot parades around as a pigeon for a few more days. It is a nice form. No humans pay him any attention, neither do the stray cats and dogs he’s been chomping on as snacks when he wobbles on his tiny little legs after them into a deserted alley.
He’s tried to get to Drake, but all the tower personnel have to walk past a high-frequency emitter as a part of the security clearance, which kills off most of Riot’s plans.
The symbiote is loitering aimlessly outside on the streets one day when Eddie Brock walks past. With his current Carlton Drake obsession, Riot has forgotten all about them. Venom does not even notice him, probably too wrapped up in his handholding session with Brock who’s wearing his symbiote like a fucking scarf around his neck.
Reduced to a fashion statement. How pathetic.
Riot resists the strong urge to flap his little pudgy wings over there and peck both of their eyes out. He watches as Eddie Brock approaches the two FBI agents standing guard at the front door of Drake’s tower. They nod at him and Brock says something back to one of the duo (the bald one). The man laughs and claps Venom’s host on the shoulder.
He’s friendly with them.
A new plan simmers to the surface.
It is almost too easy to hop from the bird carcass to the dark-haired woman who owns the convenience store Eddie Brock frequents on a daily basis. She’s one of the small handful of people Eddie truly cares about. Riot had followed the two a few days to figure out their schedule. At a safe distance, of course. Venom, the idiot, hadn’t noticed a thing out of the ordinary.
Riot sifts through her memories of Brock while he waits for them to appear. Most are fond, a couple laced with exasperated worry, and ah, she has seen Venom’s true form and agreed to keep their secret. The reason of which Riot has no time to fathom, for Eddie Brock chooses that exact moment to come walking into the store. He’s dressed in a bomber jacket and faded jeans. Riot hears the man call out a cheerful “Evening, Mrs. Chen” and disappear down the frozen foods aisle.
A few minutes later, Eddie reappears with four massive tubs of ice cream stacked in his arms.
Venom reacts almost instantly, black goo coating his startled host and sending the frozen treats flying to the floor.
“You are alive,” The other symbiote hisses in disbelief.
“If you attack me, I will snap her neck, Venom,” Riot smirks and turns another page of his newspaper.
“Don't!” It’s Eddie Brock’s voice this time. Venom reluctantly parts to reveal Brock’s tense face.
“What do you want?” The reporter asks.
Riot sets Mrs. Chen’s papers down on the countertop. What does he want? He could ask them to help him nab that Tony Stark his meat suit had mentioned, steal one of NASA’s rockets, or he could…
Instead, Riot says, “take me to Carlton Drake.”
This chapter is in Eddie's POV, which has more fluff.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Venom, we’re not really considering this, are we?” Eddie hisses at his internal parasite.
"Eddie, we have no choice." Thin tendrils caress his stubbled cheeks as Venom curls halfway out of Eddie’s body and locks eyes with its host. "If we do not, Riot will most likely unleash unspeakable horrors upon your people. He was team leader, remember?"
“Right, but I kind of feel like you’re severely overestimating how terrifying your little death-squad captain really is,” Eddie can’t help but mutter, his gaze flickering to the cross-eyed bird squatting silently at their feet. Riot had left Mrs. Chen’s body unharmed as a show of good faith and was now lounging around in pigeon form on the floor of Eddie’s apartment. It had finally stopped complaining about the sorry state of Eddie’s shabby abode a few minutes ago.
“Eddie," the tentacles physically draw Eddie’s face up. "Riot has agreed to leave us alone if we bring him to Drake.”
“And if they decide to team up and destroy the world again? What then?” Eddie asks impatiently.
"That seems unlikely,” Venom chuckles darkly, a hint of amusement finally creeping into its voice, "in the event of their…breakup."
“Oh.” Eddie blinks. A strand of black slither lovingly over his clavicle and down into Eddie's shirt.
"You see, Eddie, they are not intimate like us," Venom purrs. "They fight, whereas we—“
“You do realize I can hear the both of you, right?” The pigeon at Eddie’s feet parts its beak and growls in a disturbingly deep and masculine voice. Riot pecks irritably at Eddie’s exposed ankle, sending little pin-pricks of pain shooting up his leg.
Blushing furiously, Eddie scoops up the bird and places it onto the kitchen counter where Riot is safely out of reach of any exposed flesh. He clears his throat and tries to correct the direction of the conversation before it completely derails. “Uh so, what are you going to do to Drake if we do manage to take you to him?”
“Eat him,” Riot snarls.
Eddie doesn’t know where all the resentment is coming from. Drake is an asshole and has tried to ruin Eddie’s life, but even he doesn’t feel angry enough to want to kill the man. If he thinks about it, Drake’s been nothing but supportive to Riot. Eddie and Venom are the actual saboteurs here, not that Eddie’s going to remind it of that interesting little fact.
Furiously, the symbiote starts pacing up and down the length of the countertop all the while muttering darkly under its breath about inventive ways to maim Carlton Drake. The words are terrifying, but the image of a fat pigeon strutting on short, stick-thin legs along Eddie’s kitchen counter kind of ruins the effect.
“That is one angry bird,” Eddie blurts out before his brain can stop his mouth. Venom snickers, yes, Angry Birds. Good one, Eddie.
Then, the symbiote calmly grabs the closest flat pan and deflects the sharp clear barb Riot hurls at them. It pings off in another direction and embeds itself deep into the wall.
“Jesus Christ!” Heart pounding, Eddie points a finger down at the smug bird and growls, “you need to calm your feathery little ass down, Riot, because you are not in any position to be acting the way you do.”
It has the audacity to snap at his finger.
In retaliation, Venom brings the frying pan down on the unsuspecting creature a few dozen times. There’s a pigeon-sized dent in Eddie’s countertop by the time his symbiote stops and Riot looks considerably…flatter…than before.
“Ok, uh, is anybody hungry?” Eddie cuts in before a full-on cat fight can start between the two. He picks up the dazed bird with a pair of metal kitchen tongs and gingerly moves it over to the dining table. A few loose feathers flutter forlornly to the floor along the way.
For the next couple of minutes, both symbiotes are left to stew in sullen silence while Eddie hurriedly heats up some leftover deep-dish pizza Anne had brought over yesterday. Sticking grotesquely out of Eddie’s shoulder like an onion bulb, Venom keeps its wide, white eyes on Riot the entire time.
“Want some pizza, Riot? Venom loves cheese,” Eddie, ever the gracious host, asks as he sets the hot pizza slices on the table.
“Don’t bother, Eddie. Riot will not try it. Unlike us, he is not responsive to new things,” Venom grabs the largest slice and laps at the dripping cheese with its massive tongue. The bird’s feathery bosom swell indignantly at the words, and after a second’s hesitation, dives into the pizza like a little torpedo. Eddie hurriedly withdraws his hands, narrowly avoiding scalding tomato sauce to the face as he backs away.
Between the two symbiotes, his four measly slices of pizza are gone in the blink of an eye. Venom slithers back to sit on Eddie’s shoulder, still smelling faintly of hot grease and tomatoes. The bird coos and preens at a cheese-covered wingtip.
“The flavors are…remarkable,” It says, turning to Eddie. There are tiny pieces of crust sticking to its chest feathers.
Eddie fights the strong urge to laugh out loud, "More?”
The two symbiotes demolish six pizzas, over two dozen drumsticks, two tubs of ice cream, and the five iced beers in Eddie’s fridge.
“Did Carlton Drake not feed you while you were, you know…” Eddie finally asks when the pigeon flops onto its back with a satisfied chirp, both wings sticking out like it's making snow angels in the layer of greasy crumbs on Eddie’s dining table. He’s probably never going to forget the image of a pigeon guzzling down a bottle of beer in two seconds flat.
“There was no need because I fed off of his internal organs. Besides, Drake is a wagon or something. When I was with him, he only drank green goop made from a revolting substance known as kale,” Riot answers after a loud belch.
“Oh, he’s vegan. Makes sense,” Eddie winces, “Yeah, kale sucks. Tastes like artificial turf. I kind of see why you wanted to destroy Earth so badly.”
"Why do you know what artificial turf tastes like, Eddie?” Venom asks.
“I played football in college,” Eddie shrugs and stands with a suppressed yawn. “It’s getting late, guys. I need to clock out for the night. Let’s resume plotting Carlton Drake’s demise tomorrow morning.”
Eddie knows he probably shouldn’t lower his guard around the other symbiote, but Venom has agreed to keep watch just in case, and in the shape of a ruffled bird covered in pizza grease, it is very hard to take Riot seriously. So he stuffs the pillow over his ears to drown out the sound of stray cats having very loud sex in the alleyway out back and goes to sleep.
When he next opens his eyes, the pigeon is inches from Eddie’s face, scowling menacingly down its beak at him. It’s a pretty effective tactic, since the pigeon already look evil enough without a space alien manipulating its facial muscles. He recoils and accidentally slips off the bed, taking the sheets and pillow with him. Eddie lands on his tailbone so hard he almost cries. Riot does not look impressed, especially when Venom materializes to apologize.
“Morning, Riot,” Eddie sighs and runs a hand over his exhausted face, “so what’s the plan?”
The plan, as it turns out, is somewhat…complicated and involves asking Drake’s lawyers for an interview with the man.
“All this just to get to Carlton Drake?” Eddie murmurs to the bird nestled inside his jacket pocket. They’re hurtling down the street in a noisy trolley to downtown San Francisco where Drake’s being kept in his glass tower like the little prissy princess he really is.
You should have heard his alternative plan, Eddie. It'll give those geriatrics heart attacks. Venom snickers, gesturing at the old people in the back of the trolley.
“Ok…I don’t want to know,” Eddie cuts in hurriedly, cupping a hand over the furiously writhing pigeon in his coat. “Dude, you need to settle down. I don’t want to explain to the whole trolley why I’ve got a live bird stuffed in my jacket.”
Tell them you’re a street magician.
“No, V, not going to tell them that,” Eddie murmurs quietly and tries to smile at the little girl staring intently at him from across the aisle. “Riot, how do you know they’re even going to let me in without passing through the emitter?”
The bird wriggles again. A beat of silence passes between the three of them. Then, Venom speaks up for the other symbiote inside Eddie’s head, Riot says we are friends with the FBI guards and that we should lie to them about an existing heart condition.
“Ok, that kind of makes sense, he was my roommate for four years, the one with no hair,” Eddie nods, “by the way, Riot, promise you’ll reserve whatever you’re going to do to Drake after Venom and I leave? I really do have to come up with a written piece or I’ll lose my job.”
Another pause, then Venom says, Riot has agreed to our terms. If not, we can kill him with fire.
“Sure, bud,” Eddie bites his lip.
They get off at the next exit and take the five-minute walk to the tower. As Riot suspects, Ray’s on door duty. Eddie gets him all warmed up with a short chat about the wife and kids before springing his request.
“…yeah, I got a thing put in my chest to keep the ol’ ticker going after a blocked artery. Kinda let myself go after the breakup,” Eddie rambles vaguely and tries not to sweat too hard under his friend’s sharp gaze, “...that weird scanner might mess with things, and I really don’t wanna drop dead in front you, so…”
“Jeez Eddie,” Ray looks him up and down, “I didn’t know your relationship with Anne was so serious. I mean, sure you can skip it,” He rolls his eyes and shrugs, “honestly, it’s not even our idea. Drake had his lawyers negotiate it into the incarceration details. He’s paying for it out of his own pocket and it's not doing anybody any harm, so the Feds agreed to set it up.”
“Wait, so Drake requested the high-frequency emitters himself?” Eddie asks. The bird has gone stock-still with indignation inside his left pocket.
“Dude’s off his rocker if ask me,” Ray shrugs and walks Eddie past the archway, “but I do have to ask you to empty your pockets and go through the metal detector like everyone else, Eddie.”
“Is that going to be a problem?” Ray’s partner, who’d been staring at Eddie suspiciously for the past five minutes, asks coldly.
“Danny, back off man, this is Eddie Brock here, he’s the last person on Earth who’d try to help Carlton Drake,” Ray elbows his partner, “come on, Eddie, don’t make me look bad here, empty out your pockets.”
It is alright, Eddie, just do it. Venom says.
He braces himself internally and sticks his hands into his pockets. The bird is gone, except for a few stray grey feathers that float serenely to the ground.
“Why do you have feathers in your pocket, Eddie?” Ray asks wit a disturbed look.
“It’s from a bird. I mean I had a bird. I-I’m learning magic tricks online,” Eddie blurts out desperately, "I-I'm so lonely."
Danny’s mouth twitches at this revelation. “You’re right, this guy is definitely not in cahoots with Drake.”
“Man, you need to start dating again, 'cause this is some pathetic, sad-ass shit,” Ray says. He’s definitely feeling sorry for Eddie now. He can see it in the other man’s eyes. Eddie keeps his face neutral and nods along.
Venom, where the hell is Riot?! Eddie projects hysterically. The pigeon is nowhere to be seen.
I am here, Eddie Brock. Riot’s voice pipes up inside his head.
Eddie trips and bangs his hip into the metal table. Ray’s busy scribbling something on a notepad, so he doesn’t notice.
Apologies, my love. We had to think fast. Venom says quickly, do not worry. Riot is not bonded to you. He is like the barnacles on that whale we saw last week in the Netflix documentary.
“Here’s my little sister’s number, she’s moved back to San Francisco,” Ray hands Eddie a slip of paper when he clears the security checkpoints, “you guys should grab dinner. She used to have the biggest crush on you growing up, Eddie.”
Venom growls in Eddie’s mind.
“Thanks, man,” He clears his throat, “Uh, could you point me to the nearest bathroom?”
“I did not agree to this!” Eddie hisses at the two symbiotes sticking out on both sides of his neck like twin tumors. “Where’s the bird?”
I ate it. Riot says.
“Why?! That’s disgusting. Pigeons eat garbage!”
Eddie, that is beside the point. Venom interrupts.
“Right, you’re right,” Eddie agrees after splashing his face with ice-cold water to calm down. “Uh, we’re in. We just have to hold it together for 30-ish more minutes. Think you guys can do that without killing me?”
Of course, Eddie. I will keep Riot in line.
A middle finger in the color of dog vomit forms on Eddie’s shoulder on Riot’s side. Venom retaliates with a rude graphic gesture of its own.
“Ok, that’s not nice,” Eddie intervenes, “stop it both of you, or I swear I’m turning this car around.”
Eddie dabs his face dry with toilet paper and smoothes his hair back. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.
“Alright gang, let’s go get Carlton Drake so we can put an end to this madness.”
Even locked up, Drake’s living quarters ooze luxury and entitlement.
Fancy oil paints line the corridor and a sparkling crystal chandelier dangles over the living room floor, which is a shiny mahogany red. Even the FBI surveillance cameras are mounted in tasteful decorations smartly hidden amongst the room. Drake himself is dressed immaculately in a sharp slate grey suit and black dress shirt, the diamond buttons undone at the throat to reveal tanned skin. He smiles at Eddie when he enters awkwardly and moves to shake his hand.
A prickly flair of agitation stabs through Eddie at the cool contact, and it takes a few seconds for him to realize that it had come from Riot.
“I see you have your old job back, Mr. Brock,” Drake says with a fake smile. His eyes do not mirror the expression. They are cold and hard, like glass buttons in that perfectly symmetric face. Eddie wants to rip—
Stop doing that, Riot, you need to calm down! Eddie thinks silently. The other symbiote’s emotions are pulsating through Eddie’s body in heavy palpable waves. From Venom, he feels a growing hostility against Carlton Drake, but Eddie's symbiote, bless its somewhat less hot-headed nature, chooses to refrain from adding to the shit-show already happening inside his body.
“Yeah, I got rehired,” He clears his throat and says hurriedly, “let's get started with the interview. I got places to be, Mr. Drake.”
“In a second,” Drake says silkily. He’s staring at Eddie with a weird intensity and it’s causing a strange tingling sensation in his nether regions. Carlton Drake reaches out and cups Eddie’s cheek with his right hand, long fingers brushing feather-light over the stubbled skin of the other man’s jaw.
There's a strong impulse to lean into the contact that Eddie’s almost 200% sure isn’t coming from Venom or himself.
Drake smiles thinly, “You had dried toilet paper stuck to your chin, Mr. Brock.”
Silence beat down upon them. Drake is the first to break it. He gestures to the twin chairs by the floor-to-ceiling window.
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(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Carlton has to admit that even after a month of incarceration and countless hours of mediation, he still feels a hot stab of resentment at the rough-shaven man sitting unharmed across from him. Brock’s even got his old job back. It’s as if Carlton had not done a single drop of damage to his pathetic life.
Well, he had ruined the guy’s relationship with his lawyer girlfriend, but what had he gotten in return? Eddie Brock had destroyed everything Carlton had worked for his entire life in one fiery explosion, and it hadn’t even been a tasteful explosion.
His morose thoughts are startlingly interrupted by a hand appearing on his thigh, Brock’s hand to be exact. Highly disturbed, Carlton stares down at it. It has no right or reason to be there.
“Mr. Brock, what are you doing?” He asks, pressing pause to their droning interview.
Brock jerks his arm back like he’s been electrocuted and manages to gasp out, “C-could you get me a, uh, a glass of w-water, please?”
“Of course,” Perplexed by the man’s erratic behavior, he nonetheless pulls himself to his feet and makes his way into the kitchen. When Carlton returns with the glass of iced water, Brock seems to have gotten himself back under control, although he does appear significantly sweatier than before. He hands the man his requested water and watches as the reporter chugs half of its contents in two long gulps.
“So, uh, I noticed you got nice wallpaper,” Eddie Brock clears his throat and says. He jerks a thumb upward, “That’s an LED display up there?”
“Yes, at night it shows actual stars,” Carlton smiles slightly, “A little childhood indulgence of mine, back when we didn’t have a roof over our heads. Every night, my mother would tell me stories of the constellations, she made them up of course, but I loved her stories more than the actual mythology.”
“That’s why you went from cancer research into space exploration?” Brock asks.
“No exactly,” He says, “the more I put my effort into curing cancer the more I see the vicious cycle we are a part of. We plunder the earth, releasing toxins and wastes that are in turn eating us alive from the inside. It’s endless loop that will only truly end when one side completely dies, and I wouldn’t put my wager on us.”
“You sure are optimistic about the future,” Brock grumbles sarcastically.
Carlton shrugs, “I’m a realist, Mr. Brock, always have been. If we are to preserve humanity, the only way to do so is to stop polluting and reverse the damage, which in itself is impossible.”
“So you think it’s an unsolvable paradox?”
“I do now,” He says and leans forward to press the pause button on Brock’s recording app, “But for a split second, I thought the symbiotes were our salvation—” He murmurs the words, but Carlton sees the way Brock’s pupils dilate in response. It’s an odd reaction, so the scientist in him pushes on with objective fascination, a budding suspicion already beginning to take shape inside his head, “—I thought that Riot was the fire that the Titan Prometheus defied the gods to gift to humanity.”
“And?” Eddie Brock demands, his already gravelly voice suddenly an entire octave lower, “was he?”
“It,” Carlton says firmly, “was not, no. If you really want an allegorical equivalence, Mr. Brock, I’d say it was Pandora’s Box and I was the fool stupid enough to open it.”
Several interesting emotions flit across the reporter’s face, finally settling on barely constrained fury. Brock’s fists clench as if he is fighting an internal battle.
Somehow, it’s here, Carlton knows. He can sense Riot’s presence behind the physical layers of Eddie Brock.
A part of him, the part that no longer gives a shit about the world and its occupants, is almost eager to see what happens next. Was Brock’s symbiote dead? If not, why on earth would the pair allow Riot to latch on? And as for Riot, would it attempt to do him harm if he pushed it too far? Riot would have to act quickly, as the armed FBI agents are just outside the hall ready to intervene at any moment, not that they can do much damage to the alien life form. He should know, the one in front of him had survived a freaking space rocket explosion.
The little alarm Eddie had set at the beginning of their conversation goes off in a tinkle of wind chimes that shatters the tension in the room. Carlton smiles charmingly and stands. He smooths the creases out of his suit jacket and extends a hand to the scowling man opposite him.
“I enjoyed our conversation, Mr. Brock,” He says silkily, “ and I hope you will go light on the criticisms if you do decide to write an article about me.”
Brock’s hand, no doubt operated by the symbiote, feels like a steel clamp around his fingers when he leans in and growls, “this is not over, Drake.”
“Why?” Carlton keeps his facial features relaxed even as cold sweat breaks over his trapped palm and his pulse quickens in mingled excitement and fear, “surely you do not expect more interviews unless you plan to write an entire book about me, Mr. Brock,” He glances down at their tightly interlocked hands and adds, “also as aside, I can assure you that I am not at all interested in men.”
He pulls his hand forcefully out of Brock’s grip and motions to where the two FBI agents guarding his door are already waiting impatiently to escort the man out of the penthouse apartment. “Goodbye, Mr. Brock.”
The door slams shut behind the reporter with a resounding bang. Carlton is shaking when he stumbles blindly into the bathroom where the FBI no longer have eyes on him. Panting, he splashes cold water over his face and slowly takes three deep breathes. When he opens his eyes, the face peering back is thin and gaunt, but the eyes, his eyes have never seemed so alive.
It’s toying with him, Carlton realizes with a jolt, like a cat with a mouse shortly before going for the kill.
But he is no mouse.
And this time, Carlton has nothing to lose.
“I refuse to write Drake’s biography,” Eddie yells angrily, “this is all your fault, Venom, all your fault!”
But Riot was annoying us with all the backseat driving...
“So you just hand it the wheel? How does that logic even work?! Also, if you refer to my body as a car one more time, I swear to God I’m going to throw you in a barbecue pit, V!”
Sitting outside on the window ledge in pigeon form again, Riot fights not to puke the bird’s whole digestive system out at the sight of Venom’s shameless groveling. If his weakest teammate had been in the form of one of those hairy dogs the humans so enjoy dragging around outside in the street, he’d be lying belly-up in a submissive position with his wagging tail between his legs.
The window slides open with a loud screech. Brock points a finger at the unimpressed bird and snarls, “and you. Why the hell are you still here, Riot? You promised us you’d leave if we took you to Carlton Drake. We did, so why aren’t you leaving?”
The truth is, he doesn’t know.
He is the captain of the infiltration team, has been for many moons. For Riot, there has always been a detailed plan to follow. He has yet to deviate, until now that is. He has no plan. Not any more. And aside from Venom, he is all alone on this foreign planet.
Riot knows he should have killed Drake the moment his old host had sat down within touching distance, but the idea of it had somehow become off-putting after seeing the man.
He should be made to suffer, not gifted a quick death. Yes, that must be it.
“Dude, are you still in there?” Eddie flicks the back of the pigeon’s head with thumb and forefinger. Riot snaps at him again, but Venom’s host has learned to expect such attacks and pulls back at the last second. Much to his dissatisfaction, Eddie seems no longer scared of him.
“What?” He glares up at the human.
“I asked you a question,” Brock says, “why Carlton Drake? I mean I get the whole genius scientist with lots of money part, but you could easily take over someone more powerful, you know like the president of the United States or the head of NASA, not that you should. Come to think of it, The Donald might actually be host to a symbiote. Dude, it would totally explain all the crazy shit he’s been up to since he got elected,” He twists to address Venom, “is our president possessed by one of your brothers or sisters? Dish, man, dish.”
Between the two, the conversation peters off into wild and unknown territories. Riot hops onto the metal railing outside and peers out into the busy streets below.
Why Carlton Drake?
There is no biological or chemical difference between Drake and any of the meat suits wandering aimlessly along the street. Come to think of it, Drake is actually scrawnier than most of the males of his species. Without his money and resources, there should be nothing about him that makes Riot want to linger like an unpleasant odor in a public lavatory. Except…
He had tried to protect Riot from the fire. No one had ever done that for him before. It had been a completely selfless act, one that Riot simply could not wrap his head around.
The pigeon jumps when a loud thud from within Brock’s apartment shakes down the propped-up window and seals him out on the sill. Annoyed, Riot chances a peek inside and finds the majority of Venom’s corporal form out in the open, his large clawed hands pinning Eddie’s struggling wrists against the wall over his head.
Brock had also shielded Venom from the deadly blast, and now they’re fighting? For what?
“Wait, Venom, we can’t,” Brock’s voice is thin and pleading behind the pane of glass, “Riot might see us…”
“Stop saying his name, Eddie,” The black symbiote snaps, sounding annoyed, “you have not paid us any attention after Riot came along. We have had enough of playing nice.”
“I, what? You know it’s not like that, V,” The human flushes bright pink all of a sudden and through the glass, Riot spots a few thick tendrils of black matter slip beneath the elastic band of Eddie’s sweatpants. Whatever Venom does next has the human arching up against him like a bowstring, a loud swear tearing itself from his throat. Brock’s legs spasm violently, his bare toes curling in the dirty grey carpet.
“Yes, Eddie, give in to us. You know you want to,” Venom purrs and slaps his tongue into the side of Brock’s face. Grimacing internally, Riot backs away from the window. Venom has always been something of a slobbering mess.
A neighboring window slides open with a soft hiss and Riot hears a soft giggle. He turns to find Brock’s dark-haired neighbor stick her head out of her window, a tiny black rectangle pressed to her ear.
“Yeah, my neighbor and his super hunky boyfriend are at it again,” She tells the person on the other side of the cellphone. “I swear they’re into some freaky shit, Chloe. The other day, his big, beefy boyfriend who had on this full-body black latex suit just pick him up like a doll and slam him against the wall outside their apartment. I saw the whole thing through my peephole,” She laughs, “I know right? Who would’ve known that the Eddie Brock from the Brock Report has a boyfriend? You know what, now that I think about it, Mr. Brock totally does have the lips for sucking cock.”
Riot hops a few steps back to Brock’s window. He’s got both arms around Venom’s wide shoulders, flushed face mashed into the other symbiote’s neck and those “cock-sucking lips” wrapped around one of Venom’s appendages. Venom is doing something repeatedly between the man’s legs that has him making these curious wounded noises in the back of his throat.
Riot realizes a split-second later that they are copulating.
Disgusted, he reels back and flaps into Eddie’s neighbor’s window. She shrieks and throws a handful of white things at him. He pauses to peck at one. It tastes horrible, but chasing her around her bedroom and scaring the shit out of the girl does make him feel marginally better about the unnatural intercourse happening in the adjacent apartment. He only stops when she pulls out a metal baseball bat from her closet and nearly flattens his head with an upswing that puts a pretty impressive dent in the ceiling.
Later that night, happily fucked and fed, Venom picks a movie on Eddie’s laptop and magnanimously allows his host to offer Riot some more of the same white things their panicked neighbor had lobbed at him earlier.
“Popcorn?” Eddie prompts, shaking the red plastic bowl at him.
“No, they taste like shit,” He mutters and flies out the window for some fresh air. Riot can tell that Venom clearly want the space to himself for “cuddling”…
…whatever the hell that means.
Without intending to, Riot finds himself flying eastward in the direction of the downtown area. Landing upon the terrace of Drake’s tower, he spots the man sitting on one of those big soft carpets with his legs crossed and hands loosely clasped in his lap. He’s, what’s the word for it? Mediating, yes.
Riot studies the man’s face. Compared to the mess that is Eddie Brock, Drake's face is clean of the hard little bristles of hair, his eyes bigger, more of the almond-shaped look that Riot has come to associate with various subspecies of the human race. His lips are thinner and paler than Brock’s, with a natural curve to them that makes it seem like he is always smiling. Riot does not know if Drake’s mouth is "good for sucking cock,” but it does seem to have a way with words.
As if sensing Riot’s gaze upon him, Drake’s eyes flutter open and after a brief pause, settles on the small, unappealing bird squatting outside his window. Riot keeps himself perfectly still when the human gracefully untangles his limbs and approaches on light feet. Perhaps he thinks Riot is just another ordinary bird.
But then his old meat suit lifts two finger to his temple and makes that same silent mocking gesture he’d made at Riot behind the pane of glass in the MRI room all those weeks ago.
Riot freezes on the sill.
Drake smiles, and without warning, the heavy curtains descend, whisking him out of Riot’s stunned sight.
1. All Eddie’s fidgety behavior was due to Riot. And Yes, Riot completely took over Eddie's body for a few minutes after Drake went to get him his water.
2. Eddie's new neighbor doesn't know Venom is a symbiote from space. She just thinks they're into weird sex stuff because of all the banging and moaning.
I'm back! Sorry for the long wait. We are almost at the end of the story! :)))
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Two days after Drake’s discovery, he gets rid of the high-frequency emitters in the lobby due to “insufficient funds.” Riot learns of this from the mouths of the FBI agents working in the building. It is not a very self-preserving act, this newest move by Carlton Drake. In fact, it should go against every survival instinct known to the man. Drake's not stupid.
When Riot asks Eddie Brock why, Venom’s dimwitted host has the audacity to laugh in his face. Granted, Brock had just finished a huge story and had downed four celebratory beers on top of half a bottle of whiskey and might not have been in the best state of mind to analyze Carlton Drake’s hidden motives.
“Stop thinking so hhhhhard, Riot, it’sss simple,” He slurs, knocking a shot glass off the table and spilling the rest of his beer onto the nasty gray carpet. “He’s flirtin' with you, man, flashing a bit o’ ankle to get you all excited...”
Riot does not know how the sight of human ankles would be able to elicit any type of response, let alone excitement.
“What are you talking about?” He snaps his beak in irritation.
Brock smirks. “Drake’s down to fuucccckkkkkk.”
The last word morphs into a ridiculously long belch that has the man scrambling to keep his liquor down. There’s an awkward pause while Eddie, red-faced and sweating profusely, gulps like a goldfish on land. Then, Venom intervenes and Brock finally settles, albeit with his face still the exact shade of raw liver.
He clears his throat, blinks, then turns to Riot and suggests sluggishly, “Venom can show you how.”
There’s a blur of movement and before Riot can comprehend the situation, Brock goes sprawling over the table top, sending empty beer cans crashing off the edge and Venom rearing out of his back like the thing from all those Alien movies they made Riot watch. There’s a loud tearing sound and Brock yelps in alarm as Venom shreds his already ripped jeans, and with lightening dexterity, yanks them down his hips.
“NOT USING ME AS A FUCKING PROP DEMONSTRATION, VENOM!!!” Eddie shouts, frantically covering at his pale backside with both hands. “Jesus fucking Christ! I meant that weird AirDrop file sharing shit you two are always doing behind my back, you freakin' horndog!”
But this method is much more enjoyable, Eddie. The black symbiote points out.
“Your depravity knows no bounds, Venom,” Riot observes, chest feathers fluffing in disgust as he backs away from the struggling pair.
Brock’s forehead meets the table with a dull thunk. His ears, peeking out from under the messy mop of brown hair, are flushed ruby red with mortification when he moans, “that was my favorite pair of jeans, you stupid motherfucker...how is this even my life...”
Humans, Riot has come to learn in the past few months on Earth, are creatures of habit. They walk the same paths, leave their little working factories around the same time, and interacts with the same people. Even inside his glass prison, Carlton Drake wakes at exactly the same time everyday, half an hour before that hot golden disk breaks through the San Francisco skyline and turns the city below into a gleaming metropolis of activities. He strides barefoot to the bathroom, showers, cleans his mouth, shaves religiously, and makes himself presentable to the cameras outside even without any scheduled visitors. Drake’s only consistent guest comes in on Tuesdays and Thursdays, a suited blond man that heads his legal team.
Different from the symbiotes, Humans exist in a hierarchy of relationships governed by something called the legal system and as Riot learns, not every crime is punishable by death. Such is the case of Carlton Drake. It is different in different countries, where various subspecies of humans exist. Flying over the vast plains of the Earth, Riot has seen through the sharp gaze of a eagle, Drake’s people in South Asia. They share similar skin color and facial features, although none seem to compare to Drake’s when it comes to symmetry. Even though he has no concept of human beauty, Riot knows that the former CEO of the Life Foundation is perceived as attractive to many of his brethren. He has seen it in the eyes of the men and women Drake interacts with, has seen that almost hypnotic effects of Drake's smile coupled with his sweet words.
Unlike Eddie who usually throws together at the last minute some nutritionless food items that at least taste good, Drake’s breakfast consists of a meticulously-made fruit smoothie and a handful of dry-roasted nuts seasoned with a tiny amount of sea salt. Seeing his old host calmly consume the minuscule portion of meat-less bird food almost makes Riot as nauseous as witnessing Venom fucking his host through that hole at the end of Brock’s digestive tract that Riot is almost certain is solely reserved for fecal discharges in human males. The symbiotes do not need to poop, so he’s not entirely convinced when Venom tells him that tiny pink opening has a multitude of other “delightful” uses.
As scheduled, the blond man comes and chats with Drake for the entire hour on Tuesday, but this time, Riot is waiting for him in the underground parking lot in bird form. He’s pooped liberally on the windshield of a neighboring Audi out of spite. Before Drake’s neatly dressed lawyer can even lock his own vehicle, Riot is on him in a whirlwind of feathers and claws.
The trip up to Drake’s penthouse apartment goes smoothly. None of the FBI agents bat an eye at the sight of the lawyer on his way up, and before he even knows it, Riot is standing at the set of mahogany doors. Only a thin flimsy layer of wood is keeping him from Drake’s unsuspecting form. He may not know what Drake’s game is, but it will not matter because soon, he will be exposed like a soft fleshy clam without its shell and utterly at Riot’s tender mercy.
Smirking, Riot pushes the doors open.
He’s curled on a large armchair like slender Siamese cat, those large almond eyes abandoning the book in his lap to focus on Riot. Drake smiles and leans back in his seat. A pink tongue flickers lazily over his lips.
“You know, I was expecting to see you a lot sooner, Riot,” Drake confesses, "What took you so long?”
“Aaron doesn’t walk like that,” Drake explains before giving his attention back to the leather-bound volume in his lap. He idly flips a page. “He’s gay, so…”
There’s a moment of silence while Riot struggles to understand Drake’s words.
“Never mind, you wouldn’t understand,” Drake waves the topic aside and asks brightly, “are you here to kill me?”
“You’re not scared?” Riot moves the lawyer to the seat opposite Drake, the one Eddie Brock had sat in almost two weeks ago. Has it already been fourteen days? He really has been dawdling.
“Fear is for the ignorant, Riot, and people with unrealistic hopes,” Drake says calmly, “I am neither. Your obsession with me, however puzzling, will not be solved by avoidance. As long as you are here on Earth, I am at your mercy, aren’t I? So, if you are here to kill me, you should probably do it before,” he checks the watch on his thin wrist, “10:30, because that’s when Aaron’s visits usually end.”
“You think I did this because I am drawn to you?” Riot demands.
“I’m not sure even you know the answer to the question,” Drake glances back up at Riot’s borrowed face with a contemplative frown, “But I do know you did this because you wanted to see me again. That last rideshare experience with Brock didn’t go so well, did it? Poor chap was sweating like he was going into labor.”
“I am not Venom,” He hisses furiously, “I do not care for the food I devour.”
Something wistful crosses briefly over Drake’s face.
“No, you are not,” He murmurs, gazing off into the distance, “Imagine the things I could have accomplished with Venom…It’s wasted with Eddie Brock. If only I had been the one to—”
Riot stands abruptly, both hands latching onto the metal arms of Drake’s chair. They creak and groan beneath his strength, crinkling like paper. “I would think carefully on my next words if I were you, Drake.”
Their faces are inches apart, but it is not the acrid scent of fear rolling off of Drake in waves, no, it’s something foreign, something cloying and sweet.
Soft fingers brush back a lock of blond hair that has fallen into Riot’s temporary host’s face. Drake smiles sweetly.
“You are right, Riot, you and I could have made a much better pair,” He breathes, “but you never wanted to fully bond with me did you, Riot? You chose to hurt me instead, and yes wounds do heal, but they also leave scars.”
“What are you saying?” Riot asks.
“I’m saying, my hotheaded fool, that if you allow me to live, I will do everything in my power to keep you from getting to your brethren. You will never lead another team to Earth ever again,” Drake snarls, “I will make sure of it. So what is your choice, Riot, me or your entire race?”
His eyes are gleaming with a maniacal light, dark pupils blown wide, and never in his entire existence has Riot seen anything so breathtakingly exquisite.
“I need you to step away from Carlton Drake, Mr. Evans,” One of the FBI agents monitoring the surveillance feed from the adjacent office slips through the front door, his expression wary and a hand already gravitating toward his firearm.
Scowling, Riot releases Drake’s armrests and manipulates Aaron’s body into an upright position. He slicks the man’s hair back and nods stiffly at the smug, infuriating creature smiling triumphantly up at him.
“That will be all for today, Aaron,” Drake says lightly, “remember to let the nice FBI agents in the lobby validate your parking on the way out.”
One of the qualities that make Riot a good infiltrator is his ability to bond with any host, use them to his advantage, and leave them unharmed and without any recollection of the incident if he so chooses. He usually doesn’t, but this lawyer is an important part of Drake’s legal team, so he leaves the man’s deliciously fatty brain tissue alone when he accesses Aaron’s memories. Apart from a constant background hunger for money and gross gooey feelings for another male of his species, the man is trying to piece together a lawsuit against the FBI for wrongful imprisonment. There is a rehearing set in two months time and Drake’s lawyers want to paint him into the image of the modern-day martyr, a self-sacrificing man who had himself lived through the poverty and famine currently plaguing the world, someone who had merely been a tad too radical in his problem-solving approach.
The problem is, Riot does not have the patience to wait for two more months.
He picks Eddie’s friend’s partner, not because Ray has a wife and kid, but simply because Daniel Morrison has higher muscle mass and is physically superior to his slimmer partner in every conceivable way. Also, it is easier to paint the story of building resentment and hatred that eventually pushes him to attempt what Riot is about to make him do. Ever since his appointment, Morrison has been very vocal about how much he dislikes Carlton Drake.
When he slips into the man on the morning of, none of Morrison’s colleagues notice anything out of the ordinary. Out of the four other agents on the ground level, he only leaves Ray alive. Riot needs the man to testify on the identity of the attacker. Taking the man’s gun, Riot moves Morrison’s pliant body into the lobby of Drake’s building, making sure to walk in the camera's line of sight.
There is a slight recoil in the human weapons when discharged, but with Riot’s superhuman strength infused in Morrison’s muscles, the backward momentum of the gun is easily absorbed. He kills the three FBI agents with Morrison’s firearm when the elevator doors open on the top floor of Drake's tower. As much as Riot wants to devour the still-warm bodies, he cannot show his true form. The surveillance footage must only show Morrison slaughtering his fellow agents for the plan to work.
He checks the man’s watch.
Two minutes have passed, but there is no distant wailing of police sirens down below.
Something hot clips the left shoulder of his meat suit and jerks Riot back a few paces. The two remaining FBI agents have emerged from their little office to the left of Drake’s apartment, assault rifles held high. He doesn’t give them a second chance to pull the trigger. In a blur of movement, both men collapse like puppets with their strings cut, a thin serrated barb sticking out of each of their foreheads. Riot makes sure to retrieve them on his way past. Morrison’s shoulder is bleeding profusely from the bullet wound, but Riot pays it no mind and presses both palms over the mahogany doors leading to Drake’s abode and inhales the intoxicating scent of fear.
He can hear Drake’s panicked heart pounding on the other side.
“Agent, what is going on outside?” Drake asks sharply the moment Riot appears in Morrison’s guise. His angular face is stripped of color and he is clutching a piece of the dismantled floor lamp in shaky hands as a makeshift weapon.
“There’s been an attack,” Riot uses Morrison’s mouth to say, “you have to come with me, Carlton Drake. There’s a team waiting downstairs to take you to a secure location.”
He’s messing with Drake of course, but there’s a certain amusement to be gained from seeing the usually so reserved man in a state of blind panic.
Drake considers this for a moment before abandoning his metal rod and smoothing down his silk shirt. He swallows thickly and stammers, “L-lead the way, Agent…?”
“Morrison,” Riot lies. He grabs Drake roughly around a scrawny bicep and drags him toward the elevator. The former CEO of the Life Foundation does not even blink at the sight of the dead bodies on their way past. The metal doors to the lift seal shut with a soft ding. There is no surveillance cameras inside the small space. They are alone and Riot is finally free to reveal—
“At least pretend that broken collar bone is hindering your movement, Riot,” Drake murmurs helpfully, “it’s not very convincing otherwise.”
He’s standing in a corner, both hands clasped in front of his body in the picture of innocence. Drake blinks calmly when Riot whirls around in disbelief. The man reaches over and presses the emergency stop button, sending their little metal box to a grinding halt between the 22nd and 23rd floors.
“What?” He asks, “you’re not the only skilled actor in town. I had to make it convincing for the cameras, didn't I?”
Riot’s shoulders slump, “you really do take the fun out of everything, nerd.”
“Who taught you that word?” Drake’s eyes narrow in displeasure.
“Eddie Brock,” Riot smirks.
Drake’s jaw clenches at that. “So what’s the plan?”
“How do you know I’m not really here to kill you?” He pulls out Morrison’s gun as a reminder.
Drake smiles thinly, “I thought we’ve already established the fact that you prefer me very much alive, Riot. So cut the foreplay and tell me your plan.”
“Your lawyers need leverage against the FBI,” Riot finally relents and explains. He gestures to the big white letters on his jacket, “I’m providing them with said leverage.”
“You found this out from Aaron?” Drake asks. He’s smiling when he reaches out and wipes a trickle of blood from Morrison’s brow, “I’m impressed, Riot. And here I thought subtly was not your forte.”
“How did you think I got to you all the way from across the world in the first place?” Riot returns.
“You know, we make a good team, Riot,” Drake muses, "You and I, we're in sync. We have been since day one.”
“And?” One of Morrison’s brows lift haughtily.
“I propose another attempt at partnership,” Drake murmurs, “not the kind between Brock and Venom of course. Strictly business. In exchange for your...cooperation, I can make your extended stay on Earth a very pleasant one.”
“And if I decide I need to feed on your precious Aaron?” Riot asks nastily.
“At least wait until I’ve won the lawsuit. It's so hard to find a competent lawyer these days,” Drake shrugs and holds a slender hand, “do we have a deal, Riot?”
“For now,” He rumbles, curling Morrison’s larger digits around Drake’s and yanking him close. The aching need to slip back inside his old meat suit is almost overwhelming, but Riot knows now is not the right time. Down below, he can hear the sounds of the SWAT team assembling.
“If we are so in sync, Drake, you should know what must come next,” He purrs. They really don't have to, but oh, Riot wants to. Very very much. He lifts Morrison’s gun and pointed it at the man’s abdomen, well out of the range of any vital organs.
“What are you doing?” Drake frowns. A prickle of that old fear is back, accompanied by rising uncertainty. It looks absolutely delicious on Carlton Drake’s face.
“This guy I am wearing hates your guts,” Riot reminds him with a smirk, “You said it yourself, Drake. We have to make things convincing, don't we? Relax, it will only hurt a little. I will see you on the outside.”
He pulls the trigger.
Poor Eddie. The man needs a break from all this bullshit.
For this chapter
Riot's voice is in ITALICS.
Drake's internal voice is in BOLD.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Later, it is easy to slip from Morrison’s tattered, bullet-ridden body to one of the EMTs in the chaos. Riot is in a good mood, so he shields the woman’s consciousness this time when he straightens and catches sight of Carlton Drake, bloodied and very much alive, being wheeled out on a stretcher, his flock of lawyers already in step behind him. Like sharks zeroing in on the scent of bleeding prey. With the oxygen mask in place, it is hard to read his expression, but Riot sees a flicker of recognition when the female EMT he is inside of winks cheerfully at Drake on his way past.
Without another glance, he hops into the ambulance carrying Morrison and shuts the doors. It is not time yet. He wants Drake to suffer just a tad bit more. Besides, Riot still has unfinished business.
“Jamie, start chest compressions,” The man riding with him yells, jabbing a clear needle of fluid into the bloody mess of meat on the gurney in front of them. Drawing from the woman’s memory, he laces her fingers together and applies pressure. Something gives beneath her palms with a dull crack, more red liquid seep out onto the light blue bedding. The annoying faint chirp of the monitor has turned into a flat shrill beeping sound.
“Why did you just crush his ribcage?” The male EMT asks in a horrified voice. Riot turns and studies him. He sees fear and disbelief. The hunger flares red hot from within. It has been so long…
“He is what Venom would refer to as scum,” Riot points out reasonably, “he hits his female and spawn.”
“What the hell is wrong with you, Jamie?!” The man is steadily backing away now, more of the fear replacing disbelief. He pounds his elbow into the metal separating them from the driver in front and yells, “Dave, stop the ambulance!”
Riot gives up. He had tried at least.
Rising out of the woman and flipping the flimsy little cart on wheels takes half a second. The other half is spent devouring the two live males in the ambulance. Riot leaves Morrison’s corpse alone and slithers out of the wounded woman and into the nearest crow.
By the time the police escort driving behind them pry open the bent doors, he is long gone.
He likes birds. They can fly, are virtually everywhere on Earth, and are inconspicuous disguises that do not raise questions when found dead with their tiny innards melted like candle wax. It’s just too bad they don’t have opposable thumbs or last as long as a human host. Oh, and they’re clearly not the dominant species, which is why Riot quickly abandons his crow for one of Drake’s lawyers hurrying to the hospital where his meat bag is under surgery.
Riot is tempted to slip into the doctor cutting Drake open. What would it be like to hold Carlton Drake’s still-beating heart in his hands and squeeze the life out of—
No. He has unfinished business to attend to.
Aaron Evans is amongst the suited men squabbling outside in the hallway. Most are talking on their little communication rectangles, their faces flushed with excitement at the prospect of the ensuing controversy and the fame it would bring them. He overhears from their conversation the name of the judge who is willing to expedite the legal process due to the “unusual circumstances.” That is all the information Riot needs.
“Hodge, where are you going? Didn’t you just get here?” Gay Aaron yells after him when he abruptly turns and coaxes his temporary host’s legs into a quick trot. Riot twists around, lifts both of the man’s hands and happily flips him off.
The last thing he sees before he rounds the corner is the man’s face, frozen in an expression of stupefied disbelief.
Trials are excruciatingly boring, Riot realizes four days in. Eddie Brock’s old television set has lied to him. Drake’s hearing is nothing like the quick ones he had seen on Judge Judy.
He has been parked inside the 64-year-old judge for days. Riot can hear the old man’s bones creaking every time they shift or struggle out of bed to do anything. The old geezer also seems to be having a prostate problem that prevents him from urinating properly so he takes years in the bathroom. Riot is a passive hitchhiker this time, so the old man isn’t aware of his presence, and therefore it is extra irritating.
To speed up the whole process, Riot devours the cancer cells multiplying inside his ancient meat bag, fixes up the old man's bladder issue, regenerates the cartilage between his creaky joints, clears up the cataracts, and spends the rest of the time imagining what it would be like to bolt the heavy doors of the courtroom and unleash himself on the buffet of humans seated on the benches. In fact, there is an extra juicy woman in the third—
“Your Honor?” It’s Dumb Aaron again, seated few feet away at the plaintiff’s side. Unfortunately, Riot now knows what that word means.
Yes, it is time to do what he has been waiting for.
Riot takes over and picks up the gavel. He kind of wants to beat Aaron’s skull in with it, but for now, Riot settles for tapping the little mallet onto the sound block. He pries the old geezer’s mouth open and starts to proclaim the long-winded details of Carlton Drake’s release from FBI custody.
Riot finds Drake’s unconscious body in a VIP recovery room when he lands on the windowsill in the guise of a tiny sparrow. His meat suit is hooked up to all sorts of IVs and tubes. Riot catches snippets of conversation between the two nurses changing his medicine in the room.
Complications…coma…shredded left kidney...
With the women safely out of the room, Riot abandons the bird guise and slips inside Drake. It feels like being inside an empty room. He is almost disoriented for a moment. Had the bullet to his abdomen somehow damaged his brain? A destroyed kidney meant nothing. Humans had two, and the old Asian lady he had rode to the airport in had been functioning fine with only one.
Impatient, he nudges at Drake’s consciousness and receives no response. Riot regrows the kidney, checks along Drake’s entire body with a fine-toothed comb and still finds nothing physically wrong.
He tries again. Still nothing.
Carlton Drake is gone.
Riot can take over his back muscles and move him into an upright position. He can slip out into the world in this form as the ultimate puppeteer, and no one will ever know.
But what is Drake’s body without the accompanying spirit?
Just like every other meat bag walking the Earth.
He will never get to see the glimmer of smug triumph in Drake’s large brown eyes when he thinks he’s finally outmaneuvered Riot. It’s pathetic and kind of amusing, like seeing a monkey riding a tricycle.
There is another way to rouse him, but Riot has never truly bonded with another being before. All of his prior hosts’ conscious minds were snuffed out or overpowered when he had been residing in them. He does not know what it feels like, does not want to know, because once a symbiote has fully given itself to its host, there is no going back. In Venom’s case, he will never forget Eddie Brock, never be able to leave him behind and conquer the skies again. He will always feel that instinctive tug no matter where he goes, even after Brock is long gone from the world.
If Riot does the same, he will truly be grounded on Earth. Doomed to suffer in the company of the galaxy’s one and only human-fucker: Venom; and permanently residing in a man whose upper body strength rivals that of a bedridden 80-year-old woman.
Drake will have truly won.
Is Riot willing to give him that?
Perhaps after all this time, his kind have forgotten about him and his team, perhaps they have moved on. After all, that is what Riot had done to the ones who had never returned. Have they died? Or have they settled down somewhere on a distant planet, content to spend the rest of their days with a single being.
Riot wonders if his lost brethren have ever looked up at the sky and regretted the choice that they had made.
Something slides out of the corner of Drake’s left eye and down his temple. Distracted, Riot chases after it. It is a drop of moisture, salty and vaguely familiar.
…Will Riot one day regret his own choice?
He finds the little boy sitting on a low dirt hill. Four-year-old Drake has the facial features of one of those tiny yappy purse dogs Riot likes to eat as snacks. Chihuahuas, yes. Very crunchy but not a lot of meat on their bones.
Those large brown eyes take up half of his small face. As Riot watches from the safety of a dry bush, a barefooted woman comes running up the dirt path, her face and hands covered in blood. Somewhere in the distance, a rocking explosion brings a hot gust of wind mingled with the scent of death. She sobs in relief when she catches sight of Drake, and with a strength uncommon to women of her size, swoops the little boy into her arms. In her hurry to escape from the burning village, she dislodges the dirty, torn, crudely stitched doll from Drake’s fingers.
It falls to the ground.
Riot falls with it into the next memory.
He is older in this one, perhaps seven or eight, but still small and coltish like a newborn deer. The woman, considerably thinner than last time, is frantically digging through the beat-up fridge in the dump they are squatting in. Riot can tell this is not truly their home. There is a massive hole in the ceiling and no electricity.
“Mama, do you need some help?” The little boy asks in Urdu. At the sound of his voice, she twists to smile reassuringly at him, “no baby, do your homework with the flashlight. I will find us something to eat.”
“What’s the point?” Huffing angrily, Drake fumbles on the flashlight and hunches over the notebook in his lab. He has a stub of a pencil in one hand. More of that salty fluid is threatening to spill from his large almond eyes. Blinking furiously, he rubs at them with a grubby fist.
“Because one day, that bright mind of yours is going to take my little boy somewhere better than this,” His mother says firmly. She has the light tread of a dancer when she approaches on bare feet. “We did not escape from Pakistan and your father to come to America for you to give up here. Do you understand, Carlton?”
“I don’t like that name,” He complains quietly with a sniff.
“Well, I do. You know why?” She takes a seat in front of the little boy and smiles, “because there’s no one famous with that name, so you’ll be the first one,” she smoothes the hair away from his forehead and plants a gentle kiss there, “Is that a good enough reason?”
“Yeah, I guess...” With a grudging frown, Drake wedges the end of the flashlight between his teeth and sets pencil to paper.
Riot sees him erase the name on the worksheet and carefully print the words Carlton Drake over the dark smudges.
“One day I’m going to take you there myself,” He promises her later that night as they lay curled under the thin tattered blanket she had quietly dug out of an adjacent empty room. Drake points to the brightest spot in the sky. They call it Polaris, the North Star. Riot has been to it. There is nothing but ice and rock. But here, down on Earth and seen through the eyes of that little boy, it is a beautiful blue-white diamond of endless possibilities.
“Oh, but I already have one,” His mother whispers, her arms wrapped protectively around Drake’s small waist. “You’re my little star, fallen from Heaven to Earth.”
The child smiles serenely and closes his eyes to the soft soothing sound of her voice, and with it, Riot plunges into darkness once more.
Unlike Eddie Brock, Drake excels at everything he does. Gets scholarship after scholarship. Even with the expenses of education covered, he still has to hold down three part-time jobs outside of school.
His mother passes when he is sixteen to pancreatic cancer.
Two years later, after discovering six new tumor markers, he draws up the initial blueprints for Life Foundation.
Drake’s first female interest asks about the gold ring he wears around his neck, and Riot watches with growing agitation as the young man Drake has become easily capture her affections with his deviously charming words.
He does not have the power to interact with the past memories, so Riot has to sit through the torture of Drake losing his virginity. Fortunately, it ends in a matter of minutes, and as he apologizes profusely to the giggling girl sitting on top of him, Riot has to look away bitterly. She is undeserving of the open wonder and worship in Drake’s gaze. This woman cannot do the things Riot can do with a strand of his being, she—
—dies of cancer.
Like his mother.
He is not invited to her funeral.
The engagement band he’d personally placed on her finger is returned to Drake by the cold parents. He thanks them politely and leaves without visiting her fresh grave.
The platinum ring gets melded into a larger band alongside his mother’s gold wedding ring. He takes to wearing it around the second to last finger of his right hand.
He is twenty-six and rising fast.
Drake looks to the stars.
Riot sees himself in the next memory, sees the little girl walk up to Drake in his hour of need, sees himself slithering inside Drake from the child’s hand tight around the kneeing man’s throat.
Out of the three hosts, Riot lets her live.
He hadn’t known exactly why back then, but after seeing Drake's interaction with the children on tour, he thinks he might have an answer.
This time, it is him that Drake worships.
Riot does not have time to bask in the glorious satisfaction, because the rocket explodes.
Drake curls around the only piece of Riot that has not been incinerated by the hot flames, his scream of agony lost to the noise around them as his skin and muscle peel away.
They float to shore.
He shoots Drake in the tower elevator.
Then, darkness again.
Cold and endless.
When Riot comes to, he finds himself on top of a very very tall building. Overhead, the sky is a glittering tapestry of stars.
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” A familiar voice asks. Riot twists and finds Drake standing with his back to him, standing on the ledge with both arms outstretched to embrace the swirling miasma above. Wind whips at Drake’s hair, caressing his skin with its greedy hands.
Riot has no recollection of this memory.
“Drake,” He says and watches in amazement as the man turns to smile at him. In the previous episodes, he had never once registered the sound of Riot’s voice.
“I was wondering when you’d come and find me, Riot,” Drake says.
Frowning, Riot rises. He does not know what is happening.
“You can see me?” The symbiote asks, "What do I look like to you?”
“Bright,” Drake says quietly, “like a fallen star.”
Then, without warning, he topples over the ledge.
Riot dives after Drake, throwing thick globs of himself around the unresisting form. The wind howls around them. He cannot find anything to grab onto. The building has disappeared. With rising horror, Riot spots the sea of fire beneath them. He should slink inside the man, try to put as many layers of flesh and bone between him and the deadly flames as possible.
Riot should, but he doesn’t.
Instead, more and more of the grey mass materializes, cocooning the human securely inside the symbiote.
He can feel the heat of the fire. Riot is going to die, but perhaps there is a tiny chance that Carlton will live...
He roars his defiance and—
—wakes to the bright light of the hospital room.
All around him, Riot can hear the gentle noise of the machines keeping Drake alive. There is no fire or pain. Something bright and warm brushes up against him.
Riot? The tentative little voice asks inside their head.
I am here, Drake.
He unfurls himself and feels the man gasp, his heartbeat skyrocketing at the sensation of their endless shared power.
It doesn’t hurt this time. Why doesn’t it hurt this time with you inside me?
Ah, right. Last time Riot hadn’t bothered to be so gentle with Drake’s internal organs.
You were eating me alive from the inside like those face-huggers in the Alien movies?!
Why does every single human watch those boring movies? Also, Riot really needs to learn to shield his thoughts before any more embarrassing secrets—
“Mr. Drake, you’re awake!”
The nurse had obviously seen him sit upright in bed from her station. She pauses at the door, her blue eyes joining theirs in dropping to the very visible tent in the thin blanket covering Drake’s crotch.
What is happening? Why do I have an erection?!
How would I know? Shouldn’t you be asking why you have a plastic tube up your peehole—
“Would you like me to remove that catheter for you, Mr. Drake?” The elderly nurse asks kindly, breaking the silence in the room. Drake swallows thickly, heat rising to his cheeks as he tears his gaze away from his groin.
She has seen too much. We should eat her.
If you eat her, who’s going to pull the catheter out of me?
Absolutely not. I want you nowhere near my genitals, Riot.
You do not trust me, Drake?
Uh, no, we’re not that kind of friends yet.
Fine. What kind of friend am I then?
None of them. You shot me in the stomach with a handgun! How is that even a question?!
So? I made you another kidney to replace the one I broke.
You broke my kidney?! And you ask why I won’t let you near my penis when you clearly do not possess factual understanding of the human body.
You are a real nerd, you know that? Riot growls.
Yeah? Well, you are a dick. Drake shoots back equally viciously.
“Mr, Drake?” The nurse prompts them. Fed up with the argument, Riot abruptly hands over the reins and retreats.
Slowly and with monumental effort, Drake schools his face into a stiff smile and says out loud, “yes, please.”
I wanted to flesh out Drake's character a little bit more, so I decided to write that memory montage when Riot finally gave in and fully bonded with him.
I know nothing about courts and catheters, I'm in the field of genetics, so yeah. Mistakes are all mine and solely for the sake of plot. :)
One more chapter to go, boys and gals.