Eddie marched through the forest, hands behind his head. Treece stomped behind him and finally spun him around, the barrel of a gun pointed right at his face. Sure, at that point he'd seen that more than a few times, but now it felt more personal. And infinitely more dangerous.
"Not so tough without your buddy, are you?" Treece taunted.
He might have been literally dying, but that didn't mean he had to be a bitch. Eddie started swinging, trying to knock the gun out of Treece's hand and maybe buy himself some time. Unfortunately, all that did was get him pistol whipped and knocked to the ground.
"Nice try. I'll give you an A for effort," Treece growled at him.
"You're making a mistake, Treece," Eddie said, spitting out blood and soil. He didn't dare get up off his knees as he glared up at the security officer. "There's something going on here that's bigger than both of us." His words got interrupted for a split second when he noticed a familiar black tendril snaking through the air, snagging one of Treece's goons. "And it's definitely bigger than you..." Eddie had to use all his concentration to keep his eyes on Treece as another goon disappeared into the darkness.
He wasn't buying Eddie's play for time, and they both knew it. Come on, come on, he thought to himself, bracing himself for a gunshot. Eddie held his breath but still flinched when a tall, dark figure materialized behind Treece. It reached out and grabbed his shoulder with clawed fingers, spinning him around to see Treece's angered and then terrified face. Eddie couldn't have blinked in the time it took for a maw full of sharp teeth to totally decapitate Treece.
Eddie felt a hot flush spread over his body, looking up at the symbiote towering over him. The same clawed hand grabbed his shoulder, practically wrapping around his upper torso as it pulled him to his feet. Eddie's shoulder burned hotter under the alien's grip and his already damp clothes got yet another layer of sweat. He swallowed hard as his eyes swept over the sadistic smile and ridiculously sharp teeth.
The hulking symbiote grinned even wider, if that was possible, before pressing his hot tongue into Eddie's mouth. He closed his eyes and opened his mouth wider to invite him in. Heat washed over his body as the alien sank into and melded with his him. The heat was starting to become unbearable, enough to leave him panting into the kiss. Wait - fuck, he didn't want to call it a kiss but what the hell else was it?
"What, what is it?" Eddie mumbled. The feeling of being made whole again, complete in a way he didn't think was possible as Venom merged with him, became more like boiling hot water was trying to force its way through his veins.
Eddie, wake up.
Eddie struggled to move his arms and legs, and he heard the familiar hated sound of his alarm clock blaring next to his bed. He flung his hand around the scratched up Goodwill table until it met the clock and turned it off.
"Fuck. Shit." His tee and the sheets beneath him were totally soaked in sweat, and he left a moist hand print on the face of the cheap clock. Eddie sat up and put his feet on the relatively cool floor beneath him. He scrubbed his face with the hem of his shirt to try to get some of the damp feeling away before peeling it off and tossing it in the corner.
There was a quiet beep from the window-mounted air conditioning as it turned on. Eddie turned just in time to see a black tendril retracting back into his shoulder.
Another temperature spike. You should record that for Dan.
"Whatever, Nurse Bitey, gimme a minute to wake up." Eddie stood up in front of the air conditioner for a few seconds, relishing in the cool air. He didn't want to hear Venom complain any more so soon after he woke up so he left the bliss of the AC and headed a few steps to the small living room in his apartment.
On the table - a cheap Ikea replacement that he'd picked up from a garage sale after Drake's goons trashed his place - was a huge mess of papers and charts. Right on top, being used as a paperweight, was an infrared thermometer. It was necessary to take his temperature, since normal thermometers didn't even go that high so much as they started beeping alarms at him being overheated. Eddie opened his mouth, trying his best to avoid thinking about the dream he just woke from, and pointed the thermometer at his tongue.
"126.2 Fahrenheit," he murmured, writing it down on a printed out Excel sheet. It wasn't too far from normal. His usual body temperature was closer to 110F or 112F, depending on how active he was, but he was still getting seemingly random spikes of heat up to almost 130F. They'd gotten fewer and more far between than when he first bonded with Venom three months ago, but it was still often enough to be a pain in the ass.
Your body is still getting used to me. A more ideal host would have passed beyond this phase weeks ago, but you will have to do.
Eddie rolled his eyes and sighed. "You never get tired of talking shit, do you?"
I will get tired of it when you stop giving me shit to talk about.
Typical. Eddie grabbed a half-eaten chocolate bar from off another stack of papers and peeled the wrapper off. “So we have shit to do today,” he said with his mouth full. “There's a whistle-blower in the Financial District that wants to get in touch about some big business breaks that are taking place under the table. Lunch is on them, so we might actually get enough to eat today.”
Enough to satisfy you, maybe.
“Blue steak is good enough for now. Shut up and deal with it.” He stuffed the last squares of chocolate in his mouth. “Then after that, if the source pans out, we'll regroup at home and type up the notes. If there's time, we're gonna stop by Dan's hospital and drop off the paperwork.”
Eddie heard a dissatisfied grumble. “What is it this time?”
The hospital is full of the frail and weak. Why can't we put them out of their misery? Two birds, one stone.
“We've gone over this before, Licorice.” Eddie tossed the candy wrapper in the garbage. “Bad people only.”
But – Venom tried to interrupt him while he got up to rinse off in the shower.
“And don't try to tell me that weak people are bad because they are a 'drain on society' or some shit. That's bougie as hell and you know it.” He pointed his finger at the mirror, where Venom's toothy face stared back at him.
Hmph. But if we ever run out of our supply of “bad people,” Venom sassed back, do not cry to me when you've turned down our easiest supply of fresh meat.
“We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Eddie turned away from the mirror to strip and get in the shower, trying to avoid thinking about the permanent presence watching him. He turned on the tap and stepped in while it was still cold.
Eddie kept his face to the cool tap while it warmed, trying desperately not to think of the dream he was woken so rudely from. It would be bad enough if this was the first time it had happened, but this was starting to be a recurring nightly theme. He wasn't sure if he wanted to think about why that was the case. The water was just starting to feel comfortable when he sensed the rippling sensation of Venom sliding out from his skin, and a bony chin rest itself on his shoulder.
“Something is on your mind, Eddie.”
“Did I say I wanted to talk about it?” He kept his eyes closed while groping for the bar of soap.
“Things that worry you worry me. We have discussed this.” Venom's tendril worked across his back to press against his tense shoulders.
“We don't have time for this.” Eddie grunted triumphantly and closed his hand around the soap. He scraped it hurriedly across his chest and abdomen. There was no way on god's green earth that he was going to get a hard-on thinking about a kiss between him and his alien partner. The less time he had to touch his own bare skin, the better.
Venom growled softly. Eddie could tell he wasn't going to drop the subject any time soon. “Eddie...” Sharp teeth scraped against his ear. An involuntary shudder ran down his body.
“Nope! Fuck, fuckfuckfuck–” He dropped the soap in his hand and immediately turned the faucet all the way to cold. Venom hissed and retracted back into his body. “We're gonna be late, I do not have time to-” Eddie clamped his jaw shut. Out of everything that had happened since he met Venom, rubbing one out was the absolute least of his priorities. Why did the urge to come have to appear NOW of all times?! The thought of Venom watching, asking questions curiously, making fun of him – he didn't want to deal with any of it.
We need the stability this reporting job gives us. If that weren't the case, we would not be leaving the apartment until we talk. Venom sank quietly into the back of Eddie's mind, leaving nothing but a feeling of disgruntled and impatient disappointment.
Eddie dressed as quickly as he could after that. He was hyper-conscious of the fact that Venom could see literally everything he could, and more. It was more disconcerting than usual. After packing a bag with more chocolate bars and his binder of charts and Excel sheets, Eddie hurried out the door and downstairs.
Once outside, Eddie pulled an old Bluetooth headset from his jacket pocket and hooked it over his ear. He'd gotten tired of getting looked at like he was a psychopath when responding to Venom, and this generally explained away how he was talking to someone that wasn't there. Usually Venom started speaking to him as soon as he put it on knowing that Eddie would reply. This time, though, there was silence.
“Everything okay, bud?” He didn't expect an answer. There was a subtle shifting feeling at the base of his skull and nothing else. “The silent treatment huh.” Eddie rolled his eyes. Drama queen. He'd find a way to avoid the subject of a slowly building sex-drive if it killed him. Of all the damn things to reappear...
Venom continued his silence for the entire walk to the upscale restaurant they were to meet the informant at. Just because he was quiet didn't mean that Eddie still didn't feel the effects of the symbiote's presence. His eyes constantly shifted to everyone he walked past, judging them in a split second if they were a threat or (even worse) a potential meal. Most pedestrians were dismissed immediately, though there were a few that Eddie felt Venom catalog for later.
Usually the heightened awareness wasn't much of a problem. Eddie could ignore it, pushing the sensation back towards his symbiote. This time was an exception, throwing him back to the days when they first bonded. He felt on edge and tense by the time he walked inside the restaurant, barely able to keep his head from whipping around at sudden sounds or movements.
The server that led him to the table gave him odd looks at his twitching hands and constantly shrugging shoulders. Eddie found himself wondering what he tasted like before he forced the thought away.
“You made it!” A nervous man in a dark suit jacket half-stood out of his seat before Eddie stopped him.
“No, no, you don't need to get up for me.” Eddie sat down across from him and set his bag under his chair. “I'm glad we could set up a meeting, Mr. Way.”
“Oh, please, call me Gerard,” the man said quickly, holding hand out over the table. Eddie shook it firmly, and was alarmed at how chilly his grasp was. A similar look of confusion seemed to mirror on Gerard's face for a moment, probably at how warm Eddie's hand felt in comparison. “And I can call you...?”
“Eddie's fine.” He glanced at the short menu on the table, knowing what he already promised Venom for lunch. “I don't know how you usually do these things, Gerard, but I find it easier to concentrate on business once I've got some food in me.”
Gerard laughed with a lopsided grin. “Understandable. I can technically classify this as a business lunch, so feel free to get whatever you want.” Eddie didn't miss the split-second expression of dread at the mention of business.
The same judgmental server appeared to take their orders. Blue steak and whatever was on tap got him a dismissive eyebrow twitch. He was looking tastier by the second. Another judging look was shot at Gerard when he ordered almost the same thing, with a Virgin Mary instead.
“Not many people I've met like their steak to just look at a grill,” Eddie commented. He took a small notebook out of his jacket pocket and set it on the table with a pen.
“It's a newly acquired taste,” Gerard said. He looked away, not meeting Eddie's eyes. “As for things that we'll talk about later... We're working on the assumption of anonymity, yes?”
“Of course. I do everything in my power to protect my sources.” Eddie slipped the headset off his ear that way there was no worry about him recording anything. “I'll also be asking a few questions about your place in Vervez Trading for a small piece about them, in case anyone knows or finds out about our meeting.”
“Excellent, thank you.” The relief on Gerard's face was so clear that Eddie felt a little bad for him.
Small talk and a few notes about the company's mission statement took up most of the time they were waiting for their meals. Eddie was interrupted in a question to pad out the puff piece when his head twitched at the scent of fresh meat.
“Can you chill out, please?” he murmured under his breath, disguising his words with a hand over his mouth. If Gerard noticed, he didn't say anything. Eddie shook his head to clear it and pretended that he hadn't noticed the server coming with their food when he showed up a few seconds later.
“I guess we have to talk about the real reason I contacted you.” Gerard looked at him with a suddenly serious expression.
“If you want to get started, I'm all ears.” Eddie took a bite of his steak, his attention divided between Gerard, trying to eat, and trying to eat in a way that didn't devolve into him picking up the steak with both hands and biting into it like he was starving.
Gerard sighed. He looked around him carefully before leaning forward. “I know this is going to sound insane. But... I also know the rumors about you and the Life Foundation. If there's anyone that will believe me, it's you.”
Eddie froze, all muscles tensed up at once. Venom's outrage and his own memories of Carlton Drake were never a good combination. He forced a breath out slowly. “I gotta hear what you have to say before I believe anything,” he finally managed to say. Eddie could feel the symbiote roiling under his skin.
Gerard nodded in reply and looked him in the eye.
“The people running Vervez Trading are not... human.”
Eddie walked out of the restaurant almost two hours later. A frown pulled at his mouth while he pulled the earpiece out of his pocket and put it on.
“Any thoughts on that conversation?”
Silence. Eddie could practically feel Venom writhing around his head, itching to speak, but refusing to do so. He rubbed his face and fought down building frustration.
“Fine. Be that way if you want. We spent longer talking than I expected, so we have to head right to Dan's if we don't wanna be late.”
Eddie made his way through the afternoon streets, trying to work out if Gerard was legit or not. He claimed that the acting board of Vervez Trading was composed of... vampires. Blood-sucking undead. Averse to the sun and religious artifacts. And that their insider trading was based on centuries old money and influence that could intimidate or persuade anyone that they wanted to.
According to Way, they'd been grooming him for a position among their ranks. He had refused to elaborate what that might mean despite Eddie's continued questioning. The topic kept coming back to an acquisition that the company was looking to make, and how their “alternate lifestyle” might cause more than just monetary harm to others.
Vervez was in the process of merging with a major pharmaceutical company that produced blood products and derivative medicines based on blood. Triple Solace, it was called. If the source wasn't so credible, Eddie would have laughed his way out of the restaurant. Even Venom had been listening as Way claimed that their merging with the company was more than just to expand their influence into the medical field.
Way had claimed that through this merger, Vervez would be able to gain access to a pipeline of medical subjects that would almost certainly end up dead. When pressed on that, he had shut down again, almost to the point of ending the under-the-table interview.
The whole thing was enough to leave Eddie with a bad taste in his mouth. It was totally outrageous... but after ending up with an alien living inside his body after dealing with another megacorporation, he couldn't totally shut out the idea of vampires in San Francisco.
The automatic sliding doors of the hospital whisked open, and Eddie shivered slightly. Even without being vocal, the knowledge of so many easy-to-access meals being so close made Venom's hunger more apparent and Eddie's mouth water. He took out a chocolate bar from his bag and took a bite. Ten minutes later he was waiting in an exam room, working on his third bar and thanking god that his metabolism worked overtime.
He didn't have to wait long for Dan to open the door. As soon as the door was shut behind him, Venom wriggled out of Eddie's shoulder.
“Human Dan. Greetings.”
“Hey Dan,” Eddie added. To Venom he said, “You don't... we've talked about this, the 'human' part is implied.” Eddie held up a square of chocolate to Venom without thinking.
Dan just laughed and took Eddie's chart out of a locked cabinet in the room. “I don't mind. It's endearing. Better than when he used to call me lunch.”
“I could call you dinner instead,” Venom replied. His warm tongue wrapped around Eddie's wrist as he delicately took the chocolate square from his fingers. I am still angry with you.
“Whatever you say, Licorice,” Eddie mumbled back to him. He reached down to his bag and took out the binder with his last two weeks of records. Venom was busy licking melted chocolate off his fingertips when he looked up again and barely held back a flinch as Dan moved quickly across the room. He shook it off as just some unexpected movement catching him off guard again, missing the slight flush on Dan's cheeks when he finally looked back at them.
“You've been doing the regular temperature recordings and food log... wow.” Dan's eyebrows raised when he looked at the laundry list of food items that Eddie was required to eat to remain functional. “Ah. I see.”
“You must have seen the last time we got fresh meat,” Venom said, clearly enjoying the discomfort Dan displayed at seeing where Eddie marked down the last time he ran into some bad guys that just begged to be eaten.
Eddie sighed and tugged his hand away from Venom. “Come on, be nice. You find anything out on the blood tests you did last time I was here?”
“Everything seems to be equalizing. Most of your bodily functions are recovering, just like he said they would.” Dan handed the binder back to Eddie and flipped through the charts. “There are a few oddities that are probably just your systems bouncing back from failure, but we'll have to do more tests over the next few weeks to find out.”
“I will not let Eddie die. You are overreacting.” Venom narrowed his eyes at Dan while Eddie rolled his. He took off his jacket and rolled up his sleeve so he could get his blood pressure taken.
“It's definitely a miracle that he's still here, that's for sure.” Dan put the automated cuff around his arm and took out a vial for blood.
Eddie just shook his head. Did the two of them always have to talk like he wasn't there?
“And you uh. You haven't told Anne about this, have you?”
Dan shook his head. “She knows you come to me for regular checkups but I haven't told her about your friend.”
“Good.” Eddie wasn't sure why he wanted that to stay a secret from his ex-fiancee. He definitely didn't want her to keep worrying about him, but he also didn't want Venom to get up to any stupid schemes to try to get them together again. She was clearly happy with Dan, and it wasn't their place to try to get between them.
“So are there any other updates that you think I should know outside of the body temperature and food intake?” Dan asked. He tucked a vial of blood that he'd drawn into his white coat's pocket.
“Not that I can think of.”
Venom growled from his perch on Eddie's shoulder, and Eddie turned to glare at him. “Don't you fucking dare,” he hissed, suddenly worried that he would bring up the fact that he was trying to hide something from him.
“Don't let me get between the two of you,” Dan said quickly. “We're done here for now anyway. I'll send you a message when I'm available for another appointment.” Eddie barely got in a 'goodbye' before the door shut behind him.
“Great! You scared him off! Good work, genius.” Eddie shrugged his jacket on, squashing Venom under his clothes until he phased through them and back under his skin.
I like Dan. I would not scare him away.
“Whatever you say.” He grabbed his bag and stomped out, hands buried in his pockets. “Are you done with your little temper tantrum now?”
Are you done with yours?
Eddie bared his teeth and growled under his breath. As much as Venom had picked up mannerisms from him, he had picked up a few from Venom as well.
You can't hide things from me forever, Eddie.
“I'm not hiding anything!” he insisted. He expected a sarcastic remark right back, but there was nothing. He wasn't being shut out like before. This quiet was thoughtful, contemplating. Eddie wasn't sure if he wanted to know what Venom was thinking about.