Even wrapped up as he was within the mass of alien flesh that was Riot, the rumbling of the rocket around them was one of the most intense sensations of Carlton’s life. It wasn’t like the purr of a lexus, or the growl of a jet’s engines, or the jolting of an offroad vehicle. It was all consuming, a roar that assaulted the ears and nerves from every angle until it drowned you.
Or maybe that was the joy, the triumph of their success that left Carlton’s blood humming, that rush of adrenaline in knowing he was right! He was one of the best examples of humankind on the planet, wickedly intelligent and uniquely suited to be the host of a superior being, a creature from beyond the stars. And now he would finally see it! The glory of space travel! And he would return to Earth a saviour, leading Riot’s followers to their salvation!
He could feel Riot’s amusement lingering at the back of his mind. There was an odd tone to it, and for a second, Carlton could see his parent’s friends hiding smiles as a young Carlton explained the principles of quantum engineering to them, yes dear, how cute! Look at him, what a precocious child! Dismissal in their eyes.
No, he was imagining things. Riot had chosen him. They were partners, and they would lead the union of symbiote and humanity into a new golden age for them both! With Riot’s understanding of interstellar space travel, they could expand beyond Sol, and become true members of the galactic community.
Nothing could stop them now.
There was a noise at the window, which was absurd, the rocket was in flight—and of course it was them. Eddie Brock and Venom, parasitic bottom feeders, the both of them.
Riot saw the blade before Carlton did, sudden dreadful understanding flickering back and forth between them—
Riot was ripping the door away, they were halfway out the hatch, and it was already too late, far too late, Carlton could feel the heat even from here, even through Riot, they were muscles coiled, springing away from the rocket into open air, but it wasn’t enough, wasn’t far enough—
As fire chased their heels, Carlton felt Riot recoil, sinking back beneath his skin.
Everything was red and black, Carlton was tumbling through the air, where was Riot? They would die hitting the water from this height, where was Riot?
Burning all over, fire on his skin, in his throat, a deafening roar—was he screaming? Was that why his throat hurt?
Water getting closer.
He was going to die. This was his inglorious end: Stuck between fire and water.
Riot was still with him. Riot was going to let him crash. He could feel it, Riot hiding within his ribcage from the fire. Riot, flicking through his memories of all the other rival space programs, the ones Carlton had spent millions on corporate espionage to destabilise—if they weren’t clever enough to steal from Carlton or defend their secrets, they didn’t deserve their tech—not that Carlton had ever discovered any tech superior to his own, even StarkTech didn’t have any innovations worth Carlton’s time, he was a genius, after all—
The water hit like a freight train.
There was a moment, one terrible moment of cold and dark and crushing pressure, and then Carlton went somewhere else, away from it all. Sensation became muted. He could feel the water in his lungs, darkness in all directions, but it all felt surreal, distant. Which way was up? Did it matter? Was it dark or were his eyes closed? Everything was fading away.
He could hear laughter.
Carlton felt his awareness snap back like a punch to the gut. The burning was back in full excruciating clarity. His body convulsed, trying to scream again but that only let in more water, and he was still drowning, burning, bleeding into the water. He could feel every oxygen-deprived cell across his entire body, a mindless shriek of agony, but where did that distance go, that peaceful abyss?
I like this taste better.
Was that Riot? Riot was still with him? They were still together, Riot would save him, they could escape, Riot would fix him, save him, stop the pain, please stop the pain, why, help, please, it hurt, it hurt, they were partners, Riot would save him—
There was a flash of something like curiosity, vibrant even in Carlton’s distorted thoughts, and then his arms were moving on their own, enveloped, and he nearly wept as the burning was swept away, and his lungs stopped aching.
Riot’s amusement, that curiosity, it echoed back and forth in Carlton’s head. What a cruel prank, leaving him to think he was dying?
Red. Fire. Were they at the surface? Riot moved them towards a piece of floating debris, and then he was melting away back into Carlton’s chest, and the burning was back. His scream became a coughing fit, water erupting from between his lips, and still Riot was watching, squeezing his lungs and still so amused…
Terror looks good on you—
Carlton woke with a start.
This, this wasn’t what he remembered. His eyelids were heavy, the light painfully bright, stabbing into his retinas. He hissed, letting them fall shut.
Where was he?
Beeping noises caught his attention, regular, unintrusive. Quiet bellows, a machine breathing like a great beast. There wasn’t much beyond that, no roaring engines or deafening explosions. Something plastic on his tongue, hard and scratching at his throat. He felt so heavy.
This time he woke slowly.
The plastic was gone from his mouth, the mechanical bellows gone from the room. This time he actually managed to open his eyes for more than a second. A pale ceiling, lit only by the glow from the heart monitor.
The walls looked familiar. Was he back home?
All his body ached. A constant sensation, he could nearly push it away as white noise. He still felt heavy.
Tilting his head to look down his body was a herculean task. He nearly drifted back unconscious from that effort alone, but catching sight of his chest wrapped in bandages sent a shot of alarm through him.
What the hell had happened? Why couldn’t he move?
There was something wrong, something he was forgetting. Bandages? Why would he ever need bandages again? He couldn’t be harmed.
That didn’t make sense. Human bodies were fragile things, Carlton’s was no exception.
His whole body felt heavy, but his chest was light, and why was that so wrong? What was wrong with him?
There was a doctor by his side. When did she get here—
“Mr. Drake. Glad to see you awake. I’m sure this must be very confusing for you, but don’t worry. It will all make sense in a moment,” she said, pressing a button to elevate the head of Carlton’s bed.
Carlton tried to speak, but his throat protested.
“Here, try this. It should ease the roughness.”
Carlton recognised the taste of the brightly coloured fluid. One of the dozen medical products he had worked on during his late teen years, a nutrient-rich medicated drink designed to combat severe dehydration and help repair internal smoke damage.
The medicated fluid felt thick on his tongue, too sweet, but already he could feel it working.
“There. Any better?”
“Yes, thank you.” His voice still sounded like a weak croak, nothing like the smooth articulation he was usually capable of. “What happened?”
“What do you remember?” His doctor – he recognised her now, Dr Jatz – was checking the equipment that surrounded him, taking readings.
What did he remember?
“I was in an accident,” Carlton began. Accident was maybe an understatement. There was so much fire. Judging from the bandages all up and down his body, he hadn’t escaped unscathed. “An explosion.”
“Very good. I’m just going to check your pupil reaction time, is that okay?”
“Do you remember anything else?”
There were flickers. Colours mostly, strong emotions. Fierce elation. Staring up at his rocket from the launch pad. Power flowing through every cell of his body. A sensation of falling. Something shifting beneath his skin.
“Bits and pieces,” Carlton hedged. Jatz hummed as she stepped away.
“Well you seem to be in better condition than the last dozen times you woke up. You’ll only grow stronger from here,” she said. The rest of her check-up didn’t take long, but Carlton was already exhausted by the time she finished. She said her goodbyes, and left the room after upping his painkiller dose.
Something was bothering him. Something he was forgetting. He shouldn’t even be hurt, and that was a ridiculous thought because he could distinctly remember falling several hundred metres into cold water. The explosion, had it been a rocket? Why the hell had he been anywhere near a launch pad when a rocket was taking off?
There was someone he was forgetting. A voice in his head, a monster beneath his skin. It didn’t make sense. The symbiotes were dead—
Carlton heard the heart monitor go erratic for a moment, but he managed to calm himself before it summoned Dr Jatz.
How could he possibly have forgotten Riot? His partner? Their mission, they had failed, and why hadn’t Riot healed him? What was he waiting for?
Absurdly, the insides of his head felt empty. Where was Riot? Why wasn’t there that trickle of dark amusement?
Nothing shifted within his chest. No voice echoes in his head.
Had—had Riot left him? Why? They had achieved symbiosis. He was a good host, a superior human for a superior symbiote? Where was Riot?
Exhaustion was taking over. Even the pain of Riot’s unexplained absence wasn’t enough to keep sleep at bay.
His dreams were full of freezing dark water and fire in the sky, and over and over, a voice hissing in his head.
Terror looks good on you. Maybe we’ll return to play one day, if you survive.
The LIFE Foundation was just one of the many business interests Carlton Drake had a hand in, and business waited for no one, not even bed-bound recovering trauma victims. From the moment Carlton could sit up awake for more than two minutes, the bustle began, his executives and lawyers and PR managers all wanting attention, all wanting answers.
As it turns out, having one of your rockets explode in the San Francisco bay area did not do wonders for your public image. Debris was still being discovered floating along the coastline, pollutants contaminating the water, and all the papers were up in arms about it, unlike with the last crash landing. Typical Americans, only concerned with the environmental considerations of a malfunctioning rocket if it happened on their land.
What’s more, the idiot who had been running the LIFE Foundation in Carlton’s absence had gotten into a fight with the San Fran municipality on who was responsible for cleaning the pollution from the bay, like some sort of PR nightmare. The only ones who had done anything at all to help clean up so far were Greenpeace volunteers, and there were talks of a class action suit in the works based around endangering public health.
Not to mention the news articles right, left and centre all reporting the abridged and sanitised version of events of that night, that Carlton Drake had gone insane and murdered three of his top scientists in the centre of the control room using some bizarre bladed weapon body enhancements. Some even made the connection to Venom’s appearance, speculating on super soldier experiments gone wrong. Grainy footage of Venom eating a mercenary’s head had shown up on twitter before Carlton’s people could stop it, and they had been working around the clock ever since to fix the damage.
The murder accusations came right in the wake of Eddie Brock’s former employers publishing a string of incriminating photos of some of the earlier symbiote hosts, the whole article speculating whether Carlton knew his labs were experimenting on the homeless population of San Francisco. The fact that several of Carlton’s senior scientists—including Dr Skirth, named in the article as Brock’s source—were “missing” didn’t help.
All in all, it was a shitshow. Carlton’s reputation was in tatters. LIFE was haemorrhaging stock value rapidly, and now Carlton’s shareholder liaison had come by to tell him they wanted him gone from the company.
“Not in any permanent sense, of course, your inventions and innovations are still the lifeblood of, well, LIFE,” he said, chuckling at his own joke, the twat. “We just feel a little distance would be best for now as we start the rebranding process.”
“You’re fired,” Carlton said, staring straight ahead.
“Escort him from the premises.”
“Wait—” Carlton tuned him out as the security dragged the man away. A second later, Dr Jatz re-entered the room.
“I hope that will be the last of your professional visitors for the day,” she said.
“I like keeping busy.”
“As you’ve said, no matter what my concerns for the stress it puts on your recovery. Nurse Donna will be by in a minute with a late lunch, and then later we’ll keep working on building your hand mobility and strength back up.”
“Thank you, Jatz.”
She nodded, taking a few notes of his current measurements and adjusting the IV drip before she left him in peace, or what passed for peace these days.
The explosion had done nearly as much damage to Carlton’s body as to his public image. His entire body was covered in burns of various severities, but especially bad all up his legs. One of his feet had been burned so completely that there wasn’t enough bone left for a reconstruction. It had been amputated long before he had first regained consciousness. Four ribs had snapped when his body hit the water, along with complex fractures in both arms that had resulted in nerve damage right down to his fingertips. Smoke inhalation and nearly drowning had weakened his lungs and put a tremendous strain on his heart.
Inexplicably, there was small amounts of damage to all of his internal organs that no one was able to link to any specific part of the accident. In fact, it most closely resembled the medical profiles of some of the failed symbiote hosts, which made even less sense since Riot obviously wasn’t responsible for the damage.
Jatz was great. No nonsense. She focused entirely on healing. Of her own accord she had called in burn specialists from around the world to present Carlton with all the most cutting edge therapy treatments for him to choose between. Within the next month, he would be well on his way to recovering from the tissue damage, and at some point next week, Jatz estimated he would be strong enough to begin physical therapy and test out his new prosthetic.
Carlton already had a few dozen ideas on how to improve the thing, if only his fingers would obey him long enough to sketch an idea.
It was terribly funny how much easier it was to become adjusted to losing a limb than to losing a symbiote. No, really. Carlton was laughing, deep inside somewhere. It was fucking funny, like divine retribution. His only consolation was in knowing that Riot had survived, and was out there somewhere waiting for Carlton to rebuild their rocket. Once that was done, Riot would return, and they would become one again.
Eddie Brock seemed broken. That was Carlton’s first impression of the man led into his recovery room. There wasn’t that dazed defensiveness from their penultimate encounter, or the smug impertinence from their first meeting.
Brock held his shoulders in, his gaze low and lost. There was no confidence to his movements, no assuredness. This did not look like the walk of a man with the power of a symbiote at his fingertips.
Remarkably, he seemed to be completely uninjured, despite being at the centre of the explosion that had so incapacitated Carlton. Venom’s healing work, no doubt.
“Tell me, how is it that you became so capable of making good people’s lives difficult?”
Brock snorted, eyes flicking to meet Carlton’s in a half-hearted glare. He didn’t answer.
“Your little exposé with MNBN has compounded an already delicate situation. I’ve had to let go of hundreds of employees—all of them good, hard-working people—to try and make up for the loss your selfish little stunt has caused.”
That earned another glare, but still no words.
“Nothing to say to me? Last time you were spitting with self-righteous idiocy.”
Brock stayed silent, and Carlton gave a sigh, gesturing to one of the aides by the door.
“This was more of a professional visitation, anyway. Sign the form, return Venom, and I’ll have them throw you back into whatever gutter they found you in,” Carlton said, turning back to focus on his new prosthetic design plans.
“Hey, hey! Hands off the leatherwork!” Brock growled to the guard that attempted to drag him to the table. Carlton’s eyes were drawn back to Brock involuntarily as he took the NDA and began reading over it. “What the hell makes you think I’d ever sign something like this?”
“It’s fairly straightforward—and I’m sure you’re well aware of the alternative.”
“Sign the contract or you’ll take me out back and shoot me, yeah, I get it,” Brock said, taking a step towards Carlton’s bed, the guard quick to intercede. “See, what I’m wondering is why the fuck you haven’t just tried that anyway? This is all too above-board, too easy to trace, for you to just disappear me the moment I become a nuisance again. So tell me, why the fuck should I sign this? What are you gonna do, threaten my ex and her boyfriend? Blackmail me? C’mon. Hit me.”
“Whatever brutalisms you have imagined we might be conducting—"
“Don’t give me that crap!”
“—have no bearing on the reality of this situation. You snuck into a secure facility, took photos of many of our experimental subjects—"
“Homeless people you grabbed from the streets.”
“—took those photos out of the context—"
“Did you guys know that? Your boss was experimenting on homeless people.”
“—in an attempt to support your baseless accusations. Then you stole a prototype organic nanotech spacesuit—”
“—and in your ignorance, caused a swathe of destruction across the city when you lost control of the tech.”
“So you’re really gonna pretend like we didn’t have a fistfight on a rocket launchpad. Right.”
“You will return Venom to me.”
“You can fuck right off.”
Brock had attempted to move closer during their rather unproductive conversation, and the guard’s hand was now firmly closed around his bicep, while the other guard had shifted closer from his position by the door. Neither of them nor the aide with the paperworks had flinched during Brock’s accusations. Carlton liked that. The mark of a professional.
Brock was openly glaring at him now, his lips curled back in something like a snarl, which Carlton found interesting. Why so much rage? Anyone who knew the details of that night could clearly see that Brock had gotten the better end of the deal. In one evening, he and Venom had managed to release damning evidence of Carlton’s LIFE Foundation operations, destroy a multimillion dollar rocket, and escape with Venom.
It was downright offensive that Brock could come into Carlton’s room looking so sullen. Almost depressed… something about that was niggling at the back of Carlton’s mind.
“You’re being more difficult than necessary, Brock.”
“Oh, am I?” Brock laughed, stepping back from Carlton’s bed. The guards released their hold on him, staying close to Carlton as Brock began to pace the room. “Why the hired muscle, anyway? Also, just the two guards? Do you think they could actually stop us if they needed to?”
“There are other precautions in place, of course.”
Brock spun towards him with a sharp grin.
“Now, that’s interesting! You have one of these super special ‘spacesuits’ too, and we both know what they’re capable of, so why are you running things like this instead of doing it yourself?”
Carlton forcibly uncurled his fists, and let his mouth curl up into a smirk.
“You don’t have Venom, do you?”
Brock blanched. “Of course I have him,” he said, voice wavering.
“I’m sure that sounded very convincing in your head. Face it: We both knew this was temporary. A once in a lifetime chance for Eddie Brock to finally be more than a mere disappointment of a man. But now, Venom has finally seen sense and moved on to find a more appropriate host—”
Brock’s chuckle gave him pause.
“You actually talk like a Bond villain. How did anyone ever believe you were a good guy?”
“Again with your impertinence.”
“I call it charm.”
“Yes, you would, wouldn’t you. Fascinating how inferior individuals form their personalities around their character flaws instead of trying to improve themselves.”
Brock just laughed again, and it sounded on the edge of hysteria. Carlton stared at him for a second, but there was only so much of interest to see when watching a man break down. He turned back to the prosthetic designs.
“As you are no longer in possession of my property, and we already have tissue samples from the last time you were within our custody, I have no further interest in you. Sign the paperwork, or don’t.” Carlton gestured to the two security guards. “Remove him, please, he’s becoming a distraction.”
“Aww, c’mon, Drake! We’re two peas in a pod! We should start a club, let’s call it ‘I survived living with an alien parasite!’”
“They’re symbiotes!” Carlton snapped, unable to help himself.
“Do semantics really matter? They’re all dead.”
“Venom is dead?”
Brock froze for a second, seemingly replaying his last few words in his head, before he shrugged.
“I mean, I was gonna let you waste all your time and money chasing rumours of Venom, but, eh.”
“You let the symbiote die?”
“Let? You and I obviously had very different experiences.”
“How could you be so irresponsible!
“Strong words for someone who was literally trying to murder us a week ago,” Brock muttered, rubbing at his eyes.
“You had achieved symbiosis with a higher being! And you just let them die?”
“Do you think I chose this!? Walking around with his gaping space in my head? You have no idea what me and Venom had, alright! No! Idea! He jumped out to protect me when we were falling, blocked the flames from reaching me. I felt him begin to burn. I felt his pain, and his fear, but he refused to come back until I was in the water. And then he snapped our connection so I wouldn’t feel him die.”
Carlton blinked, temporarily speechless at the outburst. Brock didn’t wait for an answer, turning to storm from the room.
“Sir. Shall I get Brock’s signature?” the aide piped up, having already collected the discarded paperwork. Carlton nodded, absentmindedly.
Venom had sacrificed themselves? To save a human? The very idea was absurd. Obviously a fabrication to mislead Carlton and discourage him from properly searching for Venom’s new whereabouts.
Although, Brock’s uninjured state and what Carlton remembered of Venom’s weak nature did support the idea. They had been swayed from fighting for their species after only a few days possessing Brock, obviously Venom was an unhinged individual.
Still. There was no way a being like Venom would sacrifice themselves for any human, no matter how perfect their symbiosis. Carlton had seen as much in Riot’s thoughts, the way the symbiotes would choose the strongest vessels until a better one was discovered. They were true survivors, superior beings, and with Riot’s help, Carlton could have used them to elevate the true elite of humankind to godhood.
Symbiotes didn’t suffer from human weakness. Except perhaps for Venom.
Why would Eddie Brock be worth saving, anyway? What exactly could he offer humanity besides vitriolic critiques of hardworking people? Carlton was superior to him in every way. He’d even done a better job as a host by protecting his symbiote, letting Riot shelter from the fire within the safety of his body. And now Riot was gone, using the bodies of other hosts to sustain themselves until Carlton was strong enough to host him again.
Riot would return any day now, Carlton was sure. And once they were together again and Riot had finished healing him, perhaps they could go investigate Brock themselves, and track down Venom properly.
And if it turned out that Venom really had sacrificed themselves for Eddie Brock, then that meant one less being to worry about stopping them from retrieving Riot’s people.
Carlton just had to be patient. And if the idea of Riot returning made his heart speed and his skin grow cold, well, that was just anticipation, wasn’t it?
Eddie stared at the walls of his crappy apartment, lit up by crappy neon lighting from the alleyway down below. Even in the semi darkness, Eddie could pick out the stains—just there, that large blot that looked kind of like a face, and right there, that marking that never went away after he killed a cockroach.
It was less messy here than over in the kitchen area. He’d swept the gross food and scattered glass and other junk out of the pathways, but he could still smell it beginning to turn. The plastic bag he’d stretched across the shattered window flapped loudly even in the slightest breeze. Eddie was getting pretty good at ignoring that too.
It was…difficult, falling asleep these days. It was hard to keep Venom from his thoughts at times like this.
Not that Venom was ever far from his thoughts. Just that, during the day it was easy to do something, to keep busy and maybe ignore the fact that he could hear Venom’s death-cry playing in his head over and over. During the day, he could join the volunteer team down at the shoreline, searching through all the junk for anything of Venom. It was stupid. Eddie knew it was stupid. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for—evidence that Venom had survived, somehow? Proof that he was dead? It was exhausting work.
At night, Eddie had no such luxury. The moment his head hit the pillow it was like a torrent was set free, his neurotic brain replaying the events from that night again and again in 4K HD from a dozen angles while a chorus sang “You fucked up” in a three-part harmonious round.
Maybe if he’d been a stronger host, Venom could have lived. If they had taken down Riot sooner. If he hadn’t left Venom in that hospital room. If Venom hadn’t come back to save him.
Venom spent so much time and energy saving him.
Eddie was viciously disappointed that Drake had survived the explosion. What sort of fucking justice was that? Drake living when Venom got burned up? And now, things were going the same way they always did, the murderous billionaire already arranging the cover-up, and no one got what they deserved.
There was a noise at the window. Something scratching at the plastic sheeting. Eddie blinked, glancing towards it.
The scratching came again.
Eddie sat up, glad for the distraction. It sounded like an animal. Not surprising, really, with the smell coming from his kitchen.
Peeling the plastic back from the empty window was a bad idea, Eddie knew that before he did it. Didn’t stop him doing it, though.
Something small and furry immediately scrambled through the gap, and Eddie jumped back with a swear, lunging across the room to hit the lights.
It was a cat. A small, scraggly thing, one of those feral cats you saw picking over garbage in the streets before dying from eating rat poison or something. Its fur was so dirty, Eddie couldn’t begin to tell what colour it was.
“Mmraow!!” Loud little thing. It was staring at him. Sitting there, in the middle of the room, staring at him with those huge cat eyes like it could see his soul. Eddie crouched down, offering a hand it its direction.
The cat immediately lurched forwards, quick enough that Eddie startled, falling back onto his ass. The cat paused, just out of reach, tail swishing back and forth, and looking at him like he was an idiot.
“What?” Eddie grumbled. The cat meowed, and began moving again, more slowly this time until its head butted against Eddie’s outstretched hand. It began purring, and Eddie grinned, running his fingers over the matted fur along the cat’s back. It really was a small thing, too thin. Not like Anne’s cat.
Then the cat sort of…rippled.
Eddie froze. The cat rippled again, pressing up into Eddie’s hand, and suddenly the texture beneath his hand shifted, turning slicker, smoother, black slime creeping across his hand—
“Shit! Venom?” He leaned forwards, scooping the cat close to his chest, the little thing still purring like mad. More and more of the black slime poured out of it, moving sluggishly along Eddie’s arms before sinking into his skin.
Finally, the cat went limp in his arms and the purring stopped as the last tendrils of Venom disappeared. It still seemed to be breathing, though.
“Venom? You with me now?”
There was no answer, and Eddie couldn’t feel Venom shifting through his flesh, but the way the small aches across his body rapidly disappeared and the sudden ravenous feeling in his stomach was a dead giveaway. Eyes suddenly growing damp, he cuddled the cat closer and stood to go to the fridge.
“We are not eating trash chicken and frozen tater tots again.”
There was a flicker of foreign amusement in the back of Eddie’s head, quickly followed by exhaustion.
“Hey, don’t worry. Just rest up, I’ll feed us.”
Fondness. Eddie grinned, placing the unconscious cat on the table before grabbing some more tater tots. The little electric oven was thankfully completely undamaged. While those cooked, he took another glance through the fridge and the meagre pantry.
“Anything catch your eye? ‘fraid we’re all out of fresh lobster, or, uh, heads.”
Venom didn’t answer, but after a second, Eddie noticed a really appealing smell, just faint enough he couldn’t quite place it, but growing stronger. Following his nose, Eddie found a few old blocks of chocolate at the back of the cupboard.
“I didn’t know you could do that,” he said between bites. Venom sent over a mental shrug.
The rest of the food didn’t take long, and by the time Eddie had finished that too, Venom’s hunger had abated a little. The cat seemed a little better too. It had rolled over to sleep stretched and sprawled in that typical cat manner that couldn’t possibly be as comfortable as the cat made it seem. Idly, Eddie wondered what he was going to do with the little monster.
Eddie flinched, before laughing. Jeez, Venom was just as loud as that first time.
“Hey, bud. Feeling any better?”
Eddie. We’re keeping the cat.
He snorted. “You want a pet?”
Cats are sublime predators. And I like this one.
“Heh. Sure, we’ll keep the cat, then.”