Eddie’s feet pounded the pavement and he breathed deeply, enjoying the way that his lungs burned and his leg muscles ached. He moved over as another jogger came towards him on the path around the lake and they nodded amicably at one another, a polite acknowledgment that the other was there, that they were both out enjoying a run. He was pretty sure that he’d seen the guy a couple of times since he’d started jogging around the park last week, but he’d not been at it long enough to know for certain who the regulars were.
Since he’d moved into a bigger apartment not far from here, into a much nicer neighbourhood, he’d been keen to settle down into a routine, get his life back on track. It had taken two long years of working his butt off, proving himself worthy to editors and then network execs, but his hard work had finally paid off and he'd regained some of the integrity that he had lost. Sure, he’d been right about the Life Foundation but that didn't mean that future employers were keen to take on someone who was a loose cannon. He’d had to prove that he could toe the line, not blatantly flaunt the rules and embarrass his bosses. He’d regained his footing in print journalism, then nine months ago had become a consultant for one of the evening current affairs shows, until finally he’d been offered the opportunity two months ago to bring the Brock Report back. That had come with a healthy pay rise and so he’d finally been able to move out of his shitty shoebox sized apartment (that still bore the scars of the fight with Treece and his mercenaries) and into something much nicer. He still didn’t have a lot of stuff, he didn’t need all that much, but even the small act of buying a new dinner set, just a very basic one from Walmart, made him feel more like a responsible adult than anything had done since he lived with Annie.
With this new-found responsibility, he figured that he needed to work on being healthier. He’d taken up jogging again, not only to fend off any early onset middle-aged spread, but also for his mental health. He found that when he was active, he felt energised, more eager to chase down leads and jump into the darker investigations. He’d started off three times a week but now he had built up to going everyday (if his schedule allowed). Of course, not everyone in his life was happy about his exercise habit, and every single time that he’d been out, he’d had a grouchy symbiote grumbling in his head.
Don’t see the point, could be at home, watching Netflix.
I’ve explained the health benefits, V - you know why I’m doing this. He’d long grown accustomed to talking internally to Venom while out and about - even using a bluetooth headset didn’t detract from their more...morally grey conversations. He still chatted out loud to Venom when they were at home, and his Other tended to do the same, but it was just safer when they were out, especially now that he was beginning to be recognised again. The last thing he needed was a shoddily filmed video from someone’s phone showing reporter Eddie Broack talking to himself about eating bad guys.
Can keep you healthy - don’t need to do this.
I know you do, love, but doesn’t this make it easier for you? Less to fix?
When you run about like this, we jiggle around. It’s uncomfortable.
Biting back a laugh at the image of his symbiote bouncing around his organs, like a passenger in a car driving down a corrugated dirt road, Eddie slowed his pace to a walk, figuring that he’d done enough for today anyway. Sorry, babe, I didn't mean to make you jiggle, but I’m doing this so I don’t jiggle.
We like Eddie the way he is.
I know you do, but this is something that I gotta do for me. Can you understand that?
There was a disgruntled snort from inside as Venom made it clear that no, he didn’t understand that, since in his mind everything was a ‘we’ thing. It was something that they’d struggled with the entire time. Eddie loved Venom, and he never wanted to be separated, but he also didn't want to lose his sense of self, he always wanted to be his own person. He believed that that could work in conjunction with perfect symbiosis, whereas Venom couldn’t get past the fact that Eddie didn't want to essentially become one. It was the only thing that they tended to fight over these days, two years being long enough to iron out all the other wrinkles in their relationship.
Despite this, they were both ridiculously happy and had settled into a blissfully domestic arrangement with one another. Eddie didn't need anyone other than his symbiote, didn’t crave human touch at all, only wanted Venom. Venom had grown accustomed to Earth’s ways and had adjusted, rarely now seriously suggesting that they eat someone who had merely bumped into them or was rude to the barista at the local coffee shop. His understanding of who was bad enough to be edible had grown and although they didn't always ‘eat out’ as Eddie put it, they’d done enough that San Francisco's crime rate had steadily been declining over the past two years. That was great for city statistics and made the place climb up the livability index but it also made it a little harder for them to find a snack when they needed one. They’d been venturing further and further afield when they hunted, though that was probably a good thing in hindsight considering that they didn't want to draw attention to their own backyard.
Home, Eddie. Want tots.
How about some broccoli?
If we wanted to eat a tree, we would eat a tree, Eddie.
How about a salad?
We have bonded with a rabbit before and we are most definitely not a rabbit now.
Come on, love, you’re killing me here. Can we just try to be a little healthier?
Venom considered this and then magnanimously offered, We can have blueberries after tots.
Okay, well, fine, I guess that’s a compromise that I can accept.
We like blueberries - they pop like miniature heads in our mouth!
Eddie groaned but his lips were twitching at the corners - his Other was just too damned cute sometimes. Maybe after they’d had dinner, Venom could give him another kind of workout? The symbiote seemed to enjoy when they played in the bedroom and Eddie loved to struggle, pretend to try to escape the hulking mass above him, who was pinning him to the bed. It always left him sweaty and exhausted, his muscles sore from straining to get free. Who said that exercise had to be boring?
Eddie rounded the corner of his street, smiling as he took in the view. It looked much like any other city neighbourhood, but to him it was proof that he was finally getting somewhere in life, that he’d moved on from all of his fuck ups and was bettering himself. He was happy and content and he felt Venom purr within him, curling up around his heart and reflecting back similar emotions to his host.
Pausing to fish his keys out of his pocket, Eddie looked across the street and noticed Dan’s car parked there. He pulled out his phone, not seeing any missed calls or texts and wondered if he’d forgotten plans that they’d made.
Weren’t seeing Dan till Friday, his helpful secretary advised him, before picking up on that thought, Not your secretary! Apologise!
Awww, really? Don’t you want to look up at me from behind your desk with your big eyes and beg to suck my cock so I’ll give you that raise you’ve been after?
Venom paused, as if shocked. We did not realise that that was what secretaries did.
Eddie chuckled and rubbed absently at his chest, knowing that his Other would know that it was meant for him. Not in real life, but they do in porn.
We have not...come across this sort of porn yet.
Look at you! You’re getting so much better at your puns!
A sense of smug satisfaction radiated from the symbiote. We are glad that you appreciated it. Will we search out this porn?
Although Eddie didn't feel the need to have a human partner, he still enjoyed watching porn, and Venom had taken a liking to it as well. It gave him ideas. Eddie found that he generally enjoyed those ideas immensely. We sure can, love, but first let’s find out what Dan’s doing here.
The prospect of an unannounced visit from Dan wasn’t a bad one - over the past couple of years, they’d become good friends. From the minute that he’d met Dan, he’d been just so damn nice, so happy to be meeting him, that Eddie couldn’t have disliked the guy if he tried. After the Life Foundation incident, Eddie had found himself seeing the couple more and more often. At first it was because they were worried about him and how he was grieving for Venom; after they found out that the symbiote had actually survived the explosion, they’d been more worried for everyone else. Well, Dan had been - Annie had just been pissed that Eddie had kept the truth from her, screaming at him like they weren’t supposed to have secrets from one another despite their relationship being well and truly done and dusted.
The thing about Dan though, was that he was a good guy. It didn't take him long to get over his aversion to Venom, especially when he could see how happy Eddie was to have him back. The doc went out of his way then to get to know Venom, asking him questions about where he’d come from, his people, and the places that he’d been in the universe. He’d quickly become one of Venom’s favourite people and so by extension, one of Eddie’s. They began to look forward to their weekly dinner with the couple more so they could chat with Dan than with Annie. It hadn’t taken them long to get over their desire to try and win Annie back - they both realised that she wasn’t quite right for them and Dan was good to her, but they still valued her friendship. She was never quite so friendly towards the symbiote as Dan was though, and so naturally they started to become closer with him, while they drifted slowly away from Eddie’s ex.
One week, when Annie was busy preparing for a deposition and didn’t want to be disturbed, Dan suggested that the two of them, plus Venom, go out to a bar for their regular weekly dinner so that they wouldn’t disturb her. Whilst they were there, they discovered that the bar was going to be hosting a pool competition starting the following week and Eddie had lamented how he used to be rather good at the game. Dan had just looked at him with one brow arched and had said, "Show me". They’d racked up and in a shockingly short amount of time, Eddie had discovered that no matter how good he had thought he was, Dan was an absolute master. The doc had grinned over his shoulder, just before he pulled off a spectacularly difficult shot to sink the black and said, "Just one of my numerous hidden talents".
They’d entered the tournament as a team and for the next six weeks, they spent every Friday night at the bar together, eventually making the finals. Annie had shown no interest in coming along to any of their games, but she put in an appearance for the final, and was there to kiss Dan in congratulations as they took home the trophy. The following week, Eddie was sad when he realised that their boys’ nights out were over and as much as he enjoyed going round to the couple’s house for dinner, he much preferred the more casual evenings that he spent with Dan.
Dinner that night felt forced, and Anne was waspish all evening, leaving several times to take work calls, and by the time Dan walked Eddie to the door, he wanted to suggest that maybe they give the following week a miss. The doctor beat him to it though, but instead of cancelling altogether, he suggested that maybe they could resume their Friday nights at the bar and then less frequently, they could meet up for dinner with all three of them. Eddie had been on board, so long as Annie didn’t have any issues, and when she happily agreed (seeming rather relieved), they fell into a routine.
After about a year of this, Eddie ran into one of his childhood friends when he was out, and explained to Venom after their brief encounter who he was. That led Venom to ask about the concept of a ‘best friend’ and they got into a long conversation about friendship and how it ebbed and flowed over the course of a human’s life, and how someone could be considered your best friend at one point but when circumstances changed, you could find a new best friend.
“Like Dan,” Venom had said.
“What do you mean?”
“Dan is your best friend now.”
“I kinda think that title falls to you, love.”
“No, we are one, we are Venom - that goes beyond paltry human definitions. When it comes to ‘human buddies’ it is clear that Dan is your favourite.”
And it was true. It was Dan that Eddie bitched to after a bad day, it was Dan who he called to come pick him up when his bike broke down forty miles from town, and it was Dan that he preferred to hang out with. It had crept up on him, and if someone had asked Eddie at the very beginning if he would ever consider becoming so close with the doctor, he would have laughed in their face, but there you had it - Dan was his best friend.
So it wasn’t a total surprise to see his car out the front, not outside the realm of possibility that he would drop by unannounced for a visit, and it most certainly wasn’t unwelcome. What was a surprise however was exiting the elevator to see Dan leaning against the wall of the hallway, a suitcase at his feet. “Dan?” Eddie called. “What’s going on?”
“Hey, Eddie, V,” the doc greeted them, and he looked sad and tired. “Anne’s kicked me out - do you mind if I crash here for a bit?”
Looking into his best friend's face, seeing how different he looked to his normal, cheerful self, Eddie didn't even hesitate, just gave him a warm smile and said, "Sure thing."