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Head Over Heels with Eyes on the Prize

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Chapter 1

   Mist curled and twisted through the night, rendering the light coming in through the window a strange yellow from the street lights. A few drops of rain pattered against the glass. It was a perfect night to stay bundled up in a blanket on the couch, watching old movies. However, in this rather shitty apartment this was not going to happen.

   Bored, Eddie.

   “Come on, babe, can’t we stay in tonight? It’s fucking shitty out.”

   Hungry, Eddie!

   Eddie Brock sighed and scruffed his hand through his light brown hair, which was already standing up. “We ate a dude, like, four days ago.” He walked over to the drafty window, radiating cold, and peered out. “How about we order some Vietnamese and stay in tonight? We can go hunting tomorrow?”

   Your liver is starting to look very tasty. Please, Eddie? Tomorrow we stay in.

   Venom twined through Eddie’s chest, making his heart flutter. Eddie sighed. He hated it when Venom sulked in the back of his mind. It made everything feel sour.

   “Fine. We can go out. But the next time the weather fucking sucks ass and you want to go out, we stay in instead. Got it?”

   Venom hummed happily, spoiled as a cat full of cream. Eddie rubbed the centre of his chest, where he always imagined the bulk of Venom was curled, safe in the cage of bones. He smiled lopsidedly. The symbiote’s happiness was contagious, flowing through their bond. Venom had, in those early days, overstated what they knew about Eddie in an attempt to scare him into listening. The alien couldn’t read Eddie’s mind and vice-versa. They were just very good at guessing what Eddie was thinking based on his physiological responses. Emotions, instinct and other more basic urges flowed between them like water. The thoughts themselves were too fleeting, too complex for Venom to pick up on.

   They lifted the sash of the window and leaned out backwards. Black ink flowed out from his skin, enveloped the human and pulled him the rest of the way out the window. By the time they were on the roof, the man was no longer there. Instead there was a seven and a half foot tall humanoid, gleaming black, laced with white veins. A thick pink tongue twisted out between nightmare rows of teeth, tasting the air. Venom grinned like a shark and leaped off the edge of the building.

 

   Venom liked the rain. It was pleasantly humid and the pattering of raindrops hid any sounds they might make while on the hunt. While it would have been horribly cold and clammy, the breeze cutting to the bone on a human walking these streets, it did not bother Venom. They had hibernated in space on the surface of a comet rimed with ammonia snow, so this was nothing. They compensated for Eddie’s need to maintain a constant body temperature by increasing their already juiced-up metabolism. They would get much hungrier though.

   Truly, this was a crappy night to try hunting since anyone with the sense god gave a squirrel would not be out. Venom liked it though; the city was especially pretty in the rain. The neon lights glowed with orange, red, blue and pink halos from the mist, the streetlights glittered in the puddles like portals to another world and buildings appeared and disappeared like secrets in the low cloud cover. If worst came to worst, they could go swimming in the Bay and catch fish. Of course, fish weren’t as good as human. Very little in the brain department. But they were plentiful and Venom could stuff themself. They were certain they could convince Eddie to go out hunting another night and if nothing else, there was chocolate. They prowled around the rooftops and alleys, slowly moving down towards the old warehouses by the docks.

   Doesn’t seem to be anyone out tonight, babe.

   “We haven’t looked long enough. Always some bad guys around, Eddie.”

   Venom felt Eddie shift around inside him. Eddie usually let Venom ‘drive’ like this, letting the symbiote follow its instincts. Venom obliged this time, letting Eddie take control of their body. They peered around the misty night, hoping something would show itself.

   It’s pretty quiet. We might need to go out in Oakland or somethin’ for a while. The criminals are getting too cautious here. Scared of big bad us.

   He turned and pointed, Try closer to the docks. I don’t think we will see anyone for us to save, but there are generally low-lifes hanging around there.

   Eddie relinquished control back to the symbiote. He liked being wrapped up in Venom’s inky mass. It felt very safe, like a full body weighted blanket. Even heights didn’t bother him as much, though whether that was because his other would never let him fall, or exposure therapy, he didn’t know. Venom loved heights and climbed tall buildings at every opportunity.

   The symbiote hopped over the ledge of the brick building, extending a tentacle as they fell to swing out over the nearly abandoned streets. An easy twist of their powerful body helped propel them out. With a splash and thud they landed in a puddle at the far side of the street. Venom dropped to all fours and prowled in the shadows between two warehouses in Hunter’s Point. This particular area hadn’t been gentrified as much and was still grimy and gritty. There was lots of piles of lumber and crap from stalled construction projects. They heard a clatter a few minutes later and a soft curse. They peered between a reeking dumpster and the crumbling wall. A human, standing under a small overhang. He had dropped his phone. The human swung a grimy backpack to the ground, retrieved the phone and stood. He brushed the dirt off, angling it towards the distant street lights to check the screen.

   “Son of a fuck.” The screen must have gotten a few more cracks. It still lit up though. The human male spent a moment texting, shoulders hunched against the stray raindrops that found their way under the overhang. “Where the hell is he?” he muttered, looking around. He pulled the cuffs of his slightly tattered red hoody down over his fingers, fidgeting in the cold.

   Probably a small time drug dealer. Not someone we should necessarily kill, babe. Eddie told Venom. We don’t know his situation. We can scare him real good though. Maybe encourage him to find a better job.

   The alien hummed reluctant agreement and they carefully started scaling the building. Venom was powerful and could run up the side of a building almost as easily as the street, but it was noisy and they tended to leave massive property damage in their wake. Eddie convinced them to creep along instead. There were other opportunities to smash in with a roar, letting their prey’s brain marinate in fear hormones and adrenaline. Once they reached the roof they ventured out over the overhang, which only creaked a little in response to Venom’s massive weight.

   The drug dealer below them remained oblivious. Venom gripped the edge of the overhang and flipped over, landing heavily before the human, who yelped and jolted back. The symbiote stood slowly and turned, treating the man to a split faced grin, tongue lolling.

   Fuckin’ show off. Eddie muttered sarcastically.

   There is such a thing as style, Eddie. Venom replied silently, Not that you would know about it. The symbiote smiled even wider, the top of their head somehow remaining attached. “What are you doing out so late, morsel?” Venom purred.

   “Oh fuck, oh jesus.” he squealed as he flattened himself against the wall, shoulder blades attempting to dig into the corrugated metal wall behind him. “Please man fuck don’t kill me!” His throat worked frantically. He seemed paralyzed.

   “All we did was ask you a simple question. Didn’t say anything about killing you.” Venom leaned closer, tongue extending to the terrified man.

   “I’m sorry sorry sorry… Just let me live, I’ve heard about you! The Demon of San Francisco!” he babbled.

   Venom was pleased. Fear laced the air between them like fine cologne. “We will not kill you. We know why you are here.”

   “What?”

   “We will simply suggest that it would be a fine idea if you found a more legal line of work. Can’t be a very good living selling on the streets like this.” They prodded a claw at the human’s shapeless holey sweatshirt. Then they stepped back and gestured formally, like a waiter showing someone to their seats.

   “You won’t kill me?” the drug dealer asked.

   “No. Go home. Before we get hungrier.” Venom sighed, crouching on their haunches.

   “’Kay… Okay okay…” The human slid along the wall, dragging his filthy backpack up over his shoulder. Venom kept their blank white eyes on its progress. They started backing away, rummaging in their hoodie pocket. He brought out a small device.

   Venom narrowed their eyes and rumbled, “No pictures please or we will eat your phone and the hand it is-” Light flashed and Venom screamed, leaping backwards. The dark flesh of their shoulder, chest and upper arm had a grayish, acid pocked look to it. Not a phone.

   The human raised their hand again and fired once more from the small, rectangular device. Another beam of yellow-white light fired. Venom rolled to the side, wound already knitting closed, tendrils flowing across it. The beam missed, turning a small pile of lumber into disintegrating gray cinders.

   “That hurt!” they roared and leaped. They bowled over the human, another shot grazing their side before they closed a fist around the thin bones of their forearm. Bone crunched and he spasmodically dropped the weapon. Venom hissed, drool splattering the man’s grimacing face.

   Let me talk to him V! Eddie’s reporter senses were tingling.

   Venom obliged and pulled back their material so Eddie’s face was showing, sitting in a nest of tendrils.

   The human whimpered, tears oozing from his eyes.

   “Where the fuck did you get that?” Eddie snarled, voice modulated, both his and the symbiote’s tones twisted together. “That weapon is not from here.”

   “Oh fuck fuck fuck fuck… My arm…!”

   “Answer the question!” Eddie barked. Okay maybe he wasn’t being his normal wheedling reporter self, but that weapon hurt! When they were together, so few things hurt them. It put him on edge. He took a few deep breaths through his nose, trying to calm down a little.

   “I’m just a small-time guy! J-just selling some of the little weapons! Oh fuck!” he panted, “I don’t know nothin’ about where they get them!”

   Eddie and Venom tightened their grip on the crushed forearm. The human wailed, drumming their heels on the muddy pavement.

   “Tell us who gives them to you!” they snarled.

   “Please don’t kill me!” Another squeeze. “Fuck! Okay okay, it’s s-some guy named Joe Malizia, he’s muscling in on the west coast. Said it got too hot out east with the Avengers and shit running around. So his boys are carvin’ out a spot here, selling weird alien weapons. Shiiiit… My fuckin’ arm…” He gulped back his gorge, “They just text me when there is a new batch of shit goin’ out. They only sell the big shit personally, but they have us guys selling small weapons to get people interested. Please let me go? I told you everythin’ I know!”

   “Why would you try to shoot us, you idiot? We were letting you go. We can’t now.”

   Venom oozed over Eddie’s face.“Thank you, morsel.” Then their jaws split open impossibly wide and snapped over the man’s face, cutting off a last scream. The alien thrummed happily; they got brains after all! Then, because there was no rush, Venom treated themselves to select organs, plucked plush and warm and dripping from their cage of protecting bone. They were delectable. They smacked their jaws contentedly.

   Eddie hadn’t liked eating people in the beginning; it was awful and he had loudly protested at first, doing anything to avoid it, until Venom’s complaints drove them out to hunt.

   But.

   Here was something he would never speak aloud to another human. Not even Anne. Humans tasted fucking delicious. He hungered for the crunch of bone, the spurt of hot blood and sweet ooze of brain when they closed their jaws around someones head just as much as the alien did. He loved tumbling back through the window at home, belly heavy with meat and blood. Feeling full and satisfied, a luscious heaviness settling around their limbs as they digested their meal.

   Eating living prey was the closest thing to being aroused that symbiotes could experience on their own. They did not have culture. They reproduced asexually. The only time they tolerated each others presence was if it would get them food. They were a species driven to consume. So, hunting and then eating was the most enjoyable, pleasurable feeling in the world to them. This desire had bled through their bond just as Eddie’s own sexual desires and pleasures bled through to Venom.

   Once Venom ate as much as they wanted to, they turned from being hunched over the hollowed out corpse, licking a last swipe of blood off their chin, and opened the backpack. Inside was a jumble of strange devices. Gleaming silver, matte black and a discomfiting oily greenish looking one.

   What kind of moron just chucks a bunch of alien weapons in a fucking backpack?

   They pawed through carefully. They looked like some smaller guns and maybe even grenades?! Venom lifted one up, bringing it before their opalescent eyes, which narrowed suspiciously.

   “This is Chitauri. Have seen this design before, but some of these others have been modified with Earth technology.” The symbiote picked up a small greenish sphere. “This is Kree. Don’t think they know how dangerous these are, Eddie. Could take out half a block with this one.”

   Well, what do we do with these? We can’t leave them here.

   “Take them with us? Be safe in our apartment.”

   Eddie sighed, Babe, I don’t think that’s a great idea. Our apartment has shit locks. The last thing I want is someone breaking in looking for something they can hock for crack and finding superpowered alien weapons.

   “We will hide them well then. If anyone breaks in, we will eat their brains!”

   That’s your answer to every problem.

   “Works well, doesn’t it? If we eat our problems then we are full and have no more problems.”

   Eddie wasn’t a fan of the idea, but leaving the bag of weapons here was worse. They rolled the corpse into the water. Eddie made sure to grab the phone from their meal’s shredded pocket. It turned out to need a password, but evidence was evidence. He turned it off. Then they slung the bag over one shoulder, Venom sinking back into his skin, and started the long walk back to their shitty apartment. It was getting very early out.

 

   Eddie had always been a night owl, which had sucked when he had to film his show early in the morning, but he had managed. Anne had helped keep him on some kind of human schedule, waking him up in the morning with a cup of coffee and a kiss or a gentle thump from a pillow when she was feeling playful. Six months unemployed had shot that to shit. Now, bonded to Venom, his routine was possibly worse than it had ever been. They would go out patrolling a couple nights a week, never getting back home before two. Then Eddie would have a story coming due and he’d stay awake, fueled by coffee and the need to keep banging out words, until he finished it and then crash for twelve hours. Perhaps later on he would have to get out there and walk the streets, searching for leads, conducting interviews for a new story and he would have to start getting up with normal humans again. He would swear he was going to have a set bed time and get up with his alarm and then three days in, exhausted, Venom would carefully turn the alarm off so Eddie could sleep in. Venom did not like it when Eddie was sleep deprived. His brain filled up with bad tasting chemicals and he got irrational. Well. More irrational. Eddie wasn’t always blessed with the most solid logic. That was why he had been driven out of New York and why he had lost Anne. That was why Eddie had been in more fights than he had fingers and why, before the symbiote came along, one of his knees had clicked and ached when it was cold. He tried so hard though. That selflessness had been one of the things that had attracted Venom.

   They walked all the way back to the apartment. The drizzle had stopped and the mist left only ragged shreds around the tops of the high rises that the damp, ocean-scented wind dragged away. The sky was a pinkish, pearly grey. Eddie thought best when he was moving and his head was humming with thoughts. Venom let Eddie be silent. They didn’t want to interrupt when he was clearly shaping something up in his head. Venom liked it when Eddie was like this, electricity crackling in his brain. Eddie was good at this. Besides, the symbiote was well-fed and happy to stay twined around Eddie’s innards.

   Back in their home, they emptied out the bottom of Eddie’s closet, tucking the backpack filled with ordnance into the bottom and then heaping shit on top. Perfectly camouflaged. Yep. Just looked like an ordinary closet filled with stray clothes and shoes. It totally didn’t have enough weaponry to level half the Castro. Riiiight.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

   They woke well after noon the next day, Eddie sprawled on his back, black strands from the symbiote twisting over his body. Some were twined round his fingers, like they were holding hands. His other hand was on the broad expanse of his chest, slowly rubbing a pool of ink.

   Good morning Eddie. Venom crooned.

   “Morning babe. Sleep well?”

   You know that I do not sleep.

   It was true. The symbiote didn’t sleep. Venom amused themselves when they got bored by watching television on Eddie’s phone or laptop, or by drifting within the vast network of Eddie’s blood vessels. When they were very tired, Venom sank into a lower level of consciousness, but it was still high enough that they were aware of what was going on around them. After the rocket had blown up, Venom had been completely silent for nearly a week, resting and healing, the closest they really got to sleep, resting passively in Eddie’s abdomen, absorbing nutrients and re-growing.

   “Yeah yeah. It’s just an expression. Did you watch anything good while I was sleeping?”

   Venom manifested a head from the pool on Eddie’s chest. Eddie kept his hand on top of the shiny dome. Opalescent eyes stared at the human over a toothy maw. Eddie kissed Venom’s forehead.

   “I watched four episodes of The Great British Bake Off and then a nature documentary about Australia. Very dangerous place, Eddie.”

   He laughed. “You got that right, V.” He stretched, every muscle in delicious tension, before relaxing again into sweet bonelessness. “I think I have some ideas. It’s going to take a stop at a thrift store though.”

   “What are we doing, Eddie?”

   “We need a disguise for when we hit the streets. We can’t let people sell this shit. Someone’s going to get hurt. It’s going to be dangerous, though. You ready for some danger, babe?”

   “We laugh in the face of danger. We are always ready.”

   “Well, that’s good.”

   “Ha ha ha.” Venom intoned solemnly. Eddie laughed and dragged his other in for a kiss.

 

   Eddie and Venom relaxed on the couch a couple days later, watching the news. Eddie had done a bit of preliminary research to see if he could make a shape to the whole crime family moving in and selling weird weapons whilst simultaneously wiping out other gangs thing. He didn’t normally go after purely criminal stories. His forte was corporate and governmental crime, with a dash of other white-collar-not-really-a-crime-but-really-shitty-and-kind-of-hinky-sorts-of-things. He was starting to figure out what had happened now. The Malizia crime family had been on the East Coast, especially in New York, New Jersey and fuckin’ Delaware of all places for a while. They weren’t really in the Mafia, but were associated with them. They were up to the usual bullshit; weapons smuggling, drugs, robbery and some human trafficking to spice things up. Eventually everything he could find on the East Coast kinda dried up. It was indeed too hot for the smaller to mid-ranged sizes of criminal groups with all those super heroes running around. Then, starting around a year ago, they’d started up here in San Francisco. At least, that was what he assumed from what he could glean from the news. They’d be dug in like a tick now. Eddie would need to get deeper; to turn hunches and assumptions into nice solid facts he could lay out in front of his editor.

   Venom didn’t have a head manifested, but had small tendrils out, playing with Eddie’s numerous bracelets. Eddie shoveled handfuls of buttery popcorn in his mouth. Even though the news sucked and was biased, the journalist in Eddie needed to watch. He could get an idea on the shape of stories by how they were presented or if he needed to go in and write his own take on something. Also he liked to make sure they weren’t being featured on the news. The Demon of San Francisco, as Venom had been dubbed, was still mostly rumour and the stuff of urban myths. There was some shitty, far away footage of them from the night of the car chase, back when they had just bonded and some mostly equally shitty footage of them attacking some dipshit who thought it was a great idea to rob a small family-run take out joint that Eddie liked. There were a few other shots here and there but they were shadowy and indistinct. Even though everybody carried a camera now days, Venom was fast enough that they were generally long gone or better hidden by the time the camera app was opened. Being pure black helped too.

   His phone chimed merrily. It was the alarm he’d set for the dryer. Time to don a disguise.

  

   Their thrift shop purchases smelled much better now. In a pinch, Eddie was gross enough to actually wear something bought right from a thrift store, but he did prefer not to. He’d done it a couple times when he was tailing someone and he’d been spotted. The quick change of clothes had not only kept him from a beating, but it had let him actually get the data he needed. The clothes were a pair of striped red track pants, a white t-shirt and a worn Metal Mulisha hoody in black. He chucked everything in a black garbage bag and grabbed a cigarette he’d bummed off of someone. Carrying everything over to the window, he opened it, letting in cool, humid air. Then he lit up the cigarette and took a draw. Venom, who had been sitting quietly in that waiting predator way, panicked. His lungs contracted spasmodically in a violent coughing fit. Eddie gagged and wheezed, tears springing from his eyes and saliva and mucus from his mouth.

   Eddie! Venom bellowed in his head, What the fuck are you doing?! POISON!

   “Holy shit V!” Eddie yelled back between hacks, “It’s for our fucking disguise, you asshole!” The cigarette had landed on the floor, scorching a circle into the wood. He picked it up. “I don’t fucking smoke anymore, V! Calm down.”

   Is this why our lungs were damaged when we first bonded?

   “Fuck if I know. Probably?” Eddie didn’t remember how long it took for your lungs to heal after you quit smoking. He’d smoked a bit in his twenties, but eventually quit.

   Nasty poison. Don’t understand why your species likes putting poisons into yourselves.

   “For shits and giggles. Just trust me, babe.” He took another drag off the cigarette and exhaled into the bag, pinching the top shut. Once he finished the cigarette, he stubbed out the butt on the bricks outside the window and tossed it into the alley. His head buzzed a bit from the nicotine. Eddie could feel Venom’s irate tension as they shifted in his body.

   Once he decided the clothes had marinated in cigarette smoke long enough, he opened the bag outside the window, shaking out the clothes.

   “There. We have one disguise ready to go.”

   Smells bad, Eddie. Why? We just cleaned them.

   “We’re supposed to look kind of grungy and sketchy. Sometimes the subtle things can make or break your cover.”

   He stripped off his bracelets and watch, instead putting on a thick silvery necklace also from the thrift store. It probably had lead in it and was guaranteed to make your skin start itching within a few hours of putting it on. A beat-up baseball hat, sunglasses and burner phone completed the outfit. Eddie had even shaved off his scruff. He dropped a pebble in one worn basketball shoe. He looked seedy and like he might beat you up and rob you. Eddie slouched, relaxing his stomach so he looked softer than he was. He practiced walking around the apartment for a few minutes, settling into the character.

   Eddie, why is there a rock in our shoe? It is uncomfortable.

   “That’s the point, love. It gives us a bit of a limp. We’re trying to make a character.” He frowned. “We’re too muscular. Can you flow around my middle and make it look like a belly?”

   Yes, Eddie.

   Being with Venom had been good for Eddie Brock. Once the dust had settled from the whole Life Foundation crap, the two had settled into a routine. Anne and Dan had said that the alien was the best thing that could have happened to him, head munching aside. Eddie didn’t always eat a lot better now, but he ate regularly and he tried to eat what Dan had told him to; lots of protein and vegetables. He tried to follow the doctor’s diet advice when he could, in addition to lots of potatoes since Venom liked them. It was a good compromise since the symbiote didn’t love salad. They also didn’t love dead meat either, but Eddie steadfastly refused to eat live seafood again. Eddie had to explain that he wasn’t scavenging by eating pre-killed meat; it was just the way humans did things. Venom had conceded that some of the things humans did with meat was pretty tasty too, so they would allow Eddie to keep eating it, as long as they got to eat some bad guys once in a while.

   Venom, along with Anne and Dan, had brought him out of his depression too. It helped having some one else to live for, so now he actually kind of kept the apartment clean and had started working out again.

   Which was another thing. Eddie knew he ran hotter than he used to and had to eat, like, way more than he had before to keep both of them happy. But another side effect of the symbiote was that as long as he ate enough he could bulk up like it was his job. He supposed it was the whole healing thing; he’d go lift for an hour or so, hobble to the showers and by the time he was getting on his motorcycle, the noodle legs were gone. They would go home and stuff themselves on potatoes, chocolate and whatever meat was on sale or go out for bad guys and then pass out for the night. No soreness the next day either. So now Eddie was quite a bit more cut than he’d been since his early twenties. A couple times the regulars had sidled up to them in the change room to ask where he got his gym candy from and if he would, pretty please, supply them too? The first time Eddie had stared blankly at them, the second time he had tried explaining he wasn’t taking steroids. That he just had a crazy metabolism and spewed some crap about a special work out program and diet. They hadn’t bought it and mostly ignored him after. Though they would give him dirty looks and mutter to themselves.

   Disguise tweaked to satisfaction, Eddie and Venom descended the stairs to the streets.

 

   It was shading to evening by the time they reached Sunnydale. Eddie had taken a winding route to get there, to confuse anyone who might be tailing them.

   Eddie. We would know if someone was following us.

   “You can’t be too cautious, babe.” he muttered, glancing around as they crossed the street. “You’ve seen my scars. The one on my side was because I wasn’t being careful working on a story early in my career. Some chucklehead stabbed me after they followed me back to my apartment.”

   Venom groused. This part of Eddie’s job was usually boring. They weren’t allowed out and soon Eddie would tell the symbiote not to talk unless it was important. Venom spoke to their host by directly stimulating his auditory nerve so their booming voice tended to drown out any other sounds.

   Eddie’s foot was getting sore from the rock in the bottom, so they eased the bruise every once in a while. It was something to do, sending tendrils tenderly worming through his flesh, repairing broken capillaries, mopping up oozing blood. Eddie was a whole universe at this scale, marvellous and infinite. Venom drifted in Eddie as their host and lover beat the streets in his disguise. They would perk up a bit when he would talk to someone. The thudding of his heart propelled the alien through his veins and arteries.

   There had been so much to learn in those early days. Humans were complicated. The symbiote had been terrified to damage Eddie. They wouldn’t jump hosts if something went wrong. Eddie was a perfect match and perfect in every way. Venom could regenerate from quite a small amount of matter, given enough food and time. Humans had dozens, hundreds of different cell types! They made so many different chemicals, many of them tasty, some of them essential nutrients for Venom.

   Venom had tried tweaking them to achieve desired effects a few times. This had resulted in a few wild mood swings, Eddie passing out, some short term memory loss and manic episodes. After Eddie’s precious heart had nearly exploded after the symbiote had flooded him with too much adrenaline Eddie had banned Venom from playing around with the bag of water, electrical impulses and chemicals humans called a brain.

   Eddie’s heartbeat quickened. Guiltily, Venom dragged their awareness up. They should have been paying more attention, instead of relaxing. What kind of partner daydreamed when their other half was getting into trouble?

   Venom watched through the human’s eyes. If Eddie hadn’t been wearing sunglasses someone could have noticed the swirl of symbiote across his irises. They had only lapsed attention for a few minutes this time.

   Why has your heartbeat increased? Venom asked, trying to be quiet and failing spectacularly.

   Eddie replied, even quieter than usual, barely moving his mouth, “Someone I know. Used them as a source on other stories. Didn’t want to be recognized. He didn’t see me though. I think we’re done here for today. If he’s hanging around here right now I don’t want to take the chance.”

   They limped away, closer to Visitacion Valley to catch a series of buses to get them home.

 

   Eddie banged open the apartment door, flinging first one, than the other basketball shoe off. They hit the far wall with a thud and left a black streak on the paint. He stripped off the hoody and t-shirt before he even shut the door.

   Venom closed it with a tentacle from Eddie’s back. “God it feels good to get out of those clothes.” he said, shoving the track pants off. “Now I’ve put some feelers out there. We can give it a day or two and see if anyone will point us in the direction of another weapons seller. No idea how long this will take. Could be quick or we might need to go out for the next couple months until we build enough rapport with the local scumbags. Means no snacking on them until then. We’ll definitely have to go out of town. I also gotta start doing more research. See if I still have contacts with the cops who will talk to us.” Eddie stretched, spine crunching, “Also gotta see what else I can dig up about this Joe Malizia. There’s gotta be more. God, there’s a lot to do…” He rubbed his face. “What do you want to eat, V? I can feel that we’re hungry. How about Thai?”

   He walked into the bedroom and opened the dresser to get a pair of pajama pants. He tried to grab a pair when his muscles stopped responding.

   Would rather snack on you, Eddie. Venom purred, puppeting their shared body towards the bed.

   Eddie grinned lopsidedly, then grunted as Venom pushed him over with a tentacle. “Horny alien. Am I much of a snack?” he asked.

   Oh yes, Eddie.

   Venom manifested a head, grinning wickedly. They licked a path up Eddie’s face. He took the alien’s face in his hands for a deep kiss, Venom’s long tongue curling around his much shorter one. It swept across the roof of his mouth and then thrust down his throat, once, twice, three times, before retracting. More tendrils emerged, caressing his body, tracing tattoos and old scars. Eddie shivered, goosebumps prickling, body responding. A tendril tweaked his nipple, making him gasp and his cock twitch. It wrapped around the tender pink flesh, eliciting a moan from the human as it tightened to near painful levels, tugging and twisting.

   Oh.

   He liked being manhandled. More of Venom’s black substance dragged his boxer briefs down, dropping them over the side of the bed. They retracted, but only to instead twine around his rapidly stiffening cock.

   “Oh my god, Venom.” Eddie breathed, muscled legs splaying open a little. The tendrils widened, one moved to toy with his balls, tenderly moving the sensitive orbs around. The symbiote moved their head lower, biting at the thick meat of Eddie’s shoulder muscle. Eddie hissed. Those long teeth drew a drop or two of blood that the thick, muscular tongue swiped up.

   “Delicious Eddie. You will be a most agreeable snack.”

   “Oh, well that’s good.” he said with a smirk.

   Venom seemed to be in a mood to be tender, which was different than usual. Eddie was definitely a sub. He’d had a girlfriend or two in college that hadn’t really been into that and a few after, men and women both. They’d liked that he worshiped them, but they hadn’t been able to dominate him like he craved. They were too passive. He didn’t like always having to take the lead. He loved being bossed around and punished. He liked knowing his place, though he couldn’t help but test those boundaries.

   Anne had been his first partner that could dominate him and had enjoyed dominating him, leading him around like a pup with her tie, bringing herself to bliss on his body, fucking him in the ass with a strap-on when she thought he had been very, very good or very, very bad. She had been nearly perfect, until he fucked up that relationship too.

   Venom though… Venom saw through his self-destructive bullshit. The alien loved Eddie unconditionally. The depth of their love was a little terrifying. They loved all of him, even the flaws other people had tried to fix. They knew exactly what he needed. Venom had the urge to dominate. It was part of them. They were all ego and confidence and hated taking no for an answer. Venom loved giving Eddie all he wanted and then making him take more. Sex with Venom was usually rough and left him absolutely wrecked. It was perfect. Eddie never had to worry that Venom would go too far; they knew his limits perhaps better than he did. Eddie could succumb to whatever filthy fantasy he wanted without fear; Venom would take care of him and heal him back up. Eddie could take whatever his other threw at him. They were always there for each other.

   The alien spent their time at his throat, occasionally dipping down to one nipple or the other, licking and caressing and nipping, nuzzling the pulse there. The touch at his groin remained maddeningly light. “Babe,” he whined, “C’mon, you gonna spend all day up there?”

   “Maybe.”

   “But I need you, love. I need you to make me feel good.” he crooned throatily.

   Venom chuckled, voice sounding rich and sinful in his head, but made no move away from his throat.

   Eddie decided to take matters into his own hands. But no sooner had he taken himself in hand than it was snatched away and pinned up above his head. This was more usual. He gave a shit-eating grin to Venom, who stared back, eyes narrowing.

   The long tongue wrapped itself around his neck, constricting lightly. He gasped as breathing became difficult. He felt a thrum of pleasure jolt down his spine, straight to his cock.

   Can’t trust us? Too impatient, Eddie? Very well.

   “Can’t-Oof!-Can’t help it, babe. You got me all hot and bothered.”

   His other arm was pinned up against the wall by inky tendrils. Venom retracted their tongue and moved downwards. Eddie’s plush lips parted, watching as his other splayed his legs up and apart, bent at the knee. Then those were secured. Eddie was on display, exposed and so vulnerable. His heavy cock bobbed against his belly, flushed rosy red, achingly hard. Venom was struck with the urge to kiss those lips again, so they did. Rougher this time, a gnashing of tooth and tongue. They pulled away. Those delicious lips were swollen now, a drop of blood sitting on the lower left one like a ruby. Eddie licked his lips and then sucked them when he tasted the blood. His pupils were blown. He tested his restraints. No give, of course. Just the way he liked. He could strain against them all he wanted.

   “Look at you Eddie. Perfect and ready, laid out like the eager whore you are.” the alien rumbled, pale eyes looking into Eddie’s own blue green ones. A thick tentacle, almost shaped like a hand, touched his red lips, then slid down his chest and the slight softness of his belly before it retracted back in and Venom’s head dipped down to Eddie’s groin.

   The tongue, warm as blood and slightly rough, slicked by saliva, wrapped around Eddie’s cock and and gently drew it into Venom’s mouth, past the nightmare rows of teeth. His head fell back with a moan as perfect sensation rolled over him. He relaxed as Venom rubbed and licked and squeezed his cock. It was so good, so perfect. His other’s tongue was long enough to wrap around his balls too and lap at his sensitive rim. Heat and congestion built quickly in his lower stomach and his breathing sped. Sweat gleamed over his upper lip and chest.

   “Oh my god that feels amazing…” he moaned. “You’re amazing, V.”

   Venom flicked the tip of their tongue over Eddie’s slit, lapping up precum.

   Eddie groaned loudly. “Oh shit yeah… Oh my god…”

   Eddie. Venom said, Who is this ‘god’ you speak of? The only name I want to hear on your sweet lips is mine.

The alien had a wicked tone in their voice that made Eddie tremble.

   “Yeah, V, sorry V please don’t stop I’m so close… Fuuuuck…” he panted, desperate and needy. The swirling tongue concentrated its attention on the head of his cock, dancing over his frenulum and slit. Eddie arched his back. So close. Almost there… Yeeeessss… He came with a long, shuddering moan.

   Venom shivered too; their form losing some of its cohesion as the orgasm rippled through their connection to Eddie. They loved orgasms. The pleasure that rippled between them, the explosion of delicious chemicals in Eddie’s brain. It was sweet as blood.

   “Thank you, thank you, babe, Venom, my darling…” Eddie babbled as Venom pulled the cum from his cock with long strokes. He could feels the echoes of his own orgasm pulsing back through his connection to Venom. They struck like heat lightning.

   You were very impatient earlier…

   “Sorry, ah! Sorry babe…”

   The tongue had not stopped its rhythmic writhing. Think you need punishment for that. Venom tightened the tendrils securing their host. A thin tentacle wrapped around the base of his cock to keep the blood in the swollen organ. They grinned up at Eddie, eyes turning into wicked crescent moons.

   “Oh my god… V… Stop. I’m getting too sensitive.”

   Eddie. Told you my name is the only one you can use. The symbiote tightened their tongue in response, concentrating more attention on the head of Eddie’s cock.

   The human groaned and gasped, shuddering. The pleasure was turning from sweet to exquisite agony. It was so good. His body fought instinctively, but in his mind he loved Venom taking advantage of him. He writhed and thrashed, clenching his teeth, struggling not to scream. Eddie’s muscles bulged as he fought against the restraints, trying to get away from the grinning monster laving his cock. It was fire in his raw nerve endings…

   “Please Venom, please, stop please please please…” he begged.

   Not done with you yet, sweet Eddie. Like you like this. Venom took a particularly long time drawing their coiled tongue up his cock, milking another rip of unbearable sensation out. So sweet when you are begging. Such delicious chemicals in our brain. Could do this all night.

   “Too much. Too much!” he wailed, thrashing against his restraints. Eddie finally tipped over some precipice and threw his head back with a shuddering scream, hips bucking against his lover’s face, unable to hold his cries back any longer. The neighbors were going to complain again. Venom did not care and Eddie was in no state to say anything. He was flushed pink with exertion now, sweat gleaming along the curves and planes of his muscles.

   The symbiote wanted to throw their head back and roar too; they felt the pleasure nearly as strongly. Their inky substance quivered and quaked with the shocks of sensation. But no. They wanted to keep going, they had to keep going. To stop was unthinkable when they were so close. Their precious Eddie was so delicious, so succulent with want, wracked by over stimulation. Venom snaked a thick tendril into Eddie’s mouth. His soft lips wrapped around it, sucking desperately. It lengthened, fucking into his throat as that glorious, terrible tongue continued its ministrations. It felt so good. Despite all better judgement, Eddie spread his legs wider, tendons aching, trying to drive his cock into Venom’s mouth. He was on another cliff edge, held on its brink.

   Eddie sobbed and drooled around the tendril as he finally came again, a ragged, muffled cry ripping from his throat. Cum spurted over his belly. His second orgasm convulsed through him. This time Venom did lose cohesion, pooling over his groin and legs. The tentacle in his mouth sank through his skin with the tell-tale tingling sensation. He gasped, shaking with the after shocks that flowed between him and his lover. Dazed, Venom dragged themself further up Eddie, covering him like a blanket.

   When he could speak again, Eddie panted, “Thank you babe… That was so good…”

   Love you Eddie. You were perfect. Eddie thought the symbiote sounded a little drunk, intoxicated by endorphins and neurotransmitters.

   He laughed a little, “Every time you do that I feel like I’m gonna fuckin’ die. Just melt, like you, right into the bed, or maybe explode.” His fist made a bursting motion, before he let it drop onto his chest. He caressed Venom’s substance. They felt almost like silly putty, but a little smoother and always warm as blood. They felt so good draped over his pleasure-wrecked body. Without their comforting weight, he might float away. Venom kept him grounded, soothing his raw nerve endings. The little hurts from Venom’s teeth and the bruises on his wrists and legs eased and vanished as they healed him. Sometimes they let Eddie keep the marks to remind him of what they did to him, but not today.

   Never going to let you die, Eddie. You are mine.

   Venom pulled themself together some more, stroking Eddie, smoothing away the sweat and tears and drool and cum. They touched him, as if reminding themself that he was still there and more importantly, still theirs.

   You look so good when we have you like that. Right on the edge. Maybe we should see how many times we can orgasm.

   “Oh fuck, V. Don’t know how many times we can do that. I’ll pass out again.”

   Could be a fun challenge. Bet we can make you cum five times in a row.

   “No way, V. Human men can’t do that. We have a refractory period.”

   Bet we could. Besides, you are not entirely human anymore.

   Eddie groaned, putting an arm over his eyes. “Let’s discuss this later. Right now I need to pass the fuck out.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 3

 

   The next morning Eddie was parked in front of his laptop, cup of coffee in hand, crumbs from a fried egg sandwich dusting his front. He took a slug of cooling coffee and stretched his spine. “I’ve gotta make some calls. Where’s the phone, love?”

   Venom manifested a tentacle and snaked it over to the couch, reaching under the blanket. Here Eddie.

   “Thanks.”

   You are welcome.

   He opened up his contacts, scrolling through until he reached his editor’s number. He selected it and while the phone rang he idly swiped his finger through the crumbs left on the plate, licking them off.

   “Hello?”

   “Hey Nancy! How’re you doing?” Nancy was an older lady, generally very nice, the sort that had a dish of candy on her desk, the sort that brought in plates of home-baked desserts in at holidays. However, if someone crossed her or hers, she made starving badgers look cuddly. Eddie had personally seen her take strips off someone that had spoken a little too cruelly with one of her writers. It was quite a show.

   “Oh goodness, I’m doing well enough, but I might need to give a talking to, to that fellow from IT. He’s been putting off fixing one of my girl’s computers again. Been giving us the runaround like I don’t understand what’s wrong. I could fix it, but that’s his job, not mine.” A steel note crept into her voice. “But how are you doing Eddie?”

   “I might be on to something big. I’m not sure how long it will take, but it’s going to be my primary focus for the time being.” Venom twisted around his fingers. Eddie trapped the phone between his shoulder and ear, slouching back and squishing his lover between his fingers like a stress ball. Venom hummed, relaxed and happy with the absent-minded massage.

   “Will you be able to finish that fluff piece on the film festival first?”

   “Already done, Nancy. I sent it a few minutes ago. Should be in your inbox by now.”

   “Oh! So it is. Thank you Eddie. Will you be alright though?”

   He stretched Venom out like a cat’s cradle. “Oh yeah. I’ve got a couple finished articles you might like that I can send you. A few more that are started too. Got some savings too if this takes longer than expected.”

   “Okay Eddie. Have a good day then. I’m excited to hear what your story is about when you get it where you want it.”

  “You have a good day too, Nancy. Bye.”

   Eddie really did have some savings. The lawsuit payout from the Life Foundation crap had been pretty good. He’d fixed up their apartment and bought himself a new bike. His poor old Scrambler’s alignment had been so badly damaged by Treece’s stupid SUV there was no way to fix it. He’d splurged and bought a brand new one. Both he and Venom loved its frankly ridiculous power and getting another bike would have felt like a downgrade. He could have lived comfortably in San Francisco for a few years on the lawsuit money. But, in a sudden fit of common sense, Eddie had put pretty much all of it away in savings and even a few investments that he could not touch.

   Well, Annie had encouraged him to. She and Dan had been a huge help over the last few months. They kept him grounded and made sure he got some actual human company once in a while. He missed them. They generally had a weekly dinner thing together, but Anne and Dan were away on their first big vacation together in Switzerland, skiing the Alps. They’d promised to bring back chocolate for Eddie and Venom.

   He kept some money more accessible for emergencies, but otherwise lived off what he earned from writing and occasionally what he lifted from the pockets of their meals. He kinda felt bad once in a while, but then the crooks would do something really awful like hey, look, this bigger drug dealer had been selling fentanyl-laced molly to tourists and college students... He had six hundred bucks in his pocket… He was certainly not going to miss it... Eddie and Venom had to live fairly frugally, but they had pretty much all they needed. Whatever extra they had they would distribute to a bunch of the homeless in the area.

 

   Eddie scrolled further through his phone contacts and hesitated a moment. Lieutenant Isaac Kwan. Eddie had a somewhat complicated relationship with police. They both put their lives on the line to protect people and they targeted minorities with unnecessary force. He and Venom tended to avoid them since he really didn’t want to hurt a fucking cop; despite the little feuds that went on between individuals in the force, if one of their own was hurt by an outsider they’d turn on them with extreme prejudice.

   They had met when Eddie had been investigating a slum lord who turned out to have murdered a few of the senior residents and was collecting their social security cheques. He’d realized he was over his head and contacted the police.

   Kwan had been just a beat cop then and they had gone out and gotten drunk together after that nasty business. They’d had a good working relationship back in the days of the Brock Report. Eddie would go to him if he turned up something bad or if he needed advice or sometimes more information; Isaac was good like that. He didn’t automatically shut down around journalists like some cops did. He’d smooth things over when Eddie inevitably stepped on some toes. Well, when Eddie tap-danced on toes just to see what would happen. They had a fairly similar code of ethics, but approached enforcing it differently. They weren’t exactly friends, but they definitely weren’t enemies.

   But… Eddie hadn’t heard from him in over a year now. Venom oozed out over his shoulders like a warm shawl, squeezing, feeling his twinge of anxiety. Fuck it. He pressed the button.

   “Eddie Brock?” answered Isaac Kwan after a couple rings.

   “Hello Isaac. What’s new?”

   “What’s new? Jesus. I haven’t heard from you in forever. Uh, me and Jocelyn are going to have a baby?” His voice was slightly baffled and wary.

   “Congrats man! That’s awesome!”

   “Yeah. Why are you calling, Brock? I thought you were out of the whole journalism thing?”

   “What? I can’t call an old buddy from back in the day?” He sighed. “I’m back in, but just doing the written word now. Bunch of freelance, plus working with one of the local news websites.”

   “Well, I’m glad you were able to get back in after the whole Life Foundation thing.”

   Life Foundation thing. He suppressed a rueful snort of laughter. Everyone called him imploding his career and relationship that. It wasn’t one thing. It was six months of nonsense that culminated in an exploding rocket and still managed to limp along for a couple months afterwards before finally expiring. It really had only finally wrapped up a few weeks ago.

   “Listen, man. This new story we-I’ve been working on… It’s a little out of my normal speciality and I’ve uncovered some shit.”

 Careful Eddie.

   He heard a rustling, like the police officer had perked up from slouching. “What did you find, Eddie?”

   “Okay, so I’ll share what information I can, but in return I want to be able to go through police files and once the whole thing is done I’m still gonna publish. I don’t want any suppression.”

   “Well, that’s what we normally do. What is it?”

   Eddie took a breath. “I found someone selling weapons on the street. Not normal ones. Shit from out on the East Coast. Space guns, I guess. So far what I’ve found is a gang from there decided there were too many super-heroes so they up and moved down here. They have a stash of weapons they’ve been both selling and using on the other gangs.”

   And us. Venom chimed in helpfully. Hurt us.

   Eddie flapped his hand in the air for silence like Venom was actually in front of him and not twisting slowly around his body.

   “Jesus. Well, that explains some stuff we’ve seen. We know about an upset in the organized crime world, but we haven’t made a lot of in roads yet.”

   “I’ve been working on that. Shouldn’t be too long.”

   “Do you have any proof?”

   Eddie scratched his head, leaning back a little. “Yeah. But I’m working on better proof cuz right now what I got doesn’t point shit to the Malizias.”

   “Well, once you have that bring it in.” Isaac sighed heavily. “I was hoping all that crap would stay on the other side of the country. First the Demon of San Francisco, now gangs with space guns…”

   Eddie and Venom tensed a little. Awkward…

   “You got anything on that, Eddie? We have some people sort of on it, but not like an official team yet.”

   “Uh… No. Isn’t it just an, uh, urban legend?”

   Smooth Eddie.

   “Really, Brock? I figured you’d be all over that?”

   He shifted uncomfortably, drumming his fingertips on the table. “Not really? I had to, you know, get my career back on track… Deal with the lawsuit an’ all that… I had a lot of shit to sort out.” he said finally. He winced; even he could hear the slightly evasive tone in his voice.

   “I think you know more than you’re letting on, Eddie… But I get it. You want to keep it to yourself until you can get the story out.”

   “Uh…” he started to say until Venom prodded him in the ribs with a tentacle. He grunted.

   Isaac continued, “Gonna be honest with you. A bunch of the force isn’t even trying very hard to find out what the heck this Demon is. Makes their job easier, with criminals disappearing or being too scared to come out. Well. Disappearing. I’m sure you’ve heard what the Demon is doing to them?”

   “...Yes?”

   “Gruesome. Well, just remember if you do know more than you’re letting on that people are dying. Some really nasty folk, but they’re still dying. I’m trying to get the upper brass to move their well-padded butts on that monster. I want them to put together a full task force and track it down. I hope someone gets their butts in gear soon.”

   Never gonna happen.

   “Whatever it really is, it’s going to get messy, so I almost hope they actually send in the Feds for once, but I’ll join up if they need me to. We don’t even know how many people have died yet. It’s bloody disgraceful. It disgusts me that…” He cleared his throat, stopping his rant, “The chief is waving at me. Bring me what you have when you get it and I’ll see what else we can do for you.”

   “Will do, Isaac. Say hi to Jocelyn for me. Bye.”

   He hung up and put his phone down on the table with a clack and a sigh. “Well babe… That was only slightly shitty. It’s done for now. What do you want to do?”

   Want chocolate, then we need to finish watching The Good Place. Need to get caught up before Dan spoils another twist.

   “Of course we can do that. How about hot chocolate?”

   With extra marshmallows.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 4

 

   Eddie and Venom puttered around for the next few days. Eddie worked on another new article for a while about the problems with relying on other countries for recycling. They watched a lot of TV and went out in Eddie’s sketchy guy disguise twice too. Venom seemed a little doubtful about the disguise working. They would rather hunt down bad guys and shake them until they told them what they wanted. Human laws could be so complicated; needing evidence and proof to back up things. Venom didn’t complain more because Eddie’s way of investigating things made it so they could find more people to eat, which the symbiote was always a fan of. Really, anything that meant they got to eat brains made them happy.

   Finally, Eddie’s character and street work seemed to pay off. The burner phone rang. Venom twitched in irritation. The ringer was grating.

   “Fuck! Where did I leave it?!” Eddie yelped, flying off the couch.

   Here, Eddie. A tentacle shot out and snagged the phone from underneath a pizza box. The good thing about those cheap flip phones was how long their battery lasted. It hadn’t been plugged in in three days and still had plenty of charge.

   Eddie cleared his throat, rolled his shoulders and answered, “…Hello?” He dropped a bit of suspicion into his voice.

   “Heard you were looking for a piece?” said a male voice.

   “Yeah man. Not the regular kind neither.” Eddie replied.

   “We got you, man.”

   “Cuz the trouble I need fixed can’t be done with a regular piece, got it? You guys better be the real deal.”

   “Relax. We ain’t in this tryin’ to screw our customers. All you gotta do is pay up.” he replied with a tinge of annoyance.

   “I’m good for it.” Eddie retorted.

   “Meet the seller in Mclaren Park, by the Overlook Tower at 1 AM tonight. Bring lots of money and come alone.”

   “I’ll be there.”

   The man hung up.

 

   Venom prowled through the trees of Mclaren Park. They had eaten a few people in here before. There were often questionable things going on in this park in the small hours of the morning. It wasn’t yet 1 AM, but Eddie wanted to have them check out the area first to make sure that it wasn’t a trap. Venom was happy to oblige. They blended in well in the shadows beneath the trees and their feet made no sound on the damp earth. Much of the park was open grassland, so they moved from cover to cover like a wraith. They found a couple fucking each other behind the tennis courts, but both parties seemed into it so they didn’t even let their presence be known. There were a few other people here and there in the dark, mostly homeless so again they did nothing.

   Around 12:30, three people did wander down Mansell Street. The air in their wake tasted of metal, cigarettes and cheap cologne. They watched as the one in the middle, a woman, with the backpack, headed up to the overlook. The other two waited in the shadows of the trees in flanking positions. They were back up in case something went wrong. If the gang was as well-organized as they seemed to be, a missing seller, even if they weren’t actually part of the gang, was cause for caution. It made sense that they would increase security.

 Venom passed not ten feet from one. He didn’t notice, eyes watching the street ahead, hand in his jacket, resting on a weapon. Humans had such terrible night vision. Getting a safe distance away, Venom sank back into Eddie’s skin, revealing him as his character. He started walking back towards the overlook, absently patting his pocket where a distressing amount of money sat. The sky was actually clear for once so the park was extra dark.

   After tripping a few times on rocks, Eddie hissed, “Hey V? Can you do anything about my night vision? I can’t see for shit without you.”

   Of course, Eddie.

   There was a brief stab of pain in both eyes and his vision clouded. Eddie gasped, palms going to his eyes, his teeth clenching. The pain passed as quickly as it started. He pulled his hands away, blinking. Much better. The landscape seemed lit from within now, silvery and in fine detail.

   Sorry about the pain. Didn’t know it would do that.

  “No worries, babe. Thanks. It’s way better now. What did you do?”

   His other shifted in his chest like a shrug. Humans can’t see at night. Fixed that.

   “Well, it’s amazing now.”

   They took a wide semi-circle around where the men were waiting. He could see them now, in their shadowy hiding spots. He approached from the street, well-lit by the street lights. Nice and easy. He pretended not to see the two men lurking in the trees on either side.

   “Switch on the recorder.” he breathed to Venom. He felt a stir of movement on his belly where the bulk of the symbiote was lying in facsimile of a gut.

   “Hello?’ Eddie called, making a show of squinting around the overlook. The woman stepped out into the open. She wore torn jeans and a windbreaker. She had a hard look around her eyes.

   “You’re looking for the merchandise?” she asked in a husky voice, like she subsisted on nothing but cheap whiskey and cigarettes.

   “Yeah.”

   “Come closer, nice and easy.”

   He obliged, not surprised when one of the men emerged to pat him down in front of her. He moved with the brisk thoroughness of a new TSA agent. He didn’t feel the recorder tucked into Venom’s mass on his stomach. Venom bristled internally at being touched by a stranger. He found the wad of money Eddie had withdrawn from his account in his hoody pocket. It was tucked back into the pocket after a brief riffle through.

   “I’m clean.” he protested.

   Her face twisted. “The bosses can’t be too careful you know. They sellin’ shit like no one else here.”

   “Yeah. That’s why I’m here. What do you got?”

   She plonked the backpack down and gestured him forwards. More gleaming alien metal was in the bag, but a different assortment.

   “What do they do?” he asked. “I don’t want one that’ll leave too much mess.”

   She pulled one out. It resembled a gun, but was all rounded shapes instead of hard edges, except for a blade on the end. It was a little longer than his forearm.

   “Modified Chitauri staff. It was shortened to make it easier to wield. Fires energy bolts.”

   She took out another. It looked like someone had welded two pistols together. “Blaster pistol. Fires energy bolts again, but has more stopping power. Slower rate of fire.” She recited the details like she was reading them off paper.

   “Vaporizer pistol. Does exactly what it says. Works best on organic material.”

   Another was pulled out. “Taser rod. Mostly non-lethal. Whoever gets hit with it is still gonna have a really bad day.”

   The last weapon was pulled from the bag. It had a two pronged end on it and glittered with small purple lights. “Probably won’t want this one. This one has two settings. A concussive blast or if you turn it up, it explodes people.”

   Eddie nodded, thinking it over. “Very nice, but what do I do if I run outta ammo or charge or whatever?”

   She rubbed her nose and sniffed. “We can provide additional ammo. The taser rod and Chitauri staff were modified so you can charge ‘em with USB. It takes a day.” She turned one over to show him. The white plastic looked incongruous against the oily silver metal. “It’s the price you pay for getting weapons no one else will have. These don’t care if you have a bullet proof vest on.”

   “I’ll take the vaporizer pistol. Rather have less clean up. Do I get a demonstration?”

   “No. It’ll be five grand.”

   Eddie winced internally, but dug into the money wad. The weapon and money changed hands. Eddie tucked it into his hoodie. “Where does your boss get this shit, anyways?”

   She glared. “None of your fucking business. Don’t make us take back the transaction because we will and you will not walk away from here.”

   He held up his hands, “Jesus fucking christ. It was just an honest question. I got no beef with your boss, uh, Joe Malizia or whatever. If this does the job, I’ll be back again.”

   She shrugged. “Your money spends as well as anyone elses to him.”

   He backed away towards the street. Once they were a few blocks away, Venom shut off the recorder. Eddie stepped into a handy alley and his other flowed out over him.

 

   Sitting on their couch, Eddie stared at the thing. “Vaporizer pistol. Fuck. Can’t believe we have this in our own house.” He hadn’t even changed out of the cigarette stinking clothes.

   Venom manifested a head from Eddie’s back, peering over his shoulder. “Don’t know where that is from. Haven’t seen it before.” 

   “Well, babe, I don’t like anything that vaporizes. How the hell are they hoping to accomplish anything out here selling shit like this? It’s the exact opposite of stealthy and way too easy for someone to buy.” He reached up to stroke along Venom’s jaw. They leaned into the touch. “Like, are they stupid?”

   He pushed the gun slightly further away with his toe and leaned back against the couch. “I was expecting to have to jump through hoops before we got to this stage. They’re just selling to anybody. Wonder what their game is? If they really are planning on taking over on the West Coast or not…” Eddie buried his face in his hands, rubbing his eyes. He was tired. “Maybe they just want to make a buck and move on again? Leave behind enough space weapons that whoever they bring in to take care of the problem will be so busy mopping up here that the Malizia’s can fuck off wherever?” He slid sideways so he was lying on the couch. “I need more information.” he mumbled.

   “Sleep, Eddie.” purred Venom.

   “Can’t. Stressed.”

   “Can. Have a nap.”

   “I gotta talk to Isaac.”

   "Isaac is probably sleeping. Talk later. Sleep, Eddie.” More of Venom’s mass flowed out over Eddie like a blanket. They curled tendrils soothingly through his hair.

   “Mmm… Feels nice, love…” Eddie groaned softly.

   “You are all stressed. Taste bad. We have you, Eddie.” They started stroking his back too. Endorphins seeped out of his brain. Venom whispered quiet nonsense into his ear about how much they loved Eddie and how perfect he was. Despite the churning in his gut, he slipped into sleep.

   Once they were sure their host was deeply asleep, the symbiote reached out and grabbed Eddie’s phone. They unlocked it and opened his contacts, skimming through until they saw the name ‘Isaac Kwan’. Venom started a new message. ‘Hello isaac this is eddie. Need too meet later. Have important information. Meet us at peer 39 at 1.’ Looking it over they grinned to themselves. They were getting so good at texting. Now all their Eddie had to do was get up and get ready to meet this Isaac. No more anxiety about making a phone call.

 

   “Eddie. Eddie. Eddie.” Venom said, punctuating each word with a prod from one of their tendrils into Eddie’s ribs. He snorted and muttered, rolling over and flailing ineffectually at his other. “Eddie. EDDIE.” They licked his ear, then stuck their tongue in.

   “Aww, gross babe! What? What is it?” he said muzzily, wiping off the drool with the cuff of the hoody.

   Venom moved so their face was looking directly at him, rumbling cheerfully, “Time to get up! Time to shower. We stink. Then, time for food. Hungry! After, time to go meet Isaac.”

   “What? Isaac? Fuck, I still need to call him.” He groped for his phone. “What time is it? 11:30!”

   “Don’t need to call. I arranged it earlier.” They sounded very proud of themselves. Eddie rolled off the couch and scrolled through the messages.Venom had actually done pretty well. Thank goodness for autocorrect.

   “Well, thanks, babe. Just maybe ask next time?”

   If Venom could roll their eyes, they would be. “Fine Eddie. Just wanted to take care of you.” There was no actual anger between either of them. Eddie stripped off the clothes he was wearing. No need to keep them now. That part of the mission was done. He grabbed some new clothes; jeans, long sleeved black shirt, underpants and socks, depositing them on the bathroom counter. Venom reached out and turned on the shower. They tried to make it as quick as they could, Venom helping to scrub, trying not to distract each other too much.

   “Breakfast before we go, V?”

   No. Hot dogs on the Pier?

   “I guess we can do that. Didn’t really feel like cooking anyways.”

   He shrugged on his leather jacket, stuffed the recorder in the zip pocket and trotted downstairs to the Scrambler. It was only a twenty minute drive but around lunch time the traffic would suck. They needed time to eat a few hot dogs before meeting up with Isaac so he wouldn’t think Eddie was too weird for getting six.

   The motorcycle growled idly as Eddie slowly drove it through lunch rush traffic. Venom shifted in annoyance and boredom. They hated slow traffic and they were getting very hungry indeed. Once they got there, Eddie bumped up over the curb, slowly slaloming around pedestrians and parked kind of illegally next to a bike rack. Eh. Whatever. There were those stupid electric scooters piled all over anyways. Eddie trotted over to the hot dog stand, pulling out his wallet. He ordered four hot dogs, slathering them in every topping. Sure, there were better restaurants in the area, ones that maybe had better hygiene than The Dog House… But they never blinked when Eddie ordered his large amounts of tube meat and it wasn’t like he had to worry about food poisoning anymore. If they could eat a junkie that tried to stab them and feel fine, a hot dog handled with un-gloved hands wasn’t going to bother their guts. They sat down on the edge of a planter to wolf the food, washing it down with swigs from a bottle of Coke. They finished just in the nick of time, when Eddie saw a familiar face scanning the crowd from underneath the pedestrian bridge. Eddie waved Isaac over. He was still raw-boned, face still unwrinkled. He had a lot more gray in his hair though. He’d started graying early but now he was properly salt and pepper. He was in plain clothes, though there was the lump from a shoulder holster under his khaki jacket.

   “Hey Brock! You’re looking great! What’s the secret?” Isaac said, giving him a clap on the back.

   “Oh you know… Must be all that clean eating. Hey, speaking of which, I’m gonna grab lunch. Want a hot dog?”

   Isaac made a face. “Not from there. I already had lunch.”

   They walked over to the red booth again. The other man waited patiently as Eddie applied everything to two hot dogs. They sat back on the edge of the planter.

   “So what’s up, Brock? Were you able to find something out about Joe Malizia?”

   Eddie chewed his bite of hot dog. “Yeah.” he said finally. “Went under cover. We-I, that is, found some shit out. I’ve got some actual proof now.” He dug out the recorder and a pair of ear buds. “Take a listen.”

   Isaac did so, his face not revealing anything.

   “Huh.”

  “Huh? That’s all you got?” Eddie asked, picking a loose slice of raw onion out of the paper wrapper and eating it.

   Isaac gave his shoulder a little shove. “I’m thinking.” A beat later he said, “So you have a vaporizer pistol in your apartment right now?”

   “Uh, yeah. And I really don’t want it there. So can you guys help me or not? I got actual proof the Malizias are selling alien weaponry.”

   “I’ll see what I can do. It might take a few days, but this is big.” Isaac scootched closer and leaned in. “We have tried to infiltrate his gang before. We must have a dirty cop in our precinct because the Malizias sniffed them out instantly. Killed them. We never found the body. I didn’t want to say while I was at work. I got some suspicions who it is, but…” he shrugged. “What can you do? There are always some dirty cops. I’m not going to put my neck out there too far. Not with Jocelyn and the baby. I talk big, but I can’t think of just myself anymore, you know?” Isaac straightened up. “Can I take your recorder memory card?”

   “Yeah. I made copies.”

   “I’ll let you know when you can come in to use police resources for your research.”

   Eddie stood. “Let me know when you want the weapons I got. I don’t want them in our apartment any longer than I need to. It’ll be some good evidence for you.”

   Isaac stood and tugged down his jacket. They shook hands.

   “I’ll see you around. Don’t be a stranger.”

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 5

 

   Later that night, they decided to go hunting. For once in the early spring in San Francisco, it wasn’t drizzling and foggy. Partially it was to reward Venom for being so patient while Eddie worked and partially it was because Eddie hadn’t been eating enough over the last few days. Their hunger crackled in them like a bonfire despite the hot dogs. They decided to hunt around the university since occasionally this group of drug traffickers hung around to try and prey on vulnerable young students. They sought out the poorer ones near school holidays when students might want to be flying home for a visit. The poor students couldn’t afford tickets home, but the sellers offered to pay for them to go home, if they were from certain cities, in return for them smuggling a gut full of drugs on an airplane. Venom kept eating them and every couple months a new crop would show up. Eddie wondered how long they were going to keep trying since they hadn’t been very successful since Eddie and the symbiote bonded. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful night. Dim stars even winked through breaks in the clouds and a gibbous moon silvered the buildings. It smelled good too. There was a lot of green space around the university. It smelled of freshly turned earth, growing things and spring-blooming flowers.

   V, I love nights like this. I feel like we could run forever, climb anything and fight anyone.

   “We can, Eddie. We can do whatever we want.” They hopped over an alley. “We love nights like this too. Love you Eddie.”

   Eddie stirred contentedly within the comforting black embrace of his lover. Love you too, V.

   Hunting the drug traffickers wasn’t the most dynamic thing they could be doing. They spent some time grooming the students they selected, generally on weekend nights. All Venom had to do was watch and listen. They were usually fairly easy to spot; older, mostly men. They liked going after the first-years and the foreign students most of all.

   They lurked on top of the library, laying on their belly with their head resting on their arms, tongue lolling, peeking over the edge. Eventually they spotted a likely candidate. Two men flanked a young man, barely out of his teens. His body language was defensive, theirs aggressive and wheedling. Venom listened for a while as they steered him over to the small park beside the library. They were enticing him, trying to convince him to take them up on their offer… Oh it was fine, super safe! The balloons almost never exploded anymore. His family would be so happy to see him back in Guangzhou. They would even give him some spending money so he could buy them gifts!

   Venom heard enough. They descended from the roof with a long tentacle and retracted into Eddie, who followed the three into the shadowing trees.

   He stopped a few yards away, hands in his hoodie pocket. “Are you guys still trying this?” he asked in a conversational tone.

   They whirled, faces a pizza of rage and surprise. “Fuck off man. Don’t know what you’re talking about.”

   He took a step closer. “We think you know exactly what we’re talking about.”

   “Fuck. Off.” the one on the left growled.

   “How many of you do we have to eat before your boss gets the message and fucks off himself?”

   There was a beat of silence.

   “...What?”

   “You heard us.” Eddie grinned. His teeth were pointier than before. “Hey, kid. You’re gonna want to run off now. Spread the word around campus to stay away from any guys offering tickets home for deals that seem too good to be true, ‘cos they are.”

   The kid wordlessly backed off.

   “Good job, kid. Stay in school ‘n shit.” Eddie called before turned their attention back to the two men. “Your boss has been sending predatory assholes like you here for months. Guess it must have been a pretty sweet gig for a long time if he keeps trying.”

   The one on the right tried to smooth things over, saying greasily, “We’re just trying to help some of the less advantaged students see their family by having them import some small things for us. Nothing illegal.”

   “Yeah, right. Listen… We’re really hungry, so can you stop pretending that you guys are stand-up dudes? They way this goes is we rat you out, you get mad and try and attack us, then we turn into a big monster with too many teeth, we eat you and then we go home to watch movies on the couch until we fall asleep. Then we repeat the whole show again around the next school break.”

   They exchanged worried looks. “Look, man… We’re just trying to make a living. Nothing wrong with that. I don’t know what you’re on about but can’t we work something out?” right hand guy wheedled.

   Tendrils were started to emerge, sliding around over his skin, under his clothes. Venom was getting impatient.

   “Work something out?” Eddie growled softly, modulation creeping into his voice, “You mean pay us a cut to turn a blind eye while you send people barely out of their teens with guts packed lethally full of drugs to countries where if they don’t OD on the way, could get caught in a place that could mean death or imprisonment for them?” He shook his head incredulously. Venom flowed out around him smoothly. “We would never allow that.”

   The alien surged forward, wrapping a tentacle around the left hand guy and yanking him back, right into their dripping maw. Their teeth snapped shut, grinding through flesh and gristle, bone finally giving way with a crunch. They swallowed down the head.

   Right hand guy turned to run as this was happening. Tossing the bleeding corpse of his compatriot down, Venom leaped. They landed on his back, smashing his face into the packed earth. Blood sprayed as his nose flattened. He screamed thickly.

   Venom stuck their face down next to the bleeding ruin of the drug trafficker’s. “Should we leave you alive? If we do, will you tell your boss to leave San Francisco alone?” they growled.

   “’S! Please don’ kill me!” the man whimpered.

   “But how would we know? Perhaps you would tell him to come with guns.” They flicked their tongue along his cheek. “Guns do not work on us.” Venom flipped the terrified man over so they had to look up into the grinning face of doom above.

   “I’ll tell him! I’ll tell him!”

   “Should we eat part of you as a message? Perhaps your hands so you cannot raise a gun against us? Perhaps your tongue so you cannot convince more innocents to traffic drugs? Or maybe your eyes…?”

   The man was openly weeping in fear now, snot, tears and blood covering his face. Pine needles and dirt were stuck to the mess. Venom could smell that he had pissed his pants. They got up and grabbed the carcass of their earlier kill.

   “Go. Tell your boss to rethink their life choices.” they rumbled before splitting the chest of their meal open with both hands.

  The man gaped in horror, gagging, scrambling up and fleeing as fast as he could.

   Venom gulped down more of the dead trafficker, eating his organs and even muscle before dropping him again. The symbiote sank back into Eddie’s skin. His belly bulged slightly from the load of meat in it. He was pleasantly full, the hunger tamped down for now.

   “Hope that we don’t have to deal with those chuckleheads again.”

   Agreed.

   “One last thing before we go home. Don’t want a student finding our mess, but we should let the police know about this. They’ll patrol the campus more heavily for a while and discourage more of those idiots, I hope. Would you make me a glove?”

   Venom flowed some of their biomass over Eddie’s hand in a thin layer. He rummaged in the dead man’s pocket to bring out his phone. He unlocked it with the corpse’s fingerprint and dialed 911.

   “911, what’s your emergency?” a brisk female voice said.

   “Oh my god! It’s horrible! Someone’s dead in the park next to the library at the University of California San Francisco! Come quick!” he wailed, before disconnecting the call and dropping the phone on the ground. “Let’s go take a bus home, babe. I don’t really feel like walking home right now. Do you?”

   No. We are full and tired.

   “Sounds like a plan then.” They sloped off towards Irving street where the nearest bus back home would be. No one really seemed to have noticed the fracas that had gone down in the tiny park, yet. As they got to their bus stop, they heard sirens growing closer. Eddie grinned like a shark, rubbing the centre of his chest.

 

   When they got back to the shitty apartment, Eddie’s fantasized cuddling on the couch didn’t materialize immediately. His phone had a missed call from Isaac and several text messages. Eddie usually didn’t take his actual phone out when they went hunting, unless he was also planning on doing some reconnaissance for a story too. Even then, he usually had it powered off or took a burner phone with him. He knew you could be tracked with your cell phone and he didn’t want Eddie Brock’s phone appearing too close to too many murder scenes. Eddie could be an idiot sometimes but he wasn’t that stupid.

   He unlocked the phone and scanned the texts. Isaac seemed to have gotten through to his higher ups quicker than usual. They wanted to talk about what he’d found and give him access to their own records. Isaac hoped Eddie could meet him tomorrow morning to get everything started. He grinned. Maybe his reputation had climbed back up quicker than he thought. Normally the cops would argue amongst themselves for a few days before letting a journalist of all people poke into their files and reports. Eddie texted back, ‘WTF, Isaac. I thought you were off night shifts for good. I can totally be there tomorrow morning.’

   “I’m so glad this story is actually moving quickly, V. I was worried we would have to be doing this for months.”

   We are amazing, Eddie. Of course it is going well.

   Eddie sat on the couch with a groan, rubbing his full belly. He belched. “Oof. We ate an awful lot tonight.” Venom curled over his fingers. “The Life Foundation story got my name out of the gutter and this one should put us back up to somewhere respectable again.”

   Our name, Eddie. Venom said reproachfully.

   “What, you’re named Eddie Brock too?” he teased.

   You know what we mean!

   “Do I? Wow, I’ve never met another Edward Brock before! Small world!”

   Edddiiiieeee…! Venom growled in exasperation before tickling their lover’s sides and stomach.

   “Aah! Oh god, V! No!” he yelped, writhing to get away. He giggled helplessly. “You’re-Ah!-Only doing this to yourself too!”

   We are stronger than your tickling! Venom roared gleefully.

   “Oh my god, V! Stop! I’m too full for this! We’ll barf!”

   Venom prodded him a couple more times to make sure Eddie got the point and subsided. Fine.

   Eddie panted a little, arms still wrapped protectively around his middle.

   “You’re the worst, babe.”

   We are the worst. His other oozed out around him, as close as they got to a hug.

   Eddie smiled, bringing a hand laced with black vines up to his lips, breathing in Venom’s cucumber and copper smell.

Chapter Text

 

Chapter 6

 

   Eddie stopped by a tiny coffee shop near the main police department where Isaac worked. Both places weren’t that far from where they lived so Eddie had elected to walk. Though they had already had breakfast (tater tots with cheese, salsa and fried eggs) Eddie wanted a non-shitty cup of coffee and a snack to tide the symbiote over while he did ‘me’ stuff.

   “Fuck me. This is one of the most hipster things I’ve ever seen.” muttered Eddie as he stood in line for coffee.

   It was indeed, incredibly hipster. The place didn’t even have an interior; it was just a window and bar and some mismatched thrift store chairs parked on the slanting sidewalk. The coffee was excellent and actually decently priced and the chocolate chip cookies were irritatingly good.

   Want four cookies this time. Venom replied.

   “Four. Geez, bud. You’re gonna eat us out of house and home.”

   The lady in front of him turned and looked suspiciously at Eddie. He flashed her a winning smile and adjusted the Bluetooth headset on his ear.

   Going to be boring today. We need chocolate.

   “Really? Already? We just had brains last night.”

   We need chocolate like you need coffee. Only because we also like it.

   “Hey! I do need coffee! Gotta be at my sharpest today.”

   The lady shot another look over her shoulder. They ignored her this time.

   Gotta be at your jitteriest and most nervous, more like.

   “Would you rather talk to the police instead of me? You’d be nervous too.” he retorted.

   I would do that for you, Eddie. Venom replied generously. I would not be nervous.

   “Don’t think you’d get a chance to start talking, babe. They’d be doing their best to turn us into swiss cheese, bless their hearts.”

   The lady apparently decided coffee was not worth listening to some weirdo and left, phone in hand, no doubt telling her friends what a crazy person she’d encountered. Eddie stepped forward and took her spot with a shrug.

   Once they got to the counter, Eddie ordered a large medium roast and five cookies. Venom hummed with happiness as they walked away, using a discrete tendril to steady the coffee so Eddie could dip the cookies. They’d polished off the cookies and half the coffee by the time they got to the police department.

   It was an older, depressing looking building in grey concrete.

   “I hate this building. It’s so Soviet Bloc authoritarian. Really doesn’t help with their reputation.” he commented before they walked in. “It looks like the kind of building you could disappear in.” He pocketed the headset.

   Not pretty. Venom agreed.

   The inside wasn’t much better; it was cold and bland. Perfectly soul-crushing. Unlike in the movies, the police department was quiet. There were no crowds and screaming prostitutes, no fights broke out between suspects, no cops yelling at each other over the din. There were distant, polite rings from phones, murmured conversations in closed offices and a bored looking receptionist.

   Despite the quiet and the fact that Eddie had been in here several times, he felt a churning in his gut. He’d never been here with a man-eating alien refugee living his his body before.

   Told you more coffee was a bad idea.

   He steeled himself and walked up to the receptionist.

   “Hey. I’m Eddie Brock. I’m here to meet with Lieutenant Kwan.”

   He looked up, still looking bored. “I’ll call him down. Just wait a moment over there.”

   “Thanks.”

   Eddie walked over to some chairs, carefully designed to provide the least amount of comfort possible and perched on the edge of one. He only had to wait a few minutes before Isaac appeared. He pasted a smile on.

   “Hey Isaac! How’re you doing today?”

   “I’m alright Brock. You?” Isaac replied, unsmiling.

  He seemed unusually curt. The churning feeling increased slightly. Venom shifted inside him on top of that, feeling Eddie’s unease.

   Eddie shrugged in response.

   “Come with me.” The police officer walked into the back. Eddie followed.

 

   Isaac led them into a board room. Inside was the chief, an older man, once muscular, now slightly thickened with middle age. He was in slightly worn plain clothes. Sitting on the opposite side of the table was a woman. She had the stern look of someone ex-military, with a tidy mousy brown pixie cut. She wore black jeans, a white button up shirt and a navy blazer. Eddie suspected a gun under her jacket.

   “Ah, Hello Mr. Brock. It’s good to finally meet you. I used to watch your show. You were quite the firebrand.” The chief stood, holding his hand out to shake Eddie’s.

   “Thanks. Still hope I am. Glad to meet you, Chief Williams.”

   The chief winced slightly. Venom had put a little extra strength in it. “Ooh, quite the handshake there.”

   The woman stood and took a couple steps closer. To the side, Isaac gave Eddie a look, but he couldn’t parse the meaning.

   Chief Williams said, “This is Agent Melanie Ferguson. She’s here from the FBI to investigate the same thing you’re working on. She’d like to work with us.”

   Oh fuck.

   He forced the smile to stay on his face. Luckily, after having worked on camera for so long, he could fake a facial expression reasonably well.

   Eddie reached out to shake her hand. He felt Venom hesitate slightly and fought against his other’s hold over his muscles. “Nice to meet you, Agent Ferguson. Glad that this gang is getting some attention now.”

   “Nice to meet you too, Mr. Brock.” She had a slight New England accent, mostly smoothed over and anonymized.

   They sat down. Eddie told them what he’d learned about the gang and some of his theories. They told him what they knew too. Isaac must have told them that Eddie had the vaporizer pistol in his apartment because no one blinked when he mentioned it.

   “... So anyways, does anyone know where I can dispose of this alien weapon? ‘cuz not gonna lie, it makes me very very nervous to have it in my apartment.” he said with a wry grin. His stomach had relaxed a little. Despite the subject matter, everything was going as routine as it ever did.

   There were smiles at his vague attempt at humour.

“Thank you, everyone.” Agent Ferguson said, “Now if it wouldn’t be too much  of a bother, I’d like to have a moment alone with Mr. Brock.”

   Oh motherfuck.

   “That would be no problem.” the chief replied. “I’ll be in my office and Isaac will be at his desk when you are done.”

   Eddie’s palms started sweating despite the chilly board room. His leg jiggled under the table. Venom swirled in agitation up and down his spine. The door clicked closed. The FBI agent said nothing, but pulled a small black device from her jacket pocket and set it in the middle of the table, pressing a button and then turning a dial until she gave a small, satisfied nod.

   “I’m not an FBI agent.” Ferguson said, crossing her arms and leveling a stare at Eddie.

   Don’t like this, Eddie!

   “You’re not? Um. What are you? We can’t both be journalists; it wouldn’t be fair. I’m pretty sure I got here first.” he babbled.

   “Cut the crap. I’m a SHIELD agent.”

   EDDIE.

   “SHIELD? Weren’t you guys all secret nazis?” Eddie quipped, his sense of self preservation evaporating, as usual, when he was in danger.

   “No.” she replied without humour, “We cleaned out the rogue elements. I know what you are, Brock.”

   He clenched his core, willing Venom to not come out, though the symbiote wanted nothing more.

   EDDIE EDDIE DANGER.

   “I… Don’t know what you mean.” he forced out, hoping his voice still sounded normal.

   She snorted. “Did the alien chew on your brain too?”

   He went very still.

   “Is that really the sort of thing you should be saying in the middle of a police department? There are obviously cameras and recording devices here.”

   “I blocked them.” she indicated with a wave.

   “You should really really leave if you know what’s good for you.” Eddie said softly. “That’s not a threat. I’m just saying, you’ve put us in a very precarious place.”

   “If your body mate comes out now, I’ll blast it with sound. We learned that much.” She waved a tiny remote that had been hidden in one hand. “I’ve got my thumb pressed on the trigger. If my grip releases, it goes off.”

   Venom roared in Eddie’s head. He winced. “V, calm down. Calm down! Let me handle this!”

   “SHIELD investigated the Life Foundation main office. Someone had tried to wipe everything, but our hackers are better than theirs. We scraped together enough evidence about the symbiotes to put two and two together. We’ve been watching you ever since.”

   “So why haven’t you locked us up or killed us? You obviously know what we’re doing.”

   She shrugged. “We’ve had bigger fish to fry lately. You’re not all that dangerous, in the grand scheme of things.”

   Eddie felt Venom bristle. We are dangerous!

   “Yeah, we are dangerous!” Eddie said with a scowl and then immediately regretted saying that. “V, would you calm down! It’s not helping!” he hissed.

   Ferguson watched from her side of the table, expression bland.

   “Oh, we know what your alien’s species is capable of. We were ready to roll in with a whole team once we realized that it hadn’t died in the rocket explosion.-”

   “They. Don’t call them it. V is a thinking and feeling, intelligent person just as much as you or me.” Eddie interrupted angrily.

   “Fine. Anyways, your alien wasn’t showing obvious signs that they were controlling you, so SHIELD stepped back to observe.”

   “V likes it here. We only kill bad guys. That’s the rule. They aren’t going to invade.”

   “If you killed anyone except ‘bad guys’, SHIELD would have been on your asses so fast your heads would spin.”

   “So why now? Why are you after us now?” Eddie asked, nervously rubbing the centre of his chest with the flat of his palm.

   “I’m not after you now. We have a common goal in taking down the Malizia gang. We’re going to work together.” she stated.

   “Why do we have the feeling like you’re not asking?”

   “Excellent observation!” she declared, “I’m not asking! We are going to take down this gang and in the process I’m going to learn your strengths and weaknesses and how you can be used as an asset if you are needed.”

   Eddie stared a moment. “What, you mean like an Avenger?”

   She put her head on one side. “No. More like an Avenger intern. That is, if you are useful and a good team player and Stark doesn’t get a wild hair up his ass and come after you himself. You see, he really doesn’t like aliens.”

   Oh fuck. “Can’t you tell him not too?” he pleaded.

   “SHIELD can try to tell him, but at this point we’re still not yet at our previous strength and a lot of our resources come from his company. So if he decides that you and your body mate are threats…” Ferguson shrugged.

   Will kill this Stark. Eat his brains!

   She continued, oblivious to Venom’s threats. “The Avengers and SHIELD are closely intertwined anyways. SHIELD originally created the Avengers, but with the way things have gone we don’t really control them anymore. We can make suggestions but the problem of super-powered people with opinions is that it’s really hard to get them to listen to authority. So watch yourself, Brock. Don’t give anyone a reason to put you and your friend down. Don’t think that you can just eat me and disappear either. There is a whole chain of people who know I’m here and if I stop communicating and they have any reason to suspect you, a whole truckload of SHIELD agents, led by Iron Man, will come piling onto you.”

   Eddie scowled. “So basically you’re blackmailing us into helping you.”

   “If you want to look at it that way. Or you can look at it as a government agency is giving their resources to you to aid your story and help you take down a criminal threat that is harming the city you are sworn to protect.” she said with only mild exasperation tinging her voice.

   Eddie rested his jaw on his hands for a moment, thinking. “So you’ll fund us going undercover to get this story?” he asked finally.

   “Yes.”

   “So long as we work nicely with you, share everything we know and in the end bring those guys down?”

   “Yes.

   “In the end we are free to publish the story?”

   “SHIELD will go over what you intend to publish so that we can redact anything we deem sensitive.”

   “Hmmm…” he hummed, leaning back. “Are we still allowed to deal with any bad guys the way we want?”

   “You mean eat them?”

   Eddie stared at her, raising his brows.

   Finally Ferguson sighed, “Yes you can eat them. Oh my god. Some of them. I want at least a few left alive for questioning. I suspect there is more than just weapons dealing going on here. Now, the police are going to be getting antsy out there. You are to speak nothing of this to them. This is going above their pay grade. If everything goes to plan, they won’t need to worry about anything else pertaining to this case. The official story is that the FBI are taking over, if they ask.”

   Eddie stood up and replied, “That seems like kind of a dick move. I went to them first. Lieutenant Kwan told me they had an officer die in the line of duty trying to get these guys. You told them you were going to work with them.”

   Ferguson’s mouth was a thin, strict line. “I lied and I don’t care. SHIELD is taking over. They don’t know how to handle a job of this magnitude. More of them will die if they get involved. No. More. Involvement. I only told them that so I could get into the meeting. It was an easier way to get to you.”

   Before Eddie could open his mouth to keep arguing, she fiddled with the device on the table and put it back in her pocket. She smirked at him. “Thank you for the talk, Mr. Brock. It will be nice working with you. I’m going to go talk to the chief now. You might as well go home. We will be by to collect the evidence you have accrued.”

   Bitch.

   She walked out, boots barely making a sound on the linoleum.

 

   Eddie took a moment in the board room, breathing deeply, trying to remember the vague concepts behind meditation. His heart was racing with adrenaline that had no where to go. His other was still writhing restlessly. He couldn’t say anything to Venom, not in the police department. He rubbed his chest, feeling a little of the alien’s biomass seep out under his clothes.

   Isaac walked in, looking quizzical. Eddie dropped his hand like it had been burned.

   “What happened? You look…” he tilted his head, “…Really upset.”

   “Uh, fuck. The, uh, FBI lady told me they are taking over the investigation. Said it was above your pay grade.” Eddie sighed, running his hand through his previously combed hair.

   Isaac scoffed. “They need the support of local law enforcement for this kind of investigation. The Malizias are dangerous. We know the turf better than those suits do.”

   “I don’t know what to tell you, man.”

   Isaac growled, “Serves me right for ever hoping that the Feds would get involved in anything out here. Just like those jerks to cut us out. Where did she go?”

   “She’s talking to the chief.” he replied. Eddie felt calmer. He suspected Venom was soaking up the adrenaline.

   “He’s going to be furious. What about you? Did she cut you out too?”

   “Uhhh…”

   “No! She’s keeping you in?” he sounded incredulous. “Why?”

   Eddie ignored Isaac’s doubt in their skills. “I’m the only one who’s got an in with them.”

   “No offense, Brock, but this is way bigger than you. Nothing good is going to happen to you.”

   Venom growled, Asshole. Eat him, Eddie?

   “No! Uhh, I gotta go, man.” Anger roiled in his chest, hot and prickly. He spun on his heel, not sure if it was his choice or if Venom had puppeted him.

 

   Once they got outside, Eddie wished that he’d brought his bike. A good drive, wind sluicing through his hair, blood pumping through his veins as he wove through slower traffic and got up into the hills around the city would have felt good and cleansed his frustration but no, he had to fucking walk. He got about a block towards home and then abruptly turned around. He didn’t want to sit at home. He needed to do something. Hunting was out of the question in broad fucking daylight. Both he and Venom were restless. They wanted to kill. He went to the gym instead.

 

   It wasn’t far from his apartment and he had his gym stuff stored in a locker there. Thankfully, it was nearly empty at this time in the morning.

   How the fuck was it still morning?

   It would fill up again at lunch as office workers sought to get a little exercise during their lunch break. He normally went late at night, when there might be only a couple other huge dudes there pumping iron. There were only a few other people there so far. Two ladies endlessly churning away on the ellipticals, a guy spinning and another woman doing something complicated with a tiny dumbbell.

   Venom never really helped while Eddie worked out, preferring to let Eddie do all the work. They would encourage him and serve as a spotter, ready to add their augmented strength to his if he got too ambitious.

   He went right to the squat rack, slamming plate after plate on. Might as well go for a new personal best.

   He positioned himself under the bar, taking the weight onto his shoulders. He shuffled his feet a little until it felt right and dropped into a deep squat. He paused a moment and then drove back up again. He did his first set, mind clearing a little. He couldn’t keep going over the conversation while he lifted. He had to concentrate on his stance and keep track of the reps.

   He re-racked the barbell and added another couple plates. This time he grunted, gritting his teeth.

   So strong Eddie! You can do it! Ten more pounds to break your record! his other encouraged.

   He put fifteen more pounds on for his last set. Fuck it. Might as well go big or go home.

   He eased it off the rack, the barbell bowing and bouncing slightly with every movement.

   Wider stance. Tighten your grip together.

   He went down, ass to grass. Standing back up again was hard. His legs shook. Sweat trickled down his forehead. Slowly, so slowly he managed to get his legs back under him, straightening with a hissed grunt.

   New record, Eddie! So proud of you!

   He moved through the rest of his workout, pride bubbling in his chest. Here was something he didn’t fuck up. Though Isaac hadn’t meant that nothing good was ever going to happen to Eddie in his life, only working with Agent Ferguson, his words struck a nerve. Here though, he could concentrate on the simple job of picking heavy things up and putting them back down again. He liked the intricate dance of words that had to do with his job, but he needed breaks where there was just the simple movement of muscle and bone.

 

   He finished his workout. He’d gone at it hard. Sweat stained the back of his t-shirt and plastered his hair to his forehead. His muscles felt weak and quivery and he would have liked nothing more than to hit the shower, but he had to do his cool down stretches first. Venom could heal him; they fixed any injury that happened to him and had soothed away all of the little aches and pains, the beginnings of arthritis in his joints, the places where scar tissue had knotted. All the small hurts that living as self destructively as Eddie had, had been healed.

   That didn’t mean he could live like a slob and just count on his other to fix everything; if he got stronger, they both got stronger. If he got more flexible, they both did. So he lifted and stretched and would go out for runs when he could since it improved both of them.

   Venom helped him through the stretches. They didn’t let him half-ass them as had been his habit before the symbiote had come along. Stretching was boring and it hurt. Venom forced him to fight through the stiffness and the ache to where the tension eased, praising him all the while.

   Very good Eddie. We are so strong now! You are doing better on your hamstring stretches.

   “Thanks, love. I feel so much better now.” he murmured as he sat back up again. “Let’s hit the showers. I need to boil my skin off.”

   He grabbed his clothes and gym bag from the locker and trudged into one of the shower rooms, locking the door behind him. Oh yeah. Without his lover, he’d be so sore he wouldn’t be able to manage stairs tomorrow. He turned on the shower, cranking the heat up while he shucked off his sweat dampened clothes.

   Eddie eased into the hot spray with a groan. It felt good. Keeping his eyes closed, Eddie moved through his shower ritual, Venom passing him things and helping to scrub his back. Once done, he turned up the heat another notch as the symbiote began massaging his aching muscles, inside and out, pummeling away the knots.

   “Ohhh… That feels good, babe.” he sighed, dropping his head forward. The slick-strong tentacles began moving lower, one caressing the curve of his ass.

   Eddie? Venom asked.

   “Yes.” he breathed.

   His other manifested a head, floating in front of him. They moved in for a kiss, tongue fucking languidly into his throat. He moaned, tilting his head up, allowing the tongue deeper access. It was a good thing Venom could suppress his gag reflex. The shower curtain rustled as another tentacle emerged, grabbed something from his gym bag and retracted. More tendrils grew, brushing over his nipples, wrapping around his hardening cock, questing over his entrance.

   Eddie moved his feet further apart and braced his arms against the tiled wall. Venom pulled their tongue from his throat. He gasped for breath, though he didn’t need to. His lover wouldn’t let him suffocate any more than was pleasurable. Eddie was into some slightly fucked up and weird things. Really, it was lucky they had found each other. Even Anne didn’t know the full depths of his kinks and he couldn’t indulge safely in it with anyone else.

   Something cold touched his asshole and he jumped slightly, then gasped as a thin tendril slid in, slicked with lube.

   Have to be quiet, Eddie. Don’t want the other people knowing you are getting fucked in here. 

   The thought sent a naughty thrill through him.

   Venom pressed a wide tendril to his soft lips. Eddie opened obediently. It slid in, forced his jaw apart until it ached, gagging him effectively. More tendrils wrapped around Eddie like bondage straps, holding him so tight, so safe.

   The tendril in his ass thickened, moving in and out slowly, stretching the ring of muscles. He pushed back against it with a whine. He wanted more, wanted to feel the burn, wanted to be filled. Venom complied, the tendril thickening into a richly textured cock, growing larger with each stroke, filling him so perfectly. It ached, but in a good way.

   The symbiote began fucking him in earnest, deep, long strokes, slicked with lube, moving easily in his wrecked ass. Eddie touched his stomach with one hand, then pressed, feeling the bulge there, his own cock twitching with arousal. His lover changed the angle of their thrusts so the head of their thick cock hit his prostate squarely with every stroke.

   Good, Eddie?

   He moaned and drooled around the gag, nodding emphatically, knees going weak. He struggled to keep standing, both hands on the wall again. The tendril that had been curled possessively around his cock sprang into motion, squeezing, writhing, stroking. Eddie’s heart pounded in his chest, breathing hard through his nose, eyes closed in bliss. It was almost too much, but Venom could feel through their bond where to keep it, to maximize pleasure. Other times were for pushing that envelope, for torturing him with sweet sensation.

   Don’t fall! Have to keep standing. That’s an order. Venom thrummed in his head, deep and commanding. They bit at his nipples. He whined around the gag as pleasure zipped straight from the sensitive tissue right to his throbbing cock. Nightmare teeth closed around his left nipple, holding it carefully, pricking the skin around it. Venom could bite if off and he could do nothing about it, wrapped up in the multitude of gleaming black tentacles as he was. A swipe of their tongue passed over it and Venom released it, lifting their head up, looking over the flushed expanse of Eddie’s body.

   Eddie shifted his grip to the safety bar bolted to the wall, bending over and arching his back, splaying his feet wide. Venom changed the rhythm of their thrusts, setting up a punishing pace, driving into his prostate hard. They knew he was close.

   Such an eager slut, aren’t you, Eddie? Venom shuddered around him. Feels so goooood. Delicious...

   He whimpered around his gag as the thick, ridged cock squelched into his gaping asshole over and over again, eyes squeezed shut, tears leaking out. He rocked with the force of each thrust. He had to keep quiet, though he wanted to scream. His lover had ordered him to keep quiet. Finally he came undone. Eddie spasmed as the orgasm ripped through him. Venom didn’t let up, fucking him through it. Despite Venom’s order, Eddie’s legs collapsed, though he didn’t fall. Venom caught him, holding him as the last pulses of pleasure rocked through them both, slowing their thrusting. They always had him.

   They paused, cock still buried up to the hilt in Eddie’s ass, letting his body clench and twitch around it. Letting him catch his breath from the hard fucking he’d gone through. The gag flowed away.

   “Thank… Thank you, Venom.” he gasped. “That… Felt so good. I… I needed that.” The weight of his anxiety had lifted, washed away by a tide of endorphins. For now, at least.

   Beautiful, perfect Eddie. I could never tire of fucking you.

   He smiled and kissed a tendril that curled around his wrist.

   “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, babe.”

   He got his feet back under him, steadying himself on the safety bar. Venom slid the cock out of his ass. He moaned softly again, an aftershock rippling through him. Venom’s tendrils twitched, feeling it too. He missed feeling so full already. He straightened back up again. Probably time to get out of the shower. He didn’t want anyone getting suspicious and pounding on the door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

 

   Eddie tromped up the stairs to their apartment, fumbling for his keys. He dropped them with a curse and awkwardly tried to juggle his gym bag full of dirty clothes and the bag of take-out burritos. Venom darted out a tendril and snagged the keys.

   “Thanks.”

   You are welcome.

   The symbiote selected the correct key and was about to slide it into the lock when they paused.

   Eddie.

   "What? Our lunch is going to get cold. I hate cold burritos. The cheese congeals.”

   Someone is in our apartment. they snarled in his mind.

   Eddie went cold. Carefully, he slid their bag of lunch and his gym stuff to the floor. Venom flowed out over his hands, wrapping them in oversized, clawed fists. They put the key in the lock as quietly as possible, then, in a flash, turned it, opened the door and leaped in with an inhuman growl.

   Melanie Ferguson was sitting at his kitchen table, sipping a latte and looking unimpressed.

   “The fuck are you doing in our house?!” Eddie snapped, tones modulated with Venom’s bass rumble.

   She took another sip.

   “Waiting for you to get home.”

   “Give us one reason not to rip your heart out.”

   “Are you really that stupid, Brock?” she sighed, “I already told you why you couldn’t kill me back at the station.”

   He subsided slightly.

   “I’ve worked around a literal god, someone who can turn into a giant green monster if he has a bad day and the most dangerous assassins in the world. You don’t impress me.”

   Eddie scowled, but lowered his hands. Venom reached out with a tentacle and grabbed the bags before shutting the door.

   “Breaking into our apartment was still fucking stupid though.” He didn’t sit down, but grabbed a burrito and tore into it. They were ravenous from the gym.

   “I didn’t feel like waiting in the hall. It stinks like pot.”

   “That is our neighbor. He is an asshole.” Venom rumbled, emerging from his back.

   “I still have my remote.” Ferguson said, lifting her left hand. “Get back in your host.”

   “No. We live here.”

   She narrowed her eyes and looked like she wanted to argue, but changed her mind.

   “We didn’t have time to finish talking earlier today.”

   “So talk.” Eddie grunted as he opened their second burrito. “We’ll listen, but we’re going to keep eating.”

   “So glad that you’ve decided to cooperate.” she sighed.

   “Eddie didn’t say he would cooperate. He said he would listen.” Venom said smugly.

   “So the plan is to make you another identity. You get in good with the gang, figure out everything they are hiding and then call us in and we arrest everyone. Then afterwards we need to register you and get some paperwork done about your powers because of the Accords. If there is anything going on on the West Coast you’ll be a registered asset.”

   “So…” Eddie mumbled through a mouthful of rice and beans, “So we’re just going to be at your beck and call whenever you want? We’re citizens. We have rights. You can’t do that.”

   “Correction. You may have been a citizen of the United States of America, but now you are an unregistered super-powered individual who is hosting a literal illegal alien. You’ve been doing unregistered vigilante work, which under the Sokovia Accords, means that you can be locked up indefinitely and with no trial if someone doesn’t like what you’ve been doing.

   “Working with me means that while we are working together, your activities are legal. Afterwards, we will need to register you and get a power analysis done on you. Then, we’ll see.” She put her latte down carefully.

   “That’s bullshit.”

   “That’s the Sokovia Accords. Haven’t you looked into them, Mr. Bigshot Reporter?”

   Eddie reddened guiltily. “I was kind of busy with my show before and after ‘I’ became ‘We’, we were kind of busy getting our life back on track.” Eddie hadn’t thought about the repercussions of joining with Venom; it had felt like they could do whatever they wanted. They could mete out justice for the people who fell between the cracks in the system.

   “For the first time in my life I felt like we could actually make a difference in the world without having to worry about all the stupid fucking corporate and legal red tape. I felt like we were doing good and we could actually make this city a better place and now you show up.” he seethed, crumpling the burrito wrapper between his hands. “You show up and tell us that no, actually there is a whole new layer of red fucking tape and this time it’s even thicker!”

   Not unkindly, she replied, “It’s not your fault. There are so many powered individuals out there we need to register them so we can try to prevent them from hurting other people. At least the Accords are more moderate now. They originally had all members wearing trackers.”

   “And how are we supposed to help people if we need to ask permission? What we are will be put out there in a government database. I don’t trust the government to keep that safe! What if someone decides to hurt V? Just, just because they are an alien?” He savagely threw the twisted wrapper into the garbage can.

   “You’ll have protections under the accords too. As long as you follow the rules, no one can come after you, legally.”

   He started pacing. Any calm he had been feeling before was gone again.

   “How can we live, Agent Ferguson? We require human brains to survive. Sweet Eddie was clever enough to find a way for us to live and to help people. We will die without brains.” the alien said reproachfully, keeping their blank gaze locked on hers. “It is not pretty when one of us starves. We go mad first.”

   The woman sighed again. This was the theme of the day. “I’m sure we can find something to replace human brains. We have a whole group of skilled scientists at our hands.”

   “No scientists!” both Eddie and Venom snapped at the same time.

   “V spent their first six months here stuck in a lab while scientists tested them.”

   “Forced us to bond with unsuitable hosts, over and over again. Killed them all, just so we would not die. Was weak when I bonded with Eddie. If he was not so perfect, I would have killed him too. Still ate some of his organs. I regretted it, fixed him when we got stronger.”

   Eddie reached up and pulled Venom’s head down so he could hold it. More of their mass flowed out, hugging Eddie back.

   “Well, you’re going to have to get over your fear of scientists eventually.”

   “V’s first experience on Earth was being tortured by humans. It’s amazing they decided to help instead. We saved the planet.” he explained. “Doesn’t that count for anything?”

   “Yes. It does. Which is why I am here talking to you instead of putting you in prison. Once you’re registered it doesn’t mean you have to go out and ask permission to do everything. Honestly, as long as you don’t have collateral damage, you can still go out and be a vigilante. It really doesn’t stop everyone else that has signed. You’ll still have a secret identity. You’ll be somewhat protected here as long as you don’t start attacking innocents.”

   “Never!”

   "So, Sokovia Accords: Not all bad. Eating people: We we find an alternative later. End of that discussion. Can we get back on track here? I don’t have time to argue with you two all day.”

   Eddie and Venom shared a look, but then sat down in the other kitchen chair, dragging it a little further away than necessary.

   “So what was your plan for getting us into the Malizia’s good graces?”

   Ferguson took out some papers. “We were thinking of making you the member of another, not local, gang. You want weapons for your gang and go to them to buy them.”

   Eddie dragged the papers over and flipped through them.

   “No.” he said after a moment. “This is no good. They’re more likely to see me as a potential threat. I’ll be able to buy some of their low-level, common stuff, but they’ll keep the good stuff hidden away. I’ll never be able to get close enough to them to find out where they are based. We could tail them there, but they’ll be looking for that.”

   "So what do you suggest instead?” Ferguson asked.

   “New backstory. I’ll pose as the head of security or something for a biotech and weapons company. We’re looking for some new weapons to test out and arm our security goons with and don’t want to go through the government or something. The company I work for will be doing some not exactly legal experiments. This should comfortably remove me from being a threat to them. It should also make them more likely to let me see the really dangerous crap they have. They’ll want to establish a good working relationship with me and so, with this imaginary company. They’ll be hoping we can work together in the future.”

   “Huh. You do know your stuff.” the SHIELD agent said, eyebrows raising.

   “Eddie is very smart.”

   “Well, yeah. I’m a journalist. I spent years sneaking into places I shouldn’t before I even met V. Together, we’re a lot more bulletproof and a lot more stealthy. This won’t be the first time I’ve worked with a gang to get a story.”

   He didn’t mention that it was only one other time. And that it was for counterfeit seafood.

   “I’ll send in the new backstory for you. We’ll have it done by tomorrow. Any other suggestions for your story?” she asked.

   “Nah. Just give me room to embroider as I go. I’ll pad out what I’ve got.”

   Ferguson nodded and began packing up the papers. “I’ll take the weapons you have. I’ll get them safely locked up.”

   “Yeah, sure.” Eddie walked over to his hall closet and started rummaging in the bottom. Little black tendrils wove in and out of his arms, helping to shift everything.

   He finally pulled out a battered and stained backpack, lifting it gingerly. Eddie handed it to Agent Ferguson.

   “Be careful. V recognizes only some of that stuff, but they said it could level the neighborhood, at least.” he advised.

   She grunted and unzipped the bag enough to peer inside, then zipped it back up.

   “This is everything?”

   “Oh shit yeah. We’re not stupid enough to want to keep any of that.”

   She put the bag by the door and frowned. “Is that blood?”

   Eddie shrugged. “Probably. We ate the guy we took it from.”

   Another sigh.

   She stood back up again and said, “You’re not going to like this, but tomorrow morning I’ll be by to pick you up. SHIELD will have you stationed in a hotel for the duration of the mission. I’ll also be taking you out so you can choose what you need for your character.”

   “Sweet. Government gets to buy us a new wardrobe, V.”

   Venom purred, bumping Eddie’s jaw with their head and grinning toothily at Ferguson.

   “Just be ready with your essentials by eight tomorrow morning.” she said, trying to sound patient.

   “So what’s gonna happen with our apartment?”

   “What do you mean?” Ferguson said, turning back.

   “Like, we don’t know how long this mission will take and we’ll be away from here. Who’s going to pay the bills? I usually do a few fluff pieces in the meanwhile, while I’m working on a big story if my job won’t give me advances.” He crossed his arms. “This place isn’t great, but we don’t want to lose it. Finding an apartment in San Francisco without roommates that doesn’t make you pay an arm and a leg is kind of hard.”

   “For the duration of whatever mission you are on, you will be compensated by SHIELD. We’ll pay you.”

   Eddie made a pleased noise.

   “Now, I have to go. Be ready.”

   She picked up the backpack and the messenger bag with her paperwork in it and left, shutting the door behind her.

 

   Eddie threw himself down on the couch face first.

   “Ugh. This sucks.” he mumbled into the cushions.

   Venom stroked his back. “Could just eat her.”

   “No. We can’t.” He rolled over slightly and scootched further onto the couch. “SHIELD and probably the Avengers will come rolling in here and try to kill us.”

   “We can just eat them.” they suggested helpfully.

   Eddie grunted doubtfully.

   “Bet we could eat Iron Man. We could get inside his suit. No leader then.”

   “Love, I think if we tried to eat the Avengers, we’d be bad guys. Let’s just follow along. Maybe we can find a way to wiggle out of this. Honestly though, I’m probably already on several government watch lists. What’s one more?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

 

   Eddie sat on the couch, head draped awkwardly on the back. He was snoring. It was nearly eight in the morning and he was exhausted. He’d barely slept, tossing and turning. When he did finally fall into deep sleep around five, he’d woken up from a stress dream an hour later. They had packed his gym bag with toiletries and a few other things. He had his laptop, recorder and a few other tricks of the trade in a smaller satchel too. He’d showered, eaten breakfast and sat down to watch the news and promptly fell asleep.

   Venom was partially out, twisting strands around him lovingly. They, of course, did not sleep. They switched channels from the news to a cooking show. It was a Chopped re-run, but they hadn’t seen it yet. They were supposed to pair chicken feet with durian. Someone was having a small melt down. Good TV. Venom would have liked to eat the chicken feet. They looked nice and crunchy. They made a mental note to bring it up to Eddie the next time they were at the butcher.

   His phone began to buzz. Venom manifested a head and looked at it, pale eyes narrowing. Unknown number. Probably the SHIELD agent. When did Eddie give her his number? They picked it up and answered.

   “Hello?”

   “Uh… Hello… Venom.” she answered, taken aback. She obviously didn’t expect to hear them.

   “What do you want, Ferguson?” they rumbled.

   “I’m here to pick you guys up. Come downstairs. Where is Brock?”

   “Eddie is sleeping. He is very tired. Did not sleep much last night. His brain is sour tasting.”

   A sigh. “Riiight… Can you wake him up?”

   “Come back later.”

   “No, Venom. We need to go now. There is a lot to do.”

   “We haven’t seen this episode of Chopped before. We would like to see the end.”

   They heard a shifting, rustling noise from the other end. “The hotel you and Brock will be staying at tonight has TV too. You can watch more Chopped tonight. Wake him up.”

   “No. You didn’t ask nicely.”

   More rustling, then a click and street noise. “I’m coming up and dragging you both out if you don’t get down here in thirty seconds.” she snapped.

   “Ask. Nicely. We are working together now, so it is important to be polite. Eddie has told me this. Can’t drag us out either. We can hang on to anything.” They grinned to themselves, amused by her barely contained rage.

   She grated, “Please wake Eddie up, Venom.”

   “Of course. We will be down soon.” they said sweetly, or as sweet as someone with a voice like gargling gravel could, and hung up the phone.

   The symbiote stroked the side of Eddie’s face tenderly. He was so sweet when he slept, warm and rumpled, face relaxed. They wanted to wrap themselves around him, mold their body to his and never let go.

   “Eddie, wake up.” they whispered, giving him a little shake, “The agent is here and annoyed.”

   He snorted and drew a deep breath, looking around in slight confusion.

   “What? Who’s here?” he said muzzily.

   “Agent Ferguson.”

   “Aww, fuck. Well, she better be open to stopping for coffee. I feel like someone dumped sand under my eyelids.” He got up with a grunt and stretched, scratching his belly. He scooped up his bags, slinging the satchel over one shoulder. Venom tugged the door shut behind him and helpfully held up the keys.

   “Thanks, babe.” he whispered as he locked the door.

 

   Melanie Ferguson was in a foul mood, having dealt with Venom being less than helpful on top of very little sleep as well. It had taken hours to get the new backstory for Brock sorted out with the appropriate papers and background. She’d had a full team back in New York working on it too, but she’d stayed up until it was done. The first stop, to Brock’s insistence, was at a cafe to pick up a giant mocha and a chocolate croissant. The food had kept him and his creepy body mate quiet for approximately two minutes before they were bickering good-naturedly in the back. It was worse that she could only hear one half of the conversation.

   She’d actually never worked in close proximity with the Avengers before. She’d been around some of them yes, but not professionally. Eddie Brock was proving to be one of the weirdest people she had ever been around and that was saying something. Ms. Romanov seemed generally normal, though you could never be sure how she was actually feeling, being a terrifying spy and assassin and all. She’d met Cap once, before he had gone on the run. She didn’t know what to think of him. He seemed very simple, like a big friendly dog, but no one could be that good, so she was suspicious. Mr. Stark was an asshole. He was arrogant and self-centred and was just… Broken, in a way.

   Brock was kind of a disaster, one that was, for now, under control, but could go careening off at a moment’s notice. She’d read his file. He had no problem imploding everything in his life if he felt it would serve the greater good. She didn’t want to get caught in that, if possible. She had issues with his own personal moral code. Well, all supers had their own; that was why there had to be the Sokovia Accords. Something to try and wrestle them into control, though it was like herding cats. Egos all over the place. It wasn’t that he would kill when needed; plenty of the other heroes killed. She had seen Cap’s file from World War Two; he had murdered the shit out of so many Nazis. She didn’t know the body count Ms. Romanov had and she didn’t want to know either. Melanie herself had had to shoot a couple people. She didn’t enjoy it, but sometimes killing one person was the best way to prevent more people from dying. But no one else ate people.

   She had no idea what to do with Venom. They were childish and had an ego to rival Mr. Stark’s. She didn’t like that they needed a host; it was just plain creepy. She also didn’t know if or how much they were manipulating Brock. She didn’t think there was full mind control, but she didn’t trust them. This symbiotic alien was new for everyone and they just didn’t have the answers.

   She wanted this mission to go well, to get Brock and Venom evaluated and then to go back to the East Coast where she belonged and never have to deal with Brock again.

   Finally, after fighting through rush-hour traffic, they arrived at that great American bastion, the mall.

 

   “You know, it probably would have been faster for us to walk from our place, right?” Eddie said to the fuming agent as they walked into the high-end mall.

   The woman didn’t say anything.

   “What’r we going to find here? Does SHIELD have some sort of hidden lair here, where agents can go get their tech from?” he asked, sounding hopeful.

   “No, Brock. You’re going to get some clothes. You’ll have everything you need for tech waiting at the hotel where you’ll be staying.”

   “Oh. Right.” he said, looking slightly disappointed. He’d hoped for a James Bond type thing, slipping through the back of a disused store to a hidden room, gleaming with exotic gadgets.

   Eddie made a bee-line for the mall directory, quickly scanning it. “This way.”

   Ferguson followed him to John Varvatos.

 

   Eddie spent the next hour perusing the clothing, taking stacks to the change rooms. He accumulated a fair-sized wardrobe, including shoes, a watch, cheap but flashy jewellery and a suit.

   “You better not be buying yourself new clothes on top of what you need for the mission.” she muttered to him.

   “Yeah, no.” Eddie replied with a roll of his eyes. “I'd rather wear regular jeans and t-shirts, not these. I’m making my character. This guy would travel with a large wardrobe. He’d want to be sharply dressed, or at least what he thinks of as sharply dressed, whenever he can. It’s the whole ‘I used to be broke, now I’m not, but I have no idea of what’s actually tasteful’ thing.” He frowned at Ferguson. “I’m not an idiot. I was engaged to a lawyer for a couple years. I know how to dress up. I just don’t bother. I’d rather be comfortable.”

   He flipped through some hanging button-up shirts.

   “How do you think I could still get juicy stories, even though I had my own show? I’m good at sneaking around and good at looking like other people.”

   “Fine, I’ll trust your expertise.”

   The bill from the morning’s shopping trip was eye-watering, but she paid for it with her SHIELD supplied credit card without complaining further.

   Eddie carried all the bags himself, black twining through his bracelets and around his hands, helping to support the haul. He stuffed it in the car’s trunk.

   “Where to now?” he asked, throwing himself in the back seat and leaning forwards, propping his stubbly chin on the seat.

   “To the hotel.” she replied, buckling her seat belt.

   “Can we stop for lunch first?” Venom rumbled from a manifested head next to her left ear.

   She jumped slightly and cursed.

   “How can you be hungry already? It’s not even noon yet. You had a snack two hours ago!”

   “We’re hungry most of the time.” Eddie replied, grabbing Venom and stuffing their head down out of view.

   “Eeeeddiiieee…” the alien whined.

   “My other souped up my metabolism or something. Gotta eat like a teenager now.”

   “More like a hobbit.” she muttered. “I’ll stop at a McDonald’s on the way.”

   “Yeeesss…” Venom hissed, before flowing back under Eddie’s skin, curling up happily in his chest.

 

   They stopped in at one fifteen minutes later. She got a black coffee, but let Eddie order whatever they wanted.

   He got a double quarter pounder with cheese and bacon, large fries and a large chocolate shake, with an apple pie for dessert.

   Eddie caught Ferguson sneaking looks through the rear-view mirror.

   “What?” he asked, chasing the last couple of fries around the bottom of the bag.

   “You eat like this all the time?”

   “Most of the time. More if it’s cold out or we’re really active or if I get hurt and V has to heal me. It makes sense though. I gotta eat for both of us.”

   She hummed dubiously, turning the car into the hotel parking lot. The hotel was not too big, but brand-new, in San Bruno. It was fairly close to the airport, which would hopefully give more credence to his story. Eddie whistled slightly as he walked into the lobby.

   “Nice. I usually stay in a shithole motel when I need to travel.” he said, following Ferguson up to the front desk.

   She looked at him as the employee got the key cards. “You didn’t grab all the bags.” She pushed the car key at him.

   “Oh right.”

   “Go back and get them.”

   Once he got back, lugging the bags, she was ready with the cards.

   “Nice of them to let us check in early.” he said as they waited for the elevator.

   “We had the rooms booked for a couple days already, in preparation for when we would bring you in. I’ve been staying here already.” Ferguson replied.

   The door dinged. They walked in and Ferguson hit the button for the fifth floor. Eddie was just glad the building wasn’t any higher.

   Once they got out on their floor, Ferguson handed him his key. “You’re in the room beside me. Now that you’re in here, please do not leave unless you are in character. If you want to eat anything, order room service or go down to the hotel restaurant. SHIELD will be paying for everything. You’ll find a packet that has most of your paperwork and background. Get into character and we’ll take your ID photos. By tomorrow they’ll be sent to you and the day after you go out for your first meeting. Any questions?”

   "Wish it was that easy for me to get fake IDs before! Woulda been a big help.”

   “They’re not fake. They’re completely legitimate IDs. Just the person on them is fake. Please get settled, Brock.”

   He shrugged and stepped into the room.

 

   It was nice. Sterile and minimalist, but nice. He dropped the bags on the floor and then threw himself on the crisp, white sheets.

   “Kingsize. Perfect.” Venom purred, manifesting a head.

   “No kidding, babe. We’ll have to break it in later.”

   “Yessss, Eddie.”

   He stayed sprawled out on the bed. He was tired. He was sure he had bags under his eyes and his scruff had been allowed to get too long. It went from ‘rakishly carefree and intentionally disheveled’ to ‘Just had a multi-day bender’. He should get up and put away the new clothes, but weariness had settled into his bones, heavy and tempting. He fell asleep.

   Venom watched the slow rise and fall of their lover’s chest for a while, content to relax a moment. Eddie was so beautiful. Their eyes roamed possessively over his body. Eddie had so many pet names for them, but they only called him ‘Eddie’. Nothing was as perfect as Eddie, so how could they call him anything else?

   After a while; they didn’t know how long, there was no clock, they decided to help Eddie. Venom could at least pull the tags off the clothes and put them in drawers.

   Once they did that they retracted their tentacles back into Eddie, feeling pleased. Eddie was going to be so happy! They curled with pleasure. They waited for him to wake up, twined amongst his organs, closer than any lover had been before.

   Eddie finally did wake up. The sun was starting down and his stomach rumbled. He felt better after the nap though. He lay on his back, hand wrapped around some of Venom’s mass that had crept out. He didn’t know why, but he always woke up wrapped in his other, even if he had started out sleeping with Venom entirely inside. He finally took a deep breath and pushed himself upright with a groan. He rubbed his face, blinking.

   All the clothes were missing. Well, no. Not missing. He spotted the end of a sleeve poking out of the hotel dresser and a neat pile of tags on top.

   “Thanks, babe.” he said.

   You are welcome, Eddie.

   “I’d better actually get my shit together or Ferguson will yell at us. It was a nice nap though. Comfy bed.” He started pawing though the drawers. Things were put away nonsensically; socks with shirts, underwear with shoes. He’d have to put away everything properly, the suit was crammed in there too and it would wrinkle. It was nice of Venom despite the fact they didn’t understand a lot of the rules of Earth yet. He took out a fairly nondescript charcoal gray shirt and put that on. ID photos were only shoulders up, so he didn’t have get completely dressed up. Into the bathroom he went to go trim his scruff into something tidier. After considering his reflection for a moment, he decided this character would have a complicated, carefully trimmed beard and goatee. For shits and giggles, he searched an image of Tony Stark and copied his douchy facial hair.

   “Fuck you, Stark.” he muttered, manipulating the beard trimmer under his nose.

   Next was his hair. It was fairly short already so there wasn’t much he could do with it. He should’ve bought a bottle of hair dye, but oh well. Slicking it back with gel would have to be enough. He was partially counting on the fact that these guys probably wouldn’t be familiar with The Brock Report; they’d come to town after he had already imploded his life.

   The last thing was jewellery. He put on a gaudy chain, tucking it into the shirt and put glittery cubic zirconium studs in the long neglected holes in his ear lobes, done back in college.

   Well. That was as good as he could do. He left to go bang on Agent Ferguson’s door for pictures.

   There were a couple of strange machines scattered through the room, black and sleek, blinking with small lights and humming gently. He supposed they were for making IDs and such as needed.

   She sat him down on a stool in front of the blank white wall and snapped a picture. Eddie blinked away the spots from the flash in annoyance. He noticed her staring at him.

   “What?”

   She didn’t answer, a frown creasing her forehead. She dug in her jacket pocket for her phone, switching on the flashlight and shining it in Eddie’s face.

   “Hey! Quit it!”

   “Your eyes…” she said finally.

   “What about my eyes?” he snapped, annoyed.

   “Did you know your eyes reflect back light like a cat’s?”

   Eddie stared. “No they don’t.”

   “Yeah, they do. Go look.”

   He got up and walked into the bathroom, grabbing his own phone and not turning the overhead light on. Shining the flashlight, he peered at his reflection.

   His eyes flickered back green-blue.

   “That’s fucking cool as shit.” he managed eventually. “V, when did you do this?”

    When you complained about humans not seeing in the dark. Noticed humans do not have that shiny layer in your eyes, like animals do. Was easy to make one.

   “Cool.

   “I’ll try and take the picture again. You still need your ID. I should be able to get one without…” She gestured at his face. “That happening again. Be careful not to look in bright lights when you’re out on the mission.”

   She put her face in her hand. What the fuck.

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

 

   Eddie and Venom spent the entire next day relaxing in the hotel room, getting room service, watching TV and leisurely fucking.

   Ferguson was out and about, doing something. She hadn’t bothered to tell him. Eddie was okay with that. It let him pretend, at least for a while, that they were here on vacation.

   The next morning he woke up when Ferguson knocked on his door. They’d gone to sleep at nearly a normal time for once so Eddie wasn’t exhausted at the impromptu wake up time at nine.

   He got up, Venom retracting lazily back into him. He put on the impossibly fluffy terry cloth robe supplied by the hotel, since he was completely naked.

   “Might need to steal this, babe. It’s the nicest thing I’ve ever worn, besides you.” he commented to his other as he fiddled with the door.

   Flatterer.

   “Morning, Melanie.” he said.

   “Morning, Brock. Here are your IDs. We set up your first meeting for tonight, so be ready by eight.” She pressed another envelope into his hands.

   He squished it between his fingers. It felt thicker than it should. He slit the envelope open and pulled out a smart phone. It was a very new, very expensive model.

   “Nice.” he said.

   “Your new phone. Your character would probably not have an obvious burner phone.”

   “Do I get to keep it?” he asked, slightly jokingly.

   “No. SHIELD property.”

   "I was only kidding. Its probably stuffed to the gills with spyware.”

   “Got it in one, Brock. If you have that on you, we can hear anything through it and use the cameras. I’ll keep track of you with it, no matter where you might go on your mission.”

   “Cool.” he muttered. “I guess we’ll see you tonight.”

   She nodded tersely, and walked back to he door.

 

   “I think if we’re going out tonight in a dangerous situation, we need to spoil ourselves a bit.” Eddie announced to the empty room.

   Waffles? Venom asked hopefully.

   “You bet your goopy ass, waffles. I’m getting two orders of Belgian waffles with all the toppings.”

   He dramatically flung open the binder with the room service menu in it.

   “I think we should also get double bacon. What do you think?”

   Eddie. I think that is the best idea you have had all day. the symbiote replied seriously.

   “Perfect. It’s decided then.” He picked up the room line and called down.

   He had a quick shower while the hotel made breakfast. He was just finishing shaving when Venom drew his attention to the door. He signed the receipt for the room service, adding a generous tip. SHIELD could suck it. If they didn’t like it, they shouldn’t have left a credit card on file.

   Eddie ate their enormous breakfast while watching The Food Network.

   Venom was pleased that the hotel had been kind enough to provide chocolate sauce too. They filed chocolate sauce away as something they’d like to lick off Eddie later.

   Eddie, can we go on vacation for real someday? Would like to see more of Earth and try more food.

   “I think we can arrange that eventually, babe.”

   Maybe when we are done dealing with this SHIELD?

   “Yeah, why not? I’ll load up the Scrambler and we can just drive wherever we want. I’ll get some money out of our savings. Where would you like to go?”

   Venom squeezed him lightly. Anywhere with you, Eddie.

   Eddie put down his fork and wrapped his arms around himself, hugging back.

   “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, love.”

   We are both losers, but I think together, we are more. Together we are not losers as much.

   “You say the sweetest things.” Eddie said with a laugh.

   Eddie? Venom said, slightly confused. Relationships were still new to the alien.

   “Ah, never mind, babe.” He put down his plate and got up. “Just remember that you are the best.”

   Can do that, Eddie. We are the best.

   Eddie walked over to the closet to pick out some clothes. “How can we be losers and the best, V?”

   We just are. Just trust me, Eddie. I am much older than you. Have been to more planets.

   “Yeah, okay.” he snorted with laughter. “Mr. ‘I didn’t know what a microwave was’.”

   Venom bristled slightly. Was producing radiation, Eddie. Didn’t know it was safe. they grumbled.

   “Well, we still needed to buy a new one after that little incident.”

   Could have happened to anybody. Venom muttered sulkily. Eddie wobbled while he put on socks. Venom decided not to steady him like usual and let their host tip over. Eddie face-planted into the bed.

   “Really, babe?” he sighed, pushing himself back up and sitting on the bed to put his socks on instead. Venom snickered.

   The alien decided to change the subject away from their misunderstandings of Earth.

   Why did you change our beard again? You just trimmed it yesterday.

   “Because if we showed up looking exactly the same as our ID and they saw that, they might figure us out and try and kill us.”

   Makes sense. they said after a moment of thought.

   Eddie stood in front of the bathroom mirror, giving his outfit a couple more tweaks. He was wearing distressed jeans with rhinestones, studs and other detailing on the ass pockets and a long sleeved button-up shirt in a purple, pink, and navy blue paisley pattern. He experimented with rolling the cuffs up to his elbows, before deciding to keep them down for now. His wrists felt naked without his bracelets. Instead he opened a couple buttons, showing the top of his undershirt and some chest hair. He smoothed over his eyebrows and stepped back with a nod.

   Eddie. Venom rumbled after a moment, looking through their host’s eyes. Eddie. We look like a douche-bag.

 

   Eddie drove a rented Escalade over the bridge to Oakland. It was very nice, very black and very large. He was used to driving a motorcycle, scarcely wider than his own shoulders and was paranoid about accidently dinging the mirror on something as he drove. They were meeting in the parking lot of an industrial area because apparently Joe Malizia had no imagination.

   Eddie’s new name was Daniel Veleno. According to the packet, he’d grown up in Brooklyn, which explained the lingering trace of the accent in Eddie’s speech, though he’d tried to smooth it over since moving to San Francisco.

   The company he worked for was called Roxxon. It had a subsidiary office up in Seattle, Oregon. He recognized the name; the company also had a bunch of gas stations around. Ferguson had said that after some incidents, SHIELD had installed some agents in the company to keep an eye on them. If any of the gang decided to call the company and ask about him, there would be an agent who would confirm Eddie’s story.

   This Roxxon was trying to get back into more tech, specifically weapons development. They had a military contract and were getting desperate to design some new things. So Eddie’s title was Head of Security, a thin front for what he actually was; a goon who provided them with anything not-so-legal they wanted and would make problems disappear. Eddie had based his initial outline on Treece and Ferguson had apparently picked up on that, expanding further.

   He was happy to see that she had given him room to embellish some more. It would make it easier to remember his backstory and bend it if he needed to change something to fit his need.

   “Babe?” he asked.

   Yes, Eddie?

   “I might be saying some not very nice things when I am talking to these guys. It won’t be true, but I will need them to think that I think a certain way. They’ll probably say some awful things too. We can’t eat any of them yet, even though they are some very very bad guys. I’ll need you to stay hidden under my skin and not come out, okay?”

   Fine.

   “We need them to relax around us and this might mean that we will have to spend time around them for a while. I don’t know how long. Will you trust me and let me take the lead? I’ll let you know if I need you to come out, but otherwise don’t come out unless it looks like I will definitely die if you don’t, okay?”

   Venom contemplated saying something snarky. They felt somewhat left out when Eddie had to do ‘him’ things, not ‘we’ things. But they could feel Eddie’s earnestness and decided not to.

   Understand, Eddie. Will be ready if you need me.

   “Thank you. Thank you so much, V. I love you.”

   Love you too, Eddie. They tried to push the feeling of their overwhelming love for Eddie, not love, but LOVE, through their bond.

   Eddie smiled, touching his chest and Venom knew they had succeeded.

   He pulled off the main road, the wheels crunching over gravel that littered the crumbling road. His enhanced night vision let him easily see the half dozen figured standing in loose formation at the other side of the parking lot. There were three other SUVs, all as large and black as the rental he was driving.

   He stopped the Escalade some distance away. He took a deep breath, Venom briefly giving him a squeeze, then popped open the door and stepped out.

   Eddie strolled leisurely over to the gang members, indolent and cocky. He settled into the character he’d been planning. This was a man who wouldn’t be nervous around criminals. He was a criminal, employed by a company under a false title that indulged his cruelty.

   He put the tiniest smirk on his lips. See how at ease he was?

   Eddie stopped fifteen feet from the nearest man.

   “Evening, gentlemen.” he drawled, intensifying his Brooklyn accent until it was as thick as pastrami on rye. Like he hadn’t spent the last several years trying to erase it.

   Venom snickered in his head, but didn’t say anything.

   “Evenin’. You Mr. Veleno?” one guy asked. He had a Jersey accent.

   “Who else would be stupid enough to show up here?” Eddie replied, holding his arms out to the side a little.

   The speaker gave a small snort, exchanging looks with two of his compatriots.

   “So I hear you wanna discuss business. What exactly do you want?”

   “Well, what the individuals I am representing want, is tech. I wanna nice paycheck. Can you help me out with those two goals?”

   “I may be able to.” the man said. He was fairly average, average height, average weight, dark hair, a thin mouth that looked like it sneered too easily. He walked forwards, holding out a hand for Eddie to shake. “I’m Joe Malizia.”

   They shook, doing the standard manly gesture of trying to crush each others hands to test each other. Eddie used just a bit of Venom’s strength to make his point.

   While he did give a subtle rub to his hand once they were done, Malizia didn’t look unhappy.

   “These are my boys, Luca, Robert, Rafe, Michel, Sam and my second in command, Angelo.”

   They each gave a nod as their names were given. The last one proved to be a giant of a man, tall and broad.

   “Nice ta meet ya.” Eddie replied. “I hope we can do good business together.”

   “So what exactly are ya lookin’ for?” asked Malizia. He had a slightly nasal voice.

   “Roxxon has a military contract and the eggheads they’ve hired haven’t come up with anything worthwhile. They heard someone has their hands on a bunch of exotic weaponry so they sent me to sniff it out.

   “They want to be able to study it and figure out how to make that shit here or improve on it.”

   “Well. I think we might be able to help ya out there.”

 

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

 

   The next few days were either extremely busy and stressful as Eddie began building his relationship with Joe Malizia or incredibly boring.

   It turned out that there was, in fact, a limit as to how much TV Eddie and Venom could watch. The symbiote was getting restless staying cooped up in the hotel. They wanted to go out for a run along the rooftops, to hunt and kill. Unfortunately, they couldn’t. They had to assume that the hotel was being watched by the Malizias.

   Ferguson wouldn’t risk them seeing Eddie turn into a hulking brute of a monster, though they tried to convince her that they could ditch any followers. Eddie had even tried the window, but it only had a small section that could open, not even big enough for him to squeeze out.

   Then Eddie realized that he had willingly considered going out a high window and had to shake his head.

   The hotel did have a gym, but it sucked. It was a couple cable machines, a rowing machine, some treadmills and ellipticals. There were basically no free weights. It didn’t even have a pool.

 

   Building trust with Joe Malizia meant going out with him and his inner core to restaurants or dim bars, talking shop by way of vague terminology and implications. These places were run by oily men who bowed and scraped at the gangsters. Eddie didn’t even know places like this existed in San Francisco anymore. He put a pin in it for the next time they needed a place to find easy prey. Pretty much any place like that was bound to have a few tasty criminals.

   He shared made up stories of vile shit that he’d done to get in good with them and they shared their own monstrous stories. Joe Malizia mostly kept his hands clean these days, letting his boys do the dirty work, but it was clear he enjoyed it. Eddie could scarcely eat or drink anything around them, Venom was wound so tight through his innards. When Eddie went back to the hotel afterwards, every muscle in his body ached, wound tight as a cable of the Golden Gate Bridge.

   He constantly fought the urge to summon Venom, letting the gleaming black alien wrap around him and just fucking tearing these foul human monster’s guts out.

   It meant examining shining alien weapons or going into the woods to try them out. Eddie had the nasty feeling that they were going to have to do something to cement their alliance. He hoped it was something they could deal with without breaking their own moral code. Eddie could not hurt someone innocent and would absolutely ruin this entire mission and his story if he had to.

 

   One night Ferguson awoke to odd sounds coming from Eddie’s room. She sleepily scrubbed a hand over her face, pushing herself up on one elbow and cocked her head, listening. She was exhausted from long calls back to New York and way too much paperwork. Hooray for bureaucracy.

   It wasn’t TV noises, which she’d had to get used to. Brock seemed to watch TV at all hours of day or night.

   It sounded like… Pleading? Begging?

   She coughed and cleared her throat, sitting all the way up.

   “... please Venom… please… no… don’t… Venom…” It trailed off into whimpering.

   There was the deep bass of Venom’s laugh.

   What the fuck.

   Her heart pounding, Ferguson crept over to the chair where her gun was hanging. She knew that slimy alien was up to no good. There was no way someone would choose to have a creepy alien living in their own body. They must be threatening Eddie into keeping them. Maybe hurting him.

   She’d never seen Venom in their full form in person, but had seen their creepy floating head trick. That mouth bristled with dagger teeth. What could they be doing to Eddie in there?

   Her sleep addled brain conjured up scenarios where Eddie had been about to go to her for help but the alien had found out and was hurting him as punishment. Where they were just biding their time before bringing more of their kind to Earth to kill the planet. Where they had been mind-controlling him the whole time, leaving him a helpless puppet. Her skin crawled.

   “... oh god Venom… AAH!… sorry sorry didn’t mean to…”

   Ferguson rummaged in her wallet and got the extra key card for Eddie’s room.

 

   She eased open her door and tip-toed the few feet to the other room. Her gun had a silencer and SHIELD had also booked the other rooms on either side as well as above and below to minimize any possible civilian casualties if something went bad, so she didn’t have to worry too much about other people hearing or getting hit with a stray shot.

   Gripping the handle of her gun in a sweaty hand, she scanned the card and kicked the door open.

   She was immediately confronted with the sight of black tentacles everywhere; stuck to the ceiling, the floor, the walls, the bed, slowly writhing and twisting. In the centre of the bed, outlined in light from the hallway, mercifully mostly obscured by inky webs of black, was the pale form of Eddie. He squirmed in the alien’s grasp with a whimper of ecstasy.

   Ferguson immediately realized what she’d walked into as the smell of sex hit her nose. Full wakefulness hit her like a bucket of ice water. That was about the time that Venom realized she was standing there.

 

   The symbiote hissed and retracted, but not into Eddie, around him, in a flurry of tentacles until she was confronted with the sight of the creature’s full form for the first time.

   “Ferguson! What are you doing?” Venom snarled, standing up from a prone position on the bed.

   “I… I… Heard something… Thought… Oh my god. Never mind. I’m sorry to have… To have…” she stammered, her normally cool facade blasted into oblivion. She felt hot and itchy.

   Venom walked the few feet over to her, resting their huge hands on the door frame and leaning down. “Rude to barge in on us. Eddie says that we will talk in the morning.”

   She backed up a couple steps, neck craning to look up the seven feet. She wouldn’t look down! She didn’t want to see if the alien had… Uh… Oh god, gross… if they… Aargh…

   “Eddie… Eddie is okay?” she asked, kicking herself mentally. Stupid! Stupid!

   “What do you think?” the alien asked with a grin. “Go back to sleep.” 

   They propelled her back with a surprisingly gentle hand the size of a shovel and shut the door without a word, locking it.

   “Holy fucking shit.” Ferguson muttered, smacking herself in her burning face with one hand and slumping against the wall.

 

   She didn’t really sleep the rest of the night, trapped in a full body cringe. Her cool, professional facade had been broken. Aside from the rumbles of speech for a few minutes after she’d barricaded herself back in her room, it had been mercifully silent the rest of the night.

   When she decided to give up on resting, she tramped down to the hotel restaurant, hoping to replace sleep with double shots of espresso.

   A shadow fell across the light as she read on her phone. She looked up to see Eddie. He was fully dressed and showered and had an unreadable expression on his face. He sat down across from her. He said nothing as the server walked over and filled his cup with coffee before going to get another menu.

   Ferguson spoke first.

   “Sooo about last night… I heard noises and thought something… Bad was happening. You scared the shit out of me and my training kicked in.”

   “Really? That’s it?” said Eddie with a raise of his brows.

   “Uh yeah?”

   “No apology?”

   “Sorry I walked in on you?” She was feeling slightly confused.

   Eddie crossed his arms and scowled. “You had a fucking key to our room and didn’t tell us! You barged in on us with a drawn gun. And you’re upset with us?” he snapped incredulously. “This mission is all about trust. I trusted you and you’ve been fucking keeping secrets. I should’ve fucking known when you broke into our apartment.”

   “It’s part of my job-”

   “No! Stop. Do you have any idea how lucky you are to be alive right now? V could have killed you as soon as you opened that door. They could have just reacted and then you would be nothing but a bloody smear on the wall. ‘Miss oh I’m so blase about hanging around with powered individuals! You’re not dangerous, Venom!’ Yes we fucking are. We aren’t Hulk levels of dangerous or some shit but you could have died and then V and I would be in trouble because you were a fucking idiot!” he hissed, struggling to keep his voice down.

   The server wisely stayed clear as Eddie vented at Ferguson, busying herself with rolling cutlery. They did an admirable job of pretending there wasn’t an argument going on.

   Ferguson said nothing, her face burning again.

   “Give us the card.” Eddie said, holding out his hand.

   “No. If something bad happens, I might need to go in.”

   He raised his brows, jaw setting stubbornly. “Give. Us. The card. We don’t trust your judgement on what is bad. If something is wrong with me, V would let you in and if we’re both hurt, get the hotel to let you in. If you don’t want us to walk away, you’ll give us the card and we can pretend to trust each other.”

   Reluctantly, she reached into her wallet and grabbed the card. Ferguson only hesitated a moment before handing it to Eddie.

   “Thank you.” He pocketed it. “Now, don’t you dare draw a gun on us again.” Eddie paused a moment, listening to something she couldn’t hear and the added, “Don’t walk in on us having sex again either. You ended up frustrating both of us.”

   Her face, which had been cooling, flushed again. “I didn’t know you guys were… Together together.”

   “Well, we are. Gotta problem with that?”

   Yes, she thought. “No.” she said out loud.

   “V says you’re lying.”

   Ferguson looked down, fiddling with her espresso cup.

   “No one else knows me like V does and no one has ever loved me like they do. It’s the purest thing. We’re also both consenting adults, so what’s the problem?”

   “You’re not the same species. V isn’t even humanoid.”

   “So? If they were humanoid would that make it less weird? Thor is an alien and nobody seemed bothered that he dated some lady from here for a while. He’s just as much of an alien as V is.”

   Her jaw worked for a moment as she tried to think of a good counter argument, but couldn’t.

   “Nice.” Eddie growled. “Get over yourself.” He got up, taking his cup of coffee with him and moved to a new table, giving a little wave to the server.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

 

   Eddie pulled up in front of the bar. It was small and grubby, with a half burnt-out sign. A couple other SUVs were parked out front. Some of the other members of Joe Malizia’s gang were here already. He got out of the car and pushed open the door.

   It didn’t smell great inside. There was old cooked food, decades of spilled booze and old cigarette smoke. The place had probably been fairly nice looking, back in the sixties. It hadn’t really been updated since. The iconic chrome of the era highlighted furniture and decor, now gone spotty and discoloured by decades of neglect. The booths had cherry-red vinyl, split and patched and split again. The melamine table tops were scored with cigarette burns and graffiti, the walls yellowed by nicotine.

   He felt Venom’s disgust at the place. Clearly the symbiote thought Eddie deserved better than this place.

   Angelo, Luca and the brothers, Rafe and Michel, were clustered around a pool table. They nodded greetings at Eddie.

   He nodded back, heading to the teak bar, which was in surprisingly good condition. The bartender was an older man with a closed off, unreadable face. Eddie ordered a coke.

   Angelo gestured Eddie over, inviting him to join their pool game.

   “Thanks.” he said, picking up a cue.

   “You can break. Let’s see how you do.” the big man said, gingerly leaning on his own cue.

   “Been a while since I’ve played.” Eddie said. “Let’s see how much I remember.” He lined up his shot and sent the ball cracking into the cluster of others, which ricocheted satisfactorily around. Pool was something he was pretty good at. When he’d been in his early twenties, he liked to hang out at small bars in New York with the old timers, playing pool and trading bullshit.

   The next forty-five minutes passed fairly companionably, they played a couple games and talked sports and how they missed New York. Eddie could almost forget he was hanging with a group of dangerous gangsters.

   Eventually, Joe Malizia sauntered in, followed by the rest of his inner core and a couple other hangers on. The demeanor changed immediately. The game was forgotten. They headed into the back room, which turned out to be in better condition than the front, though still dated.

   Malizia positioned himself in a booth, back to the rear wall so he could see the door. Everyone else settled around him like a flock of pigeons. He waved Eddie to sit in the booth with him.

   “Can I get ya a drink? The barkeep has a couple very nice single malts from Islay here… I favour those myself.”

   Eddie demurred. “I’m good with soda myself. The old man liked his drink a bit too much, so I tend to be a teetotaler.”

   Joe nodded and signaled to the bartender. Another coke was placed in front of him, wedge of lime balanced on the rim.

   Time for the evening’s business.

 

   “So you’re poised to be a very good customer to us.” Joe Malizia said, lacing his fingers together and leaning back. The yellow light of the room gave everyone a jaundiced look.

   “Hey, you got the goods. You’re gonna save those egghead’s butts.” Eddie said with a smirk.

   Joe smiled like a snake. “We were lookin’ for someone who wanted to buy in bulk. Sellin’ to all those fuckin’ children who’re just lookin’ to off each other was gettin’ old. Too much work for too little pay off. We got bigger plans.”

   Eddie nodded. “Where’d you get all this stuff, anyways?” A bit of a gamble, but he hoped they had set up enough of a rapport at this point.

   Joe looked at him for a moment, taking the time to light a cigarette.

   Smoking indoors had been illegal for twenty years, but in these greasy little throwback bars exceptions were made for certain clientele. It wasn’t like an inspector was going to waltz in and shut the place down. Eddie suspected that anyone who tried would end up missing in short order.

   “I had a supplier in New York. He made all sorts of crazy shit. Even stole right from those bastards in SHIELD. Guy eventually got taken down trying for a last big job.” The gangster shook his head ruefully. “Shame. Couple of his staff ended up cutting and running. Sold all the shit they had. I bought most of it and left that fuckin’ shitshow on the East Coast.” He took a drag, blowing the smoke up to the ceiling. “I’m not stupid. I know that sellin’ these weapons will get us too much attention eventually. The cops tried to deal with us, and we spotted their guy instantly. We got ‘em scared of us now. They won’t touch us. We have a spot here now. The fuckin’ Charlies didn’t know what hit them. Most of the other gangs bow to us. We’ll move into somethin’ a little less attention grabbin’ eventually.”

   Venom grumbled about the cigarette smoke, shifting around Eddie’s spine.

   “Won’t be in the weapon selling business for long?” Eddie asked. “My employers were hoping to set up a long term business relationship with you.”

   Joe shrugged. “I might be able to arrange something if your employers meet my price. I’ll keep a stock. We haven’t cemented any deals yet. I’d like it if you’ll help us with a little somethin’.”

   There it was. Eddie felt a strange mixture of relief and dread surge through him. He tilted his head, forcing an interested expression onto his face. “What do you have in mind?”

   This seemed to please Joe Malizia. “Got one last gang to deal with. We have some intel on where their base is from one of those lickspittles we got workin’ the streets for us. I want you to come with my boys when they shut them down.”

   “I’d like that. Haven’t had any real fun since I started working for Roxxon. They let me do a little, but it’s not the same.”

   “Great. We’ll call you. Ya do well and I’ll have one last surprise for ya.”

   Angelo looked over, a little surprised. Joe flapped a hand and the big man settled.

   A gang. Well. They could handle a gang. Eddie had been terrified that they would want him to off a cop or some random person to cement their trust.

   “I’ve told ya what I’ve done. You don’t have to worry, Mr. Malizia.”

   The gangster stubbed out his smoke. “I know what you’ve said, but I’m a man of action. We’ll see. Disappoint me and the deal is off. You can go back to Roxxon and tell them that all the tech they need is gone and you’re the reason why. Really disappoint me and I’ll mail yer carcass back to them myself, Mr. Veleno.

   Venom snarled, He tries and we eat him. Hope he tries. The symbiote was getting a little twitchy. It had been a long time since they ate anyone.

   Eddie spread his hands out in a gesture of supplication. “I hope my actions won’t disappoint you.”

   Joe grunted, gesturing for another drink, like a feudal lord holding court.

 

   The call turned out to come in two days. It was Angelo. The big man was quiet and tended to stay on the outskirts, so Eddie was a little surprised. The man was Joe Malizia’s second in command though.

   “Mr. Veleno. Meet us tonight at the bar at ten. Wear a suit and leave any electronics back at your hotel room. Not even a watch.”

   “Alright. Can do.”

   “Take a cab too and get out a couple blocks away. We’ll drive you.” Angelo hung up.

 

   Eddie paced, half dressed in the suit, his tie hanging loose around his neck. Venom was spooled out around him, trying to soothe their stressed out host.

   “Calm down, Eddie. Not the first time we have attacked a gang.”

   “It is the first time we’ve done it with another gang! What if I slip up?”

   “You won’t slip up. Eddie is perfect. Haven’t slipped up yet, have you?”

   “Well… No…” he admitted, “But what if I do if we smell blood? We’re hungry. I can feel it. There’s only so much chocolate we can eat to stave off our hunger.”

   Venom hummed. “Won’t come out. Promise Eddie. Even if you try and eat someone yourself.”

   “Great!” he sighed, throwing his hands in the air. “Then they’ll just think I’m crazy. What if we get shot?”

   “Will fix you, Eddie.” his other patiently explained. They did up the buttons on Eddie’s shirt, another loud number in burgundy and emerald.

   Ferguson knocked at the door.

   “Come in,” Eddie snapped. She’d been much more subdued the last couple days, barely talking to them.

   She blinked, but didn’t say anything as she watched Venom tie Eddie’s tie themself.

   “I have your wire since they won’t let you bring your phone.” She held up a small bundle of electronics.

   “No wire. They don’t trust me all the way yet and they’ll pat me down for sure.”

   “Brock. It’s important.”

   “So’s me not getting shot.”

   “Put the wire on, Eddie. I will just hide it, like your recorder. It is very small.” Venom said smugly.

   Eddie rubbed his face, knowing when he was beat.

   “It’s not fair when both of you gang up on me.” he grumbled.

 

   About a dozen and a half members of the gang were clustered together outside the bar, furtively smoking cigarettes and muttering to each other. Angelo took him over to the back of an SUV.

   “Hold out your arms.”

   Eddie complied and the big man gave him a briskly efficient pat-down. He never noticed the thin layer of Venom covering Eddie’s torso and the wire.

   He grunted in satisfaction and opened the hatch of the SUV.

   Inside was a gleaming assortment of exotic weapons.

   “Take one. Then we’ll discuss tactics.’

   Eddie reached out, then hesitated, sweeping his gaze over the strange guns. Finally he selected a Chitauri energy rifle.

   Angelo carefully shut the door with a click.

   He walked into the centre of the group and said, “We’re clearing out the Wah Ching gang tonight. This is their main safe house. Their main base. We’re going to kill as many as we can, destroy as much of their property as we can and make a big enough racket that when we leave, the cops show up and do the rest of our work for us. There will be no more Wah Ching in San Francisco after tonight.

   “The Wah Ching traffic weapons too, but they should mostly have regular ordnance. Tonight it’s the birthday of one of their lieutenants so they’ll be more vulnerable. We go for standard pincer move; I’ll go for the front door with half the group, then the rest will be waiting at the back door. I want two snipers waiting up on the roofs to take out any runners. We gotta be quick. Do the boss proud. We rule this city after tonight.”

   While it would have been very uplifting and shit for them all to just pile into the SUVs and drive off, they instead distributed bulletproof vests for everyone. They were the thinnest ones Eddie had ever seen. Everyone else was taking off their jackets and shirts to put it on, so he had no choice but to do the same. He didn’t take his undershirt off though. It still hid the small wire that Ferguson had given him. When he got dressed again, you could scarcely see the vest under his jacket.

   Then everyone climbed into the vehicles.

 

   They drove into Chinatown in San Francisco, very near to where Eddie lived and Mrs. Chen’s bodega was. The gang hideout was located in the basement of a seedy lounge/restaurant. He’d known there were some sketchy goings-on in the area and had eaten a couple people around here but he didn’t know there was a whole gang right in his backyard. But, it made sense. Gangs didn’t like to shit where they lived. They parked awkwardly, blocking off part of the street. Half the group continued a little further away before also parking awkwardly. Blocking the way in case anyone tried to leave.

   They piled out. Eddie’s stomach was fluttering in a way that it never did when he hunted with Venom.

   Angelo hoisted a gigantic gun, matte silver and black. A blue light pulsed along the barrel. He marched up to the front door and, with little fanfare, blasted it with the gun.

   Eddie gasped in pain, his outline shivering briefly as Venom reacted to the noise. He staggered. When he looked up, the door looked like someone huge had punched it; it was buckled in the centre and lay off its hinges. Angelo was already striding in.

   Luckily no one had seen Eddie and Venom’s reaction to the gun. He sidled up to another gang member asking, “What the fuck was that?”

   “Sonic shot gun. Angelo’s the only one that can handle the kick from it. I’ve seen it turn someone into paste. Now shut up and come on.”

   They jogged in, descending the stairs into the basement in leaps.

 

   Gunshots were already echoing in the narrow confines, along with screams. Flashes of light and zaps came from the exotic weapons the Malizia gang brandished.

   The basement was a nightmare of dim lighting, smoke and panicking bodies. Chinese hip hop blared from speakers. It had been a sketchy, but to the right people, a comfortable place. There were couches and chairs scattered around. There were a few huge TVs with gaming systems hooked up.

   The gunshots were uncomfortable in such a small area, not actually painful to Venom as they were in the wrong frequency, but they didn’t like them. The heavy smell of blood and torn bowels was in the air.

   Eddie gritted his teeth, firing his own gun into the crowd of Wah Ching. They were entirely unprepared, confused, drunk and high. Eddie stumbled over something as he moved further into the basement. A man, rolling on the floor, clutching at the stump of his missing arm. He shot him in the head, putting him out of his misery.

   A Wah Ching man took a potshot at Angelo’s back. It hit, but didn’t pierce the bulletproof vest. The big man turned and leveled the sonic shot gun at his attacker. Eddie braced. The gang member exploded into red mist, splattering against the wall along with debris from the pillar he had been hiding behind.

   Eddie swallowed, mouth thick with saliva at the smell of fresh meat. He tamped down his hunger, running in further, past the bodies and shattered furniture, past the spilled liquor and still smouldering joints. He could hear a thin scream in the chaos.

   He ran to a door, smashing it open with the butt of his gun and then smashing it again into the face of the man waiting inside with a pistol, who went down like a sack of bricks. There were three young girls, crouching in the corner, terrified, tear tracks on their faces. They had to be no older than their teens. Their hands were zip-tied together, wrists raw and inflamed. They screamed, looking at him.

   Eddie frantically made shushing motions, crouching beside them. There was also a filthy mattress in one corner of the room. He tried very hard not to look at it.

   “Let us help you.” he said. “We’ll let you loose. You need to get out the back door. It should be clear now, but don’t go left. Go right and hide in the alley. The police will come and you’ll be safe.”

   He grew a claw, snicking through the plastic. They said nothing, staring at him with wide, terrified eyes, rubbing their now free wrists.

   “We’ll cover you. Go!”

   He stood up, clutching the Chitauri gun again. Eddie stuck his head out of the small room, casting around. He waved them forwards, covering the girls as he took them towards the back door. Corpses littered the floor. He waited until they got outside before turning back to the fray.

   He fired the weapon again, aiming mostly at the wounded. This felt so wrong. Hunting with Venom felt good. They were beautiful together, strong and swift, meting out justice with claw and tooth.

   This felt like a massacre.

   It made no sense in Eddie’s head that his would be any different. These were all very bad men that they were killing. They’d even saved some people. But the sonic shotgun kept going off, sending a sharp throb of pain through them every time and they were so hungry but unable to eat.

   Eddie! Behind you! Venom snapped.

   He whirled as a Wah Ching descended on him, a baseball bat clutched in a frantic grip. He felt Venom puppet him sideways with a lurch. His arm came up, raising the gun and fired into the guy’s side.

   “Thanks.” he murmured as the Wah Ching folded up.

   “Time’s up!” bellowed Angelo, smashing the butt of his gun into the skull of a writhing man. It burst like ripe fruit, brains spilling out.

   Eddie’s mouth filled with saliva again. He swiped a forearm against his wet mouth and realized with horror that his sleeve had somehow gotten soaked in blood. Blood that was now smeared across his face. This was the exact opposite of helping. His tongue surreptitiously swiped out across his lips, licking up the salty liquid. Oh god. Hopefully no one saw.

  He started for the shattered entrance to the place as the rest of the Malizias fled.

   Music still blared out to a charnel house of destruction. Moans and whimpers from the wounded and dying competed with the pulsing beat. The thin sound of sirens wormed into awareness. They needed to leave now. They leaped into the SUVs, the drivers hitting the gas before the doors were even shut. The vehicles shrieked into motion, all of them scattering, taking alternate routes away.

   The men in Eddie’s car untangled themselves from each other and their weapons, laughing in jittery triumph, getting settled. None were seriously hurt, but blood and tissue ruined their suits. Eddie could smell every bit of it. His stomach growled.

   He clawed at the window’s button, sucking in humid, cold, clean air.

   “Whatsa matter, Daniel?” jeered the guy who had the misfortune of being crammed into the middle. “Can’t take blood? You got it all ova ya face!” He cackled.

   Eddie ignored him, trying to ignore the way Venom twisted through him, pressing at his skin, hungry.

   “You did good there! The boss’ll be happy.” Angelo boomed from the front seat. “Don’t give him too much grief, guys. He said it’s been a long time since he’s had action.”

   That set the gangsters off again, coming down from their adrenaline high.

   Eddie tried to join in their teasing, but couldn’t. He turned back to the window, sucking air. He needed to get out of this fucking car filled with goddamn maniacs laughing like hyenas. His teeth felt sharper, so he kept his mouth shut.

   Somehow Eddie kept it together until they stopped, not at the bar where they started, but up in the hills above Marin. He staggered out of the SUV. The rest of the gang was arriving. Joe Malizia was already there, leaning against his vehicle.

   Eddie fled into the rest stop bathroom, scrubbing the dried blood off his face. He stared at his reflection in the spotted mirror. The symbiote swirled through his eyes.

   Eddie. Venom said. They felt just as discombobulated as Eddie. They were ravenously hungry. The gangsters were all there outside, guaranteed to be delicious.

   “No babe. Can’t. We just gotta hold it together until we get back to the hotel.”

   Don’t like this mission.

   “Me neither. We’re in the home stretch though.”

   Someone is coming.

   Eddie grunted, turning the tap back on and scooping water into his mouth. It tasted as metallic as blood. His stomach snarled.

   Rafael came in, clutching a metal water bottle.

   “You doin’ alright man?” he asked, filling up the bottle.

   “Yeah.” he said raggedly. “Just… A lot of blood. Adrenaline. All that.”

   “Yeah, I get it. My brother doesn’t come along on these trips, ‘cos first bit of blood he sees and bleh all over his shoes.”

   Eddie straightened up, following Rafael out. The water bottle went to Angelo, who was sitting in the dust, head between his knees.

   “Him too?” Eddie asked.

   “Naw.” Rafael replied. “He gets these migraines. Hit him without much warning.”

   Joe Malizia walked over, brushing dust off his suit. “Heard you did well, Mr. Veleno.”

   Eddie shrugged.

   “Well. You did what I asked. I am not a man who will go back on his word. The deal is on for the weapons and if Roxxon is interested, I’ll let them have a chance to purchase my most prized item.”

   “What is it?” Eddie asked, trying to pull his Daniel Veleno personality back on like an ill-fitting jacket.

   “I’ll show ya later. In three days, we will meet back where we first met and ya can find out. I have to keep some secrets to keep ya interested.” he said with a smirk. He took out a silver cigarette case and selected one before offering it to Eddie.

   He hesitated a moment, anticipating Venom’s angry growl, but the symbiote stayed quiet. Fuck it. His nerves were screaming and he could use something to settle them. Venom could grumble about his lungs later.

   He slipped one between his lips and let Joe light it with a Zippo.

   Venom did react to the fire so close to Eddie’s face. They tensed around his guts with a pinch. Eddie grunted, forcing himself not to double over. It felt like a cramp.

   Hate fire, Eddie. Venom muttered. Hate cigarettes too. Poison.

   Eddie took a drag, letting the warm smoke fill his lungs. He exhaled through his nose like a dragon. He felt light-headed already, a little euphoria and calm descending.

   The two men smoked in silence, staring out at the distant lights of San Francisco.

   “Was tonight the first time you’ve killed?” asked Joe finally.

   Eddie almost brayed with laughter, but bit his tongue. He flicked the ash off his cigarette before he replied, “Yeah. Seen people die a few times when the scientists at Roxxon got something wrong. Beat the shit out of more than a few people in the day. But… Yeah.”

   Joe clapped him on the back. “Ya did a good job. Ya didn’t hesitate and ya didn’t hit any of my boys. When ya get back to yer hotel, relax. Take a shower and have a drink. You’ll get over it.”

   Eddie made a noncommittal sound.

   “I know ya don’t drink, but have one. Can’t hurt ya and you’ll sleep better.”

   The gangster dropped his cigarette butt and ground it out.

   “See ya in three days. One of my boys will drop ya at that hotel yer stayin’ at.”

 

   Eddie was silent on the drive back to the hotel. They’d switched vehicles and were in a nondescript gray sedan now. He was painfully aware that this was another flex by Joe Malizia. Letting Eddie know that he knew where Eddie was staying in the guise of caring. He muttered thanks to the driver and walked into the hotel lobby. His suit had seen better days, having picked up a couple tears as well as patches of dust. Hopefully the blood was not visible. He could feel his shirt sleeve stuck to his arm as the blood dried, pulling at the hairs.

   As he passed the front desk, the lady manning the desk called out to him.

   “Sir! We had someone drop this off for you a few minutes ago.” She held up a long, dark gold bag.

   He walked back and took it. Heavy. He peeked inside. It was a bottle of single malt Islay whisky.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

 

   Eddie woke up late the next morning. He moaned, rolling over, rubbing his sleep-crusted eyes. His whole body ached, especially a few certain spots.

   Bruises circled his wrists in blue and purple, like the bracelets he favoured.

   When he’d gotten back to his room he snuck in before Ferguson could come out and say anything to him, locking the door.

   Venom had immediately surged out of him, pinning him to the bed with need, tearing his ruined suit off in shreds and taking the wire with it.

   They’d fucked Eddie desperately hard, making him bleed with tooth and claw, pounding a hard orgasm out of him. Eddie had screamed with pleasure, raking his own short nails through Venom’s mass as the alien thrust a huge cock into his wanton ass until Eddie was boneless and spent.

   They’d needed an outlet for their ravenous hunger and turned it to sex instead. When Eddie came his own brain released many of the same chemicals they got when they ate brains. It wasn’t enough, but it helped.

   He still felt off, but he was pleased that Venom was letting him keep the marks for now. He touched them with a finger, tracing a bite mark on the thick muscle between shoulder and neck. He shivered in delight.

   Eddie sat up, hissing between his teeth in pain from his asshole. Venom hadn’t opened him up gently first, barely taking time to get lube before breaching the tender ring of muscle.

   Sorry Eddie. Venom rumbled, contrite. Should have been more careful. They went quiet for a moment. Should have asked first.

   “No, love. It’s fine. I liked it last night and I like it today. I wanted it as much as you did.”

   Still should have asked. You said asking is very important. I did not ask last night.

   Eddie rubbed his chest. “Did I seem against us having sex last night?”

   … No.

   “I wanted to fuck as much as you did. If I hadn’t, even if you didn’t pick up on it, I would have said something. I promise, love.”

   Venom shifted inside him. They seemed unhappy. If you promise, Eddie.

   He stretched. “I do. It was amazing last night. I like it when you’re rough with me. I like feeling out of control.” He touched more of the wounds. “I like the marks. It reminds me of what we did. You don’t usually leave me marked.”

   Hungry Eddie. So hungry. Can fix you after breakfast.

   “Breakfast sounds like an amazing idea. I’m going to get us a big pile of meat and chocolate cake. Then we’ll have a shower and see what fresh hell Ferguson has cooked up for us today.”

   He called down for room service. They had missed breakfast, so Eddie ordered the largest steak they had blue rare, topped with shrimp and served with fries as well as a slice of chocolate hazelnut cake.

   The bemused man who delivered the room service didn’t say anything as he handed Eddie the tray, though his eyes lingered on the dark bruises.

   Eddie wolfed the food, barely breathing until everything was scraped clean. They felt a little better.

   In the shower, his other soothed away most of the wounds, but left some of the soreness and some marks on their host’s back on Eddie’s insistence. He really did like the reminder.

   Venom also sucked him off in the shower.

   Clean, full and dressed, Eddie still didn’t feel one hundred percent yet. They knew that neither of them was going to feel normal again until they could go hunting. They had never gone this long before. Venom was having to restrain themself from eating Eddie’s organs. They didn’t want to but it was a default, instinctive reaction for their kind. Soon. Another two sleeps until they found out the last secret Joe Malizia was holding over them and then they could hunt.

 

   Eddie was sitting down in Ferguson’s room. He’d just recounted the night, clarifying things that weren’t obvious from what she heard over the wire.

   Ferguson was tired too, what with sharing a wall with Eddie and Venom.

   He’d given the Scotch to her as a kind of apology.

   “It was horrible last night.” Eddie finally said.

   Ferguson snorted. “What? Killing people? You kill people all the time. And eat them. I’d have thought last night would’ve been easy for you.”

   Eddie set his jaw and glared. “Well, it fucking wasn’t.”

   “Why though?” she pressed.

   “We don’t know! It’s… It’s just… It felt like a slaughter! I-I know the Wah Ching are a terrible fucking gang, but so many of them were so young and they mostly weren’t doing anything bad at the time. We just walked in and blew them apart. The fucking Malizias didn’t even shoot to kill half the time. They just did as much damage as they possibly could and they didn’t care that there were people in pieces that were still alive.” In agitation, he dragged his hands through his hair, making it stand up. “They didn’t kill cleanly. We do. Like, we’ll scare the shit out of the bad guys we hunt first, but you know how we kill?”

   Ferguson said nothing, staring.

   “Ninety percent of the time, we just bite off their heads. It’s fast for them. We don’t tear people apart and leave them that way. We fucking killed last night and most of it was mercy killings of teenagers who were too young to really know what they were doing!” He buried his face in his hands. Venom oozed out a little over his shoulders, squeezing.

   Muffled by his hands, Eddie said quietly, “The worst part of it… The worst… This is super fucked up. All we could think of was how hungry we were. That basement was filled with dead and dying people and we are so hungry. I feel even more fucking terrible about that. We still can’t fucking eat Joe Malizia because you want more evidence and you fucking blackmailed us to be here.” He raised his head, breathing hard. He realized what he’d almost revealed.

   “Jesus.” Ferguson said eventually, paling.

   They sat in silence for a few minutes before she walked over to the sink and grabbed a glass. She cracked open the bottle of Scotch and poured a generous finger into the glass. She slugged half back immediately.

   Eddie blinked in surprise.

   She finished it, coughing slightly and poured herself a little more. The agent swirled the golden liquid, staring into it.

   “I’m sorry this is so hard for you. I should’ve… I should’ve thought of a better way to get you to work with SHIELD. My boss… My boss said the direct route and intimidating you would work best. Otherwise you wouldn’t take us seriously and you’d cut and run. We didn’t-don’t understand your symbiote and we fucked up.” Ferguson sighed deeply and took a sip. “I thought I had to be tough to you. You know how hard it is being a woman in an organization like this? People are so fucking sexist and if you aren’t a bitch to people, no one takes you seriously. I… I forget how to not be a bitch sometimes. Most of the time. It’s hard to turn off the person you are at work. It turns into a habit.” She drank down another swallow of the peaty liquid.

   Silence stretched onwards.

   Eddie finally reached out and patted her knee.

   “Just… My bosses are going to ride me for this, do you know anything about what he’s hiding?”

   “We have no idea what Malizia has up his sleeve.” Eddie said wearily.

   “Nothing? You’re sure?” she asked.

   “No. It’s probably some crazy weapon he wants to unload. He doesn’t want to stay in the weapons dealing business forever. He’s probably going to go back to drug smuggling or human trafficking now that he’s got the baddest gang in town. Maybe protection rackets or something shady with real estate. He doesn’t want Iron Man showing up and pummeling him.” He put his hands over his face again, rubbing his eyes.

   “Well, at least he doesn’t seem to know that anything’s going on with you. I hate that he’s sent his goons here though.”

   “Yeah, us too. He’s just trying to scare me or he wants me to stay on my toes or he wants to show how clever he is. Pick one. We don’t know why exactly he revealed that he knows where we are staying. Who cares. This is almost over and we are so fucking ready for it to be done.”

   Ferguson looked him over. “You do kind of look like shit.”

   “Thanks.” Eddie said, glaring with a reddened eye between two fingers.

   “Sorry.” she apologized again.

  "We feel like shit. We need brains.” Venom piped up. “Sex and chocolate are not enough.”

   The woman winced. “Thanks for that. I’m going to need industrial strength brain bleach after hearing you two last night. You are into some fucked up shit, Brock.”

   Venom tilted their head as they looked at her. “Don’t know why we should be ashamed. Humans are confusing. Sex releases good chemicals I need to live and it feels good. Why be weird about it?”

   “She’s just uncomfortable at the idea of us, babe.”

   “Still stupid.”

   “Well, are we done?” Eddie asked. “We would like to go back to our room.”

   “Yeah, we’re done for now.”

   He got up, Venom sinking back under his skin. A touch on his shoulder made him turn.

   “Look. I’m sorry I’m being weird about you and Venom… I know it’s dumb but they just ook me out. They’re not… They’re not evil. Just annoying. I just… It’s a thing. I’m trying.”

   “We’re glad you’re trying, Ferguson. We’re sorry for the way everything is too. Um. Enjoy the rest of the Scotch. Maybe get some ear plugs.”

   “We are probably going to have more sex.” Venom said helpfully.

   She sighed. “What if I get you some really good chocolate? Would that help?”

   He managed a small smile. “Yeah. It’ll help.”

 

   A couple hours later there was a knock at the door. They opened it to a box of fancy dark chocolate bars.

   Eddie and Venom had sex again, gentle and slow as the tide. Then they spent the rest of the evening eating chocolate and watching Star Wars as it played yet again on the TV. It was fantastic chocolate, rich as sin and dark as night. The gnawing sensation of hunger faded somewhat too.

   Venom purred with happiness, curling up to rest on Eddie’s chest.

   “Shall we call it a night, babe?”

   Yes, Eddie.

   “Good. Cuz I’m not sure my hole can take another round today.”

   Venom chuckled lasciviously, squeezing Eddie’s ass.

   “I’m going to have to remember this chocolate. It will be a nice treat for us.”

   Very tasty Eddie.

   He settled into bed, Venom flowing out around his back to spoon him.

   “Not much longer, babe. Just a couple more days until we wipe that smirk off his face. Can’t wait until we can be back in our own shitty apartment again.”

   He will be delicious, even with all the cigarettes he smokes. Venom said softly, stroking a tendril down the shell of Eddie’s ear. Everything will go back to normal again.

 

   The next day and night passed too fast and too slow at the same time. Eddie was so ready for the night to arrive and simultaneously dreading it.

 

   He pulled the Escalade into the parking lot in Oakland. He checked his reflection in the rear-view mirror. Eddie could see he was still looking like shit. He had bags under his eyes and was a little too pale, just like those bad few first days of their symbiosis.

   “Well, love. It’s showtime.” he said, popping the door open and swinging his legs out.

   Venom twined around his spine like an affectionate cat.

   “Good to see ya again, Mr. Veleno.” Joe said, stepping forwards. “Apologies for the added security detail.” He gestured around. Eddie could see about a dozen people in the dark. “It pays to be cautious. I don’t let this shit leave our safe house without at least a double handful of my best.”

   “I hope it’s worth the hype. You’ve been droppin’ hints for weeks.” Eddie replied.

   “Ha! Of course it’s worth it.” He took a closer look at Eddie. “You doin’ alright? Ya look sick as a dog.”

   “Yeah. I’ll be fine. Musta ate somethin’ off.”

   Joe nodded. “Hey, Angelo! Open the hatch. Get ready, boys! Look sharp!”

   Angelo braced the gigantic sonic shot gun on one shoulder and opened the back of the SUV. There was a safe inside.

   Joe Malizia ambled up, putting a combination in and scanning one eye. The black safe clicked open.

   “Now, this ain’t gonna look like much, but I’ll explain.” He pulled a carbon fibre case out, getting into the swing of things, clearly enjoying himself. “What I got here is the only examples of this in non-government hands in the western hemisphere.” He unlocked the case with another combination and scanned his thumb. It popped open slightly. He picked up the case and held it in front of him like a jeweler ready to show off a prized piece.

   Eddie craned his neck, stomach churning with anticipation.

   Joe opened the case with a flourish. Inside was foam cut to carefully cradle five ampules filled with clear liquid.

   “What I have…” He grinned, enjoying himself, “is super soldier serum.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

 

   “What?” Eddie said incredulously, “You gotta be shittin’ me. No one’s got super soldier serum.”

   Joe Malizia grinned widely. “I do.”

   “Where did you get it?”

   “Got it off some Russians a couple years back. They stole it from their own government hoping to make it big. We took’em in sayin’ we’d protect’em. My boys and I killed‘em once we found out what they had and took it.”

   “Is it real?” Eddie asked, gaping.

   “Fuck yeah it is. Ask Angelo there.”

   Angelo nodded and because a moment like this demanded dramatics, put his gun down and picked up a piece of rebar tucked into the back for just this reason, tying it into a knot. He handed the metal to Eddie for him to inspect.

   “No tricks.” Angelo rumbled.

   “I bet yer eggheads back at Roxxon would cream their fucking pants for a vial of this.”

   “I… Yeah. Holy shit.” Eddie goggled.

   “Now, in the interest of total transparency, cos I’m a good businessman, there are some side effects. This ain’t the same shit that the US used to make Captain America. No one knows how to recreate that one. This shit gives ya enhanced strength amd durability, improved reflexes and a bit of a healing factor, yeah. But it kills about, oh, forty-five percent of the people ya give it to and even the ones that take it well, like Angelo here, get side-effects.”

   Angelo said, “I get migraines fairly often, sometimes seizures. Maybe once or twice a year. I tend to get very bad scar tissue if I am wounded. Sometimes I experience fatigue and tingling in my hands and feet. Sometimes muscle pain. I have to watch everything I touch since I could crush it if I am not careful.” He shrugged expansively. “It was worth it to me to risk everything.”

   “But why?” Eddie asked. “What was worth the risk, the side-effects?”

   “It was worth it.” he said firmly. “It’s also not your business.” he added, though not unkindly.

   “Figure your scientists can reverse engineer from this? Maybe get rid of some of the side-effects?”

   “Shit. Yeah, probably. I’m gettin’ a raise after this.” he said with a crooked grin.

   Joe snapped the case shut and put it back in the safe. “Perfect. So each ampule is enough for one person. The price starts at two million per ampule, but for all five it will be eight million. I will not haggle. Ya make yer choice now. No callin’ yer boss, no coming back later.”

   His stomach fluttered with anticipation. Venom shifted like a tide in him. He felt the first jittery surge of adrenaline.

   “Got all that, Ferguson?” he said, still grinning. “We’re making our choice.”

   “What the fuck?” Joe Malizia queried, which was a hell of a thing to have as your last words.

   Venom surged over him, quick as a thought. Eddie was already moving forwards. Together they snapped Joe Malizia’s head clean off his body.

   Angelo swore, falling backwards, crawling away.

   Venom was about to follow him when a familiar burning feeling struck their back, stronger than before. They whirled with a guttural hiss.

   One of the other gang members was armed with one of those disintegration beams. He would die next.

   Venom leaped and twisted, dodging as the shocked gangsters fired their alien weapons at them. The symbiote was dark as ink and quick as a snake, swinging out a tentacle to grab a human, dragging them back to their gaping maw, laying open a chest with their claws, flinging a man through the air to crumple against the ground. They were a fearsome whirlwind of death, a perfect melding of host and symbiote, their heart sang with glee as they finally gave into their base instincts, they-

 

   Pain. Eddie was aware of pain and ringing in his ears. Where was he? Gravel dug into his cheek, dirt made him cough. Ow, fuck. Okay. He was on the ground. He lay there a moment, trying to gather his thoughts together. They slipped from his mind like water from a hand.

   When did he end up on the ground? The last thing he remembered, they were gathering themselves to leap…

   Venom!

   Where was Venom?!

   He pushed himself up, blinking, heart pounding suddenly. It was hard to focus. He was dizzy. He got himself up onto his elbows, peering around.

   There were spots of black all over the light brown dirt.

   Some of them were moving slightly, pseudopods grabbing weakly at the dirt.

   Some of them weren’t.

   They must have been hit with the sonic shotgun.

   “... Venom…” he croaked, voice breaking, reaching out for the black blobs. He started grabbing every one he could see, pulling them together and against his chest. Eddie sobbed, barely able to hear himself over the ringing in his ears. He heard indistinct voices, like they were underwater.

   “C’mon, c’mon, love please, just sink in, please babe… I can’t… You need to get back in me… Please.”

   Some of the blobs slowly, slowly sank into the skin of his chest. Eddie struggled forwards to get more when a boot connected with his side.

   All the air in his chest was knocked out of him and he felt a rib snap. He collapsed, wheezing; he didn’t even have enough air in his lungs to scream. It didn’t stop there though. Suddenly he was surrounded by the surviving gangsters, who kicked and stomped and swore at him. Eddie couldn’t do anything but curl into a ball and take the beating. It wasn’t the first time he’d had the shit kicked out of him and it certainly wouldn’t be the last.

   “Stop.” commanded a deep voice. Angelo. “I don’t want him dead. Yet.”

   Eddie rolled over and tried to slowly drag himself away. Holy fucking shit his ribs hurt. They’d hurt more of them, probably broken at least two more. His knee and head throbbed.

   The ringing in his ears was fading but hearing was still difficult. He could feel a trickle of wetness running from one ear.

   The men surrounding him watched his pitiful, dazed progress for a moment. Angelo kicked him again, once.

   Eddie threw up, the pain was so bad. And then gagged again from the agony of throwing up. It was like somebody had lit up his ribs with electricity. He gasped for breath.

   “Get him into the SUV. We’re taking him somewhere safe where we can find out what the fuck is going on.”

   Hands seized his upper arms, lifting him up and pulling him back into the trunk. They zip-tied his hands behind his back and his feet together, even though he wailed thinly in agony.

   “Smash his phone. We don’t need anyone else showing up.” They rifled through his pockets, producing the phone, which now had a crack in the screen. There was a crunch out of sight. They threw the shattered remains into the back of the SUV with Eddie, miraculously missing his head.

   “Now gather up any evidence out here and get it in your own cars. Pick up the bodies. Meet us back at the safe house.” Angelo snapped.

   They closed the hatch.

 

   The drive over was miserable. Every bump set his ribs aflame again and with his bound hands and feet, he couldn’t shift or brace himself. It hurt deep inside. Eddie sobbed and coughed blood into the upholstery.

   He couldn’t hear Venom. The symbiote was silent. They were alive still, since they had sunk into his chest but it was like after the rocket explosion all over again.

   Eddie had been an utter wreck for the week it took for Venom to get enough strength to be able to talk again. Dan had him put on suicide watch in the hospital. The moment he had heard Venom speak to him again had been like the sun breaking out between storm clouds. Even after his other could talk again, they were still feeble for another week.

   By the time they finally reached the safe house, he was cried out. His eyes burned from the tears and snot mixed with blood and vomit was smeared across his face. He was a disgusting mess.

   Eddie was limp as they dragged him inside and into an elevator. The building, from what he could see of the floor, seemed fairly unfinished.

   The gangsters were silent on the ride up, but he could feel their rage seething off of them, like vapour.

   Once the doors dinged and clanked open, Eddie was dragged forwards again and down a short hall. With a grunt they lifted him into a hard metal chair and zip-tied him to that.

   “Hope you have a good rest, Daniel or whatever the fuck your name is.” snarled Rafael. “Angelo is sending for a close compatriot of ours. We’re going to find out exactly who you are and where you came from. Our friend can get anybody to talk. We’ll enjoy ourselves, watching him work you over for what you did to us.”

   “... Fuck you…” Eddie mumbled sullenly.

   Rafael wound up and punched him in the side of the head and everything whited out for a moment.

 

   Eddie was only out a moment since he could still hear Rafael closing the door and talking to the other gangster. Eddie didn’t know his name.

   “Stay out here and watch that fuck. Luca will be back with Mr. Cooper in a few hours. We’ll send someone to relieve you before then.”

   “Will do.”

   “Don’t hit him again; we need him to talk. We need to find out what the fuck he is, who else knows and who he’s working for.”

   Eddie waited as long as he could before he whispered, “Venom?”

   Nothing.

   “Are you there? Please talk to me babe. Please. We’re gonna die here.” He took a whistling breath. It was hard to breathe. He coughed more blood.

   A faint flutter in his belly.

   … eddie… the symbiote whispered. They sounded so weak.

   “Oh thank fuck, you’re alive!”

   … Tired, Eddie…

   “I know babe, I know. We need to do something or we’re going to be tortured to death. I don’t think Ferguson knows where we are. We need to save ourselves.” he fretted.

   Eddie is very hurt. Bleeding inside.

   “I know. They beat me up.”

   Have to fix you.

   “Don’t worry about that. Can you break the zip-ties? You can eat some of my organs if you have to. I don’t need my appendix or tonsils. When we get out you can fix me again.”

   Don’t want to hurt you, Eddie. Love you.

   “I love you too, Venom. Please try.” He felt tingling over his hands as Venom slowly oozed out. A moment passed and then the tight plastic sprang loose. “Thank you so much, V.” He rubbed his wrists and really looked around the room.

   It was pretty much empty. There was the chair he was sitting on, which was bolted to the floor and a table, also bolted to the floor. Dust and a few cardboard scraps sat in the neglected corners. The windows were covered in plywood and the only light was a fluorescent fixture set into the ceiling. There were some horrible dark brown stains on the floor.

   “Okay,” he whispered, “we have no weapons in here. Babe, can you give me anything?”

   Venom was silent again.

   “Babe?” A note of panic crept into his voice. He realized that the deep ache inside him was gone and he was now breathing more easily, though his ribs were still aflame.

   … Tired… Fixed insides… Will… Try…

   Eddie noticed suddenly that his teeth were sharper than before. A far cry from the bristling array of teeth they could normally sprout, but it was something.

   “Okay. We can work with this.”

 

   Eddie banged on the door and screamed for help. Not the most artful plan.

   “Would you shut the fuck up, you fucking freak?!” snarled the man on the other side of the door.

   Eddie kept going, yelling his head off as loudly as he could manage with his busted ribs.

   “No one can hear you.” growled the gangster.

   He hollered himself hoarse until the man opened the door, a meaty fist raised above his head. However, Eddie wasn’t where he expected. He was standing to the other side of the door and swung both fists together into the side of the gangster’s head. He fell, but didn’t go unconscious.

   Eddie threw himself on top of the stunned man, no art to it, only desperation. He snapped at his neck and throat, but it turns out that it was harder than he thought.

   “What the fuck!” yelped the gangster, wild panic on his face as a filthy, toothy man tried to bite him.

   Eddie grabbed both of the gangster’s shoulders and knocked his head into the floor, dazing him again just long enough to sink his teeth into his vulnerable throat.

   He expected that it would be easy once he got his human jaws around the throat of his prey, but it turned out without Venom’s strength, biting through skin was much harder than he thought.

   The gangster started screaming and struggling again as Eddie worried at his throat like a puppy on a bone.

   He finally tore off a strip of skin, blood welling up. He lapped at the sweetly metallic liquid desperately, hunching his head like an owl against the panicked blows the gangster landed on him.

   New strength surged through him and Eddie began to eat the man alive.

   It turned out that the big veins and arteries were nestled fairly deep in the muscle of the neck and so it took several ripping bites to finally hit one of them.

   Blood fountained up from the ragged wound, splattering past Eddie’s gore covered face and over the walls, ceiling and floor.

   His prey’s struggles quickly waned and Eddie settled in to eat. He was sooo hungry. He’d never eaten someone without being wrapped in Venom before, but he didn’t stop. He just kept ripping and shoveling warm, dripping meat into his mouth.

   At some point, he grew claws. Sharp and tapering to black.

   A long, curling tongue was next. The better to lap up blood and rasp meat from bone.

   Eddie grabbed the carcass by the shoulders again and started bashing its head against the floor until there was a crack. Then he turned it over and hooked his claws in the skull, pulling it open like a coconut.

   His talons pierced the dura mater and scooped out a handful of pudding-soft brains.

   He shoveled them into his mouth with a moan, closing his eyes and sucking every trace from his fingers before going back with a new desperation. Oh fuck that was good. That was the shit. He was half-hard, Venom’s pleasure from eating brains feeding back to him. He went back for another handful. Too quickly, the skull was empty, licked clean as a bowl.

   Eddie’s wounds were nearly gone now. There was a popping feeling, like being in an airplane as his eardrums healed.

   He pulled the eyes out, which burst like grapes in his mouth before moving on from brains and meat to the body cavity. As his claws ripped deep Eddie drooled, thick ropes of bloody saliva running down his chin. He stuffed himself on viscera before sitting back, full. For now.