Flash Thompson had a problem. A conundrum, really, of the worst kind. He was better at thinking on the fly. Quick plays. Improvisation. Not the stuff that had him mulling over possibilities for hours and hours. Definitely not the stuff that had him debating, going back and forth between potential resolutions, unable to simply get it over with and get the offending issue out of his head.
This process was especially aggravating when the offending issue involved a certain Eddie Brock.
And that’s where the spiraling came in. What in the world could he do about Eddie Brock being inside his apartment?
Flash lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling, every fiber of his being hyper-aware that his old foe was only one room away. All that stood between them was the door separating his bedroom from the living room. The door was locked, of course, but Flash knew that was hardly an actual deterrent should Eddie wake up and decide that the best way to repay Flash’s hospitality was by murdering him. And with no more Anti-Venom left to protect himself...
Well, okay, that scenario was assuming a few things:
First, it assumed Eddie would resume consciousness before Flash did. Which, he wouldn’t, seeing as Flash was too wired and anxious to shut his eyes.
Second, it assumed that Eddie still wanted to kill Flash, even though Eddie was the one with the symbiote now. He couldn’t claim he still needed to keep an eye on Flash, or accuse the younger man of stealing it.
Third, it assumed the symbiote would let Eddie hurt Flash.
That last one seemed pretty unlikely, at least.
Flash sighed, sitting up and then rubbing his tired eyes. A part of him regretted opening the door. Maybe if he’d ignored the knocking, ignored the familiar twinge in his head he felt whenever the symbiote was close by—
He still had time before Eddie woke up. He could kick them out. Refuse to help.
No, he couldn’t.
He couldn’t leave his friend in the lurch. Not when it had carried Eddie all the way here, its host unhelpfully unconscious, just to ask for Flash’s assistance. Though, why it had thought Flash was any more qualified to address the issues the pair was facing, he wasn’t sure.
“Drugs, weird tests, messed with his perception—” the symbiote explained, its tone rapid and scared as it whorled around Eddie’s body, steering them inside by forcing movement into its hosts legs. “Trapped in nightmares, don’t know how to fix him—”
Wide, white eyes, with a quavering keen of a voice at odds with the deep growls Flash was used to. Tendrils, black as pitch, clinging to its host, like he’d fall to pieces if it didn’t.
“ Don’t know how to help him! Need you to—Please, Flash! ”
The veteran kept his head buried in his hands. No, he couldn’t refuse the symbiote. Not after everything they’d been through together.
Even if it was Eddie Brock hosting it now.
Flash could let them stay for a bit, long enough for Eddie to wake up. Kick them out right after, assuming the older man was healthy after a night’s rest.
...But what if he wasn’t?
Flash couldn’t just keep him here. He wasn’t the man’s caretaker—the symbiote was. For some reason. It had gone back to Eddie, even after all the shit with Toxin. All the pain, unspoken, unsaid, no matter how close Flash had grown to it. Trauma and agony and hate and betrayal.
All of that, and it still went back to Eddie.
Maybe Flash could limit himself to helping the symbiote. Help it see that it didn’t need its old host. Get it to see that Eddie was...wrong. Bad for it. It should be here, with Flash. With someone who cared about it.
Why did it go back to Eddie?
Flash stared through the darkness, at the palms of his hands. They held no answers.
Why didn’t it come back to me?
Would it even want to come back to him?
He heard a thud, from the living room. A string of fast, angry curses followed, and then, the stressed, worried keening of the symbiote.
Eddie was awake.
“Damn it all,” Flash breathed, shuffling over his bed covers to get to his wheelchair. Sliding into it, he made his way to the bedroom door, a grumble leaving his lips. “Might as well get this shit over with.”
At least he wouldn’t have much longer to ponder over possibilities of how to handle the situation. Eddie would probably make that decision for him.
Flash opened the door slowly, bracing himself. For what, he wasn’t sure. A fight, maybe. A shouting match, at the very least.
But the sight of Eddie gave him pause.
More specifically, the sight of Eddie edging away from the symbiote’s form, cornered against the armrest of the couch. Blue eyes flicked around the living room, wide and confused, searching for an escape route, though there wasn’t a threat to be seen.
Eddie jolted, apparently having not heard Flash come out of his bedroom. His head snapped in the veteran’s direction, but instead of the furious glare Flash expected, the expression on Eddie’s face was more akin to shock.
Flash stared back at him, perplexed. Eddie had already been in bad shape when the symbiote had brought him here a few hours ago. Scratchy stubble on his normally clean-shaven face. Bordering on underweight. Too pale. He was paler, now, gawking at Flash like he was face-to-face with the spectre of death itself. The veteran inclined his head slightly, raising an eyebrow. “...You alright there, man?”
Eddie did not appear comforted by the fact that Flash was talking to him. In fact, it seemed to make him shrink even more against the back of the couch. Some subconscious instinct to hide, despite the man’s large frame.
It would almost look funny, if it wasn’t so... off.
Eddie opened his mouth slowly, his voice hesitant. Soft. Softer than Flash had ever heard it before. “...Thompson?”
“Yes?” Flash confirmed, confused by the other man’s behavior. This was not the man he’d fought before. Not the one forcibly bonded to Toxin. Not the man who swore to kill him the second he lost control as Agent Venom. That Eddie Brock was confident. Angry. Bitter. A wrathful fury, always ready to rip Flash to shreds.
But now, he just seemed scared.
As Eddie’s expression grew more incredulous, Flash crossed his arms over his chest. “What’s the weird look for?”
“You’re dead,” Eddie stated suddenly.
Okay, definitely not the response Flash had been expecting.
Flash couldn’t help but laugh as he asked, “I’m what?”
“Dead,” Eddie repeated, gaze utterly transfixed on the other man, like he was trying to scrutinize every detail of his person. “You’re dead. I saw your grave.”
“Wasn’t real, Eddie,” the symbiote urged, its snakelike form branching off its other’s arm. “Told you. Told you they were lies, from the drugs—”
“From the drugs, or from you?! ” Eddie snapped, turning to his other with a snarl.
“Woah—Hey!” Flash raised his voice before Eddie could add anything else. “Don’t talk to it like that!”
“Why should I listen to you?” Eddie rounded on Flash again. “You’re probably just some damn hallucination that it cooked up to—to…” he trailed off with a wince, a hand grasping the side of his head as he groaned.
“Hallucination?” Flash questioned, looking in askance to the symbiote.
Its form drooped, sadly. It didn’t provide an answer. Or, it couldn’t.
So, in all likelihood, this was more complicated than the bad drug trip it had made this situation out to be.
Flash sighed through his nose. Great. He sucked at complicated. He rolled over to the side of the couch, to where Eddie had curled himself against the cushions. Eddie’s other hand had joined in trying to hold his head together, and now that Flash could get a closer look, he could see the older man was shaking. His breathing was too quick. His eyes were still open, but dazed. Unfocused.
The veteran directed his own gaze to the symbiote’s sad form once more, before gritting his teeth and steeling his nerve. He’d promised to help, after all. It might not do any good, but he still had to try. Flash leaned forward, trying to catch the attention of the panicking man. “Brock.”
If anything, Eddie curled himself even tighter.
“...Brock, come on, man,” Flash tried again. He reached out a hand, only to stop as Eddie flinched away from him. He dropped the appendage with a frustrated grimace. “... Eddie,” he tried again, palms up and open, attempting to display himself as entirely nonthreatening. “You gotta talk to me. I can’t help you if I don’t know what the hell’s going on.”
Eddie was silent, glaring hard at Flash’s hands.
Flash looked to the symbiote again. “What the hell happened?”
The symbiote’s form quivered. “...Eddie doesn’t trust what we say.”
“Yeah, I can see that. But why?” Flash pressed.
“Man named the Maker. Did so many tests—drugged us—”
“Or, you’ve been lying to me for years—” Eddie cut in, icy eyes refocused.
“Haven’t been lying!” the symbiote protested with a whine. “Maker lied, Eddie! We didn’t do any of those things! Never would!”
“You would say that!” Eddie retorted, uncurling just enough to yell at his other. “All of the lies, messing with my head, with my memories—!”
“We didn’t, Eddie, wasn’t real—!”
“Maybe I’d know better if I didn’t have you screwing with my thoughts, you damned—”
“That’s enough!!” Flash shouted, grabbing one of Eddie’s wrists, physically pulling the man’s focus to him. The other man startled at the outburst, too surprised to free his hand from Flash’s grip. “This is getting us absolutely fucking nowhere, and it is three in the morning,” Flash glowered. “If you’re so worried about it messing with your head, then just, I don’t fucking know—Let me host the symbiote while you sort your shit out!”
Something in Eddie’s expression cracked, for a split-second. Not long enough for Flash to know what nerve he’d struck, but enough to know something had hit home in the demand.
The older man seemed to slowly deflate, not curling back up in his defensive huddle, but still turning away from both of them.
The symbiote let out a soft whine. “Eddie…”
Eddie dropped his head, scowling, but quiet again. “...Fine.”
Flash’s brow furrowed in concern. That was easy. Way too easy. “...Fine?”
“Take it,” Eddie asserted. Beside him, the symbiote’s eyes widened. “Go to him,” he told it. “I can’t...I don’t know what’s real and what isn’t with you right now, and we’re just…”
The symbiote maneuvered its form closer, chittering concernedly as it stilled near Eddie’s face.
Eddie looked at it for a long moment, before reaching for his other with his free hand. He trailed his knuckles along the side of its head, just beneath one of its eyes. A surprisingly affectionate gesture, though his hand still shook. “...We’re hurting each other again, like this.”
The symbiote let out a low trill. “Said we wouldn’t, Eddie…” Then, more emphatically, “Said we’d always be together.”
Flash openly stared now, baffled at the pair in front of him. It was quickly becoming apparent that he’d volunteered to be thrown into the deep end of this mess, when he’d agreed to let Venom crash on his couch for the night. He’d thought Eddie would need a little help reorienting himself, maybe. For the symbiote to need a little time to calm down.
He didn’t expect... this.
“This is temporary,” Eddie promised the symbiote. “At least until...Until I know this is—Until I know what I saw wasn’t—” He cut himself off, then, eyes moving from the symbiote, to Flash. His gaze dropped. His hand hovered by his other, like he’d run his fingers along the symbiote’s form again, but his fingers were frozen in place. “...please, love.”
One more lingering look, something unspoken, and then the klyntar had disappeared again beneath Eddie’s skin. Flash could still sense it, still felt the way it moved, flowing from Eddie’s wrist to Flash’s hand. Up his arm. Symbiotic cells, merging with his own, blooming through his veins. A connection clicking back into place. And then, a second voice in his head, rumbling deep, through the very core of him.
...We’re sorry, Flash.
Beside him, Eddie lifted his head, still looking worse for wear, but ever so slightly more alert. More aware. Still, he looked physically pained as he choked out, “...thank you.”
“Uh,” Flash started, green eyes locked with blue. “...Right. Yeah. I guess, uh…” he slumped back into his wheelchair, mind more awhirl than it had been even twenty minutes ago. “...I guess this is happening.”
Eddie scowled at him. “Don’t think I won’t kill you if you decide to keep it, Thompson.”
Ah, that was more like it.
Flash countered the expression with a stiff grin. “Nice to see you too, Brock.”