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Brunch on Laguna

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If Dan wasn't doing a digital detox right now, he'd definitely post about this on his Yelp page.

“Just wait, Anne, their mimosas are amazing. I can't believe we don't have to wait in line.”

“It's nine-thirty on a Tuesday,” says Anne. She's standing on her tip-toes, trying to spot Eddie coming down the street.

“So we've discovered not only how to keep modern romance alive, but also how to get a great table for brunch,” he says. “The key is inhuman hospital shifts and unemployment, who knew.”

“We should write an advice book, we'd make millions,” she says, smiling at him.

That mimosa sounds really good right about now. He's fresh off another week on third shift – punishment for letting an unhinged ex-journalist with no health insurance rampage through the hospital, even if admin won't admit it – and some things are shinier in the daylight than they probably should be. Like the grass on the sidewalk strip in front of the restaurant, or the stack of Street Sheets being sold by the homeless guy on the corner.

Down the street about a block, a tall tech guy takes a wild, flailing step off the sidewalk and into traffic. Dan peers in that direction; that's probably Eddie now.

“Oh, there he is,” says Anne. She puts her hand up and waves.

“So, you're sure he's doing all right? He's recovered from his – his thing?” He knows Eddie's organs are back to a normal, healthy state, but Dan has a few questions left over about the guy's head.

“He seems happier,” Anne says after a long moment.

Which isn't, he notices, really an answer to his question. “That's good.” Not that he really came out and asked the question directly. Maybe he's part of the problem. Maybe they need to work on their communication.

Eddie swaggers up, one hand emerging from his jacket pocket to shake Dan's already outstretched palm, the other pulling Anne in for a quick sideways hug.

Every time, it's a surprise all over again how completely silent the alarm bells of jealousy are when he sees Eddie with Anne. Even that first night he saw him hanging around outside her place, he gave off a thorough vibe of already taken.

“No line,” comments Eddie as they sidle inside the restaurant.

Dan grins at him. “I know, right?”

They are seated at a table in the corner next to the window, out of direct sunlight but with a brilliant view down Fell. Eddie clears his throat a few times and shifts in his seat, but the fidgeting seems to disappear as soon as he has the menu in hand.

They hear the specials and Dan orders a round of mimosas. He already knows what he's getting; he'd looked up the menu on his 4 am break.

“I was happy to see your byline last Wednesday, man,” he says to Eddie. “I think it's great that you're going back to writing – I mean, the whole pivot to video thing. We all knew that was bullshit, right?”

“But you loved the Brock Report,” says Anne, glancing up from a listing of hashes.

Dan had thought the Brock Report was great and that Eddie Brock was the coolest man in San Francisco. He still, painfully, kind of thinks this.

“Yeah,” he says, “but that was – you know, that was all Eddie.”

Eddie rubs his jaw and smiles at him. “Oh, well that's. That's real nice of you to say, man.” Then he jumps slightly in his chair, knee hitting the underside of the table. He belatedly attempts to cover up the flinch by clearing his throat again.

Dan tries to share a worried glance with Anne, but she is staring at the other man narrowly over the top of her menu.

So he asks, concerned, “You okay?”

“What? Yes, yeah, I'm – I am great. Just, you know hungry – hungry! Just completely starving, man.”

“You should try one of their waffles,” says Dan. “They're pretty filling.”

“Hey, look, tater tot waffles,” says Eddie, reading off the menu. “YES – yes,” he smiles between Dan and Anne, “we are having that.”

All of Dan's concern flees in the face of this unexpected attack.

“Oh. You, you want to share?” he says, groping blindly for a menu, his heart sinking. This overturns all his plans. “I suppose we could split – something...”

“We're sharing?” asks Anne brightly, jumping back into the conversation. “Then what do you guys think of the Butternut and Kale Strata? With a side of the applewood bacon?”

Dan thinks forlornly of his Dutch Baby pancake. It was supposed to be his one sugar intake for the week. He's been thinking about it for five hours.

“No,” announces Eddie loudly. “That's all right. No sharing. Please,” he adds, in a more normal tone.

And it's a little weird, but Dan selfishly doesn't question it. His Dutch Baby is safe.

The waiter arrives back with their mimosas, which Dan accepts gratefully, and takes their order.

“So, Eddie,” Anne says once they're left in relative privacy again. “How are you feeling these days? For real?”

“Better than ever.”

Looking at his unshadowed, unsweaty face, Dan believes him. But Anne says, “Really? You haven't been having any strange thoughts? Maybe dreams?”

Dan's smile remains in place, but takes on a slightly fixed nature as he glances between the two of them. Maybe the shift is catching up to him, and he doesn't have as long as he thought he did. The air over the mimosas feels abruptly charged.

Eddie leans over the table and gives her the roguish smile that has tried and failed to charm city supervisors, CEOs, and police officers all across the Bay. Anne is a stone unmoved, but Dan can't help but be impressed.

“I know what you're getting at, and the answer is no,” says Eddie.

“Feeling under the weather at all lately?” she volleys back immediately. “Like a bad hangover, maybe? Faint pain in the kidneys?”

The smile drops from Eddie's face and is replaced by look of soft concern. “Is that what Venom felt like to you?”

Dan feels the mimosa hit him all at once in a rush of lightheaded nausea.

Eddie leans forward and Anne, as if she is connected to him by a stiff beam, sits back in equal measure.

“Wait – Anne?” Dan can hear his voice creeping high and frantic. “That thing was inside you? And you didn't say anything to me?”

She turns to him. “Dan, I swear, it meant nothing!”

Which is perhaps the must upsetting thing she could have said, for a number of reasons. It is just as well he is too preoccupied with the horrific recall of Eddie's blood test results to immediately respond.

He stops for a second and goes through the breathing exercises that helped him through med school and his first residency. Then he says with a controlled calm, “Get your purse. We are going back to the hospital, and I am going to run some tests – ”

She's fine,” says a thick, awful voice from somewhere inside Eddie mouth.

Dan and Anne stop and stare across the table.

It continues silkily, “But if you insist, we'll finish up here, make sure your plates are left nice and clean.”

The way it hisses nice leaves Dan feeling like he may never be clean again. Their waiter, passing by the table, fumbles and nearly drops a tray of scones. Eddie's eyes track the bounce of pastry with gleaming catlike attention.

“I knew it,” is what Anne says, stabbing a finger at Eddie.

“You did?” says Dan. “Of course you did.”

Though now that he thinks about it, so did he. The only reason it took so long for the realization to come forward is that Eddie seems genuinely happier, like she'd said. Well-rested and at ease with himself. He looks like he could march into City Hall to get some answers and get thrown out twenty minutes later for disturbing the peace.

“Oh, what,” and here's Eddie back again, sounding stubborn. “Like you wouldn't have told me to get rid of him – no one's getting rid of you,” he adds loudly to the air.

Then something incredible happens: Eddie tilts his head and rolls his eyes at Dan. His mouth is wearing a fond slant – wry, like they were just two down-to-earth guys hanging out with their plus-ones, sharing a old shake of the head at their mystifying ways.

But Dan refuses to be tempted by this offer of sorely-desired male bonding. “Shouldn't you get rid of it?” he asks, trying to keep his (desperate, horrified) tone gentle enough to avoid setting the thing off again. “I mean, your heart – ”

Our heart is fine,” says that menacing voice. “And if you try to take Eddie away from me, I will consume yours with a helping of Sriracha.

This is followed by a neat little silence.

“Sriracha?” Dan asks weakly.

“He likes it on everything,” Eddie says, a little sheepish. “Weirdest thing, though – it used to give me heartburn. Now, nothing.”

I won't let anything harm you,” says the alien. Disturbingly, it sounds like it means it, like no foe is too great, be it Dan's offer of modern medicine or acid reflux.

“I think I need another drink,” says Dan, looking around for the waiter. After a moment, he spots him hanging back – cowering, really – by the door to the kitchen. It takes several determined moments, but he eventually catches his eye and raises his empty mimosa glass meaningfully. The waiter blanches but nods.

They order another round of mimosas. The thing inside Eddie orders two.

“He enjoys the fizz,” confides Eddie, upsettingly.