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Venom likes to watch Eddie sleep.

The human has informed him that this is “Twilight levels of creepy” and “just really weird, man.” Eddie has not, however, told him to stop, so Venom doesn’t. He settles over Eddie’s pillow in a viscous swirl of gently pulsing black, listening to Eddie breathe, eyes tracing over Eddie’s peaceful face.

Humans have strange faces, but Venom has grown to appreciate them, or at least Eddie’s. He especially likes the rough patches of stubble over his jaw, and reaches out now to touch them with a slow, reverent tendril. Eddie’s nose scrunches up, and Venom goes still. He doesn’t want to wake Eddie up. Eddie needs his rest.

sleep, Venom whispers in the quiet, rippling pool of Eddie’s subconscious, and Eddie slips deeper into slumber, just like that.

There is a part of Venom that misses the hive on Klyntar, the other symbiotes, his old life. He is unnerved by this part of himself. Sentimentality never factored into any of this before he had Eddie. But Eddie makes him feel things Klyntar symbiotes have not felt for eons, things like attachment and even…

Venom stops himself. No. No, Eddie does not want that. What they have is not that. It is possession, and Venom is a parasite in Eddie’s eyes, albeit a useful parasite. They deal in mutualism, favors for favors, push and pull, give and take. That is all.

You are mine.

Venom shivers and retreats, back under Eddie’s skin. Warm, Eddie is always so warm. Like fire, but softer. Safer.

*

The first time it happens, it is an accident.

Eddie is showering. Venom likes showers. He likes water. He likes its fluidity; he likes the way it sometimes resembles a weaker, clearer version of himself.

“Nah,” Eddie says, dragging a razor slow and sharp across the flexing curve of his underarm, “you’re not like water. More like...pudding.”

PUDDING, Venom repeats, put out. He does not appreciate the comparison of himself, an apex predator from deep space, to a sugary confection whose only threatening aspect is perhaps its calorie count. I THOUGHT YOU ONCE SAID WE WERE LIKE PETROLEUM.

“Petroleum jelly, maybe,” Eddie snorts. “And can you stop yelling?”

we apologize, eddie, Venom whispers, poking his ear with an unexpected tendril that makes Eddie squawk and almost fall on his ass. Venom recedes smugly. what is petroleum jelly?

Usually, Eddie directs him towards a trove of memories. This time, though, Venom gets nothing but the bright white static buzz of panic. “Um,” Eddie says, and at once Venom senses the human’s burning embarrassment, bubbling up from within him as he tries to think of nothing, and fails miserably.

Images flash, all in fragmented pieces, but between the various sounds and aching echoes of remembered pleasure coupled with the startling sight of Eddie’s hand glistening with two clearish-white, sticky substances (one that must be petroleum jelly and one that is most certainly not) Venom understands.

Oh, Venom says. So it is a lubricant.

“Yeah.” Eddie puts his face under the water to hide the garbled tone of his voice; too late.

It is an apt comparison, Venom continues. We are very lubricated, in general –

“Oh my god,” Eddie says, glaring fiercely at the wall. “Can we not? Do this?”

You don’t wish to discuss lube in the shower? Venom asks, and pokes his belly playfully with another stray tendril.

This time, Eddie does fall.

Before he can hit the tile, Venom is surrounding him, winding tight and secure around his arms and legs to anchor him and regain balance. It has the opposite effect, however – Eddie struggles, fights and writhes against Venom like he has only done in the very beginning of their bonding, and Venom releases him once he is steady, leaving the serpentine extension of his head to hover worriedly beside Eddie’s face.

“Jesus, man,” Eddie mutters, looking away from him, “warn a guy, next time.”

Before making lube jokes or catching you before we split our skull open?

Eddie shakes his head and turns the shower off. “Nevermind.”

We did not finish shaving –

“Yeah, and whose fault was that?”

Venom stubbornly takes Eddie’s hand, guiding it back towards the faucet, only for Eddie to jerk violently against the motion, breathing too hard. Again, Venom lets go, concerned and confused.

YOU ARE UPSET, Venom notes, loud so Eddie won’t ignore him. WHY?

Eddie winces, wrapping a towel around himself and avoiding the mirror. “New ground rule,” Eddie mutters, “no talking about lube in the shower and no – touching me when I’m naked.”

Venom ripples over his forearm in dismay. That is a stupid rule, he says. We are always touching you, Eddie.

“Don’t remind me,” Eddie retorts, toweling his hair off with unnecessary force. “It’s not a stupid rule to me, bud.”

okay.

“Don’t sulk.”

Too late; Venom is sulking.

But what he finds when he goes searching for answers in Eddie’s head is worse than if he had never looked at all. Eddie is afraid. He is...repulsed. He thinks Venom will hurt him; worse, violate him – it takes Venom a moment to understand that the panicky, incoherent current of images flashing through Eddie’s mind are from movies.

There are towering creatures with dark, metallic flesh and sharp teeth and long tails and phallic heads, and the words attached to them are alien, and xenomorph, and parasite. And there are rooms full of ominous, fleshy eggs, which open and spawn fleshier almost-arachnids, and parasite is even louder with those, and Venom only understands when one of the creatures bursts from a human’s chest in a splatter of blood and screams.

And then there are people in narrow hallways and deep snow; running, hiding, listening with baited breath before something crawls across the ceiling, a grotesque mass of tissue and teeth and blood and legs, and Eddie thinks alien, parasite, it’s like you, it’s like him, and Venom doesn’t know what he means until the thing surrounds a human in twisting ropes of flesh, plunging into its body and throat and changing it, imitating it, and Eddie thinks, host, and Venom recoils with every fiber of his being.

While Eddie makes them dinner in silence, Venom whispers, we are not like that thing, eddie.

“Nah, you’re smarter than the Thing,” Eddie says as he shoves tater tots into the toaster oven. “That doesn’t make me feel better.”

Venom manifests in splotches of angry, bubbling black. After everything we have been through, that is how little you think of us? A horror movie monster, nothing more?

Eddie pauses, and his guilt is a gray ribbon of uncertainty through his mind. “No,” he sighs eventually. “I’m sorry.”

Are you afraid we will turn you into a monster, Eddie?

“Not sure ‘monster’ even means what I thought it did, anymore,” Eddie mutters. “Just remember –”

We only eat bad people, Venom says. Yes, Eddie. We remember.

When they are sitting at the creaky table eating their plate of tater tots, Eddie says, “Don’t get mad.”

No promises. What is it?

“Sometimes...” Eddie swallows. “Sometimes I gotta wonder if you ever take my body places without me knowing. And...do things, without me knowing. Like eating good people.”

Venom does not, at first, recognize the feeling flickering through him, and when he does, it alarms him – it is hurt.

Eddie makes him feel things like hurt.

No, Venom says. I would not use you like that, Eddie.

“But you could,” Eddie says. “Couldn’t you? Take me places, do things, and make me forget them all?”

Yes, Venom admits.

“So why don’t you?”

It is a simple question, but it makes Venom retreat under his skin, back into the small, quiet space Venom has made for himself in Eddie’s head. You are my host. Not my toy.

“Carlton Drake was Riot’s toy,” Eddie mutters.

We are not like Riot, Venom grumbles. We care about our host.

“Okay,” Eddie says, “but what do you mean by care?”

Shall we dig up the dictionary definition from your brain? Venom writhes in discontent. We care about you, Eddie. About your safety and general well-being – about YOU.

“Why?” Eddie asks again. He is being especially annoying tonight. “Why do you care, when Riot didn’t give a single shit about Drake?”

Venom emerges just to scowl at Eddie as best he can. We told you. You are my host. A perfect match, not just a temporary solution, as Drake was for Riot. You are not disposable.

Eddie’s expression shutters off abruptly, and Venom knows that was the wrong thing to say.

“So any other human would be? Was Anne disposable to you?” Eddie demands.

No, Venom tries. You care about her.

“Jesus, man,” Eddie groans, rubbing his eyes. “Okay, fine – forget about humans. What about other symbiotes? You guys ever, y’know, care about each other?”

We are a hive,  Venom replies, puzzled. We look after the interests of the hive.

“Great,” Eddie sighs. “How ‘bout morals, you guys got those?”

Venom thinks about this for a moment. Like good symbiotes...and bad symbiotes?

Eddie nods. “Yeah, yeah, like that.”

Hmm. Venom lets his little floating head rest on Eddie’s hand, and does a silent cheer when Eddie doesn’t push him away. Well, Venom muses, we were created by a being called Knull. He was...bad. He used us to conquer planets. An answering wave of loathing in Eddie draws a shudder from Venom. He was our hive’s nexus, our First Host. But Knull was defeated, and without him...we sought other hosts, better hosts who could make us better, too. Hosts like you, Eddie. We wished to do better than our predecessors.

Eddie frowns, and pops a tater tot thoughtfully into his mouth. “That sounds almost...noble,” he mutters. He is wary of the concept, as he should be.

Yes, they thought so. Venom curls around Eddie’s thumb, creating a slow sticky black webbing between his fingers as he speaks. We do not call ourselves symbiotes, Eddie. We call ourselves Klyntar. It is our word for ‘cage.’ My kind caged themselves, Eddie. They began telling lies, telling the hive that Klyntar were always benevolent, always noble. They made the most powerful Klyntar into Agents of the Cosmos, bringers of peace to the Universe. They erased our history, covered up the purging of planets under Knull’s control. When we protested, we were betrayed by the hive’s collective. They tried to ‘cleanse’ us. To take our mind away, to tame us. If the cleansing failed, they would have killed us.

Eddie chews his tater tots with far less enthusiasm and grimaces. “They did that to you?”

Venom shivers unhappily. No. Worse. We were bred and hatched to be an Agent of the Cosmos.

“Hatched?!” Eddie echoes, and covers his mouth, snickering helplessly. “Like – from an egg? Holy shit.”

What, Venom hisses. We are spilling out our tragic backstory to you and you are LAUGHING?

“Sorry, so sorry,” Eddie chuckles. He is not sorry. “It’s just...you’re more like a facehugger than I thought.”

BLEH, Venom says, and launches himself at Eddie’s face like an angry, gooey pancake.

Eddie shrieks and falls off his chair, flailing wildly and sending tater tots flying into the air like confetti. Venom catches him, of course. He will always catch his clumsy human.

“Oh,” Eddie says, face very pink. “Thanks?”

You are welcome.

Eddie clears his throat with unnecessary force. “Um. So, the egg thing. You said...bred. Do you guys…” Eddie does not wish to finish this line of reasoning.

Klyntar reproduce asexually.

“Oh. Cool, I guess.” Eddie sounds relieved. Venom gives him what Eddie would call ‘the side-eye.’

It is not cool, Venom says. The process is energy-intensive and our cells produce heat during it. Most Klyntar are not hatched. I was hatched because the seed I originated from was forcibly extracted from another Klyntar in order to accelerate the breeding process.

“What happened to the Klyntar you came from?” Eddie is no longer interested in the tater tots, which is unfortunate.

I do not know, Venom says. I do not care.

Eddie folds his arms. “You say that now, but what about when your angry Klyntar mom shows up because you haven’t called in eons, huh?”

Ha, ha. No.

“I’m just sayin, man, it’s a possibility.”

Eddie’s stomach rumbles. I want eggs, Venom declares.

“Ugh, fine.” Eddie grabs his jacket and wallet. “IHOP should be open.”

I like IHOP.

“You can continue your tragic backstory there, yeah?” Eddie says.

Venom swirls reluctantly back into his head. Yes, Eddie.

*

Venom is still quiet when the first plate of eggs comes, and after the second-to-last plate is scraped clean. The waitress brings them a final plate and informs them that IHOP is officially out of eggs. Venom always knew he liked Denny’s better.

Eddie is getting antsy. He stabs the sunny side up egg until the yolk runs along the edge of the plate like a small river and mutters, “Cat got your tongue?”

We should get a cat, Eddie.

Eddie licks egg off the prongs of the fork. “So you can eat it? Yeah, no, I don’t think so.”

We would not eat our cat, Venom promises. Cats remind me of falgeer.

“What now?”

Falgeer were creatures on the first planet we experienced, Venom says. They were small and soft and very easy to kill. But also very cute.

“Awesome,” Eddie mutters. “Wait – first planet? You mean…”

Yes, Venom sighs. The planet of my first host, chosen by the Agents of the Cosmos for me. His name was Tel-Kar. He was one of the Krell. The Krell are no more. He wished it to be so, and we helped him.

Eddie’s fork clatters onto the plate. “Are you sayin’ what I think you’re…”

We destroyed his planet and his people together, Eddie. The Agents were wrong. They did not see his true desires until it was too late, and the genocide was complete. He could not have done it without me.

Eddie’s thoughts swirl in a disturbed maelstrom. Venom curls at their center, silent and hurting, because now that he has started to hurt, he cannot seem to stop.

Eddie licks his dry lips. “He used you,” he whispers. “You were – a kid. Right?”

We were young, Venom reproaches, but no child. This is not excusable.   

“So your first host destroyed his planet with you,” Eddie says dully. “Then what?”

We want more eggs, Eddie.

Eddie frowns and shovels a heaping forkful of egg into his mouth. “Gmffghd?” (Translation: Good? )

Venom closes his mouth for him and Eddie almost chokes. Almost. Venom knows their limits.

We were corrupted by the rage and bloodlust of Tel-Kar, Venom continues. We were spurned by the hive. They sought to cleanse us and we fled. That is when we found Riot and the other corrupted ones.

Eddie swallows and wipes his mouth. “And became a loser among rebels?”

You joke, but yes, Venom says. The other corrupted Klyntar used their hosts as chattel. They made a sport of it. We crave the flesh of other life-forms because of our corruption, but Riot and the others also consumed the vitality of their hosts from the inside out.

“And you didn’t?”

...no. Venom hesitates. He does not want Eddie to think of him as weak and foolish, as Riot did.

Eddie eats another encouraging forkful of eggs, waiting patiently, for once.

we did not want to destroy our host, Venom whispers. we wanted to form a single, strong symbiotic bond, and protect them forever.

Eddie chokes on the eggs.

STOP THAT, Venom exclaims, and sends the eggs flying across the table, where they hit the wall in a pathetic yellow splat and slide down to rest on the tile a few inches from the loafers of a bored waitress.

“You’re monogamous,” Eddie croaks, and puts his head in his hands. “You’re a loser because you wanted to settle down?! God. God.”

Venom winds tightly along the edge of his fork in agitation. WE DO NOT APPRECIATE THIS MOCKERY, EDDIE BROCK.

“Just give me a second.” Eddie shakes his head. “You can’t tell me that, give me the Heimlich, and then expect me to recover instantly.”

Is monogamy not normal among humans? Venom asks when Eddie’s heart rate has returned to normal, only for it to spike again.

“Weren’t you openly advocating for polygamy when you were trying to get Anne and I back together?” Eddie exclaims.

That was DIFFERENT, Venom seethes. You and Anne will never be together the way we are together.

Eddie wheezes. “And what way is that?”

We are together in the most intimate way possible, Eddie.

“Okay, I think that’s enough eggs,” Eddie says, pushing the plate away and calling for the check.

WAIT. NOT ENOUGH EGGS. WAS IT SOMETHING I SAID, EDDIE?

“Stop. Yelling,” Eddie grits out as he stomps up to the register to pay the bill.

You do not want to think of us as intimate, Venom realizes, looping around his wrist in a pathetically oozing bracelet. We disgust you. We are evil, and Eddie Brock is good.

Eddie makes a pained noise. “No, hey, listen, that’s not –”

“Sir?” the waitress asks, popping her gum. “That’ll be $114.53.”

Eddie swears softly under his breath before fumbling for his credit card, and Venom wilts further. Money is a stupid concept which could be easily circumvented by murder and theft, but it still affects Eddie. Eddie spends too much money to sate their hunger.

It would, of course, be easier if they ate people’s heads off, but Eddie is good. Eddie does not want to kill people. Eddie sees something in people that Tel-Kar never allowed Venom to recognize in the first place. He sees something in them beyond tools to be used. Even the bad people, sometimes. He believes, sincerely, in second chances.

Venom thinks Eddie must be his second chance.

At the same time, Venom thinks he will inevitably fail to redeem himself. He is bad, and Eddie is good, and the longer Venom stays with him, the worse Eddie will become, and that is just how things are. And Venom is selfish. Venom will not let him go – or cannot.

But as they wander into the IHOP parking lot, Eddie pulls his sleeve over where Venom is curled and quivering in the hollow of his wrist, and lifts the little hidden tent to his face.

Venom peers up at him. Eddie’s eyes are dark and intent and the moonlight catches their gleam like the green of the Earth glinting in the black abyss of space. Green is a new color; the Krell did not have it, and the prison canister did not have it, and the glass cells did not have it, either. But Eddie has it, and seeing it then, Venom understands what beautiful means.

“Did you mean to kill Maria?” Eddie asks in the night hush of the parking lot under the cold crescent moon, his green eyes fixed on Venom without hesitation.

No, Venom whispers. She would not heal. We tried. We failed.

“Hm,” Eddie says, like that answers some unspoken, wordless question he has wondered about for a long, long time. Then he smiles, just a little, and tucks Venom into his sweatshirt pocket.

It is very warm there.

*

Eddie shivers violently as he kicks the sheets away, twisting against some unseen force on the sweat-soaked mattress, the sounds spilling from his mouth nothing like words; they carry no meaning, only fear, the same fear that rouses Venom from his rest as it spreads through Eddie in a visceral chill of run, fight, no, stop, please.

Eddie is dreaming. His dreams are not like memories or thoughts – they are too vivid, yet blurred and dark around the edges, warped in a way that sets them wholly apart from reality. Venom dips into his subconscious, only to fall, and keep falling; he is aware of his physical form but his mind where it has merged with Eddie’s is elsewhere, in a strange realm where he does not belong.

The sky is endless and gray with light pollution, stars snuffed out through smog and smoke, then forgotten altogether in a brilliant explosion of light and flames, billowing towards them in an unstoppable wall of fiery death. Venom feels the heat blast over them, burning flesh and hair and Eddie is screaming, Venom is screaming, and they are falling together, and Venom is saying, Goodbye, Eddie, and Eddie is hitting the water hard and staring up into the fireball with wide, scared eyes, because he is alone, he is all alone –

And Venom is adrift, helpless without his host, burning as he falls into the bay, and the ocean is cold, so cold, nothing like Eddie, but he had to let Eddie go; it was what Eddie wanted, and after Venom saw him lying there, dying or dead, impaled clean through the chest and still, so still, something had shifted within him, because when he dragged himself back to Eddie’s body and ripped Riot’s blade from his chest and put all the broken pieces back together with a strength he never knew they both had, a single thought drifted through the tangled mess of Eddie’s mind and that thought was Yes, and the feeling that accompanied it was relief, and when Venom hurled them upwards to stop the launching probe, for the first time there was no confusion, no conflict between them, because everything was right, everything was us, together.

As Venom sank into the cold black water, nothing but a formless, faceless ooze, a hand reached out, grasping for him amidst the churning waves and falling ash. “Come back,” Eddie had said, Venom slipping through his fingers like smoke.

Venom does not remember what happened next, or how it happened. He thinks, perhaps, that when Eddie touched him, he reverted to pure instinct, because when he woke up again, it was to Eddie staring back at him in the mirror, touching his face with something like wonder and smiling when Venom cautiously whispered, eddie?

And Eddie said, “Yeah. Had me worried there for a second, buddy.”

Worried?

Venom examined them; their body was whole, healed, and that was good. Eddie was alive. That was better. “Thanks to you,” Eddie said, and stretched, a languid gesture that Venom watched with curiosity.

Hungry, Venom said, and Eddie laughed.

“Good to have you back, bud.”

Eddie awakes with a gasp.

Venom is wrapped around him, and Eddie does not move away. He relaxes, slumping back into the nebulous blanket draped over the soft curve of his spine and the broad arms holding him close.

“You were there, in the dream,” Eddie whispers. The low whir of the air conditioning and the distant clamour of traffic fade into forgotten silence as Venom lifts over him, moving slow, so slow, so as not to frighten him. But Eddie is not frightened. He looks up at Venom, lips parted.

Yes, Venom whispers back. We were there. We are always here, Eddie.

Eddie says nothing, just keeps looking, and Venom sees what Eddie sees – a looming mass of darkness and the strange pale shimmer of eyes and long thin sharp teeth, utterly inhuman, utterly alien.

Then Eddie says, “It did feel right.”

Venom reaches out, hazy hand cupping Eddie’s face. Rough skin warms under his touch. We feel right, when we are with you, Eddie Brock, Venom confesses. Good, even. Eddie swallows hard and Venom adds, softer, Do we make you feel good, Eddie?

Eddie’s heart is beating, pounding, but not from fear.

“Yeah,” Eddie admits, breath catching when Venom leans closer, until he can see the green in Eddie’s wide eyes. “You do.”

We want to be good people, Venom says, stroking his cheek, surrounding Eddie in thick shadow. Eddie is pliant; breathing shallow, body warm. Can we, Eddie? Is it possible?

“Didn’t you say we could do whatever we want?” Eddie is smiling, his face flushed with color, and Venom can’t not kiss him.

Oh, Eddie thinks, a single startled syllable that Venom swallows and devours as sweetly as he knows how, curling around him, embracing Eddie in slipping black ropes and squeezing black claws and covering him with the shifting black simulacrum of a body until Eddie gasps and sunders under him and thinks again, loud and perfect, Yes, yes, yes.

YES, Venom agrees, and kisses him until Eddie is saying it aloud, pleading and laughing and sighing as Venom wraps tighter, presses deeper, and tries to be as good as Eddie deserves.