“God-damed, fucking ass and balls.”
Eddie rummaged through the backpack again like it would return a different result. His used sweatpants were there, his empty water bottle was there, and the hand towel he’d thrown in moments before, was there. But an item definitely was not there that should have been there, and most definitely was there when he’d closed the locker.
Who would steal your hoodie?
“Some fucking low-life scum, that’s who.”
He growled and slammed the locker door, which only bounced back open from the force. So he angrily shut it again and leant against it with his arms crossed, face set to scowl. It was probably a good thing they were alone in the changing rooms right now.
Eddie ground his teeth. That hoodie had been one of his favourites. The perfect thing to wear post-workout - not too hot, not too cold, nice and soft against his skin. He couldn’t remember where he had gotten it, and the label had long since faded with repeated washings to ever trace it down, otherwise he would have brought another as a spare. But now he only had the sweat damp vest he was wearing to walk back home in.
“They were probably looking for my wallet, and took it instead just to be vindictive,” he grumbled.
He was lucky, in a sense, that he never took his wallet to the gym in the first place - not that there would have been much in there to steal these days anyway. Eddie’s chosen gym wasn’t exactly a high-end establishment, and he was fairly certain it was actually a front for something illegal. But what it lacked in security it made up for in convenience, cheap fees, and a very decent set of weights. Venom couldn’t understand why Eddie still came here, but he insisted it was the ritual of the thing, and it made him feel better after all the junk food they ended up eating.
At least he wouldn’t have to worry about canceling and replacing his cards. His emergency $5 in a hollowed out lip balm tube was still in the bag, but that wouldn’t cover a cab ride home. Already the thought of going out in the chill rain was making him shiver.
He let out a very heavy sigh. “Guess we better get going.”
But what about you hoodie?
“It’s gone, Vee. Not coming back.”
Eddie dejectedly turned back to the locker to retrieve his remaining things, but Venom was very quietly being stunned. He had never called them ‘Vee’ before. It had always been ‘bud’, or ‘dude’, or ‘mate’. Always ‘Venom’, never ‘Vee’. They had a nickname! It gave them a surge of confidence to suggest something they never normally would.
I could be your hoodie.
Eddie spluttered out a surprise which turned into a cough. “I’m sorry?” he said once he had recovered.
If you walk back in the rain in your current state you will be cold and miserable, which means that I will end up cold and annoyed. So I will pretend to be your hoodie until we are back in the apartment. That way you stay dry and I don’t have to put up with your moods.
Eddie wanted to protest that last bit, but yeah, if he was going to walk home like this, he would be grumpy the rest of the night. But since when could Venom make themselves look like clothes? Eddie knew they were pretty darn flexible, but they’d never actually mimicked anything real before.
“Wait, you can do that? Make yourself look like my hoodie?”
I have been paying attention these past months. Your simple clothing wouldn’t be hard to replicate. They tried to pass off the information as nonchalantly as they could, gently coaxing Eddie into making the choice they wanted. If they pressed too hard he would balk, and they were unlikely to get this chance again. So, would you like me to do that?
Eddie paused. On the surface it seemed like a simple decision, an easy one in fact. But really it went quite a lot deeper. This wasn’t some battle situation where he accepted Venom covering his body without question because that was what was needed. This was something else. This was needed, but not necessary. And added to that, there would be a lot of skin contact. Like, a lot of skin contact. In only a vest, it would be so much more intimate than any normal situation. The gloves had been one thing, but this would be basically his entire top half with only a thin layer of cotton between them. And the slightly worrying thing about that was how Eddie briefly wondered if he should take that off too.
He swallowed thickly and rubbed the back of his neck.
“Uh, well, yeah, I guess. We don’t have much choice, I suppose,” he eventually mumbled.
Venom did their best to hide the little jubilant flip they did inside him.
“Er, let’s just…” He looked around the room double-checking they were alone, but still decided to go into a cubicle anyway. Placing his bag on the floor, he faced the mirror and let out a nervous breath. “Ok,” he raised his arms a little. “Show me what you got.”
Venom bloomed from his skin like an inkblot, running rivulets across his body until they were a solid mass. Eddie watched amazed as their abstract shape of a hoodie slowly became more refined. The lines became crisper, the edges more defined. And then they went further, creating cuffs, a front pocket, and what even looked like little dangling laces with aglets for the hood - the weight of which was quickly building at the base of his neck.
When Venom seemed to have settled in their shape, Eddie let out a low whistle. He did a little turn in the mirror, appreciating Venom’s skill. It really did look like a hoodie. Sure, the material was a bit weird, quite shiny and veined with silver, but the ‘fabric’ hung like it was supposed to. Which was actually very different to how it felt.
There was this quirk that Eddie had noticed about whenever Venom manifested. He rarely ever felt the specific point where they emerged from his body as it was the exact same temperature as himself. But this time, for whatever reason, Eddie could feel Venom all over him.
It was like he was wearing a skintight shirt made of lycra that was hugging every contour of his body. There was a pressure and a weight against his exposed skin that he never normally felt when Venom covered him. But he had to suppose that he had always been clothed up to this point, and quite usually distracted by something else. Even over his cotton vest he felt it, albeit to a lesser, effect.
And yet when he lifted his arms, he could see the way that Venom sagged and looked loose. He shook them a little, marveling at how they mimicked the material so well. The whole hoodie looked loose, but he might as well as have been poured into a body mold. Without even thinking he ran his hands down his chest, feeling the thickness of them under his palms. They were so silky smooth beneath his fingers, and yet seemed somewhat pliable. He pressed his hands in, and upon removing them, a momentary hand print was left behind.
A little shiver ran up his spine, but he didn’t know who it belonged to.
Do you like it?
“I think it’s amazing.”
Venom beamed a little at the praise. What if I added these?
Two large opal eyes opened over his chest. Eddie smiled. It did actually look quite cool, if not a little menacing.
“I think it would be great until someone saw you blink.”
I do not blink.
“But then what if I did this?” and he gently poked Venom in the eye.
Hey! Venom grumbled, but Eddie laughed.
“Sorry, sorry,” he chuckled, smoothing his hands over the area, and feeling that delicious silkiness again. The eyes closed after that, but Eddie didn’t stop moving his hands until a thought struck him.
“Could I…?” he asked, reaching towards the hood. It flipped up on its own accord, and he could feel the cooler part of Venom attaching themself to the back and top of his head, molding to his skull and quickly warming. But they left his ears free, and the rest of the hood stood rigid around his face. It almost felt like it was being cupped by two large hands.
The bizarre thing was though that when Eddie had moved his arms, he hadn’t felt any friction. Venom had moved with him, it had just been one smooth glide. It was slightly unsettling, but extremely intriguing. He couldn’t think of a single thing in the world that could compare to it.
“You sure you can keep this up?” he asked. “I don’t want you suddenly dissolving halfway home.”
It isn’t hard to maintain, but will be easier if I can concentrate.
“Oh, right. Sorry.” He bent over to pick up his backpack, but paused before putting the strap over his shoulder. “Are you going to be ok with me putting this on?”
Eddie , Venom chided. I can repel bullets. A backpack is nothing.
“Oh, yeah, right,” Eddie replied, feeling sheepish.
He slung over one strap and looked again in the mirror, tilting his head from side to side testing out Venom’s ability to crease. Could they really get away with this? It felt like a brazen move, one that was just asking for trouble. What if Venom got spooked by a noise, or someone bumped into them? Could he trust them to behave all the way home? Could he trust himself?
He could feel stirrings of something he didn’t want to acknowledge rising at the back of his mind; thoughts he shouldn’t be having about a friend, let alone an alien. There’s nothing wrong with wanting companionship, but you mustn’t go looking for it in places it doesn’t exist.
He shook his head, batting those feelings away. This was fine, no big deal. Just a good buddy doing a favour for a friend who had their clothes stolen. It was for mutual benefit. No need to make it into anything more.
Ready to go?
Just stay casual and cool. Nothing strange about it.
Stepping out into the rainy street, Eddie was instantly blasted with a gust of cold, wet air, and he turned his head away, but he had barely felt any of it. He stood for a moment letting the rain fall on him, and watching Venom repel it all like a waterproof coat. With more confidence he began walking, keeping his head down until he realised that Venom had subtly extended the hood to keep the rain off his face. They really were quite good at keeping him protected.
They were also doing a stellar job of keeping him warm. The air was cold and damp, but he felt great, the perfect temperature. So he stood up straighter, no longer hunching his shoulders against the wind, maybe even enjoying the weather a little instead of just hurrying through it.
But his fingers were still exposed. His hands were balled up into fists, one hanging onto the strap of his bag, and the other trying to retreat into the sleeve cuff - while somehow having gotten some of it woven between his fingers.
If this was any other night he would have simply stuffed them into the pocket of his hoodie, but his hoodie was Venom. He’d be sticking his hands into Venom, and that didn’t feel quite right.
But why would it feel wrong? He was inside Venom a lot - he was technically inside them now - so why would a pocket be any different? It probably wasn’t even a real pocket, he reasoned, just something Venom made for show, like the hood laces which didn’t move at all. He was ok. He could endure this until they got home.
Eddie, would like some gloves?
“Huh? No, I’m fine,” he mumbled.
But your hands are getting cold.
“No, it’s fine. I’m ok.”
Then why not use the pocket I made for you?
“Because, er, because I need to keep my bag on.” He shrugged his shoulder for emphasis.
I can hold your bag. Use the pocket.
“No, I’m good. Honestly.”
He wasn’t. There was a numbness setting in.
Eddie, don’t be an idiot.
“I’m not. I’m genuinely fin--Ah!” Eddie yelped as his arms suddenly forced his hands into the front pocket, and wouldn’t let him pull them out. “Vee! Stop that!” he hissed, trying to heave his hands free, but they were completely sealed in.
Oh stop complaining. It’s only until we get home.
Struggling was useless. The only thing it would achieve is making a scene about a guy whose hands were stuck inside his sweater. So he relented and let out a long breath as he straightened up.
“Fine,” he spat out through gritted teeth.
So now his hands were inside Venom and there was nothing he could do about that. But for some reason he decided that as long as he kept his thumbs gripped in a tight fist and his hands perfectly still, this was ok. Not weird at all.
He continued walking, barely noticing that his bag was actually not slipping from his shoulder at all because he was far more focused on how Venom had chosen to not make this into an ordinary pocket.
It was blissfully warm inside, possibly hotter than his body temperature, and it didn’t take long for Eddie’s resolve to weaken and spread his fingers out into that heat. But when he moved them there was a resistance. His hands really were inside Venom and they were reforming around him as he rearranged his fingers. No, they did more than just reform, they hugged him. They filled in the gaps between each digit where Eddie had forgotten that the skin was actually quite sensitive, and pressed into it. This was more than the gloves, more than their battle suit. This was a thick, heavy liquid that squirmed against him and reacted to his every move. It was just so alive .
Even if he had wanted to, he couldn’t stop himself from balling up his hands inside that living goo and squeezing Venom out like a fistfull of mud. It was so incredibly satisfying, and felt so amazing. So he did it again. And again; leisurely spreading his fingers out, and dragging them back in - basically kneading his stomach except never actually touching it. He suddenly understood why slime had been such a craze, but he bet that no one had a slime as good as his.
Strangely though, Venom wasn’t commenting on what he was doing. They were normally the first to point out when he did - what seemed to them, as something weird. But not a peep, not a word, not even a stray question mark. Maybe they were just concentrating too hard to notice, or maybe they didn’t mind?
Eddie was momentarily distracted when he felt a vibration against his hip, and went to pull his hand free to get his phone. But then he realised that it wasn’t his phone because the vibration wasn’t just at his hip. It was all over. His whole top half was gently rumbling like a low frequency massager. Was Venom… purring? And was he the cause?
The wind suddenly changed direction and blew freezing drops into the gap between his chin and the top of the hoodie. Eddie shied away from the intrusion ducking his head into his shoulder. He was about to make some glib remark, but then the chill stopped. Looking down his nose, Eddie could see the collar where the hood ‘joined’ on was rising. It was building itself up like a shield in front of his neck, and by the time it reached his chin, Eddie’s eyes were a little wide.
“Er, how high are you planning on making that, Vee?”
As high as it needs to be. This garment is designed very inefficiently for this weather. I am improving it.
It eventually stopped just below his nose. Eddie caught sight of himself in a dark shop window as they passed, and he grinned. They looked faintly ridiculous being a black void with no hands and only an open slot for his eyes. But it’s not like anyone else was looking, and he was warm and dry, so he wasn’t complaining.
And also Venom was now tantalisingly close to his lips.
He was suddenly overcome with the desire to find out what they would feel like against his lips.
It wouldn’t take much to make contact. If he jutted his chin out a little more. Maybe a bit of a pout? He knew they would just be as silky soft as the rest of them. And he bet it would feel so nice. It always felt nice when they touched him. He always protested the opposite, but he knew he had liked it the moment they had booped his nose on the buoy. They were technically touching him now, but it wasn’t the same. A weighted blanket doesn’t compare to a delicate caress. He wanted it to be intentional, to be meant.
But why did he suddenly want this? It made no sense. Was he that desperate and touch-starved that anyone, any thing would do?
He tried to refocus, to think of something else - sports, news, his next assignment, but he kept coming back to that part of Venom in front of his face. He was making himself go cross-eyed looking at it. He couldn’t understand why the idea had suddenly become so alluring, but he couldn’t shake it. It was overpowering his reason.
And they were so close. Just right there, almost begging to be kissed.
No, not kissed. He wasn’t going to kiss them. He was just going to rub his lips against them - which somehow sounded worse. But he was yearning for it now. Every step he took matched his pounding heart if he was just bold enough to do it.
He was zeroed in on them. His entire world was just the hum of Venom, his moving hands, and those few centimetres of space between his mouth and the part of them he so desperately wanted to touch.
Where are we going?
Eddie stopped walking at that.
But this isn’t the way home.
“Yeah it….” He looked around. He had no idea where they were. “Oh.”
He looked for a street sign, but none were within sight. They were clearly not where they were supposed to be though. So without any fanfare, he did a 180 and started walking back in the direction they had come.
“Why didn’t you say anything earlier?”
I was busy concentrating. Why didn’t you notice?
I was too busy being distracted by your physical presence and my sudden desire to rub my face in it to pay attention to my surroundings.
“...I was just thinking about... stuff.”
Eventually he spotted something familiar and course corrected. They hadn’t strayed too far.
Taking a deep breath he pushed all thoughts about his lips and running Venom over them to the back of his head, and concentrated on getting them back to the apartment. His hands had gone still too, and the purring seemed to have stopped with it. Whatever moment they were having was over. It was for the best, he told himself, but he didn’t really believe it.
After another 5 minutes, Eddie realised his vision was being restricted. The peaked hood that had been keeping the rain off his face was starting to droop, and his neck shield was flopping forward letting in stray drops of rain.
He looked closer at his hoodie and the fine details were starting to vanish. The stitching was gone, as were the laces.
“You okay, Vee?”
Getting tired, came their reply.
“Well, not far now. Just need to keep it up for a little further.”
He quickened his pace. They were starting to droop all over now. They were still flush against his skin, but all rigidity was gone. They were sagging in places fabric wasn’t supposed to sag.
“Come on, Vee. You can do it!”
He balled up his hands again for emphasis, and a thrum seemed to pass through them. They tightened up to a passable state, so he began kneading once more, but much more swiftly.
Eddie was all but running now. His hands were alternating movements inside the pocket, and it was a wonder he didn’t fall over, but he could feel Venom slipping. Not physically, but there was a fading of concentration that radiated towards him. It was an odd thing to experience, but rather equivalent to reaching that point in a lift when your arms are starting to give out.
“Nearly there, nearly there!” he shouted encouragingly.
The apartment block was in sight. There were patches of skin showing on his biceps now, and his hood was looking more like a wig. But what luck! Someone was just leaving, so he shouldered his way through the closing door and sprinted up the stairs.
Panting in front of his apartment, backpack slipping off his arm, Eddie pushed his elbow against the lock. Venom worked quickly and Eddie used the same elbow to push the door open. He closed it with his foot and was about to yell a triumphant ‘We made it!’ when Venom totally vanished inside him.
He was left standing with his hands still in front of his stomach, backpack dangling from his wrist, and mouth open.
He sounded so disappointed. Why was he disappointed?
“I mean, oh!” He slapped his hands against his upper arms. “It’s so cold in here!”
And truthfully it was. Without Venom’s protective layer, his mostly bare torso was suddenly exposed to the chill air of the room, which wasn’t helped by his damp sneakers and pants. He was already breaking out in goosebumps.
“Gotta get that heater on.”
He dumped his bag and fiddled with the settings. He needed the sudden distraction or else he was going to linger on why he was so crestfallen that Venom had stuck exactly to the word of their agreement. It wasn’t because he wanted them to stick around outside his body. It wasn’t.
After some percussive maintenance, he got some hot air to start blowing through. Smelled pretty musty though. And apparently, it wasn’t the only thing with an odour.
You should have a shower, Eddie. You stink.
“Thanks for that, Vee.”
You do! You didn’t have one at the gym and I just spent 20 minutes glued to your armpits.
“Oh yeah? Just be glad I didn’t have my shoes stolen.”
That admittedly would have been much worse.
Eddie stuck out his tongue even though there was no one around to see him do it. Venom got the point though.
“Anyway, I thought you were tired?”
“Maybe it’s time for some quiet then.”
They acquiesced and Eddie propped his sneakers on the heater to help them dry out a bit. He didn’t like to think of Venom being his shoes though. Felt disrespectful to be treading on someone like that. But he didn’t have time to linger on that thought as just as he was about to enter the bathroom, Venom offered one more remark.
Hey, hey, Eddie. Just be glad you didn’t have your pants stolen. Could you imagine me pretending to be them? They smirked.
But Eddie could imagine. And though he desperately wanted to, he couldn’t quite ignore the excited little flip his stomach did at the idea.
Oh boy. He was in trouble.