Venom didn’t want to admit it, but he was scared. No, that wasn’t right. What was the human word? Less than scared, more than nervous- worried. That was the word.
Oh, he’d been scared too. So terrified he had no idea how Eddie hadn’t felt it, the first impossible day they’d had together. Fear so deep and abiding it had almost become part of him, as though he half expected it to be a physical part of him, a ragged chunk of ice, spearing him all the way through. Fear for his children, helpless in the laboratories, under Drake’s scalpels, Riot’s claws and- yes, to begin with- Eddie’s hands too.
But the worry was there too, a faint itch at the back of his thoughts, even when they found the children safe and brought them home. Eddie had been happy, smiling and coaxing and all the kids loved him, but-
But Eddie sitting with Annie, on one of their first dates. Annie smiling at him over a martini, “You’re not one of those guys who wants a white picket fence and two point five kids, are you?” Eddie laughing.
But a coworker bringing his baby into the office, offering them for Eddie to hold, Eddie holding them stiffly, uncertain and too nervous. Glad to give them back.
But Annie’s sister calling them, asking them to babysit. Annie turning them down, then looking at Eddie and laughing, shaking her heads in amusement. “Hell no.” Eddie smiles ruefully.
“Ah, for f- for god’s sake.” The present moment jerks him back, and Venom looks out over Eddie’s shoulder.
Eddie’s peering into his coffee mug. The contents are blacker and more viscous than even Eddie’s usual brew. “Come on,” Eddie turns the mug upside down, taps it. Nothing comes out. “Vee-”
“Here Eddie.” Venom peers into the mug, the mugs peers back rebelliously through yellow-red eyes. “Out, Sleeper.”
Sleeper grumbles, but climbs out of the mug, pooling on the desk and licking himself clean. He’s getting better at listening to them, but when Venom leans down to help clean him, he jerks back, turning away and sliding down the table leg to join his sisters on the floor. And that- that still hurts. So much.
“I’m sorry babe.” Eddie strokes his neck, “He’s got a case of the terrible twos.”
“No.” Venom sighs. “It isn’t him. It’s my fault. He was so young when I sent him away. Scream and Agony- they lived inside me for years. Sleeper doesn’t remember me.” Grief and self hatred bubble up inside him until he feels sick with it.
“Hey- hey no.” Eddie pulls him in, puts a hand on each side of Venom’s face. “None of that. You did everything you could, you kept them safe from Riot and Drake. That doesn’t mean you didn’t love him.”
“That doesn’t mean I didn’t hurt him.” He whispers because Eddie knows this- oh, does Eddie know this, that love doesn’t excuse cruelty.
Eddie stiffens. “Oh, fuck no.” He glances around to make sure no little ears overheard that, his hands tighten on Venom’s face. “You are nothing like that asshole. That wasn’t love. That was a- a fucking powertrip. Getting off on controlling someone and hurting them when they didn’t play along. Don’t you dare think like that.”
Venom looks away. He only knows what he doesn’t want to be. He’s seen it in Eddie’s head, in his own memories. Spawn cast out to fend for themselves, hurt and lonely, growing hard and cruel in response to hardness and cruelty. The universe is full of abusive parents, but kind ones seem so very rare. Venom wishes he knew what they looked like.
Eddie hesitates. “You know, there are websites, and books and stuff. Maybe we could do a bit of research, maybe pick up some tips.”
Venom glances back at the children. Sleeper has joined Scream and Agony in the pool- actually a fifty gallon fishtank they’d found on the street. Agony slips free from her chinchilla and dives gracefully into the water, squashing up against the glass and pulling faces at her siblings, making them laugh. When she sees them looking, she swirls up and flips a loop out of the water, a blur of sleek purple.
“That’s amazing, darling.” Eddie smiles, and Agony wriggles in delight. Scream, feeling left out, kicks her host’s legs and gathers herself-
“No!” Venom isn’t sure which of them shouted it- but it’s too late and Scream lands in the tank with a splash.
He’s not sure what part of the piercing cry is Scream, or the host in a panic. They are across the room in a second, scooping the rabbit out of the tank. It kicks and thrashes for a moment before Scream gets it to calm down. She pokes her head free from the rabbit’s back, looking ashamed.
“Rabbits can’t swim, sweetheart.” Eddie finds a dishtowel and wraps the shivering animal in it.
“No hosts in the water.” Venom agrees and touches his face to hers. She leans in, pushing sorry just wanted to join in looked fun wanted you to see-
“Shh,” Eddie strokes her. “No harm done, but I’m going to need to to stay by the radiator until you dry off, okay?”
She nods, “Check your host over carefully,” Venom continues, because it’s never to early to teach proper host-care. “Particularly the ears, rabbits are delicate.”
She nods, slips back inside and the rabbit huddles down beside the radiator, looking wet and miserable. “Oh well, just part of being a parent, I guess.” Eddie stretches, “Think I can get a bit of work done before the next emergency?”
It’s meant as a joke, but Venom can’t help but flinch. Eddie stops, “Vee?”
He can’t say it at first. “I’m sorry.” He isn’t, but Venom doesn’t know any better words.
Eddie frowns, picks up his cup and goes to the cupboard for more coffee. “What for? It wasn’t your fault.”
He can’t do this out loud, he slips back inside Eddie. You didn’t ask for them. You didn’t want this. I didn’t give you a choice.
“I- wait what? What are we talking about? What didn’t I want?” A flash of fear, “This isn’t going to end with you telling me you’ve snacked on any more organs, is it? Because-”
No, nothing like that!
“Good. I know you can regrow them, but that can’t be healthy.” Eddie pours the hot water. “What are you on about?”
He doesn’t want to. He wants to say it’s nothing, curl up inside Eddie and try and forget everything he’s seen in their head, but this is them. No secrets, not any more. The children. I knew you wouldn’t want this, and I- did it anyway. I’m sorry.
“Hold on,” Eddie glances back at the children. Scream is inching closer to the tank as Sleeper and Agony swim in patterns inside.”This is about your kids?”
I saw your memories. The way you laughed. You never wanted any-
“Whoa whoa-” Eddie waves his hands. “I never said that!”
“Because I’m a loser, Vee! I’m- Jesus, you saw me when we first got together. I’m a trainwreck. I never-” he breaks off, leaning over the counter. “I never thought I should have kids. I was scared I’d be a disaster and-” he closes his eyes. “I didn’t exactly have a good role model. If I became- like that-”
“You are not!” Venom pulls his head and arms free, wrapping them around Eddie. “You are- you have been so good to them, Eddie. Such a good father. They love you.” Eddie lifts his head, smiles at Venom and- are those tears? He nuzzles Eddie’s cheek and tastes salt. “Eddie-”
“Nah, it’s okay.” He wipes them off. “That just- means a lot, coming from you. God, Vee, when you first told me about your kids, I thought- I was so scared, but so fucking happy. Annie- she never wanted kids, so I never imagined-” he breaks off, swallows, and gives Venom a tired smile. “Thank you darling.”
Venom doesn’t let go, draws Eddie in until their bodies are pressed together- almost one, but not quite. Just close enough to be perfect. “I love you.”
“Love you too, Vee.”