Black Sustenance
by Famira Damaris

Disclaimer: Naturally I don't own Spider-man.
Author Notes: Sorry about the lack of update. Here's the new chapter. Once again, this is mostly in Ultimate Spider-man universe: teenage Peter, MJ and Gwen and Peter has already told MJ his secret. Thanks for reading and thank you very much for the reviews!

for thoughts/emphasis/symbiote
Archive: Sure, just ask.

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Black Sustenance
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(Something Wicked)

Where was Peter Parker?

Mary Jane Watson chewed on the end of her pen, frowning. Seriously, where was he? They were supposed to put in a cram session for the trig midterm and Peter was a still a no show at – she looked at the clock on her bed stand – almost 11PM. She'd waited since eight. Had he forgotten? She was pretty sure she'd reminded him a few days ago about this, especially since it would be just the two of them. Much as she liked Gwen, they couldn't really talk talk with her here. Not about the personal stuff.

Not about Peter's personal stuff.

She stared down at her study sheet. Trig wasn't super hard, but it was hard enough and she'd feel a lot better if Peter was just here. Even if they didn't get any studying done, she'd feel a lot better if he was here procrastinating with her. Whenever she thought about his "job", she always felt that same sick feeling wash over her, the same one that always came up whenever she saw him on the news saving the day and getting sometimes pounded in the process. Sometimes (she couldn't even admit this to Peter), sometimes she wished he'd never told her the truth. Maybe she'd be a lot less understanding about his disappearances, but she wouldn't worry just because Peter wasn't here…even for something as dumb as a cram session. Maybe she wouldn't be worrying that the reason he wasn't here was because he was lying in another alley, hurt again.

Even if he couldn't make it to the cram session, he could've at least let her know what was going on.

After a few minutes of staring at a problem on the study sheet and finding out will power wasn't enough to make the question solve itself, Mary Jane sat up and reached for the phone.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Fucked up. That's what it was: fucked up.

Flint Marko stood for a second before the shattered glass wall just looking on with his hands on his hips, craggy face twisted into a scowl. Brock was unconscious and ass-naked again. Spider-man wasn't in much better condition, his outfit in tatters, his breathing ragged in the dead silent of the cell. He kept his distance as Smythe's night shift assistants swarmed around him to get inside the cell. A horde of them attended to the two freaks, the others dealing with the two poor bastards Brock'd nailed earlier. Flint's nose wrinkled in disgust as they removed the bodies. Blood was everywhere. It seemed like a ridiculous amount – he didn't even know the human body could hold that much, but he did now and it was friggen all over the place in gory red splashes against the floor, the bed, even the remaining windows.

Add "cannibal" to Brock's laundry list of fuck ups.

As for the kid? Flint found it hard to look at him. It'd been too dark to see a lot of what happened. Considering Brock's off the wall horniness earlier and the fact the kid was half naked, it wasn't exactly hard to put it together. How old was the kid, sixteen? Jesus. H. Christ. So not only was Brock a cannibal, he was now a rapist and a pedophile. Flint was of half the mind to just accidentally "slip" while dealing with Brock and - oops – they'd be down a freak.

But he didn't. Instead he stood back and did nothing.

He jumped when Alistair suddenly spoke up from waist level next to him. "Just marvelous, isn't it?"

For a guy stuck in a wheelchair (or whatever it was), he had a way of sneaking up on a guy. "Not exactly my choice o' words."

Alistair was silent for a bit, watching as the assistants removed the two unconscious freaks from the wreck of the cage. Apparently it wasn't as strong as they'd figured, but Alistair didn't look at all upset, Flint realized as he snuck a sidelong glance. His expression, if anything, was one of quiet, controlled bliss as he watched the biohazard team attending to the blood-red puddle on the floor. It bubbled a few times. Flint tensed. A few times it boiled up, reaching toward one of the workers with a quivering liquid tendril, only to be jabbed back down with a stun baton. Soon it was packaged away in a secure container and hauled away, leaving the rest of the biohazard team to try to scrub the guts and blood out from the cell.

"What now?" Flint asked, following Alistair as he left the main room. It was quiet once again. "Since th' party's over."

Alistair heaved a sigh that was anything but exasperated. "The work's just beginning. Unfortunately, we're missing a lot of visual data of what went down, but we'll work around it. And until a new, improved containment cell is constructed, I would believe that Mr. Fisk would continue to need your services. I'd suggest getting something to eat before the subjects come around again."

And with that, Flint was dismissed.

Great. Like he could even eat after this. But if there was ever a time where he'd need some space to chill out and try to sort out what the hell he was thinking, it was probably now.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The good thing about being the girl next door was it wasn't very far to run over.

Mary Jane had only knocked once when the door was jerked open. Disappointment crossed over May Parker's face, but she tried to cover it up by ushering Mary Jane in and closing the door behind her. Gwen was still in her pajamas, rubbing at her eyes and hovering in the hall. They followed May into the kitchen as she bustled about doing nothing in particular, as if she needed to keep moving just to keep calm.

"He wasn't in his room when I checked," Aunt May said. Her voice was tight and she was clearly holding back tears. "I wouldn't have known he was gone until tomorrow if you hadn't called."

"We saw him go up after dinner," said Gwen. "I was on the couch and I didn't see him leave."

You wouldn't, Mary Jane thought. "You called the police?"

She regretted asking that the next moment. Of course May would, her only nephew was missing in the middle of the night! The older woman nodded.

"They're sending someone right now. But they don't think that we should worry just yet…"

Mary Jane didn't know where Peter disappeared to. It's not like him to vanish like this was her first impulse. But that wasn't entirely true, she thought, remembering the time he'd been shot as Spider-man by the cops. It'd been some of the worst couple of hours in Mary Jane's life in the ER, right up there with getting tossed off a bridge. It'd been a misunderstanding and sure, he'd had a reason to be out that late. Not one he could ever tell May or Gwen, but he'd still had a reason. As far as she could tell, there was no reason for his disappearance tonight: everyone had said that he'd just gone upstairs to go to bed. Tonight was quiet. There hadn't been anything in the news that would need Spider-man. Why would Peter sneak out, if that was what he did? What if he was hurt somewhere?

The old panic was starting to grow again. Mary Jane tried to fight it down. As the only one here who knew Peter's secret, she couldn't sit around. "Would it be okay if I checked his room?" she asked. "Maybe I can find out what happened."

May nodded, reaching up and rubbing at one eye. Gwen was comforting her as Mary Jane went upstairs. Every step felt heavy. You'd think she'd be used to this after it'd sunk in that Peter was constantly in danger every single day of his life. Only she wasn't used to it and it still hit her as hard now as it did then. But she had to look out for him in whatever way she could, even if he wasn't here now.

And that meant protecting his secret until he got back.

His room was a mess. Picking her way through it, Mary Jane searched the room, tossing aside the sheets, looking under the bed and even under the mattress. It took a few minutes to find where Peter'd left his Spidey stuff. Eventually she located the spare costume and those web fluid cartridge things of his; he'd moved his stuff since last time and when he wanted to be messy, he could be messy. She tried to tell herself this wasn't stealing as she tucked them into her messenger bag. She was just safeguarding this in case his room got searched by the cops. This wasn't stealing. So why did she feel like an intruder in a room that she'd been in plenty of times? The very room where Peter showed her who he really was and let her into his cool, weird, scary world?

Feeling her cheeks burning red, she left the room.

Peter, where are you?

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Eddie Brock woke up in fits.

The first thing he noticed was that he could think. Really think. As in he could sit wherever he was and think about how uncomfortable it was or how his left shoulder was asleep and actually remember the thought for more than a few minutes at a time. Consciousness flickered in and out still. Every time he was nearly awake brought him new sensations, made him remember he was a thinking creature. His next thought was where am I followed, amazingly enough, by the deduction that he wasn't free yet if the feel of metal around his neck was anything to go by.

His eyes fluttered open, greeting him with an up close and personal view of the floor. Biting back a pained groan, he tried to assess things. His whole body ached. It hurt all over, even in places it wasn't supposed to, and he let out a wheeze as he coughed. Dry throat. Hurt to swallow.

It was frighteningly silent in his head.

Searching around, he could still feel his Other inside him, curled up like a solid thing. But it was exhausted – they both were – leaving Eddie to his own devices. Opening his eyes was just about as fun as sticking forks into an electrical socket, light stabbing right into still hypersensitive eyes and forcing him to shut them quickly before it could bore right into his skull. His cheek was pressed up against the cold floor and already numb. Christ, he couldn't move. As far as he could tell, he hadn't been pumped up with any sedatives, or whatever new cocktail Alistair had cooked up, and that what was really messing him up was the most insane bout of pure exhaustion he'd ever faced before in his life. It clung to him inside and out, hanging in a veil over his bare back and limbs. Pins and needles assaulted his muscles, which were still twitching a little in time with the tired throbs of the symbiote inside.

But he was himself again.

Eddie would've jumped up and danced if he could.

Waiting for his eyes to get used to the light, Eddie tried to recall last night. He didn't remember how long he'd been out of commission in that never-ending abyss. Just flashes. Bits and pieces here and there. There was no telling if he'd been out of it for only a day or for weeks. Months. It didn't matter. The first clear memory was meat in his mouth. The flashes of it were extremely vivid; if he'd ever needed glasses, it'd probably be like putting them on for the first time and taking a look at the world around you…and realizing that not only could you see, but that you could see everything. Every single detail, in stark, hi-definition. He could recall exactly how the meat had been coiled and surprisingly on the bland side. The liquid gushing down his chin. The fact that everything was still warm.

He'd killed two people.

He'd jumped on them, mauled them and ripped open their skulls.

Then he'd helped himself to what was inside. Kid in the candy store.

Eddie thought about that. Maybe he was just too tired to get up in arms about it, but he couldn't feel anything about it one way or another. No horror. Just a sense that feeding on those people had been fulfilling. It was the first time he could remember it, anyway. Maybe it'd hit him once he recovered more. Was he in shock? Maybe later he'd feel that wave of disgust and shame that just wouldn't seem to come right now, and, in fact, didn't seem to be coming any time soon. All he could feel was a sense of personal satisfaction and the thought that the people he'd killed were collaborators. They worked for Alistair Smythe. Therefore? They were fair game and while he wasn't to sure how he felt on the whole cannibalism development, the actual act of killing was more or less justified in his mind.

The next thing was the Spider.

Whatever haze they suffered through before feeding, it'd been gone when Peter Parker showed up. Eddie remembered every moment, every second, of the encounter. If he thought those flashes of the feeding were detailed, his time with the Spider had been in overload – it was like he'd had total recall dropped right into his lap at that moment, and he could look back on what happened with the kid and not miss a thing. His memory of that? Completely off the charts, way, way beyond what was normal for a human – or even for a symbiote. He supposed getting a Brain-Pick-Me-Up right before put them into some kind of batshit overdrive. His temporary bout of eidetic memory told him Parker hadn't exactly joined with them willingly.

But Eddie had a feeling this was how things would've ended up anyway. Not the whole getting captured by a cripple, but the whole relationship – or lack of – they had with the Spider. They needed him and he didn't want anything to do with them, either with Eddie or his Other. And since they couldn't have things by playing nice, then that just simply meant they played it not so nice since "no" wasn't good enough. They wanted Peter Parker. They took him last night by force. He didn't have a say in the matter. Or a chance.

Eddie did feel a little bit bad about that. Not a lot. But enough.

He didn't like it.

But he did like feeling normal. For the first time in forever, he didn't feel at all horny. Aside from being more tired than a guy had any right feeling, and aside from being still locked up, he felt…good. Not great. They were still in trouble, after all. But good, all things considered. Just shy of being perky, but Eddie guessed that was probably asking too much and they'd exhausted themselves too much last night to be bouncing around the morning after.

After a while, he began the struggle to sit up. When you had your arms locked behind your back, it was a lot harder than it looked, and it took a few minutes of false starts and bad planning before he managed to get upright, leaning back against a smooth wall. Head spun a little. He looked around.

This wasn't the same cell. Of course it's not, Eddie thought, because between you and Parker, you pretty much trashed it. He wished he'd had the foresight to escape and then fuck the Spider's brains out.

The new cell was pretty damned small, little more than a tall tube of reinforced glass that'd probably send a claustrophobic screaming up the walls; as it was, he probably couldn't stretch out full length if he wanted and it was definitely a step backward from their previous accommodations. The fact he could actually look outside the cell was new. Eddie righted himself before he slipped onto his side, and took a good look around. A row of the same glass cylinder-prisons, only three of which were occupied – Parker was in the next one over, still out cold and still wearing the tatters of his Spider-man outfit, and, as for their third roomie, she was just as ass-naked as he was. Unlike Parker the next tube over, she was conscious.

At least, Eddie thought she was a she. When she glanced over, bored, he realized that he couldn't tell. The fact that she was sitting with her knees up to her chest certainly wasn't helping. Neither was the fact that her (its?) fiery red hair was cropped brutally short and clumping together in spikes.

"So what're you in for, newb?" the woman/man asked, words muffled by the glass. Hell, even her voice was androgynous, Eddie realized, and decided that for the sake of his sanity, he was just going to think of "it" as a woman for the time being. She cracked an unpleasant grin, "Serial killer, myself."

Eddie stared at her. Was she joking? Not that he had a clean rap sheet, but he usually didn't bother bragging about shit like that unless it was to someone who mattered, like Parker. "What?"

"Too much, eh? Okay, well, I guess I can admit I keyed up my neighbor's car. Also punched out a cop. Anger issues, y'know," she smirked. "They're a bitch. But lemme tell you, it was totally worth it to deck the pig; best two seconds of my life."

Eddie had no idea what she was going on about. Why would you even punch out a cop unless there was a good reason to? From the way she was talking, it was almost like she did it for kicks. He was still trying to decide if she was bullshitting him with the serial killer bit when the redhead changed tactics. She scooted closer to him.

"Hey, what's your name?"

"…Eddie."

"I'm Kasady," said the redhead. She beamed. "Well?"

"Well what?"

"You didn't answer my question. What're you in for?"

"I don't know," Eddie lied. He wasn't going to go spilling out his life story to some whacked out bitch.

Kasady rolled her eyes, making it obvious she didn't buy that for a second. "I already told you what I'm in for," she said with a slight whine. "I bet it's 'cause you're a freak like me. Hey, how about I'll show you mine if you show me yours."

With that, she leaped to her feet, bouncing up on the balls of her heels like some demented jack in the box. Eddie braced himself for a full frontal…only to realize that he had no idea what the hell he was looking at. One minute Kasady was just a blank slate. Then she went to a full-blown woman, complete with the nicest rack he'd ever seen. Then to a man. Then back to – to whatever the hell she'd been before her little magic show. She stood with her legs spread, hands on her hips, grinning like she had her cake and ate it too. Frankly, Eddie was weirded out. Okay so she was a mutant (maybe) and he got that. But honestly? What the hell kind of useless lameass power was that?

"Yeah, yeah, it's not that cool," Kasady went on, rambling over any praise she might be expecting. "But what can you do? At least I'm not a lame normal: I like to think of myself as unique, if we're gonna get into semantics."

Eddie snuck a glance at Parker. The kid was still unconscious and therefore in no position to distract him from Kasady. Goddamit.

"What do they want with us, Kasady?"

Better to play dumb for now.

Kasady seemed more than happy to have someone to talk to. "I know what I'm in for."

"Serial killer and all that," Brock cut in dryly. "Okay."

"Anyway, I'm last one standing, I guess," Kasady said, with no small amount of pride. "My pal Alistair, he's been wanting auditions for – oh, I dunno – something. And last time I've checked, I'm the best candidate from all the other mutants for Whatever It Is. Not that I know. But he gave me a sweet deal I couldn't refuse."

"Your idea of a sweet deal is living in a giant test tube?"

Kasady gave an "eh, what can you do" kind of shrug as she sat back down again, stretching her legs out like a cat for a bit. "Ain't bothering me, Pops. Just chilling out for a bit. Anyone tell you you're anti-social?"

Eddie's arms were still bound behind his back, but he could feel his hands twitching with the sudden impulse to go for the redhead's neck. Too bad they had several inches of glass in the way. And the damn collar. He noticed with no small amount of annoyance that Kasady didn't have one. Lucky bitch. Too bad she was full of shit.

Kasady tried to strike up a conversation a few more times since then, but Eddie ignored her, closing his eyes and resting against the wall. He'd been toying with the idea of trying to talk to Parker whenever he decided nap time was over…but now he wasn't so sure, not with an audience present, much less someone he wasn't sure if she was even a prisoner or not in the first place. Besides, what was he going to say to Parker? Sorry, but great fuck didn't seem like it'd fly very well. It wasn't like he had anything to be sorry for anyway, Eddie thought, probably a tad defensively, glancing over at the unconscious kid the next tube over. If it wasn't for him, they wouldn't be here – in all senses of the word.

Eddie guessed he'd been awake at least a few hours now when light spilled into the room from an open door. Next to him, Kasady perked up; she was a petite…okay, Eddie wouldn't go so far to call her a woman, but she was a petite whatever-she-was, and was able to actually lie down in the tube. Currently she was lying on her stomach, legs kicking in the air, chin propped up in her hands.

"Aw," Kasady pouted. "It's you."

Eddie watched as Flint Marko entered. He noted with a scowl that the other man's eyes went first for Parker, taking his still form in with something that almost could be mistaken for concern before glancing at the other two captives.

Kasady was still talking as Flint wandered over to some kind of console and checked it: "Can't we get anything to read here, man? It's really boring."

"Why do you keep askin' that? The answer's always gonna be no."

"But I'm bored."

"Too fuckin' bad."

Flint finished with whatever he was doing with the console and turned to them. He shot a glare at Eddie, his lip curling in disgust; Eddie had to resist the temptation to just snarl back at him, feeling the points of his fangs already starting to form on their own.

"You two freaks belong with each other," Flint said.

Kasady sat up suddenly. Flint didn't even flinch when she sat up a full woman this time and flashed him. "The guy's a fag," she said, reaching up and cupping her breasts, giving them a little bounce to show them off. "Come on, look at these things. You'd have to be a homo not to want some of this."

"Tell me about it," Flint muttered under his breath, unable to help glancing from Eddie to the unconscious Spider-man the next tube over.

Eddie didn't rise to the bait. He watched with narrowed eyes as Flint stopped in front of Parker's tube and toggled something; with a hiss, it pulled into the ceiling, giving the other man enough space to duck under and kneel at the kid's side. Eddie could feel Kasady trying to peer around him and he took a kind of petty pleasure out of blocking her with his back as he watched. Kasady was once again pouting, trying to tell him move goddamit, but he remained right where he was, feeling like he'd like nothing more than to bust right through his new cage and gut Flint. Too bad he didn't think he had the juice in him yet.

Flint checked to make sure Parker was more or less healthy, checking his pulse and his breathing. Once done, he stepped out and closed the tube. Ignoring Kasady's endless stream of questions, he shut down the lights and left the room, the door giving a final chunk of the bolt locking.

"I'd totally do him," Kasady announced with a dreamy sigh, crossing her arms over her chest, which was once again Ken-doll flat. "Like you wouldn't believe."

Eddie almost choked. "You're kidding, right?" With his cellmate, it was hard to tell.

And she certainly wasn't helping his confusion as she smirked, making an obscene gesture to show what she'd love to do with Flint: "Admit it, he looks fun. Okay, probably not the brightest bulb, but I wouldn't say his mind's what I'm interested in anyway. If it's fun, then why the hell not, my grandma always said. She's dead by the way in case you wanted to know."

He hadn't even asked.

"Who's your friend?" Kasady tried again to look around him. "Nice outfit. Real classy."

"Spider-man's not my friend."

"Who's Spider-man?"

Eddie laughed in her face this time.

"Screw you, I'm not kidding - "

"- what rock have you been under – "

" – not my fault I've been here since forever – "

" – that you don't even know who Spider-man is?" Eddie finished. "You know, the 'Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man'?" he said mockingly. "He's a superhero. Guy dresses up a like a spider, runs around saving people and patting himself on the back for it?"

Kasady frowned. "So he's a buzz-kill, that what you're saying?"

"Pretty much."

"Lame," Kasady sighed. She threw herself back down on the floor, lounging out. "He's got 'fuck me' written all over. He yours?"

Eddie did sputter this time.

Kasady heaved another sigh. "Dammit, why do I always get cockblocked? You people take all the fun outta this."

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Kasady was a pain in the ass: she wouldn't shut up, she kept doing that sex-switching thing because she could never decide which one to just stick with, and she kept trying to pry for more information, both about him, Spider-man, and was it even possible for Alistair to get it up if he was a cripple? Her vote was on no but you couldn't blame someone for trying. E for Effort.

The only good thing she had going for her was when she finally turned in for the night, she was down and out like a light. There was something to be said about heavy sleepers. At least she could manage that right.

Eddie kept an eye on Parker over the next couple of hours. He'd begun to drift off himself, more out of boredom than anything else, when the kid started to revive. The blond sat up straighter and watched silently as Parker stirred. While Eddie was sure that he wasn't going to jump him any time soon, he still found him insanely fascinating – that didn't look like it was going to change any time soon. The tatters of his Spider-man outfit only served to better show the outline of his muscles and the lines of his body, toned in a way similar to an acrobat or a swimmer. Although his skin was still pale, color was already beginning to return, courtesy of his accelerated healing. Knowing the fact they were probably being watched, Eddie was sure that Alistair was having a little circle-jerk session over that.

He could watch Parker all day. Every little thing about him was just worth it.

He was so very lucky to be alive.

Eddie supposed that Parker wouldn't see it that way. Hell, he should be thankful to them – they'd taken it a lot easier than was normal, after all. And they hadn't fed on him either, he thought, well aware he was starting to sulk. Maybe if Parker had been willing to unite with them earlier, they wouldn't even be in this mess. But no, they knew perfectly well how he thought: he thought of them as a mess, as his mess, and that they were nothing more but something to be dealt with. Truth was, he had "dealt" with them. Maybe not in the ways he'd thought, but Eddie felt a lot more clear-headed than he had in weeks, if not months. They would always want Parker.

But they were now free of that leech, all thanks to their mate.

Not that he'd been a willing mate. But they usually never were.

Right now he watched as Parker's eyes fluttered open, dazed and lost in the sharp white light illuminating each of their cells from the top. Blinked. Winced. Groaned and shut them again, much like he had.

The symbiote by now was just starting to come around itself. He'd caught fragments of its "voice", flashes of impulses, memories, sensations. What it told him now was basically its own version of a groan:

…escape…rest…Spider…

Eddie hated it, this feeling of being alone in his head. Hopefully a few more hours would fix that, but that was still too damn long. Parker would probably be pleased: he'd think they were "cured", that maybe Eddie would be Eddie again and everything would suddenly be right in the world just because it returned to the status quo. It was a mentality that, despite Parker's super-human abilities, marked him as immature. In the end, he was still just a child who happened to be able to kick the crap out of just about ninety percent of the human population and come out smelling like roses.

"Hey, wake up," he growled, thumping his knee against the glass wall. "Wake up."

Parker tried again. "Wha – " was all he managed before he choked it back, like he was going to be violently sick. Eddie almost hoped he would, just to ground some salt in the wound. Parker managed to swallow it down, words thick as he mumbled: "What's going on?"

He looked up, stared at Eddie for a second, and then it sank in, much like a hammer to the back of the head probably would. Parker was up on his feet in a flash, swayed, and glared daggers at Eddie. Whatever discomfort or pain he was feeling from the aftermath of their mating seemed to be forgotten for the moment as he strained against the cuffs binding his arms behind his back.

"What the hell is wrong with you?!" he shouted, livid. It probably would've been almost intimidating under normal circumstances if they didn't have inches of glass between them.

Eddie looked down. Despite the fact they were still trapped and probably neck deep in shit, he simply couldn't resist egging Parker on. "There's something wrong with us?" he asked innocently.

Parker still had his mask mostly on – the only visible part of his face was just his nose and mouth – but he was pissed, his skin flushing red.

"You know what I mean!"

Eddie watched as Parker strained again with the cuffs, for a second convinced he might break out of them considering they were starting to give off a screech of metal separating from metal; but after another second, he gave a pained grunt and slid against the glass walls, leaning on them heavily in exhaustion and panting, his chest heaving.

To tell the truth or not? The honest thing to do, the good decent thing, was to tell it, to admit that yes, he remembered everything in all its gory detail and to explain everything to Parker about what happened last night, what had led up to it. Lay it all out there. The annoyingly human part of him said it was the least he deserved…but then that very same human part, the one that hated the kid, said he deserved jack and shit and he was going to get both. They got what they wanted. That was all that even mattered. After the pain he put them through, it was justice. If he was going to get told anything, it'd be bare bones, enough to drive him up the wall, always second-guessing himself and them, always jumping at what could have been. Wondering at the monster he thought he'd created, this greater being who preyed on the humans and it was all because of. Peter. Parker.

Oh yes, Eddie thought, he liked the idea.

Eddie Brock the man wouldn't have done this. Good thing Eddie Brock – human was gone. Eddie Brock - Host was what remained.

"You want the truth?" Eddie said. He sucked in a breath, letting it out in a hiss. "Everything's wrong with us. You know what we remember last? We remembered killing two of your coworkers and we couldn't control it."

He neglected to mention that while the lack of control was true, that he'd also left out some key details, like how they'd then went right past the taboo of murder and went for the whole cannibal shebang. Right now he could see the gears in Parker's pretty little head turning, trying to decide if he was lying or not, and wondering just how much of the symbiote a human like Eddie could even "control", if at all. Control. Eddie wanted to laugh. It wasn't a matter of control. He wasn't trying to fight the symbiote off. If they had issues, it was because they'd been pushed to that breaking point and had fallen as one until there was only rock bottom and the Spider was right there with him with his spectacular brand of bad timing and bad luck

Parker wavered, just a little, but was back on his proverbial feet in a flash. "Oh, isn't that convenient that you don't remember? What else don't you remember?" he said sarcastically.

Eddie scowled. "Feeling like shit. You with your idiot plan."

"It was fine until you went and God, I don't even want to say what you did to me, except I'm gonna give you the biggest knuckle sandwich after all of this."

Eddie would've loved to see him try, to be frank. It'd probably be nothing more than a tickle, but that was assuming if they got out of here, not when. He gave Parker a blank look.

"You're still alive," Eddie pointed out helpfully. "So what did we do?"

He kept his face blank and clueless. Eddie wasn't a born actor, but you picked up a few things being a journalist out to get a story, not to mention centuries worth of memories from his Other: somewhere in there had to be a few acting lessons to benefit them. Managing to look baffled and honestly confused wasn't that hard.

Parker's eyes were hidden by the remnants of his mask so Eddie couldn't see just what he was thinking. But he had a pretty good guess after having a little chunk of Parker in him (even if it was stolen), and he knew pissed or not, the kid really did want to believe the best in him. It was one of his annoying traits, this inability to believe that he'd fucked it up by creating Venom and that they really was his worst nightmare and there was no reversing it, no miracle cure, no explanation that would make everything Alright. From the way he could see him biting his lip, Parker was listening because of this naïve attitude of his, if only very reluctantly. It helped that they didn't exactly have a lot of options as to leaving at the moment.

"You did something…something bad to me," Parker said, tense. Ever the kid, he couldn't just go out and say what happened. "I should've just left you here."

Should've, would've, could've.

Didn't.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

He couldn't sleep.

Peter Parker lay curled on his side, feeling jumpy. Okay, so he was usually always a little jumpy (it came with the job), but this was a lot worse than usual. Eddie was asleep, but Peter kept seeing him with those glazed over white eyes looming over him, face frighteningly slack of all expression. Shuddering, he clenched his eyes shut until it hurt. Concentrate. He had to concentrate; he was still alive, like Eddie said…but last night kept jumping up out of nowhere at him and he found the escape plans he kept trying to come up with just didn't want to go anywhere, instead sliding away as he kept reliving last night.

Did he blame himself?

Was this his fault?

Peter wasn't sure. Venom was his fault. It would seem like by default that this was too – it certainly wouldn't have happened if he hadn't resisted the symbiote that night so long ago instead of ditching it like yesterday's garbage. But no, no matter how it was eating him up inside, he couldn't agree all the way that what happened last night was his fault. He'd been so sure when he woke up he was going to beat the ever-living crap out of Eddie, wondering if he'd been planning this all along. But then he began to second-guess himself and now he wasn't sure who was responsible or just where the blame went.

His heart thudded hollowly in his chest, thundering in his head. Painfully vivid flashes kept coming at him even with his eyes closed. Why hadn't he seen that something was wrong with Eddie, something more wrong than usual? He knew he'd smelled blood, which made sense now that he knew Eddie had killed for some reason last night – but why hadn't he escaped? It didn't make sense. There was also the whole way Eddie acted. The man was possessed, but in the times Peter had seen him before, he hadn't ever acted like that – Eddie might've lost himself to the symbiote's empty promises, but he'd always seemed to be capable of intelligent thought, if not control over his own body. But last night…those eyes…

The lights were on but no one was home.

Something beeped suddenly outside the glass walls. Peter jumped, badly startled, and sat up so quickly he almost got whiplash. Breathing hard, the fight-or-flight reflex kicking into overdrive, he sucked in a trembling breath, so wired he could feel his arms and legs quivering as adrenaline pumped.

Get a grip!

Peter tried to think of how to handle this. Okay, so he had to get a grip. Glancing around, he tried to focus more on what he could see right there, in front of his face, and less on the details of last night. The room wasn't as big as the entire floor devoted to Eddie's cell, but it was long enough to hold at least five more tubes like the one he was in. Peering around, he was startled to realize that he wasn't alone in the room with Eddie: there was another prisoner the next tube over from Eddie. It was a little hard to see, but the prisoner looked almost as short as he was, curled up asleep, her head of red hair the only thing he could see.

He pressed himself to the glass at the same time trying to self-consciously cover up the remains of his costume that he could feel exposing his bits and wracked his brain trying to think of a way to escape. Touched the glass. Surprisingly warm to the touch, as if it'd been out in the sun, with a gentle thrum under its smooth surface. Feeling his way around, he wasn't particularly surprised to find that there wasn't a large enough space to get a finger through. It wasn't perfectly flush, but the few centimeters or so between glass and floor wasn't exactly an open door here. So much for that.

No webshooters either. That, surprisingly, had been the first thing he'd noticed after getting past the fact that parts of his body were sore and hurt in places they had no right hurting. He'd been so used to feeling their weight around his wrists that their absence now was jarring, enough so that Peter could swear he was feeling phantom webshooters every now and then. No doubt "Mr." Smythe was having a field day with those, Peter thought, and found himself irrationally angry about it.

Insult to injury honestly.

Okay, think. You're the lab rat in Smythe's maze; question is, Pete, what's this little rat gonna do now? Sit tight? Regain his strength and energy? He unlike Eddie didn't have a shock collar, so if anyone was going to be able to bust out of this tube thingie, it'd be him. But what if Smythe was expecting that? One of his little performance tests? Considering what little he knew of the scientist, it wasn't too far of a stretch.

Why didn't someone get him some clothes?

The thought came flying out of nowhere like a fastball. Peter supposed considering what he wore for "work", he really shouldn't be complaining but there was a big, huge difference between skin tight and all skin and he felt more exposed sitting here with the remains of his costume than he'd ever felt in his life.

He'd plenty of time to stew. Hours probably passed. It was hard to tell when you couldn't move and the scenery stayed the same; almost made going crazy like Eddie make sense. Now he was going crazy if he was letting Eddie – Venom – off the hook even an inch!

Peter had no idea how long he'd been awake. What he did know was he wasn't ready for the door to the room opening, a burly silhouette lit up from behind before the man walked through. Sand Dude. Flint Marko or whatever he called himself.

He watched warily as the big man came right at him, bracing himself. Did he want another go? Seriously? Peter felt crappy, but he was game if he had to be.

"Get up," said Flint, "an' no games."

Peter got to his feet, unconsciously trying to cover his bits and knowing just how futile it was when his costume was on the verge of falling apart. It was one thing to be fighting Flint as Spider-man, another to be facing him exposed and wondering if he knew who he really was, where he lived. The man's face was unreadable, standing with his arms crossed over his chest. Peter didn't move even as the glass tube slid up, glancing around expectantly, keeping an eye on Flint in case he tried any games.

"We don't got all day. Make it snappy."

Peter slowly stepped through the opening, ducking his head a little and eying Flint through the lens of his mask. He waited until he was close enough and suddenly swung out with a kick that should've sent the man sprawling – instead he found himself horribly off balance, staggering with one leg stuck in Flint's side, sand puffing out harmlessly as the man looked down then back at him with an annoyed sigh.

"Kid," he said, "Gonna let that one slide jus' 'cause I'm a saint. But next time I toss you back with your freak pal."

Peter's foot was released, Flint catching him by the shoulder (he couldn't help flinching at the contact). He steered him out the door, giving Peter his first look of whatever lay outside the cell room. More halls, but it looked like they weren't in any of the floors he'd been to before. The floors weren't tiled, but instead covered with what had to be the softest carpet he'd ever walked on. Flint didn't give him a chance to bolt, keeping an arm on the shoulder – the bad one – and ready to squeeze if he thought his prisoner was getting any ideas. Peter certainly had some, but if he was going to get out of here, he at least needed to know where "here" was.

"So where's your boss?" Peter asked, relieved his voice wasn't shaking. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't afraid but that didn't mean he had to broadcast it to the world here. He had to be Spidey, not scared, confused Peter. "Sweet, no curfew here."

Flint grunted something sounding suspiciously like "un-fucking-believable" under his breath.

"Is it jus' a personality thing or what?" said Flint suddenly. "You jus' flick on th' smartass like a switch or is that shit always on?"

This was probably the point where Peter should shut up.

"No, I was thinking more like those lamps? Y'know, you clap them and they turn on and – "

" – maybe it didn't sink in but – "

" – well, okay, maybe not like that, but you get the point, or I'd hope so, 'cause I know they're not paying you for your valedictorian GPA and I really, really think that model gig of yours is just a pipe dream, no offense, but there's just some things plastic surgery can't fix, man – "

Peter cut himself off when pain suddenly shot up from his injured shoulder like a spike. Flint relaxed his grip slightly, leaving Peter to pant a little as he tried to catch his wind and wish for one lousy second people would lay off his shoulder. Seriously, come on!

"If you'd jus'shut up fer two seconds you'd know you're in so much shit it's not even funny."

"So…" Peter had to try again when the first attempt didn't come out, still catching his breath, "so when do I get the concrete shoes? Since it looks like you got me out here without Smythe tagging along and, honestly, this's got shady written all over the place."

Flint flicked him an expressionless look. "He ain't in th' need t'know circle."

What was that supposed to mean? Peter was left to wonder in silence as Flint led him through a maze of halls, eventually opening a door to a…an emergency exit? The stairs were empty and probably went all the way to a bottom he couldn't see. Was Flint thinking of tossing him over? Cause that probably wouldn't work, considering, y'know, sticky fingers and all that. Flint closed the door behind them, voice echoing a little in the empty stairwell as he blocked the door, arms crossed stubbornly over his burly chest.

"Gonna be straight with you. I didn't sign up for this an' far as I'm concerned, you didn't either."

Whatever smart aleck thing had been on the tip of Peter's tongue died. What he did manage was pretty lame: "…Aren't we supposed to be enemies? Y'know, you wail on me and I punch your lights out and we call it a day?"

"Didn't take no job t' beat up kids," Flint retorted.

"Who said I'm a kid?"

Flint heaved a rumbling sigh. "I already know who you are. Got you pegged for at least a week."

Oh God circled around in Peter's head. He didn't need this right now – he didn't need this at all! He opened his mouth but nothing came out. Did Smythe know? Silver Lady had to know because somehow he doubted Sand Dude had it in him to figure all this out on his own. What would they do with his identity? Blackmail? Extortion? His legs felt weak as everything came crashing down on him in a wave. His secret identity wasn't so secret anymore. Last night. Venom. Eddie Brock. Peter very nearly sat down but his legs somehow held; the pounding of blood rushing almost drowned out what Flint Marko said next.

"So lay one on me an' get th' hell outta here."

"What?"

Flint rolled his eyes. "Do I gotta spell it out for you? Tellin' you t'run along an' go back to school or somethin'."

Peter's eyes narrowed behind his mask. This had to be some kind of trick. Maybe they just knew he was from Queens or – or they'd figured out he was young, yeah, but maybe this was just a trick to get him to book it on out of here so they could follow him back like some kind of idiot.

"And I should trust you why, exactly? I mean, you got bad guy written all over your face."

"I coulda outted your ass," Flint said, laying the bluntness on thick. "Can't speak for Silver Sable, but I ain't gonna sell your name off to th' highest bidder."

Peter thought he was a pretty good judge of character. It was something he'd gotten a little better at after doing the whole hero business. Came with the territory. Looking at Flint, he was pretty sure he wasn't that good of an actor to be looking at him and not showing any signs of lying or nervousness. Did he know Peter's real name? Peter was fairly sure he did now. Somehow they'd found out who Venom really was and that wouldn't have been possible unless they'd found out who he was too. Feeling cold, Peter hugged his arms around him and leaned up against the railing, resting a hip on it as he studied Flint.

"I can't leave," Peter said. "Not yet."

Flint's face was an open book. "Gunnin' for more punishment?"

"It's Brock."

"Leave him."

Peter shook his head. "He's coming with me."

"I can't let th' both of you go. Screams inside job," Flint growled, his voice lowered as if he thought they were being overheard. "He's dangerous. Y'know what he can do, so why waste your time with th' bastard?"

It was really too long to go into, especially standing here in this cold stairwell and having the feeling that this window wouldn't be open long. But Peter only shook his head again.

"I can't. I…it's complicated," Peter said lamely. Even he didn't know why he bothered these days and he could all too well understand the look of bewildered confusion on Flint's face. "But it's a bad idea if he's left behind with Smythe. Think Brock's dangerous? What if people like Smythe get what makes him so dangerous? Ever think about that?"

Sighing, Flint reached up and scratched the back of his head. Sand sprinkled down like snow, trickling down to the floor only to slide back into his feet. Peter wondered how he'd ended up with sand powers of all things and realized he'd probably never know.

"Kid, you just gotta go an' make things harder than they should be."

Flint was silent for so long, chewing on his lip, that Peter was convinced maybe he was having second thoughts. "No promises," said Flint gruffly. "Hell, never know if I might change my mind."

"That's enough," Peter said. "So what now?"

Flint stared at him pointedly. With his face, Flint looked pretty damn intimidating even when he wasn't trying to kick your butt all over New York.

"Clothes."

X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X

Something was up.

You didn't need to be a genius to figure that one out. There'd been more coming and going within the past day then there had been for months. It was the beginning of the end.

See, Kasady was special. By all rights, s/he should've been very very sick, like coma-sick, only s/he wasn't and it was because s/he had something Smythe wanted. S/he knew that much. The scientist hadn't told him/her much, but it'd been enough over time to get a general picture. Getting poked and prodded in all kinds of awesome places had been…interesting, but pointless so far. Why bother, Kasady asked more than once, and got jack in response. To this day, s/he still had no idea what the fuck it was Smythe wanted; all s/he knew was he didn't have it and s/he did. Or, at least, a part of it.

Not everything.

Kasady debated ratting out Flint to Smythe.

Thought about it.

Then thought about it some more.

Nah.

S/he wanted to see where the hell this was going. Normally his/her attention span was crap, but taking a break from dodging death row helped keep that ADD in order. Or was it OCD? LCD? LSD? Who even cared?

All Kasady knew was Eddie was important enough to Smythe to get the five star treatment here, even if he was too oblivious to know what he had going for him, and that it'd be a lot more fun to keep his/her mouth shut and just watch and be entertained instead of being teacher's asshole and ratting out Flint. Kasady could do entertained. A lot of things entertained her/him. There was always dicking around with Flint, dicking around with Smythe, kicking a few puppies and hey, throw in a few cases of manslaughter and s/he'd be set.

Being short of puppies, Kasady was left with no choice but to chill out here and see where this went.

To be continued...

X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X X