I wrote this story in about 6 hours, and finished it literally as I was opening up the fest. It didn't even get a proof-read until the next day, after I'd slept.
Honestly, I'm delighted with this story. It's ridiculous fluff, but I had so much fun with it.
Title: Refuge by cupidsbow
All Eddie was thinking about when he opened the door was pizza. The burning hot stretch of cheese, the crunch of crust, the salty-sweetness of bacon and pineapple. Venom wasn’t much better off, pitifully murmuring Hungry. Eddie had bought him the Family Sized box of fries as a reward for being quiet all day while Eddie hammered out a 5,000 word feature needed to fill a gap at short notice. Pizza, fries, junk TV and a cuddle with his silly-string (Not a silly string!) was everything Eddie wanted after hitting that deadline. So he felt particularly betrayed when he opened the door and reached for the steaming boxes, only to get jabbed in the throat with something that had them both dropping like a discarded puppet, Venom not even getting out a hiss of rage.
Eddie woke first. After a period of exhausted half-awareness in which he couldn’t figure out why his bed was so hard, he cracked an eye and found himself face-down on a slatted plastic bench. The tiles he could see through the slats were institution grey, and very clean. He gingerly rolled into a sitting position, and found himself in a cell. A toilet and hand-basin with a push-button tap. No toilet paper. A plastic-covered fish-eye lens in the middle of the ceiling. And a transparent wall like something out of a Hannibal Lecter movie, no door in sight.
Venom slugglishly stirred, their thoughts still foggy but full of an unverbalised question.
Glancing up at the camera, Eddie thought as loudly as he could, Stay inside. We’re being filmed. There’s no threat, so just stay inside.
Venom went quiescent, which was as close to a Yes as Eddie figured he was going to get. He briefly considered getting up and looking around the cell, but decided his legs were far too wobbly. Instead he lay back down, slinging an arm over his face to block out the light, and tried to doze some more in the hope they’d both feel better when he next woke up.
Nothing happened for a while. Eddie wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he’d needed to use the toilet, and had risked a drink from the tap, so probably a few hours. He was newly grateful that Venom was a voracious TV junkie and had marathoned every Law & Order episode they could find. Eddie didn’t even have to explain the waiting was probably designed to make them angry and on edge; Venom had figured it out, and then started sharing memories of their favourite interrogation scenes, and which of the perps’ heads they would have eaten. They still sounded sluggish, and Eddie wished he could talk to Dan about whatever it was that might have been used to knock them both out.
Eventually, a door clunked open somewhere down the corridor, out of their line of sight, followed by the sounds of feet and quiet voices. Eddie didn’t bother getting up.
A small, spectacled man took up a position a few feet back from the glass front of their cage. He was flanked by two humanoid figures that looked a little like people covered in Symbiotes, but more like a uniform. One had an orange hue, and the other blue. They both had weapons of some kind in their hands. The final witness stayed well back, but Eddie was pretty sure that red-hair belonged to one of the Avengers.
The spectacled man took out a tablet, and started to read. “Earth citizen Edward Brock, as per subsection 550.2 of the 2012 Earth addendum to the Intergalactic Charter, you have been detained because your body has been hijacked by an alien war criminal. As soon as we can safely remove them from your person, you will be returned home.” Spectacles paused and nervously glanced at Eddie. He took a step back before saying, “Klyntar fugitive: surrender now, or resisting arrest will be added to the charges against you.”
The two aliens tensed, staring at them, weapons poised. Spectacles had started to sweat, and fumbled as he turned off his tablet and moved further back out of the way. Black Widow looked bored, but Eddie was pretty sure that was an act.
They didn’t offer us a lawyer, Venom silently pointed out.
“Right,” Eddie replied. He made eye contact with Black Widow. “I want a lawyer.”
They all stared at him as though he’d grown a second head. Eddie knew he hadn’t, Venom still safely tucked away out of sight. Several seconds ticked by.
“Anne Weying,” Eddie added. “She works for Hemmings, Hemmings, and Zhao.”
They were all looking at each other now, as though Eddie wasn’t following their script. Good.
“In San Francisco. Is that even where I am anymore?”
Black Widow rolled her eyes, “Nice try,” and pulled out a phone.
“Oh, and something to eat.” Eddie said, all too aware of the way his stomach was rumbling. “Your thugs stole my pizza.”
“Why am I always surrounded by smart-arses?” Black Widow muttered as she put the phone to her ear. “Anything else while you’re making demands?” she asked, sarcasm rolling off every word.
“And my fries.”
Black Widow sighed, and walked back down the corridor, out of sight. He could hear her talking to someone on the phone.
“Don’t think you can fool us!” the blue alien said. It was still pointing a weapon at them.
“I’ll take that under advisement,” Eddie muttered, slinging his arm back over his face.
“What the everloving fuck, Eddie!” Annie did not look pleased to be sitting across from him. To be fair, it might be because the room looked more like the inside of a fridge than a visitors’ room, complete with rubber seals on the airlock, and thick, white, noise-deadening walls.
“You look real pretty today, Annie.” Eddie had planned to say that even if Annie had been dragged here in trackpants and a sleep shirt, but she actually was looking all spiffed up for the office.
“Pretty? I had to sign away my soul to be able to even look at Earth’s space law, so yeah, I’m pretty, alright. Pretty narked off at you right now!”
Eddie gave her his best puppydog eyes. “Space law though!”
Annie ducked her head to try and hide a smile. “That won’t work on me.”
It was totally working. Eddie did the puppydog eyes a bit more, because it was basically all he had.
You have me, Venom shared.
Yeah, and I’d like to keep it that way, buddy.
Annie will find a way.
“Look,” Annie said, the worst of the irritation gone. “As far as I can tell from my first scan through the space law, if you did happen to be harbouring an alien -- not that I’m asking if you are -- but if you were, that alien would be pretty much screwed. The Agents of the Cosmos are a well-known peace-keeping force.”
Eddie sighed and wished he could rub his face, but he was locked up in shackles that looked like they were made for the Hulk. He’d been told that if he so much as looked like he might try to touch Annie, she’d be locked up too, just in case the alien jumped hosts.
Inside his chest, Venom stewed. The Agents of the Cosmos are all pussies! They call anyone who doesn’t do things their way a war criminal. They execute anyone they decide is corrupt. A host uses you to commit crimes -- you’re corrupt! You’re starving and eat someone -- you’re corrupt!
Hmmm. Eddie had written a few stories about despotic governments and how people got away from them.
“I’m having a thought,” Eddie said.
Annie got out a notepad and pen. “I’m all ears.”
“I’m basically being persecuted, right? They admit I haven’t done anything wrong. Is there anything in the space law to help people being persecuted? Like, could I seek asylum against those alien cops? Why do they have more rights than me? What rights do the different parties have? Is the law the same for humans and aliens?”
Annie jotted down notes. “That’s useful. I’ll look into that. Is there any chance they might have been persecuting you before the arrest? Following you around, for instance? Threatening you?”
Yes! They tried to memory-wipe me, and when it didn’t take, they were going to execute me, and when Riot broke us out, they hunted us.
Eddie thought about how to get some of that across. “Um, maybe? My head’s still a bit foggy from when they knocked me out. They really did a number on me with that alien tech. I’d have to think back, see if I remember being followed, or if stuff I passed off as paranoia looks different now aliens are a thing.” He paused, and then casually added, ”Assuming they haven’t mind-wiped me or something.”
Annie paused in her note-taking. “Mind-wiped?”
Eddie shrugged as much as he was able. “There might be a few holes in the old swiss cheese, so to speak. Maybe they tortured me and I wouldn’t even remember it.”
Looking appalled, Annie made another note and underlined it twice. “Okay, that gives me enough to work with for now. I’ll follow up, and come back once I have a better grasp of what your options are.”
“You’re the best, Annie.”
Annie smiled. “You know it.”
“The good news,” Annie said, “is that there’s a clause allowing for arbitration in disputed arrests by off-world police corps. I’ve submitted the paperwork, and we have a date, and I think I’ve found enough wiggle room in the law that we can make a decent case of persecution, depending on the evidence you can give. Note that I did not say a good case, but we can at least make the Agents work for it.”
I knew she would think of something. Venom’s thoughts reeked of smugness. Annie is smart.
It did sound promising. Annie was always at her best when it came to exploiting loopholes. Eddie was immediately suspicious. “What’s the bad news?”
Annie tapped a finger against the table for a moment. “First, and I’m still not asking, but the strongest legal arguments only hold true if you really are hosting a fugitive who’s seeking asylum. If it comes to it, they might need to testify to an expectation of cruel and unusual treatment if handed over.”
Good. I’m tired of hiding, Eddie. I will tell everyone the Agents of the Cosmos are pussies!
“Noted,” Eddie said. ”And?”
Annie went on: “Second, if you admit you’re hosting an alien fugitive willingly, they could argue you’re an accomplice rather than an innocent bystander. It makes the stakes higher if arbitration rules in favour of the other party. Earth might hand you over as well.”
Venom curled up into a tense ball inside Eddie’s chest. No!
It’s okay, buddy. No-one’s taking me anywhere. Looking at Annie’s face, Eddie could tell that wasn’t all. “And?”
“And,” Annie said, “There was only so much I could do in negotiating the arbitration team.”
“Oh, god. Who?”
Annie smiled, but it was her war mask, not anything with humour in it.
Someone had given Thor a gavel, and he was smashing it against the table and saying, “Order!” even though everyone was present and waiting. The spectacled man had tried to start the session three times, only for Thor to smash down the gavel each time. Eddie figured no-one was stopping him, because who exactly had the balls to tell the God of Thunder and Lightning to stop?
“For fuck’s sake,” Nick Fury said, snatching the gavel away before Thor could bring it down again. “Let’s get this circus underway. I have things to do today.”
Thor pouted, while the rock-covered alien sitting next to him, the third and final member of the arbitration panel said, “Don’t take his hammer away, man, that’s just cruel.”
Spectacles got up again, and this time managed to read out his speech about the rules without interruption. Eddie glanced over at Annie, who was already looking back at him. She mouthed, “Sorry.”
Yeah, this was going to be interesting.
“Furthermore,” Annie said, “in 2016 the Supreme Court of Papua New Guinea found that the detention of asylum seekers breached their U.N. convention rights to personal liberty and freedom, which corresponds to clause 1082.226 in the Integalactic...”
Trials are more interesting on TV, Venom complained, not for the first time.
Yep, Eddie agreed, trying to get more comfortable in the hard chair without looking like he was wriggling. Annie was doing a good job, though. Thor looked bored, but both Fury and the rock-alien, Korg, were following along, and the Agents looked annoyed. Well, as much as mask-covered faces could wear an expression at all. That had to be a good thing.
“... and that is why, pursuant to 550.2 subsection 248, my client has a well-founded fear of being persecuted by the claimants, known as the Agents of the Cosmos, because of his political opinions on body-sharing, and his pro-alien sexual identity--”
Eddie jerked upright. He reached over and tugged Annie’s sleeve, but Annie ignored him as Thor had also just jerked to attention.
“Wait, wait, wait!” Thor said, looking interested for the first time since the gavel had been removed. “Pro-alien sexuality? Are you saying they...” He gestured in a way that made Eddie’s cheeks burn.
Primly, Annie said, “They are in a committed symbiotic bond. It’s sacred to the Klyntar race. Eddie considers them married.”
Where is she even getting this stuff from? Eddie wondered, feeling equal parts admiration and horror.
Venom was squirming and giving off oddly abashed vibes.
“Cool.” Thor was eyeing Eddie speculatively. “I’m down with spreading the love as intergalactically as possible.”
Eddie realised that he now knew what it was like for a fertility god to imagine him naked. And having sex. With an alien goo.
Over on the other side of the table, the Agents had gone from looking annoyed to enraged.
“Disgusting!” the orange Agent muttered.
Chidingly, Korg said, “No-one should be separated or locked up because of who they love. That’s just wrong.”
The blue Agent stood up and banged the table. “That symbiote is a murderer!”
Annie briefly dipped her head, reining in a smile. Eddie didn't have to wonder why for long.
“Really,” Fury said, clearly unimpressed. “Because so far, you’ve shown no evidence that casts any doubt on the Life Foundation having kidnapped the alien, brought it to Earth against its will, held it captive, starved it, tried to force it to bond with a series of exploited hosts who couldn’t give proper consent, and then chased and attacked it once it had escaped. Everything done in that situation was a clear case of self-defence. And if you’re making such spurious claims about it’s so-called crimes on Earth, it rather casts doubt on the other claims you’re making, doesn’t it?”
“You’ll regret it!” Orange Agent snarled. “When that thing is harvesting you like cattle, you’ll understand we are right!”
Screwing up his face, Thor said, “Yeah, I think we’re ready to vote. I vote we grant asylum.”
“Agreed,” said Korg, casting a disappointed look at the Agents.
“It’s unanimous, then,” said Fury, and pulled the gavel from wherever he’d stashed it, and banged it down on the sounding block that was still sitting on the table in front of Thor.
Anne reached down and squeezed Eddie’s hand. Out of sight of everyone else, Venom poked out a tiny head and stuck their tongue out at the Agents, who looked like they couldn’t believe they’d lost.
“And now I have actual work to do.” Fury stood up and strode around to Eddie. He paused, and in a low voice he said, “Don’t make me regret this, Mr Brock. S.H.I.E.L.D will be in touch shortly to talk over your options.” Then he swept out of the room.
Thor was next, heartily slapping Eddie on the back and congratulating him. “And if you and your bondmate are ever feeling adventurous, you know where to find me,” he said with a wink, and wandered off after Fury.
Korg politely handed them a pamphlet after offering his congratulations, and then followed Thor. It was titled, “On the importance of revolution in fomenting equality, and the negative effects of monarchies.”
Spectacles bustled up to them and shepherded them out, casting nervous glances over his shoulder at the fuming Agents every few steps.
Eddie hadn’t really known where they were, but when they finally wended their way outside, the unmistakable skyline of New York City greeted them.
“Annie,” Eddie said fervently, “You are a goddess. I don’t even know how you did that.”
“I’m just that good.” Annie punched him hard on the shoulder.
“Ow!” Eddie rubbed his arm. “What was that for?”
“You lied to me you asshole! You said Venom was dead!”
Venom popped a head out. “We wanted to keep you safe, Annie.”
“You’re an asshole too.” Annie flicked Venom on the snout. “Frankly, you deserve each other.”
A cab swerved up and stopped right in front of them. Annie hopped in and slammed the door in their faces. She said something to the driver, and then the window hummed down a few inches. “Find your own way home. I’m going shopping.”
“Fair,” Eddie said. As the cab slid away from the curb, he shouted, “I owe you one!”
Annie stuck her middle finger out the window.
Eddie enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine for a moment, and then turned and started walking down the street. They’d been given a stipend and some travel vouchers, but Eddie really wanted a coffee -- Hot chocolate! -- a mocha before he did anything else.
“So,” Eddie said. ”A committed symbiotic bond that’s sacred to the Klyntar race. Where did Annie get that from?”
I don’t know, Venom said, unconvincingly.
“That’s a shame,” Eddie said. “I thought it sounded kind of nice.”
Really? Venom curled around his neck like a scarf, looking up at him bashfully.
"Yeah. I like the way our bodies fit together."Above them a window slid open and a blond head popped out. "That's so hot!" Thor boomed. He made a phone with his hand. "I mean it, call me any time." This entry was originally posted at https://cupidsbow.dreamwidth.org/457224.html.