theo tate &. ethan beck
sep 2 2021
Hell is other people (Jean-Paul Sartre)
Ethan couldn't remember when he'd first started… watching his ex. He still wouldn't say that he was a crazy ex stalker. He wasn't stalking Theo, he was just… keeping an eye on him, making sure things were good for him. Theo deserved to be happy and Ethan… deserved to punish himself by seeing his ex happy without him in his life. Oh, he'd tried to be part of Theo's life more recently but that attempt had crashed and burned. Theo was still kind and still tried to extend an olive branch as was seen when he told Ethan to stop by his birthday party. He hadn't but that was only because he'd had other plans, plans that had gone to shit because of a symbiote he didn't even know as such. The consequences of that still plagued Ethan even after another blackout week. He'd thought that maybe Eddie would shed some light on Venom but there had been nothing from the bastard. Ethan wasn't really surprised, but he was on edge and understandably so. He'd fucking knocked out the guy he was dating. Well. Not him but still. It had been his body that Venom had taken over.

Even meeting Dimitri on Tuesday for lunch hadn't assuaged any of his fears. It had gone uneventfully but Ethan could still feel the monster inside him, making his skin crawl. It had been quiet though but Ethan had the feeling that Venom was biding his time. It frightened him because, as stubborn as Ethan could be and as much as he disliked some people, he never wanted to hurt anyone, least of all those he did like. He still felt that Dimitri should stay away from him, no matter how much he didn't want him to. Guilt also continued to plague him and that gnawing sensation made him reckless. So reckless in fact, that as he'd sat hunkered down in his car at the campus Theo worked at, he'd been caught (and run off) by campus security. The guy was probably half his age and he'd given Ethan the dirtiest look while doing his best to look down on him. He'd felt Venom stir at that and the monster finally spoke. Can I eat him? Ethan's response had been an emphatic no.

That had been Wednesday. Ethan knew he'd have to stay away from the campus for a while or risk the cops being called. That was frustrating to say the least; he wasn't hurting anyone and in fact, had no intention to. That was beside the point though, apparently. He needed to quit watching Theo but that was easier said than done. It had become something of an addiction and it had Ethan wondering if that's how it was for true stalkers. Were they addicted to going after whoever they were stalking? Not that Ethan was going after Theo or anything of the sort. He was still in denial, still certain that what he was doing was harmless and in fact that he was just making sure that Theo was good, happy. Which he very clearly was and without Ethan in his life. That's perhaps what stung the most; Theo was happy, with no thought whatsoever of Ethan. But then that wasn't surprising considering how things had ended between them. Ethan regretted that as much as he regretted anything.

It was Thursday now, and Ethan was parked a few houses down from Theo's, waiting for him to get home. There was a niggling in the back of his mind, telling him he shouldn't be doing that, that he shouldn't be there. He ignored it, of course, ignored it and continued watching the empty street. Theo would come from the opposite direction and Ethan would see when he did. Sure enough, light glinted off the bike Theo was on as he pedaled down the street toward his house. Ethan had sat in his car a few houses down before, so he didn't think anything of lowering in his seat, at least he didn't until Theo's bike continued past his house. A bit of panic spiked when Ethan realized that Theo would roll right past him and he quickly sunk as low in the driver's seat as he could and prayed that Theo wouldn't see him. It was hopeless really, there was no way Theo could miss him, and yet, Ethan hoped he would.

Theo was sick with worry. It had been a long, uneasy feeling, lasting weeks now — mostly since the symbiote ordeal, but when Theo thought about it, he'd been sensing it for longer. It had just gotten worse in the last few days, much worse, and too difficult to ignore. Before, all it was was that his spider-sense would jar him every so often, but then nothing would come of it and Theo would simply pocket that bit of knowledge away, add it to his long list of things he needed to research. What exactly caused his spider-sense to tingle, etcetera. Since the symbiote had gotten loose, had escaped, and Peter hadn't tracked it down — well, Theo was just glad he and Kit had left the country for a while, and that trip was still fresh and warm and wonderful in his mind.

Returning to San Francisco was a whirlwind of his birthday and returning to full time work, and it was always busy starting a new semester, and Theo always ended up a little stressed — and now he was sad, too, missing Kit desperately throughout the day. He'd gotten so used to spending so much of his waking hours with him that it was strange, now, and frustrating, but not something he couldn't deal with. And in the end, the weirdness he felt wasn't due to that — it was just an impossible and uneasy feeling of being watched, just like he'd had for weeks and weeks, only dissipating when they were in Japan. And for a while, Theo hadn't been sure why.

Until, of course, he'd stepped out of his classroom to see Ethan fucking Beck getting yelled at by campus security. Theo wasn't an idiot. He attempted to make an excuse for it — maybe Ethan was working a case. But it was all too convenient, all fit too strangely well, and he'd gone home from school feeling sick, and strange, and furious. It couldn't be — could it? It couldn't. It didn't make any sense. They barely talked, not since Theo had made it very clear he was uncomfortable, but this?

He didn't want to panic, or fear too greatly, but he couldn't shake the sense of something deeply wrong as he returned home from work the next day. He sailed beyond the entrance to his apartment, convincing himself that it was just anxiety, that he was just still scarred and scared from his experience with the symbiote. Theo scanned the area, the back of his neck prickling urgently: danger, danger, danger. And then — just as he was about to turn, to tell himself that it was ridiculous, that he was just looking for reasons to be upset, that was when he saw Ethan struggling to lower himself into his driver's seat.

Theo's blood went cold and he screeched his bike to a halt in the middle of the quiet street, leaned his foot on the ground and stared at Ethan's car like he'd been punched. He clenched his jaw, dismounted from his bike and took a tentative step closer.

"I can see you in there."

Ethan couldn’t count how many times he’d asked himself why he was doing this. Part of him surmised that he was punishing himself, seeing day in and day out exactly what he’d lost because of how petty and foolish he’d been. His insecurity had become so much that he’d ultimately done what he’d feared was happening already. Unfortunately, Ethan had been too late to realize as much. And now… Now, he was seeing just how happy Theo was, how content he was with his life, with his new boyfriend. Sure, Ethan was jealous but there was more to it than that. He didn’t want to sabotage Theo’s relationship with Kit, didn’t even want to cause problems with it at all. But he couldn’t seem to pull himself away.

Part of it was that he was punishing himself but another part genuinely still cared about Theo and wanted to make sure he was okay. Of course, the whole watching him was a selfish way to go about it. He could just talk to Theo. Not that he expected Theo would actually talk to him, tell him if something was wrong. Even watching him, Ethan likely wouldn’t glean anything was wrong unless he got close to him and that wasn’t going to happen. Ethan was a fool but he wasn’t an idiot. And yet, the frustrations of his own life had him being less cautious and, had ultimately led him here, to being caught. That was what was happening: Ethan was caught red-handed and there was no way to plausibly deny that.

It was much too hot to sit in the car with the windows up. Closed in, it would be like a sauna, so Ethan had all four windows down which only made it that much more likely that Theo would see him. There also was no way he could fully lower himself in the driver’s seat lest he lay it down and lay back on it but it was too late for that even. And then Theo was there, speaking to him and Ethan winced. Still, he waited for a beat before he rose back up just a little, still hunkered down some as though he were scolded, or, you know, caught doing something he shouldn’t have been. He offered Theo a weak smile.

“Hey… Theo.” He didn’t know what to say, what to do. He silently cursed himself. He should have driven off as soon as Theo continued past his house but then it was too late anyway. By the time Ethan would have gotten the car started, Theo would have already been there at his door.

This was horrifying. Mortifying. Infuriating, too — that Ethan would be there, in his car, trying to hide from Theo like he knew that he'd been caught. Caught doing something. Caught — up to something. And as reality set in — that in all likelihood, all obvious likelihood that Ethan was the one who had been setting off Theo's spider-sense for the last little while, and now especially this week, the horror settled into the base of Theo's gut heavier than ever before. He didn't smile back when Ethan offered one to him — his face was drawn into dark concern. He stared, lips thinned into a pinch, his body all tense lines and edginess, ready to spring away at a moment's notice.

"What are you doing here?" He asked finally, his voice strung tight with tension, adrenaline racing through him and his heart beating hard. Just being near Ethan was setting his spider-senses off again. Warning, warning, danger. Not — imperative, immediate danger, not like something was about to lunge out and attack him, but it was there. He hadn't felt that about Ethan specifically before. Discomfort, yes — the desire to just put their past awful relationship behind them, to see Ethan grown and matured and happy, away from him, yes. But Theo felt sick standing near him now, his knuckles white on the handlebar of his bike.

"Don't lie, either." Theo snapped in shortly after he'd spoken the first time, with every intention of getting in before Ethan could attempt to make some kind of an excuse for why he was hiding in his car a few houses down from Theo's block of apartments. "What the fuck are you doing here, Ethan?"

From the moment Ethan knew that Theo had spotted him, he knew this confrontation would occur. He knew the questions would come, the what, the how, and the why, and whatever other questions Theo might think of that Ethan’s panicked mind wasn’t. Of course, there was no greeting, no hi Ethan, it’s good to see you. Not that Ethan expected that but he also didn’t expect Theo to jump in demanding answers right away. He swallowed hard at that first question, trying desperately to think of something -anything- to rationalize his presence. He opened his mouth to reply, not quite sure what he was going to say but then Theo pushed on before he could utter a word.

Once again, Ethan winced. He should have known that if Theo didn’t demand the truth, that he’d see past any lie that Ethan could think of. But at the… venom in Theo’s voice the second time he voiced the question, the symbiote inside Ethan stirred to life almost as though it were sensing a threat or something. It didn’t speak to Ethan but he could feel it just under the surface. That feeling made his skin crawl and Ethan was suddenly restless. Instead of answering Theo’s question right away, Ethan pushed open the door to his car as much as he could with Theo standing there, and then once Theo had moved, Ethan was pushing out of the car and standing to his feet.

Ethan had felt safer in the car like it was a cocoon of sorts, but it also felt claustrophobic at the same time and that feeling in the pit of his stomach made him want to get out and move. He left the door open though -perhaps so he could make a quick getaway- and then turned to Theo, the height difference allowing him to look down on Theo just slightly. Ethan swallowed again and shrugged. “I was just… checking to make sure you’re okay.” Not entirely a lie but not the whole truth either. How could he tell Theo that he’d been following him around for months and rarely went a week without watching him at least once? He’d sound crazy, nut house crazy, or worse.

Ethan's height didn't bother Theo. He merely squared his shoulders and angled his jaw and glared up at him with a cold, sharp stare. Theo wasn't prone to easy anger, much more accepting, forgiving, and — as one of his worst traits — quick to let someone else walk over him. He stood up for others primarily, and he'd worn the same expression and same taut posture that time he'd come across Glenn, ex-friend of Kit's, whose pals had dangerously smashed his boyfriend in the head with a surfboard and hadn't bothered to check on him. Theo, then, had been filled with righteous anger, but now — he was terrified, horrified, and angry, for once, for himself. That — and the safety and comfort of the people he lived with, Gigi and Kit and Nova next door.

And, and the end of the day, he was worried for himself. His relationship with Ethan had been rocky at best and soul-crushing at worst, and no matter how kind he'd been to Ethan, how often he'd offered an olive branch to him — it had always come from a place of believing that they were both on the same page. That it was altogether over, that they wouldn't even maintain much of a friendship, that it had been a mistake to begin with, and that Ethan would be happier with someone else. Someone not Theo. He wasn't to know that Ethan had no intention of 'winning him back' or whatever it was that had him hiding in his car outside his apartment, but Theo's blood had run cold and hot at once.

"That's —" Theo sputtered. Ethan's answer was a shock, ridiculous and senseless at the same time. "What do you even mean? I'm fine. I've been fine. How long have you been out here?" He meant that night in particular, but now — Theo's stomach tightened and his expression shifted, realization dawning along it. "How long have you been checking on me, Ethan?"

Once again, the coldness in Theo’s stare startled Ethan. Theo had always been kind and considerate, far more so than Ethan himself had ever been. Not that he was cruel or anything like that but Theo had always been so warm even when he wasn’t happy. It was who he was, who Ethan had put on that pedestal so long ago. There was a part of him that was just naive enough to not understand Theo’s anger, to not understand why he might feel… violated. Ethan followed around enough people with his job that he honestly didn’t think anything of it and perhaps that had been his first mistake.

Indeed, Ethan didn’t watch Theo in hopes of winning him back. He wasn’t that much of a fool. If anything, part of watching Theo, seeing him happy without Ethan, was a punishment of sorts, kind of rubbing salt in the wound of what he’d lost and would likely never have again. For whatever reason, Ethan believed that Theo had been his last chance at a real relationship with someone. Oh, there’d been a handful of flings or one-night stands afterward but no one that made him think anything would come of them. Even as hopeful as he was about Dimitri, Ethan was convinced that something would inevitably fuck it all up, something of his doing. If only he knew that this very thing, clinging to the past, watching -stalking- Theo would be the demise of that too. Ethan didn’t know if he would have even been able to stop even knowing it though. There was something that continued pulling him toward Theo, more so in the past few weeks that he couldn’t quite understand.

Ethan was starting to panic. Theo wasn’t calming down and it was making him anxious. A hand darted out to rest on the door of his car, ready to dive in at a moment’s notice like the coward he was. He swore he could sense disdain from the creature inside him but he pushed it aside and focused on Theo, trying to form an answer to his question. “I-” What did he even say though? He was sure Theo would see through a lie and he wasn’t even sure what to say for a lie. Anything he said would sound bad, perhaps every bit as bad as the truth was: that he’d been watching Theo for months now. “For a little while,” he managed, adding a slight shrug as though to make it seem like it wasn’t a big deal. “I just want to make sure you’re okay,” he repeated, sounding very much like a broken record. “Things are… kind of crazy right now.” As if that was explanation enough.

Theo's body tensed the moment Ethan's hand moved for the car door, ready to recklessly push himself in between Ethan and the car so he could get a straight answer before the man fled. It was stupid and Theo knew it — he should have backed off already, should have called Kit, Gigi, maybe the police, as much as Theo disliked them and didn't trust them. Especially not to take his side when one of their own was involved, even if Ethan was no longer a cop. The answer had Theo stilling completely, though — a little while was worse than he'd anticipated, but it made sense. He'd been unnerved for a few months, only enjoying the easing of it when he'd been out of the country. Of course it made sense that Ethan had been watching him for a little while.

The excuse meant nothing to Theo and only served to frustrate him further. The entire thing was horrifying — too much to properly process in that moment, and Theo's fingers curled into fists, nails digging into the meat of his palms. "I'm not your responsibility." He hissed through gritted teeth. "I haven't been for a long time. Don't you understand that? I don't need you looking out for me. This is — Ethan, this is wrong. This is a violation of safety, my privacy. My life doesn't involve you anymore. It hasn't for a long time."

Anger and horror had mixed in together now and Theo blinked away some infuriated tears and a muscle in his jaw tightened. "How dare you. I've felt like someone's been watching me for months. And it's been you this whole time? After everything you put me through when we dated? This isn't fair, Ethan. Jesus, what's wrong with you?"

It was Ethan’s turn to grow a little frustrated. Did Theo not really understand how much Theo meant to him? Somehow… Ethan didn’t entirely understand it. He knew they weren’t together, knew they weren’t going to get back together, and yet Theo was still an important person in his life. Or well, outside of his life because, as Theo pointed out, they weren’t in each other’s lives anymore. Hadn’t been, except that wasn’t entirely true, was it? Somehow, Theo was still a fixture of sorts to Ethan, someone he continued to care about even though Theo clearly didn’t care about him anymore.

Ethan’s feelings for Theo weren’t romantic and thus he didn’t entirely think he was crossing any lines. Oh, he knew he was doing so watching him but he wasn’t endangering Theo or anything and he was quick to insist as much. “I’m not putting you in danger, Theo. The opposite in fact. I’m making sure you’re not in danger.” That was what he told himself anyway. “I just… I needed to do this,” he said softly, not knowing how else to explain himself, to explain the urge to continuously watch Theo from afar.

Seeing the tears in Theo’s eyes had Ethan letting go of the car door and taking a step closer to him. Almost just as quickly though, he was blanching and taking that step back. “I didn’t mean any of it. I’ve told you sorry I was. I still am. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret my behavior.” He didn’t even flinch when Theo implied that something was wrong with him. Instead, he reached for Theo, hand landing on his forearm. “I’m sorry.” He didn’t promise not to watch Theo again. Somehow he couldn’t.

Even though Ethan's hand had snapped back before he could touch him, Theo still jerked backwards in a very obvious flinch away from him, shoulder ducking and fists clenching and lifting half an inch like he was prepared to defend himself. And Theo was more than prepared to defend himself against what was becoming apparent as a very real threat. Ethan's obliviousness aside, which was — heartbreaking, in a way, and made Theo feel guilty, somehow — it was that that drove him further into frustration and upset, that after all of this, all the anxiety and the feelings of someone watching, and then the revelation that it was Ethan — and still somehow he could make Theo feel responsible for it all.

"You're sorry?" Theo snapped, voice pitching a little higher in near delirium. He was vibrating with barely withheld tension, trying valiantly to keep his temper in check. It was so rarely lost that when it began to bubble incoherently it was sometimes too difficult to rein in again.

"You can't do this." He shook his head, taking half a step back into his heel, ready to turn and grab his bike and sprint away. "You absolutely cannot do this anymore. Do you understand? Do not contact me. Do not watch me, don't come anywhere near me. You were at my work, Ethan. Have you been watching Kit, too? Gigi?" There was fear mixed in with the heat in his gaze as he asked him.

When Theo jerked back, Ethan’s hand curled into a fist and he clenched his jaw. Why did he have to act so disgusted? So angry that Ethan cared enough to check on him, to make sure he was okay? He wasn’t doing it to cause Theo any harm, didn’t Theo understand that? Ethan cared, perhaps -no, definitely- too much. He shouldn’t care what happened to Theo. It was one thing to wish the best for him but it was entirely another to care how he was from day to day. And that was the problem. Ethan did care and he didn’t understand why he couldn’t stop caring. It was a selfish thing though, not necessarily endangering Theo but certainly infringing on his privacy only to assuage Ethan’s misplaced concern for him.

Ethan bristled when Theo repeated his apology, the incredulity clear in his voice. Did Theo really think that Ethan wasn’t sorry? Well… maybe he wasn’t entirely wrong. Ethan was sorry he’d upset Theo, maybe even sorry he’d been caught, but he wasn’t really sorry for what he’d done. Grinding his teeth together in frustration, Ethan gave a sharp shake of his head. He could still feel Venom swarming just below the surface eager and waiting to be let loose. Ethan needed to get a grip on his own anger, he knew he did, or he really could endanger Theo.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” he snapped back without thought at the mention of Ethan at Theo’s place of employment. “You know I’d never get you fired or in any kind of trouble.” He hoped Theo knew that. When Theo asked if he’d been watching his boyfriend and cousin, Ethan just scoffed and maybe Venom was creeping into his consciousness because he practically snarled his reply to that. “I don’t give a shit about them.” And that was the truth, wasn’t it? He didn’t care what happened to Kit or Gigi or any of Theo’s other friends. Not that he wished them harm but he wasn’t going to go out of his way to watch them. So maybe Ethan hadn’t moved on as much as he thought; he could say that he wanted Theo to be happy until he was blue in the face but was that true if he was happy with another man? Ethan wasn’t so sure anymore. He thought he was but Theo was making him doubt everything now.

No matter what he said to Ethan, he wasn't getting it. Theo felt convinced that the apology wasn't a true one — that Ethan didn't think he'd done anything wrong, that he was only sorry he'd been caught, and now he would continue to do it, continue to follow Theo and keep track of him and the thought was so horrifying and terrifying that he had to struggle to keep calm. But it wasn't working — especially not when it wasn't just Theo at risk, and especially not when he knew who Ethan shared his body with. Eddie Brock. A few quick Google searches had told Theo all he needed to know about the man — sometimes villain and sometimes ally of Peter Parker, but he'd started out as the former and Theo wasn't interested in recreating those fights. Not that he knew that Venom had taken up residence within Ethan yet, or at all — and his spider-sense was growing duller by the minute in a way that only made Theo feel worse.

Ethan snapping was the last straw. Theo's shoulders tightened up, his knuckles whitened, and it was all he needed to hear to do what he did next. He felt like a cornered animal, trapped and followed and stalked, and while violence was never something Theo went towards easily — this time he couldn't stop himself. I don't give a shit about them was the only precursor to Theo snapping a fist so hard and fast for Ethan's face that it might not have even been all that visible to anyone watching — of which there was nobody, thankfully — but he felt the satisfying, terrible crunch of Ethan's nose underneath his fist and didn't even flinch.

A long time ago now, that punch would've hurt his hand. Now he only vibrated with more strength, swinging around and taking a sharp step back to only prevent himself from doing more damage. In a ragged, fury-filled breath, Theo snarled right back at Ethan, "Stay the fuck away from me and my family."

There was no way for Ethan to even guess at what Theo’s next move was. For one, it was completely out of character for him, and for another… Ethan just didn’t think he’d ever hit someone, least of all himself. Even if he did kind of deserve it, maybe. A little bit. He didn’t see the fist come flying at his face but he sure as hell felt it. His head snapped back from the force and his body followed a split second later, stumbling a couple of steps, his back hitting the side of his car. The pain didn’t register immediately. No, it was complete and utter shock that registered on Ethan’s face as he stared back at Theo as blood started to leak from his nose.

That shock, the surprise of it all must have somehow made him vulnerable like he presumed was what happened when he’d been with Dimitri because, for the second time (thus far, and that he knew of), Venom overtook him. The black clambered in from every direction and Ethan felt like he was drowning in it until it was the symbiote that stood tall and imposing before Theo. He took the steps that Ethan had lost to stumble forward as he bared his teeth. “Can I eat him?” he asked, long, serpentine tongue licking over the rows of sharp teeth.

No! Ethan practically shouted in his head at the symbiote. Terror seized him just as it had the last time this had happened. No. There was something different about Ethan’s voice in the creature’s head, something that gave Venom pause as he faced off with Theo. And then, much to the symbiote’s surprise and disappointment, Ethan was clawing his way back to the surface. He didn’t know how he did it, didn’t know what had been different this time versus the first time, all Ethan knew as he surfaced and the black disappeared, was that he had done it. He drew in a ragged breath as though he’d just surfaced after nearly drowning. And it felt that way. “No,” he hissed, teeth ground together as blood leaked steadily from his nose. He was staring at an invisible point over Theo’s shoulder, not addressing Theo himself, but the symbiote still.

His spider-sense flared, got urgent, shook through him like nothing Theo had ever felt before — and then it was gone, snuffed out like a flame, guttered and spent and empty. It felt — insane. He hadn't had it for all that long in the grand scheme of things, now just coming up to a year, but to lose it, suddenly, like that? Theo staggered, just barely catching himself on his bike, his fingers flexing where the punch had left a vibrating hum through his knuckles. He jerked his gaze back to Ethan, unsteady and shocked and thrown by his own reaction and the loss of his sixth sense — only to still, dead frozen, blood cold, eyes widening and skin paling as that very familiar black form took control of him.

He'd always known that it was possible. Ethan was Eddie Brock, Venom. And then Venom had found him, first, and now Ethan, and — fuck. Of course. It was playing out like it had for Peter. Theo wanted to be sick. He clutched his bike, stared at Ethan, trying to decide between fight or flight. The former made sense — he needed to kick Ethan's ass, for one thing, and he needed to trap the symbiote, to get it off of him, away from him — but he remembered promises he'd made to Kit, promises Kit had made Peter make, and in that moment he wasn't sure if he could do it alone.

And then — well, then Ethan was taking control of the symbiote in a way that relieved and unnerved Theo at once.

"Jesus." Theo exhaled. He took a few steps back, still staring at Ethan in mixed horror, frustration, hurt and anger. He regretted the broken nose he'd left on Ethan's face, but only a little. "Jesus, Ethan. What happened to you?"

After that punch, shock tore through Ethan’s system. Shock and… maybe a little sadness. Selfishly, he was sad for himself, that Theo had done it, but he was also sad for Theo, that he’d been pushed to that point or at least felt as though he had. The sadness was swept away, however as fear slipped in as the blackness overtook him. No! All he could think was no, not again. He couldn’t breathe but then he didn’t have to, did he?

But then, somehow, by some miracle, Ethan was crawling his way out through the black, and then it was him once again, facing Theo. Breathless, he stumbled a step back, away from Theo. He hadn’t told anyone other than Morgan about Venom, and well, Dimitri. Ethan didn’t want Theo to know, didn’t want him to think him more of a monster. His behavior, he supposed was pretty hard to top but then Venom was pretty terrifying all on his own. Pale-faced, Ethan just stared at Theo, almost trembling from exertion as his nose throbbed and blood dripped down his face.

And then Theo was talking to him, actually communicating with him and not yelling at him to leave and never see him again and Ethan felt a little spark of… something. He’d no way of knowing what Theo was thinking or feeling in that moment but he hoped that maybe he’d be given a break, even if just a slight one. “I don’t- I don’t know. I think it’s… the shift thing,” he finally stuttered. Lifting a shaking hand, Ethan raked it through his hair. Reaching out, he steadied himself by holding onto his car door. “I should… I should go…” And yet, he only took another step back but made no move to get into his car, eyes still watching Theo closely.

Another surge of frustration, devastation and anger flooded through Theo. After all of that — after everything he'd said, after this monster had surged up and out of Ethan, the man was still standing there looking at him hopefully. He still didn't realize what he'd done. That everything he'd done was wrong, and unfair, and still he was waiting for Theo to — to what? To help him? To forgive him? To say it's okay, you'll be okay. Theo had a very vivid recollection of the first time he'd said that to Ethan — with Ethan crying and begging him not to leave after hauling him out of a restaurant, and Theo relenting. He tensed from tip to toe and his gaze darkened, sharp and hard and flinty.

"Yes," Theo hissed. "You need to go." He couldn't – wouldn't — help, this time. Ethan needed to figure it out on his own. It was too dangerous for Theo, and he was too hurt — and it was dangerous for his loved ones, too. He wouldn't put them at risk. "You have to get the fuck out of here and do not come back. If I see you where you're not supposed to be I'm getting a restraining order."

With tears stinging at his eyes again — distressed and angry and heartbroken from all of it — Theo whirled away, grabbed his bike, and bolted back towards his apartment. His bike ended up left abandoned on the pavement so he could websling his way up to his fire escape, too quickly and abruptly for anyone to follow — and so he could twist around and make sure that Ethan — and Venom — hadn't. With another sharp glare, Theo disappeared into his window, and didn't look back.