One Option
Roleplaying Log: One Option
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Peter Parker is horrified to discover The Daily Bugle has been bought out by one Wilson Fisk.

Other Characters Referenced: Daredevil, Avengers, Titans
IC Date: November 11, 2019
IC Location: The Daily Bugle, New York City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 20 Nov 2019 04:16
Rating & Warnings: PG
Scene Soundtrack: [* ]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

Sleet pounds the pavement today. Temperatures have plunged. It's overcast, slippery, and unpleasant. Several stories below the offices where The Daily Bugle makes its home, New Yorkers soldier on, pulling jacket collars close or hunching their shoulders beneath umbrellas to avoid it all.

Inside, it's toasty warm, but not all of it is the heater. There's a distinct sense of unease in the workroom. The normal chatter is silent. Nobody's at the water cooler or the coffee pot. Indeed, many of the reporters, copyeditors, fact checkers, and secretaries are as hunched at their cubicles in a manner that doesn't look all that different from pedestrian efforts to ward off the sleet storm. The grey day seems to pour in through the windows, adding an oppressive sky to lighting that looks, today, just a little sickly thanks to a browned-out flourescent lamp flickering towards the middle of the room.

It's not completely silent…the sales team still has to make phone calls, after all. So, too, do fact checkers and reporters. But it's all taking place in a tense hush, voices so lowered as to make it difficult to hear any given caller's side of the conversation without standing practically on top of them.

So when the strained silence shatters, the effect is profound.

Said shattering comes when the door of J. Jonah Jameson's office flies open hard enough to rebound off the wall. "This is bullshit, and you know it," snarls the man who is striding out of there so fast one might think he's fleeing a swarm of locusts. But there's no fear in the firey eyes of one Ben Ulrich. It's all fury, palpable enough to cause flinching as he passes.

Clutched in his hand, hard enough to tear it, is a literal pink slip.

Peter Parker is late.

That's nothing new, of course. If one were to look up the definition of 'flake' in the dictionary, they'd probably find… well, they'd probably find several very different definitions for flake, but also the picture of one Peter Parker. Late for school. Late for friends. Late for work. Just what does that boy do with his time?

It's a mystery.

All this to say, Peter Parker arrives at the Daily Bugle at around the general ballpark of when he usually gets in, roughly 'some decent chunk of time after he was supposed to.' Gloved hands rubbing together so fiercely he might well spark a flame between them, ice sloughing off the shoulders of his thick blue outer jacket, the gush of air meets poor, perpetually pooped Peter Parker with an open sigh of relief that he -swears- he sees mist (but that can't be possible, the cold can't physically follow you right? … right??).

Pulling back the hood of his jacket, he looks around with a fatigued, hazel-eyed stare. One of the (few) benefits of being a (poorly paid) freelancer is flexibility. He's not overly worried about being late today, not when he's sure he has pictures Jameson will enjoy — and Peter, in turn, will dread having to hand over. But there's something else in the air today. A certain kind of tension that Peter's grown so adept at picking up with his other (other) line of work. It's not necessarily the tingle at the back of his neck that precipitates danger. But it's close enough in core concept. That little unease in the air, in the attitude, in the -atmosphere- of a place, just before everything goes pear-shaped.

Something is wrong—

CRASH

Peter almost jumps at the sound of the smashing door. It's like a cannon clap in the deathly silence of the place, inspiring widening eyes to snap in the direction of the office of one J. Jonah Jameson's office just in time to see Ben Ulrich storming out like a force of nature.

A force of nature clutching a crumpled slip of pink in his hand. Dread sinks into Peter's gut as he bites the inside of his cheek.

Oh no.

"Um," begins the latecomer, eloquently, as he rubs the back of his neck and looks around. "… did uh… did — something happen?"

He's taking an educated guess here.

Heads snap up at Peter's innocent-sounding question. Some thirty-odd heads, which quickly drop back to their screens as if they've decided it's far more profitable to avoid weighing in on anything that might have happened. Ain't nobody saw nothin', as far as they're concerned.

One head, of course, doesn't bow. And that's Ben's. He meets Peter with his piercing expression, sizing him up in an instant, a thing he does with everyone regardless of how much or how little they've spoken.

"We…or I guess I should say, The Bugle, just got bought out. We have a new owner, and he's got…opinions. On the stories we'll— The Bugle —will be running from this point forward."

Though Ulrich makes no effort to control his volume for this part of the report, he does lower his voice for the second part.

"It's Wilson Fisk," he murmurs to Peter. "He's here personally."

Thirty-odd heads look up almost in unison like Peter's just been spotted by the pod people. And just as quickly, they look down. He stands there, in awkward silence, for a few, deafeningly long seconds.

"Right," he mutters under his breath, brows furrowed as he stares at that distant door. "Good talk—"

Which is about when his gaze falls on the immediately assessing stare of one Ben Ulrich. Hazel eyes widen for a moment, but it's less a gesture of surprise, really, and moreso one inspired by the pang of sympathy — one that's flavored with a more immediate note of concern when Peter gets his answer.

"Bought out?" he asks, his emphasis incredulous. "That's not — that's really sudden, isn't it? I mean—"

It's that second part, though, that makes him pause. Makes him feel icewater in his veins. Makes him blink in a way that feels as if it takes forever as he looks towards that door as if it were suddenly the entryway into hell. "What?" Wait no, Peter, that's too loud, whisper the next bit — "Why?" Why's he here? Why'd he buy out the company? Why is Wilson Fisk? He's not really sure which one he's asking; maybe all of them. The gulp that follows is at least a bit more subdued as he mumbles an unintelligibly repeated, "What.//"

A second passes. He looks back to Ulrich, and the pink slip. His eyes widen once more. "Oh, no. No no no. Mr. Ulrich, don't tell me he—"

'Got rid of you.' But he doesn't need to finish the question, does he? The answer is right there in Ben's hand.

Ben chuffs a humorless laugh. Which why does he answer? Ultimately he just picks one and says: "He wants to be sure we…"

Here he makes air quotes. "Understand the journalistic direction we'll be going in 2020 and beyond. That we are ready and eager to adhere to…"

More air quotes.

"Modern journalistic principles so that we can…"

More air quotes.

"Stay relevant."

He shakes his head and says, "I refused to abandon the good old fashioned journalistic principles. The ones that I've been practicing for 30 years. You report the facts, you report them objectively. Not shilling propoganda, not twisting facts around to fit your narrative, not banging an ideological drum— and boy does he have one of those— but journalism. So yeah. He did. Jameson isn't even in his own office right now. He gave a b.s. speech about Fisk's buy-out this morning that I guess was meant to be uplifting and exciting, and nobody's seen him since."

This is probably the point where, were he wearing a certain, spidery mask, Peter might make some off-the-cuff commentary on the power of air quotes.

But he's not wearing a certain, spidery mask, and so his commentary is much more succinct, but no less emblematic of the situation:

"Crap."

Really, Peter is a freelance, he should probably be pretending to care less about a job that is really ultimately a transitory thing. But for a myriad of reasons, this news hits him like a cannon shell; there's only so much he can do when he's feeling such a strong cocktail of dread and frustration and dread and did we mention dread? and so the young man can't help but wear his heart on his sleeve for this. Because Ben's a good man, and this is unfair. This whole thing is unfair. And what it means for him, is…

"This isn't right," he says, after a moment. "Wasn't he like — there's gotta be some kind of, like, I don't know — some 'you cannot buy things if you were almost a felon' rule somewhere, right?" He knows there isn't. Which is why he just heaves a slow sigh.

"Maybe the new boss ate him," he ventures, about where Jameson might be.

That one he keeps to a whisper. He's too shellshocked to put in much more.

"This sucks. I'm so sorry, Mr. Ulrich. This — this really sucks. What're they going to do — no, whatever, what are you gonna do-?"

"There is not, because it would fundamentally undermine our Constitutional rights and freedoms," Ben says dryly. "Which means if you can twist the court system up like a pretzel and get your conviction overturned, you get to go right back to doing whatever you want."

Peter's joke, though, brings the first smile to the man's weary face. "Entirely possible," he opines. Normally he doesn't go in for fat jokes, but in this case he'll make an exception.

As for the rest, Ulrich rubs a hand over his face. "I don't know. Talk to my wife. Maybe retire. No. Probably I'm going to show that bastard exactly how relevant I still am. Everyone can be a publisher if they want to now, right? I'd offer to hire you but right now the value of anything I start hovers around something like negative sixty-four cents. What are you going to do? You're either going to have to go in there and do what he wants, or cut ties with this paper as a client and find other people to sell photos to."

Sometimes, exceptions to a rule are important. Especially when you're feeling frustrated and powerless to do much else. There's a lot that Peter Parker wants to do right now. Storm into that office. Quit loudly (while everyone wonders 'who was that kid??'). Demand they rehire Ben and get laughed at. Put on the mask and costume and somehow long-distance throw Wilson Fisk back to the Raft where presumably he will harmlessly land on some kind of proprietary 'villain toss' cushioning technology and be shuffled back into his cell.

He doesn't do any of those things, though. He just curls hands into tight fists at his sides, because there are some things that can't be solved so directly or so simply. This is a problem. This is going to be a problem. A big problem. He still remembers the last time the Kingpin even indirectly brushed against his life and nearly turned it on its head.

And he hates feeling like he has no immediate answer in mind, when Ben asks him that question.

So, instead, Peter just laughs. It's a small, awkward thing, and one so short-lived that it doesn't quite hide the anxiety behind it as the young man scratches at the mussy side of his head of hair. "I mean. I'd take you up on that, but, I don't think I can afford to go even further into debt right now," he admits, half-jokingly; the smile he offers Ulrich is both apologetic and concerned.

"I don't — um. Listen. I don't think… I don't think a retired life would really suit you, you know?" he ventures, after a moment. "At least — I don't think we'd be better off for it, especially with all…" He gestures, vaguely. "… this." It's meant to be words of encouragement, as much as some overtired, random college student can offer a veteran in journalism. Mainly, though, it's a distraction, if he's being honest. Because…

Hazel eyes look toward that door, and the threat that's looming just on the other side. It's a distraction, because it's hard to admit his own answer:

"I…. I don't know."

What can he do? For right now, though, he just offers a hapless, lopsided smile to the man next to him.

"Maybe Wilson Fisk won't be all that interested in pictures of Spider-Man and he'll settle that question for me, huh?"

Ben looks sympathetic, and he says, "It's okay to not know. A man's gotta eat."

But in response to Peter's hopeful suggestion that Wilson Fisk doesn't care about Spider-Man, he firmly shakes his head.

"In addition to a lot of anti-regulatory crap, folks like Spider-Man are all part of his idealogical drum set. And it's going to get worse than you're used to. Jameson is fixated on Spider-Man for reasons I've never understood. Fisk? He wants all of 'em put under the microscope. Spider-Man, yes, but also Daredevil— he really hates that guy— and just about every vigilante and masked hero you can think of, save for the ones that have a lot of public support, like the Avengers. But a lot is the key word: for example, he's happy to go after every one of those Titan kids too. Hell, he's not even stopping at New York. He ordered a whole series on 'how vigilantes have torn Gotham to shreds,' and has a whole special report coming on the ways the masked set violate due process and civil liberties. Already. He wants to draw a sharp distinction between the ones who have openly registered and who work beside law enforcement and other authorities and those who choose the path of anonymity and, as he puts it, lawlessness. He won't want you to slow down. He'll want more pictures of more vigilantes more often."

Yeah, that. … that sounds about like what Peter figured.

He hates it when his cynical side is right.

Of course, thinking it and hearing it - in painstaking detail from the kind of person who knows what he's talking about — are two entirely different things. The numbing shock of the day gives way further and further to the gnawing dread in the pit of Peter's stomach, stare fixated on that door as if it might explode open at any moment to herald yet another disaster like it did when he got here.

… but also Daredevil — he really hates that guy—

"Yeah can't… can't imagine why," Peter says, lamely, because some things are just kneejerk after a certain point.

But the picture Ben paints is a harrowing one. And every step he further confirms Peter's worst fears, the young man's throat feels just a little bit more dry. His brain is already frantically working through options and possibilities — with what happened the last time, would it be more or less suspicious if he quit? Can he afford to? Can he afford not to? Maybe there's advantages to working in this kind of position, maybe he can use it to try to do something. Or maybe he'll just be putting everyone he cares about at risk, again

But these anxieties only appear in the furrow of Peter's brow, and the pallor of his cheeks past the flush, perhaps easily explained away by the season. The roar of rushing blood beating at his eardrums makes Ben's words strangely distant as he turns those uncertain, hazel eyes back toward the man. Not just Daredevil — not just Spider-Man. It's the Titans, that draw Peter's attention.

"… Wow," is all he can manage, for the longest time. "This is… wow." He wants to say more. But he can't. But part of him resolves himself. Part of him finds his voice. "Guess, uh. I guess things are really gonna be changing if Fisk has his way, huh?" He needs to do something about this. Maybe the best place to do it from is here. He just hopes it's the right move.

"Ugh. I really liked this place." And that surprises even him.

"It gets worse. My sources told me last week he is planning to get into politics. He's got a campaign fund set up. He's running for mayor," Ulrich says quietly. "I was trying to track down all the money when he bought the paper. Kind of important to know where this guy's getting his funding from. It's a rat's maze though, hidden in so many LLCs of LLCs you'd think they were about to run a Seasame Street special on 'luh' and 'cuh.'"

Elevator doors slide open, and a security guard walks out.

"You can bet the Bugle will be hard at work painting his campaign in the best possible light, too."

The security guard gives Ben a look that is both meaningful and apologetic, and Ben sighs.

"I'm not looking to get bodily removed from this building," he grumbles. "You have my number. Call me if you need me. Good luck, kid."

He turns to go, even as all those eyes stay glued to their screens, fingers clack-clacking away on keys as if everyone typing wishes they could drown out this whole conversation to the tune of 120 wpm.

And then it, of course, gets worse.

"Wh…at."

It's very subtle, you see, very subtle indeed, the way Peter Parker's expression curdles with the purse of his lips, the wrinkle of his nose, the squint of his eyes, and the knotting of his brows; very subtle, in the way someone looks when they accidentally drank a whole gulp-full of spoiled milk, when Ulrich mentions Fisk's political aspirations. Fortunately, it doesn't last long, because honestly who knows if the walls don't already have eyes by now, but it still lingers, just a bit, when he looks back Ben's way, lost in a wealth of thoughts.

"You were? Did you find any—"

… Which is when his gaze lands on the sight of sympathetic security, waiting to escort Ben out.

" — thing… at all… oh."

And the reality of the situation sinks in once more. Not the reality of Peter's situation, but—

"Mr. Ulrich," Peter says around a frown. "Yeah. I… yeah. I will. Believe me. And, um — Mr. Ulrich? It was a huge honor getting to work with you. I mean it. … I mean, as much as I did, you know, actually work with you, but-" He just stops himself there. He doesn't need to stumble over his words right now. The sentiment is what matters.

"Good luck. And, um — thanks." Someone like Ulrich, at least, knows what he's doing. It's more than Peter can say — but at least, thanks to him, he has some possible avenues here. He looks back as the freshly-former Bugle veteran begins to make his departure, brows furrowed, staring down that door like it's an inevitability. With nothing but the endless clack of keys to keep him company. He's formulating a plan. He is. He's got a foundation to work with here.

"wow this sucks"

It's not a very good foundation but he's working on it give him a break.

The door is currently still open. Nobody got up and closed it after Ulrich, including the man himself.

Amy from HR edges over to Peter.

"He's going to offer you a fulltime photojournalism position," she says quietly, and it's really hard to tell, as she smooths over her pink A-line skirt, whether she is warning him against taking it or warning him against screwing up his chances when he walks into that room. If he does.

"He had me draw up all the papers when he made me draw up Ulrich's severance papers. There's a vacancy now and he wants you in it. Full time, full salary, full benefits package. I probably shouldn't be telling you but…"

She gives a helpless shrug.

For a while, Peter is just paralyzed as if waffling on whether to make his way towards that opened office or just bolt into the sleet-soaked streets, which might be a friendlier, more forgiving place to be. He's honestly just half-expecting not to have to - why would someone like Fisk want someone like him in his office? (oh god why would someone like Fisk want someone like him in his office) - which might explain why he just sort of awkwardly pivots towards a cubicle —

— until Amy from HR enters his world to singularly crush those expectations.

"What? For me? But I'm — you know-" He makes the vaguest of gestures, as if the confusing thing could somehow sum up everything that Peter Parker is. It's honestly pretty good.

Eventually, though, he just sighs, in a way easily attributed to one bombshell after another being queued up to his already late day. He offers Amy a small smile in return for her helpless shrug.

"Alright. Uh… yeah, I know what you mean. Thanks." And, so armed as he is with foreknowledge, Peter makes up his mind, sucks in a deep breath — and makes his way towards that opened door and the office beyond.

Tentatively. Very tentatively.

It's not just Wilson Fisk's bulk that fills the space, though of course it does that. In his immaculate white suit jacket atop a black shirt, he radiates presence as much as bulk. One could be forgiven for expecting his long, broad shadow to stretch all the way out into the newsroom, but it does not, in reality, do that.

His massive hands are folded atop the blotter, as if he has been waiting with the utmost patience just for the next person in line to step into the proverbial shark tank with him.

"Ah, Mr. Parker," he says. "Rising star of The Daily Bugle. Come in. Sit down."

He waves a massive hand at the chair on the petitioner's side of the desk.

Some people just stand out. There's physical reasons, of course, but sometimes there's an ineffable quality people have. Wilson Fisk is a large man, but Peter Parker's first thought? He seems so much larger than he really is. It's intimidating, in its own way — and Peter is a person who can (secretly) toss cars around like footballs.

In retrospect, Peter Parker seems almost smaller than his average height would suggest, with his much more intrinsically unassuming demeanor. His posture is casual — modest, as he hesitantly makes his way inside, wide hazel eyes blinking as he's welcomed.

"Uh," is the fumbling contrast of his greeting. "Mr. Fisk. Sir. Hi. I mean — hello. It's an honor, I mean — congratulations?"

He's clearly nervous. Not as nervous as he seems — at least, not for the reasons he seems it. But nervous enough. He makes his way inside when offered, taking a seat on the opposite side of the desk from his new (current) employer.

"Oh, uh. I don't know about that, sir — I'm just… you know. A photographer. Freelance, even." He hesitates, a second. "You wanted to see me, Mr. Fisk?"

"I am seeing everyone," Fisk says in his low rumble. "I won't be here all the time. Mr. Jameson will be back at work tomorrow. I told him to take the day off."

He is not, in fact, now riding shotgun in Wilson Fisk's gullet.

"And on the contrary, you're very talented. Nobody else gets the footage you get. Tell me, what first brought Spider-Man to your attention? You seem to be quite fascinated with him."

He acts like Peter's nerves aren't a thing, or at least, like they're of no consequence. Beady black eyes track his every move, and he adds, "I've been following your work for some time."

A fact which, of course, Peter is already familiar with.

oh god did he hear — no he didn't Peter you're being paranoid, paranoia proportional to a spider is not a power, stop it

"Oh. Right. Makes sense," Peter offers instead of his neurotic scramble of thoughts, offering up a haphazard kind of smile. "Must be kinda uh… busy, though."

Sinking back into his seat with a loose posture that would make parents across the world bemoan this poor boy's clearly undisciplined upbringing, the question brings Peter to a pause. Scratching the back of his head, he clears his throat, expression momentarily thoughtful as he tries to find the words.

"That's uh — yeah, I remember. The — thing, with the train, or something?" Spoken every word like a young man in college who probably has more on his mind than photos. Which is true — up to a point, at least. His fingers thread in his lap, chewing on his lower lip.

"Honestly? It was — honestly, it was just kinda freak luck. When I started. I saw Spider-Man when he was like — you know, he was stopping a car before it could hit a passing bus, and I just kinda — took a picture, because it was just… the craziest thing I'd ever seen." And it's true enough that catching a car was definitely the craziest thing he'd ever -done- at that point — "But — I guess Mr. Jameson was really interested in the pictures, and I needed the money for — I go to Columbia, it's kinda… y'know. And eventually it was just… exciting, I guess. To be on the fringes of that kinda thing."

A second passes. "And the money was okay. It wasn't great but it was — oh god, I mean, the money is fine, I'm not complaining, seriously, I — am I rambling? I feel like I'm rambling. Sorry."

He's had… a lot of time to think on this particular question.

At the very least, Wilson Fisk seems to accept all of this at face value. There's not a twitch of his features or a twinge on the spider-sense to indicate that he thinks Peter is lying. Indeed, he says: "I admire a young man who can spot an opportunity and turn it to his benefit."

No doubt.

"You go to Columbia. I suspect you can write. So. Cards on the table. If you can get behind what The Daily Bugle stands for, if you can charge ahead with us towards a glorious future, I've got a $45,000 a year job waiting for you. Not much for New York, but it's a little above where entry level reporters start, and it comes with benefits. Work your way up and I see great things for you. I've got a stack of assignments ready to go once you complete your new hire paperwork. We'll have to transition you off that 1099. It's an opportunity as big, or bigger, than seeing a man stop a car while wearing a glorified Halloween costume. What do you say?"

If he did hear, he hasn't let it impact his pitch, either.

And there it is.

Part of Peter is grateful to have had that warning of what is coming in advance. To some degree, it helps. But in other ways, well — considering how sudden all this is, considering how thrown off his game he is…

"Oh. Wow."

… it's still a bit like hearing it for the first time.

For a moment, Peter doesn't say a thing. It's only partly an act; he still is working through his own internal thoughts on the matter, over everything Ben said — over everything he knows. Over the very first time he even was aware of Wilson Fisk as a person. He chews the inside of his lips. His words find him, slowly.

"That's… really great. There's — I've still got classes, you know?" He thinks. Thinks of the fact that this man almost went to jail and then got out. Thinks of the fact that his family is in danger by proximity. Thinks of Ulrich, and the money he was having such a hard time tracking. How this man seems like teflon in every conventional way. How his family might be at risk either way if he doesn't do anything. How the Titans could be…

"… but I'd like to give it a shot, if I'm able."

… and he sees only one possible option.

"Thank you for the opportunity, Mr. Fisk. I really appreciate it. Hopefully — hopefully I can meet your expectations."

Even though it feels just awful to say out loud.

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