Narrative Control
Roleplaying Log: Narrative Control
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

After hiding for a while, Warren gets the chance to check on a very troubled Carolus and Gwen.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: January 12, 2020
IC Location: Xavier Institute
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 13 Jan 2020 17:15
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: None
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

The X-Men have been in a weird place ever since Awkward Dimensional Things came to an end. Well — weirder than usual. Things went on, but Warren spent most of his time withdrawn from them, hiding up at the base in the Adirondacks and spending all his time locked in the Danger Room. Which is precisely what he told Jean NOT to do, many months ago, but if Warren were good at taking his own advice he would probably have made a lot fewer mistakes in his life.

It has now been weeks, and presumably Warren has got himself and the new voices in his head somewhat under control, because he has been turning back up at the Institute and in normal society more frequently lately, checking on everything that used to fall under his care — and thereby remembering things that he really should do which have yet to be done. To that end, eventually, a message goes to Carolus — and presumably to Ghost Spider by proxy of Carolus.

It is very simple, and phrased such that it can be refused, because Warren has retained enough of a memory of the hazy, rage-filled first few days and weeks after his return that he can remember the terms on which some encounters were left. I would like to see how you both are.

The location is the Institute, perhaps for both ease and familiarity, though Warren is not waiting in the staff wing or — even inside, really. He's out in one of the gardens on the grounds, on this unseasonably warm day. He looks normal and is bent over what looks like incredibly boring paperwork. Perhaps accounting is what keeps Archangel suppressed.

* * *

Carolus Sinclair isn't one to conduct himself in an altogether spiteful way. He wasn't in the mood to go and deal with the social fallout of what happened with Warren, so he simply didn't. At least, not until prompted. Once the call goes out though, he receives it and immediately does… exactly what Warren probably expects him to: He messages Ghost Spider to come join him for what he describes as 'some kind of awkward round-up with Warren', and then he waits.

While waiting, he amends that he's waiting for Ghost Spider outside of the Institute's front gates. This isn't a situation he wants to walk into at separate times, for whatever reason.

So he waits, and waits.

"Hey." He says, once Ghost Spider does arrive.

"Thanks for coming."

The mothman says nothing else, leading the way up the drive towards the school. His keen sense of smell guides them towards where they need to go. It doesn't surprise him that they remain outdoors, or even that they're in the gardens. After what Warren went through, especially at the front end of it all, he'd probably want some open skies too.

His antennae bob up and down as he comes to a halt, wings fluttering lightly against a breeze.

"Warren." He greets the elder X-Man, neutrally.

* * *

We're past the point where Ghost Spider would 'ghost' in the colloquial sense Carolus' request. No, it's not that she needs to take all sorts of time to herself to brood: Gwen has to get a bus, in costume. Thankfully, it's New York, so it's not difficult to get on a greyhound in full costume. She isn't the weirdest thing that's gotten on a greyhound to Xavier's School For Imaginary Friends.

Stepping off the buss with a mint-green backpack slung over her shoulder, Gwen arrives, nods at Carolus, and they enter the school. It's quiet, the whole way.

Psychics feel Gwen's level of radiating moodiness. Carolus' super-schnozz senses how wound up she is, how each step has a deliberance and a mixture of anger and fear wrap around her determined posture.

When they arrive at Warren's office, her lenses neither pop nor narrow. They just observe. "Warren." She adds, shortly after Carolus. "You ditched me."

Sheeeeee's not holding back that hit.

* * *

"Carolus," is Warren's equally neutral answer. "Ghost Spider." The faint smudges of dark circles under his eyes are visible when he looks up, though his blue gaze is keen as ever as he gives them both a once-over.

"I appreciate you both coming," he finally says.

There are chairs, both directly at the table Warren is working at, and loose ones sitting around farther out which do not carry the baggage of 'sitting at table with him.' Warren seems largely indifferent to whether they sit or not, his gaze a little abstracted, his demeanor blunt and stripped of much of its former playful, cavalier flightiness.

He starts to speak, and then Gwen takes her shot without any pleasantries. Warren's gaze flickers.

"I ditched everyone," he admits, his voice low. "And everyone had to come after me."

His gaze unfocuses again. "I owe apologies, alongside the gratitude I already owe, neither of which I had a chance to relate to you both yet."

* * *

Carolus isn't good at ascertaining emotions based on scent unless they are very, very strongly broadcasted. It is simply not a talent that he cultivated, however much his senses are suited to it. Ghost Spider… is still putting it off badly enough that he spares an extra glance towards her, his antennae angling towards her for a moment, and then away again.

It's suffocating, in a way. He feels like he should address it and is entirely underequipped for doing so.

His attention returns shortly to Warren, his antennae angling in that direction instead. Carolus presses one set of hands together uncomfortably, striding 'round the edge of the table with a certain measure of agitated energy to his body language. He does not sit.

It's not a denial. Most chairs just aren't comfortable with the shape of his wings, and outdoor chairs are several times worse than normal.

"I do not know that what I think is useful to say. I am… not holding a grudge, exactly." Carolus tilts his head to one side, running a hand through his hair in what overall presents as a gesture of nervous frustration, "And I understand why it happened. But what transpired was bad. I do not think we will know what price is to be paid for some time."

He sighs irritably, stopping on the other side of the table from Warren and turning to face him. Carolus's expression is troubled, certainly still agitated, but not angry exactly. You could imagine a moth, fluttering about in annoyance at a distracting light luring it away from its desired path. It's like that.

* * *

Maybe Spider-Gwen slash Ghost Spider has mysterious Spider-Feelings that are extra strong. Perhaps the storied Spider-Strength is also reference to her strong FEELINGS.

Maybe that's just a Ghost Spider thing. She feels strongly, either way. Rather than the pathetic wallow of other spiders, Gwen Stacy is one who gets twisted up like a tangled spring and starts bending out of shape.

But here, she's controlled. Here, she's in command. Here, she can restrain herself. At least… In front of Carolus.

And the man she tried to save, as well.

"Sorry." Gwen begins, bringing a hand up behind her head to squeeze the back of her white-clad neck. "I think I should start at the end, then. And go backwards."

Gwen shifts her stance, weight moving off her left foot and onto her right as she leans. "This, right here, this sucks. It feels like I " Gwen winces, her lenses flattening. "we did all that stuff together, and then at the end, it's a joke. A really bad joke, one nobody likes. The ones where nobody claps, and some idiot in the back coughs and everyone hears it. But, even like you are right now, even as I am, even after all that, if you asked me whether it'd be better if we left you to be 'Death' off in metal awfulness land?"

"If we'd've just left you for dead? That sucks worse. It's not qualified, at all. It just is. Not because of the Right, or because of Hodge, or Apocalypse, but because it's not right to leave you there, just let it be. I can't. We can't. That's the whole mask thing."

"So, yeah, you blew it. The world goes on. This universe keeps spinning. What're you going to do about it?"

* * *

"It was bad," Warren says to Carolus, without much pause. The tone of someone who has done a great deal of post-incident thinking, and come to dreary conclusions. "A bad choice among other bad choices. And the price of each is never clear up front."

His eyes close briefly, reopening to fix up on the sky. "At any rate, I was taught that 'what people think' is always useful to say."

He holds his silence, however, as Gwen explains. "We do what we feel is right to do," he says tiredly, at the end of it. "That's all we can do. Sometimes despite our convictions, despite our efforts, it does turn out to be a joke. You're guaranteed nothing. Alison, me, we weren't the first to die doing this. Sometimes despite doing everything right, still someone ends up with a bullet in their head and we have to somehow explain it to their parents. Sometimes, it is because we do something wrong, right at the end."

His blue gaze is distant again, maybe going over some of those old memories. "But at the beginning, when you have to pick what you're going to do? You pick whatever will let you say, at the end of it, that you chose what was right for yourself."

His eyes refocus back on the young pair, at that last question. "When the five of us were kids," he starts, after a pause, "we ran the Danger Room practically every day. One day, Bobby made a stupid joke. Got me mad. Mad enough I didn't finish the course. I came down and gave the Professor a piece of my mind about Bobby screwing me up. He said, 'Bobby distracted you, Warren, but you screwed yourself up.'"

His wings make their first movement since the two arrived. It's very small, just a slight fan of the feathers, but the sound they make susurrates like a thousand knives. "I think I had plenty of reasons to be as compromised as I was, to make the mistakes that I made, and react as I did. But the choice was mine, and should the consequences come, they're mine, and mine to fix." He sighs. "It's not like it is impossible for me to go back."

* * *

Carolus taps at the side of his head, "Not all thoughts are worth externalizing. Not everything that we might say is useful or productive. There is a threshold beyond which we are bottling up and increasing our internal pressure, setting things aside until they will explode."

"But," he says, "I am not one of those kinds of heroes. You must choose to whom you externalize those thoughts, but it isn't healthy to inflict every negativity upon someone who has by perception or reality done you a wrong."

To the matter of choices, and consequences, he replies, "If the consequences were yours alone, I would be less troubled. This is not a pretty narrative. But I do not feel as if it is healthy to dwell upon it. What's done is done."

"You might be able to fix it," he gestures loosely with his right hand, "but what's been written has been written. And I do not know if… correcting it in the way you are implying is helpful, either."

Folding both sets of hands now, he begins to circle the table again, "The last we discussed it, we thought it might have been cleaner if you had just finished it decisively. Now… well, they will talk. The perception will exist. And if you drag him back up the cliffside, then you still cast him off of it. I don't know what that means for us."

"But I think…" Carolus stops, closer to Warren's side than before, "that you need to be prepared to tell that story. Sooner than you're going to want to. Because if somebody else tells it before you do…"

He allows the thought to trail away, sighing irritably. It's not a threat. Nothing about Carolus's tone or body language is threatening. He completes his circle, coming to a rest at Ghost Spider's opposite side from where he previously stood.

* * *

Gwen does a pretty… wild maneuver that's halfway between mantling one of the scattered chairs and oozing into it. It shows off her flexibility in the haplessly casual way of a college student sidelaunching themselves into a couch after a long day.

"Yeah, but… Man, seriously. Don't. That's not taking responsibility. That's just trying to run back what you did. Plus…"

"Getting there isn't easy. It's not…"

Gwen's lenses fall. "It's not free."

They rise, back to Archangel's sussurating knife wings. "I think Carolus is right. You should… Get ahead of the story. Talk to people about what happened. The doctor. The Right. Dying, and being revived. This universe seems ready to take that kind of stuff at face value. It's used to it. Some people will think you're a monster anyway, but…"

"If you don't get out ahead of this, it's gonna be the worst case. Worse-er than the worst case. You know?"

Looking absolutely ridiculous in her SPIDER-RECLINE, Gwen shrugs. "Then you can work on being better than yesterday."

* * *

"Maybe," Warren says. A faint hint of his old humor flickers in his blue eyes for half a moment. "Perhaps I'd say differently if I were a telepath."

The both of them focus in on what he says, about going back, about fixing it. "How do you think I am implying?" Warren asks. The thought crosses his own mind; there is a brief lift of his feathers, a there-and-gone flick of blue along the vein of his throat. His hands close on the table surface, bracing visibly, until he makes whatever it is go away with a shudder. "Killing him? I couldn't let any of you do it for me. I couldn't do it myself. Killing was never something we did; now even less so, considering the things that talk in my head. If I start, I may never — stop."

His fingers twitch, then relax. "If I brought that other place something which comes to be a major problem for them," he says, his voice picking over the syllables too rigidly, "then I go back and find some way to be there dealing with it. Price be damned. Staying here, sitting here, abdicates that responsibility even more."

As for their urgings for him to get ahead of the narrative? Warren sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. "A story's been told. Bobby — da Costa, that is — and Kitty, plus a SHIELD friend Kitty made… they worked hard, dug up a lot while they were back home here. They dug up the phone calls. They dug up the funding my aunt was sending Hodge and the Right. Stuart was made to talk to the police. Andrew Young, those Right people who got arrested — they all talked. The Right, Hodge's part leading it. It was enough to make a story. A story not unlike what's already happened to me before. Nobody's surprised when yet another attempt on my life's made by my own blood and my own best friend over — money — "

Warren controls himself again. "…It's been told for the last few weeks," he says, dully. "Worthington started as a little media company. We have been telling stories for a long time."

He stares out over the garden, dead for the winter. "Sometimes people only need to know 'enough.' Sometimes people are only entitled to 'enough.' Our lives have been drawn and quartered out for the public eye enough times. Let Hodge go down as "someone who went on the run after his crimes were exposed." If I am to tell any more than that…" He shrugs. "I'm talking to a certain lawyer of mine first. Because no — the consequences, then, would not just mine."

* * *

"We have ethics classes for telepaths specifically because of lines of thinking like that." Carolus says to Warren, shrugging faintly. It seems obvious enough to him, although his broad understanding is that Charles Xavier wasn't particularly shy about using his abilities. Even if he didn't go out of his way to broadcast it to the whole of the world around him. Occasionally, he wonders if that's even right in itself.

There's an argument to be made that they could all be compromised in the presence of any given telepath.

"I am not ruthless enough to be suggesting that you were intending to go and kill him. I suspect that your solution, if you were forced to enact one, would involve bringing him here to some other plane where he can be secured, or… left, again."

"Legally distinct hell, perhaps." He offers, with a rather insincere grin.

"But no. I do not think," He continues, "that you would kill the man if you were in full control of your faculties. If you were going to, you would have already."

He examines the chairs around them, evidently attempting to select the one that is least uncomfortable. In the end, Carolus decides that none of them are acceptable and lingers in place, unfolding his wings and stretching them while folding both sets of arms before himself.

"If," the mothman says, "there is CYA that you need to be doing under the faintest assumption that the story becomes more detailed than it already is to the public, you should do it in advance. Is there anything else?"

"Would you like a recommendation for a therapist who works on you in your dreams?" He offers, his voice a strange and uncertain mixture of mirthful and serious.

As if to underline the humorous element of his present demeanor, Carolus leans lightly in Ghost Spider's direction, tilts his head towards her, and asks, "Are /you/ a liquid?"

* * *

"I thought you'd do what I'd do." Gwen offers, before it's all over. She's silent after that, waiting. Listening.

Really oozing into the cracks of her seat.

She has time to compose, time to think.

"Go there, get him, bring him back. Becaus I don't by the voices. Don't buy that for a second. I've got voices, too. Everyone's got voices. They were really loud after I got…"

Ghost spider trails off, lifting a hand loosely towards her face. She looks 'down' at it, though the motion is hard to follow. "…got my powers. I convinced myself there was this 'other me', that if I went wild that'd be it. So I had to control myself."

"But I'm not one to talk about being open and honest. You've got more experience than me at stories. Just… tell a good one. But tell a good one to yourself, too."

"I learned, for all my power, I had control too. That it something that I wasn't thinking about, wasn't hearing. Power's loud. It wants to be used. You want to use it. It feels good."

She cants her had at Carolus. "What? No, I'm just comfortable in pretty much any position these days. What's…"

Her eyes go to the wings. And the missing back of Warren's chair.

"Sssssssorry. It's the power talking, clearly. My unnaturally powerful spine. It demands to be used in terrible ways! My super-posture powers can't be denied!!!"

She claws at her neck playfully, snorting out a laugh afterwards. "Control's quiet, but it's there. Just don't say 'i'll never stop' - you never will if you don't choose to."

* * *

Warren has the grace to look a little abashed at the corrections. He sits back in his chair, which is an interesting motion because there is no back to his chair. Only a ragged few cut-off bars where there used to be a back. It's fine, he pays for all of it. "I…" His head hangs, a little, as Carolus and Gwen talk about Hodge being brought back. Maybe secured Somewhere Else. "I don't know. Yes, maybe something like that. We're mutants. We have solutions stronger than fallible laws, but less final than murder."

He closes his eyes. "I just can't trust the system like I used to. Fisk buying his way back out of the Raft, buying the Bugle… even after bombing thousands of people to death in Hell's Kitchen, he can do this? But I won't kill. I refuse to let that go." He shakes his head, his blue eyes reopening.

They go distant as Gwen says she does not buy the 'voices.' "There is another me," he sighs, as if confessing. "His name is Death. He came to me when Apocalypse put a Celestial Seed in my back. He wants things I have never thought before. He wants the weak purged off the face of the planet. He says power and strength are the only measure of worth. I have never thought — anything like that."

He hesitates, and his expression moderates. "But you are right that the control lies with me. The choice is mine." Or at least — he has to believe that it is. His greatest fear is falling into Death and not coming back, and to feel blood on his hands again —

He rubs his face again. "I have a pretty good lawyer I can tell… uh, everything," he says. "I'll talk to him about it. I won't let this blow back on the Institute. I — a what?" He tunes in again, obviously, at 'therapist who works in dreams.' "Maybe," he says, though he sounds nervous. "I wanted to talk to Jean."

Warren looks between the two. "Anyway, you both… needed to be thanked, for what you did. For me, and for Alison. I wanted to say that much, and that…" His gaze focuses on Gwen. "Whenever and however you want to go home, we'll do whatever we can to help you."

* * *

"It may be the case that we strive to be Hector, and not Achilles. In spite of that, we are bound to have feelings that lean towards the latter." Carolus says to Gwen, unfolding his hands and seeming to relax for the first time since they arrived here. It's not total, but the tension is mostly gone. Even if it wasn't exactly /hostile/ tension.

"It's inevitably tempting that, on occasion, you consider using your strength in a way that is not truly right. An ordinary person might… punch the wall, in frustration. That's frightening, between ordinary people. Disturbing. Ah, but if /you/ were to do it… if /I/ were to do it…"

"You already understand this." He concludes, with a light wave of his auxiliary left hand.

Carolus regards Warren's suggestion of solutions with a grim, sour expression. He nods slowly, and says, "That's true, but the ethics of our other potential solutions are questionable also. /That's/ a story we wouldn't want to get out, either. They categorize the whole lot of us by those possibilities. But I do think that…"

He makes an irritated noise, "Perhaps, this whole incident foretells a critical failure of the systems that we are attempting to encourage others of our kind to prop up. We need a clean fallback solution."

"Incidentally," he continues, "I've already relocated my current residence from New York and hid it within some shell companies. As a safety measure against Purifiers, but also because I want the option to step outside of the Registration system's bounds in the coming future. What's done is done, but I am moderately inclined to endeavor to develop unreported capabilities. I thought you ought to know."

Carolus smiles at Archangel's 'wait, what?' moment. He explains, "Doctor Strange knows someone. I'll relay the option to you, later. I would… I think that it is good to lean on Jean, but I also think that it would be ideal if you had outside help. But that's about your comfort zones, not mine."

The mothman inclines his head, "And you're welcome. Troubled though I am, I do not wish you to think that I regret having you back in the slightest. I'm just worried, and emotionally drained."

There is a certain finality to his words. A gentle shuffle of priorities, as people have when they reach the end — more or less — of a conversation, and get ready to go. He seems to be waiting for Ghost Spider to say her piece.

* * *

There isn't much left to say. Really, only two things. But first, a detour. "Celestial seed? Sounds… important. Well, whatever the case, now you've got some new voices. And it may be differnet for you, and my experience doesn't match."

Gwen shrugs, upside down now. "That's fine. I think it still applies. Control comes because you want it. You're trying. Death… Well, I think you've got your head screwed on about the whole thing. You're not Death, but you're responsible for it."

And so, the first thing. "You're welcome. It was sucky, but I'm not unhappy with the end result. Just mad I got ghosted in the group chat. It's 'Ghost' Spider, not 'Ghosted' Spider." She chides, humor finally worming through the cracks.

"Punching walls feels good now. I'm consumed with wall punching power." Gwen sasses at Carolus.

"But getting home… I'm figuring it out. Doctor Strange said I may wobble out of existance if I don't fix my stuff, so, that's cool. Working on that."

She rotates back to her feet, getting up as Carolus signals his intent to Be Done. Not this time. She's not going to drop another bomb.

Okay. ANOTHER another bomb. "We're all beat up and tired and I'm executively over being mad about this stuff. I've made my decision. We're getting burgers and one of you two knuckleheads is paying for it. Mine's gonna have bacon, and yes, you will pay the fifty cents extra."

Gwen is quoting the fast food price disparity, just to incense them both. Both probably eat at places that don't automatically notice that it's an extra charge. EVERY. TIME!

"Can't say sad stuff with your mouth full."

* * *

A guilty-as-charged look passes through Warren's eyes at the remark that it is often much easier to lean Achilles rather than Hector. "I was always tempted to do it before," Warren admits. "For me to do it now…" His wings twitch, with a slight rattle.

"At any rate," he says, "I don't know how clean any sort of solution we can ever come up with will be. I've found over the course of mine that life isn't clean. I started with every advantage possible, and life still found a way to kick me repeatedly in new and unexpected ways, into new and unexpected situations I couldn't easily answer. The Professor used to answer them. Now…?" He sighs. "The best we can do is our best. To find a line to walk that is effective without us… falling to become something unrecognizable."

There is a brief look of melancholy in his eyes when Carolus mentions stepping outside of the registration system's bounds — perhaps a thought back to the simpler times when he registered, thinking it was a solution, and Carolus registered from watching him register — but it's fleeting. "I have already developed unreported capabilities," he says, his voice dry. "I won't stand in anyone else's way of doing the same."

The note on Doctor Strange, on Jean, is accepted without verbal comment. Warren lifts a wing in a shrug — then seems to become nervous of the gesture, and pulls both in tight against his back. "I think we are all worried and emotionally drained," he says, afterward. "And with good reason. There are many troubling things in our past, and a great deal uncertain in the future. But it must, and will, be faced."

His attention turns to Gwen, his demeanor softening. "I want to keep my head screwed on, if I can," he says. "Control is the only thing keeping me together. Maybe another time you'll tell me more about your experiences with it."

A pause, followed by maybe the first faint smile he's shown this entire encounter. "And I did ghost everybody. It was a mass-ghosting. But as an apology, I'll buy you whatever you may want."

Because it's always worked for him as an apology vector in the past.

* * *

"Punching walls feels a lot better than it isn't any more painful or onerous than punching cardboard, but has much better feedback, yes." Carolus agrees with Gwen, humorlessly. He does this on purpose, because it's a more amusing way to bounce off of her sass than leaning into it for the moment.

"You'll be fine." He reassures her, a moment later.

But his attempt to fully disengage is THWARTED by the notion of eating garbage food together. Carolus, a man whose caloric requirements are positively disgusting, blinks. He nods, "If you insist. I'm afraid that Warren is usually the one to insist on paying in these circumstances. He has what I think can most accurately be called Jeff Bezos money."

A pause.

"Jeff Bezos makes two hundred and fifteen million dollars in a day. Just in case you don't have him in your universe or an immediate frame of reference for my amusing remark."

Clearing his throat, he jerks his head towards the entry to the gardens, "I'll pick the place. I'm the only person here middle class enough to know how to pick an appropriate restaurant." Which is saying something, because he's at best a middle class outlier and at worst lower upper class trying to feel better about not having a private jet.

Without another word, he sets off, fully expecting to be followed.

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