Routine Follow-Up
Roleplaying Log: Routine Follow-Up
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

Ghost Spider and Atlas visit Doctor Strange after returning from the journey to rescue Warren Worthington from another universe.

Other Characters Referenced: Doctor Strange, Carolus Sinclair, Gwen Stacy
IC Date: January 05, 2020
IC Location: 177A Bleecker Street
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 29 Jan 2020 05:21
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [*\# None]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

* OOC Time: Sun Jan 05 19:17:05 2020 *

* * *

177A Bleecker Street

It's been some small while since Carolus Sinclair came here with Moonstar and Ghost Spider, looking for assistance hunting down the dimensionally displaced Warren Worthington. Given that Dr. Strange's beacon was never invoked, it would have been fair to assume that the mission had failed, and its participants fallen.

If such an assumption had been made, it's undone today.

Lingering at the front step with what is very plainly a gift basket hanging from one arm is Carolus Sinclair. A brown longcoat occludes his usual business attire, obscuring his wings though making no attempt to conceal his extra set of arms. His antennae are concealed by a knit hat, but this seems to be more of a remark upon the weather than a deliberate attempt to pass.

He sends a text message, offers one more glance at his phone when an alert comes through, and then pockets it. Remaining there patiently until Ghost Spider arrives, as soon as she makes her appearance he ascends the steps and knocks on the door— unless he's beaten to the punch, anyway.

"How's the beat today? No members of the Right turning up, I hope." He asks, pausing a moment to add, "The power armored racists. That's what they call themselves."

While physically more-or-less intact, Atlas has experienced some level of spiritual contamination that would probably be evident to Strange in much the same manner that Ghost Spider's foreign origin was. He held onto that fragment of Warren's soul for a little — not a lot — too long, and it left a small but lasting mark.

If his existence was a series of journals, a page or two of the 19th journal's contents has been replaced by pages from Warren Worthington's. It's not an alarming amount, and given time the fact of it will diminish. For now, it's close enough to still be observed, like a fresh but mending injury.

* * *

Carolus doesn't have to wait long, the white-and-black-and-ultraviolet (at least to his moth-eyes) form of Ghost Spider spinning through the air in an acrobatically graceful landing crouched at his flank, landing upon arched tips of her spearmint 'shoes' and splayed fingers of her white glove, her other hand shot out for balance.

She's done this before, is what we're saying.

"No smiling psychopaths. A few purse-snatchers, a mugger in the cut. Standard. And they can call themselves whatever they want, they'll *catch* my 'right' if I see them showing their rictus grinning faces." Gwen replies, righting herself with a smooth motion of her legs.

"Let's hope the Doctor doesn't send us to the No-No-Zone again, yeah?"

She doesn't have much more pomp or circumstance to offer before ascending the stairs and rapping on the knocker with firm, thunking clunks.

* * *

The sound of the knocker is perfectly normal - if a bit antiquated - in a way that almost seems mocking in comparison to what they both know to be the decidedly abnormal place on the other side of the door. Shouldn't it be some kind of talking face or something? Or at least make some tremendous, fateful sound like the tolling of a bell in the roots of the Earth?

That would probably be more wizard-y, but no doubt the neighbours would complain.

No, there's nothing at all strange about the way the door knocks, or the short lingering silence that follows. It isn't too long before the door opens, swinging inwards into a curiously indistinct darkness, making it impossible (even with the uncanny senses available to both Atlas and the Ghost Spider) to discern the room beyond, for all that they've been there before. It's just… The vague sense tickling in the back of the mind that there is a room there, because of course surely there must be.

And in that indistinct darkness is a man, burly and decidedly East Asian, with close-cropped hair and a genial demeanor, wearing of all things a Chicago Blackhawks jersey. He's definitely not the Sorceror Supreme they met back when they got briefly sent to the No-No-Zone… Unless this is some kind of magic thing. It's hard to tell, with magic things.

"I imagine the two of you are here to see the Doctor? I'm Wong, his babysitter. At the moment, you'll find Stephen in the kitchen, probably making a disaster of the place." Wong seems to have decided than neither of the two are a particular danger (given his line of work, he has a skewed perspective on that sort of thing) and thus he backs out of the way, to let Carolus and Gwen both inside.

The peculiar mix of 'Victorian sitting room' and 'actual forest' hasn't changed in the living room of the Sanctum, the grass green and the leaves full in defiance of the halfhearted winter outside. Off to one side of the room, the incongruously modern tv is showing the start of a hockey game, probably explaining Wong's shirt and what he was doing when they knocked on the door; elsewhere in the caverous room, an unfamiliar young woman is sitting in an extremely comfortable looking chair, engrossed in an ancient-looking leatherbound tome whose cover reads Liber Juratus Honorii.

She doesn't look up, just adjusting her glasses as she reads.

"Just through there," Wong says, indicating a door on the far wall of the room. "Don't eat anything out of the fridge that's chained up," he adds, rather too offhandedly.

* * *

"I suspect some of them just wanted to play with alien power armor. I was able to get one to stop by talking a selfie with him and telling him to go or I would make sure Mr. Stark spread it across the internet. At any rate, I certainly agree with your sentiments." Carolus replies to Ghost Spider, tilting his head lightly in her direction. He adds, "Glad to hear it's only normal problems. We need normal, such as it is for us, right now."

The door opens. By the time it's first cracked he knows the person immediately on the other side isn't Strange, so he doesn't appear surprised by the change of greeters.

"Yes," Carolus confirms to Wong as he steps inside, "thank you. I'm Carolus Sinclair, this is Ghost Spider. Pleasure to meet you, Wong."

He takes the interior in for a second time, waiting both for Ghost Spider to enter and for Wong to direct them towards the Doctor. Once he has, Carolus nods lightly and turns in that direction.

"I am familiar with the choking hazards." Carolus responds genially, nearly as quickly and off-the-cuff as Wong, before he proceeds towards the kitchen.

* * *

Racists in power armor get a very thin narrow of Ghost Spider's mask lenses, and an affirmative 'mmn'. She really doesn't want to talk about it. It makes her back tingle.

"Normal. That's why we're going to Doctor Strange?" She asks, as the door opens into—

Blackness. Not the same kind as the No-No-Zone, but darkness. It's not… dangerous darkness, to her senses, but it's not anything to ANY of her senses, so it could JUST AS LIKELY BE A PORTAL TO THE NO-NO-D-

Oh hey, there's Wong. "Oh, hey. Yes, we're here for Doctor Strange." Gwen agrees, stepping in with Carolus and standing a bit to the side, trying to figure out the forest trick as Wong speaks. The forest and… the hockey game on television. "Oh, hey, you've got hockey in this universe. I thought that rugby was your strictly worse version. Cool." She notes, thumbsing up lamely in her observation.

She manages to not instantly die at the 'choking hazard' deadpan, instead dropping into a nasal cough that works through her once (and just once), a wheeze through her mask and a quirk of her lenses as she nonverbally expresses 'really, dude'?

"Hello! I'm Ghost Spider!" She calls at the reading woman, shortly before noticing that Carolus is LEAVING and she should join him not bothering everyone in every room like a point-and-click protagonist.

* * *

It doesn't escape Wong's notice that the two introductions are very different, with Carolus giving what would seem to be his birth name, while introducing the young woman by her costumed identity. Though it's probably not surprising that this sort of thing gets taken in stride around the Sanctum Sanctorum, with Wong himself giving no indication if he actually has another name.

The door shuts behind the two outsiders once they're safely within the confines of the living room, inside the isolated space that is the Sanctum Sanctorum, one that seems to only vaguely correspond to the space without - though if they looked out the windows, they would see good old Bleecker Street, blissfully unaffected by whatever magical strangeness bounds the townhouse.

"If we didn't have hockey, I'd have to start pirating cable from alternate realities again," Wong says with a bit of a sigh, though one can only imagine how or why anyone would go about doing that in the first place. Would they have to go through the Mojoverse?

The woman in the chair, once she's spoken to, actually gets her attention pulled away from her book; her hazel eyes blink behind her glasses, her dark hair pushed down under a knit cap she wears indoors despite the perfectly pleasant climate that surrounds her. Looking closer, she might be around thirty years old, though around here that might be a dangerous assumption to make. "Oh! Hi," she says. "I'm Zelma. You're not an actual ghost, though, are you? I'm not really sensing any…" She starts squinting at Gwen, rather intently. Probably a good time to follow Carolus.

If the living room is too large and too bizarre to actually be located inside the townhouse, then the kitchen DEFINITELY couldn't also fit. It looks like a mishmash of different time periods and places, with an actual stone oven not far from what looks to be a brand new dishwasher. A large, wooden-topped island dominates the center of the kitchen, continuing the utter lack of any unifying sense of decor, and there are, for some reason, two refrigerators. One is perfectly normal-looking, while the other is some kind of antique, wrapped tightly in heavy chains, the chains themselves garlanded in paper charms and warnings in several languages, at least half of which are completely unknown on Earth. Even looking at it would set Gwen's spider-sense to having an anxiety attack.

The man himself, the Sorceror Supreme, Doctor Stephen Vincent Strange, M.D., Master of the Mystic Arts, is frowning at the instructions on a box while jabbing at the buttons on the microwave, which soon starts humming along. "It's fine," he says without looking at the new arrivals. "I know the secret names of a hundred thousand gods mankind has forgotten, I can invoke spells to make the very foundations of reality quake, I'm sure I can handle a microwave, Wo—" he turns around. It's not Wong at all. Huh. "You two seem none the worse for wear, good," the wizard says in a smooth conversational pivot, nodding. "I'd figured you had found another way back, which I suppose is just as well. How are your friends?"

The microwave, rather prematurely, goes *ding*

Then the door FLIES off, embedding itself in the opposite wall, quivering, as a great hand wrough of green flame reaches out of the so-called kitchen convenience, searching blindly.

* * *

"We have an elevated baseline of normal." Carolus replies to Gwen, amusedly.

Under ordinary circumstances, Carolus would /really/ want to stop and talk to Wong about that comment. The fact that interdimensional everything is now on his radar notwithstanding, the idea of pirating cable from another universe is too novel to go unnoticed. He tucks the notion away in the back of his mind for future inquiry, provided that he has the occasion to visit the Sanctum Sanctorum again.

He isn't altogether certain that he will be, which would be rather unfortunate.

In reaction to Ghost Spider's disbelief at his stupid joke, the mothman simply shrugs animatedly with his lower set of arms.

Carolus removes and pockets his own knit cap as they enter the kitchen, his eyes drawn magnetically through the schizophrenic surroundings. It's too big, yes, but the anachronisms are much more pushed together in some ways. In particular the stone oven draws his eye, upon which it lingers rather longer than it does upon the refrigerator that is plainly a prison for something.

Honestly, if it was anywhere else he'd assume it was time to call the cops to look inside and find the bodies.

Carolus meets Strange's gaze when the sorcerer turns to get a good look at them. He smiles, stepping forward to the island and depositing the gift basket. He gestures towards it, "We thought that some measure of thanks was warranted. I do not think that I would characterize how we are as none the worse for wear, but we will recover."

The basket itself is… an actually ridiculous array of premium and common chocolates, including a tin of a nice hot cocoa mix and a couple of bags of marshmallows.

"After our previous visit, I am given to the impression that you might be able to make use of casual pick-me-ups." He explains, regarding the contents.

He flinches as the microwave door hits the wall, only not jumping because— well, he's pretty disciplined, all things considered. Carolus's eyes are drawn immediately to the green flame. He blinks rapidly.

"Er…" He points at it, before he continues.

"I had… two purposes, for coming here. Firstly to thank you and inform you of where that situation went, and second… well, that may warrant a separate appointment. Before I continue though, I would like to offer you the opportunity /not/ to be informed, if you prefer. And, perhaps to handle that thing. What /is/ that thing?"

* * *

"You can pirate cable from other dimensions? That seems…"

Gwen pauses, and then bounds over to whisper something in Wong's ear.
(("Hey, if you see Dad Cop 7 on the TV, tell me, okay?"))

It's at that point she actually catches the attention of Zelma, lingering with the Weird Book Girl. "What? Uhm… Nope, it's just a title. I guess it's…" A hand snakes up to rub the back of her head, under her costume's hood. "… kind of an edgy title? I'm alive, though. Just from another dimension. But I'm technically a ghost here?"

She skirts the edge of the truth, but a shave that close may weep a little secret out for the discerning ear. "But you can sense things? What do you-"

It's quite likely she should leave, but Gwen is used to danger stabbing her in the cranium at ballistic speeds, or whiting her out with throbbing waves of probability and colored pain. This is simple! This is a conversation! The creepy girl doesn't give off an-

Instead it comes from the kitchen, that Carolus has left for, and Doctor Strange was in. Expecting the worse, with a "GREATTALKOKBYE!" Ghost Spider springs through the forest, bouncing off a treetrunk as she front-rolls into the kitchen, both hands out and wrists presented to spray webbing at the SOURCE OF THE DANGER—!!!

It's a firehand, so the wet web-lines fizzle and pop against the heat more or less uselessly. "Get back! C-close the microwave!"

What a time to be alive.

* * *

'Weird Book Girl' is probably a fair nickname for Zelma, because she is a somewhat weird girl who likes books, and also a girl who likes weird books, as evidenced by how she's reading a medieval grimoire in Latin, apparently for fun.

And yet, she's by far the least weird person in the Sanctum.

"I've been developing my 'third eye'," the librarian explains. "The Doc's been teaching me, slowly. He's more focused on Khalid, though—" Who's Khalid? That's a question for another time, because with the bizarre happenings in the bizarre kitchen, that curious extra sense of the spider-persuasion draws Gwen away. The room is probably actually big enough for her to websling if she were inclined, but bouncing off the tree is plenty.

Though it does draw some extra attention, as two snakes hanging out in the boughs turn to follow the streak of white and black.

"Hey, where you goin in such a rush, Spider-Girlie?" calls one.

"Yeah," agrees the other. "Pretty rude to just shake a guy's tree and leave!"

"Shut up, you two," Zelma says warningly, and for a wonder the two crass serpents do what they're told.

BUT IN THE KITCHEN

The presented gift basket gets a surprised expression from the Sorceror Supreme, dark brows lifting over grey eyes. Probably he doesn't get a lot of gift baskets in his line of work, it's usually more oaths of vengeance or people telling him to never speak to them again. Sure, some of the local families bring baked goods and stuff for the small (and usually, fairly mundane) things he does in the neighbourhood, but as Carolus and Gwen learned before coming to Doctor Strange for help is often only a hairsbreadth better than the problem that needs solving.

There is, momentarily, an acrid smell in the kitchen as Ghost Spider's webs burn up against the green flame of the mysterious hand, and the wizard turns to look back at this, his lips pressing into a line.

"I think I might've accidentally awakened the spirit of the microwave," Strange muses out loud. "I was in Weirdworld all day helping those gnome animists, I should've done some purification rituals before I—"

"RARRRGH!!" exclaims the ever-hungry microwave spirit, its green arm reaching further, leaving searing, melted palm prints in the countertop.

"—That's probably radioactive, so er, be careful. Atlas, have you got any holy water on you? Maybe some silver, preferably inherited?"

* * *

Carolus frowns slightly at the smells accompanying Ghost Spider's. He's not used to smelling some of the creatures in here on a regular basis, although he's not altogether unfamiliar. He has, after all, visited a zoo before. They're a little… off, though. He assumes it's something about /this/ place.

He's brought back to the moment by Strange's reaction to the gift basket.

"Did you expect aggravation? You are not among the people who have given me offense lately. We asked for help, and you gave it. There was a price, and a consequence. If I had desired greater detail I should have asked."

He seizes the cheapest and most modern-looking pan that's visible in the kitchen, having a sneaking suspicion in him based on the aesthetics that there is probably some fairly beloved seasoned cookware that he needs to avoid.

Then he turns it so that the opening faces downward, and brings it down to try to — temporarily — trap the burning radioactive hand. Carolus doesn't keep hold of it either way.

His auxiliary left hand fishes a burner phone out of an inside pocket, and both auxiliary hands promptly pull it apart to expose the circuit board underneath. The exposed electronics are offered to Strange.

"Everyone carries silver. I have inherited silver but it's not /on/ me." Atlas replies, before turning to Ghost Spider calmly, "Spooky, would you see if you can web down that pan? It'll probably last longer if it's not in direct contact."

* * *

Gwen doesn't particularly have TIME to apologize to trees (or the snakes within them) she doesn't know are people in her path, but her pinball-like bouncing is a maniac momentum full of purposeful power. They don't shoot danger at her, and so they are the blurs upon the smear frames of her perception, text boxes that carry from one frame to another.

She's on the ground, and then, with naught but action lines in her wake, is in the kitchen. What a place it is.

She hears words like 'Weirdworld' and 'gnome', fragmentary sentences about offense given and prices paid, but it's among the smearframes of the shooting, sparking danger from the hand that melts palmprints into the countertop.

'Radioactive-' warns Strange, and Carolus has a pan on the target. Iron.

It calms the probabilistic dooms that spit and sizzle across the kitchen air like sparks from a wildfire. It gives her room. With swift hands she closes, grips the pan, lifts it for a heartbeat with her body away from the fire, and slams closed the front cover of the microwave with all the grace of a 16-year-old after their pizzabites are done, before replacing the pan, levelling a wrist, and firing another web-blast at the whole setup.

Then — and only then — does she breathe. "Sorry… What? Silver? I don't own any jewelry that's not cheap crap, sorry. And it's all…"

She heaves a breath, hoping that's enough. "In another dimension."

* * *

"I don't get a lot of people coming back for help a second time," Strange replies, which could be taken - and indeed should be taken - several ways. Many people are fortunate to only find themselves in a situation that needs the Sorceror Supreme's brand of help once in their lives, so that's good. Others are less than happy with the results, or with the costs involved, and so understandably never want to cross paths with this particular Master of the Mystic Arts again, which is less good… Or in the worst case, there are those who simply do not survive the help.

Still, he's probably got a better track record than John Constantine.

This is of course a low bar, and one nobody should be proud of.

Spider-Strength proves once again to not be an attribute to be scoffed at, as Gwen is able to wrench the detached door of the microwave free from the wall opposite and then slam it brutally into place on the microwave itself, the sheer force of it making the metal frame bend slightly and the whole thing hold long enough for the Ghost Spider to web it up, though even so the awakened microwave rattles ominously, the spirit inside of it testing its new restraints.

Carolus, with his extra hands, offers his equally ancillary phone to Strange, the small supply of precious metals that make up its inner workings exposed. It'll have to do, the Sorceror Supreme thinks to himself, and setting the circuit board down on the wooden island top, he then grabs the nearest heavy object (it's a mug, that reads LIBRARIAN, THE ORIGINAL SEARCH ENGINE) and smashes it down on the plastic and metal, shattering it. And cracking the mug.

His hand turns over the remnants of the circuits, steady now as he works magic, steadier than they've been at anything else since his accident: They separate, materials each by each, and in truth it's not a lot. Maybe a third of a gram, barely anything, now little motes of silvery dust, that gather up, that curl themselves into a little sphere that floats over his palm as he lifts it. A low deep intake of breath, a single sharp exhalation, and that sphere of silver zips through the air at the microwave, punching into it.

There are, for a moment, sparks. Green lightning connecting the microwave to the counter, to the wall, dancing along the Ghost Spider's webs. There is a low, terrible roar that seems to get smaller, quieter, more distant… And then the malign green light goes out, leaving just some smoke to hiss out of the hole in the oven.

"Wonderful," Doctor Strange says. "Problem solved."

* * *

"You have silver," Atlas reassures Ghost Spider, "in your electronics, most likely. You have a cell phone, probably more than one. Laptop maybe? I don't know if a television would have some in there. Silverware… quarters before nineteen sixty five. Lots of other coins. Never spend old quarters, by the way. They're worth about three fifty."

A pause.

"That's not a South Park reference." He adds, for clarity.

As he watches their little improvised How To Trap A Microwave Spirit unfold, he says to Strange, "I wish I could say that I was here strictly to deliver an in-person thank you. We did come here for that purpose because we are grateful if, er, traumatized by exposure to that primordial dimensional stuff. But we also came to make certain that you're not out of the loop on some of the consequences of this journey."

Carolus pauses, eyes flicking to the words on the mug. His lips curl into a light grin again, "Ah… well, we recovered Warren. He was infected by a sort of alien technology wielded by a mutant supremacist called either Genesis or Apocalypse. Serving as one of his Horsemen. That technology is still in his body, and although he is himself, there are… lapses, to the other identity he acquired. We stopped Genesis's mechanism for interdimensional travel, though it is highly likely that there is a Genesis here in some form."

"Warren /almost/ killed Cameron Hodge shortly after we returned. Instead," The mothman heaves a great sigh, "they exiled him to the dimension Warren was dragged to. What's become of him since, I don't know. Magneto probably killed him on arrival, but there's no telling. We wanted you to know since you are — unintentionally — party to all of this and its potential future consequences."

Practically switching gears on a dime, Atlas asides to Ghost Spider, "You didn't strike me as the jewelry type. Tell me about what you had."

It's hard to tell if he's trying to distract her from the depressing swamp that was the end of this story, or actually just asking.

* * *

Tension leaves her, the danger dimming by fits and spurts, and Gwen can smooth out like a startled cat.

Or raccoon, as her large white splotches around her eyes widen from battle-ovals. "You just… pulled apart a phone? How'd you control the metal, are you… ferrokinetic?"

Gwen claps a palm to her forhead. "Or… magic, right. Sorry, we've been dealing with X-Men problems for a bit."

Which Carolus explains. Gwen remains silent, holding her bicep with free hand and rocking left and right - slowly bouncing her hand against her hip each rotation.

The story is one that's played over in her head, and in conversations with Carolus - enough. She's more or less at peace with it - but Strange needs to know. Carolus asks her about jewelry, and with a start like waking from a dream (complete with soft 'bwuh-hunh?'), she replies. "Oh, thanks for reminding me."

Reaching for her neck, both hands go up around her neck, and mess with the back of her beck under her hood. When they come back, they bear a familiar amulet, hidden in her hood and mask.

"I wanted to know if you wanted this back. You gave it to us to use, but we got out another way. If it's magic, or dangerous, or… Valuable, it's probably best if you kept it."

It doesn't get her home. And she's a little too honest to just hang onto random single-use artifacts.

* * *

A lot of people would probably check out of the conversation somewhere around 'extradimensional mutant supremacist' or maybe 'they pumped a wealthy playboy full of alien super-technology', but of course Doctor Strange's weird-shit-o-meter broke decades ago and frankly at this point there's very few things he would casually write off as impossible.

"Ah yeah," the Sorceror Supreme says, when informed of the apparent fate of one Cameron Hodge. "The ol' murder with extra steps." His tone is more sardonic than accusatory: How many, do you suppose, he's consigned to ironic fates, or 'fates worse than death,' over the years? Once you've taken the burden of cosmic balance on your shoulders, once your job description becomes 'don't let humanity get eaten by unspeakable terrors whose very existence is inimical to life as we understand it' you end up having to take a lot more drastic steps than you might've wanted.

Who knows? In their place he might've pitched the man into a hellscape alternate reality himself.

There's a sudden pop, and a sizzle, from the ruined microwave. Something burned black kinda… Oozes out of it. Inanimate, but no less unpleasant for it.

"It isn't particularly dangerous, and its value is entirely circumstantial," he tells Gwen of the amulet. "It's simply a magical flare, one that would draw the attention of the Sanctum itself. Keep it," the actually much older than he looks wizard says, after a momentary pause. "Think of it as a single use magic cavalry. As an apology."

He doesn't say for what, but then he doesn't need to, does he? They all know full well what he owes Ghost Spider an apology for.

"In any event, it sounds like things turned out better than they might've. I know a few good therapists, if you need a referral. One works entirely in your dreams." He means that literally, of course. Because hey, magic.

There is, meanwhile, the sound of footsteps before the door to the kitchen opens.

"Stephen," says Wong; it must be a commercial break. "How long does it take to make popcorn…?" He trails off as he takes a quick stock of the kitchen, which is… A mess. There's definitely no popcorn, but there is still smoke coming out of the microwave. "What happened to the microwave?!"

"Oh," the Sorceror Supreme replies, grey eyes glancing over at the ruined oven. It falls off of its cabinet mounting, crashing to the countertop. "Er," he continues; the poor oven door falls off finally, despite the heroic efforts of Gwen's webbing and the iron pan she'd webbed over it. Something… Just… Awful slops out. It smells like a rat died in somebody's old boot, and then that boot got cooked, and something caught on fire.

Strange reaches… For the gift basket.

"Chocolate?" he offers towards the other Master of the Mystic Arts.

You can actually see the exact moment Wong thinks about quitting.

* * *

"That is definitely not what I asked you about, but you're welcome anyway." Carolus asides to Ghost Spider, his antennae bobbing lightly. It was a bit of a nonsense question. He supposes he'll need to broach the subject again at some other time, now.

His attention swings back to Doctor Strange, whose reaction… mostly just gets a dark chuckle out of him. Carolus shakes his head, "Yes. That's about the reaction that we had. I will be completely direct with you: I am feeling more than a little raw about that situation, because it is as potentially dangerous as just killing him but weakly attempts to achieve distance from the act and its consequences. I still wonder if I ought not have stopped them, but against the strongest person there by themselves my odds would have been extremely poor."

The mothman shrugs, "I suppose there's not much else to it than that."

"And," he continues, "I would not mind a referral. I don't promise to actually use it, but we shall see."

Atlas is poised to say something else when Wong comes in. He turns partway 'round to look at him, then back towards the microwave as the… spirit sludge finds its way out. His antennae rise and stay that way, eyes beginning to water.

"Ah—"

"I think… it may be time for us to go," He backs away from the sludge, wiping at his eyes in what is /clearly/ aggravation, "but I would like to visit again in the near future, Doctor. I would like to learn a little more about all of this."

Carolus gestures around to indicate the… sanctum-ness of the sanctum.

"And I'm afraid that Tony Stark put me off on the other way of doing things. For now, though— thank you for seeing us, before and now. Have a good evening."

Moving past Wong to get some distance from that /smell/, Carolus pauses for an instant to aside to him, "You should probably make the hot cocoa, sir."

Then he disappears out of the kitchen, retreating to the front door and waiting for Gwen to finish up to her satisfaction.

* * *

"Huh?" Ghost Spider returns, to Carolus' not-quite-chiding observation about her taste in jewelry. She probably actually didn't get it! Carolus gets a few moments of baffled, attentive confusion before things move on. To amulets.

Her white-gloved fingers, three heartbeats after the 'as an apology' - close around the bauble couched in her palm, and she moves to replace it around her neck and in her hair. "It's… fine. Really. I appreciate it, but you're…"

"… a Wizard. I probably should have asked."

Wong bursts in, and Gwen resists just webbing the smouldering dead ecto-rat that comes out of the disgusting microwave oven to the floor. It would save her RIGHT NOW, but, not any later.

As she joins Carolus moving out of the Kitchen and towards the exit, hands raising to help him up if needed (entirely useless, most likely, he deals with "living in New York" for his daily scentscape, and she lives out of rooftops and dumpster-filled alleys herself), theres a pause when Tony Stark is mentioned.

Complicated emotions well up. Simple words follow. "Doctor Strange." Her head turns back. "All my… friends, the people I've started working with, new teammates, and the people I've helped like the X-Men - they all say that there's two people, three maybe, who can help me. You, Tony Stark, and maybe one of the Titans Starfire told me about. And I'm kind of feeling…"

A deep heaving sigh, a drooping of the neck and shoulders, a defeat that she had been holding in like a held breath takes Ghost Spider.

"Like on that list, you're one of the people I think I can trust right now. Carolus asked, you helped us. We got what we wanted. You said it'd be dangerous. So I have to ask:"

"Can you get me home?" A pause, a working of the tongue to wet the roof of her mouth. "When the… time's right?" It's hard for her to add to the thought, to face the reality that had throbbed in her senses like a toothache, that she had to be here. In this universe. To accomplish… something.

* * *

The worst part about the gift basket - the part that Strange will never tell Carolus, or Gwen, because the truth would ruin genuine appreciation of the gift - is that the Sorceror Supreme can't enjoy any of it. It's the reason for the heavily locked fridge, too, and the reason why despite how irate he is currently, Wong won't actually leave his oldest surviving friend to fend for himself. Because mortal food, like the chocolates, and the cocoa, and even the marshmallows, would simply turn to ashes in Strange's mouth.

Magic always costs, as they've seen, and it isn't always something simple, some transitory pain that can be endured until it passes. Too much magic, for too long, and you lose things forever. Many of Stephen's fondest, simplest memories involve food, and it was one of the few vices he'd permitted himself, even after his apprenticeship under the Ancient One… And now he can never enjoy it again, only able to sustain himself with a peculiar, disgusting diet that would kill anyone else, and may one day kill him. He has another old friend, in the same line of work, who loved few things more than music until a lifetime of magic stripped that from him.

And yet, even knowing that, they're the sort of people who would do it all again.

Strange eagerly jumps on the excuse to get out of the kitchen and out of the blast radius of Wong's wrath (at the moment it's likely to just be passive aggressive, but how long will that last???) so he can show his guests to the door.

As he does, though, he has to wonder what Tony Stark did, although it sounds like a combination of 'fiddle with forces beyond his ken' and 'be Tony Stark', so about the usual.

"It's difficult," he admits, in response to Gwen's simple but not so simple question. "As you saw, travelling between realities isn't exactly a walk down the street. It would take time, but also become more difficult over time because the longer you're here the more you… Mn… Either the world acclimates more to your presence, or less, you see? Over time, you will either become more part of this reality, or react… Badly. But yes, it will be difficult, and it will be time consuming, but I can and will do it, I swear by the Vishanti and my duty as Sorceror Supreme."

There's a little frown, brief and pensive, before the Sorceror Supreme speaks again.

"If I might offer some advice? Presumptuous and possibly completely unnecessary advice, but: Don't put your life on hold just because you're not in your own world. We, all of us, find ourselves lost from time to time, in alien environs… Sometimes, as in your case, very literally. But the days still pass, merciless and uncaring, and we're all alotted precious little time between birth and death." Unless you're a quasi-immortal wizard, or an Asgardian, or probably a Kryptonian, or some mutants, or… "You've made friends in this world, as you said, so… Live a little. Learn a little. It's not a sin to make the best of your situation."

* * *

"We'll talk about it later. It's nothing serious." Carolus replies to Ghost Spider, feeling no need to play out the awkwardness of his half-successful attempt to distract from reality in present company.

In terms of keeping himself upright, he seems okay. It's certainly one of the stronger scent reactions he's offered outwardly, but when Gwen reaches towards him he raises a hand to stop her before she gets too close. A feeble smile is flashed as reassurance, but he doesn't clarify the gesture verbally.

It's his turn to be concerned a moment later, when Gwen explains what she needs and who she feels like she can trust. It's a sentiment he agreed with, but he /had/ vouched for Tony Stark. On the whole, what he had done was… well, he had been as much a part of the decision as he had facilitated it. How much scorn did that warrant? How much trust had it squandered?

For the moment, rather a lot— and Carolus remembers what Gwen thought of the Tony Stark from her dimension. Evil coffee Emperor.

There's a vague twitch underneath the back of his coat as a reflex to move his wings flickers through him. Carolus pulls his knit cap out of his pocket and replaces it on his head.

Carolus rifles around in his coat for a moment and produces a business card, passing it to Doctor Strange as he finishes speaking. Much of what was said was not for his benefit— or so he supposes.

"Notwithstanding that you have already accumulated nigh infinite support from other places," Atlas says, "if you need a hand…" He gestures towards the card.

Then he lapses back into silence, waiting for Ghost Spider to take the lead on actually leaving. Her goals are center stage right now, and he doesn't want to interject any further.

* * *
Ghost Spider can't quite grimace with her mask on, but her vague lenses, defined less by discrete shapes and more fuzzy, like lines of moving or shifting paint around pools of purer white. And those pools narrow, in an intangible emotion - too complex for the shape of eyes to convey. It's not quite a 'hurt', but without the contexts given by gaze and shine it comes off as one.

"It's the weight - the fate - of more than one world. I can feel it sometimes, when I move. Picking someone up off the street, seeing a face I saw in the papers."

"The obituaries."

"It reminds me that this is a different place, a different life. That I don't really belong. If I was going to fly apart at the seams and turn inside out because I didn't belong here, though, I think I'd know."

Ghost Spider raises a finger to tap at her right temple. "I've… got a feeling." She adds to her previous thought with meaning, though it may take the Sorcerer Supreme a bit of connect-the-dots to get that she means a specific spidery Sense and not just a generic Feeling that she may or may not be hooked on a la Blue Suede circa 1972.

Standing beside the door, Gwen fully turns to Stephen Strange and nods firmly. Doing less could be seen as rude - and the Sorcerer Supreme gave his word twice over. "I appreciate that. Really. It makes it…"

"…Better. To know you're trying for me."

Carolus gets a gentle pat on the shoulder. "My life's on hold, Doctor. But that doesn't mean I should stop *living*. You're right. You're both right."

She turns back towards the door, more upright. Moving with a firmer purpose. "I have people here I can rely on. Sorry about the microwave, Doc!"

The lamentations and passive aggression of Wong will have to be weathered at another time.


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