96-Hour Spider
Roleplaying Log: 96-Hour Spider
Participants
IC Details
Synopsis:

In which Ghost Spider asks a question and Atlas answers.

Other Characters Referenced:
IC Date: February 08, 2020
IC Location: Gotham City
OOC Notes & Details
Posted On: 17 Feb 2020 04:00
Rating & Warnings:
Scene Soundtrack: [*\# None]
NPC & GM Credits:
Associated Plots

(This scene directly picks up from Darth Essentia, at http://commondescentmush.com/log:1252.)

***
Gwen pulls up the neck seam of her mask to bunch white material under her nose as she moves to eat her sandwich.
"Yeah. I think I'm ready to think about this sandwich."
After a few loud moments of crinking…
"So that thing, earlier, that was just because you really like honey, right?"

***

Carolus more-or-less finishes what remains of his sandwich while Ghost Spider is loudly fumbling with the bag and wrapper of hers. Only a single bite remains, pinched between thumb and forefinger absent-mindedly.

He turns his head slightly, not /quite/ looking up towards Ghost Spider's face. Legs swinging back and forth absent-mindedly, he pops the remaining sandwich fragment into his mouth. The whole thing is really just intended to buy time.

An angling of his antennae tells him how many people are within earshot— which is none, at that exact moment.

Xavier's Institute, months ago.
Once may be polite, Warren said, twice is 'come get me.' So go get her.

It wouldn't be a good idea. He replied, But… it is helpful for someone to say so. It is not something to which I am accustomed…

It wouldn't be a good idea.

177A Bleecker Street, a month ago.
My life's on hold, Doctor. But that doesn't mean I should *stop* living. You're right. You're both right. She said.

It won't be a good idea.

Carolus's Residence, 49 days ago.
There. Now fair's fair, I guess. said the girl beneath the mask, with an undercurrent of fear.

It isn't a good idea.

Seconds Ago
So that thing, earlier, that was just because you really like honey, right?

"No," Carolus says, folding his hands together and leaning back away from the bus stop's edge, "it's not 'just' any of that. If I had to boil it down to a 'just' anything, it's just that I really like you."

One antenna rises, angling itself higher than the other in an expression that Ghost Spider has /never/ seen Carolus adopt. It gives the impression of confusion, but nothing else about his body language lines up with that. He leans back a little farther, tilting his head so that he's looking up into the lenses of Ghost Spider's mask.

It's a bit of a mismatched angle. He's probably looking at her sandwich.

Carolus's lips curl into a muted smile, just nervous enough to show without quite robbing him of the air that he can take anything in stride. He says, "I'd like to take you on a date this Friday. A show and then dinner. If… going civilian in public is a problem for you, something entirely private can be arranged. But I need to know up front."

***

It's not the reaction that's expected. It's not unexpected, either. It is, coming at Ghost Spider - at Gwen - as if someone threw a punch and she simply didn't move a muscle to get out of the way of it. The air rings with the phantom impact.

It is only then that Gwen's sixth sense goes haywire, the potential harm, the potential danger, the potential threat boiling up like a thunderstorm that makes Ghost Spider's lenses twitch and narrow, her hand coming up to touch her temple. The discomfort of being face-first in the thunderhead passes quickly, and Gwen takes a moment to look up at Carolus, one antennae quirked in a rather unique way.

She begins to say 'sure' or 'yes' or '<funny set of words that play off how sudden this feels and the butterflies in her stomach that had left her since getting her powers>'. Her head fills with a fog of danger, a million little pinpricks against her eyeballs burning like woodsmoke.

She repaths, moving to say 'no', and like staring down a blaring freight train, she's transfixed. 'Yes' is bad. 'No' is worse. The potential of the whole thing sparking like a downed power line.

"Oh. Uh… ssss-" Gwen's words transmute in flight, until finally they settle. "—sure. But probably not in public. If we're going to sit down and watch something, I don't want to be bundled up like the middle of winter in mid-February."

Another aborted s-sound is lost in the crinkle of sandwich paper and cronching. It was, almost certainly, 'sorry'.

***

Carolus's antennae re-synchronize with one another before Gwen has made an answer. He seems to catch the discomfort he's induced, because at that point he looks away again— out towards the street, pulling the giant spotlight he was casting on her away. Just a little, at least.

It wasn't a good idea.

It wasn't a good idea, and it takes a tremendous effort not to light up as much as he'd /like/ to. In spite of himself, Carolus's smile brightens, his features softening just-so. It doesn't lose the nervous edge that it had in the slightest, but that he's pleased is plain as day. His wings flutter against his back without fully unfolding. Another twitch of his antennae follows the maybe-a-sorry. It occurs to him that he doesn't actually know where to step forward now.

"No," he says, "I thought you might prefer completely private. It's okay." He pauses here for a moment, robbed of the confidence — or even the illusion of confidence — but deciding to press on anyway.

"I, er…" He tilts his head slightly, "I understand that I'm proposing something that is a lot more complicated than I presented it as. And I think… perhaps… I should stop here for a moment and say that I am not the sort of person whose support is conditional on a positive answer. I do not labor under the revolting delusion that I am entitled to anyone. I know that you want to go home, and I intend to see you to the door. But I understand if you feel you cannot be completely certain of such reassurances."

Not really seeming to notice that he's doing it, Carolus draws his lower set of arms around himself. A fingertip slides against his side, seeming to feel something out. He continues, "But we've discussed previously the hazards of keeping important things to one's self. Even if it didn't go anywhere, it would be dangerous for me not to let you know where we stand."

He gets to his feet, balling up his own wrapper and chucking it — successfully — into a nearby bin.

Turning about to face Ghost Spider properly, he adds, "It wasn't the honey. It was the thinking behind the honey. People don't move to accommodate mutants, Spooky."

Carolus's expression shifts gears again, and perhaps Ghost Spider might catch a flicker of fear. It's not altogether unlike her own, when she removed her mask for him. A sudden, sharp anticipation that the shoe is about to drop and there's nothing to do to stop it. It's not at all the lingering will-this-work-out nervousness he bore moments before. That sort of fear doesn't connect to this sort of situation.

"If it's going to be the private option, let's say… I'll have things set up by eight, and we can work around any incidents that might happen day-of. I can come pick you up, if you like." That change in expression vanishes a couple of heartbeats later, vanishing into a muted-but-hopeful look.

***

There's something about Ghost Spider that is rarely casually observable - she doesn't vibrate or rattle under tension. Not to be confused with nervous energy, it is the specific varietal of pressure that comes from combative readiness. She reaches this in-between state of motion and heartbeats and breaths, perfectly still, anticipating.

It's rare to see it because normally she doesn't stay in it for very long. Under the gun, she usually springs to action.

And it's all because she has no idea what to do. Her spider-sense fizzles like an electric fence in her head, as she sprints through thoughts and rams into pockets of revelatory shocks. The tension breaks like a wave smashing into a cliff-face, with a relative cacophony of crinkle paper the roar of the water spilling back into the ocean.

'People don't move to accommodate mutants.'. "That's stupid." She spits around bites of her dutch crunch bread. "You—" Gwen tosses the empty sandwich bag away, having since balled it into an airless brown paper-based singularity in her fist during her tension moment. She buys seconds to compose and process.

"—should be able to expect your friends to remember your preferences. Mutant moth, weird spider, blade-bird… Everyone in my life said that's wrong."

"My friends, my dad, the Wasp, they all're pretty much clear: people are people, and they're worth trying for."

"So… yeah. If you're alright with 'seeing me to the door'…"

"… I'm okay with Friday night."

***

The flow of the conversation returns to something more familiar. Tension bleeds out of Carolus in waves, his auxiliary arms easing down to his sides from the quasi-protective posture they had been drawn into. He's almost— almost expecting the exact variety of remark he gets. He snorts with amusement, but nods in agreement with what Ghost Spider has to say anyway.

"It IS stupid. It is also the way things are. Things are very different for those of us who can't pass. Warren… is 'out' now, but he passed for a long time before he took a stand. The average person isn't going to think that the moth man might like some extra sweet. The average person can't even see past my antennae. The truth is that this world is only a few paces away from the next one down, and we both know how that ends." In part, if not in whole. Carolus isn't inclined to talk about fighting his own zombified self right now.

He lingers on that final thought a long, long moment before saying, "I do not think that 'alright with' is an adequate description for the manner in which I regard that inevitability. Because it makes it sounds as if… as if I am indifferent. I'm not."

"But I don't want to see you separated from your entire life for my sole benefit. That would be… a unique sort of heartless." He says.

"If that is still a reasonable set of expectations to you, then I will look forward to it."

After a moment, Carolus clears his throat, looking down at Ghost Spider inquisitively. He asks, "Are you alright?"

***

"The average person sounds pretty near-sighted. Your eyes are right there." Ghost Spider opines quietly, not quite able to muster full on laughter. "It's not about passing. People get scared because of what you can do to them. I got that, even back in my dimension. Someone's big and strong, you wonder if they're going to beat you up. Someone carries a gun, you wonder if they're going to shoot you."

Gwen's shoulders release tension like honey dripping off a plate. "It's like a uniform you can't take off that makes everyone wary about you. I guess I'm just more able to see past the badge." Her eyes - and her lenses - track up to look past Carolus's brow at his two antennae. "I think you're still too heartless by far, Carolus."

"I don't think it'd be your sole benefit."

A soft and helpless curl of her visible lips, a bit of sandwich crust speckling the edges, favors Carolus as Ghost Spider bundles up her remaining sandwich.

'Are you alright?'

"I'm the spookily amazing twenty four hour Ghost Spider. I could probably win in a fistfight with a train, and wizards think if I don't go back to my home dimension I'll explode from being too cool, and-or become less cool."

A snorting grimace follows. "Actually, exploding would be both pretty cool and super not cool, at the same time. But we've got to live our lives, right?"

***

"If I could do everything I can do but people couldn't tell until I was doing it, it would change the landscape of the world that I experience substantially." Carolus shrugs loosely here, and adds, "They are correct to be wary of a mutant's abilities. If a normal person loses control, perhaps they throw a punch. If I lose control, that punch has more lethality than a gunshot. But wariness is not the same as hate, and hate is where these things have settled."

"I do not doubt that you philosophically have your head on straighter than most people in this regard. But…" His lips tug back into a faint smile, "your universe is also rather more innocent than mine, I think."

I think you're still too heartless by far, Carolus.

That smile disappears briefly, a questioning hum emerging to answer Ghost Spider's statement. The follow-up elicits an odd noise, something between a breathy near-laugh and perhaps a cough, or choking noise. Carolus looks away, heat flooding his face— and as fair-skinned as he is, it really shows.

"That was an extraordinarily punchy way to say that, Spooky." Carolus replies, sounding more than a little impressed at having been verbally disarmed so neatly. After a moment, he adds, "Wipe your mouth or you're going to have crumbs moving around the inside your mask until it gets aggravating enough to fix."

He — seemingly pointedly — doesn't linger there, "Personally, I'd think of it as this universe siphoning a considerable sum of cool off of yours. Maybe that's why Ghost Spider is needed here. Got to offset all the ignorance and hate. We'll figure it out, no exploding necessary."

***

"I think it's heartless to think you'd be the only person benefitting. Maybe you're the anchor to this place that Doctor Strange spoke of, you know." Gwen encourages, quietly wiping her mouth with the back of her wrist (and definitely not her palm or fingers. Those are Not Clean and she does know where they've been.

"Things can't be as bad as they seem. That's what I think. Even if this place is one that needs extra help, that doesn't mean it's worse. That it's taking anything."

Ghost Spider rises. "You've got a few days yet to find some real sugar in this corn-based hellscape, Carolus Sinclair."

Without prompting, the half-unmasked Ghost Spider leans up and forward, on the tips of her toes, to plant a peck of a kiss between Carolus's antennae. "I'm looking forward to it."

Pulling her mask back down to her neck, Gwen steps out of the bus stop they had taken cover on, thwipping a web-line out to a nearby corner, glancing back before swinging off into the night.

***

"That isn't…" Carolus begins, trailing off without completing the thought. He doesn't know it's entirely honest to say that's not what he meant. The whole line of thinking was merely intended to reassure that he wasn't going to try to shackle Ghost Spider to this reality, when it was time for her to go.

But he seems reassured by Gwen's encouraging tone, and doesn't attempt to amend the floundering thought. Another thought dies without reaching his tongue soon after— 'But we know it's taking someone, we just don't know why.' He blinks at her, speechless, unwilling to go against the flow of her ideas on this subject. They're much less cynical than his thoughts have been just now.

It is with an amused breath that Carolus meets Gwen's challenge a moment later, replying, "I am uncertain that I will correctly estimate the volumes that you expect, but I am more than equal to the task of acquiring quality ingredients so fundamentally necessary to my biology. But we'll see how close I get."

Carolus draws in a sharp breath as Gwen's lips brush his head. He watches her withdraw with a mixture of bewilderment and a certain emotional edge that's more than a little out of place. He swallows, harshly.

"Me, too." Both sets of his hands come together in what by now is a known nervous tic. Hesitantly, Carolus adds, "Thanks, Spooky."

His wings burst into a blur of motion, and Carolus meets Ghost Spider's backwards glance with an extremely sunny smile and a parting wave of both right hands.

It wasn't, he decides, a bad idea.

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