Who: Gwen, Spider!Ock & Carnage What: Pulling one over on the supervillain Where: Horizon Labs When: Recently Warnings/Rating: Nope
Parker’s division of Horizon Labs was kind of a mess. Narrow windowless hallways made of concrete and metal that branched out into more dark and depressing areas filled to the brim with wires, containment pods, work stations and walls of supplies. To someone who wasn’t a science enthusiast, the place would seem like the dreary set of some evil space ship designed to kill humans. To someone who loved science? It was a little like finding a grove of living unicorns in the middle of Wisconsin.
He had a couple projects running at once with assistants who were smart, but socially inept and generally smelt like old soup which meant the facility had someone there at all hours of the day tinkering on something. Long hours were usually pulled in his robotics division, but today Parker came feeling fresh and ready to give the curious Gwen Stacy a tour. There was something wonderful about showing off accomplishments, after all, especially to a young, bright mind in a beautiful body (ew). To make the presentation complete, Parker made sure to wear his crisp, white lab coat with his science goggles high on his head (which made his hair flip up in the dorkiest way you could possibly imagine). Anyone who saw him pacing the halls knew that he was anxious about making everything look perfect and scurried out of the way before he could bark orders.
Once Gwen arrived, he did his best smooth talking. Proudly showcasing everything from new innovations in natural energy to his latest robots designed to make life easier for the common person. He spoke with wide gestures and big smiles, imploring Gwen to be amazed by his mind and capabilities. Asking her to stroke his ego for him a little more (double ew). Finally, they reached the end of the tour, or close to it. “Oh, yes I assume you want to see how your symbiote specimen is doing? It’s very comfortable and only occasionally violent.” Parker lead her down yet another dark hallway towards a small room with a double reinforced glass/forcefield in the middle. Inside of the container he had scooped the goo in was the ever moving, red mercurial form of Carnage. “Say hello!”
Gwen hadn't been expecting a fully functioning lab. Maybe she'd had too many high school iterations of Peter Parker, all of them talented but unable to harness that talent into anything that didn't involve webs. Peter had always been bright, second in their class and she would be lying if she said that his intelligence hadn't been part of the appeal. She'd never been prone to playing dumb for the benefit of a boy, and Peter's intellect had been enough that it was never a requirement. That he had little ambition beyond being a superhero, well, they never got far enough in their relationship for that to really become an issue. It probably would have, eventually, because Gwen had dreams of Nobel Prizes and corner offices and medical breakthroughs that would forever bear the Stacy name. But their relationship was never intended to go beyond the academic years, and she'd never known any version of Peter that varied in age or childlike humor and perpetual tardiness.
But Horizon Labs was a fully functional lab, much to Gwen's surprise. It was messy, but enough time with Doctor Banner had immured her to the hygienic habits of geniuses. There were people there, which was the most surprising thing of all. Peter actually had employees, and there was legitimate research being conducted.
Partway through the tour, she forgot her motivation for being there in the first place. Her cornflower blue eyes were attentive in a way that couldn't be feigned, and anyone who knew Gwen at all would be able to tell that the interest was genuine. Robotics and energy innovations weren't her personal area of interest, but she soaked up anything educational like a sponge. She was questions at every stop, curiosity in purple knee highs and a headband.
When he offered to show her the symbiote's current housing, she nodded, and it reminded her of why she was there in the first place. Well, at least this part of the plan had been easier than expected. Or so she thought, until she realized she was up against a forcefield and reinforced glass. Surreptitiously, she looked forcefield's control panel, even as she approached the barrier curiously. "It's agitated," she said of the perpetual movement. She'd spent enough time looking at Carnage to know the indicators.
He knew that she was impressed by the laboratory, then again, who wouldn’t be? The other Spider-Men she had met through this door didn’t sound nearly as (don’t say it) superior. One was a high schooler who barely knew the first thing about mutation. The others- well they must have been more invested in crime fighting than changing the world one microscope at a time.
“Have you ever seen it not agitated?” Parker asked, as if it were obviously in this state since he captured it. Though, curiosity made him wonder if it would calm near her. She was its professed mother, after all. “Do you think Carnage remembers that you shielded it from a terrible death?” He took a step forward, precise and thoughtful, eyes on her rather than the jelly blob of synthetic symbiote. “Perhaps it likes you.”
"It's never entirely calm, no matter how still it is. It still twitches, and the readings fluctuate, but not sufficiently to imply an peaceful state. But it does get calmer than this," she said, walking around the containment field with an honest curiosity that had nothing to do with her true purpose in his lab. "He- It likes music, but nothing too loud. And it likes room. That containment unit is smaller than the one I had him in," she went on, slipping into the male pronoun usage that had bothered the last Peter so much. "My guess is that being in a host feels much less cramped and, possibly, less claustrophobic than being in a container." That wasn't science, particularly, but it was a logical conclusion based on the behavior of the goo.
"I think it's probably a bad idea to think it remembers anything," she said, going back to the safe and neutral pronoun. "I also think it's a bad idea to assume it has any feeling of fondness for either of us. It seems to be opportunistic, and nothing more. Well, violent too, but that's a given." She hadn't even had Carnage for very long, and yet she knew that.
She stopped pacing around the forcefield, and she looked at him. She wondered what she needed to do in order to get her window with Peter controlling the man in the room with her, and she wondered if the forcefield controls would keep them from being successful, even if Peter did manage to control the doctor. "What are your plans for it?"
“Gwen Stacy, if you treat everything in black and white, you might be surprised.” Parker loomed closer. “And, not in a good way. If it has a moral compass, or prefers the company of certain beings, this would be valuable to know.” He didn’t seem to care if the symbiote was locked in a small container, so even suggesting that it had feelings or preferences seemed more teasing and mean spirited than scientific. Parker stepped closer, almost as if he were going to brush against her and stared at the glob of red.
“First, I was simply going to burn it.” Parker said, eyes seemingly glowing at the prospect. “Then, I thought if we could stretch it out and still harness its energy capabilities, then we might make some money off of it. It is an impressive scientific development. Why not try to make one that’s a little more efficient than your science fair project?” Parker turned to point. In the other room was a giant machine that looked a little like a telescope. “Why don’t we try to do a test run of it now? I’ve tried to duplicate its substance before and failed, but with you here we could certainly work the kinks out of it.”
Parker lowered the forcefield and took the container. Carnage began wildly banging against the wall, emitting a small scream as if it knew what was coming. “That’s definitely not going to happen.” Peter turned and suddenly those creepy, beady eyes were wide and full of life. The snarky smile turned to an embarrassed, wiggly thing. The pole straight posture hunched a little as his arms flopped. “Gwen.” He went to hug her, realizing a little too late that Carnage was in his hands. Almost letting it fumble to the floor, he caught it at the last second. “These stupid super scientists gloves! How are these seriously thicker than concrete!?” Peter shouted, juggling the symbiote until he could put it down and suddenly pull Gwen into a tight hug.
He held on a moment and then backed up.
“Sorry, uh- sorry wow. I promised myself I wasn’t going to. I did not deserve that hug.” Peter shrugged and then took another hopping step back and picked up Carnage to hold out to her. “Here. I’m going to trash that machine before he wakes up.”
Gwen considered informing him that the majority of her activities recently fell into some strange gray land that she'd never considered herself possible of inhabiting during high school. It was as if she'd lost that hard line of good and bad, and she was sure it had something to do with a guilty decision made in a California adoption office. But that was irrelevant now, and the only thing that mattered was that the young woman in the room with him was gray enough to sleep with Norman Osborn, and she was gray enough to continue seeing Harry, despite Harry's engagement, and despite his love for Mary Jane, and despite the fact that she was withholding things every single time she interacted with him. No, her reasoning behind not personalizing Carnage had nothing to do with a fear of gray. "If you personalize it, it'll be harder to kill," she told him. It was a police reality, and it made her think of her dad. But she knew Peter - no, Doc Ock - had no intention of killing the red goo in the container.
"I wanted to use it to further medical science," she admitted, when he moved close. Who was she to judge his plans, when her own had been no better? Scientific fame and notoriety were as intoxicating as wealth might be to some people. She wanted to help, yes, that was a driving need, but she also wanted to be the best. She'd always wanted to be the best. She turned her attention to the other room when he pointed, and her cornflower blue eyes narrowed intelligently. "Can you clone non-alien matter?" she asked, her quirk of brow indicating that it was a scientific challenge. "You have to be able to clone the known, before replicating the unknown," she said as he lowered the forcefield, and then she went quiet when Carnage began banging around in his container. She opened her mouth to talk to it, because she'd spent months having conversations with it in the Oscorp lab. But then Peter looked at her, and it was Peter. She closed her mouth, only to laugh a giddy and surprised laugh when he hugged her, her attention only partially on the almost-dropped symbiote for the moment.
When he stammered about not deserving the hug, she made a dismissive sound and closed the space between them again. She hugged him tightly. "Shut up, bug boy," she said, and then she took the container when he took that hopping step back. She opened her bag, and she set about tucking the container away in the padded space she'd set up in advance, and she looked up in time to watch him with the machine. She had vague plans of hiding the symbiote somewhere Ock would never find it, but there wasn't time for that discussion just then. "Should I go before he comes back?" Of course she should, but she didn't want to leave yet. Gwen Stacy, for all her logic, made some really stupid choices sometimes.
Peter didn’t expect a hug back, though why would Gwen ever give him a lecture about personal space? When she pulled away, his whole face lit up to hide that little nagging sense of guilt for something he didn’t do to this girl. It was hard enough making the distinction in his head, when she looked and smiled just like his Gwen Stacy used to. He worried it’d be the same for Mary Jane and Harry. They’d all get sloppy, undeserved hugs and be left wondering who fried the bug-boy’s head.
“Uh- probably. He throws king sized fits.” Peter didn’t move, though. He rocked back on his heels, trying to think of a reason to keep her around for just a little longer. Then it came to him. “Oh, do you have a place you can hide? Like with one of the Avengers or something? An Avenger who isn’t me, obviously, I mean. Cause he’s going to get really mad and I don’t want you to get hurt.” The words rambled out nervously fast and he realized that he hadn’t stopped smiling.
"I have little brothers. I know all about king-sized fits," she told him, closing the flap on her bag and rocking back and forth on her chunky shoes. She didn't want to go either, and she was glad for his question, because it allowed for stalling without potentially making the situation more dangerous than it already was. Still, she backed toward the door, so that her escape route was closer and more immediately available. "I have a plan," she assured him, and she gave him an intelligently curious look. "Should I keep it to myself, in case he can get access to the things you know?" she asked. She wanted to tell him, and maybe it wouldn't hurt just to tell him that her plan involved going to another door, but she didn't immediately offer the information. There was something that was actually more important than her passing along information regarding her plans, though. "How am I supposed to talk to you again?" Because contacting him as Ock might not be an option, and she didn't want to not talk to him again. "I'm going to use signatures to--" And that reminded her that she hadn't scanned the lab at all for any strange trace signatures that might be able to lead her back to his body. She made quick work of grabbing the scanner she'd modified out of her bag, and she took a quick reading of the space. "I'm going to use signatures to try to locate his body," she said, and she hoped the probability of that actually working was higher than she thought it was.
"You still have a super cute smile, bug boy," she said after, even though it was completely illogical. But she might not get to say it again. She leaned back against the door, her escape just there.
Peter was a little overwhelmed how quickly Gwen could think. He knew she was smart, but they had never been crime fighter partners, so her efficiency to get things done took him by surprise. “Uh, no don’t tell me. He might realize I’m still here after this and I don’t want to be brain scraped again. It feels just as bad as it sounds.” He watched her take out a scanner and he tilted his body curiously towards it to see how it was made. “Did you make that? Can I- nevermind.” He scooted out of the way so she could scan and if she looked back at him there was a gentle look of someone who was impressed.
“Wait until I can message you again. It sucks, but this creep won’t have control over my body for long.” The last part of his statement sounded sure and full of conviction. The way he promised to stop every villain and meant it with all of his heart even if he couldn’t always follow through. He watched her walk back over to the door and felt an urge to tell her to stay just a second longer. The comment about his smile threw him off, making him smile wider uncontrollably.
“That’s why I wear a mask. Can’t have Rhino falling head over heels for me, right?” He quipped pathetically and then glanced back at the cloning machine. He sighed. “Okay, you better run for it. If Carnage gets out again, you contact Ock even if we hate his dumb guts. He’ll take care of it even if he doesn’t want to.” Peter looked back at her and smile sadly. “Bye, Gwen.” He gave a pathetic little wave and then turned to bust a hole through another one of Ock’s experiments.
She wanted to argue that it did suck, and that maybe she didn't just want to wait. But she knew it was the logically sound decision, and she didn't argue. "I hate that plan, bug boy," she said, because that she could at least do. But she huffed a breath a second later, and she pushed the door open. She smiled, though, when he quipped about wearing a mask. "I always liked the mask, but I liked you out of the mask better," she said honestly. Shuffle of feet, and she had to go. "Bye." She took a step into the hallway, and then she poked her head back in for a second. "Be careful, or I'm going to be epically pissed," she said with familiarity, because he felt like Peter, and that hadn't happened in ages, not even with the other Peters. "You can play with the scanner next time," she promised.
A second longer, and she forced herself to let the door close. She took a deep breath, and then she ran. She had to get to Gotham like right away.