2019-12-23 - Avoiding Eight-Legged Tantrums


On their ride back from lunch with Barbara and Kenuichio, Pepper and Ambrose discuss the Gorgon, Arananet, tattoos, and whomever tailored Ambrose's suit because it's fine-so-fine.

Log Info:

Storyteller: None
Date: Mon Dec 23 05:24:55 2019
Location: Stark Industries

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The trip back from Staten Island didn't take terribly long even by car, but it's certainly enough time to either take a nap or have an at least somewhat serious discussion. Pepper isn't exactly the sort to indulge in the former, but she's not stepping up to initiate the latter, either. Instead, she's having a rousing conversation via IMs over her tablet with JARVIS, though she is by no means ignoring Ambrose as she does so.

Seated comfortably in the car with shoes abandoned on the floorboards and one foot tucked under the other leg, she glances at her traveling companion to make sure he knows she's paying attention.

Ambrose's profile is refined in its silhouette against the glass. In his suit from the night before, he's still a fit within the current surroundings. His brows are drawn and his gaze pensive as he leans on the closed car window's sill, his jaw rested on his palm and finger lined up before his ear. It taps unthinking against his scalp-line until he notices motion in his peripheral vision. It brings him to glance over towards Pepper and straighten back into his seat proper.

"Forgive me, I was lost in my thoughts. Miss Babs and her companion have given me much to consider." He pitches his voice comfortably in the confines of the car.

Turning the tablet's screen off, Pepper turns her entire attention toward Ambrose. "Likewise. Honestly, the entire evening and lunch today left me with far more questions than answers. And I'm not really all that fond of mysteries. Not understanding something drives me batty, and then I get short-tempered." She glances down at her tablet as the screen lights up briefly, but she doesn't do anything in response.

"I'll admit to being completely baffled by this Gorgon person's tactics, they seem not very productive for the amount of effort that's probably put into something like that. So, well, I'm going to apologize in advance if sound a bit irritated."

A riffled lift of fingers from his thigh is dismissal of Pepper's apology. "I understand, Miss Potts. It can be irritating to see half of the chess board, if you will," he agrees. The master-thief's eyes slide off to one side again and by his distancing, he's briefly mulling over something. He returns soon enough with a shift in his seat, stretching one leg out.

"I am not certain that it is…unproductive, what this Gorgon is doing currently. I have seen this pattern of behavior before and it appears to be as rallying power while gauging the mettle of one's opponents all in the same ploy. If you publicly show proof that you've the resources to have your opponent's — "

Pausing because that was clearly going to be a rude euphemism, Ambrose continues more delicately, "If you've the resources to take your opponent off-guard, you may convince either those unknowing or those balking to join your cause. It is our move on the chessboard now. We must plan it wisely." His lips lift at their corners in a shadowed, knowing smile as he glances over at Pepper again.

Pepper wrinkles her nose slightly at the chess analogy. It was never her favorite game, she greatly preferred the games that mixed planning and forethought with a bit of random chance. Having to try and predict how the other player will react is just exhausting.

She seems to think on Ambrose's words for a few moments before she can feel that Arananet is getting a little restless. "Dmitri, let me know when we're almost there, please?" When she has the driver's assent she keys the privacy screen to rise up so the spider's presence won't startle the man controlling the car. "May I..?" she puts her hand right hand over her left wrist, currently obscured by the sleeves of her grey and cerulean cardigan whose sleeves nearly reach her knuckles.

"I know, I know…" the Jackal says, low laughter in his voice at Pepper's apparent dislike of the situation. "Planning was never my forte, not at first. I was the one set upon the unknowing. Kent indulged himself in foreseeing what others might do."

He falls silent while the driver is given instructions and looks from the closed panel over to Pepper again. His eyes fall to her wrist and he squints. An inhale pauses and then he finally speaks. "…you mean to summon your little eight-legged friend again, yes? I say, I would not have assumed you to be the type to harbor such an enchantment, Miss Potts." Ambrose glances down from her face again and adds, with polite reluctance, "By all means, release the beastie."

Pepper smiles a bit apologetically. "It's not so much as summoning her, but giving her permission to come out when she asks nicely rather than forcing her way into a situation." She pushes up her sleeve to reveal what looks like a beautifully rendered photo-realistic spider tattoo, which disappears as a little waft of dark smoke coalesces into the gigantic spider now sitting on her lap like a cat. "We're in a moving car, maybe it's best you don't explore too much, I'm not sure other drivers would properly appreciate." She pats the spider gently on the thorax, idly considering letting Arananet try playing with her tablet. She's not sure spider eyes or pedipalps can properly make sense of the electronic device's display.

"…I see." Ambrose thins his lips as he watches the tattoo's revelation and consequential liveliness on display. Granted, there's also a subtle lean-away from the spider. Memories of a far more giant, lethally-laced arachnid in the bowels of Chernobyl briefly crowd against the pane of his memory and he forces them down and away firmly.

"Yes, please do not go crawling about unexpectedly. It would be startling," the man agrees with Arananet's handler.

Perhaps luckily, the enormous spider seems content to just sit in Pepper's lap for the moment, even tolerating her gently pulling her tablet out from under its abdomen. The pedipalps (little leg-like appendages on either side of the spider's mouth) wave and pat about, which Pepper seems to interpret somehow.

"Arananet, this is Lieutenant Ambrose Atherton, a good friend, though I think he's had bad experiences with other, less polite spiders in the past. Ambrose, this is Arananet. It took a bit of Googling on my and JARVIS's parts, but we're pretty certain she's a Goliath Birdeater from South America."

Ambrose does not wave in greeting. He doesn't really even make any movements at all other than breathing and narrowing his eyes at the very, very large spider.

"Very nice to meet you, Arananet," he lies skillfully. "I find myself surprised that you're so very far north of your home. It's too cold here, don't you think?" Yes, he's attempting conversation with the living tattoo, though he gives Pepper a questioning look, as if to check in on whether or not it's an impossible concept.

The spider seems to be keeping itself confined to Pepper's lap, and at the mention of it being cold taps her pedipalps on Pepper's leg and settles down a little farther. Perhaps she's implying that she's warm enough because her pet human is a pleasant heat source?

"I think you'd have guessed by now that she's not a corporeal spider, Ambrose. She's an animal spirit, bound to the person with the tattoo. The only reason she's with me is that her usual caretaker wanted her safe and secure while some other problems are being dealt with. She wasn't actually supposed to come to me, but she did in protest of being placed in a magical container." She looks at the spider as she turns and resettles herself on Pepper's torso. "Honestly, I can't entirely blame her. That sounds like it would be scary when her first awareness at this level was being bound with her human. Going from having only ever known companionship to being completely and utterly isolated?" She shakes her head, then reaches up to gently pull a lock of her hair out from under one of Arananet's feet.

"I can imagine it was a tantrum of eight-legged proportions," the master-thief comments blithely. He now dares to shift in his seat in order to put his elbow on the window-sill and lean his skull in his palm. Those keen cerulean-blue eyes don't meander away from the spider still.

"When you live as long as I have, Miss Potts, you learn to not trust what your eyes see, not immediately. You are kind, however, for agreeing to mind her. I do not believe I would have agreed if someone had asked of me."

"Well, I felt it was a bit cruel to rip her off of my arm after she'd already been pulled from her original caretaker. And, we're already fairly well in consensus on most things." She very gently gently taps on one of the spider's legs and murmurs, "You're pinching a bit," causing the spider to resettle the leg in slightly different place, the pull on the cardigan making it clear she's not 'gripping' anything but the garment this time.

"She doesn't force her way out and asks if she can spend some time moving about, and I do my best to let her have free roaming time at least once a day. Believe me, it's far better than her exploring my apartment at night when I was sleeping and waking up to find things knocked over and broken."

Ambrose's mouth slowly parts at the idea of finding a large roaming spider in his own household unexpectedly. Well, his son-in-law Sterling would gladly handle it, at least. His own daughter Mira would likely depart the room calmly and request to be advised when the spider was gone.

"Wise of you, allowing her to roam then, and save yourself the trouble later," he comments quietly. "And good to hear there is little to clash about. Still…no enchanted tattoos for me, I think. They would not linger otherwise." He checks himself then with a minute pursing of lips, realizing he'd let that morsel about his own powers slip. Drat.

Yes, Pepper caught that little morsel of information, quirking her eyebrows. "A normal tattoo wouldn't stay? Is that something to do with Rosie, or something else?" She shifts in her seat now, moving so she's sitting tucked a bit more into the corner of her side of the vehicle, and switching which foot is tucked under the other leg. This has the advantage of putting her and Arananet ever so slightly farther away from Ambrose.

"How fast would they disappear? Like a normal scratch might, or faster, or..?" Yes, this is full curiosity mode Pepper. Steve was likely subjected to similar one of the first times the pair had a chance to sit and talk.

A slowly-cycled sigh is proof of his immense annoyance in himself. Ambrose slips on a mask of polite patience that his other half would take pride in; he's drawing inspiration from Kent as is in the moment.

"Something to do with the jackal guise, yes," he hedges as a white lie and twist upon the truth. "The tattoos would disappear at the moment of the change itself, so time itself is inconsequential as a factor. It seems pointless, don't you think? Why sit and be pricked with a needle only to have one's efforts erased as a chalkboard? And no, I have not ever agreed to be a tattoo's artist practice surface," he adds with a sharp snicker.

Something many people may not know about Pepper — Tony certainly seems clueless — is that she's got a pretty good BS detector. And she thinks there's something faintly bovine about Ambrose's reply. But, she's good enough to not call him out on it. Not right now, anyway. She'll blindside him with it later.

"I've never considered getting a tattoo either, mostly because I just know it'll hurt. Though, I do have to admit that in college I used to joke that I'd get the math equations I used the most in my classes tattooed on the insides of my eyelids since I could practically see them there all the time anyway.

Ambrose laughs, the sound wry and warm despite his uncertainty involving Arananet. "I cannot imagine having the inside of one's eyelids tattooed. That seems an especial brand of torture," he muses, his grin flashing across his face before he becomes composed again.

"But…no. No tattoos for myself — scars either," comes the thoughtful addition, as if he'd just realized it. "I suppose it is a boon from the shifting in the end."

Pepper chuckles along with Ambrose's laugh. "Once I realized exactly what getting the insides of my eyelids tattooed would entail, I stopped saying it. Because ew." She shudders dramatically, causing Arananet to move about as if annoyed by it. After resettling her legs, she goes still again.

"No scars? Now I'm envious. I have a couple of scars I would not mind seeing disappear."

"But scars are part of living, are they not? Why count them as blemishes? They are proof of survival and one's ability to recover in the face of sometimes impossible odds. Do not be jealous of me on my account." Ambrose smirks, looking briefly out the window as the car passes a row of light-strung pine trees on display along a sidewalk.

"Speaking of disappearing, however, does your spider…simply vanish back onto your arm when you dismiss her?" He gives Arananet another measuring squint.

"That's true, but sometimes I'd rather not have the reminder that I was just as prone to doing stupid things in college as everyone else." No, Pepper doesn't explain that comment, nor does she offer to show the the scar. Just, no.

Pepper nods at his question about Arananet. "In a way? I try to not /order/ her to leave, another part of our agreement. I ask her, and I think because I'm giving her the choice she opts to listen to me." She lightly runs one finger down the spider's thorax. "Are you ready to go back, Arananet? We're almost home. If you want, you can play with the hamster ball when we get there."

The spider waves its pedipalps for a moment, the dissolves into smoke and disappears under her sleeve where presumably the tattoo is back in place.

It is with a leery fascination that the Jackal watches Arananet disappear from existence and return to the tattooed form on Pepper's arm. He closes his parted lips and then wrinkles his nose. Nope: apparently, still not cool enough to merit wanting one of his own or getting enthused about it.

"Polite of you, taking her opinions into account," he reiterates. A stretch of both legs and arms out before himself is Ambrose getting antsy about being in the car. "I suppose if we come to clashing with this Gorgon being, it will be surprised to suddenly deal with a large arachnid."

"I thought so. It really does seem to help reduce how often she fights with me for a chance to do something." Pepper isn't really sure if this is what was meant by asserting her will over the spider, but it's working well enough for her to get sleep at night and not scare anyone in Stark Tower too terribly often. So, she'll take it.

Then Ambrose mentions the Gorgon and she sobers a bit. "I'm not sure I'd want her running around with that Gorgon person doing things. While she is definitely surprising to see without warning, she's not exactly designed to take a lot of abuse." She looks down at her sleeve-covered arm. "And I don't want to know what would happen if she got hurt badly." She has a vague idea, but it's something she'd rather not have to explore.

Ambrose nods to himself. "Magical sympathy can be a very, very terrible thing," he agrees soberly and knowingly. A fleeting wince appears at the corners of his eyes before he sighs and considers his reflection in the partitioning glass between them and the driver.

"Hopefully Miss Babs and Master Kenuichio can provide us with more information. Who knows: your spider may not be necessary at all in the end. We may make the correct move on our half of the board and the Gorgon may find herself in check." His grin is toothy and pleased at the idea. "But let us not worry of things we do not know. Tell me more instead of who tailored this suit. I am, admittedly, impressed."

And few things impress the peacock of a Jackal, so Pepper has truly scored points.

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