Disclaimer: X-Men's not mine, and neither is... er, the other universe implied here. Virtual cookies to anyone who guesses it!
Epilogue - Closure: Angel studied the invitation thoughtfully. She'd met Gambit when he and Rogue had come to St. Louis after a trip to his hometown of New Orleans, and she'd liked the red-eyed Creole. However, he hadn't seemed like the type to marry, even if he and Rogue were head over heels for each other. Maybe she'd misread him. The question now was, would she go? It was going to be at the Institute, after all. It had been six years since she left, and in that time... She wasn't just a mutant anymore, she reflected, but what she'd become had given her a family, so she couldn't complain.
She would go. She'd known all along, really. She wouldn't be so nasty as to miss her friend's wedding just because she was nervous. Which meant she had some phone calls to make. Good thing the sun had set, she mused as she dialed the number for her top client, because it was always better to reach this particular person after dark.
She got a bit of a run-around before a smooth voice with a French accent came over the phone. "Oui, Angel?"
"Hey, boss. Listen, can we move that shoot of the dance club boys back two days? Turns out I'm going to be out of town."
"Ah. And why is that?"
"Oh, a wedding. Up in the New York area."
"I see. Very well, you can do your photography later. Angel, mon ami, have you considered my offer?"
"What, coming back on stage? No, sorry, you know I only did that to pay for college."
"A pity. You were very good."
"Thanks. I think. I have to call some other people now, though, and I'd bet you've got stuff to do, so bye." She hung up and then dialed another number.
"Nate, are either of your warm-blooded housemates home?"
"No, not right now. What's up, Angie?" He was the only one allowed to call her that. Ever.
"I'm going out of town, and I wanted to let them know."
"They'd both yell at you for asking permission."
"I'm not asking permission, exactly. Just letting them know, so they don't call me on the house phone if something comes up."
"Why would anything come up?"
"Because in our world, something always does."
"True. All right, I'll tell them. Where are you going?"
"A wedding in Westchester."
"Oh, that girl Rogue?"
"But... I thought you said you didn't ever want to go back there." Nate was confused.
"I don't. But Rogue's my friend; I should be there for this."
"Still... you want me to come? Or one of the others? I'm sure any of the boys would go with you. Or one of the girls, for that matter."
"No, I'll be fine."
"All right, if you're sure."
When Angel hung up, she sighed. The fact was that she wasn't sure, actually. It would be nice to have Nate along. He was considered weak in their world, but Angel understood that behind that... if nothing else, Nate was unflinchingly loyal. All of the people she considered her family were. And when it came to each other, they were fiercely protective. Which might be bad thing. Particularly if Summers started in on her. So she would go alone.
She was actually surprised to find she still owned a dress that wasn't black. It was blood-red, and the last time she'd worn it had been when some... representatives of a similar subculture to hers, only over in Europe, had come to town. That had been fun. Several people had nearly died. But the dress was nice. It was a halter with a flared skirt that was about ankle length. With it she wore black stilettos. It still amazed her that she could walk in those things. Her jewelry was simple; ruby drop earrings set in silver and a pentacle necklace in white gold with tiny rubies in the circle. It looked like silver, and since she only wore silver earrings these days, and that out of necessity, it worked.
The wedding was simple and short, for which she was relieved. The last wedding she'd been to had been a lot longer , and the church it had been held in - if you could really call it a church, which she was unsure about - was nondenominational. This service was Catholic, and seemed abridged. Her mother had been Catholic; their ceremonies, she knew, tended to drag. But she was grateful. Not being Christian, she had hoped that the ceremony bit would be short.
The reception was in the backyard of the school. Rogue was thrilled that she'd come, and said so. "I really didn't think you would," the brunette said with a smile, her soft Southern accent still clear, even after years on the East Coast. "What with... everything."
"I couldn't miss this," Angel said, grinning.
"Nice to see you, Angel," a voice said from behind her. She turned and found herself looking into pale blue eyes.
"Ian." There was a woman with him, a perky-looking brunette.
"My fiancee, Jessica. Jess, this is Angel Ravena. We were friends, years ago."
"It's nice to meet you." Angel spoke automatically. She had always harbored a slight crush on her friend, and it was a slight shock to see him engaged. They hadn't really kept in touch; he and Kendra found they couldn't fight their parents and had also left the school, and they hadn't looked each other up. "So, where's Kendra?"
"Off on a dig in India. She's an archaeologist now."
"Oh, that's great. What about you?"
"I'm a counselor for troubled kids. So's Jess; that's how we met. What about you?"
"I'm a photographer. I do some freelance photojournalism, but I'm mostly hired for publicity shots. My biggest client runs several clubs in New Orleans."
"Oh? Where?" Jessica asked, curious. Angel flinched inwardly.
"The District." She saw the shock on Jessica's face. "What?" she asked innocently.
"That, that's the..." She whispered something to Ian, who turned to Angel in shock.
"Angel, you're not... you work for..."
"Yeah. Why, does that bother you?"
"I just never saw you there."
"Oh. Well, things change." And it occurred to her that it was a good thing that he was taken. If she'd tried to start something, and it had worked, once he found out what she'd become, things might have gotten ugly. As she turned away and walked off, she felt that old crush fade away.
She sat at a table and watched the people talk and dance for a while, not really thinking, just drifting. And wishing she was home, where she knew the rules. Even when there were no rules.
"Angel?" Someone sat down beside her. She turned, looking into warm brown eyes.
"Hello, Storm," she said, smiling slightly.
"I'm glad to see you came," Storm continued. "How have you been?"
"Pretty good. I landed in St. Louis; I'm working in photography."
"That's nice. Do you like it?"
"I love it. I had to take up dancing to get through college, but that's over, and my old boss is now my best client."
"Well, you got lucky. I always hoped things would work out for you."
"I owe you one for letting me go."
"You'd have gone anyway."
"I did go anyway. But not having to fight you made it easier."
"I'm glad. And it seems I made the right choice." She paused. "If you don't mind my asking, besides work, how are things?"
Angel grinned. "Pretty good. I've got plenty of friends; no boyfriend, though." Though she had been looking at someone. Dark hair, brilliant blue eyes... and totally besotted with someone else, who slept with him because she had to, but didn't love him. And he was completely blind to Angel's existence. "Actually, you've probably seen a couple of them on the news. One's a rather well-known federal marshal, another is a... well, a politician of the subculture in St. Louis, and another one's been on TV as an activist for equal rights for non-normals. I'm supposed to go on with him next time, for a perspective of someone who knows what it's like to be non-normal from different standpoints. I'm trying to talk him out of it."
"I heard about you working in the District. I thought you just worked there... I didn't know you were one of them."
"Is that a problem?" Her green eyes were cold. Storm wondered what else was part of Angel's life now that they seemed even colder than before.
"No. I guess it makes sense, you seem to see them as your family. I suppose they wouldn't treat outsiders that way."
"Well, I was an outsider, and they did. I wasn't always one of them."
"What, one of the monsters?" said a voice acidly. "You were a monster before you ever went to St. Louis." She turned to see Summers, sans the glasses. Apparently he, like Rogue, made use of the inhibitor. Yes, there was the metal band on his left middle finger.
"Scott, don't," said Jean Grey - well, probably Grey-Summers now. "I told you, I asked Angel to do what she did."
"And you did it because she didn't care if she killed you. The girl's a sociopath." To the shock of the three others, Angel laughed at that.
"I know a true sociopath, Summers, and trust me, I don't come close to him. I can kill if I have to, without feeling bad about it, but I don't like it. Sociopaths like it. Just pray you never meet one, because apparently you can't tell the difference between sociopathy and practicality."
He stared at her. "Like I said," he sneered at last, "one of the monsters."
"Oh, well, yeah, but no one's denying that. But I'm not sure you know just how right you are." She smiled innocently, gazing up at him with green eyes that suddenly changed. They went amber, and the pupils became vertical. "See?"
He stared at her in horror. "You let them do that to you?"
"For a friend of mine, yes. Apparently, you wouldn't do the same. Wouldn't make yourself more of a freak. I wonder, would you even do it for Dr. Grey? Not that it's my business, of course." She turned away from him. "Storm, it was nice talking to you, but I have the feeling your co-worker isn't going to leave - " She was cut off as her phone rang. "Hello?"
She listened to the female voice at the other end explain what was happening, and sighed. "Great, just what we need. Old ghost stories being real after all. Or maybe Phantom of the Opera, considering the mask bit. Yeah, I'll be back, 'Nita." She hung up and smiled brightly. "Well, looks like I'm out of here anyway. Storm, Dr. Grey, it was a pleasure; Summers, not so much, but I'd be surprised if it was."
She went back over to Rogue. "Congratulations, girl, but I've got to go. Emergency, as per usual." Rogue, who knew some of what happened in Angel's new world, frowned.
"Watch your back."
Two hours later, she was on a plane, headed back to St. Louis. Yes, it was another emergency, but that was just part of life. Angel wasn't a front line player, but she was always there if they needed her. That was what friends did. That was what family did. And friends, of course, were the family you made. Her past was gone; her return to the Institute had proven that once and for all. Angel knew she would never go back, but that was fine. She'd found her place in the world, and she was finally where she belonged. She'd found the home the Institute could not be, and she would protect it whatever the cost.
A/N: OK, so, can anyone guess the other universe I'm mixing with this? Bonus points if you can name each character referenced. Anyway, this story is now finished, and there is no sequel planned. This is because if I did write one, I'd be breaking rules and would risk getting my account deleted. There are sites for this other fandom, but my luck, I'll join up, and the members will get arrested for plagiarism or something of the sort. So this becomes my first completed story where the sequel remains only in my head. I'm grateful to anyone who's ever reviewed, and I hope those who liked this will check out some of my other work.