Sister of Mercy
Written by Darkstorm5000
Disclaimer: X-Men Evolution, the X-Men, and other related characters in their various incarnations are the property of Marvel Entertainment Group and Film Roman Productions, are used without permission and not for profit.
At the Xavier Institute in Bayville, New York, change is a concept that those who reside here have come to expect and accept as one of the inevitabilities of life. Particularly in their lives, given the nature of this school and the fact that it was founded to help them learn to cope with the genetic adaptations that nature has seen fit to bestow upon them, and that society as a whole was still trying to come to grips with in its acceptance of those very differences.
For young Angelica Jones, waking up in her bedroom this morning to suddenly find that she now had a new roommate, whereas she had been the room's lone occupant when she turned in for bed just last night, was only the latest in a long line of life adjustments that she had been forced to accept and get used to. But unlike the other situations that Angelica had encountered since enrolling here at the Xavier Institute a little more than a month ago, dealing with the other young lady now seated atop the bed across from hers would prove to be an experience beyond anything that she could've imagined.
As she sat up in her own bed Angelica, who now saw that this other girl was just sitting there with both of her legs tucked underneath her body to her left and was quietly staring out of the bedroom's large multi-pane window, decided to start the day off on as hospitable a foot as possible.
While Angelica tried to cheerfully welcome this newest addition to the Institute, an appellation that until last night was one that had actually applied to her, the object of her greeting did little to acknowledge her salutation. In fact, this petite raven-haired girl whom Angelica immediately noticed was wearing a cut-off black tank-top and a tight black leather mini-skirt that showed off her unmistakably athletic frame, simply continued sitting there with her back turned to Angelica. Not moving a single, well-defined muscle, she stilly gazed out of the room's window where the early morning sun was now at a position that it was starting to gleam through into this bedroom.
It was in that same moment that Angelica also noticed something else about this taciturn individual in here with her. Even though Angelica was now fairly sure, in spite of the late hour last night when she was briefly aroused from her slumber by the sound of muffled voices and a hushed commotion, and then saw a light from out in the hallway as it came in through her...through their partially-opened bedroom door as someone came in and then the light turned off again, that this new girl had been in here most of the night with her. And judging from the fact that she was sitting on top of a bed that looked much the same as it had when she fell asleep the night before, Angelica could only draw the conclusion that her new roommate had apparently been up the entire night as well.
Angelica, who by now was fully sitting up at the edge of her own bed, proceeded to push the bit of red hair that had come undone out its styling-clip back from in front of her face, and self-consciously straightened the aqua-colored cotton tee and aqua floral-print pajama pants that she had on over her own less than perfect body. But remaining undeterred, Angelica once again spoke to her thus far reticent fellow roomie.
"Um, my name's Angelica, you know, in case they didn't tell you. Which I'm sure they probably did, but um, just in case they didn't. So, how do you like it here so far?" Angelica now asked this other girl in one amazing mouthful, as she sat at her bed's edge and slipped her feet into the fuzzy violet-colored slippers down on the floor beside her, continuing with her enthusiastic enquiry before a response could be offered, "I mean, I know it's probably not like your old school...well, it's really not like any other school at all, but that's part of what makes it so special. I guess it has to be different, since we're all different here, you know, because of us having powers and everything, you do have powers right? Duh, of course you do, I mean, that's the reason you're here, right? I know when I first got here, I was worried that I'd never learn how to control mine, you know, because I can heat stuff up, which can be good and bad, but it's mostly been bad because I was always burning something down or blowing something up on accident back home and back at my old school in New Jersey, that's where I'm from by the way, but I haven't had that happen in a while so you don't have to worry about staying in here with me or anything. Plus, we have fire extinguishers out in the hallway and I think this place's got a pretty advanced built-in sprinkler system too, so it makes you wonder why they have those fire extinguishers out there in the first place? Anyways, like I was saying, I've gotten a lot better at controlling and using my powers, like last week when I was out in the garden and another student who lives here used his powers to freeze it over, I was able to thaw everything out perfectly without starting a fire or anything! I was SO proud of myself! But, I also felt like such a huge dork once I actually realized what I said to..."
It was at this moment that it finally dawned on Angelica after several minutes of non-stop talk that the conversation she was currently engaged in had been entirely lop-sided in her favor with regard to her roommate's total lack of participation. Although, it wasn't because Angelica loved to hear the sound of her own voice, but more due to an uncontrollable nervousness that she felt whenever she was around new people. That, and as an only child and the fact that she hadn't really had any close friends growing up led this fairly quiet and reserved young lady to feel a bit anxious in wanting to make a good first-impression, to the point that she sometimes overcompensated by becoming the 'Miss Chatty Cathy' that she had unintentionally turned into this morning.
Meanwhile, this mysterious new girl in there with her was still seated in much the same manner as she had been when Angelica first woke up this morning, appearing to be totally oblivious to everything that Angelica had just said.
But as is often the case, looks can be deceiving.
This girl, who for all of her life had known herself by and identified herself through the simple designation of X-23, now found herself suddenly thrust into a new situation that she really had no frame of reference to truly prepare for.
One of learning to acclimate herself into the daily life of this relatively casual living environment at the Xavier Institute, and with other individuals who were mostly around the same age as her.
It was a daunting, nay frightening prospect for someone who had never spent any significant time around people in a normal social context, and was why she had been sitting here all night mulling over whether or not she had made a mistake in accepting Logan's offer to come live here? Realizing now that it had been a decision made in a moment of the most dire of desperations, a moment where she believed that she had at last reached a point where she didn't have anywhere else to turn or run to, but was now wondering if someone like her really belonged around regular people?
"I guess you probably don't want to hear about my boring life. So, feel free to jump in and tell me all about yourself!" Angelica once again chipperly asked, and this time she would soon receive.
Pushing the leather-jacket and small purse that had been sitting in her lap over onto the bed beside her, X-23 finally turned around and quickly stood up to face this girl who had been so energetically talking to her. And for the first time, Angelica got a good look at the pain in the eyes now staring back at her from beneath a heavy layer of eye-shadow and eyeliner, which had smudged itself against X-23's face from where she'd been crying and had tried to dry her tears against her fencenet arm-warmers last night. All despite the fact that Logan and Ororo had shown her, as they brought her upstairs, where she could go get cleaned up and could find some of the school's official logo-imprinted clothing to change into, but that X-23 had opted against.
After all, there was no washing off or covering up what she was, all that she had been and done, so easily. And it was from a sudden epiphany that hit her following a night of mindful reflection, and after having heard all morning about a 'boring' life that she would've killed to be able to call her own in lieu of the only one that she could regretfully lay claim to, that gave way to an explosive outpouring that stood in stark contrast to what had been her extremely muted behavior so far.
"I WAS BORN IN A TEST TUBE, I HAVE POWERS LIKE WOLVERINE BECAUSE I WAS CLONED FROM HIM, I WAS AN ASSASSIN FOR HYDRA AND KILLED HUNDREDS, MAYBE THOUSANDS, OF PEOPLE FOR THEM BEFORE I QUIT AND LIVED IN THE WILD UNTIL AUTHORITIES STARTED GETTING TOO CLOSE, THEN I HAD SEX WITH PEOPLE FOR MONEY AND DRUGS!! IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE THAT YOU WANT TO KNOW?!!"
"...no..." Was the only meek response that Angelica could manage to muster in light what had just happened.
If this vehement shouting directed precisely at her from out of nowhere hadn't been enough to completely shock her, then what had actually just been said to Angelica was more than enough to leave her now on the verge of tears herself. And, was the principle reason behind her sudden departure out of their shared room.
Leaving behind another young girl, whose anger was really with herself, but who didn't know how else to deal with these feelings of deep shame and self-loathing that she harbored other than to lash out with blinding rage and violence.
Even, if it was with words serving as her current weapon of choice.
For Professor Charles Xavier, the start of each day usually began in much the same manner for him: with a strenuous daily regimen of upper-body and torso-strengthening exercises in the Institute's more than ample gymnasium, which was followed by a modest but satisfying breakfast, the remainder of his mornings were then generally spent in his personal study catching up on any work that happened to be left unfinished from the day before, and then attending to whatever tasks had been laid out on this day's agenda. And as was often the norm here, there were issues that frequently came up that were not listed on any pre-planned schedule, but that required his immediate and undivided attention nonetheless.
Being blessed, or some would say cursed (although his students would never hear their Headmaster refer to his own mutant telepathic abilities in such execrable terms), Professor X was often privy to the stray thoughts and emotions of those around him, unintentional as it may have been. And in spite of the psychic blocks and safeguards that he had spent years of his life building up within his own mind to prevent such inadvertent intrusions, there were still occasions where the feelings of others, particularly the pain being relayed through them, was so great that even he couldn't ignore them.
As was the case this morning when he felt a sharp mental jolt of anguish emanating from upstairs from not one, but two individuals. And as he sensed one of those individuals hurriedly making her way outside, the Professor felt it necessary to call upon and psychically call out to one of his former students, who herself now served in the capacity as one of the Institute's instructors. And, who also at the moment happened to be outside as well and could discreetly assist him with this rather sensitive situation.
Especially since the young lady in question was still barely a novice in learning to control her immense mutant microwave and heat-generating abilities, and in such a heightened emotional state could lose her tentative grip on them and pose a tremendous danger to her surroundings.
As the wind-riding heroine and X-Man codenamed Storm, Ororo Munroe had by now spent more than half of her life here at the Xavier Institute. And while in that time she had been both student and later teacher, another role for which she had been unexpectedly drafted, yet had slowly grown accustomed to, was that of unofficial mother-figure to a good many of the children who also called this place home. To some, who were so far from their own homes and their own mothers, and to others who through a variety of circumstances simply didn't have one, but who all occasionally needed a supportive maternal wing to take them underneath. Such as Angelica, who had lost her own mother at a very young age, and whose situation Ororo could all too easily remember and relate to herself.
Following Professor Xavier's brief and concise revelation regarding Angelica's latest whereabouts and his concerns about her current state of distress, Ororo was able to quickly locate her. Particularly, since she had been soaring through the skies high above the area for the better part of the morning since sunrise and couldn't have asked for a better vantage point.
"The Professor said that I would find you out here." Ororo remarked a few moments later after making a quiet touch down nearby that had gone completely unnoticed, and then came over to announce her presence to Angelica. Who, was seated on the edge of a tree stump in this small clearing that sat several dozen yards from the mansion, located within the woods that surrounded the estate's property.
Pulling her face back up from the comfort of her upturned hands in which it been resting, Angelica used them to try to quickly dry her eyes and hide evidence of the tears that had been rolling down from them since coming out here.
"Hi." Angelica looked up through puffy red eyes and a trembling voice to say, while projecting a forced smile in an attempt to convey a cheerfulness that in truth wasn't really there right now.
"What is the matter?" Ororo said, as she went and took a seat beside her.
"I...I just needed to get away for awhile. You know, to think about some stuff." Angelica replied, as she struggled to further regain her composure, having originally come all of the way out here just so that she could have a place where she could give full release to her feelings in peace and solitude, and without having to worry about onlooking eyes or having to answer those same onlookers questions.
At least, that's what her plan had been after exiting her bedroom posthaste.
"It would appear that you were doing more out here than just thinking." Ororo commented, as she used the thumb-side of her hand to wipe a stray tear from Angelica's face, "Now, would you like to talk about what has gotten you so upset?"
For a few moments there was nothing but silence, save for a few intermittent sniffles. But soon, this hesitation would give way to divulgence of a more therapeutic nature.
"It's just...well, that new girl, my new roommate, I don't think she likes me very much." Angelica confided, as she turned and looked over at Dr. Munroe once again, "In fact, I'm pretty sure of it."
"Why would you think such a thing?" Ororo curiously asked her in response.
"Because, when I was trying to talk to her this morning and asked her a few questions about herself, she just totally ignored me. Then, she got all mad and started screaming at me, making up all of these lies about herself and saying a buncha...horrible things." Angelica explained, her tone becoming a bit more emotional at just the thought of remembering what had been said to her earlier, "I mean, I got the hint. I DEFINITELY won't be bothering her anymore!"
For someone who already had her own trust-issues when it came to relationships and opening herself up to others, all thanks to her prior experiences of watching as her feelings were stomped on by the other girls at her old school that she desperately wanted to be liked by and was foolish enough to try to befriend, the events of this morning were becoming something of a wake-up call for Angelica. That even though she had been raised to believe that you should treat other people in the same way that you would want them to treat you, she was coming to the slow realization that in real-world practice such noble ideals most of the time simply didn't work. Tired of being the one who always seemed to wind up getting hurt Angelica was starting to wonder that, with all of the pain that you were left with as a result, if in the end maybe it just wasn't even worth the effort to bother trying?
Seeing for herself as a heart as open and vulnerable as Angelica made hers to the world was being hardened before own eyes, Ororo couldn't help but want to do something to prevent such an unfortunate about-face from happening. Especially, since Ororo now felt that she was in part responsible for these events that had unfolded this morning.
"As much as it saddens me to have to confirm, everything that she told you this morning is most likely the truth." Ororo told Angelica, as she put a supportive hand over on top of one of Angelica's, "X-23 was created as part of a horrendously inhumane experimental program, run by even more inhumane individuals who subjected her to extreme physical and psychological abuse, and forced her to live through the most unimaginable of conditions. And while that doesn't necessarily excuse her behavior completely, I believe that Logan, the Professor, and myself owe you an apology just as much as she does. With everything happening so fast within the last several hours, we wanted to make sure that she felt as welcome as possible, to know that she truly has a home here now. But in our desire to make sure that she was provided a relatively normal living environment, we simply didn't take into full account all of the problems that she might have in adjusting to it. Nor, did we take into consideration the need to properly prepare you for being placed in a rather unusual circumstance such as this, two unfortunate oversights for which I'm very sorry."
Ororo then took a brief moment to pause so that Angelica could take in everything that had just been said to her, as well as the gravity of everything that this other girl upstairs had been through, before continuing.
"I don't believe that she really hates you, or any of us for that matter. I think that what she could use is a little space, for the time-being, to get used to her new surroundings. But even more so, I think what she could also use is a caring and understanding friend, even if she may not quite comprehend such a concept just yet." Ororo finished telling Angelica.
The pair then sat there for several more minutes in silence. Not the awkward or uncomfortable kind, but the type of silence that one sometimes needs to just fully collect themselves.
"So, you are feeling better now I hope?" Ororo asked, having sensed that Angelica was in need of this small break and having timed this latest query based on the fact that the sound of sobbing and its accompanying sniffles out here had ceased for a good while now.
"Yeah. Lots." Angelica replied to Ororo's inquiry, with a smile now on her face that was truly genuine this time.
And with an encouraging gesture, Ororo and Angelica stood up and started on their way back towards the mansion together. As they did, Ororo also made mental contact with the Professor en route to fill him in on all that had transpired. To which, his next response would be to speak to the other party who had been the principal source of this morning's acrimony.
As he sat within the confines of his own personal study, Professor Xavier used the formidable power of his mind to reach out to the latest addition to his school and home. But even with his unparalleled mental abilities, he still found that X-23's mind was one very difficult for even him to hone in on and communicate with, no doubt a result of the telepathic blocks and other layers of subconscious protection that HYDRA's psi-division had built up in her psyche.
A task that, while proving more difficult than he had anticipated, certainly wasn't impossible for him.
"I believe that we need to talk."
Following her verbal blowup at Angelica and having in the time afterwards gone back to sit down on the same bed that she had been occupying for the most part since late last night, X-23 was hardly surprised or even startled by the voice now speaking directly into her mind. In fact, it was a conversation that she had been sitting in here waiting with an expectation of soon having.
"I've learned about what happened between you and Angelica earlier this morning. And I am not enthused, to say the least."
"Fine. I can be gone from here in just a few minutes if you want."
"I would like to think that we can resolve this matter far short of having to resort to you vacating the premises. I meant what I said when I spoke to you briefly following your arrival last night, I will do all that I can to help you in trying to cope with the traumatic ordeals that you've experienced. But I think that as a part of that healing process, it might be beneficial for you to try to interact with the other residents of this house in a more civil, less hostile manner."
"Good. We can talk about this further when we meet for your official orientation later today."
In that same moment, just as Xavier broke off his telepathic link with X-23, Angelica returned to their bedroom.
"Hi." Angelica said upon her re-entry, but left this conversation hanging on that one-word greeting as she walked back across their room over to her bed.
Not that the brevity of her remark was the result of any lingering feelings of bitterness, rather it was because Angelica was trying to do exactly what had been advised to her outside. Which was to give her new roommate some breathing room and time to get used to things around there without it seeming as though she was hovering over her.
Going back over to take a seat on top of her own bed, Angelica decided to pass the time now by pulling a book and her pod-player from out of her bookbag that was down on the floor beside her bed. And for the first time this morning she managed to pique the undivided interest of the other person in this room with her.
Having seen people on several occasions holding and carrying these items in a manner similar to the one that Angelica was now using, X-23 had long wondered what its appeal was?
A couple of minutes after putting on the earbuds that were connected to her player and cracking her book open, Angelica sensed that she was being watched and at first resisted the heavy urge to acknowledge such observation of her person. But feeling that there was also a point where such disregard of another person crossed over into the realm of outright rudeness, Angelica eventually looked back up to respond to the attention that she was receiving at the moment.
"Is everything alright?"
For a few moments there was nothing but silence in this room, a pause as awkward as the unsurety of the person to whom this last question had been directed now felt in trying to formulate an accurate response.
It was a question that, while seeming to simply seek just a basic understanding of the item currently in Angelica's possession, was the only way that X-23 could find to summarize her deeper and more profound curiosity regarding it. Which helped in contributing to her and Angelica remaining on what were now closer, yet apparently still different wavelengths.
"This? It's a novel by Johnny Burnes. He's one of my favor--" Angelica started to explain, but was quickly interrupted. Although this time, her roommate's interjection was at least far more cordial in its tone.
"No, the other thing?" X-23 serenely inquired, this time pointing right to the item in question that was laying beside Angelica on her bed.
"Oh, this. It's just my pod-player. I know, it's kinda old." Angelica responded, giving a fairly basic answer to what she had assumed was just a basic question.
But after noticing that her roommate looked a bit puzzled, as though she still had the same question on her mind, Angelica finally took the time to more closely evaluate this situation and at last caught on to what was really going on.
"Do you want to try it out?" Angelica now asked as she pulled off both of her earbuds.
She then got up and walked with device in hand over to her roommate's side of the room. Where, Angelica handed the device to X-23 and proceeded to give her a brief tutorial on its use.
"Just press this button to scroll through all of the songs in the library, then just press this one to listen to them, this one to pause, this one if you want to skip through them, and then you can press this one to pick the ones that you want to add to a playlist..."
As Angelica went back over to her bed, rather than pick up her provocatively trashy romance novel and resume reading where she had left off, she instead sat there and watched as her roommate became instantly immersed in the music now at her fingertips. And as she did, Angelica saw a change in her overall demeanor with her mood now starting to lighten a little.
For X-23, who for most of her life had only been exposed to subjects that had to do with either a military or combat application, her discovery of music as an expressive art form and for the entertainment value that it also possessed was something wildly refreshing. And while she had occasionally heard it on radios in passing as she moved from place to place, or in bars and clubs that she was far too young to have been in, this time it was something different. To now have it so close where she could scroll through all of these songs, most of which she had never heard, right in the palm of her hand only added to her rapidly growing enthusiasm about this pod-player. It also answered her questions regarding the device's appeal, and at the same time it was also coming to subtlely represent something else for her.
That it was a small but significant symbol of her freedom to choose and make decisions for herself that were now open and available for her, an aspect of her life that she never really had much of, and certainly never really had any control over.
Nearly an hour later, which for X-23 had been an amount of time passing that she had hardly noticed given that she had been overwhelmingly pre-occupied with the apparatus in her hand, a couple of new parties introduced themselves to this currently tranquil scene. Although, one of those parties was actually an old acquaintance of X-23's, and remembered their last meeting as anything but peaceful.
"Angelica, several of us were going to head over to the mall after breakfast this morning and we were wondering if you wanted to join us..." Amara Aquilla was saying, as she and Paige Guthrie came and stood at Angelica's door, the both of them having woken up not all that long ago on this leisurely Saturday morning, as evidenced by the fact that they too were still dressed in their morning attire.
"Yeah, I'd love to!" Angelica happily replied.
But once Amara got a good look at the other individual now occupying this room with Angelica, what she was talking about suddenly seemed to become irrelevant.
"Okay, we'll all meet up downstairs later." Paige now chimed in, as oblivious to Amara's uneasy reaction as Angelica also was. And as Paige waived at this new face in here and was just about to make her proper introductions with her, she was sharply jerked away by the arm by Amara, whose first thought was that X-23 was about to carry out another of her covert attacks against all of them.
But, X-23 was all too well aware of what Amara was most likely thinking about her. And at seeing the fear that the very sight of her had brought over this other resident, was just another of the many reasons that she had been so hesitant to come back here in the first place. It also had X-23 wondering how many more times she was going to have to feel these apprehensive glares again when word got around that she was now living here?
"So, are you going to come with us too?" Angelica asked her, with Paige and Amara having long since vacated from their spot at the doorway, and with Angelica now busily searching through her closet to put together some kind of half-way decent ensemble to wear on today's outing.
"No." Was X-23's dispassionate, lone-word response. And seeing that Angelica had at last found whatever it was that she had been frantically searching for, she became even more withdrawn.
Mainly, because of another realization that had come over her.
"Here." X-23 said to Angelica, after getting up and swiftly coming over to return the pod-player that had been loaned to her, assuming that she would want to take it with her.
At seeing how distant her roommate had become once again in such a short amount of time, an idea came to Angelica that was as unexpected as it was so painfully obvious.
"You can keep it." Angelica now told this other girl standing in front of her, as she put her pod-player back into X-23's hand.
"What? Really?!" X-23 asked with a skeptical expression, positive that she had somehow misunderstood or misinterpreted something with regards to this last gesture.
"Sure! Just consider it...well, like a welcoming present." Angelica clarified for her, as she took both of X-23's hands and wrapped them around the device in affirmation, "And look at it this way, you'll always have something you can use to tune me out whenever you think I'm talking too much."
As much as this sudden urge to give away her personal possessions had surprised her, particularly since it wasn't like she came from a wealthy background where pod-players just grew on trees, even used ones like this one that she had managed to eventually save up enough to get, what surprised Angelica even more was what she saw next.
When, after making this last comment, an honest to goodness smile came to X-23's face. And whether it was from her attempt at humor in that latest remark, or from the unexpected gift that she had given to her, or simply just a combination of the two, Angelica was merely glad that it had happened irregardless.
"Thank you." X-23 said, her intense gratitude far more evident through her beaming expression than by her words.
"No problem...um...what would you like for me to call you?" Angelica asked, now bringing up another subject that she had been wondering about, but had been reluctant to initiate given how her previous probing efforts had turned out, "Would you prefer X-23, or just plain X for short?"
"Laura." Laura nonchalantly replied, as she quickly went back over and sat down on her bed with her attention more focused on the pod-player in her hand than anything else.
Her new name was something that she had come up with last night, when during their lengthy and for the most part silent ride from NYC to Bayville Logan had asked her a question similar to the one that Angelica had just now posed. And while 'Laura' was an alias that she had used during her days of running deep undercover ops and that had been given to her by...well anyways, it was still the closest thing to an actual-sounding name that she could come up with on the spot. And in a way might turn out to be most appropriate, especially if she was planning to be successful in living under this new guise as a normal teenager?
Meanwhile, even though Angelica had given her pod-player to Laura without a second thought after seeing a person who was in need and whom she could help, just like she had always been taught growing up, her sacrifice wouldn't be one that went totally unnoticed.
About a week later, after word had traveled through the Institute's faculty grapevine about precisely what all had transpired this morning, Angelica came up to her bedroom one afternoon after-school and was astonished to find a present sitting on her bed waiting for her. Picking it up, she saw that it hadn't been placed there by mistake, courtesy of a card that had her name on the outside of it.
Opening up the wrapped item, Angelica was blown away to see that there was a brand new, latest generation pod-player inside!
Now curious herself about who would give her such a thing when it wasn't even close to her birthday, Angelica then proceeded to open the attached card. Although, it should've been obvious to her from the get-go who would select this item specifically to show his appreciation of her act of generosity towards Laura, as the card's brief message would officially confirm for her:
It was a note of gratitude from a man not generally known or renown for making overly emotive displays such as this, but from one who certainly believed in repaying his debts. And, who felt that Angelica's effort to try to reach out and make a connection to an isolated soul like Laura through this selfless gesture of kindness deserved his recognition, and was worth far more to him than the cost of this electronic accessory...