For Entertainment Purposes

March 20, 2017:

Nathaniel seeks Laura to ask her out, or something. Awkward conversation follows.

Central Park

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Although Nathaniel left Laura a way to contact him, the reverse was not true. Once the tachyon tracker faded out, he was unable to find the young mutant girl. Which is a shame, because his research on X-23, the Facility and Weapon-X left him with a good deal of questions and concerns.

With nearly 20 million people living in the New York area it is pretty hard to find a single one without even knowing her second name. But Laura has a few distinctive features. Like being a mutant, and having ultra-dense metal claws in the forearms and feet. So while she remained in a city that Nathaniel visits frequently, it was just a question of time he would find her. Which he did a few minutes ago. He was just waiting for her to go into a less crowded area to catch up with her.


Laura isn't one to typically immerse herself into crowds, but today she needed to. She didn't interact, instead, she simply watched, her green-eyed gaze flicking to the various types of people that can be found within the park.

Hobos, pan-handlers, dog walkers, runners, joggers, lunch-time goers, etc.

It's all here and Laura simply watches the people move through their lives with that ever present stoic expression of hers. It's only as her gaze automatically scans the area around herself that something catches her attention. That something isn't upon the ground but instead up in the air and with a casualness that's feigned, Laura's gaze will flicker (briefly) upward.

When her keen eyes find that familiar silhouette she'll immediately frown ever so slightly, before she leaves her people-watching post. She'll start moving now, destination seeming random, but Nathaniel will see she's moving for a less cluttered area. Where the two can have a somewhat private conversation.


Almost no one in New York looks up. Unless they are tourists looking for flying heroes. And Nathaniel was too high anyway. Just not high enough for Laura's enhanced senses. Something to consider next time he has to deal with that particular powerset.

For now, he is happy the young woman is looking for a less crowded area instead of leaving for the subway or something like that to avoid him. Central Park is close enough, and he lands there, taking a minute to shift his armor into regular clothes suitable for the New York early spring. Then, he finds a bench and waits for her to arrive.


Laura isn't a tourist, nor is she a sheep, she's a hunter - so everything is always considered, even the less likely ones (like looking up).

Either way, the short dark-haired woman will continue her trek towards less people-infused areas. Her senses will automatically pick up the man's scent when he sits upon that park bench and when she draws closer, Laura will once more assess the area before her. That assessment includes Nathaniel, as well, and while she doesn't suspect this is a trap her actions are too engrained now. They're reflexive in nature at this point.

While she doesn't necessarily sit next to him she will stand right next to the bench, her gaze focused upon Nathaniel. "Why are you here." She states, her voice rising ever so slightly at the end of those words to denote the question beneath those flat tones of hers.


Since she is not sitting down, Nathaniel stands up. There are no other Avengers or SHIELD agents in the area, but he noticed her cautiousness. "Good morning, Laura," he greets politely. "I was waiting for you," which is probably not really the answer to her question. But he is taking advantage of her lack of verbosity. "Let me walk with you for a few minutes, please. Would you like some coffee? Tea? Maybe ice-cream? Or is it too early in the year?"


Walk with her? While that's quite the normal request for most people for Laura it causes her to once again visually assess the area. Her nostrils likewise flare as she tries to detect anything from the air.

When nothing is found, the slim assassin will return her attention to Nathaniel as she considers the 'unarmored' man. "Yes." She'll state in that same monotone voice and with that one word, the woman will step away from the park bench. Her stride is purposeful but with such short legs Nathaniel shouldn't have any trouble keeping up with her.

"I do not require food or drink." She ends with, when he offers tea, coffee and even ice-cream.


"It was offered for enjoyment, not to fulfill a necessity," notes the young man. "Offering is a custom of the current American culture." Nathaniel glances at Laura, "which you do not seem to share, hmm? Ah, I have done some research. There were some information in the Unternet on a person called X-23. But it was years out of date."


While others might sigh at Nathaniel's initial explanation, Laura doesn't. Instead she'll give him a side-eyed look; yes, she understands what he's explaining, it just doesn't quite come natural yet. Still, the duo continues to walk, Laura alert, Nathaniel likely the same as they traverse the mostly deserted pathway within this area of Central Park.

At the mention of the Unternet and X-23, Laura's gaze will swing back to Nathaniel as she considers the rather tall (compared to her) young man. "That is me." She states or rather admits in that typical flat voice of hers. And while she doesn't necessarily allow the wariness that she feels to enter her gaze, it does permeate her body. A slight tension within her gait.

Whether Nathaniel picks up upon that subtle shift in her stance is anyone's guess.


“Yes, of course you are,” comments the young man. “And it seems you escaped your handlers and now you are trying to strike back at them. Did I have that right? You are also willing to risk your life fighting super-criminals.” Nathaniel glances at her again, “so I find you a fascinating woman and I want to know you better. Would you be agreeable to meet with me for purely entertainment purposes? No crime-fighting, no chasing after Weapon-X rogue branches, and no fighting at all unless that is what you enjoy.”


That explanation of his, about her past, serves to put her somewhat at ease. That wariness begins to dissipate, at least, it did until he springs his next trap upon her.

Fascinating? He finds her fascinating. That causes her dark eyebrows to flicker towards the midline of her face now, as she frowns ever so slightly.

No one ever called her fascinating and for a few seconds she simply stays silent; processing what he said and how she should respond.

Finally, the slim assassin will say in those same flat tones, "I will agree to this." While her tones don't necessarily scream happiness at her agreement, at least she agreed. She could have easily said no. And as to what she likes, she'll consider her response to that rather rhetorical statement of his. And while he likely doesn't expect an answer to that, she will say, "Fighting is easy to understand and navigate. You hit or you do not. You win or you do not. You live or you die. The rules are simple." Unlike social situations, which is left unsaid.


“Only for life and death situations,” points out Nathaniel with a slight frown. “Fighting for sport and entertainment can become… surprisingly complex quickly. But one could say winning within constrained rules is more satisfactory. The stakes are not as high, strategy is completely different and experiments can be conducted safely. The reward is learning, not mere survival.” And learning is living and growing. “I have to admit I do not like simple. I thrive when dealing with the most complex situations. In combat or in social situations.”


It seems Nathaniel and Laura are two opposite sides of the coin.

In regards to how they view the world and what they like best.

While Laura can understand liking complexities, mostly, she likes straight forward, honest, no double talk situations. Still, the only way she's going to grow, or even continue to unravel the complexities of social situations is with conversations such as these.

Again, Nathaniel earns that vague frown from the slim assassin as she cants her head to the side, so she can look up at the man. "Learning is good, yes." She begins, monotone, "But then there is the time to put that knowledge to the test." And it shouldn't be lost on him that she simply avoided talking about life and death situations and whether that's how she fights. She's found many don't agree with her philosophy, so for now, she doesn't voice it. "Otherwise how will you know you've mastered the teachings." She finishes with, again her voice upticking on that very last word of hers, as she offers that rhetorical 'question'.


“Did you achieve your goals? That is how,” Nathaniel offers the girl a grin. “And perhaps learn if the goals were ambitious enough. Sometimes the failure is even more instructive than the success.” He hmms, “I believe you are clever enough to enjoy complex challenges. But I cannot help notice you lack subtlety in social interactions. Is that lack of practice or lack of interest?”


Laura considers Nathaniel's words and after consideration she will offer a singular nod. "Yes, failure was always left a harsher memory than success." And while her words may still be in those flat tones of hers, beneath those tones, is something more from the young woman. Past hurts remembered? Possibly. Or more like past failures recalled and the punishments that came from them.

Thankfully, Nate moves onto something a bit more light-hearted? Well, more light-hearted then speaking of failures and the consequence of that. "Practice." She states simply, as she turns splits her attention between Nathaniel and the area surrounding them. When people approach, Laura will keep them in sight, until they pass herself and Nathaniel. "My training was centered upon combat as well as those ancillary skills an assassin might need."
Once more, Laura's head will cant slightly to the side as she considers Nathaniel. "You fight, but it was not your primary focus of training." She states, a hazard of a guess just from what she's seen of the man.


“No, I was educated to become a scientist,” admits Nathaniel, with a humorless smile. “Learning tactic and strategy came from games. I was very good; I could have become a champion, but found them pointless. There was no practical application for those skills in the land I was born. Not fighting, no risk, no crime, no conflict except the most subtle and polite political and social debating. All was too easy. It was mere survival. I had not even thrown a punch until I was sixteen.” He keeps silent a few steps. “Then I came here, and I found my true calling. Fighting came to me as natural as breathing. And I found my challenges, Laura. Even if they kill me, I will have lived.”


Again, there's consideration at the young man's words from Laura.

"You are a hero." She states, her voice still expressionless, "Is peace not what you fight for." She 'asks', as her voice once more raises upward. "To eradicate those who would destroy the world. To make certain all can live a life without fear of untimely death."

While her sentences are few, for Laura, she just went on an impassioned speech. And yes, she totally pegged him as a scientist. That way he carries himself, speaks, considers things; it immediately brought to mind a highly educated person.


“Is that what you do?” Shots back Nathaniel. No, he didn’t answer her ‘question’ because the response is ridiculously complex, and he can’t really see peace in the future of Earth for a long, long time. Peace for some, at times, maybe. “No peace for me. I crave conflict.”


"I do not." She states, her words still in those same flat tones. "But there are people I work with who do." And while she could explain more, she doesn't. The X-Men are still quite secret, after all.

As for that second statement of his, her gaze turns inward for a long silent moment, when she returns she will offer a singular nod. "I prefer fighting. It is what I was made for. I am uncertain what I would do in a world of peace."

So, while they are opposite sides of the coin in some respects, they still have a few similar traits.


“Maybe you would be bored, but I think you should try it to be sure,” offers Nathaniel. Not that she is going to have a chance in this country in this time. “And about trying, speaking strictly from a pleasure and entertainment viewpoint, do you want coffee, tea, or ice-cream? Or anything else? Let me clarify I would like to invite you because I do find social interaction with you interesting, not because I believe you need nourishment.”


Those green eyes slide side-ways again as she gives Nathaniel a side-eyed look once more. It wasn't the first part of his statement that triggered that glance rather the second portion of it. Most people do not find socializing with Laura interesting.

It's just something that's required. Though perhaps her own view is coloring that perception of hers.

Silence will reign for a few seconds as Laura mulls over what she would 'like'. "Tea." She'll state, going with something she knows; as often Betsy and Laura share tea time together. Hopefully it'll be similar enough that it won't be too incredibly new or awkward for her. And then, almost forgotten, she'll add, "Please."


Nathaniel smiles, replying a quiet "of course." Not proper tea houses in this side of Manhattan, but there are many restaurants and cafes, it does not take him long to find one by the nearby 58th street. Just a few minutes walking. He says nothing if Laura prefers to remain silent, until they are there. He holds the door for her, and then ask, "is tea something familiar for you or are you trying something new?"


Prefer silence? In some sense. Silence is easier for the slim assassin to navigate through.

As such, the rest of the walk to the cafe is definitely walked in silence. Typical with Laura, she constantly keeps her senses tuned for any trouble, but (thankfully) today is clearly not the day that trouble finds either of them. When Nathaniel holds the door for her, Laura, will nod once in thanks before she enters. Her green-eyed gaze will scan the area within and note any and all people that might strike her as odd. Again, thankfully, nothing pings as dangerous and the young woman will say, "Familiar." Comes her flat tones, "A mentor introduced me to tea as a time to collect and reflect." A small table will be zeroed in on as she speaks and with a purposeful stride will take her towards said table. It's a two-seater and strategically placed so that Laura (and Nathaniel) can both see the entrance/exits and still keep the majority of the room in sight.


Nathaniel watches Laura's attitude with interest. Studious and careful, she picked the table he would have picked instinctively. What does that say about his mind's working? He knows his subconscious mind works in peculiar (often murderous) ways and second-guessing himself has become something of a reflex in the past four years.

"Familiar is comfortable," admits Nathaniel. "Which is good. I want you to be comfortable. But if we are going to see each other I want to offer you something else. The excitement of discovery and adventure. Doing something new, not dangerous, just different, every time."


Nostrils flare as she takes in the various scents of people, tea and even the food that is made within the cafe itself. Behind that nostril flare might also be a slight sigh, as Nathaniel comments about the comforts of familiarity. One of the chairs will be pulled outward, obviously for herself, though she doesn't yet take a seat. There's drink ordering to do as well as possibly food.

It's only with his next words, about seeing each other, that the slim assassin will consider the young man before her. "We are friends then." Comes her question that's masquerading as a toneless statement. Her head will cant slightly to the side as she awaits his answer; with her gaze only moving slightly when the door opens to allow another small group of people within.


“I would like that,” confirms Nathaniel, tilting his head. Of course, some of the nuances of social interacting will have to be made obvious for her, he decides. “And perhaps more in the future. We shall see, hmm? If you find me suitable for more.” Something tells him Laura has not even considered the subject yet. “What would you like to have?” He asks, picking up the drinks list. They do have variety.


His answer and then follow-up statement causes an almost perplexed expression to filter across her features, but that emotionless mask of hers is still mostly in control, so it's nothing more than a twitch of a frown upon her features. Still, they are at the cafe and Laura isn't so feral that she doesn't know it's now her turn to sit. As well as speak.

So, sit she does and much like Nathaniel, Laura will look to the menu. It doesn't take her long to select a tea, as she says, "I will have the Ginger Peach tea." And when that's said her gaze will return to Nathaniel. "It is new to me."

See? She can learn new tricks. And finally, she'll add in a toneless voice, "What will you have."


“Chai looks good,” mutters Nathaniel, settling down himself. Oh, so many things are also new for him in 21st century New York. Laura would be surprised. But he is a bold explorer. Almost everything in New York would be considered dangerous, unsafe or unhealthy in his timeline. “You… do need to work some in your inflections when asking questions, did you know?”


His mention of Chai is blinked at, as she has nothing to offer about his selection. Sure, she could mention it's sweet (she has tasted that one thanks to Betsy), but she has yet to master the ability to offer casual thoughts in social situations.

Typically she only offers them when prompted.

It's his last statement slash question that causes her to blink again. "Yes." She states and while she could technically leave it at that, the dark-haired woman will continue with, "Emotion was not allowed at The Facility. They did not wish to humanize me in any way. I was there to fulfill missions successfully. Failure or straying beyond how they wished for me to act was met with punishment."

Translated, any time she expressed herself in human or 'normal' ways she was disciplined.


Nathaniel looks at her sharply, giving her a few moments consideration. “I see. You were conditioned… of course,” he frowns. He knows the procedures very well and has a good idea of how it would be done in this timeline. “I would like to help you break that conditioning,” he decides. “Do you wish to? To feel without fear and to express yourself without restraint?”


Many people have talked to her about how she was conditioned and how to break it and the majority of all agree that slowly introducing her to emotions, social situations and the complexities of life is the way to go. For Nathaniel to seemingly say what he just did with an almost blase … or not necessarily in that tone …. but with an ease that makes it seem so easily done, causes the slim assassin to go very still.

Her gaze is sharp as she tries to figure out what his motive might be. She'll even offer a faint flare of nostrils as she takes in his scent and while his scent doesn't show any sort of lie or subterfuge (that she can detect), Laura will still state, perhaps somewhat harshly. "How would you do such a thing."


“There are techniques,” explains the young man. “Talking about it should help,” he leans forward and takes her hand, “peaceful physical contact, but also techniques of autohypnosis, memory compartmentalization, lucid dreaming. Even some virtual reality scenarios could… ah, no. VR is unlikely to work on you due to your enhanced senses. But there are mental exercises that I learned when I was a toddler, because they were considered necessary for children to master them before starting a real education in my timeline. Those should make easier for you to recognize and reject those implanted impulses with little distress and pain.”


As soon as he reaches for her hand Laura will automatically tense with distrust. That emotion doesn't quite touch her features but when she allows him to take her hand, Nathaniel will likely feel the tension within those slim fingers.

His explanation of the techniques cause her to show just an echo of that distrust now, as he describes things that in some ways feels very familiar to her. It's almost like a watered down version of The Facility. And while intellectually she understands what he's saying, emotionally, she doesn't quite get there. Thankfully, she doesn't quite SNIKT him (even if that is her initial reaction thanks to her emotional response) yet, but instead offers a single shake of her head. "I do not know. I must think on this." And just like that her hand is pulled away. Perhaps not the nicest of rejections in the grand scheme of things, but for Laura, this is her being gentle.


Looks like he went too fast, “I apologize,” he offers. “I caused you distress, just what I wanted to avoid.” Nathaniel sighs and leans back, “no touching again without warning, hmm?” He gestures for a waitress to come take their requests. They came here for tea, after all (not really, but a change of subject seems a good plan). “How could I contact with you in the future?” He asks.


His question about touching is answered with a short, "Yes.", and unspoken with that one word is definitely ask before doing that again.

And while relief doesn't necessarily color her expression or her voice when the waitress arrives, it is felt.

"I will have Ginger Peach tea. Thank you." Comes Laura's prompt almost rote in tone order as her gaze now turns towards the waitress. When she's completed her order her gaze will turn towards Nathaniel now. While she waits for him to order and for the waitress to leave, Laura will mull over her answer to his last question. "Will you give me your address." She states-asks him, before she reveals her answer. "If you will I will send you a burner phone weekly. It will have a phone number pre-programmed into it that you may call."

It sounds perhaps a little paranoid, but this is Laura, she is quite wary.


Nathaniel makes his request to the waitress and waits until she is out of earshot. "Avengers Mansion," because good luck sending packets to Starfire's spaceship. No, the mansion is better, he goes there almost every day. Laura’s precautions sound paranoid, but she might be hiding from the Facility and maybe some government agencies. Is SHIELD looking for her? He checks. Nothing at his (pretty low) clearance level.


There's likely things in SHIELD that have 'X-23' earmarked as 'pick up if found', but that's seen at someone with higher clearance.

"I will send you a phone." She states then, when he tells her his address. A lofty address, but any surprise or shock isn't seen from Laura and honestly that emotion isn't felt. He has armor and fights with it, she expected him to be on some sort of team; much like herself.

Then it goes back to silence, at least, for X-23's part. Small talk isn't her forte and when she does fall silent her gaze will automatically circle the establishment they sit in. It's only when no apparent danger shows itself that Laura's gaze will find its way back to Nathaniel.


Nathaniel gives her a few minutes of silence, until Laura looks at him again. "Would you like to learn? I know some people practice meditation techniques to self-improvement and psychological healing. I have read a bit about them, they seem crude and… vague. But learning how to think, how to control our memories and analyze what we experience, read or hear were skills we learned as we learned to talk and do math."


Laura considers what Nathaniel just said. While it doesn't necessarily show upon her features, it does show somewhat in her eyes. It's a calculating look as she thinks on what the man said. While she doesn't necessarily sigh, she will tilt her head slightly in a manner of acceptance, or rather, acquiescence.

"Tell me." She states in that flat voice; possibly meaning tell her what he'd like to teach her.

She could possibly let him know she's good at memorization, but she doesn't, not yet. Instead she'll sit there and look at him expectantly now.


Nathaniel smiles and shakes his head, "not here, now, it is not complex but I doubt it will be emotionally easy for you." He considers a few more seconds. "Actually, think about a couple situations you have been that were interesting or confusing for you but not really unpleasant. We can talk about them next time we meet. I also need to do some research on how to teach this to an adult."


Interesting and/or confusing?

Those words of his are enough to cause her dark black eyebrows to pinch towards the midline of her face.

Confusing is easy; interesting, one has to wonder if intricate battles count? For now, that question remains unasked as she offers a singular nod of her head. "I will bring several examples of situations that qualify as interesting or confusing." Comes her flat statement and before she can say more, her head turns slightly to the left as she hears the approach of the server. The waitress will place the ginger peach tea in front of Laura and Nathaniel's drink in front of him. When it's clear nothing else is needed she'll fade into the background again. With the tea in front of her Laura will now turn her attention towards the piping hot liquid.


Nathaniel nods to Laura. Then thanks the waitress politely and waits for her to leave. "I have to wonder what is what you would consider an 'interesting' but not confusing situation. Does it always relate to your fields of experience or have you found joy in games, art or perhaps travelling?"


Again, there's the faintest pinch of Laura's black eyebrows towards the midline of her face when Nathaniel asks that question of his. Her attention swings back to the non-armored young man again and while she could point out he asked her to bring an example for a later time, she doesn't. She has found people often do this; say bring it later and then ask for an example now.

The cup of hot liquid will be reached for now, as she pulls it closer. Automatically her nostrils flare as she takes in the scent of the sweet yet bitter smelling tea. While some might see this as stalling in truth, Laura isn't. She's simply readying to take a sip of her drink.

Before she does that, however, she will say, "It involves battle." She begins, which likely isn't surprising to Nathaniel. "I do not mind games, but many people do not like to play games with me." She admits, likely because she's too bent on winning, no matter who she tends to run over. Finally, she'll pick up her cup of tea and before she takes a slightly scalding sip, she'll end with, "And I like to watch people." Then she takes that sip, yielding the conversation back to Nathaniel.


Nathaniel was not asking for specific examples, but talking in general. He smirks faintly at learning she plays games too hard. Not surprised at all, though. "Failure is not an option, hmm?" He observes. "Games are for pleasure, Laura. If you enjoy winning, play more. But if you feel compelled to win, step back and learn to lose. Ah, that was a harsh lesson for me to learn. I was too competitive… just for pride." He sips his tea. No, still too hot. "Winning is the only option only when there is an important goal ahead, after all."


"Failure is not an option." She agrees tonelessly, even as she sets her cup of tea down after that initial sip.

"I do not like to lose." Is the last she'll remark about games and whether she needs to learn how to lose; which she does, but that's a discussion for another day.

Her head will cant to the side now, as she considers her next words, but when she can't quite a better way to put it, she'll simply state. "It is your turn to talk about yourself." Which might mean she's tired of talking about herself; even though this conversation evolved around helping her. And with those blunt words of hers, she goes to mute stare which is now focused on Nathaniel.


"Not many like to lose, but it is a useful skill to have. It can save the ego of a friend in for instance, or hide the true skill of a player and lull an enemy into overconfidence," and there are games that are played to keep playing, not to win. But that is probably too weird a concept for Laura. Maybe next time. For now Nathaniel nods at her request. "Certainly. Let us talk about me. What would you like to know?"


His last question causes her eyebrows to crimp together again and even a flare of nostrils as she takes in his scent; she expect him to just talk, not to ask her what she'd like to know.

She'll sit there for a few silent seconds as she grapples with what to ask him. Finally, she'll fall back on what she typically hears people ask of new acquaintances. "Do you have siblings." Comes her first question, delivered in that very flat and toneless voice of hers.


That is not the simple question he expected. 'Siblings' in his time does not mean the same as siblings in the twenty first century because humans lived forever. "Not really," he decides, going for half-truths. "I had a half-sister, but she was much older than me and lived at the other side of the galaxy, I never met her. I had some relatives in Earth, but never met them. My parents were… are my only real family." Verbal tenses are always a problem with time travel.

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