Black Widow #2

Mar 12, 2017 by     2 Comments    Posted under: Avengers, Avengers, Black Widow

Present Day

The darkness, the blackness and stillness of the night surrounded the two of them. Their bodies moved as one, the rhythmic dance that nature intended — always intended. She gripped his shoulders, closing her eyes tight. For the past week, she’d found herself here every night. First at the club, then inevitably calling him, and then the rendezvous. As always, Natasha kept her emotions separate; she was there for the physical and he knew that — the need she felt deep in her bones, and in her soul, and the itch that wasn’t being scratched in any other way, and so she filled her time with meaningless pleasures.

He was satisfying, also as always, but the red letters on his clock, and the stillness, and the cold, it made her mind go elsewhere; back to somewhere and someone who had been better, someone who had been more passionate, more thorough, more enjoyable. When her emotions and her physical acts had been joined for once. Natasha thought back to James, no, Bucky, in the vast reaches of Russia and the far corners of her mind where she’d tried her best to push him and failed every time. He had been good; nights spent together, non stop, pushing her until she was at the edge, toes curled, fingertips gripping bed sheets until they cramped, mind racing and then going blank. Wiping damp hair from his brow, eyes boring into hers. Whispers in the dark. Leaving before morning, almost always, so no one would ever know, so Ivan, so Alexander Pierce, would never know. To the outside world they were partners, nothing more. To each other, they had been everything.

Nat let his name slip out, and she immediately knew it was a mistake. No matter how much she and Ryan played with fire and didn’t care about getting burned, saying the wrong man’s name in bed was never a good thing. He stopped what he was doing, and her eyes flew open.

“Who’s James?” He asked, rolling off, sighing. It had been a good time while it lasted.

“I’m sorry. He’s… God. A lover from a long time ago.” She got up, beginning to pull on her clothes.

“I knew we were just here to get our minds off of things, Nat, but come on,” He grumbled.

“It’s Natasha.” She corrected him, retrieving an errant boot from beneath the bed.

“Natasha.”

“I’m sorry. It just slipped out.” She stood at the foot of the bed, half dressed, looking down at him. He was cross, but not without sympathy. Natasha made it a habit to surround herself with decent people now.

“Shit happens. Come back to bed.” He shrugged.

She shook her head. Her mind was telling her that it was time to go. “I’ll let myself out. I’ll call you.”

“No, you won’t.” He watched her leave. He knew.

black-widow-mr

Randy Lander presents
Marvel Rebooted – The Black Widow
Issue #2 – Dirty Pretty Things
by Tex Marquis

PART ONE: SINNERS AND SAINTS

Siberia, 11 December, 2002

The Black Widow pulled the binoculars from her eyes and handed them to her left to the tall man standing beside her. They were both cloaked in white, she in fur, he in canvas and wool. The snowy reaches of Siberia stretched before and behind them, the ledge they were on jutting out of the mountain like a small shelf. She turned to him as he took the eyepiece and put them up looking through them. “He’s in the second vehicle. I’m sure it’s him.”

The Winter Soldier nodded, standing tall and strong against the swirling snow and peering down at the caravan that had just arrived at this outpost far in the Northern reaches of Russia. “He leaves tomorrow at dusk. I’ll be ready.” He handed the binoculars back, turning towards the cave cut into the hillside; along the wall was a case containing a long range sniper rifle, his specialty, she’d discovered, in the last three months of training and working together.

Natasha watched him move away from her, his long strides carrying him into the cave, his long wool coat sweeping behind him. She was taking first watch. She settled down, keeping a close eye on the compound and a close watch for the American that had just gone in. She knew the Soldier was probably getting a few hours of sleep inside of the cave.

The redhead  lay motionless on the mountainside for hours. The snow whipped itself into a frenzy, and soon she could not see the door to the low building or even the building itself. She heard footsteps behind her, measured and sure and not trying to be silent. It was him, she knew, and so she didn’t bother to turn around. She felt a hand on her shoulder.

“Romanova. The weather is too harsh. Come in.”

“I can’t abandon my post.” She still didn’t turn around.

“No, but you can’t die out here either.” His light touch on her jacket tightened a bit.

“Go back in, Soldier. My watch isn’t finished.”

“I’m not dragging you back frozen tomorrow.” His response was nearly a growl. “You can’t see the building. I can’t see to shoot. If he leaves during the blizzard, the mission is over. Come in.” He tightened his grip even more. “I don’t need a dead partner.”

Natasha relented, picking herself up off of the ground. She couldn’t see the way back to the cave; could barely see him. His hand drifted down, following the line of her body from shoulder down to arm, grasping her gloved hand and leading her back towards safety.

The cave was dark; a heavy cloth hung across the entrance to block out the light from the extremely dim lantern glowing in the back. He dropped her hand, shaking the snow from his coat and retreating to the blankets spread out in the reaches of the cavern. “You can rest. It’s almost time for my watch anyways.” He gestured at the pallet, picked up his thermos, and came back to the entrance. He dropped to the ground, leaning against the wall.

Natasha nodded, making her way to the back. She clicked out the light; she didn’t want to leave it on long, blizzard or no blizzard. A light visible on a hillside would give them away. She lay down and pulled the blanket up around her. It smelled like the Soldier. It wasn’t altogether unpleasant; she’d gotten used to his scent as the days and weeks had passed and they had spent so much time training, travelling, and killing. It was almost comforting to her now. Clean and masculine.

She lay there for a long time, and he sat there for a long time, and neither of them moved.

Finally, she spoke. “We’ve been working together for three months now, Soldier.”

He was silent, still, for a few more moments.

“Did you hear me?”

“I heard you.”

“You don’t talk much.”

“Neither do you,” He pointed out, his deep voice echoing through the blackness. “But I was thinking of what to say.” He paused again. “You know we’ve met before.”

Natasha froze. She wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Before being introduced in September, she had  never laid eyes on the man before. “No, Soldier, you’re mistaken.”

“I’m not.”

“Yes. You are. I’d remember you.”

“We worked together once before. Two years ago. An arms dealer in Austria.” He fell quiet.

She wasn’t sure if he was waiting for her to speak, but she was at a loss. She gulped. She didn’t know him. She had gotten to know him in the previous few months, but had no recollection of him prior. A sinking feeling placed itself solidly in the pit of Natasha’s stomach. She had her suspicions that something in her life wasn’t quite what she expected; things out of place, memories not quite meshing. “When was this exactly?”

“I’m not sure. I’ve been… wiped since then as well. But I remember you for some reason. I know it was you.”

“You must be mistaken.”

“No. I remember. You told me that you’d trained with the Bolshoi Ballet when you were young.”

“I was never with the Bolshoi Ballet.”

“You have a tattoo of a spider. Beneath your left breast.”

“How do you know about that?” She had been laying with her eyes closed, but at the mention of the tattoo they flew open, greeted only with darkness. Natasha had gotten that tattoo a little over two years ago, on her birthday, by herself in Paris. The timing was right. What exactly had happened while on this supposed mission to take out an arms dealer in Austria that the Soldier had seen her hidden ink?

“You got hit with a blade. I stitched you up. You have a scar right below it,” He stated, seeming to anticipate what was going through her mind and alleviating the curiosity.

She did have a scar there, but she hazily remembered getting it training with Yelena. Natasha shook her head. This didn’t make sense to her. She knew the Bolshoi Ballet was a cover for some of the agents, and the mind games were too, but not Natasha; never Natasha. But how certain could she be that Ivan had never dealt that hand to her, really?

“I’ll… have to look into that,” she said.

“I thought it would jog your memory. I’m sorry.” He sounded almost sincere, almost sad, over there on his side of the freezing cold cave.

“It’s not your problem,” Nat replied briskly. “Is your weapon ready?” She changed the subject. She wouldn’t think about all of this now, but she’d think about it later.

“Yes.” Another few minutes of silence.

“How long have you worked with Hydra, Soldier?” Natasha finally let curiosity get the better of her. She was well aware that she herself lived a solitary life, but from what she could piece together of his life, it was beyond terrible. She didn’t know how long he’d worked for them, but they were even more ruthless with him than the Black Widow Program could ever hope to be, even if they had erased some things from her recollection. She was sure they had good reason if they’d done so. She couldn’t believe that her whole world would do something like that to serve no purpose.

“I don’t know. A while,” he replied. He moved slightly, and she felt the cold air hit her. He must have moved the fabric over the door a bit to check the night sky. The cold subsided. “I don’t remember much. How long have you been with the Black Widow Program?”

“Since I was five.” Natasha smiled to herself. She’d never trained with any ballet.

“When was the first time you ever killed anyone?” He inquired. She heard him pick up something across the cave and heard him setting it back down. His rifle, she assumed. A small light came on, and she could see him checking all of the settings.

“I was nine. She was eleven.”

“That seems a little young.”

“Not for a Black Widow.” Natasha rolled over, watching his blurred outline. He was interesting. Like his outline in the dark, he was vague. A shadow she couldn’t catch, a fleeting image she couldn’t quite see. “How old were you?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

“How can you not know?”

“Other than you and Austria, I don’t remember anything before our meeting three months ago.”

“How is that possible?” She asked. That made no sense. She knew they could make a person forget a few things, or reprogram memories. But was she really supposed to believe that this man remembered nothing? He’d been in cryo, and that was an odd enough concept in and of itself, but it seemed to fit; Hydra had advanced technology, and the tales of the Winter Soldier reached far back into the Cold War, beginning barely after World War 2. Either the figurehead was comprised of different people, each one taking up the mantle upon the death of the last, or he had been frozen and kept young the entire time. But memory wipes? Remembering nothing? She’d never counted on that. In all of her years of espionage, of hunting, of living in the darkness of society, the thought of erasing a person so completely still sent chills through her. Natasha wasn’t a whole person, not by a long shot, but she knew who she was at least. Or believed that she did.

“I don’t know,” he said the same thing again. He seemed oddly unconcerned with it. He sat there, checking out his gun, adjusting things here and there.

“How come I have to call you Soldier? Don’t you have a normal code name? An alias? Like a real name?”

“No.”

“They call you Soldier?”

“If they call me anything.”

Her heart broke a little hearing that. And that was strange for Natasha. Her heart had been hardened, a little more each day, since she was five years old and her training had begun. She had very little capacity for empathy or sympathy but was feeling it now for this man sitting before her with no concept of how awful it was that he didn’t have a name. “That’s not right. I was calling you Soldier because I thought it was your call sign.”

He shrugged. “You can call me Soldier.”

Natasha shook her head. “You need a name.”

That got his attention, and he turned. She couldn’t make out the expression on his face; all that she could see was a silhouette, but his entire demeanor changed. “You want to give me a name?”

“What do you want to be called?”

“Soldier?”

No.”

“I can’t think of anything,”he finally said, a little defeated. “Will you come up with one?”

“I.. I guess so.” Natasha paused, thinking. This was a strange situation to be sure, but she couldn’t leave this man with no proper name. She thought for a while. Nothing seemed to fit. He was a tall, dark, handsome, tough specter of a man, who’d come out of the darkness and would eventually go back into it. He shot to kill and he took no prisoners, and he moved with a purpose and a grace that was otherworldly. The Winter Soldier fit the man much better than it could ever fit the legend, but that wasn’t a name. That wasn’t something a person could call someone over a cup of tea, or sitting around a campfire. “James,” she finally stated. “What do you think of James?”

He waited a beat before speaking. “I like it. James.” He tested it out a few times. “You can never call me that in front of anyone.”

“I know. It’s just between us. James.” The Black Widow smiled into the cold night air.

“It’s just between us, Romanova.”

* * *

“Do you have a clear shot?”

The big, dark-haired man adjusted his sight, letting out a low grunt. “Yes.”

She waited. It was nearly sunset the next day. The American, and his convoy, were preparing to leave. Natasha watched through binoculars as two cars pulled away. She felt the Soldier, James now, tense from his position prostrate in the snow on the mountain ledge. She counted silently, and on three, heard the gun discharge and saw the man near the building fall a moment later.

“Target eliminated,” he informed her, even though she’d seen it and knew already. It was a formality, the Soldier was big on formalities, crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s.

The few guards snapped to attention, some rushing to the dead man’s side to check for a pulse that had since vacated, others immediately scanning for a gunman. James grabbed the rifle and crawled through the snow back to Natasha, and the two of them took off down the back side of the mountain, bullets plummeting into the snow behind them. The duo reached the zipline down to the the ground, and the Soldier stepped aside. Firm hands spanned her waist and lifted her up to reach it before she even had time to jump as planned. Wind whipped the hood of her fur coat down as she sped along towards the ground. She couldn’t hear him but she knew he was close behind — could feel his presence like she always could feel him when he was around.

Natasha dropped and rolled at the bottom, springing easily to nimble feet. Fedorov was waiting with the snowmobile.

“Best be going. They aren’t thrilled we shot their man,” Natasha informed him, climbing onto the back. The Soldier settled down next to her, the big coats keeping her from feeling any of his body heat. Body heat, or any kind of heat for that matter, would have been nice right then. It was freezing; the cave had been a doable temperature, but it was beyond uninhabitable outside. She pulled the hood up and her scarf to cover her face from the subzero temperatures, sliding a glance sideways. He too was in ski goggles, a heavy scarf, his hood covering his hair. Even if the two of them had been spotted, no one could identify either  one. He was silent, as he usually was.

“Roger that, Romanova.” Fedorov stepped on the gas, and the three of them sped out of the narrow gulf between mountains, and towards the pick up zone.

PART TWO: DIRTY PRETTY THINGS

Present Day

Natasha sped home in her little black sports car, back to the tower. Her interlude with Ryan; saying the Soldier’s name in bed by mistake. She knew why she’d done it. It was the reason she had even called Ryan in the first place.

After she had been witness to Cap and Bucky talking in the kitchen a week ago — found out that Bucky’s dreams were filled with a forgotten mystery girl who she was certain was actually her, Nat had taken off to her safe haven, her hiding spot. She wasn’t ready or able to deal with that reality right now, and so she wasn’t going to. She was so fully committed to not handling it at the moment, she had been visiting her secret getaway nearly every night. An underground club in the city.

It made her think of home. It was dark and gritty, strobe lights flashing and music thumping in the silvery blackness, and it had a neon sign out front, visible from the street. It had reminded her of a club she had once been assigned to stake out for a few nights 13 years ago, Bucky by her side, looking for a member of the Russian mafia. The sign was a red spider.

She had texted Ryan that night; the pilot had been her occasional hookup for a while now. Neither one of them was looking for anything more than what they were currently getting, and so the arrangement worked for Nat, and currently she needed Bucky out of her head.

But tonight, she had been dancing and having a good time, when out of the corner of her eye, amid the shadows and strobe lights and men in tight tee shirts and women in slinky dresses, she had seen a familiar form. Dark hair, a leather jacket, five o’clock shadow, and a single black glove on his left hand.

Bucky was at my club.

He had been at the bar, a green bottle of beer in his hand, chatting up a blonde woman in a short red dress. She had been smiling and touching his arm, and he was laughing, setting his hand on her waist.

As soon as Natasha saw him, she dropped back, a cold feeling surrounding her; why would she feel like that? It had been how many years? He didn’t even remember you. She shook your head, frowning to herself. She turned her back. Why was he even here? How had he ended up at the same club, of all of the places he could go in the city of New York?

She departed across the room, against the wall at the far side, and texted Ryan. He replied, saying he would meet at his place. Natasha turned to make her way to the exit and found herself face to face with Bucky.

“Nat.” He’d looked down at her, smiling, as though glad to see her — glad to find a familiar face in a sea of strangers, tucking a strand of hair behind his ear. “I thought that was you.”

Natasha forced a grin onto her face, tugging the hem of her tiny black dress down a little bit. “What are you doing here?” she asked.

“I… I’m not sure.” He looked around. “I saw the sign from the road the other night, and… I think it reminds me of something that, well, that I can’t remember. Like it should be familiar, but I just can’t remember why.” He shrugged, like such a problem was entirely normal, like he was used to such things by now and it was just a small nuisance in the grand scheme of things. “I came to check it out.” He peered down at her. “Is something wrong?”

Nat let out a low sigh. “No one knows I come here, Bucky. This is my place.”

He looked confused. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I… I won’t come back?”

She shrugged. Her mind was racing, her heart pounding. She had come here because no one knew to even look for her here, and now the one thing she had been hoping to escape, the past she couldn’t seem to outrun, had caught up with her. “Doesn’t matter, I guess.” She tried to be as cold as possible. “Where’s your blond?”

“Who, Kim?” He looked around. “I told her I had to go find a friend of mine. She’s waiting for me at the bar.”

“You probably shouldn’t leave her waiting for too long.” She knew she was being rude, or not rude exactly, but distant.

 A glazed look passed over his handsome features. “I guess not. Are you in a hurry to go somewhere or something? Can I buy you a drink? I really like your dress, by the way. It looks really nice on you.”

She wanted to say yes to the drink, and thank him for the compliment, she really did, or part of her did. Part of her remembered what it had been like to be with this man, so totally and completely; but part of her remembered what it had been like to lose him so totally and completely, and then to be shot by him. His cold eyes looking at her as he fired a round into her body, through her, to kill a scientist in Odessa. His un-recognizing gaze on the overpass, the sound of his boots, measured steps stalking their prey before she felt the bullet pass through her shoulder in DC.

Hurt ripped through her chest just thinking about it. She took a deep breath. She needed to solidify that she wasn’t going to let this happen. She wasn’t going down that road, wasn’t opening herself up like that. He doesn’t even remember you.

Natasha put on a cold front. “No, thank you, I’m on my way out. I have a date.”

His expression fell slightly, though she expected he didn’t even know why he was disappointed at all. “All right, then.”

“Have fun with Kim.” It came out more snarky than she anticipated, but it was probably better this way.

“I’m sure I will,” he replied, every bit as testily as she was being to him.

She had left, and now, hours later, she was pulling up to the tower, tired yet knowing that she would be unable to sleep. She ascended the elevator, bypassed her apartment, and went instead to the common room. She didn’t have a television in her quarters; had never wanted one really. But she needed to watch some mindless television tonight.

She tossed her purse on the table by the door, flipped on a light, and turned on the TV. She went to the kitchen down the hall for a mug of tea; when she returned, Bucky sat on one end of the sofa, staring blankly at the television set. His dress shirt was slightly wrinkled and unbuttoned at the collar; rolled up to his elbows, no longer trying to mask his metal appendage. He turned to her as she entered.

“Bucky,” she nodded at him. She hadn’t expected to see him again tonight. She hadn’t expected him to even be back at the tower this evening, really; he’d appeared to be getting on pretty well with the blond in the red dress at the bar.

“Nat.” He raised his hand in a small wave. “I didn’t expect you to be home tonight.”

She shrugged. “Date was a bust,” she said simply. Anything else was none of his business, none of anyone’s business, and not anything she would want to share with anyone, ever. Maybe Clint would hear about it someday. Maybe. She usually eventually told him her stories of being a bonehead. But maybe not this one; not when it had to do with Bucky. “I didn’t think you’d be back. You didn’t go home with Kim?”

He appeared to blush a little, but the light was so dim, she couldn’t be sure. “I did,” he replied. Her heart immediately sank for some reason. She steeled herself against any emotion whatsoever. This was ridiculous and she needed to stop; it had been 11 years since James had been taken from her and replaced with a man who had tried to murder her; 11 years in which he had probably known plenty of women, and she had definitely known plenty of men. Being jealous of one blond that he’d just met tonight was just foolish and wouldn’t do Natasha any good.

“It didn’t go well?” Nat asked.

“It went alright.” He shrugged. “Pretty well, I guess. But I wanted to come home. I don’t think I’m ready for… meeting new people like that, yet.”

He seemed hesitant to talk to her about it at first. She could understand why. They weren’t the best of friends. For all he knew, he’d shot her on the overpass a year ago, and just actually met Natasha Romanov two months ago when Steve had dragged him back to the tower. He didn’t know that at one time she had known all of his secrets; or at least, she had known everything about him that he himself had known.

 He was silent a few seconds, then continued, “I don’t remember much of the last few decades, so conversation is hard, you know? Once we stopped talking, it went fine. It went really well, I guess you could say. But once that was over, and she fell asleep, I just really wanted to come home.” He shrugged. “I was going to ask for her number, I’d planned to, but after it all, I just didn’t feel comfortable, so I never did. What’s the point in having a girl around if you can’t really talk to her, right?”
He looked at Natasha with imploring eyes, the same eyes that had put their trust in the Black Widow so many times before, now long forgotten. Nat nodded in understanding.
He sighed, “What do you do? I mean, I know you remember everywhere you’ve been, but there’s a lot of things you can’t talk about. How’d your date go? What do you talk about?”

“My date was a pilot who used to work for Shield. He knows what I do. He knows not to ask questions,” Natasha replied, staring levelly at Bucky. She was honestly still so surprised he was considering Avenger Tower home. In all the time she’d known him, he had been very much a man without a home. They both had been that way, but he even moreso than the Widow.

“That’s… convenient.” He looked at the floor, then back up at her face. “Is he a nice guy? Is it serious?”

“Yeah, he’s a nice guy.” she gave him a small smile, her lips upturning at one end coyly. “But nothing’s ever serious when it comes to me.” She ran a hand through her red curls.

“Do you get lonely ever?”

“No,” she lied. Kind of. She really never noticed she was lonely, not until he had shown up and she started really thinking about all of the things that had been taken from her. Time heals all wounds, is how the saying went. Natasha was discovering this wasn’t entirely true. Time covers things up, but it doesn’t fix them. Now she was standing in the common room of the home she shared with her amnesiac former lover, who was also her former attempted murderer, talking about the romantic interludes they had just had with other people. If she wasn’t so well trained in controlling her emotions, it would be really hard to breathe right now.

“Do you mind if I watch TV with you?”

Nat shook your head. The need to be distant, to keep him at arm’s length, had dissipated in the early hours of the morning. Now, they were just two people, two insomniacs, looking for a common goal. Not to hurt each other, or to love each other; just to relax enough to maybe find some peace tonight. Both been unable to find it with their previous romantic partners; the quiet and hollowness of the witching hour would be spent with one another. “You can stay. You can’t sleep?” She knew the answer already. He had never been able to sleep.

“Not usually.”

“Don’t you have a TV in your room?”

“Yeah. It’s not really working though. I don’t feel like trying to fix it right now. Plus, I really don’t know how.” He clicked the remote. “What do you want to watch?”

“I don’t care.” Nat settled down on the opposite side of the couch. He finally picked an old episode of Star Trek Voyager, and they watched in a comfortable silence for a long time. When the second episode ended, she glanced over at him; he was sound asleep, laying sprawled out on the extended lounge chair part of the sofa. She was feeling sleepy and cold in her tiny dress. She stood, covered him with a blanket, and left. “Goodnight, James,” she whispered back into the room, giving one last look at his sleeping form, clicking off the light, and retreating down the hall. He’d always been able to sleep when he was with me.

Kaliningrad, 23 December, 2002

The Soldier waited for her on the platform of the train station. He wore black slacks and a black peacoat, a suitcase resting by his feet. His hands were shoved deep into his pockets; a gray scarf wrapped around his neck. She tightened her gray wool coat around herself, checked to make sure her blonde wig was on just so, and stepped out of the ladies room, carrying a suitcase as well. She waved at him, rushing towards him, feigning excitement. He smiled at her, seeing her across the way.

“Dmitri!” she called the fake name, rushing up to him. She dropped the suitcase on the ground beside him, wrapping her arms around his neck; he pulled her close, and she pressed her lips to his. She pulled away, her lips buzzing in a way she hadn’t expected. She had kissed plenty of people on covert missions, to sell a cover or to get information, or in this case, to make people not look at them twice. Public displays of affection make people uncomfortable. None had ever been anything more than the feeling she would get kissing herself in a mirror; but kissing the Soldier was different. She shoved it out of her mind.

“I wasn’t sure you’d make it in time,” he said to her, low enough to not be conspicuous, but loud enough to be audible should anyone be listening. Natasha needed to sound like any other couple about to take a train ride.

“Of course I made it. Happy anniversary.” She smiled up at him. He stooped, picked up both suitcases, and they made their way to the locomotive that had just pulled into the station. Their mark was on this train, or would be at the next city; in the cabin next to the one the two spies would be in. The man, another American, a spy named Mark Harvelle, was slated to take the train from Moscow to Vladivostok, clear across Russia. He was planning on it, but he wouldn’t make it that far. The Black Widow and the Soldier, who Nat was now used to calling James in private, were going to make the man disappear before he could get to Vladivostok and make his way to it’s sister city in the USA, San Diego. They weren’t privy to whatever information Mark Harvelle had stumbled upon, or what exactly he had done to have a target painted on his back, but she and the Soldier were going to be the ones to finish the job.

Natasha followed James onto the train, a hostess directing them to the appropriate car and to their sleeping quarters. His broad back and shoulders in the black peacoat nearly filled the narrow corridors; he was careful and deliberate not to hit the suitcases on anything. They had both gotten through security easily, as neither of them had guns. Nat had a garrotting wire concealed in the handle of her purse and a carbon fiber knife strapped to her leg. She knew he had the same kinds of weapons somewhere on his body as well, underneath the layers of clothes. Once at the door to their room, he stood to the side letting her unlock it with the keycard, letting the two of them in. He set the suitcases by the door, stepping in and taking off his jacket and sitting on the edge of the low bed. “It takes 22 hours to get to Moscow. Do you want to bug his room now, or wait?”

“I think we should do it during dinner hour.” Natasha doffed her wool coat as well, examining the ceiling. “I think that panel moves. Can you reach it, James?”

He stood and nodded, seeming to perk up a bit upon hearing his new name. He always seemed happier to be called this, rather than Soldier, though she made sure that no one, save the two of them, knew about it. It would not do for Ivan, or Alexander Pierce, or any of their handlers to know the two of them had anything resembling friendship. That would be frowned upon, and a mind wipe wasn’t something she wanted. James approached the corner, reaching up and moving the ceiling tile easily over to the side. Nat glanced up into the dark space he had revealed.

“Thank you,” she nodded. “During dinner, when everyone has cleared out so nobody hears anything. I’ll climb up there and put the bug somewhere he won’t find it, and we’ll sneak in and replace his light bulb with the fake one,” she stated, referring to the listening device disguised as a regular bulb that she had brought. A spy would know how to spot a regular bug.

James nodded once in affirmation, replaced the panel, and sat back down to wait, his hair falling in his face. He brushed it aside, staring out the window. “Do you want a book, James?” she asked, hauling her suitcase to the bed and opening it. She was accustomed to waiting as well, in far worse places than a warm train car, but it was going to be hours; She had brought things to do. Discipline was a great thing to have, however, it wasn’t necessary all of the time.

The Soldier’s eyes travelled to the contents of her case. There wasn’t much. A change of clothes and a few old paperback novels. All things she wouldn’t be sad to ditch at the end of the mission. He glanced over the silky stockings and underwear folded neatly beside the books, diverting his eyes politely and instead studying the titles. “We’re allowed to read on the mission?” He questioned, looking back to her.

Nat shrugged. “I don’t see why not. We have nearly a day to kill before he even gets on the train.”

“I’m not sure. Alexander is pretty strict about missions.”

“Alexander had them partner us so that you could become a spy as well as an assassin. Alexander is going to have to get used to you exercising your mind.” Natasha pulled out a book and handed it to him. He hesitated. “Listen, James. I’m not your superior. I’m your partner. I’m your colleague. You can do whatever you want. You can sit here silently and stare out the window for 22 hours, or you can entertain yourself.” She shrugged. He took the book.

* * *

Natasha lay in bed that night staring up at the ceiling panel in the corner. During the dinner hour, she crawled up into the small space above the rooms and planted the bug while James had picked the lock into the room next door and replaced the bulb with the surveillance device; then the two ordinary passengers had gone to the dining car and pretended to be a couple enjoying an anniversary dinner, she in her blond wig and he in his slacks and dress shoes. Now they were back in their quarters getting some sleep before Mark Harvelle boarded at 9am the next morning. They could both sleep tonight; since the mark wasn’t on the train, neither of them needed to take turns keeping watch. Since they were posing as a couple, they were sharing a sleeping car and a bed.

Natasha was keenly aware of the muscular form of the Soldier beside her. Heat radiated off of him, so much so that it was nearly getting too warm under the covers. She was at least a foot away from him; he was facing the wall on his side of the bed, and she was staring at the ceiling on hers. He seemed to be sound asleep, which was odd for him. She knew he had trouble sleeping, but this evening, his breathing had gotten slow and rhythmic almost as soon as they had both climbed into bed.

She had been lying there staring at the ceiling for quite a while when beside you, his breathing got faster. His fingers began gripping at the bedsheets, and he started making noises under his breath. At first, she thought he was having a nightmare, but then she realized the noises he was making weren’t nightmare noises. Nat peered over at him, slightly embarrassed. She was pretty sure he was dreaming about sex right now, and she wasn’t entirely sure what to do about it.

She didn’t have to make a decision, though. He let out a low moan, his hands reaching up to grasp his pillow, and then he jolted awake. He sat up, his eyes travelling over to Natasha.

“Shit,” he let out a low growl.

“Bad dream?” she asked, feigning like she’d just been asleep.

“Uh… Not exactly.” He fell back onto the pillow.

She guessed that he wasn’t buying her “I just woke up” routine, and so she quit pretending. “Don’t worry about it. We all have those dreams.”

“Yeah, okay,” he sighed.

“Can I ask you a question, though?”

“Sure, I guess,” he said.

“You’ve had your memory wiped completely. You even remember that? How long have you been with Hydra? Are you sure you’ve ever done that?”

“My dreams are pretty vivid. I know what I’m doing in them,” he replied drily.

“But you don’t remember?”

“I. Know. What. I’m. Doing.” He said the words slowly and deliberately, much like he did everything else, and so she let it drop, and an awkward silence enveloped the room.

“I got a look at some of my files,” Nat finally said into the night.

“What did they say?” James’ voice was almost a whisper back to her.

“You were right,” she replied. “I didn’t ask Ivan; I couldn’t get you in trouble.”

She could feel him roll over beside her, feel his upper arm brush hers and come to rest against it. He was very close now, but it seemed that both were comfortable, because he didn’t move, and she didn’t either. “No. We’ve both had our memories erased. Probably for a reason.”

“I was in Austria in December of 2000. It just says that I took out an arms dealer, and was assisted by an ‘asset from Hydra’. I’m assuming you were that asset.” She continued, “It also says that the false memories were replaced after that.”

“What did they replace them with?”

“I don’t know,” Nat sighed. “Sometimes I still dream about the ballet. I always wondered why I did. I guess it’s because I used to think I trained there.” She frowned, her thoughts bitter. She was fairly sure that the childhood she remembered now was the real one, but she wasn’t positive.

“I’m sorry that happened to you, Natasha.” More sincerity from the killing machine.

“It’s fine, Soldier. James.” She smiled over at him, even though he couldn’t see itin the dark. “I remember a lot more than you do. Do you know any more about your life than you did last time we worked together?”

She felt him shake his head beside her. “No. All I can remember is what’s happened since September, really. And what I dream about, maybe it’s real. Maybe it’s not.”

“What do you dream about?” she asked him. Other than sex, which was pretty obvious.

“All kinds of things. Mostly bad things. Mostly killing. But sometimes there’s a man, I think he’s my friend. Sometimes he’s small and sometimes he’s bigger and strong. I don’t know if he’s real. It seems like it all happened a long time ago. Nobody dresses like that anymore.”

She wondered where Hydra had found this man, whom he had been. Did he have a family somewhere? Had he ever? If he was as old as the stories said he was, his family was long gone. He was from another time completely. The likelihood of whoever he saw in his dreams still being alive wasn’t good.

“Natasha?” He spoke, pulling the blanket up under his chin, against the cold night air.

“James.”

“I’ve been thinking. If you have a name that only you call me; I should have a name that only I can call you.”

She thought about this for a few moments. She had been on a few missions and spent a bit more time training with him since he had become James to her instead of the Soldier. She was beginning to feel a kinship with this man, for better or for worse, she couldn’t tell yet. She finally answered, “All right. That only seems fair. What do you want to call me?”

“Malenkii Pouchok. I thought about it. And… you’re stealthy and you’re quick and you’re dangerous.” He fell silent.

“Like a… pet name?” she queried, trying to understand. “But I’m already the Black Widow.”

“More like a nickname.” He shrugged. “It’s how I see you. It’s what I call you in my head.” He spoke it like it were everything else in his life; to the point and specific, but not without emotion. There was a flicker of something there, she was sure.

She actually kind of liked it. She liked that this person thought of her not as Natasha the spy, or as Black Widow the killer, but as the Little Spider, Malenkii Pouchok, something endearing. She was possibly the only friend he had, and that’s what he called her in his head. She turned towards him on the small bed in the train cabin, snaking her hand under the blankets and finding his, taking it in her own. ” Malenkii Poucok. I like it.”

“You do?”

“Yes. I do. James.”

* * *

“You ready?” James asked, slipping back into the room two days later. Natasha was strapping a carbon fiber knife to her thigh with a velcro strap, her skirt pulled up to near indecent levels, her leg propped up on the edge of the bed. She saw his eyes flicker up her leg for a millisecond before settling on her face.

She smoothed out the velcro and straightened up handing James the garrote. “I’m ready.” The room had been wiped down, even though she knew neither of their fingerprints were in any database in the world, and their suitcases had been thrown out the window a few minutes earlier.

“In and out. The car is quiet. The guard just left the northern exit; he’ll be back down in twelve minutes. The southern door is unlocked.” He rattled off the information. Cool and collected and on a mission. James was the Soldier right now.

“Let’s go.” the Black Widow slipped out the door, him hot on her heels, and she used her modified keycard on the room next door. The light on the door turned green, and the lock clicked open. They exchanged glances, and quietly opened it.

It was dark in the room; Mark Harvelle was sleeping, and the Widow and Soldier were on him in a second flat, before he had a chance to awaken, to yell, to do anything. James flipped him over, and Nat smothered him, and it was all over in less than two minutes. Hydra and the KGB needed this man gone, and the two of them were commissioned to do it, no questions asked, though Natasha was secretly wondering why on earth Alexander Pierce, an American high ranking official with Hydra, would want to assassinate members of his own government. She had decided early on that she didn’t like Pierce, and everything she and James were made to do only solidified this.

James stood, slinging the body of Mark Harvelle over his shoulder easily. Natasha tossed the room; she pocketed a thumb drive, slung a laptop case over her shoulder, and looked out the door. The coast was clear. She checked her watch. They still had six minutes before the guard came back. She motioned to James, and they hightailed it down the hallway, out the southern exit, and up the ladder to the top of the train. It had all been planned, very carefully, in advance. The train would be slowing down to cross a river at 11:02 this evening, and that’s when the two spies would jump, along with the operative’s body, into the water below. It was 11:00 now, and the train was slowing down a great deal, but the winds on top of the train cars were still hitting the two of them with a force that was brutal. Nat steeled herself against it, and dropped low, waiting for the right moment.

The river came into view. As the train began to cross, James tossed the body off the side. He looked over at her. Nat wasn’t sure what the look on his face was, but it wasn’t his usual calm, or his usual bravery. She thought it was fear. She had never known this man to be afraid or even slightly bothered by anything. Until now. He was peering off the side of the locomotive, and in the moonlight she could see the color drain from his face.

“James, what’s wrong? We need to jump!”

“I don’t know if I can.” He looked down, and he looked terrified. The bridge had a slight incline to it, and the nothingness around them made feel like they were on a jet rising in a slow take off.  He looked back up at her with big eyes. The train was going slower, but what the two were about to do was still very dangerous.

“I’m not thrilled about it either, but I’m even less thrilled to be caught on top of a train with a murdered agent. We need to go.” She gripped his arm.

“I think I’ve done this before. Something like this.”

“Jumped from a train?” Natasha was confused. Why was this freezing him? The train was beginning to accelerate.

“I don’t know. Something like this,” he shouted over the wind. “and I think it ended badly.” He shook his head as though to clear it. “I feel like this is how I died.”

“You aren’t dead. You’re on top of a train with me.” She pulled on his arm now. “James, we need to do this. Do you trust me?”

“What?”

“Do you trust me?” Her hair was whipping around her face, and so was his.

He nodded.

“I’m scared too. But we’ll be fine.” She held out her hand. He took it.

I trust you.”

“Then let’s go.” James and Natasha stepped to the edge. The train was in the middle of the river now. It was going to be quite a swim to either side. She pulled him with her, but before they could jump, he stopped her. She turned to face him; he had pulled her gently towards him, his hand settling on her cheek, cupping her face. He pressed his lips to hers; there was that fire again, that buzzing, that feeling of being alive. On top of the train, with the Soldier, about to jump. He pulled away as quickly as he’d kissed her. “What was that for?”+

“For luck.” He took a deep breath, and they leaped from the train and into the dark water below.

Next time in Marvel Rebooted: the Back Widow: Like Satellites

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2 Comments + Add Comment

  • OH MY GOD! Never stop writing this series!!! <3 <3 <3

  • Thank you for reading.
    You can expect #3 soon!