Black Widow #3

Jan 14, 2018 by     Comments Off on Black Widow #3    Posted under: Avengers, Black Widow

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Randy Lander presents
Marvel Rebooted – The Black Widow
Issue #3 – Like Satellites
by Tex Marquis

PART ONE: SYNCHRONICITY

Present

“Jesus, Nat. I think you outran me by about five laps this morning. You need to chill.” Clint shook his head, regarding Natasha wearily. It was early morning, the day after her ruined date with Ryan, the day after Bucky had found her at the club, the day after a tired evening together watching television to stave off the demons that always came for both of she and James in the night. She’d been woken up by a rapping on her door at 5am sharp; it had been Clint. She always went running at 5am on Mondays, though the more she thought about it, the more she wondered why and exactly whose idea it had originally been all those years ago…

Oh, right, mine, Nat sighed internally.

As it was, she was full of energy. Mostly, she was full of anxiety, and that always flowed out of her via training and exercise. Clint knew it; he’d figured it out a long time ago and now she could never really hide it from him. He may not usually know the reason for her discomfort, but he always knew that it was lurking somewhere. Nat had a feeling this time he did know why, to some extent; as the only person who also knew about the Widow’s history with Bucky, she figured he must have put two and two together, but he was subtle enough to not bring it up.

Natasha bounced up on her toes, rubbing her hands together to warm them up in the early spring morning, and leaned against the counter while her friend poured two mugs of coffee. He added cream and sugar to his; Nat’s, he passed to her black. “Like your soul,” he joked, raising his eyebrow at her. She rolled her eyes and took a sip.

“Seriously, what is with you this morning?” He stirred his coffee. “I usually keep pace pretty well, but you were pulling some serious Steve ‘On Your Left’ Rogers bullshit on me today. How much sleep did you get?”

“Not much.” She winked at him, taking another drink of her beverage. It was best to throw him off; she really didn’t want to talk about it.

“Ryan again?”

Nat nodded.

“How’s that going?” His interest was piqued, and a hopeful look splashed across his face.

“It’s… not,” she sighed. “You know how I am, Barton. Out of sight, out of mind.”

“Yeah, well, I knew it wasn’t serious but… did something happen?” Clint frowned at her. He seemed to think Ryan the pilot would tame her wild heart or something along those lines. He always seemed genuinely upset that there was no real relationship to speak of and that Nat preferred it that way. Try as he might, he never could understand her complete lack of desire for a partner. Or rather, her lack of desire for a partner since Bucky. Clint knew the basics, but even he didn’t know the black spot that the Winter Soldier had left on her heart. Sometimes she wondered if Clint had figured out she even had a heart.

“Yeah, something did, but it’s no big deal. It’s just done.” Natasha smiled. “Let’s take our coffee to the TV room. It’s freezing in this kitchen.” She turned on her heel, the conversation stalled and hopefully broken, and retreated across the hall. The light was still off in the common room, and she clicked it on. A familiar form still lay on the couch, his breathing quiet and hypnotic, in and out, in and out. Bucky.

“Does he usually sleep in here? I mean, Stark assigned him a room, right?” Clint gave the slumbering mass of a man a strange look.

Nat faced Clint, shaking her head slightly. “He fell asleep in here last night.”

“And you know this how?” Clint looked at her inquisitively.

He’s sure asking a lot of questions this morning, she frowned before replying, “Neither of us could sleep. We watched TV and then he was out like a light, and I went to bed.”

Clint took that in for a moment; Natasha could see all of his questions and concerns floating in his head and him ultimately decide against asking any of the important ones. “What do two former Russian agents watch when they can’t sleep?” He finally went with the lighthearted approach. Thank God for Clint.

“Star Trek,” she replied levelly. “Voyager.” She began making her way to the sofa. It was almost time for training in the gymnasium. Best for Bucky to not sleep through it.

“Oh. Because of course. Star Trek Voyager,” Clint said facetiously behind her.

Natasha approached the reclined portion of the sofa, ignoring her friend’s quips, and focused on the man sleeping. He was stretched out, one arm above his head, the other holding tight to the blanket she’d placed over him the night before. Hair splayed across his forehead and into his eyes. The other Avengers (except Thor) always gave him good-natured crap about getting a haircut, but Nat preferred it long and disheveled. He looked like her long lost James that way; it was how she remembered him, and she wasn’t ready for that image to change.

“Bucky?” She was hesitant to touch him; just as it was with her, it was dangerous to make contact with him while he was asleep or otherwise not expecting it. More so with him, she assumed. People in her line of work were always on guard; people in his were kept in the dark and constantly ready to fight for their lives. She didn’t think that would be trained out of him any time soon; seventy years was a long time to stay on the edge and not fall over it.

He stirred slightly, turning his face towards her soft voice and grumbling to himself. She reached down; she couldn’t help herself. Her fingers brushed against his shoulder, moving down to his elbow. “Hey Soldier, we have training soon. Wake up.” The words came out entirely more familiar than she anticipated, and much more gently. It crossed her mind that Clint was still watching, but she paid it no mind.

Upon hearing her call him Soldier, Bucky’s eyes opened. He smiled, his hand traveling lazily to find hers, his pupils unfocused. He looked up at Nat. “мой паучок,” he said, his voice hazy. “Good morning.”

She drew in a sharp breath, her hand freezing as his fingers danced over it. Did he remember? What was happening? Her breath caught in her throat, and her chest felt like it were going to explode.

But his eyes then focused on Nat’s face, and he snapped awake. He sat up, running a hand through his hair and looking around awkwardly. “Oh, morning Romanov.” He swung his legs off the sofa as she backed away a step. He shook his head as though to clear it. “Sorry. I must have been dreaming.” He shrugged. “Things are still a little mixed up, you know?”

She nodded, passing a wan smile on her own lips. “Of course. I just didn’t want to startle you; but training starts in about half an hour.”

“Right. Thanks.” He got up, stretching. “I’m surprised I slept.” He seemed back to normal, no sign of anything out of the ordinary.

This new Bucky, the one who had come to the Avengers, spoke a lot more than the Soldier ever had. She wasn’t sure what to think of it, really, but she figured it was a step in the right direction for him.

“Oh, hey Barton.” He tilted his head at Clint, and made his way out of the room. “I’ll see you guys in the gym.”

Part of Natasha was relieved, absolutely relieved, that he hadn’t realized what he’d said. He’d called her by her nickname, and he was the only one who had ever called her that, the only one who had ever known about it. But another part of her died a little that morning; she hadn’t realized how much she missed the little things; that name, мой паучок, my spider, hadn’t entered her mind in a very very long time.

“What did he just call you?” Clint asked, as Nat sat down on the sofa and pulled a throw over your legs. She clicked on the news.

“I have no idea,” she lied.

“That was clearly Russian, or I’m losing my touch.”

“I don’t know what to say, Barton. Either your hearing aids are failing, or you’re shit at linguistics.”

* * *

“So this is bullshit. Why the hell is Sabretooth trying to rob a bank?” Wilson quipped into Natasha’s comm — all of their comms — later that day. Halfway through training, the alarm had gone up; a bank heist in New Jersey. Sabretooth was laying waste to a whole street of banks, going in, tearing open safes, and sending getaway drivers off with millions. Normally bank jobs weren’t in the Avenger’s repertoire; but insane clawed supervillians were part of their M.O., and so the Avengers currently in the mansion had dropped everything, loaded up into a jet, and gained entrance to the building that Sabretooth was now in.

“It seems dishonorable to steal the wealth of another,” Thor muttered to himself. His voice rang into their ear, though he was out in the street, helping Sam wrangle nameless hooligans and catch getaway drivers.

“Yeah… honorable and Sabretooth don’t really go hand in hand,” Steve replied. Natasha heard him grunt; looking around a corner, she saw Captain America get hit in the gut by Sabretooth’s huge fist. Nat hurled a taser disc at the mutant; it barely phased the animalistic man, but it gave Cap enough time to right himself and send his shield flying into the bigger man’s face.

“Are you children getting along alright up there? I’m almost done rounding up these idiots in the Brinks trucks. Why would they steal Brinks trucks? There’s Lo-jack in all of them…” Wilson trailed off, then spoke again. “Please tell me there’s a fight to break up up there. A real fight.”

A door across the room was torn from it’s hinges; Natasha had grown accustomed to this method of entry a long time ago and knew Bucky was incoming. He’d never been very subtle. He stepped into the room. “The hired thugs at Bank of the West are all in handcuffs and…” He trailed off, watching Steve and Sabretooth slug it out. “You couldn’t wait for backup, Steve?”

“Never was my strong suit,” Steve replied dryly, dodging another punch and the claws that followed.

Natasha leapt on Sabretooth, grabbing him by his neck and trying to choke him out. He tossed her easily off; Bucky came flying at him in the same instant, landing a kick to his head. Sabretooth roared. He flailed wildly, throwing Bucky against a wall, pounding a foot into Steve’s chest, and leaping out a window.

The Captain, Bucky, and Black Widow followed, tumbling out over the broken glass onto the adjoining rooftop. Bucky was closest to Sabretooth, but the villain had clawed his way up over a wall, onto another roof, and was out of sight. Bucky reached for a grappling hook stuck in his belt to follow, but Nat’s mind went back, way back. Before thinking, she started running at him.

“James–Bucky! Up top!” She flew at him — hadn’t bothered to stop to question if he would know what she was doing or not. A decade was erased at that moment; Black Widow and the Winter Soldier were both once again teamed-up to fight a common enemy, and Nat had done this a thousand times before.

Bucky, immediately and without hesitation, dropped to one knee. She raced towards him, planting one foot on his knee, the second on his shoulder, moving easily up his body like water. He stood as she climbed up his body, giving her the momentum to leap off of his shoulders and flip up onto the roof. One last glimpse down as she careened over the ledge, and Natasha saw the same thing she’d seen every time they had done this maneuver; he drew both of his guns, one to cover behind her and one to cover the ledge she was jumping up to. The body remembers what the mind does not.

Black Widow took off after Sabretooth, clearing the roof edge. She saw something fly towards the big man from the left; it was Clint on a balcony across the street, and it was an arrow. It stuck into Sabretooth’s side, winding him, but not stopping him. He growled, jumped down the side of the building all the way to the ground. It was easily three floors; Nat couldn’t follow. She watched as he tore open a manhole and disappeared into the sewer below. Hearing footsteps behind her, she turned and saw Bucky and Steve approaching. They’d rappelled up the wall and came sliding to a halt beside her. They both leapt down after Sabretooth, and Natasha had to take the long way to avoid breaking her legs. They all eventually ended up combing the sewer for Sabretooth, but the mutant had got away from them.

* * *

Bucky was silent on the way back to the tower. Once there, Natasha took the stairs down to her floor; she didn’t feel like waiting for an elevator with the rest of everyone. No one had seemed to notice the odd amount of teamwork exhibited between Black Widow and the former Winter Soldier, but it was stuck on her mind and floating in her head, the implications of her actions, of his actions. Lost in thought, she rounded the staircase, almost to her floor, when she heard a door bang open above.

“Nat?” Bucky’s low voice reverberated over the stairs. She stopped. Dread filled her heart, and longing, as well.

“Barnes?” she called back and leaned over the rail to look down at him. She was on the fifth level. He was at ground level.

She waited for him; she didn’t want to, but there wasn’t really a way to slip away unnoticed. He came jogging quickly up the steps; not out of breath at all, despite the cigarettes she knew he was still smoking when he was by himself. He halted before her, regarding her warily.

“You need something?” Natasha asked.

“You called me James.” He took a deep breath.

“What?” She knew exactly what he was speaking of; she had slipped up and had called him James. And whether that had triggered his mind or the muscle memory of a hundred missions in the past, Nat weren’t sure. But clearly something was bothering Bucky.

“You called me James. Right before you ran at me and… over the wall.” He made a gesture, a slight wave of his hand, to indicate her leaping over the roof. “You called me James.” His eyes, under dark brows, were confused and serious. “Why?”

Natasha shrugged flippantly. “It slipped out.”

“You never call me James.”

She gulped. He didn’t remember. So she made something up. “I knew your file before I knew you. Your name is James in your file.”

He seemed to not really believe this, but his brow stopped creasing, and he looked relieved. She felt bad; this was a man used to being fed lies — lies he may not believe all the way but that he made himself believe. And Nat was doing the same thing to him. “Okay… okay. That makes sense.” He leaned back against the railing. “It was like I knew what you were going to do. Again.” He shook his head. She knew she was confusing him, and she felt a small twinge of guilt.

“We’re both highly trained,” Natasha pointed out. She smiled, placing a hand on his arm. “I was hoping to God you’d know what I needed you to do, Barnes. And you did.”

“Yeah. I did.” He didn’t look convinced, but he looked oddly comfortable, as though some secret knowledge, some secret bond, was something that made him feel right. “We make a pretty good team.”

Nat grinned. “Don’t tell Steve that. He might get jealous.” She turned to trek the rest of the way up the stairs. She heard heavy steps following. At her floor, she nodded at him and departed, listening to his hulking form continue up the stairs. He left her with an odd look on his face; he looked like he remained unconvinced, but just as he had for the last seven decades, he was taking what he’d been told at face value.

It hurt Natasha’s heart, but she could never tell him. She’d thought about it a lot in the last few weeks, and it wasn’t the fact that they’d been lovers. She could handle that and whatever pain and confusion it would inevitably bring. It wasn’t that they’d been assassins or murderers either. She’d done a lot of things she had to atone for. But she  couldn’t tell him. She absolutely couldn’t, because deep down, Natasha felt like she could have stopped them coming for him. She could have stopped them, but she hadn’t. And they had come. And they had taken my James away.

PART TWO: SATELLITES

26 December, 2002. Night.

Natasha had been cold before, truth be told she was usually cold, but she swore she had never been this cold. The water that enveloped her, after that kiss and that leap from the train, was so frigid, she was  certain she was about to die. The fact that it wasn’t frozen over was a miracle; whether it was the quick currents or maybe it was saltwater, she wasn’t sure, and she’d been originally thankful for a way off the train. But now, with the wind knocked out of her lungs and her limbs losing feeling, she wasn’t so certain. There had to have been a better way off of that train car.

Her head broke the water and she gasped for air, but it was so cold, she couldn’t take a breath. Her fingers gripped the laptop bag; her handlers would be able to salvage something from the waterlogged computer. She looked around, lungs burning, and saw another head pop out from the depths. James. He saw Natasha, and swam towards her. She was vaguely aware of the train chugging out of sight.

He reached her side. “That way,” he coughed out, pointing to the riverbank closest to them. It was still so far away; Nat could barely make it out in the bright moonlight. They began to swim, when a light flicked on, and she could hear voices calling.

“Widow! Soldier! This way,” a man shouted. They both turned and saw a small boat with a strong flashlight illuminating the path through the water.

“Oh, thank God, they made it in time,” Natasha whispered.

“Weren’t they supposed to meet us on the banks?” James asked, pivoting in the water and making his way after her to the boat.

She didn’t answer; it wasn’t that she was being rude, but she couldn’t. Natasha was too cold, she couldn’t feel her fingers or her feet anymore.

The boat came towards them and strong hands reached down; several people, pulling Natasha and James roughly over the ledge and depositing them unceremoniously onto the floor of the craft, beside the dead body of Nat’s former mark. She rolled away from the corpse, taking deep thankful breaths now that they were out of the water.

The Soldier pulled himself together faster than Widow did; probably the cryo made him better able to handle the cold, or whatever experiments she suspected Hydra must have tried on him. It had become very clear in the last few months that no matter how strong Natasha was, he was stronger. She was at the physical peak, the best of the best; yet he was a step above anything she had ever encountered — it has to be unnatural.

He sat up, nearly unfazed by the freezing water that drenched his body and his clothing, turning to the the man who had just rescued them from the river. “You were to meet us on the banks. That was the plan,” James spoke gruffly. So far Natasha was the only person he’d heard him take a less harsh tone with.

“Yeah,” the man, who, now that Nat could see him, was an agent named Liev, nodded. “Ivan decided you may need some help out of the water. Turns out, he was right.” Liev lit up a cigar, and turned the boat towards the shore. “There’s some blankets under the seat. On shore there’s a van; it should be plenty warm.”

He steered the boat the rest of the way in silence. Natasha knew that Liev and the other men on the boat didn’t much care whether they retrieved the two operatives alive or dead, as long as the mark was taken care of, the data safe, and all bodies were out of the water and couldn’t be traced. It was the cold reality of the Program. Maybe they were really there to retrieve James; maybe Hydra didn’t want to risk losing him to the depths of some freezing Russian river.

Once at the shore, the body was loaded into a cooler truck. Widow didn’t know where it was headed and she didn’t much care. She and James were directed to a van; she climbed into the back. She was glad to find it heated. There was a bench seat along each wall and a locker at the front. The doors were closed behind them.

“Three hours ’til we get to base camp. Blankets in the lockers,” Liev yelled through the door, then it was silent.

“They aren’t much for theatrics,” Widow lamented at the Soldier.

He shrugged and grunted slightly, then opened the lockers. Inside were blankets, wool and scratchy but warm. She quickly stripped off her soaking clothes. James did the same, neither of them leaving any article on their bodies. This didn’t bother her, and it didn’t seem to bother the Soldier. Nat’s body was first and foremost a weapon, and second a physical extension of herself, and she assumed this to be the same with him. They both wrapped up in the blankets, and sat across from one another on the bench seats. She wasn’t sure if the agents that had been sent just assumed they’d stay fully dressed in waterlogged clothing, but that couldn’t happen. They’d both die.

Natasha was still freezing. She had grabbed a small cushion from the locker as well, and finally lain out on the bench, her wet hair soaking the travel pillow. The heater was on, and she was wrapped in several blankets, but she couldn’t get warm. Her teeth chattered; nevertheless, she tried to drift off to sleep. She’d been through worse, much worse. You’ll get through this like you got through everything.

“Natasha,” his voice carried out through the dark van.

“Yes?”

“I can hear you shivering.”

“We just jumped into a river in Russia in December. I’m a bit cold.” She turned her face towards the sound of his breathing. “How are you not?”

“I’m cold. But I’ll be fine,” he replied. “Come here.”

“Why?”

“I can keep you warm. You need to get warm.”

Natasha knew he wasn’t being forward; he didn’t think like that, at least she didn’t think he did. He was all about survival, all about common sense and necessity. And for some reason he found her well being a necessity.

Instead of replying with sarcasm, she dragged herself off of the bench, covered the few feet between the two of them quickly, and sat down beside him. The lure of body heat was too much.

“We won’t both fit on the bench seat. Get on the floor.” It was a statement, more of a command. Nat didn’t take commands from anyone but her superiors; however, it wasn’t rough, it wasn’t mean, and it wasn’t an outright order. It was a suggestion. And it made sense. Nat still couldn’t feel her feet.

They slid off of the bench seat onto the floor. He opened up his blankets, pulling her body close to his, and immediately warmth began radiating from his body into hers. His arms wrapped around her, his legs intertwined with hers, and some semblance of feeling began emanating back into Natasha’s limbs. He kept a layer of wool between his metal arm and her skin; she knew it would be cold.

“You kissed me, on the train,” Natasha finally spoke. Her head lay on his shoulder, she was strangely comfortable. She wasn’t keen on letting most people touch her, but for some reason it was different with the Soldier. Blankets were piled high around her, and if she hadn’t been in the back of a van, freezing in the backwoods of Russia, it would have almost been cozy.

She felt him nod. “Why?” Natasha asked.

“I told you. For luck,” he answered.

“You don’t seem like you’re afraid of anything, Soldier… James.” Nat’s fingers had finally stopped aching with cold. “But you were scared to jump.”

“Yes,” he finally agreed. “I think… I think that’s how I lost my arm. A train or something metal and… and going up into the air like that… I’m not sure. But I had a… a flashback.”

Natasha had seen the scars; the jagged edge of metal jutting in and out of the skin on his shoulder. Now she ran tentative fingers along the cool metal and the warm skin beside it. “You don’t remember not having it?”

He shook his head. “No.”

“And you can feel everything?”

“Yes,” he nodded again. “Not pain. Not really. I’ve been conditioned to know what everything is, but it’s not like my other arm. It’s a little bit… foreign.” He reached up to stop her hand from touching the metal. “Your hands are still cold.”

“You could feel that?” she asked, surprised.

“No, I just know they’re still cold. You’re still shaking.” He let go of her hand, knowing that his metal one wouldn’t warm it. He pulled the blanket tighter. “I need to get you warm.”

“What about you?”

“You’re helping. I’m fine. You aren’t. You’re too cold.”

“I’ll be fine, James. I’ve had worse.”

“I’d prefer you not to suffer, if I can help it, Natasha.” His words were firm, but kind, in the dark. She closed her eyes. Something like that was strange to hear, but it was nice. Comforting. Nat thought of a lot of things she could say back, but true to her nature, she didn’t say much.

“Thank you.”

They stayed like that for a while, under the wool blankets, skin to skin. When Nat stopped shivering and her teeth stopped chattering completely, she extricated herself from the tangle of limbs on the floor. She found that she was almost sorry to pull away; something to think about later. When the van arrived at the base camp a few hours later, and the doors were opened, the agents found each of hem feigning sleep on a bench seat, on opposite ends of the van.

* * *

Present

Natasha was back at the club a few days later. This time she wasn’t going to call anyone; no Ryan, no hookups, she was just there, because she felt safe and lost in the crowd. The music thudded through her rib-cage, and she moved her body to it, dancing in the masses of people. Just another young person hiding from something just like the rest of them.

A figure approached her from the right; a hand on her arm, snapping her out of her daze and bringing Natasha back. She was about to swing at them when she realized she knew him. It was Bucky.

“What the fuck?” she frowned at him. He had her by the arm, and he pulled her from the dance floor, over towards the wall.

“I need to talk to you.” He had a serious look on his face. His Henley shirt was unbuttoned at the neck; his leather jacket unzipped, and his hair pulled back haphazardly into a ponytail. He hadn’t dressed to go clubbing. His eyes were dark and he had bags under them; he was apparently back to not sleeping, as was Nat. She was frankly surprised they’d let him into the club like this.

“I thought you said you’d stay away from my place, Bucky.” Nat glared at him, turning to walk away. “This is me time. It can wait until tomorrow, as long as the Earth isn’t in danger.”

He reached out, placing a hand on both of her forearms and pulled her back. His gaze was dark and imploring. He pushed her against the wall, not roughly, and she knew she could get away; he would never trap her and Nat knew it, even if he didn’t. But he had used enough force that she knew he was done with her shit, and he was serious.

“What?” Natasha spat out, shaking his hands off, and crossing her arms in front of herself. “What is so important that you had to come find me in the middle of the night? In the one place I’ve claimed for myself? You couldn’t call me? You couldn’t text me?”

The next words he spoke to her sent shivers down her spine, and her heart racing. “No. I couldn’t call you, Nat.” He braced himself with one arm against the wall. “I think I’m starting to remember everything. And mostly, I remember you, Natasha.”

Next time in Black Widow Rebooted: Ghost Stories

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