Nat and Buck

March 21, 2015:

Black Widow visits with Cap about Bucky


A bar in Brooklyn


NPCs: None.


Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

The bar that Steve has his dinners at is a friendly place, a neighborhood bar, warm and cheerful and neighborly in a way that few bars really are anymore. The people mostly know each other. They laugh and tell stories and support each other.

And because Natasha knows this and because she feels like going under the radar today, she's dressed down. Green cardigan sweater. Blue jeans and boots and a blue shirt. Just as she can look glamorous and sexy or eye-catching and alluring, she can look relaxed and normal and like just another face in the crowd as she hunts down her colleague.

Steve is here at the bar, of course, enjoying one of those tombstone-scorch the roof of your mouth with molten lava temperature pizza sauce, and a glass of beer. It's been a long few weeks and he's treating himself. He hasn't got the heart to eat this sort of thing on a regular basis, but he loves it.

The athletic redhead slides up to the barstool next to Steve, settling herself and resting her elbows on the bar. She gives him a little nudge with her elbow in greeting, murmuring: "Penny for your thoughts?"

Steve looks over with a weary smile and reaches for his glass of beer. "Been a busy week," he says with a grin and a raised eyebrow. "Just enjoying the evening. Yourself?"

Natasha gives a slow tilt of her head in recognition. "When is it not a busy week?" she replies. "But busy is better than bored any day of the week. I'm content with it. That there," she adds, nodding to his plate. "Prime eating. Am I interrupting?"

Steve shakes his head, "Not at all." He slides the cardboard tray towards her, seeing if she'll want any. "You don't hang out here, Nat. So you came to see me. What's up?"

At the offer, she takes a slice of the pizza and nods her thanks. She takes a bite or two of the absolutley scorching stuff, evidently savoring and enjoying it as he asks the question. When the bite is swallowed, she makes her reply: "Thought we better talk about a couple things. Things like… recent events and old friends. Maybe at a table."

"Rusty won't say anything. He actually used to work for SHIELD before he retired." Rusty, the bartender, winks at Natasha. He points towards the closest bargoers who sit close to the pair of heroes and points. Almost like they're coordinated, the four people get up and move, giving them their privacy. "Recent events?" Steve says. "There have been a lot to choose from."

Natasha doesn't appear to be totally convinced, but she does give Rusty a friendly nod. "You're always the trusting one," she mutters to Steve. "But there's things I'd like to discuss that I never tell anyone." Still. Grudgingly, she takes another bite of the pizza and clears her throat.

"Back in the day, way back when I was in the middle of my training — training never really ended; you were always learning new skills — I had a teacher brought in from outside our organization. He was very quiet. Spoke in single words or brief sentences. His Russian was perfect, his accent good; he was just a man of few words. But he taught me a great deal about fighting and informed a fair bit of my current style."

Steve nods, "You haven't told me much about your time in Russia. For whatever reason it seems like it has been a hot bed of villainous activity lately. Seems like a lot of remnants of the Soviet Union have turned out pretty sour. Can't say I care for the current regime either."

"I never talk to anyone about my time in Russia," Natasha replies, a faintly crisp note coming to her voice. "But the villainy is not too hard to understand. Back when we were all good little Communists, we worked — in theory — for the good of all the Soviet Union. Some of us were farmers or factory workers, and some of us… some of us gave everything, even our souls, for the good of the People. When Communism fell and we had democracy and capitalism, that is a system where very often only the fittest survive. For many, it was freedom, yes. Freedom to starve. Not that they lived so well under the old system. But the people who thrived were the people who always do: those who are willing to use any system to their benefit. The old powerful, those who had given up goodness for rightness, as it were, rose to the top of the heap, and they were never nice people."

She talks as though she's a lot older than she looks. There have been Black Widows for years, but surely this woman has not been all of them.

"But that is beside the point. I knew a little about this man. I knew he was not Russian. I knew he was a puppet of some other organization, one that brought him out only for special assignments. Teaching Russia's finest. Assassination of particularly important or dangerous or controversial targets."

"The Winter Soldier," Steve says before taking a drink from his glass. "I know of him. In fact, I met him not too long ago." Steve suppresses a laugh, "I assure you, he's not too fond of me." The drink is put back just a bit forlornly and it looks as if Steve is about to say something, but he doesn't.

"Mm. He didn't teach me everything I know or probably everything he knows, but he taught me enough. He is a very dangerous man. And it surprised me, the first time I sparred with you, the familiar elements I found."

Natasha takes a deep breath: "You talked to the Winter Soldier when he tried to spring Fracture. What did you learn?"

Steve seems to be under the assumption that Black Widow knows who the Winter Soldier is because he just flies into the conversation. "He hates me and everything we stand for. He's obviously the victim of brainwashing. I'll never give up on him, Nat. Ever."


Natasha drops the word like a lead weight, and when she looks to him, her eyes are sharp as lancets.

"You've figured it out. I thought you might as soon as you saw his face. It is good you won't give up on him, because he will need a strong, staunch friend in the time to come. Decades of brainwashing, Steve. Decades of brainwashing and drugs and every kind of manipulation a human being can experience, if my surmise is correct. But he is still a man and…"

It seems personal, even to her, as she stares into the distance. "And maybe he will never be the man you knew, but that man was a man you knew a very long time ago, and who stays the same that long? But who he was is still a part of who he is. I… know some of what he's gone through. I will help where I can. But you need to understand what you're up against."

"Yeah, I'm not looking forward to it," Steve says with a bit of a chuckle. "Physically he's brilliant. One step ahead all the time. I'm always playing defense. Emotionally, he's firm. I can't help but feel like I'm going up against a brick wall."

Steve shrugs sadly, "But I have to try. He's my best friend."

"Well. You have at least other friends who will help you. There's me. The Starks, I expect; Howard, certainly. Bucky Barnes is an American hero, but it… may not be best for America to see what happened to him."

She straightens her shoulders and turns slightly toward him. "For capturing him, you should learn more about how he fights. I want to believe that your eyes could meet and he could remember his friend and the fight ends in a brotherly embrace, but I was never that idealistic, even as a child." A tiny smirk. "So I will work with you. On brainwashing. The techniques I know or suspect were used on him. Trying to counteract the drugs and poisons that keep him under their thumb."

Steve nods, "I appreciate that. I have some old friends: Namor and Spitfire working on it too. And by all means, bring Howard. He knows Bucky and I'm sure he would help." Steve pops another piece of pizza in his mouth and munches on it before washing it down with the last of his beer. "The only intel I have on his fighting style is what he did on me the last time we met out in the open. We've already looked eye to eye. There was no embrace."

"That doesn't mean your friend is gone. Brainwashing is… strange stuff. It will take time and patience. Luckily, we have both." She's polished off her own piece; licking her fingers, she rubs her hands together and takes another moment to consider.

"So we will practice, you and I. We will spar and discuss and I will give you what I can."

Steve nods, "Thank you, Nat. I appreciate the help. As you might imagine this means a lot to me." In fact, most of the cases he's been working on have meant a lot to him lately, and emotionally Steve is beginning to fray under the stress.

She pauses, looking over her fellow Avenger with a faint smile. And then — rare for her, again — she reaches out and settles a hand on his shoulder, giving it a little squeeze.

"You have friends who love you, Steve, and would give anything to be there for you when you need them. Let them do it, and you're helping them as much as they're helping you. Don't feel like they won't understand why Captain America needs a drink with a friend or even a hug sometimes. You're only as alone as you let yourself be."

Steve turns to her with a serious look, "That might all be true, Nat. But this man is more dangerous than your run of the mill HYDRA agent. Anyone I pull into this will be put at significant risk."

There's a wry and amused twist of her lips at that as opposed to any sort of horror or worry. "Then you underestimate the number of people who would be willing to die fighting beside you, Steve." She rests her hand on his shoulder long enough to steady her rising, though she does so with grace and without any evident need for his support. "I'll see you at your planning session. Maybe I can set up a sparring session for everyone who's getting involved. I would get to hit so many people."

"I don't want anyone to die, Nat. That's kind of my point." Steve puts the last piece of pizza in his mouth and nods to her, "I think that's a good idea. We should do that as soon as possible."

"Unless you're recruiting a high school class, we're all adults. SHIELD agents and 'heroes' — " a word she always seems to put in audible quotes — "who know that every mission might be their last. None of us signed up for a quiet life."

Steve chuckles, "I suppose you're right. But just because they signed up for it doesn't mean we need to walk straight into Hell." He tilts his head, "I suppose that's the reason we should get some training in."

"Mhm. I said nothing about tipping the balance in our favor." Natasha grins faintly and dips her head forward. "We'll go over the rest with the others you invite. I'll be sure to drag Howard along."

"Good, I think some fence mending between us will probably be a good idea," Steve says, finishing his beer. "And I know he'd want to help Bucky if at all possible."

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