June 24, 2017:

In which Sally Stojespal helps Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva drag her husband home, and the three enjoy an evening of relative normalcy without anything exploding.

New York City - The Triskelion

The Headquarters, Armory and Fortress of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics division is, for the most part, an unassailable tower in the midst of the diplomatic sprawl that is Midtown East. The primary intelligence clearing houses and most of SHIELD's senior leadership are all housed hear, along with a veritable army of agents and staff to keep the place running, the world spinning and the weirdness at bay.


NPCs: Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov

Mentions: Phil Coulson, Sloane Albright

Mood Music: None.

Fade In…

The Triskelion's medical facilities are the same as any other hospital in any other place, with the exception that what's under the hood is about twenty times more sophisticated. They have equipment that doesn't even exist yet. When agents are dealing with threats against the safety and security of the very world itself, they have to be able to take the hits, and that means having the best medical facilities in the world.

Well, maybe not the best… but the people on the receiving end of their care would say so.

It's dusk by the time Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov is released from the hospital's care and into the care of his wife. His wife whom is completely exhausted, after the emotional trials of the last several weeks. His completely exhausted wife had proceeded to call Rusalka Stojespal, and ask the girl to meet them at the lobby. Not that she can't make it home by herself, but having to support a weak and unsteady man three inches taller and a few pounds heavier than her isn't something she has the strength to deal with right now.

So it is that the one-eyed pilot waits in the lobby, flipping absently through a manila folder chock-full of files. Classified files, by the stamp over the folder's cover. Details on the Heliosphere, as processed through SHIELD's intelligence department, as acquired through the information offered by the man sitting by her side, with his head currently resting on her shoulder, eyes closed.

Her expression is grim, though. The more she reads of the Tchernobog – or the Heliosphere, as its official name is – the more it infuriates and shocks her. This thing needs to be destroyed, as of yesterday.

It's true that the Triskelion's medical capabilities are arguably the greatest in the world - but it's also true that one certain fresh Agent of SHIELD is very glad she's never had to have been there. Sally Stojespal has seen what happened to the Russian pilot she calls a dear friend, twice now. Once after being shot in Barcelona…

…and once after very nearly testing SHIELD's capabilities to bring back the dead, after crashing a Quinjet in Siberia.

The call for help - and news of Makarov's release from said medical facilities - got a happy cheer from the Sokovian girl. It ends up taking longer than she'd promised to get there, nearly twenty minutes, before Sally finally strides through the doors of the hospital wing looking around for the two Russians.

"Ah hah! There you both are." An upbeat greeting to the pair, Sally glancing over Mikhail's condition before looking at the rather busy Raisa. Red slacks and a sleeveless white shirt, black mary-janes comfortably buckled on, she's the picture of a typical girl used to the summer of New York. It just so happens she's a little less typical than it seems, but at least she can dress the part.

There's a momentary frown as she realizes what Raisa's looking over - she can't actually see the files in the folder, but she knows from the expression that it can't be many other things. It certainly better not; her plate's getting pretty full as it is. Between the Decimux god-entity, the Tchernobog's presence, and…whatever madness is going on at Stark Industries with the Wakandans? It's just a bit tricky right now trying to balance what's left of college life amongst all that.

Realizing Makarov's apparently asleep, Sally's voice drops. "Raisa~ Sorry it took so long to get here, I had to stop for fuel, but it hopefully didn't keep you waiting much." She glances down at the documents, but doesn't say anything - not yet. Even if she's only a child, and brand new to being an Agent…she's the child of a military family, and knows too well the need for secrecy.

People around her have died for that.

That single eye slides upward at the sound of footsteps. Right now, the Russians are the only people in the lobby. It's a fairly quiet evening in the hospital, at a time when most visiting hours are over, and foot traffic has generally slowed to a minimum. With the sun already set outside, the fluorescent lamps in the lobby cast harsh shadows over them.

"Dyevushka. Had wondered when you would arrive." Raisa's greeting is little more than a breath, more to keep from waking up her husband quite yet than anything else. She half-smiles. "Were not here long, do not worry. Told orderly could wait in lobby for ride. Shrugged. Said we could sit here."

She snaps the folder shut with a flick of her wrist, offering it to Sally. "Here. Carry this. Can keep it. Probably already have copy from Tony Stark." A glance would suggest that it's all the information that had come back from Mikhail, filtered through the intelligence department of SHIELD. It's the true specs of the Heliosphere, as it's been called internally at Icarus, or at least as much of it as Mikhail could provide through fact or guesswork. "Let me wake him up. Can walk home, but need your help supporting. Am too tired not to be knocked over if he starts losing balance, da?"

Leaning over a little, Raisa twists her head until she can see Mikhail, who had fallen asleep on her blind side.

"Misha." His name doesn't produce much of a reaction, so she nudges him with her elbow, gently. "Misha, come on, wake up."

"Mmm?" Mikhail mumbles in response, eyes fluttering open. His eyes turn from one to the other as his brain tries to fill in the missing pieces of events.

"Time to go home." The red-headed pilot hauls herself to her feet, holding out her hand for him to pull himself upright, and she takes a moment to make sure he doesn't knock her over the other way. A quick glance is thrown to Sally before she manages to counterbalance him, steering him towards the door. Exhausted as she is, she can take comfort in that it's not a long trip.

Raisa half-smiles. "Stay for dinner, Sally Petrovna. Have leftovers from last night, and could use company. Keep that." She tosses her chin at the folder. "Think you might find that interesting."

At least there's not a lot of folks around, which makes it a little nicer. She does, in the end, prefer it quiet - at least, when she's not turning gasoline into speed. Later in the evening, after hours, makes the hospital a place of soft sounds and few people. And with the sun down, the heat's not nearly so bad - but all things told, she rather likes the sleeveless top, so it stays. Especially without the usual white racing jacket that she's typically got over a shoulder somewhere.

"Sorry about that. And good, I'm glad they didn't send you off. That's odd…they didn't give you a wheelchair?" She glances over at Misha, and then giggles a moment. "Or did he refuse, and then fall asleep?" He doesn't quite seem to be the iron-willed type like Raisa is, but there's still a sense of independence she gets from him.

The folder is accepted, and opened up - she's cleared for the info, of course. It's what got her into SHIELD in the first place, and has been a major project of hers since. Rich blue eyes take in numbers, notes, materials. She doesn't take long looking it over, no more than a few seconds before it's snapped shut.

"Mm…absolutely, that fills in some things I suspected. Hard numbers, instead of estimates. Good." She grins, before tucking it under one arm. The pilot wakes up her husband, and she gives him a little wave, fingers curling slightly. "Just a short trip, Mr. Makarov. We'll help you."

Dinner? That gets a perk from the girl; she nods happily. "Certainly! I would not mind staying a bit. We can discuss this, and fine tune things. I hadn't seen a full report yet; I've been working on a few things so I've been busy. But it's good to have this, thank you. Alright, here we go!" Sliding under Makarov's other arm, she stands as best as she can. It's not so much that he's so heavy, but he is still somewhat taller than she is. At least the two supporters are the same height, making it easier.

She anchors his arm across her shoulders, and follows the redhead's lead - before laughing for a moment after a few steps. "It's a good thing you live in the building. The Lotus…" Sally smiles apologetically, and would shrug, but not while supporting him. And her point's well made - sure, it's got four seats - technically. The back is more of a high shelf rather than a seat; it's well appointed and quite comfortable. It just has virtually no legroom, making any attempt to put someone Mikhail's size in the back seat an exercise in futility.

It's not her fault, she bought it for track fun months before she'd met Isa!

"Wheelchair? Da, they gave him one. I told them they could leave." Raisa waves a hand somewhat dismissively, although it returns to propping up her still-woozy husband. She circles an arm around his waist, shouldering into him to keep from being toppled over. He's not dramatically heavier. He is, however, considerably more dead weight, unable to hold steady. "I wasn't sure how long we'd be waiting." She's using her better English; a mark of trust.

"And then he fell asleep," she adds, blandly, patting his arm. "Mikhail Nikolayevich has had a very long week, you know."

Mikhail only nods mutely, letting Sally support him from the other side. He sags against her, head hanging low. The chemical cocktail Icarus had been feeding him for so many months is out of his system, but he's still nauseous after a particularly rough detox protocol. He'll be feeling a little unsteady for a few more days; enough that Raisa will most likely be staying home to make sure he doesn't hurt himself in his disorientation.

"Da. There's no way he would fit into the back of that car." Raisa grins, though crookedly. "You can barely fit groceries into that back seat. It's more of an afterthought. I might, but I am used to uncomfortable cockpits that are maybe shaped more bizarrely than the standard."

It's easier to walk once she has Sally supporting him on the other side; she can at least steer him in a straight line, this way. The trip back is quick, thankfully. Navigate through a few towers, across some corridors, up an elevator to the sixteenth floor.

Raisa bends to deactivate the biometric lock, ushering the other two in. Mikhail is carefully steered towards the loveseat and eased down as best as she can manage.

"<Oh. Did I tell you?>" Mikhail fishes in a pocket, clumsily, producing an ID card – not a driver's license – issued by New York State. The card reads for one Yakovlev, Vasiliy Timurovich. At least, until this whole Icarus mess blows over and he can resume using his own identity again. "<I have a new American name,>" he says, with some ironic humour. "<I never really fancied myself a Vasiliy, but I suppose that is now my name. It will take some effort to remember that Nikolayevich is no longer my patronymic, though… reflex, you know.>"

He leans back, sagging with a sigh. He's wearing plain clothing, this time; a button-down shirt tucked into slacks, and nice but not too expensive shoes. "<Comrade Tony is also seeing about hiring me on at Stark Industries. I will test pilot for him, or whatever else it is he needs. It will require some retraining on my part, but it is nothing I am incapable of doing,>" Mikhail adds, with a shrug. "<A new life.>"

"Have a seat, Sally Petrovna," Raisa calls, even as she hangs up Mikhail's jacket and empties her pockets on the end table by the door. "I will bring dinner in."

"Oh…whoops. Ah, sorry about that." Her late arrival had prompted Mikhail to fall asleep waiting, and so now she's got to help haul him up. Appropriate punishment, she supposes! Well, it isn't as if she had to stop for fuel, but ever since that trip they'd taken upstate she'd been a little more circumspect about letting it get low. And in the end, Sally decides, maybe her husband deserved a little nap.

The Sokovian nods gently, keeping her charge balanced as best she can. "I can only imagine. But, he's better…enough, right?" He nods, and she glances up at him. ">There there…we'll get you home shortly.>" This in Russian to Misha; she isn't sure of his English.

And then Raisa is talking bad things about her precious Kometa! "I am perfectly able to fit grocery bags back there. And in the trunk; it has a proper one. Maybe it's not that large compared to other cars, but neither is the Evora." Personal automotive pride ever so slightly scuffed! "Though…well, I suppose it all worked out in the end. It certainly would be better than ferrying you…" The idea of letting Isa drive him somewhere, and Sally staying behind?

Leaving her precious Kometa in anyone else's hands?

At least it's not too long a trip to the elevator; that plus Isa's own room number of 1604 makes it easy to reach the door soon enough. She'll help crab-walk him through the door, and settle the sleepy man on the loveseat, before setting her folder aside on the table where she can see it. And then he addresses her, and Sally kneels down next to him to take a look.

"<Vasiliy. A good name, I think. It sounds strong, yes? And…Yakovleva?>" She can't help the smug smirk that crosses her lips. "<Marrying and taking the wife's name. It seems a rather Stojespal thing to do, if not an occasional Sokovian tradition.>" Sally, of course, approves.

To Raisa, she just nods, and settles in at the single chair. Sally laces her fingers together and stretches, arms out high over her head and legs out long and straight, feet pointed. It feels good, and she finally relaxes, glancing outside at the night sky. A cheerful grin is sent to the woman who runs the apartment. "Dinner would be lovely. May I ask what you have left over?"

"Broccoli soup and rosemary bread," Raisa tosses back from the kitchen, voice slightly distant as she goes about reheating. "Oh, yes, you can fit grocery bags back there, but that seems to be all you can fit." Raisa doesn't quite scoff at the car's cargo space, or lack thereof. Despite her brisk and busy movements, it's clear that she's winding down; wrung-out from days of emotional strain and physical exhaustion. "Don't mistake me, Sally Petrovna, it is a wonderful machine. It does what it does with excellence. But in order to do that, certain sacrifices had to be made in its design, and that includes 'carrying more than a bag or two of groceries in the back.'"

By the time she comes back in, she has three bowls of what smells like broccoli soup balanced on an arm, along with buttered bread – rosemary bread – left over from the last loaf she'd made a few days ago. For drinks, it looks like there's a round of iced tea.

Mikhail immediately perks up at the smell of the bread, expression almost painfully wistful. "<Oh,>" he breathes, even as she sets his share in front of him, "<I'd dreamt about this.>"

"Vasiliy? It's completely wrong for him. And I think Agent Phillip Coulson must have a strange sense of humour, giving him Yakovlev for a surname." Raisa snorts even as she sets Sally's portions down in front of her, settling in beside Mikhail. It's a bit of a tight fit. She doesn't seem to mind in the least, setting into her share like it's the first food she's seen in days. That might not be too far from the truth. "He's right, though. It's going to be difficult to remember that patronymic. Lucky you; you Sokovians don't need to worry about it any more."

Mikhail's eyes dart between the pilot and the Sokovian. His grasp of the language is less certain than his wife's, but with some few seconds of processing time, he does seem to understand the gist of what's being said.

"Does that mean you'll be forcing your future husband to take your name, Sally Petrovna?" Raisa grins, eyeing Sally over the rim of her glass. "I cannot speak to Sokovian traditions, but it would be a Sally Petrovna thing to do, I think."

"Is… good, to be home," Mikhail finally observes, in uncertain and heavily-accented English. There's no mistaking the relief in his tone, though. "Is like… waking up, from nightmare, I think. Five year of nightmare."

The one-eyed pilot smiles a sympathetic smile, leaning on him in a gesture of weary affection. "<You're home now, Mishen'ka,>" she murmurs. "<With me. Safe.>"

All he can do is close his eyes in exhausted relief.

There will still be issues to be worked out between the two pilots. Five years is a long time of separation, but it seems they'll be able to work things out. It's what they want, ultimately, so they'll find a way. And with Mikhail looking less and less like death warmed over as the days pass by, the future looks promising.

"<So, then. The Tchernobog – I mean, the Heliosphere.>" Raisa fixes her eye on Sally, even as she finishes the last of her own meal. She was, perhaps, just a little hungrier than she had thought. "<That file I gave you has corrections from Misha that will shed some light on its true capabilities. I had miscalculated a few design features, since I had no more than guesswork to go on. With his help, I've made corrections to the airframe. I'll be bringing a copy of this to Tony Stark, as well, so he can factor in anything that needs to be changed on his own prototype.>"

She glances up to Sally, with a crooked half-smile. "<I also gave him a name for the prototype; one I think you might like, Sally Petrovna.>"

"Ah, that sounds delicious. I will happily accept your offer in exchange for hauling him up here." It may be simple, but she likes it - and the soup, even if it's just vegetables, is always fantastic. Raisa may be a simple cook, but what she does she does well. Sally grins a little, thinking of the old adage of 'the route to a man's heart is through his stomach.' And wondering if that, among other things, was what drew the blonde man to her.

Sally, meanwhile, stays right where she is, happy and comfortable in the overstuffed chair. The Sokovian knows her friend would insist, and she doesn't mind. As far as the automotive conversation goes, though, she'd agree. "Yes, that's true. But, at least before…all of this, I didn't need much more! Sloane and I occasionally taking a trip somewhere, a few bags in the back or the trunk. A grocery run for myself, for dorm life. I'd never needed more than a spare seat, really."

Now? Shrug. "Besides, even if it's not roomy, it's certainly quite comfortable, yes? That drive we took upstate, you certainly seemed to enjoy the seats. And well…there's always time on the track. It's as close as I'll get anytime soon to a serious performance GT, but…" A slightly feral grin crosses her face. "I've got a few plans for that as well. And carrying groceries is not one of them, heh heh."

Food is delivered, and the Sokovian says her grace in a quiet prayer for herself - then glances over and watches Raisa settle in, and shrugs. "I don't know. It sounds…playful, almost. Simple, the kind of name you would find someone playing chess in the park with. A kindly uncle. I like it," she finally pronounces. A spoonful of soup, and a smile. Excellent.

"Mm, that's true. Though it seems to be a northern thing; a lot of southerners tend to keep patronymics. Baba just thought it was silly, and it seems a lot of the locals agreed. Certainly the one good idea our Czech neighbors had, at least." And then she practically chokes hard on the bread, coughing a few times to clear her throat. "Future what!? <Dear god let not a thing anywhere near that happen! Not one bit!>" She shudders, at least able to breathe once more.

Sally turns to regard Mikhail, and nods - continuing in Russian for his benefit. "<It is. A nightmare, I mean. And it is over, you are awake now. Yes? It won't hurt you anymore.>" She's no stranger to those things - especially when they're connected to the deepest pain in her life. She remembers waking up as a little girl, after her father had died. And learning the words that drove those dreams away. "<The sun is not out yet, but there is still a light that banishes the terror, and that light is here.>"

"<Yes, I saw. Just a glimpse for now,>" Sally adds, looking back at the folder on the table. She takes a moment to get a little more soup in her, followed up with a bite of bread. "<But the hard numbers…they answer many questions. I remember as well, trying to estimate the aerodynamics, and what it was made from. The information is fantastic, and will be enough I think. Especially since those Hydra as->"


"<collaborators,>" she finishes, choosing a polite term almost as bad, <"won't know what is coming after them. I relish their expression, personally.>" Blue eyes flicker with what might well be a bloodthirsty look for an instant before she raises an eyebrow at the mention of a name. "<Oh? Do tell.>"

"I kept a small car in Moscow," Raisa agrees. "I never needed something larger. Enough to go from one place to another, maybe take a short trip with Misha. I purchased the smallest four-door model I could afford, so your Lotus is not so different… if more luxurious. See, we have similar tastes in vehicles, in a way."

It's nonsense and she knows it, which is what her crooked smile seems to say. She's just making a silly joke. That, in and of itself, is probably a mark of just how light her spirits are right now. Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva, making a joke.

"Playful. See, she know me well already," Mikhail supplies, cheerfully, as he proceeds to demolish his share of te the soup. It's delicious and he's absurdly hungry. "<I'm afraid I'm not very good at chess, though. My wife and I, we aren't so tactical in our thinking. We're more intuitive.>"

Neither pilot takes very long to finish their soup. Mikhail almost takes less time to finish his chunk of rosemary bread, soaking up the last of the soup with it. He fixes his mild blue eyes on Sally, thoughtful, before glancing aside to Raisa. "<I think she's protesting too much. Maybe she's got someone in mind?>"

"<I don't know. Or maybe she's protesting the idea of it too much.>" Raisa's grin is in turn feral, although compared to most people it has a slightly unsettling effect with how it creases and stretches scar tissue on one side. "<Oh, you might change your mind, Sally Petrovna, when you meet the right person. Certainly it's not worth adopting such an attitude.>"

Her smile gentles. "<I used to say that myself, you know. I scoffed at the idea of needing anyone. 'Fiercely independent,' my father used to call me… but I cannot stomach a life without my Misha. I did, for a while. It was a living hell. Life is much too short to deny yourself something so fulfilling, just because of pride.>"

Mikhail leans forward a little, resting his chin on a curled fist. He eyes Sally speculatively when she gives her own wisdom about dreams and nightmares, studying her with such intensity that it might even be unsettling for a moment. After a moment he nods, solemnly, all traces of that perennial almost-mirth gone from his expression. "<Yes,>" he says, quietly. "<She is fierce as an eagle, and beautiful as fire. That fire is my light. It was so very cold, without it.>"

The redhead lets him pull her close, folding neatly against his side. It's a motion of such practised ease that it's hard to imagine them apart. They seem to go back to wherever it was they were five years ago; each seamlessly reintegrating the other back into their life.

"<As far as I am aware, Hydra is not collaborating with Icarus Dynamics,>" Mikhail supplies, curling an arm more securely around Raisa. "<I am hoping they are too busy snapping at one another to think about allying themselves. What they could do together; it does not bear thinking about.>"

"<Khoro,>" Raisa says, with a crooked smile. "<I thought you would maybe appreciate the irony of your wolf goddess battling the forces of evil themselves, but more seriously, I owe you much, Sally Petrovna. Doing honour to something that matters much to you, that is the least I can do.>"

But if Sally looks closely enough, she might see that Raisa is not wearing her metal necklace, the one that usually has her Russian dog tags and her wedding ring. She's wearing her ring, and the dog tags are put away. Instead, she has a simple leather thong around her neck. At its end is a small pouch of wheat. It's the same talisman Sally had given her a few days ago, when Raisa had asked for some small measure of courage to pick up the pieces of her life.

Sally laughs, enjoying the joke. "It simply proves you have the right taste in automobiles. Not these overpowered silly American drag-racers that couldn't turn if you hit them with a bus from the side. Speed is important, of course, but." There's a shrug from the Sokovian. "A drag racer may reach the first turn well before everyone else, but it isn't going to be in the pack afterward."

There's a moment when she sips some broth, before she reconsiders. "Then again they are quite nice with room, so…I suppose I will begrudge them that."

Sally finishes up her share of dinner soon after the other two, being a little slower of an eater - and someone who hadn't been subsisting on hospital food for the last week. Russian again, to follow up with Mikhail. "<Yes, you see? And that is a shame. Perhaps checkers, then, Uncle Vasiliy? It's much more responsive, heh heh.>"

The protest shifts to a baleful eye as she is outright teased by her hosts. "<I do most certainly not have anyone in mind. Hmpf. Meddlers, both of you.>" She crosses her arms, half-jokingly protesting the situation. And after a few seconds she exhales and shrugs, leaving the matter to the future. "<Mm, perhaps. But I very certainly have no desire or plan for such things right now. Nor time. Besides, I find many other things fulfilling.>"

Sally looks away, then lets her eyes shift back to the pair in amusement. "Schmoopy. <That is what you both are, you know that. And yes.>" Her expression softens. "<I remember not so long ago…when you still thought he was gone. You were someone…>" There's a thoughtful pause, then a sigh. "<Someone who I suppose was not to live much longer. You seemed so worn, so destroyed. Like my mother, after my father's murder. But she had the family, and her duty.>" Not career. An interesting choice of words from the Sokovian.

"<You didn't have any of them. And then you found he was alive, and now…>" Grin. "<Now such times are just a nightmare of the past, dispersed in the light of day. Yes?>"

The matter of Hydra gets a nod. "<That would be good. I know they exist as well now, and Mr. Stark believes it possible that they were a buyer. Or supplier of technology; involved somehow. He seems to take their existence personally. I cannot blame him, you remember what I said, Raisa? When Baba made old war, she made it against them most especially. I remember stories I heard…some I was not supposed to. The War of Retribution, we called it.>"

There's a moment of surprise on her face when Raisa says the name, before Sally just laughs. "<I do appreciate it. And it is a good name. Khoro herself would be pleased. You know that Russia is home to many boar species? Khoro would approve of hunting one, I think. So do I - and I respect and receive your honor. As does she of the harvest and the hunt.>"

Sally noticed - and approves. The pouch itself is of no great value, but the contents are. Imported Sokovian wheat from the family estate, treated in just the way according to the traditions so that the demigoddess' presence can be felt. If it's true, anyway. She doesn't know for sure…but she's willing to hedge her bets, especially in light of the latest revelations. Perhaps it's blasphemous, but she doesn't think so. Sally doesn't worship Khoro…but that isn't the same as believing she doesn't exist.

"<I am not a bad checker player, but I am not the best, either.>" Mikhail's admission is almost sheepish, given with that winning, almost boyish half-smile. "<I am very good with cards, though, and have been known to play a good hand of poker… it is not that we are not smart, my wife and I, you know; we just… think in different ways.>"

Funny. He looks like the kind of guy who'd be awful at it, practically wearing his heart on his sleeve with an honest face like that. Maybe he's just really good at being misleading.

When Sally seems to grasp that she's being teased by both of her hosts, the red-headed pilot affects an innocent expression. "<I would never. How could I bring myself to insult the aristocracy, so far above my own social standing, Sally Petrovna?>" Raisa can't help the grin, though. It's fun to needle the girl when she responds so well to it. Meddler? The grin turns more into a subdued smile. "<Maybe just a little, Sally Petrovna, but only because we care.>" How else is she supposed to harass her 'niece?'

"<Er… what is this word, this 'schmoopy?'>" inquires Mikhail, innocently. "<I am sorry to say I am not so familiar with the English language…>"

Raisa doesn't educate him. Sally can do it herself, although thoughts of it soon fade. She tilts her head a little from beneath the arms folded protectively around her, frowning thouhtfully. "<Maybe not,>" she says, softly. "<I took some insane risks. And I did not intend to survive them. You are right. When I lost him… I did not have anything left. The sky; that was what I had, and so that is what I fixated myself on. The one place left in my life that still meant something.>"

"<Maybe I imagined I was closer to him, there.>" She smiles a little sadly as the arms close tighter around her; his head lowering to rest beside hers. "<But I am glad, now. I could not have guess that he had lived.>"

"<Dispersed in the light of day,>" Mikhail agrees, with a solemn nod. "<Hydra? Possibly. I do not think so, though. To my knowledge there have not been any buyers lined up, but there is also no real way for me to know such things. Icarus enjoyed compartmentalising information. Their people are easier to control that way.>"

Raisa glances to Sally, something cold in her blue eye; cold and terribly angry, in a quiet, glacial sort of way. "<Yes. And I intend to fight them as Dragana Stojespal did. Forget what I said to you earlier,>" she says, low and fierce. "<They have made it personal.>"

"<Yes,>" Mikhail agrees, something soft and dangerous in his voice as well.

Did she know Russia is home to many boar species? "<No,>" Raisa answers, shaking her head a little. "<Good. Considering what we are up against, we could use some strength on our side. Some fangs.>" She smiles, blandly. "<Claws. Anything.>"

Mikhail smiles his own thin smile. "<Allies are a start. Those will be our fangs, our claws.>"

"<Hah! Pilots. So sure of themselves when it comes to betting. You are truly one, Mikhail. Or should I say Vasiliy.>" Sally can't help the amused laugh. "<You would fit in with those at Kovyl. Though their attitude tends to be rather…well, yes, you would fit in. Slacker.>" She can tease right back, after all. And even if Misha is no good at a deadpan, he can always throw all kinds of 'tells' out - confusing an opponent just as much.

Yes, she knows his type. She grew up around them after all.

"<Well it is good that someone remembers such things. A proper finery in life is to be enjoyed after all, is it not? Besides, I have had no small number of family suggest such things in the past. At least Baba did not seem interested in finding a connection for me right away, and I since escaped to this land.>" She shrugs, then returns that same soft smile. "<I understand. As long as I am not arranged dates, or whatever.>"

And then the smile widens. "<Besides, the man who could keep up with a SHIELD agent, a college student, a professional driver, and one of Tony Stark's interns? Probably doesn't exist anyway. Good thing we girls have it handled, yes?>" No offense, Misha.

"Schmoopy. <Lovelorn, affectionate, and utterly devoted. Kissing in public! Holding hands! Such silly things.>" She's only half-serious, really. "<It is quite alright. This city will make you quite familiar in time.>" She leans back in the chair and looks at the pair. "<Yes…but now, you are together. Home. One, once again. And God-willing for all of the future, I think.>"

Talk turns to Hydra. There's a look of surprise in those blue eyes when Raisa mentions the previous talk they'd had - and her new feelings about the matter. "<Personal indeed. I will speak to Baba and learn of her old ways, I suppose. At the very least,>" Rusalka Stojespal adds with a nearly feral gleam in her eye. "<Fang and claw. Should I not observe family tradition, in all things?>"

"<It's true. We're confident to the point of arrogance, you know. Even my fiery-hearted beauty.>" Mikhail can't help a grin, even as he leans his head against Raisa's. She tolerates it, leaning into him out of exhaustion as much as anything else. "<Feathergrass? How delightfully parochial. I take it your airfield is not the most career-savvy of locations. Not with a name like that.>" The blonde pilot grins. "<I'd love to see it. I bet they have some real antiques, there. It's one thing to fly on the bleeding edge of advancement, but one must have the proper respect for those who came before.>"

"<Wait until you've seen the inside of a quinjet,>" Raisa murmurs, arching her red brow. "<They handle nicely. I've gotten fairly used to them, at this point. All the speed of a supersonic fighter, and all the responsiveness and agility of a helicopter.>"

That single blue eye settles on Sally, though, cold as ice at the topic of Icarus and, more distantly, Hydra. She cares little about the latter, but the former has become an entity of interest. She'll do everything in her power to dismantle them. They've made it personal. Very personal. If the matriarch of the Stojespal lineage has anything to say about it, she'd be willing to listen. Of course, Raisa herself is bound by her status as an agent of SHIELD, and beholden to international law, to a certain extent…

But Dragana isn't. An ally, maybe? It's worth a shot, as far as she's concerned. Having someone on her side who can represent such a threat against organisations like that is potentially valuable.

Plans for another day, though. For the time being, she's going to catch up on some lost time. Enjoying such a bewilderingly normal evening – dinner, some valued company – is a good start.

Mikhail, meanwhile, cocks an eye at Sally. "<Huh? Lovelorn? Not really. I mean, you can't really call it 'lovelorn' if the one you love is right there next to you, can you?>" He looks a little puzzled, but whether he's being serious or just messing with her is hard to say. "<I won't argue 'affectionate' and 'utterly devoted,' though. Or holding hands. Or ki—oof.>"

"<We have to draw the line somewhere,>" Raisa says serenely, having elbowed her husband in the ribs. Gently, of course. "<More seriously… yes. We are home. We are together again, after too long apart.>" Her eye slides closed. "<I thank God for that.>"

Three blue eyes settle on Sally when she says she'll speak to Baba, and all three are deadly serious, lidded but alert, like the stare of a cat on the hunt. It's Raisa who speaks. "<Thank you. I think I would like to meet her, someday, if it were not an imposition. Her, and Irja Stojespal. Fang and claw,>" the redhead agrees. "<But that is your decision to make, I think. To walk the path of Stojespal tradition, or to walk your own path, Sally Petrovna… I think that it is a balance, as in all things.>"

"<Sokovia sounds like an interesting place. What do you say, my beauty? Shall we take a second honeymoon there? I'm sure our friend here could find us some truly aristocratic lodgings, you know.>" There's a gleam in Mikhail's eye that says he'd be laughing right now if it didn't spoil the joke. He's very obviously following that line of logic strictly to mess with Sally. His grin says as much. "<I jest, but only to a certain extent. I would like to see Sokovia, myself. It does sound like an interesting place – I meant that much… but a second honeymoon, that doesn't sound like so bad an idea. We have a great deal of lost time to catch up on,>" he murmurs, arching a brow as though daring her to disprove his point.

She laughs. "<Mikhail Nikolayevich, not in front of our guest. Speaking of which, Sally Petrovna, you are welcome to stay if you like. I do not have a guest room here, but the loveseat is not uncomfortable. I know it is late; I would not want you to have to drive in the middle of the night to return home.>"

"<Yes, it rather is.>" Her outlook in regards to the airbase - and the career dead-end that it is for her mother, despite Irja's position as airfield commander - is one that wishes it were erased. "<Mikoyan 23s, the swing-wing fighter-bomber. It's…not a bad airplane, for the 1980s. But it is Sokovia, I suppose. They don't have the budget for such things, even after the fall and freedom.>" She shrugs; it's not in her hands. "<But my mother still does her duty, because…in some ways, that is all she has.>"

A pause. "<I suppose…I should say, yes, there's always the family, but my mother was always focused on her career. Not that she ignored the rest of her life, but…she is a dedicated person. After father…>" Her voice trails off for a moment. "<I still worry about her. But there isn't anything I can do, directly…even if I were to sign up with the Air Force myself, it just…wouldn't be enough. She needs the service, even as much as those in control of it don't see the same for her. Perhaps in time that will change.>"

There's always the option for new government leadership, a change in the brass that puts new patrons in command.

For now, Sally just lets the matter rest. "<Yes, Quinjets. They are fascinating planes, aren't they? Fast, but also so excellently useful. And so curious looking. I haven't flown in one either, yet. Someday, I'm sure.>" Probably with Isa at the controls…and, Sally suspects, the Russian would happily 'demonstrate' her control over all three dimensions.

Dragana Stojespal is no agent of SHIELD. She is no soldier, and in some ways that is a strength. She thinks like the guerilla, the partisan. Retribution personified. After all, didn't Sally herself describe the end result of her father's murder? The Stojespal matriarch went to visit the mastermind, and said 'pretty lies' at her funeral a few days later.

The justice of a baron, carried out in the old ways.

She can't help but laugh, the dark mood broken, when Mikhail and Raisa start teasing - and punching - each other. "<Quite true. Well, just so long as I don't have to start examining lines of suitors when I visit. Then again, this rosemary bread is…almost good enough to endure such things. Almost,>" she repeats with a twinkle in her eye. "<For it, I may even endure an older couple's romantic entanglements and…>" Smirk. "Schmoopiness."

"<Baba does not leave the estate, for the most part. The last time she did…well.>" Sally marked off one of her grandaunts. "<She is content to let the grounds run themselves, and only oversees mother's maintaining the barony. It is, in all honsty, self-moderating. Our retainers and landed residents have been with us for a long time; tradition makes some things easy I suppose.>"

There's a soft sniff of disdain. "<I would hope it is. Perhaps some might mock us for being mountain people, with the barony in the highlands, but I find it fantastically beautiful there. Perhaps it's merely the flavor of home.>" The pair's mutual back and forth when it comes to honeymoons gets a tongue stuck out as well as a mimed gag. "SCHMOOPY!"

"<But…it might be nice to visit. After all of this is done, certainly. I should at least confess to Baba and mother everything that's gone on, and do so in person. I suppose I could put up with some freeloading Russians at the time. After all, a girl needs her assistants, doesn't she? I'm sure that we can find space for you both in a servants' barn somewhere.>" Sally just smiles. "<I would like to show you my home. You both, Sloane. Others as well. Sokovia is small, and it is old, but it…it is charming and beautiful. I may have claimed this country as my adoptive home, but the mountains of the Stojespal Barony…well. Scratch a Sokovian and you find a poet, yes?>"

The offer of staying overnight gets a nod and a yawn. "<I appreciate that. And I will take you up on it. I can go over paperwork tonight, then, and deal with driving home in the morning. Might I ask for some tea, perhaps?>" She reaches over to the table, gathering the documents, and settling back into the chair. Reaching down for a moment, Sally unbuckles both shoes, and sets them aside, letting her toes cling to the carpet in the room. "<So. Let us see what there is to see about this Tchernobog, and find its weaknesses.>"

"<That's going back pretty far,>" Mikhail drawls, finally releasing Raisa and leaning back in his seat. She doesn't go too far, settling in beside him; their hands find one another's, fingers lacing. Neither seems to be particularly aware of the gesture. "<I'd definitely call those antiques, but antiques have their place. All the technical advancement in the world can't save you if you have an ace pilot sitting in the cockpit, you know.>"

In other words, he could throw Raisa at Icarus armed with nothing more than an old Fishbed, and she would still raise hell before succumbing. If, indeed, she succumbed. She has a knack for pushing aircraft past their limits.

Mikhail tilts his head, eyeing Sally thoughtfully. "<They are. I'm certain eventually I will be given the opportunity to see them. Did I tell you? We spoke with Comrade Tony. It may be a bit of an imposition, but my Raya asked him if there was a place there for me, in Stark Industries. If nothing else, I wish to help kill the Heliosphere. It is an abomination, and something like that… something like that does not have any place in this world.>"

"<I think I would like to stay on, however, after we finish that bit of business. I do not think I have much of a future left in Russia,>" he says wistfully. "<I imagine my career is in as much tatters as my wife's, at least through official channels. Hell. I expect I will not be able to use my real name for some time… you know it, but it is probably not safe to call me by that anywhere but here.>"

"<Sally Petrovna is well aware of this,>" Raisa says serenely. "<I did not use my name when I first came to this country, either.>"

Mikhail silently raises an eyebrow.

"<Isa Reichert,>" she states, with a sardonic smile. "<It was not specific, and it could have come from any number of European countries.>"

He quirks both brows as though to suggest he understands, now. His attention returns to Sally, though, at the explanation of Dragana Stojespal's ways. "<No? I would expect someone like that to be out and about, never content to simply hand over the reins to someone else. Then again… if she's a wise woman, and she sounds it, perhaps that's the wiser path.>" Mikhail shrugs, just a little. "<I would not want authority, myself, even if it were shoved into my lap.>"

"<Mountains have their place,>" Raisa comments, with a half-smile. "<I used to go look at the stars when I was living in Moscow. I had to drive out of town quite a ways until it was dark enough, but I would find a nice hill, and park my car up there to look at the sky. The higher you go, the clearer they are, you know.>"

Mikhail settles in more comfortably, grinning in response to Sally's mock disgust. If she's smart, she'll realise she's being needled precisely because of that. It's just so amusing when she reacts like that. He can't help himself.

"<I would offer to take you there, but I do not think I could justify using a quinjet that way unless it were directly related to SHIELD business.>" Raisa shakes her head. "<Too bad. But I would love to see your home.>"

"<I haven't slept in a barn since I was a boy,>" Mikhail chips in, with a cheerful grin. "<And the last time I was in a barn, I must say that the hay made it much more comfortable to—hgck.>"

Raisa neatly folds her arm back at her side and smiles sweetly. "<Not in front of our guest, Misha. More seriously, we would stay anywhere you thought appropriate, of course. I do not like the city, much. Not since the fire; not since the fall. A place like that sounds wonderful.>"

"<Yes.>" Mikhail yawns, too, wearily pushing himself to his feet. Automatically, he reaches out and offers a hand, which Raisa uses to lever herself upright as well. "<You will have to go over the paperwork alone, unfortunately. Great God, I am so tired. I will have to excuse myself. Good night, Sally Petrovna.>" Mikhail offers a slight bob of his head, and a good-natured grin. "<Stay for breakfast. Raya is quite a cook when she puts her mind to it.>"

"<Go to bed, Misha, you're delerious and you don't know what you're talking about,>" Raisa calls after him, even as he shuffles carefully back towards the bedroom. "<I'll be along shortly.>" Mostly because she's barely holding herself upright any more.

After a few moments she returns, delivering a steaming cup to Sally, and offering a half-smile of her own. "<But he is right. Stay in the morning; at least have a good breakfast. Don't work on the paperwork for too long… we all need our rest, lately. Good night, Sally Petrovna. I will see you in the morning… and probably not early,>" she mumbles, raising a hand in parting gesture before making her own way toward the back of the apartment.

The bedroom door closes with a click, and the tiny sound has a certain finality to it. If Raisa has any say in it, she won't be conscious again for at least another twelve hours.

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