Street Faire

July 11, 2017:

In which Rusalka Stojespal is dragged to a street faire in upstate New York, and Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva spends a little time decompressing.

New York - Up the Coast

There are a lot of little seaside towns dotting the coast the further north one goes from New York City's congestion. Each one has its own charming little flavour, with an old city district and plenty of things to see and do; some of them are even boast oceanfront property, or small boardwalks. Sailboats are visible out on the waves in good weather, and seagulls wheeling and crying are a constant

Characters

NPCs: Mikhail Nikolayevich Makarov

Mentions: Sloane Albright, Tony Stark

Plot:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It's summer in the city. With it come the sweltering heat of the concrete jungle, and the reek of too much human habitation in one small area.

Let's go somewhere, Sally Petrovna, she'd told her friend over the phone. Somewhere upstate and out of the city. I have a few things to pick up, but I can get them elsewhere. Take Misha and I out of here for a little while, and I'll make it worth your while.

So the lot of them had piled into the Lotus once it had arrived, and driven north out of New York City proper, towards one of the smaller towns away from the crowding and noise of the city centre.

Now they find themselves upstate, where the air is cleaner, the pace is less frantic, and the cicadas are buzzing. The charming little New England town they've found themselves in has it all — little old-town districts where the tourists go, and small streets; antique shops, clothing botiques, sidewalk cafes, and even farmers' markets.

This one happens to be far north enough to give way to clean shores and tough shore grass; windswept sand and the distant cries of wheeling gulls.

It's a farmer's market that the trio have found themselves in, but it isn't just produce here — it's a little bit of everything the town has to offer, and the stalls include clothing, antiques, crafts, produce; street musicians, performers, and other local entrtainment.

The one-eyed pilot and her husband are watching everything at once. Somewhat self-consciously, Mikhail rubs at his wrist, but he makes no move to touch the tracking bracelet issued to him by SHIELD. They know where to find him, and he has no inclination to run from them. If anything, he's grateful for the unfamiliar touch of the bracelet against his wrist — it means they can reach him if he needs help.

Raisa, however, is busy trying to see everything at once, which is not so easy with only one eye. It's so lively.

"<Hey, that one has clothing.>" Mikhail reaches up to point toward a stall, glancing back to Sally. "<I hear the beaches are nice, up here. Have you got a swimsuit, Sally Petrovna? We should visit the beach some time when we can bring your friend along.>"

"<I bet Sloane Albright would like the beach, now…>" Isa, suddenly paying attention, slows herself down to match her pace back to Sally's. "<What do you think?>"

Summer in the great urban monolith that is the Greater New York area is something all must endure. It's certainly not quite as offputting for one Rusalka Stojespal as it is for the Makarovlevas, as she's come to jokingly call her friends, but she still admits the humid heat is occasionally brutal. When the suggestion of busting out of town and going north comes up? She's quite happy for it.

Sloane, sadly, was caught up with other things - SHIELD things - and there wouldn't have been room anyway. They'll hook up next time, certainly.

Fortunately for Isa stuck in the backseat, it's not a long drive to the Connecticut shoreline. Not that much further, really, than the first trip they'd taken; the seaside town inviting with its 'not being stupidly hot,' 'not being stupidly concrete,' and 'not being stupidly populated.' And for Rusalka, at least, is reminiscent of home - the shopping all over the place, farmers markets, entertainers, and swap-meet feeling all brings back fond memories of festivals in Sokovia.

Sally follows along, dressed comfortably - short skirt showing off her lower thighs, a fancy sleeveless top keeping her cool, and a nice pair of ankle boots finishing the outfit. Slightly punk, definitely not inexpensive. She catches Misha rubbing at the bracelet. "<It's alright, uncle Vasiliy.>" Her voice is quieter, just words for him and Raisa. "<Remember, I'm with SHIELD too. So, today I'm your parole agent!>" A cheerful smile is totally reassuring. Right?

"<Clothing?>" Sally looks up, those bright, deep blue eyes following his finger. "<Yes, they are…this part of New England is nice. We'll have to go by the shore later!>" Grin - and thne she freezes in horror. "<Swimsuit. …No. I only got here in September last year, I didn't…I missed summer, and well…>" Oh god. Topic change!

Sloane! Yes, talk about that. "<She probably would, yes! She spends a lot of time in the pool, at the Triskelion. And is of course a fantastic swimmer; I imagine she'd be right at home in the surf.>"

Sally might take heart in the fact that her one-eyed friend looks a little uncomfortable at the mention of swimsuits, too. The fire that disfigured her left more scars than just those that could be seen. Raisa still has a few issues to work out before she can comfortably wear something like that, and these days, her comfort is a little lacking.

The pilot is dressed comfortably, in a thin and flowing white blouse, beige slacks, and comfortable shoes. Mikhail, it seems, has chosen to suffer in a grey shirt and blue jeans, but if it really does make him suffer, he doesn't show it very much.

He has his hands in his pockets, ambling casually alongside his wife and travelling companion. His grey-blue eyes flick back to her, and for just a fleeting instant he looks less like the amicable fool and more like the shrewd and unsettled refugee that he is. "<Sally Petrovna, you don't have the clearance to be my parole agent.>" But that easygoing smile comes back a moment later, irrepressible. "<Besides, if I asked nicely, I'd bet you'd let me go, anyway, if it came down to it… but I don't have any wish to go.>"

"<I'm sure if there were any danger here, we'd have been cautioned not to go,>" Raisa chips in, reasonably. She slows a moment to check out a stall selling fruit, eyeing the produce appraisingly. "<I have no doubt that SHIELD knows where we are at all times, or at least they know where Vasya is. They have some of the best tracking technology in the world. If they thought we'd be in any danger going here, I'm sure some agent or another would have been barking at me over the phone, yes?>"

Clothing. Raisa looks around towards the stalls again, narrowing her eye. Sally is happy to force a change of topic, and she's happy to go along with it. "<I'd never seen the ocean before. Not this kind of ocean, anyway. The Baltic Sea is a lot more depressing compared to this. It's not really a place you… visit. It's a place that just happens to be there while you're passing by. Too remote, too desolate, too cold.>"

This kind of place is much nicer overall. People here seem to be at ease, instead of closed-off and downtrodden. It really does have the kind of festival atmosphere that Sally is reminded of.

"<She seems to be a good swimmer,>" Raisa observes. "<I haven't actually seen her at the pool, though.>"

"<Raya is also a good swimmer,>" Mikhail points out, with a shrug. "<Cuts through the water like a hot knife through a pat of butter. So can I, but I think of we two, she's the faster.>"

Her response comes in a mumble. "<I haven't been in a pool in a long, long time…>"

Seems Sally isn't the only one with a distinct discomfort regarding swimsuits.

She's seen the Russian in worse shape than this. And, for a while, wrapped up in nothing but hospital clothing. She knows the scars are much more than just on her face, and can only imagine how it must feel. Comfort…well, if Raisa was going to end up in a sundress on the beach, that's probably as far as she'd ever go. Not that Rusalka can blame her.

Sally knows how much attention Sloane gets, even in a world coming to grips with how abnormal things really are. It's slow…and frustrating.

Unfortunately Sally has no such thing - her only defense against the skin-baring summer outfits for late-teen girls is rampaging modesty and a thin modicum of aristocratic shyness. Combined with a lack of interest in impressing the boys, it's led to a wardrobe lacking in a proper swimming outfit. Something itches at the back of her mind that, since she has no defense in reasons not to wear such a thing…she's going to end up in one.

"<I am a level three agent, I am sure that is enough.>" Her expression shows little but the barest, razor-thin edge of disdain for the roguish older man's words, even if Raisa can tell by now it's a put-on. "<Oh, I wouldn't be so sure. I do have an ICER in my purse, after all~>" She beams up at him suddenly, a child with a favorite uncle perhaps - or delivering a horrible punchline? "<You'd have to ask very, very sweetly, I think!>"

Raisa gets a laugh and a nod. "<True. I am certain that I would have had all kinds of people yelling at me the moment we crossed the state border, but it seems they are not concerned. Perhaps they know my nerves of steel and laser accuracy.>" Complete BS, admittedly - her last target score barely avoided getting her laughed at on the range.

She nods a little at the mention of the Baltic. "<That's further north than even Maine is, I think. Far too cold for anyone but a scandinavian, I'm sure. Certainly too much for a proper Sokovian. We might not be on the Black Sea, but it isn't more than a short trip across Romania away. Much nicer here, I think, and the smell of the ocean is…definitely invigorating.>" She takes a long, long sniff of the air, seagulls cawing in the distance, and smiles.

"<Then perhaps you should. After all, there's a fantastic pool at the Triskelion for training. It's the one Sloane uses a lot; it's easily Olympic sized I think. I've watched her practice her…abilities, and helped out a little. Maybe you should compete to see who swims better, hmm Aunt Isa?>" Still using false names in public, of course. Even if SHIELD thinks it's fine, one never knows who is listening…especially in Russian.

Chances are a sundress would be pushing the envelope a little. The pilot seems to prefer much more modest clothing, the kind of thing that conceals her figure well and leaves no opportunity to see where the flame had marked her. More than that, she simply likes practical clothing; things that afford her good freedom of movement and comfort.

Mikhail, on the other hand, seems to prefer slightly more casual clothing; things that let him move well, but are also somewhat casual. In particular he seems to have a fondness for jeans and his faded old bomber jacket — when his wife hasn't commandeered it, anyway. He's content to let her wear it, even if it's a size or two too big for her.

Right now, jackets are the last thing on either's mind.

It's way too hot. Subarctic summers are a lot cooler and milder than this. The city is a miserable mire of humidity, heat, and too many people crammed into too little space. It's nice to get away, even if only for a little while.

Chances are Mikhail had been approving of this trip, because it got his wife away from the worktable and out into air and sunlight for a little while. She is, in some regards, a little like Tony Stark. She can possess shockingly ingle-minded focus, concentrating on her work to the exclusion of everything else. Including eating. And sleeping. And remembering to get up more than once every six to eight hours.

She still has a debt to repay to Icarus Dynamics; a debt of blood and fire, and she hasn't forgotten about it in the least.

"<I've heard of your scores, Sally Petrovna. I would have expected honesty from an old-blooded aristocrat like you, you know.>" Raisa smirks, just a little. "<I can shoot better than you can. And I only have one eye.>"

"<I think I'm going to stay out of this one,>" Mikhail mumbles, hands in his pockets, slouching just a little as he keeps pace with the other two.

Glancing over to Sally, Raisa tilts her head a little. "<Hunh. Probably. The fact that I am a SHIELD agent, too, even if one close to this matter… I suppose that does not hurt. I do have an ICER of my own.>" She, however, doesn't carry a purse. Hers is tucked into the small of her back, blouse left untucked today to conceal it.

"<The ocean? I can take it or leave it. I never grew up around it, and never visited it often. When I did, it was from twenty or thirty thousand feet up in the air, so I don't have any real emotional attachment to it. It's there; it's something different, and sometimes I suppose that's all a person really wants.>" The redhead gestures vaguely out towards the shoreline. "<It's nice. It just doesn't have the same emotional pull, for me.>"

"<About the same, here,>" Mikhail says, with a shrug. "<I grew up in Moscow, the same as she did. I'd say it's a little strange that we'd never met before the Air Force, but not really. It's a big city. Not as big as your New York, but big. It has a lot of people.>"

She wrinkles her nose. Compete to see who swims better? "<No. Losing contest. I know Sloane Albright will have us both beat, with the way she is. I expect she's much stronger in the water.>" It'd be a closer contest between the two pilots, though. Both of them work out semi-regularly and stay in reasonably athletic shape in spite of their professions. Mikhail is taller than she is, with greater reach, but she has the dogged determination of a cornered animal and a competitive streak twenty miles wide.

"<I know.>" Mikhail grins that affable grin and reaches over to chuck Sally on the arm; the fact that he does work out on a semi-regular basis shows. "<Tell us more about Sokovia. Do you have open markets like this one?>"

Rusalka's own fashion sense…is a bit mixed, mostly relatively modest as far as low collars and high hemlines go. Certainly plenty of automotive-enthusiast outfits. Definite fixation on quality without care of price. A bit of punk leavening from Sloane; see also the current denim-miniskirt-and-boots she has on.

And then she is betrayed by Raisa! "<Wh-how did you hear? Oh god, I'm probably the laughingstock of the entire academy…bah, of course you can. I dislike guns!>" Hmpf. "<Besides, 'when weak appear strong' is an old trick. And you had better, Uncle Vasiliy!>" This last at Misha, as Sally pouts - the last thing she wants is him teaming up with his wife.

Ugh, it's going to be a long day.

Raisa's estimate gets a nod. "<Considering that your husband has been a useful source of information, been working with SHIELD since his rescue…I think they're not that worried about him. Especially with the both of us as a chaperone, but…I just think they feel he isn't a threat. That's the impression I got.>" Blue eyes glance back up at Misha. "<So no asking to escape.>" Smirk.

"<Myself either. Sloane did, in Boston, but all we had back home was the river next to the estate. Plenty of fun to splash around in, but it wasn't that large, and well. Every time I got near it, of course, people just had to bring up the tradition.>" Her nose wrinkles, but talk turns to Moscow.

She considers. "<I've always wanted to see Saint Basil's Cathedral. You know, many Americans think that is the Kremlin?>" She can't help the slight laugh, pausing for a moment to look over the wares of a particular farm vendor. A moment later, she takes a nice bite out of a dark red apple, grinning.

"<All three of us. Even if it were a relay race, she'd beat us,>" Sally grins. "<Did you know she can hold her breath underwater for a good twenty minutes now? She terrified me the first time I saw her do it; I walked in the pool room and there she was just…sitting on the bottom, with a clock timer next to the pool that was past ten minutes. I screamed and grabbed…one of those net-on-a-stick things, and was trying to fish her out…>"

Sally laughs now, of course, but the terror of that moment had been a shock. Then again, she'd also laughed then…at least, once Sloane floated to the surface and was swearing at her with the net over her head.

She grins at the gentle not-punch, and nods. "<Yes, actually very yes. Not so much in Novi Grad, but a lot of the smaller towns do. Partly…>" A sad sigh. "<The Balkan troubles were…well, of course it spread to home too. Not all of Sokovia is quite as cheerful as home, especially in the south. But they're pulling back together, slowly, it's just…a few years without constant trouble, really, is all we need.>"

It was something that had originally motivated her to seek education elsewhere, and return to help rebuild.

"<But yes, especially in the barony, there's open markets. Some farming, a lot of local craftsmen; Baba focused a lot on keeping things that way since the War of Retribution.>" She continues walking alongside the two, spinning the tale of a small, proud, and difficult land. "<A lot of people say Sokovia's nowhere special, but just part of the path to places that are. I disagree…it's rustic, perhaps, certainly not as…advanced as New York. But.>"

One hand gestures to the small town shoreside market they're walking down. "<It's the kind of place like this, where people…can just be people. And I love it so,>" she realizes, before laughing.

"<But I will admit the mountain roads make for fantastic driving.>"

Most of the pilot's outfits are similarly modest, though for different reasons. She dresses in more masculine clothing for the most part. As a pilot, she needs to be able to move quickly and not snag sleeves or hems on mechanics; as a woman, she feels the need to hide the scarring done to her by the fire.

She's also a little cheap out of habit, and doesn't dress nearly as expensively as her Sokovian friend.

"<And I can shoot better than both of you,>" Mikhail points out with irreverent good cheer. "<I'm used to it, and I also have both of my eyes—>"

He half-laughs, half-squawks as Raisa punches his arm. It's gentle but only up to a point, enough that it very possibly might leave a bruise. But those blue eyes turn serious as Sally mentions his volunteering of information, almost a little melancholy.

"<Yes,>" Mikhail says, simply. "<But I am not naive enough to assume that I am trusted by SHIELD. I could be lying, I could be feeding them false information, and I could even be a saboteur. She is hardly an appropriate guard; as my wife, she is too personally attached to be expected to remain objective. I understand your American officials are likewise pulled from cases when they are deemed to be too personally invested. This is no different.>"

Raisa takes up the thread next, looking briefly to Sally from her single eye. "<I have made it clear to them that I will not act in an official capacity where M—Vasiliy Timurovich is involved.>" She shrugs. "<I cannot. And as a friend, you are not exactly in a position to, either, Sally Petrovna. If one of us were to pull a gun on you — and I mean a Stetchkin, not an ICER — do you think you could trust yourself to act objectively?>"

"<I expect that we are being watched,>" Mikhail volunteers, unconcerned. He taps at the tracking bracelet on his wrist. "<Through this, if nothing else. That is enough for me; I do not expect them to trust me, and I think that it would unsettle me, somewhat, if they did.>"

They seem to let the topic go at that. Raisa snorts at her friend's description of Sloane's particular talents, half-scowling. "<I have not seen her in the water, but I imagine that with the way she looks, it would not be difficult for her to perform feats of superhuman endurance and strength. To cut through the water like a knife, and hold her breath like a dolphin.>" Her expression shifts, thoughtful. "<I think she mentioned something like that to me one of the last times we spoke.>"

To the matter of St. Basil's and tourists mistaking it for the Kremlin, she sighs, slipping her hands into her pockets. "<Too many. I was there only once, myself.>" Just long enough to extract the data she needed, and then run like hell for the western world. Her memories of that time are not entirely contiguous. The adrenaline had made it hard to think, and the subsequent crash once she'd turned herself over to SHIELD custody… she must have slept for a week, or at least felt that way, once her system had bottomed out from all that adrenaline and caffeine.

Sometimes she feels like she's still paying off that sleep-debt, but less so, now that some things in her life have been made right. She eyes the produce stalls as they pass by, holding up a forefinger as she splits off from the group, weaving her way through a knot of tourists towards a distant stall.

Mikhail shrugs, adjusting his ambling walk to keep pace with Sally.

"<I also grew up in Moscow, so I was never able to see much in the way of markets and street faires like this.>" He glances to he side, studying the Sokovian heiress from the corner of an eye. "<Everywhere is somewhere special. It took me a while to realise that, but there it is. And sometimes, some of the most overlooked places are the most important ones.>" The blonde pilot grins, chucking Sally on the forearm, gently. "<Especially a place like Sokovia. Technological advancement isn't everything, you know. I hope we have the opportunity to see it, someday, when there aren't a dozen fires to be put out at once. I mean that.>"

Mountain roads and driving earns another lackadaisical grin from 'Uncle Vasiliy.' "<I like driving, too. Not as much as flying. It's a fairly minor hobby, and I never owned a nice car; my wife and I shared the same one… that piece of crap was always a chore to drive.>" He's rambling and he knows it, slipping his hands into his pockets, watching the crowds without really seeing them. "<Sometimes we'd drive out to the outskirts of the city, at night, and find a nice hill; we'd park the car in a field and watch the stars, and share a thermos of coffee. I actually miss night driving, a little. It's nice when the roads are empty. No idiot tourists or idiot locals to get in your way, you know?>"

He glances back to her, the seriousness in his eyes at odds with his naturally affable-looking features. "<She speaks highly of you, you know. My wife. You've taken good care of her while I've been… gone, I can see that.>" His expression is wholly serious, now. "<Thank you for that, Sally Petrovna.>"

"<That is good to know. Then you will teach me.>" Sorry Misha, you just got roped into it. It's your fault for mentioning the useful skill around someone who clearly needs it. "<Many of the SHIELD teachers are of course dealing with regular Academy classes; since I skipped that and went directly into service, I've been playing a lot of catch-up. And…between theory-classes at Columbia, and learning the applied aspects from Mr. Stark, plus all the work for…that thing,>" she adds with a knowing glance to him. The Tchernobog.

"<A girl only has so many hours in the day to fit things in. So I suppose I will accept your being my teacher.>"

Sally just shrugs. "<You could. But then you would face the ire of your wife, I am sure. After all she went through to bring you back, were you to take off…well. I would not like to be there to witness such a meeting once again. Besides, I know you would not. You like it here by her side too much.>"

Which he's said often, and meaningfully. Very often. Almost gaggingly often. Romantics!

"<Hmpf. And yet you would ask such a question.>" There's a long pause. "<I would not ever want to find out. So I choose not to. Even if SHIELD always asks, auntie…I have been by your side at terrible and joyous times. I have seen you through them, and I have your measure. You would not.>"

And then she turns, still keeping her stride, walking backwards in front of them. "<And I know how much you desire another go with that heinous aircraft. No, I don't believe I have much to worry about,>" she adds after turning around in front of them with her hands behind her back. A carefree pose.

Sally hmms softly, thinking about the great spired cathedral. "<Someday I'd like to see it. It's quite beautiful, in all honesty.>" Saint Basil's, of course; the Kremlin itself…perhaps not so much. Her feelings towards much of the Russian government haven't changed, after all.

Meanwhile Raisa splits off for a moment, as Sally peers after her, before Misha speaks up. His first comment just gets a nod, but then she laughs. "<Khoro has blessed you with her wisdom. Did you hear a whisper upon the fields, perhaps?>" Grin. "<Though…you're right, I believe. Everywhere, there's a place like this hidden just to the side perhaps. It isn't New York…but that's what makes it special, I think. And…Sokovia is home. So of course, it is the best.>" Objective truth!

"<Oh? That's right, Isa mentioned that…the trips at night, out to see the stars. She suggested a trip a little while ago, it's just…as you said. A dozen fires to be put out.>" She snickers a little at the mention of the Makarovmobile. "<Hm…a Lada, I imagine. Five…no, thirteen years? So perhaps ten years ago, yes. Still many from the old days, and not a lot of bother competing for imports yet. Russian manufacturing, heh.>" She shrugs, only slightly teasing. "<Though, I suppose you learned the important parts of maintenance at least. There's something to be said for that…maybe.>"

"<I guess I'm going to be your new shooting instructor, then,>" Mikhail drawls, unconcerned. "<So long as your superiors in SHIELD don't mind too much, I'm all for it, as long as you know my skills are only adequate at best. I used to carry a sidearm, and I needed to know how to use it.>" He shrugs. "<That includes cleaning and maintaining it, too. Not just shooting. Unfortunately, you're going to have to look to SHIELD for that. I've looked at my wife's ICER before, but I must confess I have no idea how it works.>"

As they pass by another stall, Mikhail abruptly swerves, reaching out and plucking a short stalk of wheat from a vase of dried stalks, flipping the vendor a quarter as he does. He tucks it into the corner of his mouth. "<I think we owe your Khoro a debt,>" he explains, with a grin.

Ambling along, he seems unconcerned by Raisa's abrupt departure, with the nonchalant confidence of a man who knows she'll be back. Something caught her eye, and once she's satisfied her curiosity, she'll make her way back. She can be seen in the distance, easily marked even from behind, with her rich red hair. Although her voice isn't audible, it looks as though she's haggling with the vendor, whose stall seems to have a little bit of everything.

Mikhail shrugs a shoulder. "<Yeah. You're right about that. I do like it by her side too much to leave.>" He rolls a grey-blue eye at Sally, arching a brow a little, wheat stalk dangling from the corner of his mouth at an angle. "<D'you know how rare it is, Sally Petrovna, to find that someone whom you not only want to spend your life with, but can't spend it without?>"

"<Oh, don't gag,>" he adds to forestall any protest from her, scowling for a brief instant. "<I don't mean it in that — what's that word you use? I don't mean it schmoopy-like. I'm talking purely matter-of-fact here. I was miserable while we were apart, and to hear her talk, so was she.>"

Shifting the stalk of wheat to the other side of his mouth, he slips his hands into his pockets again, looking up to the sky for a moment in nonchalance. "<Yeah. She mentioned a good place to go, for that. Some kind of state park. We should do it, once we've got a chance to settle down a little bit.>" His eyes linger on the sky, though, as though remembering something he'd lost. It's been a long, long time since he's had the opportunity to be up there in the sky. He doesn't need it as desperately as Isa once did, but it'd be nice.

He only sighs, wistfully, and turns his eyes back to more earthly matters. Namely, the crowd in front of him, so he doesn't inadvertantly walk into anybody. "<I don't even remember what it was. It was a piece of shit,>" he sighs. "<We were both constantly having to fix something or another ourselves. Maybe we'll get another car, here, but what's the point, when we have a perfectly good driver with a much nicer car than we could ever afford?>" He reaches out, ruffling Sally's hair. "<No sense getting greedy, right?>"

Still, he seems thoughtful, as though mulling over something she'd said. What she had mentioned about the Tchernobog, the Heliosphere, had rung true. He knows with a certainty his wife wants another go at that Hell-spawned machine, and if he's honest with himself, he wouldn't mind an opportunity himself.

"<I hope your Khoro is as fierce as I'd imagine a giant wolf spirit to be. I think we might need some of that strength, if she or I do have another go at that heinous aircraft.>" For just a brief instant, the physical and mental strain of the past five years shows on his face; glum in spite of the beautiful summer day and the festive street faire. "<We're going to need every advantage we can get against that thing. It needs to be destroyed.>"

The wheat stalk is flipped to the other side of his mouth, and he frowns, looking back towards where his wife is—

"<Huh…?>"

Quite abruptly, Raisa is at his side again, but on the opposite side of him. He doesn't see her because he's looking towards the stall she had just vacated.

"<Great God!>" He almost jumps out of his skin when she loops an arm around his. "<Don't do that.>"

"<I brought you a present,>" she says to Sally, with a satisfied and almost smug little smile. "<Here. I had to take the liberty of guessing, but I like to think it was accurate.>"

The bag is handed to Sally. It's a plain brown paper bag, folded over at the top.

Does she even want to find out what's inside it? It doesn't smell like food, and it's very lightweight…

"<The basics, I suppose, will be sufficient. If my legendary marksmanship has already reached even Isa's ears…well.>" As Sally said, she's not part of the typical Academy classes. She shrugs, but then nods. "<Yes, basic maintenance at least. I understand the principles, but well. SHIELD still expects me to use a Glock at some point. Such a strange feeling pistol.>" It's still a regular nine millimeter pistol, after all. Not that much different from Misha's own namesake standard-issue pistol.

There's an eyebrow raised at the wheat stalk before Sally grins. "<I suppose so. She's become quite popular of late among us, it seems. Not that I mind much; I will take what help I can get.>" She looks around, spotting Raisa - some little-bit-of-everything vendor? Sally can't tell from here. And then talk turns to relationships.

"<In honesty…no. Perhaps there's been the occasional cute boy in school, but…they're still boys,>" she adds with a sigh. <"Those that aren't staring at me for my body tell me I don't belong in their clubs, that girls can't drive or fix things or whatever. They're only children still, I suppose.>" Pot, you have a call from Kettle on line two. "<So I have managed thus far to avoid such a trap, happily. You, on the other hand, well.>"

She can't help the amused smirk. "<I would have thought you're old enough to know better, Uncle Vasiliy, but. Even if you are schmoopy, I suppose I forgive it. You are a good husband to a good friend.>"

Looking around, she takes another bite of her apple, working through the fruit with a cheerful vigor. "<Hm. I don't think she mentioned it to me, but I'd like that. I'll rent a van perhaps, and we'll take Sloane along as well. Certainly something with a little more room than the Kometa. It does much, but…it is still a sportscar.>" She can't help the laugh at Misha's description of the car and his hand in her hair, though. "<Yes, definitely. Fortunately, you have a reliable chauffeur at your beck and call, yes?>" She pulls the hairband out, letting her hair flop down, and then sweeps it back before reinserting the thing. Bangs falling back down forward framing her face, she grins.

"<Fierce, powerful, and most especially cunning. You know how large those boar get; a wolf needs to be exceptionally wise to defeat one. Most stories talk about how clever she is, but well, a giant wolf spirit is going to have giant teeth, yes? I would not worry; with her blessing we'll cast that thing down.>"

Sally jumps as well when Raisa reappears. "<Bozhe miy, you like doing that too much!>" Pout. "<Simply appearing out of nowhere, like some ninja-eh? A present?"> Cobalt-blue eyes narrow, the vibrant color almost black in shadow. "<Is this safe to open in public, I wonder…>" A light shake is given, before unrolling the top of the paper back and peering inside…

…carefully shielding it from Misha, in case it's something terrible and embarrassing like her friend's smugness implies.

"<I think it's reached a lot of ears.>" Mikhail feigns nonchalance, absently scratching behind an ear, wheat stalk bobbing between his teeth. "<It's no secret that your marksmanship leaves much to be desired. In fact, it leaves pretty much everything to be desired. If you had to trust your life to that skill… well.>"

The man illustratively draws a forefinger across his own throat. If she had to rely on shooting someone else before being shot herself, there's no two ways about it. She'd be bleeding out on the floor. If someone else had to trust in her marksmanship, they'd be bleeding out on the floor.

He grins. "<I guess I'll just have to shove your nose into the grindstone until you get it right. I hope you like spending time at the range, because it sounds like you're going to be putting in a lot of hours before things turn around… but that's okay. I seem to have a surplus of time, lately, and not much to fill it with.>"

Despite his skills, he's still waiting to hear back from Stark Industries on whether or not they have need of a pilot. He's willing to work even as a test pilot, although he openly acknowledges that his wife is better at it than he is. The last resort will be to go back to SHIELD, but much like Raisa, he would prefer not to place himself in harm's way too overtly.

They've done enough of that in their lives, and lost too much time to danger and harm already.

Mikhail meanders sideways, stopping by a fruit vendor to pick up an apple of his own, though a different strain from the one that Sally had chosen. He crunches into it satisfyingly as he listens to her explain her quandary with the opposite gender, barking a laugh. "<Really? That's rich. You could run rings around them with what you know and can do, Sally Petrovna. Don't you listen to them. When you find one who acknowledges that, then I think you've found the one. But until then… no. You're right. They're just boys.>"

Old enough to know better? Mikhail only grins that rakish grin. "<What is that American saying? 'Old enough to know better, young enough not to care?' Come, now, Sally Petrovna. I am not so old, and neither is my wife.>" He arches a brow, crunching into his apple. "<And I think we have earned the right to enjoy one another's company, eh? Just because we were only married for two weeks doesn't mean much. We were together for eight years, before that.>"

"<Sally Petrovna, I can't tell you what it's like to have that suddenly ripped out of your life. Or the joy of having that back in your life.>" He smiles, a little melancholy. "<And we should have been together for thirteen years, total. Too much wasted time…>" Crunch. He works on his apple in silence for a moment or two. Crunch, crunch. "<But no more wasted time. No more missed opportunities…>"

His eyes slide over to the bag, narrowing just a little in good-natured suspicion. What has she got, there? And why does it fill him with a sense of foreboding?

It rustles, innocuously, as the Sokovian rummages into it. When she comes out with what its contents are, she'll find that her hand closes on a small sealed bag of honeyed, candied apples. A delicate treat worthy of an offering to Khoro herself.

There's something underneath that, though. And it's some kind of clothing. The feel of it is vaguely familiar, like nylon or spandex, or a combination of the two… and if she pulls it out, she'll find…

…a swimsuit. One of a modest cut, modest enough that it might appeal to her in spite of what it is. The colours are appropriate, too; blue and white.

"<Because you had to go and mention it,>" Raisa says, with a certain savage glee. "<And because we should all go to the ocean, together, when we are able. Like family,>" she adds, with a less savage-looking smile. Besides, she can't well spoil her own daughter with gifts, because she dosn't have one. Rusalka Stojespal is the next best thing. "<Besides, then we can all try to beat Sloane Albright in a relay, yes?>"

"<Then I would run away.>" Pragmatic, certainly. "<It is like all skills, I'm sure, I'll get better at it. Practice and all. But…running away, or else I'd pick up a sword. That I am much better at.>" She tries not to notice Misha's gesture; she gets it - and has a flash of her fumbling an ICER while Sloane herself lies just as Misha thinks. The mental image there is more than she wants to think about right now.

"<Alright, alright. I will practice, yes, all the hours you like. That I can spare, anyway. I guess this is what my mother meant by 'sleep is for the fortunate' when she was in the academy.>" She's grumbling, but it's not too serious. Most of her problem centers around the dislike of firearms despite her family's history; she doesn't have a problem with a good rapier or thrusting sword at all.

But the bad aftertaste of that mental image still rankles at the back of her mind. Practice indeed.

She pauses as he picks an apple of his own from a cart, nodding a little in approval. Good choice. And then the man laughs, Sally getting in a smirk of her own. "<Absolutely boys. And that would have to be a rare enough person indeed. Meh, for the future. You and Aunt Isa didn't connect until…mm, your mid-twenties? That's a lot of years away for me. Plenty of time for the universe to create someone whose head isn't up his ass.>"

Ahem.

"<Someone my age, I mean. Present company clearly excepted, that is.>"

Ahem.

She laughs at the point of enjoying each other, especially as Raisa returns. "<I suppose this is true. The two of you remind me a little of mother and father, back…then. He was as carefree as a sparrow sometimes, you know. But always there was love, for everyone. Even if he was first a Tereshchenko in name, he truly became one of us.

The bag gets a closer inspection, and Rusalka can't help but grin when she finds the treat. "<Now that is something we should all share later. A proper party. It's not that long until the harvests start back home, and well. Khoro did have a reputation of enjoying a party; she was a very festive goddess. Hence, we mountain types like putting on a good show when it's time.>" She eyes the fruit treats again, smirking. "<Especially if it's an early celebration. Something to, as they say, level the playing field.>"

Admittedly, the Khoro in her stories was often sharing stories and drinking most folks under the table, when she caroused in human form. "<Some claim she still does. An auburn-haired maiden with exceptional constitution and cleverness, able to hold her own against the largest of men. May she bless our tiny festival later, then.>" Because it'd be a crime to let the apples go to waste…

…and then there is something that almost gets a curse spat out. "<You - you didn't. …Oh my god, you did. What were you thinking?! …Augh.>" She doesn't draw the swimsuit out completely, but does get a better look at it - more of a sports design, than anything overly skin-showing. And a fluorescent blue, as well, with the sleek stripes of white…well, maybe it's not so bad.

But it's still crushed to the bottom of the bag, her cheeks as red as her other snack, as Isa continues. "<I will get you back for this. But…thank you. It actually looks really nice, you know, just…that's not fair. Hmpf.>" The idea of a beach trip, though. "<Actually…why not combine it?>" She looks back and forth at Misha and Raisa.

"<A later trip, perhaps, an afternoon at the beach and then having a campfire dinner there, and watching the stars overhead. We'll make a day of it; that would be perfect.>"

"<Sometimes, we are not always given that opportunity.>" There's something sad and strange in Mikhail's smile, as though he were relating something from personal experience. Nothing that she might know of would shed any light on it. Whatever it is, it's some hint from his own private past. Or, perhaps he's simply wishing he might have had the opportunity to run from Icarus Dynamics, before they had managed to get their meat hooks into him. "<It's a skill, just like any other.>"

Mikhail takes another bite out of his apple, looking out at the crowd as he ambles along. "<Pay it the respect it deserves, and it's nothing you need to be afraid of. I know you don't like firearms, Sally Petrovna. But just because you know how to use them does not necessarily mean that you will. And think of it this way, too: Knowing how to use them well means that maybe you will not accidentally kill somebody when it comes time that you must use them. Yes?>"

In other words, if she knows how to control her shooting, she can aim for something that isn't vital, if she has to shoot at all. Instead of aiming for a body's centre of mass, she can aim for a limb, or some other disabling kind of shot. And, with developing confidence in her own skills, she might give herself the calmness to aim more carefully. She won't need to fall back on the panic fire that might be used by an untrained and unfamiliar civilian; one who doesn't know the power of the weapon they're holding.

"<Good.>" Mikhail finishes the last of his apple, carrying the core with him. At her off-handed comment about his age, though, he plucks the stem from it, flicking it at her in appropriately immature gesture. At least he doesn't stick his tongue out. "<Yes, you're right about that. That's a lot of years away for you. Ah, youth,>" he says, with a theatrical warble. "<I'm sure someone like that is out there, though. It's just a matter of finding him.>"

After all, the world is a very big place. The statistical odds of finding someone like that are fairly low, overall. That, he likes to think, is where divine intervention might come in, if such a thing existed. A bit of a guiding nudge from fate; a push in the right direction.

"<I was twenty-six, she was twenty-five,>" he confirms. "<Actually, we couldn't stand each other at first. I thought she was stubborn and willful. I'm fairly certain she thought the same of me.>"

"<She did,>" Raisa clarifies, smirking faintly at her hsuband's sheepish grin. "<We got along like oil and water. That is to say, not at all. We got along a little better after our first few meetings, though. Since I was a test pilot and he was a combat pilot, we frequented something of the same places. Eventually we started coming up with excuses to cross paths…>"

"<The rest was history,>" Mikhail comments, slinging his apple core into a nearby trash can, bouncing it off the rim to land into the bag. Perfect shot. He glances over when Sally says they remind her of her own parents, lifting a brow. "<Yeah? She told me what had happened. I'm sorry for your loss,>" he says, sincerely. "<Going through something like that is never easy.>"

Raisa glances over at the description of Khoro in human form, snorting a little. "<Heh. I hope I don't get mistaken for your wolfling whenever we get around to visiting Sokovia. I might have a remarkably good constitution, or so the doctors have told me over the years, but I'm not particularly clever. I just have a few things I do well.>"

There's a moment of silence as Sally investigates the second part of the gift. Then slowly, serenely, Raisa Ivanovna Yakovleva smiles.

"<I did.>" What was she thinking? "<I was thinking you would look pretty good in that, actually. I was thinking it suits you.>" Sally swears vengeance, and the red-headed pilot smirks a little. "<I'd like to see you try it, Sally Petrovna.>"

Her smile turns a little more genuine as the girl describes a combined trip, and both pilots look a little thoughtful about the prospect. A private trip would have been nice, but sharing time off with the two girls, effectively family at this point, draws a smile from both. "<Yeah.>" It's Mikhail who speaks up. "<I wouldn't mind that. Just don't ask me to do any of the cooking. I'm awful at it. She's a much better cook than I am, you know.>" He leans behind her to stage-whisper to Sally. "<Rosemary bread.>"

"<I think I'd like that,>" Raisa says, with a faint smile. "<I'm sure Sloane Albright would like the chance to get away for a little while, too, if SHIELD could spare her… it'll be a good day. Let's do that, Sally Petrovna.>"

She looks back to the crowd, still wearing that faint smile. "<For now, though… let's enjoy this street faire before we have to go back. Maybe you can find a present for Sloane Albright. Or a little something to send home to Sokovia, yes…?>"

And, arm in arm with her husband, the two seem to have every intention of enjoying the day with their honourary niece — like normal people, doing normal things; even if that fragile illusion only lasts for a short afternoon.

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