August 27, 2017:

On her way to a mysterious job out in the reclusive country of Wakanda, Elektra finds herself stalked by the Black Widow.

New York City


NPCs: None.

Mentions: Bucky Barnes

Mood Music: [*\# None.]

Fade In…

It's only been a day since she met her contact and got the details of the job, and Elektra is already locked and loaded and ready to move. Though she's chartered a small private plane, she still travels pretty light out of precaution and habit. She's got caches near enough to Wakanda to not slow her down significantly, and it'll be a sight easier gearing up from them than trying to drag over everything she'll need in the country.

And she'll need a hell of a lot, going in there. Few are the people in her profession that will take any job within the panther's borders. The money's not worth the risk, and the country's so advanced it entirely rules out the lower tiers of mercenaries and contract killers just through lack of resources alone.

Elektra never really took jobs for the money, though. Often, the thrill of being wherever the chao is thickest was enough. She wanted to see Wakanda, and she wanted to know what exactly was going on in the country that she was being asked to terminate foreign meddlers sniffing around in the Wakandan investigation.

She could get to the airport any number of ways that would be ten times faster than the mundane ways regular people travel, but she employs none of them. The woman heading towards the nearest A train station, is dressed down in civvies and looks no different than any other twenty-something out and about late on a Sunday evening. Her only concession to the fact she's trying to be clandestine is the fact she's chosen to walk right along the Hudson River, away from the city heart, along a bike path that is relatively deserted at this time of night.

The world has its pulse, and Natasha Romanova has eighty years of experience pressing two fingers to the artery and counting its meter.

She knows where the blood moves, and she follows its path to find where the limbs decide to point.

James Buchanan Barnes is in Wakanda now, against his will, dead or alive. Natalia knows him well enough to bet which.

There is little she can do, and as she told him weeks ago on the cusp of his trial, there is even less she wants to do. Natasha Romanova has not wanted anything for a long time.

Partially a lie, as there are some things she wants —

— the little things, usually, such as the want to move without sound. Such as the want to narrow and fold in her presence until it disturbs nothing, a dagger between atoms, not even so much to sluice the wind blowing in from the Hudson.

The want never to leave the shadow what keeps her, one wraith seamed among the dark — forced to reveal herself the moment before the strike. She comes at the back. There is a blade in the Widow's hand, and it wants Elektra's flesh. It needs only a single cut; its poison ensures the rest.

The black-haired woman Natasha trails seems unaware of her new shadow. She steps quietly down the street, head bowed, apparently lost in thought. Her left hand lifts to the strap of her duffel to steady it on her shoulder as her pace picks up. Apparently she's got a train to catch, and she doesn't want to be late.

She's heading south, but at the next intersection she hangs a left. She's moving quickly, but not quickly enough that she can clear past the mouth of a side street before the Widow unseams from the dark with a venomed fang for her back. The blade comes within inches of the woman's unprotected back.

The sharp report of steel on steel rings out before the eyes can catch up with the associated movements. The black-haired woman, whirled around, regards the Widow with tilted head and curious blue eyes, Romanova's blade captured between the prongs of a sai.

Elektra regards Natasha with narrowed, blank eyes a moment. Then delight sparks in her gaze. "The Black Widow is here to kill me? I'm so flattered!"

The sai twists sharply, an attempt to disarm the other woman and send the poisoned blade skidding, and Elektra rears back to fire a forward kick at the Widow's center mass, looking to create space.

That hooked blade locks into the tines of the sai, stopped short with a cry of metal.

It shines greasy under distant, ambient street light. Most Widows prefer only hunt and capture with one shallow cut: deep enough only to allow the paralytic to set in. How many bodies has it numbed and relented to the killer's direction; how many people were forced to helplessly watch the woman carefully and orderly arrange their cause of death? The heart attack. The stroke. The overdose of medication. The unfortunate choking on tonight's dinner.

That blade wants to hook into Natchios' spinal nerve. Whatever death the Black Widow seems to have determined for Elektra, it is not the sort what leaves a body behind.

But the assassin is quick — too quick. Quick, and ready for this, twisting in time to arrest that killing strike, and the turn of the sai wrests Natasha in close.

The Black Widow wears civilian clothing, the falsities that predators like them there, clothes tailored to make her look every bit like someone's well-kept woman — save for the emptiness of her blue eyes. They find Elektra's eyes in the dark, patient and glacial, dead even to that snapped quip.

The twisted sai takes the poisoned knife from her gloved fingers; it clatters noisily off into the dark. Natasha does not care to see it go. She girds herself instead, moving with the strike, vaulting off of that strong leg with a flexibility that is neither natural nor human.

She lands at an eely distance, just outside of immediate reach of that sai, her own gloved hands open, empty of her own weapons. Natasha stares for a moment more, before her face thaws with good-humour. "You're doing bad business, Elektra. I thought your standards were higher than that."

The give of the Widow's body is not human. Hitting it is like hitting elastic, a length of silk — she moves with it, bending effortlessly, so fluid before the force that Elektra staggers a little in her recovery, not enough resistance to get her feet back under herself properly.

The moment of imbalance doesn't last long. She is agile herself, even if she does not have Romanova's particular advantages. Even if her own blue eyes watch the Widow move with mingled covetousness and disgust.

Even that expression is fleeting, soon crossing back into the woman's typical amused blandness. Natasha's good humor meets a match in Elektra's own. "Having standards sounds like a good way to get dead," she muses with a flip of her sai, the unusual sharpened edge on its untouched prong slicing free a section of her sleeve so she can wipe the trace poison from its tainted tines. "Once you start boxing yourself in… it's game over."

She turns and leaps straight up, catching the edge of an overhead fire escape with her hands, and with a burst of strength flips up into a handstand. She grins an inverted grin at Natasha through her dangling hair. "How's SHIELD life, speaking of?"

Bending fluidly, she walks her body back upright with a gymnast's grace, immediately ducking into a swift and erratic run up the fire escape towards the roof. She's keen on flight. Got a plane to catch. "There's really no such thing as bad business, anyway," she calls. "Good business has to exist first, and you of all people ought to know it doesn't!"

There come consequences to the unnatural way the Romanova moves; her blue eyes are an absence of humanity. Man should not live this long, and predators of men even less, with a decades' lifespan in their trade: live bloodily and die gloriously. But the Black Widow is cursed to live too long and see too much. Between moments, and to perception as dagger-sharp as Elektra's, Natasha's gaze between her falsities and plays rings too-hollow.

Still, her mouth curves at the corners at talk of their kind, the monsters, setting limits — boxing themselves in. Don't I know it, answers the laconic slant of her mouth.

Her quick eyes track Elektra's just-as-quick escape, straight up, demonstrating all that peak lithe strength to invert herself and handstand the rail of a fire escape. Natasha, still on the ground, looks up, her face in that moment mollified with a strange patience — like an old woman seeing a photograph of herself sixty years ago. SHIELD's mention wins her sincere amusement. "As boring as you expect," she answers.

Elektra makes a quick exeunt up onto the roof with that last adieu. This time, there is no answer from the Widow.

The assassin seems too fast to invite pursuit, and there's no sound of the Widow at her heels for those quick seconds to cross the length of the rooftop. Nothing save —

— something that whistles through the air. Not a bullet, not fast enough, and not with its clamorous sound: it's a dart, Romanova's famous Widow's Bite, fired at the fleeing Elektra with its convulsing, inhibiting electrical shock.

There is only a heartbeat to react to it, because the Widow follows its trajectory with her person, vaulting off where she stands on the roof ledge, trying to twist in close to drive the heel of her hand at the celiac plexus.

"It's always bad business," Natasha whispers through the motions, "when you get my attention."

Dark blue eyes turn to assess the few hints of this-and-that that drift over the blank slate of the Black Widow's face. If Elektra has any thoughts on what she sees, she doesn't share them. Not aloud. Not on her own face.

She just bends lithely back upright, and does the only logical thing one can do when pursued by the Black Widow: get the hell out of dodge. On silent feet she whips up the fire escape, blending into the shadows. And all the while, she wonders one thing.

That question fades back into the recesses of her mind as she hears that telltale whistle of projectile through the air. Elektra whirls, her first instinct to parry — and stops at the last moment, seeing the electrical pulse, twisting awkwardly to one side instead. The sudden change forces her off-balance. Too much so to deal with the follow-up strike.

She bends even further to take the hit in her shoulder instead of the more vulnerable spot for which Natasha aims, at the price of losing the last ability she had to keep her feet. She hits the rooftop on her other shoulder and rolls, eventually twisting back to a low three-point crouch. Her free hand grips a sai, drawn and bared.

"I wonder why I have that attention," she muses. "I didn't think SHIELD was cleared to meddle in the affairs of a nation like Wakanda. Side gigs, Romanova?"

The Widow's Bite shoots fast and at Elektra's periphery — the dart no doubt aimed just so to trigger muscle memory.

Natasha knows how fast Elektra is with her weapons. And she knows how honed, talented speed can easily become someone's undoing.

But Natchios is quick-eyed and clever: she sees the electrified needle before she takes her highly-conductive metal tines to it. Instead, she dodges out of the path of electrocution, and unfortunately into Romanova's strike.

That flexible twist of Elektra's spine spares her more sensitive nerve clusters, and though the Widow's strength is hardly supernatural, she hits hard. The assassin steals that borrowed momentum to twist backwards and go low —

— and Natasha does not grant the mercy of a reprieve. With something curious in her blue eyes, she presses forward, pulling wire free from a pocket in her left glove, thin and sharp and lethal, trying to slam a foot in at the elbow of Elektra's supporting arm as she pulls a loop of the wire: she wants her throat, or maybe the tines of her sai, to knot and tangle.

"I'm on the level," she replies back, wry, "but I'm not /boring/."

Most of the best fighters in the world are so because of muscle memory. They practice their moves so extensively, so thoroughly, that they become second nature — executed instantly, like a reflex. But the greatest fighters in the world take that muscle memory — and adapt it when it doesn't work.

Like, for example, when it would get them electrocuted.

Elektra winds up taking a solid hit to the shoulder for her pains, but that's preferable to receiving a deadly shock from the Widow's Bite. She tries to open space, retreating, but the Widow does not relent. She keeps up her retreat, pushing off the rooftop and retracting her arm to spare it from being broken, and her sai lifts to knot the wire to keep it from her throat.

The Widow replies her. It's a non-answer, but did Elektra expect any less from her?

The grin that flicks across her features suggests the answer is no. "No, no one would ever accuse you of that — " she says, and then her sai twists. The prongs lock the wire in tight.

Her second sai, flipped into her free hand, leaps forward straight towards the Widow's center mass.

The Black Widow moves as quickly and deftly as legend suggests: there are no wasted movements, not even an extraneous sip of breath taken she does not otherwise need to power her enhanced body.

The shine of her blue eyes suggests play, not uncommmon as any Widow surviving this long would have the taste to toy with her food —

— but still something seems off, not a hesitation, but a directness to her hands that are too-used to not caring. Her body is coordinated for so many things, survival one, but this — not this. Not the impetus which she employs, turning her killing wire on Elektra; and the assassin knows too-well how to handle enemies who want the kill too much to care to play.

Her sai interrupts the wire, and rather than Natasha's gambit to entangle and worry those pronged weapons, Elektra turns it back on the Widow. She locks the wire in her tines and lashes out to skewer the woman in the heart with the other.

There is no way Natasha can dodge this without letting go. Her expression twitches, and her hand slips free from the glove, both that and the wire sacrificed so she can twist in time with that strike. It cuts through her expensive clothing, but it does not fork out her beating heart.

The wire falls slack, harmless. Pushed back, Natasha watches Elektra with her moon-pale eyes.

"Your employer will make your death a waste."

It is not what Elektra expects of the legendary Widow. She expects the play in her eyes, expects the cold callousness of a woman divested of everything except the impetus to kill… but not the directness — not the investment. It brings Natasha in to try for a kill, eager to be done with all this.

Fortunately, Elektra's choice of weapons are perfectly suited to handle garrotes and snares.

The tines of one twist up the wire, and the prongs of the other try to twist out Natasha's heart. The Widow lets her wire go easily, turning until the sai takes nothing but a shred of clothing. The dodge forces the women back apart, silent save for their quickened breathing, blue eyes watching blue.

Natasha speaks. Elektra's head lifts, her eyes shining briefly with humor. "Good thing I do not plan to die." Which means —

She twists in a backflip straight off the rooftop, vanishing into the night. One shadow seamed back into the darkness. A glance over the edge will yield nothing, even moments later… Elektra fled into the warren of buildings below.

Those spoken words of Elektra Natchios — a parting remark delivered not unlike a bullet, unerring and pinpoint — hood Natasha's eyes.

It's not disapproval, not annoyance, not judgment — but the simple moment of a memory striking. One from long ago that she'd not thought about for some time.

She thinks about taking the kill right now, but that thought comes too much too late —

Something else Natasha does not do often. Since when does she take time to feel indecisive?

Elektra flips straight off the rooftop. Natasha moves a heartbeat after her, all the muscles in her body primed with oxygen — muscle memory ready to heed her order to follow. She's chased killers like this before. Not often does she indulge in the sport of hunting a true predator.

And yet she finds herself at the lip of the rooftop, standing there, not pursuing, only looking out into the darkness until she can no longer track Elektra's shape as it folds into the darkness.

Natasha stares down into the shadow for a long time.

She lifts her right hand, and looks down at it dubiously, as though it were a stranger she's never seen before. It trembles with adrenaline.

The Black Widow fists her hand to hide it. She steps back, turns her back, and lets this go.

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