1963-07-07 - Welcome To America
Summary: The Winter Soldier gives the Black Widow the warmest reception that Soviet psychiatry will allow.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
natasha bucky 

When Natasha arrives in New York, there is precisely one person to meet her at the airport. Natasha comes in on a redeye flight with seats that are practically steerage— the only testament to her importance as an operative is that she's on a plane, not a boat.

The person meeting her is a cabbie, holding a sign over his head that says 'Natalie Rushman'. He greets her at the baggage claim. "Yes, your uncle said he would meet you at home," the cabbie informs her, tipping an invisible cap. "He said he's having some trouble with his air conditioner, it's like winter in his house."

Once she's loaded up and moved into the cab, he takes a long road to a residential address in Long Island.

There, Natalie almost can't help but spot a telltale dead drop in chalk— a squiggle of a line that looks almost like a doodle, but it's an upside-down bit of Cyrillic that means 'here!'. Tucked into a crack under the public phone is a slip of paper with yet /another/ address on it.

Another cab takes her two miles east, and when Natasha disembarks, she follows another set of dead drop marks to lead her around to a warehouse back entrance, and it takes her a little while to find her contact.

The Winter Soldier is perched in the rafters overhead inside an abandoned cannery, and once he's sure Natasha is alone, he whistles sharply at her.

"Up here, comrade," he says, in short, clipped Russian. He sets aside a bolt-action hunting rifle and swings down a long rope to hit the ground bootfirst, then turns to face Natasha. A glimmer of recognition crosses his cold, unreadable eyes— the subtlest of emotions that only Natasha might read as pleasure at her arrival.

"Welcome to America," he says, switching to French. "We've much work to do. Do you need food or rest?"


Natasha emerges from her 10-plus hour ordeal with nary a hair or garment mussed, possibly because she is actually a witch.

Or, rather, Natalie Rushman does, with her blonde bob, black-framed glasses, and dress with a conservative cut and muted blue floral scheme. The cabbie gets a warm, if small smile and a brisk curtsy as she replies, "Lucky for me, I packed an extra sweater," and waits for the cabbie to collect her luggage. "Like he taught me, a girl's gotta be prepared for anything in the big city."

After that, she's silent for approximately one Spycraft Montage as she winds her way towards her wintery rendezvous, sans luggage— after fishing a couple of carefully concealed, shiny gold accessories from one of her bags, she let them take a ride with the first cabbie, to be retrieved later.

Upon finally arriving at the cannery - and being whistled at - her eyes flick upwards, then track the Soldier to the ground. "Food," she replies as arms adorned with chunky gold bracelets lower. "Immediately; you would not believe what they set before me on the trip here." Contempt flickers in her otherwise neutral voice, then fades in favor of relief as she murmurs, "Otherwise, I'm ready to work. It's good to know that I won't be alone on this assignment."


Bucky nods and gestures to a small room that might have been an office once. "I am in deep cover here," he says, continuing in French. "When we meet, it will be arranged by standard deep covert methods." He nods approval at the gold dangling from Natasha's wrists— it's a handy trick for spies. The universal currency, easy to explain away or hide if needed and leaving no traces or suspicious memories.

They move to a small table in the room and he pulls a chair out for her. "I have arranged cover for you as actress," Bucky says. He opens a carboard box that's packed with ice and removes a bundle of thick butcher's paper. Anticipating Natasha's hunger, it seems, he's got a fair little spread laid out, and unrolls a pair of dinner rolls, bacon, cheese, and a small bottle of Stolichnaya vodka. He sets about making Natasha a sandwich, of all things, and serves it on an old but clean plate along with a napkin.

He pours her a shot of vodka, too, and one for himself, and toasts her. "To the motherland," he quips, and throws it back.

Stiff as he is and as emotionless as his eyes are, there's that lingering bit of humanity that Natasha's presence seems to evoke. He sets a cord-tied file folder near her elbow and takes the seat next to her.

"You are Natalie Rushman," he explains. Inside is a birth certificate dated to 1940, a driver's license, and a few old photos of a girl that could pass for Natasha. "You are in New York as aspiring actress. Your family is estranged and lives in Utah," he tells her. "All the details are there. This will support your mission as you attempt to infiltrate the decadent Americans— you will ingratiate yourself with the local bourgeoisie and cultural elements under deep cover. Your primary intelligence sources are also notated— various Senators and Capitalist businessmen who can be seduced or blackmailed."


"An actress, eh?" A dyed eyebrow arcs, but Natasha watches the Soldier sandwich-build in silence. It's only when she's got the plate in one hand and the raised shot in the other that she appends, "You arranged this cover?" to the reciprocated toast, curious and amused and surprised all at once. No attempt is made at hiding an implied 'alone' at the end. The shot vanishes, and then the glass and plate are set down so she can flip through the Soldier's file and listen.

"Why?" is her only question when he finishes. Her eyes lift just enough to try and catch his over the edge of the folder before she resumes paging. "Not the directives, obviously: those are reasonable enough. Why the cover itself? I do not want to be famous; famous people are watched, studied. These people treat them like animals in a very fancy zoo. I would need to remain an aspiring actress for the duration of my stay. Which means—"

She pauses just long enough to take a bite of her sandwich, and because there are no manners between spies discussing the downfall of decadent Western civilization, continues, "—that I would be a failing actress," with a mouthful of bread and bacon and cheese. "Why would the bourgeoisie, the cultural elite, the tastemakers suffer a failure in their midst?"

She silently finishes chewing while staring at a photo of some girl smiling on some tire swing in some random backyard. "It is a good packet, mind," she offers, almost as an afterthought. "You clearly put some care into it. Some effort; it is appreciated, of course, comrade."


Bucky looks a bit taken aback— even chastised. "I… the thought was to put you in place of such prominence, no one would question you," he says, a bit surly at her very accurate question of the scenario. "You are trained in dance and poise. I am not able to blend with American upper class. Theater is very popular. Would put you in position to influence audience members and social groups. There is no faster way to celebrity and—" He cuts off his words and reaches for a piece of bread, tearing it in half.

"If you think celebrity is not good cover, then you can use identity packet to forge own plan of action. All that must happen is that you are able to approach high profile assets."


"Shh." Natasha lightly waves the Soldier's explanations off, then sets the open folder aside so she can grab her glass. "It was a good thought. A good job. You recognized a gap in your capabilities and sought an efficient way to fill it, yes? And I could do this thing, become this woman you've created for me— but in order to succeed, she would have to be scrutinized. To have demands made of her time, to be expected places. To be famous, beloved, wanted… it would be a— unique cover to live, while it lasted. But it would not last— it could not. So. I think that, yes—"

Shot hand gestures towards the packet, and then if the Soldier doesn't have his glass in hand(or full), she takes a few moments to address that before concluding, "— I will try to make something— else of this woman." She starts to sip the shot before adding, "Someone who won't attract too much notice as she moves through the necessary circles— someone whose absence would rarely be missed."

After emptying her glass, she drags the packet back to herself, does a little flipping, then taps the shot's bottom against a particular decadent capitalist's name. "This one's interest in women and wine has garnered him a reputation, and a business like his must require many cogs to function; it would certainly be possible to infiltrate him, earn his trust, and use that as my platform to reach the others. Perhaps take a photograph or two of Stark technology, while I'm at it, in case anyone would be interested in seeing it."

Letting the deadpan attempt at humor at the end lie, she picks the file back up so she can resume perusing with one hand and eating - ravenously - with the other.


"You know better than me," Bucky says, rousing a bit from his sour mood as Natasha mollifies him. "I suggested various places to apply for work or positions. Stage companies, a dance troupe. Also chorus and choir, you have lovely singing voice—" Realizing he's perhaps strayed into the realm of something personal, he shuts his mouth with an audible click of his teeth.

"Stark is viable asset," the man agrees, shifting in his seat. "Also Roxxon Oil, Shaw Aquatics, and others. My focus is on criminal enterprise, I have approached the owner of a major electronics firm and successfully coerced her into performing espionage. She does not know our faction. Eventually, I will attempt to recruit her as KGB asset."

He clears his throat and reaches for the vodka, pouring each another glass. "I have arranged for you short-term home. In addition I will brief you on caches and fallback points. We have some intelligence assets in the area but you and I are the only current KGB operatives in the region, and our field support is very limited. The Kremlin has contacts here at the United Nations building and at the Embassy in Washington, but we are on our own aside from that."


Both brows briefly arch when her voice is complimented. Natasha rarely sings these days, but there were nights in the Red Room after her trainers found limits she didn't even know she had when songs from the brief and fitful absurdity that was her childhood were the only comfort she could turn to.

The Soldier and his combat training may not have been a constant presence in the Red Room, but he was certainly around enough— enough that he may have even catalyzed a singing session or two.

"If Stark and-or his bureaucracy prove slow to manipulate," she notes, gliding right past the compliment and teeth-click as if neither happened, "then I'm prepared to deploy other aliases, for other targets." She finally sits then and listens to him talk about her accomodations and support, such as it is.

"Are there other potential assets in the area?" she wonders afterwards. "Is there anything that I should know about the one that you are grooming now?"


"If there are, then I have not been briefed," Bucky says. Very carefully, and notable, that's not a 'no'. "Very likely we are compartmentalized from other assets. I have contact with KGB here but that is for emergencies only— information is in burn folder," he says, nodding at a red file folder tucked into her other documents. "Memorize and destroy it."

"I can request more support units if we show good cause to require their assistance. I do not anticipate such requests being fulfilled unless we have a very high priority target, such as major intelligence or weaponry technology."

He drums his right hand on the table, his left arm resting across his hip— oddly rigid, as per normal. "My current target is Emma Frost. I am encouraging her to investigate Roxxon and obtain schematics for me in exchange for money. Once we have substantial leverage, I will approach her and recruit her for the KGB and threaten to out her to the public if she doesn't comply."

"What are you thoughts on the situation I've set out?" he asks, his voice turning cold and direct again.


"Emma Frost?"

Natasha quickly thumbs through her papers, but it's a symbolic gesture at this point— albeit one that leaves her with a finger on the burn folder. No time like the present to set about memorizing.

"She owns a major electronics firm, and is willing to spy for you for money? She sounds incredibly greedy. Or desperate. And you are certain that she doesn't know who you work for? What else do you know about this woman?" Natasha's voice lingers in a professional register, neither warm nor cold. "Have you followed her any? I believe that I am going to have to follow her, if only so that I can see what it is that she could possibly need - what is it you are paying her? It must be ridiculous, given who she is."

Scratch that— a professional, increasingly contemptuous register.

"Americans," she mutters before taking another bite of her bacon and cheese sandwich and shaking her head. "She could be a fine asset, though— someone loyal who would belong among the circles you want to work. I think that making even more assets should be our priority for now, barring any specific, higher priority directives: we need more than diplomatic contacts and emergency support. I need more— I must have eyes, ears. The odd hand. A Widow needs her web if she's going to catch any real prey."

She lingers for the time it takes her to fetch the bottle and watch for a reaction - not a laugh or a smile, of course, but anything else - then concludes, "Otherwise, I trust that you saw to adequate accomodations, tactical preparations, so forth— you are the Winter Soldier, after all."


"I offered her four hundred thousand dollars for technical blueprints behind Roxxon's new oil aggregate separator," Bucky tells Natasha, calmly, in that rasping, gravel-filled voice. "A two hundred thousand dollar bonus if she was able to procure working device." Considering the immense clout from the burgeoning power of OPEC and the struggles in Turky over oil rights, it's a technology that could be worth hundreds of millions.

"I approached her with a gun in one hand and an incentive in the other. By all accounts she has some remarkable influence over people, and our intelligence assets have high likelihood she is mutant and has psychic capabilities. I dosed myself heavily with Ephemodroxozine before making the approach as a precaution." A dangerous, very illegal drug used by counter-intel agents in the KGB.

"You are in charge of managing all contacts and counteragents," Bucky tells Natasha. "I will provide support and supply weapons, recruit low level assets, and continue my surveillance. I have fifty thousand dollars in cash reserves, but we cannot expect next resupply for cash drops for several months. We must spend carefully." He reaches into his overcoat and comes up with a slim stack of Ben Franklins banded together. "Ten thousand," he says, offering her the bills.

"I also took liberty of purchasing for you present. Welcome to America," he says, his deadpan tone underscoring the twinkle in his eyes at her mild joke and the lavish praise she offers. He reaches into his coat and comes up with a holstered pistol for Natasha. "Colt vest pocket. .25 ACP," he says, handing her the very tiny little gun." He hands her the weapon. "Excellent for purses or garter holster. American weapon— easier to explain than Nagant revolver or German semiauto," he says, wryly."


"Ah, of course." Natasha stops drinking from the Stoli bottle to dryly, quietly remark on the Soldier's approach, then begins to drink again— and then very nearly sputters it out when it turns out that the woman he's trying to blackmail is quite possibly a mutant psychic. Vodka swishes as her forearm comes up over her mouth and she shoots him a wide-eyed look.

Because she's a professional, though, she refrains from letting an actual exclamation interrupt the briefing and just busies herself with attacking the bottle a little more instead. Also, finishing what's left of her sandwich so she can accept gifts; the money is dropped into the little purse dangling from her shoulder, but she keeps the gun out to test its weight and peer down its sights.

"At least you know how to spoil a girl," «da?» she murmurs with tinges of exasperation. "Understood. I'll put Rushman into position and begin setting up my network immediately." With an underhand toss, she sends the bottle his way without a drop sloshing out. "Also, I am absolutely following this woman, because I do not trust her— I don't even know what a mutant is, except trouble. I will think balletic thoughts— I have no idea if that will help, but I will feel better. And that will help." A soft click! sounds from the pistol, and then with a quiet murmur of approval, she slips it away.


"I do not know, either," Bucky tells Natalie, shrugging his good shoulder. "I know only that they can do many things and it is a strange skill. People do not know how they do it."

He catches the bottle and takes a swig, then sets it between them. "I do not know limits of her abilities. I advise caution. I do not trust her either— which is why we bargained at gunpoint."

Apparently, Bucky is not being metaphorical. "You are surely tired. There is a hotel that I have secured not far from here. Your apartment will be ready for you quite soon. Are there any questions you have?"

His eyes flicker momentarily as he falls silent, following the gun she puts into her purse— catching that expasperated tone, and shifting uneasily as he seems to realize he might have mis-stepped somehow and it goes completely over his head.


Natasha is surely tired— and also, she's surely had much more of that bottle than the Soldier has, what with her steadily reddening cheeks and utter disdain for some mutant woman.

"Where will you be sleeping? Surely, the Winter Soldier doesn't lay his head in a cannery…?"

She lets the question hang for a few moments, waves it off, then amends, "How will we be contacting one another? When would you like to rendezvous next?" in a more professional tone. "And, ah—"

She briskly leans in to snatch the red folder, which she then holds against one of her bracelets. The fingers on that hand curl just so, a few sparks leap— and then they explode into a bright, brief flash that leaves the folder burning.

"And do you have a supply of Ephemodroxozine?" she concludes as she lets what's left of the intel fall.


"Very small supply," Bucky tells Natasha. He seem unsurprised by the use of her Widow's Bite— he's trained with her quite a bit before, of course.

"Some can be procured, but not easily. Will add to requisitions list for next month." He considers her question with a blank expression, picking up the burning folder in his left hand and ignoring the heat, then tossing it in a steel bucket to let it be consumed. "Contact will be via dead drop as often as possible, though we can make accomodations for regular face to face briefings. Once you have phone, we can equip countersurveillance and communiate via voice."

"I— did not find hotel for myself," he says, looking uneasy again. As if he's certain he missed something that should have been obvious in hindsight. "I have been sleeping in street or near caches. Your cover requires better facilities than I do," he tells her. He does look like he's been sleeping in the heavy jacket he's wearing.


"Aah, comrade," Natasha gently chides. "You are the Winter Soldier; it is admirable that you'd spend your deployment sleeping in gutters rather than concern yourself with material needs. But you are a hero," «da?» "When I leave, wait a while; come to my hotel— you didn't show them your face, I assume? Wear a disguise regardless. Come to my room." Synthetic locks bob as Natasha briskly snatches the bottle and tosses it to her other hand.

"I will take the chair." She takes a quick swig, then retrieves the cap and nestles the bottle against the rest of her purse's contents for the moment. "After the plane ride, it will be an upgrade. I say this knowing fully well that I haven't seen this room, or this chair that may or may not exist inside of it." After a thoughtful pause, she adds, "Perhaps German, there," and then starts towards the exit. "Thank you for the briefing— for all of your hard work in getting us here. We will make our country proud, together."


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