1963-07-21 - Thinking On Your Feet
Summary: The Widow and the Soldier share Chinese food and operational updates.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
natasha bucky 

It's been a little over a week since 'Natalie' arrived in America. Time enough to get settled and get to work. Winter Soldier had done well, but he was a soldier, really, not a spy— running a major intelligence operation was something far more in her realm of expertise than his. Winter was good at punching holes in walls, but Natasha was the expert on the subtle touches.

Winter's also not the sort to splurge on creature comforts, or to buy fresh food, but— this is something Natasha knows well of him. So the first of their weekly meetings was moved from an anonymous, empty housing facility to a motel at the edge of Queens, and Natasha had brought food from a local Chinese deli because, naturally, Winter Soldier had simply put some ration packets in his jacket before showing up.

Sitting at opposites sides of the low coffee table, Winter and Natasha have their food at their elbows and dossieres and documents around them. Winter pushes two pictures towards Natasha— one of them a bit blurry, a picture of a tall, slender woman with orange-red hair, and the other a rather good portrait shot of her smiling at something, candid but crisply done and showing her features off. It looks like it's from a private apartment.

"Pepper Potts," Winter says in Russian, picking up his lo mein and going at it with a fork and little civility. "I thought she was working with Tony Stark as an aide. It turns out she is his…" He switches to English. "'Executive Assistant'," he says, before returning to Russian.

"Goes beyond secretary or aide. She handles his finances. Plans his vacations. Even cooks meals for him. I do not know if they are sleeping together but I cannot rule it out. I managed to plant a bug on her phone. I will return for her apartment later this week to retrieve it and put in new magnetic tape," he tells Natasha.


Natasha's spent the lionshare of the week in prep mode: surveying for new dead drop locations; taking random walks and subway rides to get a feel for the city and its people; making sure her made-up references are in order for when it's time to insert herself into Stark Industries; wig-grooming.

Really, the change in venue was as much for her as it was for him: the little motel they've ended up in is hardly glamorous, but it beats taking a break from the monotony of groundwork only to spend time talking about said groundwork and staring at blank walls.

"My new boss?" she half-questions while squinting at the pictures and letting vegetable-laden sticks hover above a container. 'Natalie' sits in a little pile beside the food and the dossier, the wig having been removed within minutes of arrival so that Natasha's bunned hair could breathe a little and the glasses joining it as a matter of course.

"She sounds like his nanny," the Widow observes, a bit derisive even as she nods along with Pepper's responsibilities. "Well. I'm going to want to hear that tape, of course; I could stand to know much more about this woman. The initiative is appreciated."


"Was entirely blind fortune," Winter admits. He doesn't like admitting that, but it's true. His ragged, slightly over-ripe jacket's near the door, and he's wearing a wool undershirt with sleeves that stop at his elbows. His left arm clicks and grinds, the metal exposed to the air and showing the complex machinery that allows the marvellous prosthetic to work. It's a clumsy system, compared to his human arm, but he can still at least hold a cup of water in that hand. A revolver sticks out of his trouser waistband.

"She is much like nanny, I suspect. Without a strong hand guiding him, Stark is a wastrel and a lout. He has sex with two or three different women per month. Is the height of decadent bourgeoisie," the Winter Soldier says, in a low growl.

One might get the sense that his outrage regarding Stark is a /bit/ personal now.

"The plan was only to intimidate her. I hoped to bug her purse or steal documents. When she invited me to her apartment I made best of opportunity. I will plant other bugs as time permits." He focuses on his food studiously.


"That's called 'thinking on your feet', Soldier," a thinly smiling Natasha retorts before bringing the sticks to her mouth.

"This is a good lesson," she continues after swallowing, "if you're going to keep acting like a spy: the truth is always up for negotiation. It's a commodity, like anything else; you needn't always give all of it when only some will do. Blind fortune, initiative— however you got to the result that you did, that you got to it at all is what's important. I would have never known that it was anything but a stroke of cleverness on your part, had you not admitted it." She lets the point drop with a roll of the shoulder and a(nother) swallow of the cheap vodka she grabbed from the deli, then digs into beef and broccoli.

"Once I'm in, I will see if I can even get access to his office for surveillance, but— moral deficiencies aside, the man built an arsenal into a suit of armor. I would imagine that any bug I plant there would be temporary." Following a beat spent gathering food between her sticks, she wonders, "Have you met the man at all?" with an arched brow and a small smirk.


"No. I avoided him," Winter tells Natasha. "Pep- Miss Potts sees me as… I'm not sure what, but as something she can trust. However, Tony Stark would see me as a potential threat— to his home, or his live's work. Best he does not see me at all."

He pours himself a shot of vodka and slams it back, then tilts his head sideways and cracks his neck audibly.

"This is why Miss Potts is such a useful asset. Mr. Stark is smart, capable, self-serving, and suspicious. She is not."

He shifts his left arm, and something like a wince crosses his face.

"I need your help. My arm requires some calibration and I can't reach the access panels without help. I have tools," he tells Natasha.

"What of yourself? Have you made progress with your infiltration?"


Natasha tilts her head towards the Soldier just a little when she catches his slip of the tongue, but it goes unremarked upon in favor of chewing.

"Well. I'm no engineer," she cautions while setting her sticks aside and standing, "but I'll see what I can do. Perhaps Stark is on to something, and these shots will guide my hands." First, though, she needs to guided to some tools. Or guide herself, which is what she'll try first by digging through the coat if there are no obvious kits set out in the room.

"Nothing worth mentioning. Prepwork, little else; I did find a few potential drop sites that we'll need to go over, though. I'd like to deal with your other corporate asset before beginning my esteemed secretary career, because I would rather not have too many mission details in mind while I'm in her vicinity. More time for surveillance this way once I've picked up her trail, anyway."


Winter rather cumbersomely removes his left sleeve from his clinging wool undershirt, a process that's more than a little difficult. But, he does so without complaint. The marriage of steel to flesh is not a pretty one, even protected by it is by a metal mesh. He removes a bundle of tools wrapped in cloth from a jacket pocket and unrolls it on the table—crude mechanic's equipment.

"Three cables behind my left shoulder," he tells Natasha. "You'll need the prybar to remove the covering, and the crosshatched screwdriver to remove the wire tension."

He stares at the far wall as Natasha gets to work. "I'll make contact with her in two days. We will find what she has for us. If it is a profitable line of inquiry, I'll pursue. If not, I will end the connection immediately."


"That's good," Natasha says while wriggling the tip of the prybar into position, "but she'll still concern me until I've studied her. Another useful lesson, Soldier:"

After a couple soft clangs, the covering lands in Natasha's hand.

"A little paranoia can be healthy. Which reminds me: how are you paying her? Or is the plan to blackmail our way out of that complication?" After a few seconds spent squinting into the guts of Soviet engineering, she trades the plate and prybar for the screwdriver and starts tweaking. Every few turns, she pauses to gingerly wiggle whatever cable she's working on to check her progress. "How did you do this before?" she queries before long. "You didn't happen to find a mechanically inclined aide at the embassy, did you?"


"I can affect some repairs myself. It is difficult and time consuming, but I can do so. However I cannot actuate those rearmost cables and they do slip over time. If I go too long without making the proper corrections, the arm will become completely immobile."

He grimaces. "There was a technician in the embassy who knew how to do the repairs, but… they are not always available. If the arm becomes completely immobile, I can remove it." He points at two heavy bolts under what would be the deltoid. "I do not prefer to do so because replacing it would take weeks, or months."

He sits still, letting Natasha work.

"Gold," he says, finally, answering her question. "Unmarked, from African sources. Untraceable. Better than wads of lira or rubles."


"Not quite what I meant. Did you - or will you - requisition it? Were you given it for the express purposes of that mission? Or should I be recalibrating my expectations for the next money drop?" Despite her warning, Natasha seems to have an agreeably steady hand when it comes to working the wires— steady and, once she gets the rhythm down, quick. She glances down at the indicated bolts a time or two while tightening and wiggling, but most of her attention is on ensuring that this piece of no doubt expensive technology remains functional.

"Just let me know, next time. Not so hard, really; I don't even need to worry about whether something will explode if I slip." Loosen, loosen, loosen, wiggle, wigg—

"Right?" For a second, she glances up from the arm with an arched eyebrow and a half-serious tone before getting back to it. "Well, either way: I would prefer it if your arm remained intact for as long as possible, so I'll do my part to keep it so."


"I prefer to have it as well. Being without a limb is inconvenient," the assassin says with a tone of vast understatement.

"Payment will be routed through our factor at the Turkish embassy, then delivered by courier to the First National Bank, where it will be assessed and weighed and transferred to Ms. Frost's holdings."

"To check the tension on that cable, elevate the right pulley. If it moves past the yellow marks, it's still too lose. If it won't leave the green, then it's too tight."

He waits for Natasha to make the last adjustments, then flexes the limb experimentally. Movement's apparently adequate, then he nods at the woman behind him. "Thank you. That is better."

He starts awkwardly trying to put his arm back through the sleeve, but its' clearly difficult for him to do with the prosthetic only able to wiggle so far on his own power.

"Is there anything else you need from me before we part ways?" Bucky asks, turning his head slightly towards Natasha. "If not, I will contact you via dead drop later this week to recieve your status update."


One bout of cyberpulleying later, the coverplate goes back in place with a firm slap and Natasha takes a few napkins to her hands if there's any oil or other assorted grime on them. A brisk, "You're welcome," is tossed off, and then - grime or no - she takes it upon herself to help maneuver the sleeve into position once she sees him struggling with it. It gets smoothed down, and then she steps away with a still-brisk reply of, "Drugs," to the question of what she needs. "Soon; it doesn't need to be now, unless you've got it. The ephemodroxozine, for Frost."

She grabs a swig of vodka, then decides to just hang onto the bottle when it's a couple inches from returning to the table. "I'll let you know if I learn anything interesting, yes?" She flips the cap into hand and twists it into place, then steps leans near enough to give his shoulder a momentary squeeze. "I'll be in touch," she assures when she straightens. "I should be in position before we speak again."


"One millilitre," Bucky nods, moving to his jacket. "I have one dose for me, one for you." He rises, smoothing out his woven undershirt, and digs in the pocket. He comes up with a tiny bottle, screwed shut, with a single pill rattling around the bottom of it. The bottle is passed to Natasha.

"Be prepared for the side effects," he reminds her. "But you should have an hour where it si at mast effect without serious issue."

He picks up his jacket and shrugs into it, making sure it conceals his weapons, and slouches a little as he adopts his weak-backed, exhausted disguise.

"Until next week, then." And without so much as a 'farewell', he walks out the door, pausing only to check the hallway before he just disappears, leaving only soft-treading bootsteps in his wake.


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