1963-08-09 - Long Way From Home
Summary: After investigating rumors of a vigilante in Hell's Kitchen, the Black Widow meets a veteran whose battle scars run deeper than most.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
marcus natasha 

There's been vague rumors off and about at times in the Kitchen. Sometimes people mistake it for the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. But that man doesn't seem to be the kind that employs fire. Or how some victims simply are found with an incredible amoutn of broken bones. The people this happens to tends to be onthe variety of criminal. And tends to be the kind that prey on the homeless. It's a very narrow scope limited to an equally narrow area. Eventually that might get someone's attention. Burned bodies, broken ones. And only to particular area. Like someone was guading it. Not something the Devil does. The entire Kitchen he looks after. But just a couple of blocks in specific, that might interested. Either way, someone besides the Devil has been moving about. Someone who is very much trying his damndest to stay off the radar.


With no real street-level contacts to speak of, it's whispers that have brought Natasha to the Kitchen. A fearful word in a bar here; corner boys telling tall tales there. She's heard them intermittently while exploring the city over the past month, never quite enough to act on— until tonight, when talk of another recent death gave her what she needed to take an educated guess at the vigilante's stomping grounds.

Clad in form-fitting black with a set of binoculars pressed to her eyes, she is perched atop a building near the border of the mystery man's protectorate with an eye out for crimes or crimes-to-be. Rather than stake out the one location, she's been gradually patrolling the region in a circle by hopping and/or swinging between rooftops.


And Black Widow will get one. The majority of the action comes down in the form of a couple of street thugs preying on the homeless. And that's how it always goes, doesn't it? The bigger and stronger preying on the weaker and less fortunate. Which the really should've learned better at this point. Maybe they're trying to lure this unknown defender out of the shadows. And can certainly spy him climbing a wall while the two assialiants harrass and straight out beat out some older homeless man with a beard, kicking around his belongings and whatever scraps he's managed to scavange for himself.

There's an air of military training about they climbs that wall. The way he bends and crouches low. US Army. WWII from the way he moves. Training has improved since the 40s. But the way he attacks is withheld, even as the first one get the first punch, it throws him across the alley. Not Captain America level strength, but of the superhuman variety. His hand outstretches when the other moves for his pistal firing at the mystery man. The bullets make an odd sound, deflecting away from him, a dark yellow glowing and surronding him, leaving him unharmed.


As soon as she spots the figure coming over the wall, the Widow drops the binocs in favor of a plucking one of the gold discs from her belt. With a bit of fiddling, it becomes a camera in time for her to get a snap of him slugging the crap out of the first thug. More follow, none of them especially great - she's a ways from the action and compromises had to be made for miniaturization, after all - but she still manages a shot of bullets moving away from the man who doesn't appear to be holding a gun.

Shortly afterwards, the camera returns to its place on her belt and she fires a grapple line from her wrist to pull herself to a building directly overlooking the action. Slowly, ever so slowly, she creeps towards the edge, and then down to the fire escape, all while making another grab for her waist.

By the time the combatants might hear the sound of old metal creaking underfoot, it's swiftly drowned out by the BANG! of a pistol bullet fired towards the second thug's shoulder.


The man is wearing a dirty hoodie with the hood pulled over his face, old ratty jeans and boots that suspiciously look like WWII-era combat boots. The first guy isn't getting up anytime soon by the way he was thrown against the wall. So the moment he's escaped mercy, becaue this guy doesn't seem to have much in the way of scrupples when it comes to killing people he preceives as the bad kind.

The second buy that gets clipped in the shoulder does get him to look up, and she can see his face. He's young-ish. The appearence doesn't seem to match someone who fights like he was trained by a military that's changed their style in the last twenty or so years. There's a look at Natasha, but he says nothing, he instead holding his hand out towards the the guy with a gun. A gesture, some kind of flick of his wrist, and suddenly it's like he was picked up off the ground and thrown down the alley, with bone-crunching certainty. He's breathing hard, but he's hardly done a lot. As if whatever he's doing takes a lot of constitution. Whisps of flame lick at his hands, sparks flying away from his fingertips. Yeah, that whole thing about bodies being found burnt. Whatever Natasha's intentions being here, she hasn't gotten in his way, so he stalks down the alley, intent on finishing what these two nitwits decided on starting in his alley.


Natasha lets the mysterious soldier stalk his prey, as mysterious soldiers are sometimes wont to do. Her gun returns to its holster, and then she hauls herself over the fire escape railing to drop a story or so and land in a quiet crouch. Once grounded, she practically glides after Marcus until it's time to veer off slightly so she can crouch beside one of the crooks and relieve him of his weapon.

"You've picked an interesting theater, soldier," she calmly comments before putting one of that hood's own bullets in his skull. Looking up towards him, she tosses off, "To save you the trouble," with a little twitch of the chin towards the body.


She handles the first one, her will to the second. A gout of flame erupts from his hand, to the one he prowls after. The man doesn't have enough time to scream before the oxygen is burned away, leaving more of a silent scream as he burns and suffocates at the same time. It didn't really look like fire. Okay, well, it kind did, but more like he set the air on fire and then directed it where he wanted it go. But that done, he doesn't watching the man before he looks at Natasha. And there's a long moment, where he seems very..unsure. "I won't go back." he finally says. Sounds like a voice that isn't used very often.



With no extra holsters, the Widow tucks the stolen gun into her belt for later disposal and/or use while watching Marcus with a quirked brow and a barely canted head. Her voice is calm, collected, curious— and entirely unburdened by the violence they've just visited on these men.

"We will probably," she adds without giving him much space to answer, "want to go somewhere, regardless. But you know that, I'd bet."


"The lab." Marcus replies, apparently not giving either bodies much in the way of thought. "The lab. They did…things." His jaw sets, either out of anger or a simple unwillingness to remember. "They did this to me. The Nazis. And they're still after me. They have to be." Has no one told him the date yet? He's been homeless, confused, maybe even amnesiac. Would make sense if there's not a lot he really gets at the moment. Though evidently, he realizes that they'll have to move too. A snort at the bodies, glancing them over, then back at her. There's this suggestion that he really doesn't trust her, but she seems to get that he's a soldier. "Fine. Keep up." then he's turning to head deeper into the alleys.


"The Nazis," Natasha says after a quick toe-to-head scan, "are not quite what they once were." There's no hint of reassurance, or even wryness— it's just a fact to be shared. "There were trials."

At the command to keep up, she nods, takes a quick glance over her shoulder, and then sets off after him. Keeping up doesn't appear to be an issue: whether they simply walk deeper into the Kitchen's underbelly or are forced to climb or vault their way in, she keeps pace without lagging or complaining.

"What year is it?" she wonders a few turns into their trek. "Where are you, right now? Do you know?"


"I was on an operation outside of Numemberg. Sent to take out some Colonel. Forget his name." Marcus says, leading through the alleywalls and behind buildings. The homeless here seem to know him. They just call him 'Mark'. "Don't remember a lot. Just soething felt like a pinch at my neck. Then nothing. Woke up on a table. Looked like some kind of castle or something. Brick and mortar walls. But machines. They were talking in German. Didn't know enough to get what they were saying." They go pretty deep into the Kitech, sometimes over walls, other times under roads through large culverts just barely large enough for a person the skulk through. He's quick, but she can match him. Once he feels like they get far enough, he stops. There's large box, likely from a refidgerator nearby. "My home. Don't mind the mess." he offers. "I…" the mention of the date makes him pause, looking at her blankly. "New York, I know that much. But…no. It's not like what it was when I went overseas."


It doesn't take too terribly long before they reach the point of overtaking Natasha's own explorations through the city, as she's only had so much time to devote to scouring its alleys. She does at least take note of any landmarks - if indeed there are any that look like they won't be gone in a week or a day - along the way. Ditto for the name and the general air of familiarity surrounding the soldier out of time.

"Because of your— abilities?" she hazards, of his abduction. "Or did they…?"

The date, she puts a pin in for a little while, because now that they're well away from police and assorted other third party scrutiny, she has ample time to study the man and chooses to use it. Telling a soldier who was apparently tortured by Nazi scientists that he's decades removed from the world he knew— it's hard to tell how he might take it. It's the kind of thing that crush a man if he isn't ready for it.

So she gives him until he's had a chance to answer(or, well, not answer) her questions about the lab before she quietly states, "August 9th, 1963."

Because ultimately, he's got to find out sometime, so why not from her?


"I never had these…powers." Marcus doesn't really enjoy saying the word, but he looks at his hands regardless. "I never wanted them either either. The more I use them, the more the marks grow, but…" he sighs, frustrated. "The last date I remember was November 13, 1944." he finally says after a moment. "That was the last time I remember anything before everything is just a…jumble of memories. They spoke in German, the did things. They branded me. Some kind of injections. Shoved into some kind of container for awhile. I feel asleep. Then woke up. More…stuff. It's all shit. It's just all shit. I don't even know if it was Nazis anymore. I saw no swastikas, but goddamnit they spoke in Germany, and I was still in Germany when I escaped. And fuck me, they'll come after me again. I know it."

But hearing the date kind of stalls him. And he stares at her, trying to decide if she's trying to trick him or some other way of deceiving him. But the way she says it, it doesn't sound like a lie. And considering what he's seen, some of it…some of it makes a bit of sense. "…nineteen years? It's been nineteen fucking years?" he takes a step backward, setting a hand on the wall of a nearby building. "Fuck. I thought. I'd see myself in a mirror sometimes. I thought three. Maybe five. Nineteen? You're sure?"


"You were robbed," murmurs Natasha, sadness creeping into her voice as she finds pile of garbage to study, "and written off. One more casualty, if that." Her eyes lift after a beat, finding his as best as they're able.

"I'm sorry," she offers. "That this is how you had to find out— that you were subjected to, to this" she gestures his way with briskly circling hands "because you chose to serve your country." Her hand then falls to his shoulder long enough to give a sympathetic squeeze before she edges back to give him his distance.


"I would've gone back. But…not like this." Marcus looks at his hands. A little flame begins to play in his hand before he shakes his wrist, snuffing it out. "It's hard to control sometimes, but I can't go back. Sometimes I feel like they're hunting me. Watching me. Waiting. Like hands at the back of my goddamn neck." A look at the box. "So I live here. Keep the people here safe. It's…all I can do now."

He looks at the hand that touches him, cautious, but he allows it. Still doesn't know her. Or what her angle is. "Sometimes I want to know what happened. Why they branded me. Injected me. Why I can't remember. I don't really even know much about me anymore. I remember my name. Remember the war. And I remember trees. And now, I find that it's been almost twenty years, and I still see the face of the man that I only sorta recognize now." It's all very hard to talk about, but then again, not like he's really told anyone this to begin with. Natasha is looked at, gaze almost pleading. "Why? Why was this done to me? Was I supposed to be some kind of weapon or tool? I was…I was just a soldier. Some nameless grunt."


"'Back'?" Natasha quietly wonders before falling silent and listening. And then, for a beat, just— looking at Marcus, watching him.

"My father was a soldier too," she begins once that beat has passed. "Part of the first wave of enlistments after Pearl Harbor; he was so excited to do what his father had done a generation before. He would send letters home whenever he was able, and I still— I remember how proud she'd seem whenever they came. How radiant. I was a little girl, of course, so he would mostly just send me little pictures, songs. That sort of thing."

The redhead's eyes drift until they're fixed on a crack in the pavement as her arms loosely wind around her midsection. She lingers for a conflicted beat, teeth grazing across her lip before…

"It was spring when they stopped; I remember. But not before my mother got one more letter. The look on her face as she put it down…" Her arms tighten and her eyes briefly rise before falling back to the pavement. "A few months later, he was shipped home, wheelchair-bound. Angry. Forgetful. Scarred— lightless. It wasn't until I was a few years older that he finally told me about the strange gas that seeped into his trench one night, or how he was one of the few lucky members of his unit."

Upon letting out a slow, trembling breath, she finally makes - and at least attempts to maintain - eye contact. "My mother stayed for as long as she could: he was not the man she'd married, and they both knew it. Whatever chemical he was exposed to, it has yet to be identified; the Army helped him cover his treatments until it was obvious that they were hitting a brick wall with their research into it— or so his theory always went. He died some time ago, bitter and broken; do you know why?"

Natasha doesn't really wait for him to respond, since, well, that's the question that sparked her story to begin with.

"Because war breeds monsters and soldiers are their fodder," she answers. "Because he was in the hunting grounds when one of those monsters came to feed— just like you. There's no comfort in that reason, but maybe one day, you'll be able to find some the fact that you've survived to become something— more than a casualty. Someone with the power to choose his path instead of having it chosen for him."


Marcus squats down, listening to the tale. Maybe it's something he's heard before. Maybe it's something he can relate to. Whatever it is, he doesn't really commen on it. "I'm sorry." is all he manages to say on the issue. "Knew a lot of guys that wouldn't be going back to their families. Just something we all sort of accepted. I guess…none of us really considered what it would be like when we got back. Most…never rally got the chance." His face hardens a little, hetting Natasha finish the rest of her tale.

He rubs his hands over his face. "Back. Y'know, back to the military. Figure, they should know. But when I realized I wasn't really…normal anymore, that I could barely remember all that much about myself. The fear that I think I'm being hunted…didn't seem like a good idea. So I hid. It was easier. Always been used to having to operate on my own, now it just seems like I get to do more of that. But you're right, you know. War breeds monsters." At that, he stands, then pulling his hoody and shirt over his head. One the firont of each shoulder and hips there are brands. Burned deep into his flesh, arcane circles and ketlines spreading outward from that like ever-growing spiderwebs. Each rune has a faint glow, colored different for each. They almost look like they're moving. "I more I use my abilities, the more they spread over me." he states even. "But you're right. War creates monsters."


"Good instinct," the Widow murmurs of Marcus' hesitance to report back in while edging towards, then leaning her shoulder against a wall near him. Her lips part as if there's something more on her mind, but when he stands and starts reaching for his outerware, she cuts herself off to simply observe.

And memorize, to whatever extent one can memorize sorta-animate arcane sigils.

"My God," she exhales in a shocked whisper. Beneath raised brows, green eyes scan over his inscribed flesh and conspicuously drink in every last bit of cruelty on display. "Yes— very good instinct," she says in more readily audible, if still hushed tones. "You would have been a weapon, a tool, or worse— I'm sure of it. Instead…"

A few seconds of quiet study later, she finally meets his eyes again. "War makes monsters, yes. But when a monster has had its fill and wandered off to sleep, or mate, or do whatever it is that monsters do, whatever's left behind… it's stronger for having been tested."

Another beat.

"Thank you for your service," she then offers, along with her hand. "For your sacrifices. Is there anything that I can do for you now? Besides be your calendar, I suppose." She manages the slightest of smiles along with that last comment.


"Some just need to see. Whatever was done to me, I'm not sure whether to hunt them down and kill them personally, or run. For right now, I guess I run." Marcus pulls his clothing back on, perhaps not too comfortable with showing that particular stuff off. Angry brands that glow with magical power being what they are. "If I knew, maybe I'd have a better answer. Sometimes, it doesn't really feel like the war ever ended. Not for me. Know plenty of vets that say that. They don't believe me, think I look too young to of been there."

When she offers her hand, he looks at it for a long moment, considering. Then he takes it, even if it's the one that tends to throw the fire around. "Anything you can do? I…I don't know. It would be nice not to be alone anymore. The Skull and Squid people will eventually come after me. Er…that's what I call them. I never knew the name, but I saw that symbol often enough. It was red, saw it on a couple of folders when I was awake enough to listen to conversations. It was stemped in red. Skull and Squid. Never saw it before that. But." There's a moment of hesitation, momentary conflict. "I don't know where to go, who to trust anymore. I don't even know if I'm going to explode one day. Sometimes the marks hurt, when they get bigger." Another pause, looking at her. "I don't even know who you are."


'Skull and Squid' puts an arch in one of Natasha's brows. Those sure don't sound like Nazis.

Her grip is firm while it lasts— not half-a-super-soldier firm, but firm just the same, with no apparent hesitation about the fire. "You carry yourself like a soldier, just the same," she offers. "But those vets do have a point. Your situation makes for a pretty strong counter, of course."

When the handshake breaks, she immediately reaches for her waist. Discs pop open, allowing her to retrieve a golf pencil and a few bills. "I'm going to keep my eyes and ears open," she says as she turns to press the money wad to the wall and scribble. "I've got some shadows of my own to chase, but you never know. Could be that there are skulls and-or squids lurking in some of them, too. I can't make any promises about— I don't know the first thing about tattoos, glowing or otherwise. This should be enough to get you a room somewhere that isn't— here for a couple of nights. A few meals and some other things too. If you need anything - help, or just company—"

When she hands the bills over, there's an address visible on the topmost twenty. "— leave word here. Keep it vague and peppy." When - if - he reaches for the money, she'll cup her free hand around his, capturing it briefly. Long enough to say:

"You can call me 'Nat'. You don't need to be alone anymore unless you want to be, Mark; you deserve better than to languish, lonely and forgotten."


"It's all I remember being. Besides liking trees. And engines." Marcus frowns a little bit at the partial memory. "What hurts the most is not being able to remember the faces of people I knew. If I had family, what they were like. Where I was frome. Did I have many friends. Or didn't I. Like, I see faces, but I can't place names to them. Places. I remember mountains. And trees, the smell of engine grease but…little else. I do have this, at least." Stepping away, he pulls a couple layers of folded boxes away, showing off an old Indian motorcycle. "Just finished rebuilding it. It rides now. Mostly. Need new shocks on it."

Turning back, he sees her offering her money to him. At first first it looks like he might refuse, either out of pride or some old sense of soldierly obligation, but when she explains why, he takes it. "I…thanks." he finally offers quietly, then looking at the hand that covers his. "I admit, I don't want to be. Life has been shitty enough recently. Nat? That's good, I think I'm good with that. Easy to reemmber. At least I can't forget any new names, right?" But he pauses, holding onto her hand a moment longer. "You'd come with me? Keep me company? Help me try to figure out who I am?"


The bike draws a lowly appreciative note from Natasha's lips, but little else because…

"I've got my own shadows, like I said," she gently notes, "My own monsters to hunt. But I can help you just the same— be an ally, if not a companion. Maybe even a friend, if and when you should decide to trust me that far. Would that be alright with you?"


Marcus takes a moment longer to think on that. It's only at that point that he realizes he's still holding onto her hand, and slowly lets it go. "I've been alone in a war that I don't even know shit about. I know there's other people out there that do crazy shit too. Don't know if I really considered myself apart of that whole crazy life. I'm just some old soldier that doesn't age and can do some odd stuff. I'm no..hero. I just did my job." Yep, soldier mentality. Though he's definately no Cap if he's willing to torch people to death. So a perhaps more amoral Cap. "Apparently been almost twenty years since I had an ally, never mind a friend. But, yeah. Willing to give you a shot. Because I've shown my back to you three times tonight and you haven't struck, and I can tell you're more than capable. You help me hunt mine at some point, and I'll return the favor, if that sounds good to you."

Another look back at his bike. "But a real bed and shower sound really fucking good right about now. Not even going to complain if the sheets are stained in the tv reception is sheitty. He looks her over. "You want to ride with me? I don't really know my way around. New York is a lot bigger than I thought it would be."


Natasha shows no signs of distress over having her gesture of solidarity co-opted. Or much of anything else, really; the prolonged contact just Is, until it Is Not.

"That's a deal," she says once everyone's hands are back with themselves. "You leave word at that address, and I'll rendezvous with you here, if you need me to. I can't promise you much - I'm just the product of an old soldier's hopes and dreams and bitterness, sans crazy shit - but I like to think that I'm resourceful. Just… hang onto the trees, the engines; even if the rest remains out of reach, nothing can take those from you, right?"

And on that note, she turns her attention back to the refurbished bike.

"Well," she says after a moment's contemplation, "I feel like I oughtta ask you where you found the parts for this, first - much less the tools - but if you're willing to trust me not to kill you, then I suppose I should extend the same courtesy, no?" A small smile creeps across her lips towards the end, and then she starts pushing boxes further from the bike to make room.


"The last owner didn't need it anymore." Marcus grunts, setting a box or two aside. "Found him trying to harass some woman in an alley. By harass, I really mean holding a knife to her throat while undoing his pants." He spares the details on whatever may of followed after. "Like I said, he doesn't need it anymore. Though, she screamed and ran away from me." Sounds a little bit sad part. So the whole monster bit they were talking about earlier? Seems pretty apt now. At least it's just said outloud and not just thought upon. "I took the bike. It felt…familiar. Working on it too. There's a tool kit under the gas tank. It needed a tuneup. Then riding it just seemed second nature. Like I had one it before. The parts…you'd be surprised what you can find in alleys. What some are willing to trade for protection."

"The was a word overseas that someone once told me how he referred to the homeless. Basically meant 'the forgotten'. I know most of them, so they never will be. They'd find a part I was looking for, I managed to scrape some change or food together for them. And I worked on the bike. It runs, not as well as I'd like. Better tools and better parts would help with that, the fact that it moves and won't break down is a plus."

Getting the boxes moved away, he rolls it out a little, swinging his leg over to straddle it. "If you wanted to kill me, you would've by now. You've had at least five different chances so far. As for me? You haven't hurt anyone in the alleys, and you're actually talking to me instead of running away. That goes kinda far with me. Besides, you told me today's date."


Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License