1964-12-29 - The Red Pill
Summary: Another dose of reality provided, coupled with a side serving of Lock and Key, when all is said and done. Natasha grows genuine affection for Peggy, the woman who provided her an out when none would, and it seems she inadvertantly still walks the same path the Winter Soldier had, and may yet work with him again. Even if she now knows he is Bucky Barnes.
Related: Getting To Know You
Theme Song: "White Rabbit" by Jefferson Airplane - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR8LFNUr3vw
peggy black-widow 

Natasha, still in her prisoner jumpsuit, ankles and wrist cuffed, has gotten a new possibility for potential future in mind from a meeting with Bucky. It struck her in a way that pending death never did. Death was easy, it was inevitable, and she expected it. Now she wonders if she might wind up in this cell for the rest of her very long life. It's quite a disturbing thought. At the moment she seems to be working on her abs, doing varities of situps, while lying on the floor of her cell.

The door opens, and in comes Peggy. Who is still making certain to wear the Lock and Key. She enters the room, carrying a tray. "Good afternoon, Natasha. Lunch?"

The moment Peggy approaches, Natasha stops her exercising and struggles to get up and sit on her cot, something that's a little tricky with both her ankles and wrists cuffed, "good afternoon," she answers, no trace of venom in her voice, "thank you," she humbly says for the offer of lunch. Blue eyes darting to the tray in Peggy's hands, she may not care to admit it, but she is hungry. Not that it's not to be expected.

Peggy moves over, and carefully puts the tray down. In the intervening time, she's had SHIELD locate the best Russian chef they could find in New York City, and he's the one making Natasha's meals, as traditionally as possible. Her instructions were to make something that's "comfort food" for lunch. She then reaches out. "Let's get you out of those, shall we?" Key in hand, she'll unlock the cuffs.

Natasha's eyes widen at the scent and presentation of the meal on the tray placed before her, this was no prison food, this was fit for royalty. She is quite confused by this dichotomy with her current abode being a prison cell, but she's starving and this looks heavenly. She holds out her hands to let Peggy easily remove her cuffs, seems that visiting Natasha a few times with Lock and Key has been a clever decision. She behaves much less jittery around Peggy, and doesn't seem as suspicious, when she reaches for the food without even tasting or inquiring of poisons or truth serums, she just doesn't care. "Thank you," she says once for the removal of her cuffs, and digs in with abandon, caught off guard by the quality, to the point of nearly moaning in pleasure at savoring the flavors of home, made by an expert hand.

Peggy smiles. "How have you been?" she asks the redhead, looking over. "Did you have a chance to look over the things I left?" After her last visit, she made sure to bring by the files on Bucky, and the clones. What SHIELD has learned so far. The truth only helps her in this case.

Natasha takes a bit to find it in her to delay before another mouthfull, long enough to answer Peggy, with a bitter smile on her lips, "I've been better." Not that it was a secret, Natasha isn't used to being in a cell she didn't intend to be trapped in to begin with. "I did…" her voice sinks to silence as she admits it. The files Peggy left for her were heartbreaking, and the last conversation she held with Bucky only seems to support what Peggy revealed to her. "So the Winter Soldier really was a Soviet creation, huh?"

"He was. Sergeant Barnes was a POW, that the Soviets brainwashed, experimented upon, and tortured, to create the Winter Soldier." Peggy says. She made sure that the files given were entirely real. No forgeries. Also, rather high access, obviously. "Much like the sorts of things they do in the Red Room, I'd imagine."

"Yes," Natasha notes flatly, while she seems to have finally accepted the fact there never was a Winter Soldier, and her attempt to get him back, were more like attempts to snatch him again, it still doesn't make the truth any easier to swallow. It is often a bitter pill, the truth. People at times would rather have their eyes close to the truth, and the feeling Natasha is having at the moment is precisely why. "He is Sergeant Barnes…the Winter Soldier is the false persona." She winces as Peggy mentions the Red Room, and gives a very neutral response of, "things -are- done in the Red Room."

Peggy watches Natasha closely. She's good at reading people; always has been. It's the reason there's a Captain America, after all. The brunette says "So…where do we go from here, Natasha?" her tone is neutral.

Natasha drops to complete silence at this point, and makes it her priority to finish her meal, and if Peggy would allow it, she'll use that to stall. Only once she's finished, and puts the tray aside, will she draw a deep breath. "I expected execution…what else do you do with a dangerous enemy asset such as myself?" She is being honest, were the tables turned, it's likely she would think of nothing short of death following an excruciating interrogation. "But Bucky made me realize there's an alternative…I have untold value. What's to stop you from keeping me here for as long as you can, studying every little bit, trying to glean everything till there's nothing more to offer…?" She levels her gaze with Peggy, and on a rare instance, there's a level of fear in her eyes, "is that what you're planning for me? Eternal life in captivity?"

Peggy looks…well, almost horrified at the suggestion. "Good god, no." She says, tone honestly astonished. "Natasha. I've told you before. I'm not your enemy. I'd hope, with what you've learned, you're not mine anymore. I can't simply hand you back to Russia. First off, they'd probably kill you. /After/ torturing you. And if they didn't, they'd blanket you under so much brainwashing you'd never find yourself again. But at the same time, I can't just hand you over to the Americans. They don't understand your situation…and even if they did, they'd make a scapegoat of you. An object lesson. You'd be tried, and then you'd either be killed or rot in a cell the rest of your life." She watches the other woman. "I'd prefer the third option. Work with me. Like Sergeant Barnes does."

"No…?" Natasha looks surprised, but so much relieved, that she can't help but form a genuine smile on her lips, "thank you." A most sincere show of gratitude, because after her exchange with Bucky, she determined that was the most likely of possibilities. It certainly sounded like something the Red Room might do. "I don't understand…" Natasha admits, she can't find a single reason why Peggy won't be her enemy, and yet, everytime she's with Peggy she feels so good. Peggy, once not in the field as opposing agents, proves to be quite a wonderful person that she can't help but feel a strong attachment to. To that end she's even willing to entertain a notion that seems entirely alien to her, "so…suppose you're not my enemy, what are we then?" She does nod at Peggy's question, "with that information…you truly hadn't stolen the Winter Soldier from us…from me," she eventually acknowledges, "so no. I have no personal quarrels with you, Peggy Carter."

Natasha looks directly at Peggy and nods at the very truth of her statement. SHIELD cannot afford to let Natasha get back in Russian hands, while at the same time, it may very well be lethal for Natasha to get back in Russian hands. There's no telling what punishment would be levied for her failure.

"Work with you?" Natasha appears stunned at the very offer, "are you sure? Why would you trust me…?" Natasha continues to push in her confusion. Nevermind the awkward of working with someone with whom she made the most deadly duo for many years, only it wouldn't be him anymore. It remains to be seen what kind of partnership that may turn out to be.

But ultimately, all things told, Peggy is right. Natasha is stuck in limbo. There are no good choices for her. "Suppose I do work with you…," she is after all not entirely keen to work against her motherland, but she can face reality, and knows she must adapt to given conditions. The way reality presents itself, she has little choice but to take Peggy's offer, if she is to survive. A chief drive instilled in Black Widow operatives is just that, achieve objective at all cost, survive at all costs. Death is a last resort. It is after all many years of training, science and expensive gear and injections that go into a Black Widow, losing all that is a huge waste. The drive to survive, coupled with Peggy's tremendous trustworhtiness and stellar charm makes Natasha very much inclined towards her suggestions. There is of course an altogether different drive, also courtesy of the Red Room, that is helping Peggy seem so saintly in Nat's eyes, but alas, she has no inkling, and so must consider what she can tell and what she knows.

"Suppose I work for you…" she starts again, "will I be allowed to retain my gear? I have years of training and field experience with that suit, and those gadgets, I won't be as effective without them…" she trusts by now Peggy no doubt has had her man unveil a majority of the secrets hidden in that gear, if not all of it, so no doubt Peggy will have a solid understanding of how dangerous one who is an expert at its operation can be.

Peggy has, indeed, had people check that suit inside and out. Reverse engineering is your friend. "I don't see why that couldn't be done." She comments, looking calm. "Obviously there would be an adjustment period. But I'd much rather work /with/ you than /against/ you, Natasha. And as for why I would trust you? You said it yourself. When the truth comes to light…I'm not your enemy. I can't blame you for things you were conditioned and coerced to do. Now that you have a clear perspective…it's a clear start."

Natasha considers for a moment, and when allowed her request, she nods solemnly. "I appreciate it, and understand." She pauses a moment in reflection, before offering, "just how much do you trust me? If it's as much as you claim, I would suggest leveraging me against your enemies. I have not yet missed a check in, I could pretend all is in order." Again she pauses, stretching her arms and legs, because it's annoying having your wrists and ankles cuffed together for so long, "of course going that route, I would need an occasional 'win' to keep the Red Room's trust in me."

"Since you are so generous with me, not killing me, and not imprisoning me for life, and even offering me to have my gear back…" Natasha seems to be contemplating with herself what she's about to say, taking another deep breath, and then she looks directly at Peggy with a new found resolve. It's seems her decision is made, "for the last two years I have been working under alias Natalie Rushman as Tony Stark's personal secretary, much of Stark's technology is known to the Red Room as a result. Even things such as the Avengers Initiative as it was formalized. There, a token of trust."

"That's easily enough done. False flag operations can be set up and simulated." Peggy lifts an eyebrow. Damn it. THAT is going to be something she needs to talk to Stark about. In a hurry. "Thank you." Peggy smiles. "It's appreciated, Natasha." She looks over at the woman. "It's going to take me a bit of time to get everything in order. But, I can do a few things for you right off. First, we can dispense with those cuffs from now on. Second, I'll get you some proper clothing." Not her suit, but not that prisoner jumpsuit, either. "You'll still be here, in this room, for a day or two till I can work things out, but if you talk to your guard, I'll give him permission to call either Sergeant Barnes or myself if you need something. Fair enough?"

"Of course," Natasha accepts what is given, not like she's in a situation where she can make any demands. Besides, she trusts Peggy, so she believes when she says a few days she means it. Besides, any clothes will be far better than a prisoner's jumpsuit. She hates this garb. Much as she hates being imprisoned and in cuffs. She just made a dangerous decision, but then it looks like she should have no attachments to the Red Room, seeing what a huge lie the Winter Soldier and therefore most of her life turned out to be. "We have an accord."

Peggy smiles, and offers a hand to Natasha. "Friends, then?" she asks the red-haired woman with a smile. She's got quite a bit of work in front of her, but she'll get it done.

Natasha takes Peggy's hand and offers a firm handshake "friends," but she hesitates before letting go, and then proceeds to actually embrace Peggy. unless the other woman breaks free of the attempt. "Thank you," she whispers in her ear, before letting go and starting to work on loosening her limbs.

Peggy is a little surprised at the hug. She normally attempts to maintain a proper British reserve, but for this, she'll actually go ahead and give the redhaired woman a big maternal hug. "It'll all be all right." she says.

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