1965-05-05 - Flashback: Breaking The Ice
Summary: After months of assignment to personal training with the Winter Soldier, Natasha finally manages to share a few words with him.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
bucky black-widow 

IT's not the depths of winter, at least. It's the brief summer that happens in the Urals' foothills. And at the moment, Winter is patiently instructing Natasha in the art of making a fire, even with wet wood.

He's been her instructor more often than not in the past months, in all kinds of aspects. Everything from knife fighting to surveillance. He's had spates of absence, weeks where her tutelage was taken over by someone else…..but this will be their first stretch of putting survival training to the test. A forgiving season, relatively warm, plentiful food to forage and game to stalk.

They've made camp by a little stream. This is no pleasure camping trip, no tents, only a couple of tarps strung up for shelter and swiftly camouflaged. Dinner will be a couple of fish from the stream. Tomorrow it gets hard, today was just the baby steps….and at the moment, he's demonstrating firestarting by the aid of flint and steel. Old school.

Ever sense the rude awakening she's been served with her first encounter with the Winter Soldiervery memorable to be dragged out of bed for a beatingshe has come to respect him as someone beyond any other instructor. Sure his demeanor was rather cold, and he wasn't all that friendly, but he had skill. He also was the only one who never really looked at her as a young girl, the only one who never got creepy. It was all about training, all about getting better. She respeced that immensely.

While Winter Soldier was getting a flame started without using a match, Natasha was croched at his side, keeping a keen eye on his method. They've been more often than not silent, largely because the Winter Soldier wasn't much for talking. But in this particular training session, it was just the two of them, and she felt more at ease to try and talk. So even as she watched, Natasha asked what she meant to ask him for the longest time, "why do you keep your hair long like a girl?" It's not that his style was really feminine in the least, but it was certainly a standout in a facility where most had less than stylish buzzcuts and very short, well kempt hair dos.

He's not one for talking. His teaching method mostly consists of answering direct questions, and otherwise wordlessly demonstrating. Explaining only as is absolutely necessary. And no, he's the oddity in that he neer seems to look at her as a woman. She knows that look, she's already on her way to being quite the beauty…..and that instruction has already begun, albeit from other teachers entirely. Winter seems as innocent of any hint of sex or sensuality as a carving made out of ice.

So his response is….uncharacteristic. For the first time since she's known him, there's a flash of puzzlement in the pale gaze. Confusion, almost. He blinks, pausing in his efforts for a beat. Then he shrugs. "No one cuts it for me. I don't have clippers." A strange matter of neglect, it seems. Then he's drawing her eyes to the tinder with a gesture, and carefully aiming sparks into it.

Natasha knows full well by now what is expected of a Black Widow to be capable of doing, and she's found she prefers her instruction with Winter Soldier, it's more engaging, more useful, and she feels better respected. As a younger girl, nobody expected anything from her on the sexual side of things, now she's come to learn it is expected to be a frequently used weapon in her arsenal. The instruction under Lyudmila had been different, demeaning, and not nearly as useful seeming. At least for the time being. That makes him easily more likable, feeling as though he considers her a colleague and not less than that.

"That would explain it," Natasha stiffles a giggle, finding the straight forward reply amusing. It almost like her question was silly. "I see…aesthetics do not bother you. So you are stronger for it."

"For me, they are not relevant, my looks are not what make me useful," he declares, simply, before crouching down to breathe on the little embers glowing in the dry grass. "Gently," he says to her. "When you do this, be careful not to blow them out." Looks…..he might be a decent looking guy, with a better haircut, and a more cheerful expression.

"Are you suggesting looks are what makes me useful…?" Natasha has to ask, because with some of the men she's been training with, that was precisely the impression she received. The men were expected to do the real wetwork, the idea of the Black Widow Ops was mostly to draw out information and seduce enemy assets. She didn't care for that…she will show them she can do it all.

She quiets down as a point of instruction comes, looking closely and silently as Winter demonstrates the fine touch required to stoke a flame out of seemingly nothing. She imitates his action rather well, blowing enough to make the embers ignite, but softly enough to avoid killing the flame being built up.

"No. But they are a tool that you possess that I do not. Physical attraction has its uses, just like speed or strength or skill with weapons. YOu will go places and do missions I could not, because of that." He's matter of fact about it, not in the least defensive. "If that was all you were good for, you would not be here with me, now." He lays on little twigs, building the fire up slowly. It won't be large when it's done - this isn't some Boy Scout jamboree.

Natasha looks at Winter Soldier with newfound respect as he puts it quite unlike any of her instructors. He makes it sound a different avenue for a very important mission, rather than a lowly job offered to female operatives. She nods at his words, "in that case, I will do my best. Thank you, comrade."

She then goes about gathering some twigs for herself, eager to replicate Winter Soldier's feat. Observing is one thing, taking notes is another, but doing is always the best lesson.

The thanks…..clearly, that bemuses him too. He blinks at her, finally straightening from his crouch by the fire. "Why do you thank me for the truth?" he asks, peering at her for a moment. "We do what we can for the Motherland, and none of us is the same. Fucking is not worse than killing, or better, so long as it accomplishes what it needs to." Bluntly spoken - he's never catered to her youth.

Natasha wasn't like most youth, none of the girls in the Black Widow program ever were. Their upbringing was entirely different, some might call it indoctrination, some a necessity. Either way, she is not so much shocked by the language, as she is appreciative of the perspective he gave her. "I thank you, because you value my service…Comrade Igor for once disagrees." She doesn't go into detail on just how Igor put it to her, but the feeling is there that she was made to feel lesser. Winter has given her all she needed to never feel that way again. "Do you think one day all the world will enjoy the fruits of communism? It saddens me to think there are places that never heard of it at all."

Another of those flickers of confusion. It's odd….in the fields of his expertise he's sure, swift and deadly. Out of them….he looks oddly lost. Strange, really.

A beat of pause, as he gestures for her to get the fish they've caught, hanging strung through the gills in a nearby birch. "I don't know," he says, simply. "The spread of ideas is beyond me. That's for the officers and athe commissars to do."

Natasha is struck by Winter's unique reply, such dedication to the cause, that he doesn't even muse about things beyond his given assignment. She certainly doesn't take such dedication, it's a lesson, she can improve, better focus, better understand what she is meant to become. Perhaps that is why they've teamed her mostly with him, he was unlike anyone she's ever met. A true selflessness reflected in him. It never occured to her there might be more than meets the eye.

She nods at his gesture, and hurries along to fetch the fish, quite eager for the meal they'll soon have. They haven't had anything since they started early in the day. Hunger was always the best cook.

"So I should only bother with my next mission, and not with distractions, correct?" She asks once back at his side with the fish, handing it over.

For a wonder, he makes no attempt to shut her up, or turn the conversation. He's gotten a little knife out of his boot, not one to do much damage to people with….but very good for cleaning and descaling fish. Again, those wordless demonstrations. But by the little indent between his brows, she's puzzled him. "Focus is always better," he settles on, after a little. But he still seems hesitant. "I am not…..not well versed. My talents …..what I do is physical."

Natasha moves closer to observe the descaling of the fish, taking careful notice, she knows pretty soon she'll have to do herself. Likely by their next meal. But she does take some curiousity at the statement that he's not well versed, from what she's seen, he's one of the best operative she's ever met. "They always call you Winter Soldier, do you ever use your real name?" Likely a result of her youth, give it a couple of years, she'll learn better than to ask someone for their proper name. "Is it maybe a sign of status?"

There's a moment of utterly bizarre blankness. Like he's something out of a fairy tale, and his true name commands. "Winter Soldier is all I need. All you need," he says, gruffly. But his hand has faltered for a moment on the fish. Then he visibly reassembles his thought process, and shows her out to gut it, neatly, so it'll be ready for the spit.

"I understand." Natasha is quick to quip, fearful perhaps that he might report her for being far too inquisitive about him. Then again, even if he does, isn't the nature of the role she's being trained for to find out information? Was this a test? Or a trap? It was always tricky in the Red Room. "I guess when I graduate I will probably expect to be called Black Widow, much like you're Winter Soldier. I undertand." While she says nothing of his work cleaning the fish, she does look impressed, no doubt he had his share of trials to reach this perfection.

By his look, he doesn't think she does. But instead, there's more of that patient demonstration. He spits the fish on a cleaned branch, shows her how to turn it over the flame before he gives his own the same treatment. "Remember that you are Natalya," It's an oddly gentle admonition, delivered in a tone far different from his usual gruff flatness.

Natasha is a bit taken back by the unexpected admonishing tone, but nevertheless she nods in acceptance. "I will do that," she promises, before hungrily eyeing her fish and reaching for the stick, as she asks, "ready to eat now?"

Winter eyes it critically, tilts his head. "No. Little more. Better to overcook than under. Less chance of sickness, that way," he says. The shadows lengthen, the night insects start to slowly tune up.

Natasha lets go of the stick, and sits by the fire, watching the fish cook, "have you ever gotten sick on assignment…?" Seems she's looking to draw some stories out of him, she's young, the closest thing she ever gotten to bed time stories was exploits of field agents. Since she's been assigned to prolonged training with Winter for a while now, she's fascinated to hear any of his stories. So far she had zero luck.

He always seems so terribly reluctant to answer any sort of personal question. "No," he says, bluntly. "I don't get sick. I have been wounded, though. Shot." Even he is not untouchable. "Cut." And he lifts his shirt to expose a long, silvery scar on his side, the mark of a knife. His skin is utterly pale, as if it never saw the sun.

"Can I touch it?" Natasha asks as she's shown the blade wound hidden under Winter Soldier's shirt, "who gave it to you? Did you kill him?" From the excitment in her voice, one could tell how she's already reconstructing this fight she's never seen in her imgaination.

Mute assent, in that he doesn't drop the shirt, or turn away impatiently. "American agent. I did," he says, calmly. "It is important to keep your first aid training up. You never know when you may be hurt and out of reach of aid from your comrades."

Nat reaches to carefully touch the wound, tracing it with fascination, she can't yet imagine how regular that sight will turn out to be in the future. "Wow…I wish I could have seen it. I can't wait till my first real kill," she has killed before, but she didn't consider the killing of fellow Red Room Academy students as a real kill, that was part of training, if you failed to do that, you'd be the one dead. "I will make sure to go over my first aid training…no American agent will get the best of me!"

She touches him, and he shivers. When was the last time someone touched him without intent to cause pain? His gaze still lacks that quality she knows all too well, in far too many of her comrades - none of that leer, concealed or no. But his eyes are dark with confusion. "You will kill many, in your time," he assures her….but his tone is far from congratulatory.

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