1965-06-02 - Flashback: Target Shoshtakov
Summary: Every now and then, between waking and sleeping, Natasha experiences odd memories that don't necessarily align with her day to day recollections. She is currently on a train bound to Moscow with her husband Alexei, eager to investigate the plot that tore them apart. Meanwhile, reuniting with her husband has brought back memories to the surface that make no sense. She joined the Red Room after her husband was murdered by the Americans, so why does she recalls a conversation about him before she met him…and with the Winter Soldier?
Related: None
Theme Song: None
black-widow bucky 

Natasha is no longer a trainee, she's no longer just support add-on to Winter Soldier in ops. She has actually gone on several ops on her own, with Winter Soldier as her handler. The cover has been with the Bolshoi, whenever they had a special show abroad, it just so happened to have coincided with a strange inexplicable assassinations that left local authorities baffled.

But today she was given a strange pep talk, before being sent to see the Winter Soldier, something that lead Natasha to believe she's about to undertake something greater than she's used to. She walks into the debriefing room dressed in uniform, and perfectly kempt, as could be expected. "Reporting for briefing, Comrade," she announces her arrival.

He's already dressed as if he were what he'll claim to be - trainer, agent, general minder for one of the Soviet ballet's up and coming stars. That odd hair is slicked back, making him look far less scruffy than usual, and they've even let him shave. He's not sporting a five o'clock shadow, for once in his life. There's an odd look in his face, as he ushers her to a seat. He no longer makes her stand while he lectures - they've moved from teacher and student to their strange kind of partnership, and he treats her accordingly.

Natasha certainly notices something different, and while she's an expert by now at not showing a reaction or emotional response when she chooses too, a smile does sneak to her lips as she remarks, "you clean up -very- nicely, comrade, I never seen you looking so dashing…I take it this next one is in the open?" She has really appreciated being allowed to sit for her briefings, the first day that happened was the first time she truly felt like she's achieved something.

The Soldier looks grave, almost uncertain. That sits very oddly on those features, indeed. "This one does not end in a death, Alianovna," he explains. Using the patronymic and nothing else….it's almost a gruff nickname, the kind of things country boys from the same town do. He hands her a picture, Alexei, and explains. A new mission - they aren't going to kill him, or find material to blackmail him. Nothing so blunt or so crude. The beginning of a long chain, to bring this officer within the Red Room's folds, see if he has the potential to be one of the exceptional agents of the state, a new superhero. There's a mention of the uniformed heroes some of the other nations have achieved, even the flagsuit absurdity that is Steven Rogers. No flicker of recognition at all, as he says his best friend's name.

Natasha looks a bit crestfallen at the mention of lack of death, "is this more to do with the training I've done with Comrade Sveta?" She has improved her attitude to those wouldbe 'lesser' assignment thanks to her training with the Winter Soldier, but she still much prefered wetworks with the Winter Soldier himself at her side. It felt the most natural out of the myriad of ops she's undertaken. Plus, while she may not admitted it to any and wouldn't, she's grown a bit more fond of Winter Soldier than one would be of a mere 'comrade'. It's wise to stay silent, however, and so she has. She nods solemnly as Winter Soldier clues her in on the objective, before wearing a look of disdain at the mention of Captain America, only natural that she'd loathe the man who embodies the flag of the Capitalist scum that dare face the might of the Soviets. "Kapitan America? Nonsense…he will never win wearing that flag on his person." She seems somewhat smug, and very sure of the Soviet cause. "So now we make 'superheroes' of our own, is that so Comrade?" She takes the picture, and studies it, "Alexei Shoshtakov…he looks handsome, military man, pilot…"

Winter is grim and gruff, but he never takes her anything other than seriously….and never takes advantage. Her beauty and grace only grow day by day, raw potential honed and refined, and yet it never seems to move him. There are no longing glances when he thinks she's not looking, no touches that linger beyond what they must to correct or instruct. Not like with some of the others she encounters.

"Yes," he says, bluntly. "And it is good you find Shostakov appealing. Genuine attraction will be useful," is his assessment. "This may be a longer assignment, an unfolding mission. Not in and done in a night. Only the first step. You will report directly to me." That he's sending his protege, and indeed, she's the only one, he doesn't train the other spiderlings, to seduce another man doesn't seem to dismay him.

There's no doubt that the complete lack of interest shown by Winter Soldier is likely a reason Natasha has found herself rather taken with him, he was by far the most 'different' than every single operative she encountered. For the time being, she continues to study the image of Alexei, commiting it to memory so she'll recognize him easily in a crowded room full of strange faces.

"I understand," she entirely accepts Winter Soldier's remark, after all, if it's a Sveta type op, it will certainly make it easier. She looks up as more is shared, "a fishing operation?" No doubt referring to the reeling in of the target. No death, Winter Soldier promised. "Then this Alexei is a very important man, I promise to do my best…I take it he likes ballet?"

"Yes," he says, with a faint smile. "Exactly. We want this one alive. And every Russian at least pretends to, lest he be thought uncultured, eh?" A joke, from him? Surely not.

But there it is, a gleam of amusement in those eyes, pale as aquamarines. Brightening a little, as he adds, a touch archly, "I give you permission to enjoy yourself a little, even."

Seems that Winter Soldier managed to draw an actual genuine laughter from Natasha, it comes far too rolling and natural, flowing with amusement to be a polite fake laugh. Unless of course she's mastered that too, hard to tell with Natasha, though if anyone would it would be the man who trained her. "From interaction I had with audience members…natural, I would say your statement is not inaccurate, comrade." She nods at that last permission given, unable to mask her mischevious smile, no doubt attempting to draw some reaction out of Winter Soldier, ever stoic and with icy visage, "I do intend to enjoy this one, thank you."

"No expectation of resistance, so you will not be armed," he adds, lapsing back into that offhand, casual air. She's proved herself competent, he's never felt compelled to hassle her beyond that. "Any further questions?" he wonders. "Otherwise, let the sparks fly."

"Thank to your training, I every bit as dangerous unarmed as I am armed, edge to unarmed, due to expectations of fools," Natasha almost recites word for word the benefit of her training. She's lived it, she knows it's true. She's often found more resistance when armed than when found unarmed. "That will be all, I am ready," she gets up and inclines her head respectfully at Winter Soldier, before offering the more traditional salute. "I will go study this man, Shoshtakov…"

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