Track 51 - Hero Of War by Rise Against
I own nothing you recognize
She sat, spine straight and legs crossed, on a large blue blanket. She wore nothing but a matching set of lacy black undergarments and blood red nail polish. Dark spots scattered across the coarse fabric showed it’s use as the redhead ran a whetstone across the smooth edge of one of her blades. Every one of her knives was currently set around her on the blanket, ranging in size order, largest to smallest. Her door was locked, a chair braced below the handle for added protection. The vents were blocked, the windows covered and her fan was on. Jarvis had been asked not to record anything that evening and after he agreed to it Natasha had then covered all of the tiny camera’s she had found in her bedroom.
One should always mourn in private.
No sounds came out of the assassins room besides that of stone on metal. An even scraping tone that she used for meditation purposes. She could accept the flashes of bright lights, men pulling down at her arms and forcing her into restraints. She had been a very small girl after all. Now she had the skills to destroy any man that laid so much as his gaze on her. She would not be bound and locked in a room without hope. She would not be an experiment. She would not be a punching bag. She was a warrior.
Today .... had been a day. Not good, not bad. Just a day. That was most days though. Natasha had been full of bad days when she worked for Red Room. Nothing really compared to the horrors of her past, though she did not re-live them very often. Red Room was very thorough in its training and Natasha had been their best pupil. She’d had nothing else to live or die for, and all children need hope. Red Room had stolen her family, stolen her childhood, but they had been all that she had after that. Russia was not like the US, especially not in the fifties. There had been no choice, no hope for something better, no hope for rescue. There was no being rescued, because according to her government she was property, not a person.
It had not been all bad of course. She had excelled at training and had the best reactions to their genetic experimentations, she also had known not to fight them. It meant she was allowed more freedoms than other recruits. She could use the restroom without being followed.
She excelled at her training. She learned to fight. She learned to shoot. She learned to use her body as a weapon in every way possible. She learned to accept that she was a tool and nothing else. Then, when they could teach her no more, they gave her to a monster so she could become a monster. The Winter Soldier did not teach her to be a monster. He taught her to love.
That was Red Room’s first mistake. Taking a child and forcing them into an emotionless mold? It didn’t break them. It just made them slower to grow. It made them forget to hope. When you erase a person’s memories, a person who was once loved? They fight against the cruelty they are being forced to perpetrate. They remember hope, and they continue to fight. The monster taught the emotionless child hope and as she covered for him as he grew stronger and they learned love together. In civilized countries there would have been talk of their age difference, judging stares and disapproving words. In Red Room it was ignored because the operatives were better together.
They were better until suddenly they discovered just how much the young woman was covering for the monster. Winter Soldier was put back to sleep, the woman sent on her own. Given one suicide mission after another. It was as much a punishment as it was a test. The woman, a nightmare now known as Black Widow, took out her pain and rage against those that Red Room threw her at. She could be anything they needed her to be, a blank slate to be filled upon request, and wipe herself clean again as soon as the mission was accomplished. She was what they had wanted the Winter Soldier to be. They had wiped his mind, they had simply refused to allow Black Widow to be anything other than blank.
The Black Widow’s rage was ignited the instant they took Winter Soldier from her, a man whose personality saved her even if he couldn’t remember his own name at the time. Her rage burned cold, but it didn’t go out. She banked the fires and bided her time, plotting her revenge for years. The serum that they used on Natasha was created from the serum that had been used to create Captain America. They had realized that they could not replicate the Captain America experiment completely, but there were certain aspects that seemed to be easier to replicate than others. Some of the test subjects responded better than others. Subject 78, formerly Natalia Romanova, responded the best of all. She was one of a very small handful that adopted a fast metabolism as well as a fast rate of healing. A fact that was far more noticeable when she seemed to stop aging in her late twenties. Red Room was adopted by the KGB and Black Widow was folded into their agency and quickly became their best agent.
Until they deemed the Winter Soldier program too dangerous and ended it. They ended him, buried all paperwork and ordered the doctors involved in his upkeep elsewhere. No one tried to defend the work or the man. Black Widow, upon discovering this, instantly went off the grid. She would systematically kill every scientist from Red Room, not bothering to hide what she was doing. She saved those involved with Winter Soldier for last. They knew their end was coming and that they had helped create that end. Their deaths did little to appease her pain. She left Russia and became a free agent after she’d finished her self-appointed mission, knowing her life was now forfeit.
It would be many years before she would be intrigued by a man, the first man since her Winter Soldier. He was sent to kill her, but he didn’t. He found her intriguing as well. Spent months following her, learning that she had no plans. She had no friends. She had no hobbies. When she wasn’t on a mission she was empty. Clint Barton had broken into her room and had been surprised to find nothing. Clothing. No TV. No radio. Nothing personal at all. At first he’d thought it was a safehouse and quietly left.
Clint Barton had broken protocol for this quiet woman. He’d come at her from the front, testing her skills. She was amazing. In some ways so much better than himself, and he was the best the US had to offer. He’d talked to her, he’d argued with her, he’d fought with her. Then Clint said something off hand which had given Natasha pause. She’d planned on playing double agent, letting him take her ... but then he’d demanded to know why she hadn’t killed those who had made her the way she is. He had wanted to know if it was because she needed backup. He had then offered to be her backup. She’d been with him for three days, contemplating his words, when the KGB caught up and a team had been sent to end her.
Whether it had been planned all along or because they honestly believed she might defect was a moot point. Clint ... something about the man had drawn her in. He was like her ... and yet he was still whole. He cared, he had humor, he flirted and enjoyed life. He had distracted her and the team came through her door hot, shooting and hoping to leave nothing but a bullet riddled corpse that they had hoped to pin on the American agent. Instead Clint had swept through, his deadly aim impeccable. She was bullet riddled and oh, so tired. Clint brought her back.
It had been many years since Clint had recruited her and she still felt she owed him. She probably always would. He had helped her discover a love of fine red wine. He had encouraged her to listen to music for pleasure. He had taught her what it was to be a person, the things her Winter Soldier hadn’t been able to teach her. Clint had taught her sex didn’t have to be a weapon and he never once lied to her. He had introduced her to Coulson and to Fury, two men whom she respected. They had let her earn her position in their agency, SHIELD, and she quickly became their most infamous agent. They let her discover who Natasha, the woman, was. She discovered that Natasha was fundamentally Black Widow. They didn’t mind.
The Avengers had made things harder for Natasha. She was a spy. People whispered her name and forgot her face amidst the flash which helped distract them. Now her face was everywhere, she couldn’t disappear into the background. She had been built to be a weapon, a tool for a government that cared little for any of it’s people in the singular sense. She was nothing ... and now she was something. It was very confusing for the redhead. She did not mind being a tool, it meant people left her alone when she as discovering new things. Such as her love of the zoo. She could no longer visit the zoo and contemplate the lions and why the females didn’t force the male to hunt for himself. Not without being bombarded by people with pens demanding an autograph.
She was doing good things now. She knew she was. She was saving the world and getting credit for it, which was surprisingly gratifying. The loss of anonymity and the gain of knowing she was the good guy negated each other. So her day was a day. Neither good, nor bad. She was empty and it was the day she had first met Winter Soldier. Clint had Darcy and she couldn’t go to him for physical comfort any longer. Coulson ... Coulson had died as well.
So Natasha stripped down to her underwear. Nothing between her and the sharp metal bits which often saved her life. She sharpened them all carefully, taking her time. Memories couldn’t hurt you. They couldn’t force you to cry, not if you had proper control of your emotions. You could relive them, but they wouldn’t make anything change. Some memories were personal enough they didn’t need to be shared. Maybe Natasha just didn’t want to share them. Winter Soldier had been hers alone. He was all she’d had for a very long time, even if he hadn’t been there physically. When she’d found out he’d been killed she had felt truly empty for the first time in her long life.
Then she’d remembered a time they had been locked in a remote cabin. They’d had to strip down to their underwear because the snow had melted into their clothes. Natasha had sat in front of the fireplace and set all their knives in front of her, his as well as her own, and begun to meticulously clean and sharpen all of them while he watched her. She’d felt safe and warm and he’d been watching her with that little smile he used when he was watching her just because he thought she was beautiful. So sometimes, when she was having a day, she stripped down and remembered those feelings. Her face blank, her emotions high, and no one there to demand any kind of explanation.
It was true that the Black Widow didn’t cry. It was false that she felt no pain. Today ... today she felt pain, and she fought it by remembering a man whose name she hadn’t discovered until after she had defected. James Barnes, the Winter Soldier. She had met him 55 years ago this day. Today she felt pain, she felt regret, she felt sorrow.
Red Room would not approve.