|chimerical. (scrawling) wrote,|
@ 2014-03-18 08:20:00
When the river is ice ask me mistakes I have made.
Ask me whether what I have done is my life.
He watched the chaos unleashed due to the explosion with the sort of calm befitting his position in this particular mess. It wasn’t a random malfunction, it wasn’t an act of stupidity that helped to unravel the darker side of human nature before it was improbably late. It was, instead, an act of distraction, and he used it well. He tugged a hood over his face, pulled a balaclava firmly in place and made certain his sunglasses were positioned over his eyes. He stepped calmly through the people fleeing, calmly through the heroes and other assorted agents that were gathering in the wake, ready to pounce upon the first sign of trouble they discovered. There was certainly plenty for them to find in the tunnels below the terminal--plenty of rubbish left to collect (and if two so-called agents of Hydra had been eliminated slightly before they could detonate their somewhat insufficient payload, then that will be another question neatly stack on top of so many more). He ducked into the open door of the hotel as others--tourists, of course, clustered near the door. He didn’t break stride, didn’t make eye contact--he let the shadows hide him, only glancing back once and then only catching the bare glimpse of scarlet red hair and a different man this time. There was no recognition, no spark aside from the memory of her eating pizza earlier. There was only a mission in his mind, and he made fast to complete it.
And--there, that man, the figure disappearing into the hotel, that was what Natasha had been looking for before she and Aaron had disappeared into the subway tunnels to help neutralize the vermin. He was the piece in the chaos that wasn’t of the chaos, movement with intent masked by but not subsumed to the restless aimlessness of the still-milling crowd. He moved like she did, and she moved like a weapon politely pretending to be anything other than poised and deadly. Natasha picked up speed when he left her line of sight. There was something--needling at her mind, some sense of commonality that made her want to get eyes back on him as quickly as possible. It wasn’t that she recognized him, it wasn’t that she knew his name or remembered anything personal, simply that there always has been and always will be something a bit feral and ruthless and animal in Natasha that will recognize something feral and ruthless and animal in James Barnes no matter what name he goes by or whether he remembers her name. It’s an intrinsic thing, a trick of recombinant experimentation in her case and a chance combination of environment and nature in his, and while it is not what draws them together (while it is not what drew Natalia to James in the past or what would draw Natasha back to him now) it is an integral part of their inevitable common ground, and it is common sense and a bit of common courtesy as well to keep track of your fellow monster when there are children and innocent ignorants around, people whose hands do not curl into claws, whose minds do not contain a constant running inventory of attack lines and fault lines and found weapons. She wasn’t quite ignoring Stack--he was still at her side, coming to whatever conclusions she might. She simply found him half-irrelevant for a moment, for the half-life of her recognition’s adrenaline surge.
He caught the edge of her tailing him--half-sensed and half-spotted, the way most things were when he was like this, drilled down to instinct, charmless and spiritless and running on the necessity of a mission more than he was on the necessity of a life. He sped up. It attracted a moment’s worth of attention from a bell hop, but he moved past the man, taking a moment to push the cart over, letting the spill of the luggage serve as an obstacle. Minor, admittedly--the draw of people to the noise was more destructive, took more time. He turned the corner, popping into a stairwell to climb to the correct floor. On the way he shed the blue jacket that had been his cover in the crowd. Underneath he wore tactical gear--with a fast glance it looked like a long-sleeved shirt and vest, but it was more elaborate. He could be silent in it. He didn’t take note of the fact that his glove had been dislodged, didn’t notice that his arm glinted a little, even in the dim light of the stairs. It wasn’t important. He didn’t draw his weapon immediately, but when the hall was abandoned, he did. He drew the pistol and screwed on the silencer. He turned the corner of the hall, taking only a moment to raise the pistol and eliminate the two guards that stood outside the door. His target door. He hesitated for a moment.
It wasn't important, was overall utterly irrelevant--it didn't hamper his movement, it didn't make him any easier to track in this terrain that already failed to conceal him, it didn't make her job any easier, it was just a bit of loose cloth. Just a bit of data to be absorbed and assimilated along with everything else the quick glance her fleet feet earned her when she topped the stairs just as he left them--a rough sketching in of the loose outline she'd initially gleaned, like a court sketch artist finally coming face to face with a subject (always a suspect, the case always complicated by a lack of witnesses--but never an air-tight alibi, for a knife need not prove it wasn't at the scene of the crime, it can leave that sort of detail world to whoever grasps it by the hilt). It should have been unimportant, it should have been nothing.
To any other agent it likely would have been, but this was Natasha Romanoff. This was Black Widow. This was the Red Room's red right hand run riot, the redhead rebel who had proved herself wolf instead of hunting hound. This was assassination's elegantly brutal prima ballerina, and like any Firebird she recognized her Ivan. Even from the back, even after years--it was no great feat. It was simply like recognizing like, it was nothing more or less elaborate than that. Had she not had even this partial view of him, had they been gagged and blindfolded and stuck in a room for Red Room's entertainment, it was painfully, predictably likely that the recognition would still have come.
(And perhaps it had, perhaps that had been one of the games they had played with her, with him--she has holes in her memory the size of fallen nations, gaps that are cleanly lanced and holes that gape and seep about their edges. There is more than enough room in the empty spaces for such a game to have been forcibly forgotten--and that would explain, perhaps, why the possibility sprang into being as a potential so quickly, so easily--but that is a road that must not be traveled, a quick and sure route to madness and uncertainty that she is too stubborn and proud to trek).
It hit her as such revelations do, when one is not terribly inclined toward dramatics without motive or reaction without predmeditation-deliberate action couched within--like nothing at all, like a quick-neat adjustment of her focus as her hand hovered closer to weapon that until now she had not bothered to prepare to use. If this man ahead of her was who she now knew (knew in her bones, in her blood because no one else would draw on them that way, like she was an aimless compass taken out of a magnetic box, like he was the North Star and she was a hurricane's eye that had once been a ship) that it was--then the preparation was not excessive, as it would have been against almost any other opponent. Then her caution would serve her well--if he was who he was, if he was what every part of her was utterly sure of except her mind (if he was her forever fool's gold, the only life-sentenced inmate in her hardened heart, the dark sleek shadow-Other to her flame-flicker Self, the only other person who spoke the language of her smirks with absolute fluency, the man she had left tangentially but no less deliberately, the one choice she ever wished she could find it in herself to regret). If that was him, just around the corner she was coming up on, quick as a cutting edge, then she would need the caution that was so often irrelevant, immaterial, overzealous--for this was her James, and she knew him well.
The molecules that made up the man in front of her were inevitably the same (mostly, give or take the countless cells that died and were reborn every day of a waking life), the data present in his mind was invariably different. It was unnatural--there should have remained a spark of recognition, a sort of knowing catalogued in the deep dark part of his mind where instincts and morals laid roost, so far down that not even the Red Room's many-layered and constantly grabbing-taking-stealing fingers could scrub from his mind. Except--he was unnatural, he was slate wiped uncomfortably clean--he no more remembered her than he could now remember this city. His feet had once brought him here, in an easier time--when something of James still remained. There was nearly nothing left--a spark of conscience, enough instinct to know right and wrong. There was no room for sentiment, though only because there was nothing left on which to base it.
As such, his hesitation only took a moment. The door was opened as quickly as that. The man on the other side was a red-faced nightmare, a jackal, a menace (there had been a time when he'd faced a cloud--an incorporeal form with malace in place of a mind--he could still remember that)--he shot the creature twice in the back in the time it could have taken to speak (the words 'not without you' didn't ring in his memory, though it would have been more appropriate if they had). He reached for the phone the Red Skull had been holding, checking the number for safety though it was all going according to the plan. "полководец это делается"
He listened for only a moment before shutting the phone and tucking it into a pocket. He opened a clear case in the center of the room, checking the bright white cube it contained before shutting it. His best retreat was cut off, now--experience told him that the red head that had been on his tail would not be far behind--so instead of the clean, quiet exit he'd planned, he left through the window. It was easy enough to climb down to the ground, from there it was easy enough to blend into the constantly growing crowd. He could feign panic when it was necessary--and he did. Slipping away before anyone (except for that one exception, who would always be an exception) could spot the different quality in the way he carried himself. A man on a mission--a man who was a mission, now complete.