Disclaimer: I do not ask to be forgiven for my terrible lateness for I do not deserve it, also I don't own anything.
The path they took to get to the building in the car with tinted windows had taken three hours. Three of the men surrounding her were right handed, one lefty. Barton didn't seem to have a preference that she could see, but perhaps he was just hiding it. The armor the guards were wearing was thinnest at the neck. The guard on her right was leaning heavily on his left leg, but trying to hide it.
Her shoes made little noise on the concrete floor on the building and what noise it was making was miniscule compared to the pounding of the boots of the men guarding her. There were four of them and Hawkeye, or Agent Barton as he had introduced himself in the apartment. She wondered if it was a recent development; wondered even more if he had been working for this organization when he helped save her.
He had saved her.
Hawkeye was going to kill her in that apartment. He was supposed to. She could tell that from the clenched fists of the guards and the stiff poses. She could tell from the way a man in a nice suit had yelled at the Agent. He had been considerate enough not to do it right in front of her, but he was loud enough that the message was heard.
Hawkeye had saved her at the behest of Basilisk the first time, but the second time? Recruitment, so he said. It wasn't the first time she had heard the speech, Widow and Basilisk had gotten a few in their time together.
Basilisk - after all those year working together; the rules, the jobs, the tattoos - the kiss. Ashley Bell was a nobody, a barista in a small town whose parent's had died a couple of years ago. Why turn her into that? After everything Basilisk had been to her, and she had once assumed she was to him. Two years of nothingness, of being pushed to the back of her own mind and forced to sleep and here she was, awake again. Of being remade normal, but she hadn't been normal even then, Ashley had to deal with left over Widow, the anger that couldn't be repressed except through copious drugs. She wondered if Ashley would join the menagerie now. Maybe Nattie would welcome Ashley with open arms, but she doubts it. Ashley was far more naive than Nattie ever got to be.
The details of the boring wallpaper distracted her for a second. She caught a glimpse of a building map attached to a wall and it imprinted in her mind without her thinking about it. There was an exit at the end of the hall next to them. There were forty rooms on this floor, it was bigger than she had thought from the entrance they had dragged her through.
The hallways had no windows and the route they took her through had more turns than a normal person could follow. She knew the reason why, the long empty halls gave an impression or authority, of a large enough organization to require that many rooms. The turns were to get her confused. To make her think that the building was a maze, make her dismiss trying to escape. It might have worked on a less observant prisoner.
Hawkeye looked bored with the procedure. His stroll was relaxed, perfectly at ease. He had been working here a long time, that much was obvious from the way he never tensed when they turned a corner. He knew where they were going or trusted the group enough not to worry about it. Which meant that he had been working with them a long time, most likely before the first rescue.
Two years, what a long time lost.
The group finally stopped in front of a non descript door. She didn't worry, she had tracked their route to the room easily and the floor plan she saw would make it even easier to escape - if she had the chance. It was looking less and less likely she did.
The door opened to an interrogation room. The stone walls only had one opening besides the door, a mirror on one of the side walls. Hawkeye followed her into the room and sat down in one of the chairs, his feet swinging up to rest on the table.
"Come on in, I picked out the best one just for you." He gestured with one hand at the chair on the other side of the table. She took another step inside the door and kept still even as the metal door closed behind her.
And then there were two.
"The glass is bulletproof." It wasn't a question, it didn't need to be one. The room had been chosen for her, which meant they knew some of her talents. There was no air vent opening big enough to get into and the door was no doubt wired. She slipped into the empty chair stiffly and scolded herself. Two years was a long time away from the world, she had gotten weak in her time away.
"I'm guessing you figured out who you are." Hawkeye said easily. "Not that I doubt your acting abilities, but I know real pain and rage when I see it."
"Black Widow." Her alias, one of her selves.
"That's the one. Two years is a long time to be in hiding in this day and age. Can't take a walk anymore without running into a camera, and yet..." He waved his arm at her. A dramatic gesture, they were being watched. The mirror was a one way window, if Widow hadn't already known it then Ash's copious amounts of procedural cop shows would have told her enough.
"Agent Barton, were you working here the first time we met?" Her tone was flat.
Barton stiffened a little and pointedly didn't look at the mirror. "I've had many roles in my life."
"Sniper?" Widow didn't like snipers, well... Basilisk didn't like snipers and Widow had learned that trait from him. Like so many other things she had learned from him. The most important on their last meeting together - don't trust anyone.
"Of a sort, but this isn't about me. It's about you, little spider.."
"Не называй меня так." She spat out in Russian before she remembered where she was. She hadn't slipped into Russian by accident in years. "Don't call me that."
Barton held up his hands in mockery. "If you insist. What should I call you instead?"
He was fishing. Which meant he didn't know. Which meant the organization he was working for didn't know. If she was honest, it was a good question. Black Widow was a part of her, but so was Nattie, Natasha, Ashley, and plenty of others. She was a broken doll, bits and pieces of real people cobbled together, she was Frankenstein's monster that had long since killed her creator and been betrayed by the only person she had ever trusted.
Hawkeye gave a grin. "Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. We've been around for awhile, but got a new name to go along with the new war."
"S.H.I.E.L.D.?" She scoffed. "You should fire your naming department."
"It looks good on reports. You should see our logo, you might like it enough to wear it." Barton's eyes were sharp, piercing - maybe that's what they paid him for.
"You must know some of my record, seen my work. What makes you think that I would ever be a good candidate for a gun totting patriotic organization like yourself in a country that isn't even mine?" It was a good question and one that had been on her mind as soon as the agony of forcing herself back in control of her own body had dissipated.
"Russia hasn't been your country for a long time. Both you and I know that well."
"Suppose we do. I have been many places in my short life. Maybe I want to go traveling again?" Part of her definitely wanted to. Being cooped in one small town for two years, just the thought was making her itch, though the room wasn't helping.
"Well, you know the old adage: join the military, go to exotic places, meet interesting people, kill them." Hawkeye said with a smile. Perhaps that's how it had been sold to him. The benefits of a legal profession of killing people.
"What a nice way to sell it, do you tell that to all the high school drop outs?"
"You are hardly a high school drop out."
"I didn't get to kindergarten, I don't think I count."
"Where'd you go instead?" Hawkeye asked easily.
She smiled. "Oh, you know, exotic places and all that."
"You're not helping your case."
"I didn't realize I was on trial." Hadn't she already been convicted?
"You aren't as stupid as that, strawberry. I was serious about the recruiting, we could use some of your talent here." Barton even looked sincere - he probably was - it didn't change anything.
"You know of me Hawkeye, and me of you. I keep myself as up to date as I can on competition. You haven't done half the things I can claim to. You are a talent with a conscience, I don't profess the same. I gave up on forgiveness long ago. The government has no use for a tool they can't control." The Widow was sharp tongued and truthful.
"Why be uncontrollable? Why not just join us? We would be much better companions than your last one. After what he did to you." Hawkeye moved his feet to the floor for the first time during the conversation. Leaning on the table - endearing. "I know you trusted him, after all he did for you, how could you not? I met the man, I know a little of him, in a way different than you do. He was uncontrollable even then, but I don't think the same can be said of you."
"It was a partnership, nothing more." She sat stiffly on her chair and scolded herself for it. She couldn't even contain reaction about him anymore.
"You and I both know what a lie that is. He was with you for three years. He was there every day, all day. You spend that much time with anyone they become much more than a business partner. You were just a young teen when you met each other after all. So young and cute, you relying on him..."
"Stop." Her eyes narrowed into a glare. "Say what you will about that man, but know that it was never like that. Not with him and I." She snapped her mouth shut. Widow was screaming inside her head, yelling at her for giving away information and forcing her not to look away, not to show weakness to the man across from her.
"Even now, after all this time you defend him. Why? Do you still care for him?"
"No. The only thing that man will ever get from me again is a knife in the gut." She hissed out in anger before she forced herself back. She stood and turned away from the mirror. He hands clenched in fists at her side. She took a deep breath and exhaled. He entire body relaxed on command and without even realizing it she pulled her hand away from the necklace that she still wore. She stared at the pendant in her hand in slight disbelief. She pulled the necklace from over her head and stuffed it in a pocket. She closed her eyes for a second. "What do you want?" The emotionless mask was back.
"I thought we were just talking about it." Barton said easily.
"You want information on him." She turned and sat down. She could work with that.
"It would certainly help your interview process."
"This is an interview now?" She smirked at him.
"It's always been. You know what I want, what do you want?" He looked so honest, maybe he had been once, but that time had long since passed. "Do you want to continue what you've been doing? Work in a coffee shop for the rest of your life? Live off your sizeable bank account? Maybe go back to what you were doing two years ago, or go back further to before you even met Basilisk? Do you want revenge? Please, inquiring minds want to know." He was passionate, she could give him that.
That was the problem. She didn't even really know who she was, how was she suppose to know what she wanted to do.
"Give me the recruitment speech." She said absently, her mind still considering.
"We have good benefits, but I doubt that's something you care about. The salary is nice too."
"I doubt you can match my last job." She said with a slight smirk.
"You might be surprised at what we are willing to pay. The facilities are nice. There is backup you can call when in danger. We can protect you from enemies, hide you and heal you when you need it. S.H.I.E.L.D. takes care of their agents. They only want to protect the people of this nation and the world. There are a lot of things out there Widow, things that we are only barely beginning to understand. Countries and companies petty squabbling are nothing compared to what we are dealing with. You will never get bored here. Though most of all, you will be on the right side." He said this earnestly.
She couldn't help but burst into laughter. "What makes you think that I could possibly care about the right side? You did see my last partner didn't you? What difference does right and wrong make to a person that has lived their life without a side?"
"You might have fooled a lot of people with that routine. Perhaps even your old partner, but you can't trick me. Cause I was like you once, a kid stuck in a world that didn't make sense or care. I did plenty of things that will get me put down under when I finally kick it, despite what you might think. I once even thought as you did, but I'll tell you now and on my word swear it as true. Living as you have been is nothing like living on the right side of it. It is infinitely better."
"I find that hard to believe, as you are still someone whose job it is to kill a teenager." She look pointedly at him.
"You aren't a teenager." He said with a smile. "And I haven't killed you yet."
"Yet." She said with a shrug. "Why not just leave me there, wasn't hurting anyone."
"Come now, leave a known hit woman in the country free? Even with surveillance it's preposterous."
"And there's the rub. You can't leave me alone." She leaned back a little.
"Don't be crass."
"Don't redirect. That's the point of this all, isn't it? There are only two possible successful conclusions to this game between us, and one leaves only a single person in this room." She stared at the mirror sharply.
"I don't want to talk about that."
"You think I want to talk about any of this? Sometimes we don't get what we want. The world is not a wish granting factory, as I'm sure you are well aware."
Barton rubbed his eyes. "You aren't making this easy."
"I don't want it to be easy. Nothing worth doing is."
"Widow." He said with slight exasperation and she grinned internally.
"You'll be honest if it the last thing we do together."
"I am being honest. It is you who isn't. I told you want I wanted in that apartment and here. I'll say it again if you want, I want you to work with us. I'm honest in thinking you would work well here. I'm honest when I say there is more to this life and world than you think there is. I'm honest when I say that I don't want to have to kill a person I saved two years ago." He's voice raised slightly. "I'm honest when I say I'm selfish and for my own conscience I don't want you dead."
"How naive." Widow slipped out of her. "We all die eventually, and I deserve it more than most. I am not ashamed of what I have done. I am not repentant. I've killed many people, some bad, some innocent. I will not die as a hero in some big battle of good versus evil, there is no such thing. I passed grey long ago. I have red in my ledger, I had it before I met Basilisk and I'll have it long after I have killed him."
"Do you really want that? Is that really how you want to leave this world? Don't you want some balance on your ledger? Don't you want a chance to get rid of all that red?" He spoke simply.
"You don't know me." She replied.
"Not as well as I want, but that is easily remedied." He leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs on the table again. The smug satisfaction was deafening.
"I haven't said yes." She scowled at him.
"Of course you have. It is the only logical solution. We can't let you go and you need our help."
"Oh do I?"
"Yes, you do. We have information that you'll want." His grin still on his face. " You have been gone for two years after all. That is a long time in this crazy world of ours. A lot has happened."
"Just because I wasn't myself doesn't mean I have amnesia. I still remember the big events."
"That isn't what I'm talking about." He stared at her and she stiffened.
"Don't you want to know what your old partner has been up to? Aren't you interested in his exploits without you? You who he left behind in a fake life. Aren't you interested in revenge?"
The realization hit her like a bus. "You want me to kill him."
"Don't you already want to kill him? We would just be facilitating that goal. Of course, that's not the only reason we want you. Everything else I said is still true, but the higher ups want you because of him. You don't know what he has been up to since he left you, I'm not fortunate enough to be so ignorant. As far as we can tell you are his only weakness, the only thing he has ever been seen caring the slightest about. When word came in he killed you I didn't believe it. No way he could do that to you after all that time, no matter what they say about emotionless psychopaths you can't spend three years living together every day, all day and not become more than business partners." The earlier conversation made sense now.
"I... don't know what to say." She really didn't, after all this time, after two years of nothingness, could she even do it?
He had kissed her, that she remembered clearly. The betrayal didn't sting anymore, in fact the only thing she felt towards that man was a great deal of nothing. A hole left inside her, void where he used to be, but in a body already so full of holes it made no difference. What was one more broken piece.
She has been good at only one thing in her entire life - killing. She was more than good at it, to be honest, she was great. Basilisk had always drawn the attention away from her, he was good at that. It didn't make her worse than him, they simply had different skill sets.
The emotionless mask settled on her face like an old friend and for the first time in two years she started to feel like herself again.
"...So, what do you say?" Barton's voice faded back in.
"Yes. I'll take the job." She sat up in her chair and nodded at him.
Barton nodded and smiled again. "Welcome to the team..."
"Natasha Romanoff, but you can call me Black Widow."
Basilisk was simply a man now, a target like so many others.
She didn't feel anything about targets.
AN: I'll reiterate what I said in the disclaimer, I don't deserve forgiveness. My only excuse is life and how much it is consumed by other things. I have been busy, that much is true. I just finally have a job though so yey! I have also grown in readers since my last update. It is now a little ridiculous to think that I have over 3,000 people following this story. Seriously? Where the hell did all of you come from?
I hope you like it and I hope I will get in the mood for writing more soon.
If you notice any errors point them out to me.
Thank you all,
PS. Seriously though, where?