"You might not want to pull on that thread."
Natasha has never been good at taking her own advice. She has a trail to follow. A history to unravel. She can feel it in her bones. Without anyone issuing commands, without any covers to hide behind, who will the infamous Black Widow become? The events following Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
There’s a gym downtown with an unmonitored employee entrance. Natasha has a membership, but she doesn’t need anyone to see her coming and going. It’s midday, so the building is practically empty. Just a few meatheads that know by now to leave her alone.
She slips inside, shutting the door behind her. The laundry room is nearby, and the stench of sweat is masked by the odor of detergents and bleach. There’s a locker down the hall that she’s been sharing with a slightly paranoid S.H.I.E.L.D. hacker. They’ve been dropping data back and forth for months, She’s willing to exchange the recording of Rumlow’s interview (with a few seconds redacted) for the last package, the file on the Winter Soldier she’s considering handing off to Rogers.
She steps past the line of dryers, ignoring them as they rattle behind her. When she hears the heavy footfall, she’s expecting it.
She deflects the blow when the assailant reaches for her, grabbing his arm. He thought he'd catch her unaware. Natasha ducks, pulling him over her back and flipping him down onto the concrete. Not pausing, she yanks one of the dryers, and it tears away from the wall, falling with a deafening clatter. She hears a crunch as a strong, metal arm catches it, denting the machine.
When he chases after her, she’s ready. The garrote is in her hand, and she whips it around his neck. He catches it, but she knew he’d be prepared for that weapon. Which is why she was only using it as a decoy. She lets him swing her around, crashing into the wall of the narrow passageway as she careens forwards, knife in hand. The shock is absorbed by her injured shoulder- she ignores it. Natasha plunges the knife into the joint where his acromion would have been. The metal fingers twitch, but the arm is temporarily disabled.
The Winter Soldier snarls at her.
He tries again to grab her, but she runs, kicking herself off the wall to catapult into him. He catches her and they roll. Natasha digs her fingers into the his skin of his human arm and tears. Her grip turns bloody and hot. He flinches, but doesn’t let go. She slams his back into the concrete wall and he loosens his hold on her, just enough to allow her to slip out of his grasp while he’s still recovering. She goes for one of his guns, but he manages to swat her hand away. Strong, but heavy, and the arm is dead weight when he can’t use it.
He gets up fast, faster than the thugs she’s used to, and she has to run again, this time leaping high in the air, latching onto one of the pipes in the ceiling. It breaks as she twists back down, too much rust on the joint. She readjusts her grip and swings it at his head. He ducks, of course, retaliating, but she’s already dodging his punch. Natasha slams the base of the pipe down on the back of his fist, and he yelps.
Changing tactics, he body slams her, using the metal arm as both battering ram and shield. She’s thrown backwards, and something pops in her right shoulder. He doesn’t strike right away, but she doesn’t think for a second that he’s done. She swings at him with the pipe, and he blocks her one-handed. Natasha manages to slam her elbow up into his nose, breaking it. She uses the moment he’s stunned to get behind him and hit him in the back of the head with the pipe. Shock to the ocular lobe causes temporary blindness, and he stumbles, using his other senses to try and find her.
But the thrumming of the laundry machines and the smell of the bleach are all working in her favor. Knowing she doesn’t have long before his vision returns (judging by Steve’s recovery time), she kicks his knee out from underneath him, and pins him to the floor, the pipe pressed against his neck. Natasha waits until he opens his eyes again, looking right up at her. She doesn’t need to pretend to be vicious. She’s read his file. She has no doubt that he’s read hers.
“Let me be clear with you, Soldier. You are only alive because Steve Rogers doesn’t want you dead. Personally, I wouldn’t be upset if he never found you. So you’re going to tell me exactly what you think you’re here for, and if I don’t like your answer, I’m going to break your neck.”
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