1965-04-09 - Flashback: The Making of A Black Widow
Summary: In the downtime allowed in a mission gone wrong, while discovering her past is partially based on a lie, Natasha reminisces and reflects on her life, recalling her very first introduction to the Winter Soldier, and her very first resounding defeat.
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bucky black-widow 


In her sidetracking from the mission with Bucky and Steve, Natasha was met with her past head on, in a way she never quite could have ever anticipated. Meeting her long dead husband, who was very much alive. Her entire life course changed the day she saw the blood, when she was informed of his assassination by the Americans. The drive and will to avenge his death, and the cold embrace of the Red Room, had turned her into what she has become, the Black Widow, one of the best covert ops agent in the world. Infiltration, wetworks, -the- works, it was all in the name of revenge and serving the Motherland.

It was this unexpected encounter that spurred her to reconsider her live, and in her sleep, she has been reliving in dreams moments from the past. Moments such as this:

It was far too early in the morning to be considered morning, she was rudely awakened at 3am. Her status by now was firmly set, top of the class, bar none. She was 14 years old, she had bested her classmates in every test, and per request of the instructors, have killed a good number of them. She was showered with praise, and was pushed by the instructors to higher levels still, now facing adult competition in the form of trained Red Room agents. Shockingly, she didn't slow down and bested all who faced her. A problem came with her impressive consecutive success, she developed a bit of an ego. She was told she'll be the best Black Widow yet, and now she began to believe it. Some instructors she began to consider as beneath her and refused to listen to them, claiming it would stunt her development. At times she spoke brashly, and there were growing fears that the asset might well be damaged before her training was complete.

Eventually they came up with a make or break solution, let her have a taste of the Winter Soldier. If he straightens her out, so much the better, if she bests him, they have understimated her, and if she should die, was she ever truly worthy?

She is lead to a room she is well familiar with, the sparring arena, dressed in her martial arts gi. Only the imposing man waiting for her was no one she had ever seen before.

As she approaches the arena, Natasha looks at the Winter Soldier suspiciously, "are you a new instructor?" She asks, taking his measure with a glance.

Yuri, the agent who ushered Natasha out of bed and into the sparring arena, snaps at her, "Natalia Alianovna Romanova, you're not here to talk, you're here to fight. Show us you can take down you're target, this man is now your target."

The girl doesn't seem to need more than that to assume a fighting stance, from her form, she's well practiced in the martial arts she's been taught. Her hands held out infront of her in a circular shape, fingers parted as her blues stare intently at Winter Soldier, waiting for his move as he presents an opponent she knows nothing about.


He's not a big man, this one. Medium height, lean and lithe, not some of the big bricks they've sent her up against before. His hair's a weird length, especially in a realm where men more often than not wear a soldier's brutally short crop - it's almost to his shoulders, a brown so dark it's nearly black, and worn loose. He's clad in black fatigues and leather gloves, no insignia at all. Some kind of Spetsnaz, maybe?

But it's the look in his eyes that's the real oddity. Pale blue, clear, and with a nearly wolfish lack of humanity. He doesn't growl or sneer or do anything to intimidate. He just looks at her, head cocked just a little, as if trying to parse what she is. No speech, no movement, though he stands there with a loose-jointed poise.


Natasha is not used to this calm, serene, emptiness that the man she's facing displays. She's used to scoffs, she's used to being mocked for her size, asked if she shouldn't be playing with dolls, but all those usually follow with her soundly defeating her 'targets'. This one is strange, the fact he's not like the other, and the fact she was dragged out of bed to face him give her the impression this one is not routine. This one is a test.

A difficult test, it seems, because he's not making the first move, forcing her to initiate. It's not that she doesn't like initiating, as much as she found a reaction often brings the swiftest victories. An opponent who doesn't commit is a smart one. What is the first move but a tell?

"I'm not afraid of you," she lets the Winter Soldier know, perhaps looking oddly at his hair for a moment, before slowly advancing towards him, sendings a fast punch towards his midsection. Only it's not an actual punch, as much as a bait, she's recoiling before even striking him. Expecting him to react to her attempt, and provide her with an opening. She certainly approaches the challenge smarter than her years would suggest.


HE doesn't block. He sidesteps, simply. Faster than one would expect, with a strange grace. There's no change of expression. Is he mute? Not able to speak Russian? Surely they wouldn't drop her into the ring with a foreign prisoner….but he looks healthy, save for the pallor of his skin.


Natasha is a little taken back when she failed to read him twice in succession. That is a first for her, aside from her first two weeks, when Yuliya was the top of the class. She takes a deep breath and takes a step backwards, squinting a little as she observes Winter's motions.

Yuri grins to himself when he finally gets to witness Natasha act tentative and uncertain, "what is the matter, Romanova? Are you scared of him?"

Seems the remark from Yuri is enough to push Natasha into an action she might have otherwise delayed on. She lunges towards Winter, and tries to land a chopping strike into his ribs, using a circular momentum to add force to her strike as she spins with her chopping arm motion after lunging in to close the distance.


Again, he sidesteps. More specifically, he turns neatly on a heel like a matador - going from right before her to suddenly at her side, her force going past him - turning within her radus. The hand reaching to strike is abruptly seized by one of those gloved hands, and its strength is terrible, unyielding. But he doesn't try to damage her. There's none of the brutal follow-through she might expect, as he pulls her almost across him, only bringing up a knee to try and drive it right into her solar plexus, knock the wind right out of her.


There isn't the satisfying sensation of her hand striking resoundingly into an opponents body, not a sound of cracking ribs. The gasp that escapes her lips is testament to how astounded she is to find Winter by her side, having pivoted in perfect synchronization with her attack. She's not prepared, and her striking arm is easily grasped. The fact she finds the grasp unyielding when she tries to snap her hand free is telling. The man just might be an all around better martial artist. That aside, he seems to handle her own unexpected strength. A key mistake of most of her opponents, not realizing that despite looking like a young teen, she hits like a tank.

She recognizes where a punishing blow might have come, and frowns, "don't go ea-" but before she can finish demanding Winter treats her seriously, she gets a knee right in the solar plexus that has her stumbling back. Assuming Winter would release her arm to allow such a staggering back stepping. She wheezes while struggling for air, though her training shows in how even in gasping for air, those blue eyes of her never stop tracking her opponent. Her stance changes, much more defensive, and she waits a moment to see if he'll strike this time or wait again.


Now he comes forward, with those strange, gliding steps. Almost a swagger, as if something were off with his center of gravity. Unhurried and easy, still. Like he has all day to make this happen, and isn't disposed to finish her off quickly. Nothing changes in his face. Not one of those who enjoys combat, nor does he seem angry.

There's a feint with his right hand, a straight punch….and immediately following, a roundhouse kick from the other side, designed to catch her as she tries to dodge or sidestep right into his boot.


Normally she might have read the feint, after all, she started with just such a maneuver. The problem is she's not had the wind taken out of her in quite a fashion as Winter just did seconds ago, so rattled, she responds rashly and evades right into the oncoming roundhouse that drops her to the mat. She does respond by flipping right back on her feet, knowing that staying down is very risky with someone she is unfamiliar with. He already proved himself dangerous. She has to wonder if he is a product of a similar program for men. Now she starts to shift in a circular motion, trying to constantly veer left and right in half circles while facing Winter. She already saw how emotionless he seems, and therefore doesn't even attempt to rattle him with words. Deceit or insult, she expects to draw no reaction.

He clearly reads her better than anyone, and is well versed in martial arts, so she decides to surprise him by being unorthodox, suddenly rushing at him and jumping into the air, curling into herself as she tries to ram into him with her side and elbow extended to his front.

Yuri just laughs as he observes this, "maybe, Romanova, there's more for you to learn, yes? Meet Winter Soldier. You are not the best. He is the best. Try to hit him…" Yuri had seen enough to conclude this will go precisely as command anticipated. There was no way a child, no matter how gifted, would take down the Winter Soldier. But seeing Natasha struggle to adjust, he does have to note there might be some merit in this meeting of agent and aspiring agent.


And he just takes it, stepping *into* it with that awful left hand extend coming around in a quick hook. She impacts him, but it's like hitting a steel door. No whuff of departing breath, no widening of the pale eyes. Then that arm is coming around her, a gesture that'd seem almost affectionate, save that it crushes her breathlessly to him, and he's toppling them both forward into a grapple. All the better to bring more weight and mass to bear on her - she is still only fourteen, after all.


"Bozhe moi!" Escapes from Natasha's lips when she finds herself as if ramming into hard steel, not even minute reaction drawn from the Winter Soldier, and with his quick reaction, she finds herself in a severe disadvantage. His grasp is unyielding, she takes note it is the same arm that easily handled her before, she has to wonder if it's a matter of preference, or whether there's more to it, but for the time being those concerns are fleeting. She needs to find a way not to lose this one, and embarrasing though it may be, she loses all form and flails recklessly, arms and legs, whatever she can. Attempting to hit Winter Soldier anywhere, to perhaps loosen his hold. But she soon finds herself topped over, with the larger Winter Soldier pressing her down with his body weight. At first she calms from her hysterical, reckless reaction, and tries to find something to grasp to try and overturn his hold. But before long she realizes what Yuri already knew, she's not the best fighter in the world quite yet, let alone the Soviet Union.

Natasha taps out for the first time in the Red Room grounds, granted who the opposition was, she might not even be punished for her loss. After all, this particular sparring session itself was the punishment. "I yield…" Natasha utters the words with disdain, feeling ashamed of herself for having lost, before she makes a demand, "Comrade Yuri…please, let him teach me? I will do anything if you allow it!"

Yuri observes with bemusement, at least the girl recognizes when she is bested, and rather than cry about it, has the drive to improve upon her failure. He turns to look squarely at Winter Soldier, before applauding, "excellent soldat, this girl is Natasha Romanova, she is being trained as Black Widow…promising, but lacking." He looks directly into Natasha's eyes when he calls her 'lacking', the first time she's heard a demeaning comment in months from the staff. "Can you fix her flaws?" Seems like a challenge is issued, should they pair Natasha with Winter, what will be the affect on either? Apparently they wish to learn just that.


He's patient, methodical, as he locks her limb by limb into a knotted grapple. There's no attempt to do any real damage throughout any of it, and he bears her blows with that patience that's almost animal resignation. Like a dog that's been beaten so much the hits no longer register. This was a test, not a real fight.

When she taps out, he looks to Yuri…and a look from him is permission to release her. He unfolds from her and gets up with no sign of stiffness or injury. The question earns her a long look, and then a silent upnod. He hasn't yet made a sound.


"It is settled, you will now report to him for your training, if you show progress, I will allow it to continue," Yuri explains to Natasha, his expression turning grave again, "don't forgot you lost this test, get back to bed, you have 2 more hours of sleep…"

***

As Natasha reflects on this specific memory, she realizes there has only been one such other sound defeat since that day, she truly had developed tremendously under the tutelage of Winter Soldier. She owes him a great deal, but what does that mean with all the revelations that came since…does she owe a great deal to Winter Soldier? Or Bucky Barnes?

Regardless, she must head back to Moscow with Alexei before she has a better answer or where her life should lead her next.


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