Tasha chuckles, taking down another swig of her drink.
“Russian...not as surprising as Bulgarian, but...damn, girl.”
“This just...feels like such a movie, you know?” Patterson agrees as Jane laughs at their commentary.
“Oh, what?” Tasha continues teasingly. “Like we’re in a parallel Earth watching the Avengers keep some freakin’ aliens from destroying the city?”
“Slightly less frightening opponent, if they were aliens,” says Reade.
“You’re not helpful,” Tasha replies flatly, and Jane and Patterson laugh. He raises his hand for another drink, bumping his shoulder into his partner’s. She bumps him back, and steals from his drink before it reaches him.
“Lady of Summer,” the redhead says without turning around, her accent suddenly gone - perhaps, knowing of Taylor’s American origin. Forgotten by none in Hydra, she knows. Certainly not by Taylor herself.
“Summer Soldier, actually.”
The redhead turns around, and the agents holding Taylor let her go. “I know who you are.”
“It seems that everyone does, and yet no one tells me as much as their name anymore.”
The redhead smiles - slightly.
“You needn’t know them. They are of little import to your new duties.”
“And what duties are those? Assassination?”
“Leave us,” the redhead says, clearly not to Taylor, after lifting her head an inch or two; the door shuts a moment later.
“Even better, if you prove yourself worthy.”
They both like to fight everything away.
Everything they’ve ever been, everything they’ve never been allowed to be, they know how to put it in their fists, their hips, their aims. The weights of the childhoods stolen from them, childhoods just sneaking in and out of memory because they were just that, children, they know how to channel the decidedly not childlike anger into deadly precision.
Not against each other, of course - not even when they disagree, which is rare enough as it is, but even then, they only fight. Rain or shine, agree or disagree, injured or ill or only just having returned from abroad, they meet in the middle, in the place they met, and they let everything go.
Taylor, still ever the American, prefers blunt force to Natalia’s spins and slight movements, prefers the debilitating effect of an elbow in someone’s side to the effort needed to swing atop their shoulders, but one of Natalia’s greatest skills is to make even those maneuvers look effortless. Taylor just knows better, just like she knows better than to let Natalia top her in the ring; they’re on relatively even ground when it’s a matter of punches and sharp kicks, and they’ve spent long enough in the ring for both of them to predict the other to a certain extent. Regardless, the fight never loses its reverie; it’s not that they can say that a fight with anyone else will always end with both parties alive, albeit sweaty and bruised.
Besides, the Black Widow is the closest thing to a friend that the Summer Soldier can claim to have. She has her Winter counterpart, of course, also of American origin, but he’s too close to legend and too often needed. Especially once everyone’s worst fears are confirmed, and Captain America returns - and the age of heroes dawns.
No one in charge at HYDRA admits that, of course, because they’re too arrogant and self-serving - even the Summer Soldier knows that, everyone under their command knows that. Whether they themselves realize it is yet to be seen - and Taylor soon enough realizes that they don’t.
The Black Widow betrays them, and they don’t see it coming.
The Black Widow joins SHIELD, and the world starts to crumble.
Captain America and the Black Widow escape the claws of the Winter Soldier, and HYDRA starts to die from the inside out.
The Winter Soldier runs from HYDRA, and Taylor’s mission falls apart.
The Winter Soldier fights alongside the Black Widow, and the Summer Soldier betrays HYDRA.
The Summer Soldier betrays HYDRA, and everything starts to fall together.
The Black Widow has a team here, a group of friends, even though she doesn’t call them that. One of them lets Taylor stay in his house, one on a farm, one that reminds her of her childhood, running around with children like nothing’s wrong, long hair rushing in the wind. She leaves when she’s needed and stays when she isn’t, until she finds a place of her own, a place in the city, a place where no one else is at risk on her account.
Until they are. Until they all are. Until a supervillain crashes multiple realities together and destroys what everyone’s ever known.
She and Natalia - Natasha, she calls herself now, but she makes exceptions whenever she pleases - are sparring when the discussion arises: how to stop it. Heroes are robbed of powers, villains of the causes of their villainy, regular humans of their timelines and families - no universe left untouched.
One of Nat’s nails breaks. Neither makes a fuss at first - they never do - but then it rips Taylor’s shirt, exposing her tattoo, and Nat gets that look she always gets when she’s about to upstage Fury’s ideas.
“Disrupting a human timeline that’s interacting with a supernatural one, stopping events that are the equivalent of others-”
“It’ll change what’s happening in the supernatural timeline without SHIELD having to go up against supervillains they have no information on.”
They finish their fight, smiling and excited but heaving heavy hands at each other, both of them lying on the gym mats catching their breaths and wincing from gently bruised forearms, and set back to work.
She’s not sure what she’s getting herself into, and she’s not really sure what she’s giving up. It’s one of the most complicated mission ideas that she’s ever heard, and it all depends on the judgment of a choice few regular humans, one of whom Taylor feels like she knows, but doesn’t. It’s been just about thirty years, she knows - he might not even remember her...but what better impetus for growing up to become an FBI special agent than your best friend going missing?
She hadn’t realized that for a long time - that she’d been happy, that she’d been just a child, that she wasn’t born to HYDRA or to what they made of her. The Summer Soldier.
She’d been just a girl back then, and maybe, when this all was over, she’d have the chance to be just...a woman.
But before she could gain so much as a singular hope, she had to lose everything, to make sure there wasn’t a way it could be tortured out of her by any human method. She’d almost prefer to keep her memories and think that she had strong enough conviction, but the thought of never knowing her HYDRA days is relief enough that she agrees.