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It wasn't often that she did this sort of thing, met a contact without backup... but considering this man had the backing of others on the team, Natasha felt that it was possibly okay... all things considered. Then again, being in plain sight really did make her nervous, but... who would expect that the Black Widow would show up in a coffee shop in Brooklyn?
No one, that was who. She was counting on that.
It was why she remained sitting against the back wall, coffee in hand, looking a little like she was nervously awaiting a date... because that was the ruse, the cover she was using. She and this Rick person were to meet, act as if it was a blind date... and in the course of their meeting, share intel that would help her team, and his.
Hers more than his, honestly, but that was the nature of the beast. He was there to help The Secret Avengers, and she needed whatever she could get her hands on to alleviate the feeling of having Tony and his ilk breathing down their necks. Some little safety was required, after all.
Having peace and tranquility was never her strong suit... and the insatiable need to keep looking over her shoulder so easily was part and parcel of that. Maybe that made her paranoid, but she knew that there were those hunting her... so why not be mindful?
Tugging her sleeves down a bit to cover the tips of her Bites, she just eyed the door, glad that the plain blazer and jeans combo helped her look like any other customer in the pace. Indeed, with any luck, she fit right in... and so, reaching up to mess with the messy bun at the nape of her neck, she waited, fingers tapping idly on the table.
Time was of the essence... and she was getting antsy.
Working the Brigade meant that Rick had gotten a bit used to clandestine meetings. It hadn't really been something he'd dealt with before, even during his Rising Tide days. Then again, the Rising Tide had been more hacktivist than what the Brigade was made to do and did frequently. There was less connection to the physical world there, even though it was espionage out the wazoo...it wasn't harboring and aiding and abetting superhumans on a massive scale like the Brigade was trying to do.
Dating, however, was something that Rick was...less used to. It's not that he didn't. He was human, after all. Most of the time, however, whenever the job came up they'd lose most of their interest in him and were wondering if he could get them in to meet Tony Stark and the like. And then lose the rest of their interest when they found out that he, most likely, could not do that.
So, Rick had done it...but only very occasionally, particularly of late. Tonight, though, he'd have to put on his best mask and pretend that he did things. Like Han Solo had once said, he had to fly casual. Whatever the hell that meant. He'd dressed himself in a nice button-down with the buttons undone, a gray undershirt beneath and had spritzed himself with a bit of cologne. Some jeans and comfortable shoes completed the ensemble.
The message had come through a Brigade contact. Seven forty-five. Dale's Coffee Shop. Mary Farrell. Wearing plain blazer. Hair in bun. Simple enough to look for. He arrived at Seven fifty, however, due to some lovely traffic issues that - even on his motorcycle - he hadn't been able to avoid. He hadn't been told who he was going to meet, so he hoped they wouldn't be too upset with him for running a few minutes behind. After all, there wasn't much you could do for a bike messenger getting into an argument with a garbage truck driver that ended with three wrecked cars that smooshed said messenger's bike against aforementioned garbage truck.
Coming in, Rick's eyes scanned the place...and found...'No way. It couldn't be...' He thought, almost certain he recognized the woman sitting there. Natasha Romanoff, formerly of the Avengers...now one of the people on the run with Captain America himself. He approached, moving as casually as his body would allow.
"...Mary Farrell, right?" He asked. "Hi, nice to meet you. I'm Rick." He offered his hand for a shake as she rose, giving her a genuine smile. Looking at her straight on, it definitely was the Black Widow herself. Maybe this would be much more interesting than a simple information exchange.
She wasn't even sure just how long she'd have to wait, and despite being one of the most patient people in the Secret Avengers, the danger was making Natasha more than a little nervous, and more than a little willing to call the whole thing off. After all, she knew that Brooklyn was entirely too close to Stark and all his little cronies to make it completely without its dangers...
Yes, being caught wasn't in her plans... because Steve and Bucky needed her to remain on the loose so they could have someone to watch their backs. That, and she would be damned if any of the others got wrapped up in more trouble because of her. She'd already worked hard to ensure their trust... she didn't need to have everything ruined because her contact didn't show.
Frowning as she glanced down at her watch once more, Nat's eyes read the time on the dial without expression, fingers tapping on the table as she did so. The contact was already a few minutes' late, which meant that as much as she would have loved to get up and walk out, she couldn't... not without giving the person some slack. Traffic this time of night in New York was crazy... as well she knew it. But didn't spies understand the importance of timeliness?
She knew she always had.
But the sound of the bell over the door drew her attention... and turning her head, Nat's green eyes narrowed, her expression remaining fixed as ever, though under the mask she wore, she wondered how this babyfaced person could ever hide a single thought. She could all but read him like a book, seeing he made her without hesitation. Yeah, it was always dangerous for Nat to go out without a disguise, thanks to her work with the Avengers and her time on camera in Capitol Hill during the hearings following SHIELD's fall.... but it was necessary.
So... as he approached, she stood, expressionless as always. her eyes pinned on the man before her. "Yes," she began and nodded. "Nice to meet you too. Rick, right?" she asked him quietly, her husky voice curling around the syllables before she loosened her hand from his grip and moved to sit. Leaning back in her chair, she looked him over a moment, looking for a sign of a weapon, but didn't see any. If this was a double-cross, he was unprepared... so she could rest easy.
Shoulders loosening after a moment, she let herself relax and then settled her hands on the table. "Our mutual friend thought we'd hit it off. There's lots we have in common... and lots we can talk about," she said, lips curling upwards a little as she leaned in, sliding a paper across the table at him. It listed a few names... including names of arms dealers she might need him to check out, to see if they were unrelated to their enemies. "Something tells me you are surprised."
So far, so good. Rick was easing into it more as he went along. Maybe this exchange wouldn't be so bad, after all. The Brigade did some sensitive work, more of it being offline than the Rising Tide, but it was still very cloak and dagger. Their existence wasn't known to the general public or to law enforcement (he hoped), so every trek into the real world sparked just a little bit of risk, if not a great deal of risk. Considering he was now in the company of a woman who was being pursued by every UN-aligned task force and enforcement agency on the planet...yes, this was more than a little risky.
But he approached. He smiled. He shook her hand. "Right, yeah. Sorry about the lateness. Traffic is absolutely terrible." Rick said, truthful as ever. "But hey, that's New York for you." He took the seat across from her. Rick had no weapon, just himself with him today. This hadn't been a mission where he thought he'd need one, after all.
The woman's voice was...strangely seductive. He'd only heard her speak a few times before, and had seen her hearing with Congress a few years back after what happened with the three Helicarriers over the Potomac. He wondered how she wasn't able to just coax whatever she wanted to, particularly out of men, with that voice alone. Then again, maybe she could. He watched as she passed the paper to his side of the table. A list of names. The Brigade could scour around and check them out, see what was what.
"Oh yeah, Anna is a rather perceptive one, isn't she?" Rick referred to the Brigade site user who had served as a middleman contact. Like almost every user on the site, Rick had no idea who "AnnaSalka92" was. Man or a woman? What they did in real life? He didn't know. It was, honestly, better if he didn't know. Nevertheless, they had managed to contact the Secret Avengers, and thus he now had his meeting with the woman known as Natasha Romanoff.
"Oh, I just admit I wasn't expecting someone so..." Rick said, looking for the right word as he slipped a thumb drive across the table in exchange for the paper. It was a list of coordinates for HYDRA strongholds across the globe that had been discovered, likely long abandoned ever since their ousting from within SHIELD. Perhaps there could be something useful within at least one of them?
Rick had no idea, but he knew it was information that would be better suited in the hands of Rogers and his group.
"...stunning." She really was that, that was not part of Rick's deception. Natasha Romanoff really was. Of course, a tiger was also a rather stunning animal right before it leaped forward and mauled you to death with its powerful claws. It really gave you a sense of scale, being in a room with someone who could not only kill you, but likely everyone else in the room with you on the fly without even breaking a sweat.
Every instinct of Natasha's itched to force her up, to get her to walk away from this meeting, but she knew that it had to happen. Yes, Cap and the rest needed her to ascertain if those names she'd dug up were likely to turn on them, to save their own skins, should she actually purchase weaponry from them. After all, it could be said that there was very little honour amongst thieves, and arms dealers were just a step above, to her eyes.
Then again, she was sitting across from a man who more than likely had intelligence of his own that he wanted her to investigate, if the perimeters of this meeting were any indication. Yes, she didn't know him, and so her trust in him was minimal, but she would do as she was told, maybe because as the old adage said: one hand washes the other. She would help him, in the hopes that he would first, not turn her in.
Then again, the way he looked a little starstruck wasn't missed by the Black Widow.
So... his commentary about traffic was met with a faint smile and a nod, her eyes roaming the room a moment before going back to his as her hand shook in his grip. "Completely understandable. But maybe that's why I don't drive," she teased him before letting her fingers slip from his grasp and she moved to sit, trying to appear as if uncomfortable from a blind date... and well? That wasn't very hard, considering her eyes kept going to the door, watching for a sign that she would be ambushed. A good spy didn't rest on her laurels and definitely didn't trust all at once, no matter who'd spoken for the person she was meeting.
Still... the paper pushed over to him, she just simply cocked her head to the side, watching his face as he read the names, and seeing nothing flicker into recognition there in his eyes or in his body language, allowed herself to relax just a little more. Indeed, his comment about their 'mutual friend' was one that caused one corner of her lips to quirk upwards slightly. "Oh she is. Far more than most," she tossed at him with a nod, though she shifted in her chair, getting more comfortable. If this Anna person trusted Rick, then it was the least she could do to at least try, as well.
And she was trying. Trust didn't come easily to a spy who lied more than half her life.
Sucking in a breath, though, she couldn't help but smirk even more openly across the table at Rick as he admitted that he was, indeed, surprised... even as she reached across the table to slide a hand over his... and then slipped the thumb-drive from under his fingertips, palming it as if only covering his hand for a heartbeat of time. Indeed, she was curious what could have been on that thumb drive, but what he was saying was rather interesting too. Had Anna not told him who he was meeting? Indeed, it wasn't unusual to protect the name of an asset, but she was amused. This Anna person definitely had a sense of the whimsical.
"I could tell the minute you walked in. You're not exactly hard to read," she said after a beat, voice low even as her eyes moved, flickering up to Rick's with a twitch of a brow, before slipping the device into her pocket. The sooner she checked out the information on it and passed it on to Steve, the better, considering she had a feeling that whatever was on it, it was important. She'd done her best to open a few of her bolt-holes to the rest of the Secret Avengers, and some were fully stocked, but... they were quickly running out of provisions. It was time she spun out her web and looked further afield.
"Though, considering your willingness to show up, I think you're braver than most. Not exactly something to scoff at," she told him and leaned her head up and back, eyeing him, using the ruse as a blind date to offer him some small praise. She knew that people were properly terrified of her... and the rest of the Secret Avengers, after so many losses and so much destruction over the years. Anyone willing to ally themselves with their team were to be commended. "Weren't you afraid? You know, when Anna set this up?"
And then she slowly smirked. Yep, she had a sense of the whimsical too.
Rick noted that her eyes always seemed to be moving. Always looking toward any source of movement...or an escape. Someone who didn't know might think she was being flighty, or nervous. And she was...that much he knew, but not in the way that most people would expect. "Then you are smarter than a lot of New Yorkers...not that that is a particularly difficult feat." Rick wasn't a native New Yorker, but given that he'd lived there since he was ten (with only a brief six year stint out to get his degree), he might as well have been, so he felt justified in taking a few shots at his home turf.
The thumb drive was exchanged, her hand touching his for the briefest of moments. Oh, she was good. From the outside, it looked like no less than an intimate touch. Anyone on the outside looking in would think it was just a date going exceptionally well. If only they knew! Still, Rick was glad that the information was getting into the hands of those who needed it. Captain Rogers and his group needed the help, and the Brigade wasn't going to leave them out in the cold. Not if Rick could help it. "She mentioned a couple of other spots we'd maybe like. If things go well."
It was a weird way to subtly mention what was on the drive, but Rick hadn't practiced particularly well.
"Well...glad to know I'm so transparent." Rick replied with a bit of dry sarcasm, his usual flavor of self-deprecating humor. "Besides, if I didn't show up for appointments, what sort of person would I be?" Rick asked. He knew the answer, of course - someone his Aunt Polly would come up out of the grave to give a smack to the back of the head to. Luckily, he was once more saved from the weird fear of his aunt coming back Dawn of the Dead style. A few minutes weren't going to stir her.
"All part of dating, isn't it?" Rick asked. "I mean, isn't there always some risk involved? Exposing yourself to another human being, even in the most minute way." And that was his philosophy professor talking. Rick supposed that was better than a certain radiology professor talking through him. "But hey, no risk, no reward, right?" He asked.
Of course, he left himself open with that remark...even if he didn't mean it in quite that way...
Normally she might have rejoiced in this, of having someone to talk to who was new and who wouldn't throw her under the bus to save their own necks, but Nat was always mindful of the fact that there were multiple government agencies looking for her, and no matter his innocence or not, this man meeting her could potentially be in a world of pain, just for being seen with her. If she was caught, any number of task forces wouldn't discriminate: they'd take him in and question him to within an inch of his life... as she was all too aware.
But it didn't stop her from sitting and speaking with him, because she and the rest of the team needed answers, and it was only someone who wasn't being hunted as throughly as she and the rest of the team were.. who could get those answers.
Yet, she'd decided to play along, mostly because it was one of the first rules she'd ever learned about hiding in plain sight: no one ever expected to see what they were looking for. That was why she found herself relaxing after a beat, her eyes settling on the man opposite after their slow circuit around the room. Better to be safe than sorry, when it came to sudden disruptions.
"Thanks, though I have friends who don't understand it, but I'm glad you seem to," she said with a little hint of a smile, all the while thinking of the machine that got her there... 'borrowed', as it was. Motorcycles were handy in a city with this many alleyways, and she tended to 'borrow' one or two from time time, this one included. She had a feeling that sooner or later, she'd get her Corvette out of mothballs, all so she could have some means of normalcy, but such a flashy car wasn't in the cards, yet... not when people were likely on the lookout for it.
But having nabbed the thumb drive, Nat felt that whatever else that happened during this meeting was now going to be simply selling the ruse... all things considered. She'd given him what she'd come to offer... and he'd offered something in return. That drive, she knew, probably contained enough vital information that could keep her and the rest of the Secret Avengers running for a while... which was the entire point. It was imperative that they keep on their feet, and as many supplies as they could get their hands on? That was necessary for their survival.
Yet... his comment about other spots? It caused one of Nat's brows to rise, even as she leaned back, offering him a slowly widening, crooked grin. Why? Because she'd understood what he was getting at, and with the drive safely in her pocket, she felt she could lower her guard a little. "Oh yeah? Well, we'll have to keep that in mind. She's a smart one, I bet there's a lot we could learn from her."
Still, wrapping her hands around her mug of coffee, she watched him a moment, even as he spoke about being transparent. Letting her fingers soak up the heat from the porcelain, she didn't say anything for a moment... just before leaning in a bit, voice softer. "You shouldn't be offended. Some people are just easier to read than others..." she said with a little hint of a shrug before going on. "And it's to be commended that you stick to your word. Not all of us do," she added, offering him a twitch of a brow before raising her coffee to sip at it, while watching him. Those green eyes were unwavering over the rim of the cup as she kept her gaze on him for a beat, before she looked away and down into her cup once she set it back onto the table. "For some of us, it's a necessary evil."
With that, she eyed him a moment, just before shrugging. "Risk is a part of everything, or so I've always thought. It can be worth it, though," Nat replied, though this was one time where the risk was, indeed, worth more than her life. She knew that Steve or Bucky couldn't go to meet up with a contact, having had their faces plastered everywhere. She, on the other hand, was a master of disguise when she needed to be... though she'd also wanted her contact to know who she was. It was a dangerous line to tread... and one, she felt, she'd done successfully. "Just depends on the situation... don't you think?"
With that, she wrapped her hands around the mug before her, once more.. and leaned in. "And what reward do you want out of this?" she asked him, those green eyes steady on his, a quirk lightly lifting her lips on one side. All in all, she loved putting people on the spot... because it made then tell the truth, more than anything else.
And for a woman who lived on lies? She needed others to be honest.
"Well, y'know. You live in New York long enough, you'd think people would learn that travel by cycle is just easier, but...nope." Rick said. His own motorcycle was very much a thing of pride and joy. He took special care of it, it having been a present to himself for his eighteenth birthday. Aunt Polly had thought it a rather frivolous use of money, especially for someone who was just about to go to college, but Rick made do. And besides, six years later, he had his degree in hand and had more than made back the money, so it was a non-issue.
Student loans were still a pain in the ass, but what could be done?
"Oh, I've learned over the years that there's a lot I could learn from my friends." Rick said. It was true, he'd learned a lot by working with other members of the Brigade. They shared bits and pieces of knowledge from all walks of life. You never knew when you'd need a certain skill at a certain time, so it was good to at least know a little bit of everything. Just enough to be dangerous, as his Aunt Polly would say.
"Well, I was raised to believe my word was my bond." Rick said. He'd been a little hellion when he'd been younger, after his parents had died in that car crash. A stint in juvie, followed by being adopted by his Aunt, had seen him change quite a bit. "Took me a while to get to that point, granted, but still." He added, with a shrug, "Can't really argue with the results."
"I guess the trick is making sure that your word doesn't come around to bite you in the ass, isn't it?" Rick asked. That was true enough, though Rick wasn't really one of those people who went for the exact wording of things. If he could help, he did. And he didn't think too much about getting anything out of it. It just wasn't his way. Fame and fortune weren't the reasons he'd started the Brigade, he'd started it to help. It was the same reason he had been involved in the Rising Tide. To do the right thing, even if the right thing wasn't always clear.
"I suppose that's true, yes." Rick nodded, thinking over her words. Then...she put him on the spot. His eyes widened a bit. Uh...well, uh..." Rick stammered a bit, somewhat flustered...and then was rather grateful when there was a loud, crashing sound from behind the counter. It drew all eyes and, when those eyes looked, they saw one of the staff picking up a tray and many broken bits of glass and plates from the floor where they had fallen. It was a moment later that all eyes turned away from it...except for two, which Natasha would catch.
Two men in black suits, looking on and (rather poorly) trying to seem as though they were not. With Rick's back turned, they could not see him...but they could see her...as she had feared...
"Sure, until they get clotheslined by a car door. I don't think anyone is willing to take that chance," Nat said, having done that a time or two with people she'd been chasing in her SHIELD days... though she was much happier with 'borrowing' a motorcycle than just having her car be on every law enforcement's APB. Then again, she was looking forward to the day when she could get some kind of normalcy and have everything closer to the way it was... though that didn't seem like it was any closer to happening. Sooner or later she would be forced to stay underground... but this wasn't that day.
But watching the man opposite her, she was glad to still be undetectable enough to still go out in public, undiscovered. Indeed, as Rick spoke about his 'friends', she found that she understood it. "You and me both. My friends have been good in a pinch. Nothing quite like having lots in common with 'em to make a bond stronger." Like being on the run, being persona non grata... or simply just being named criminals together. She and Steve may have started out fighting alongside each other at Fury's insistence, but their friendship was stronger for it.
She would never regret joining the Avengers... though she did regret losing friends along the way. Like Tony.
Thought of Stark, and the way that she'd so publicly turned her back on him after giving her word... it made her glance down and away for a moment, even as what Rick said made her stop and smirk, shaking her head. Was he a mind-reader? Yeah, she wasn't raised that way, to have her word be stalwart and true, and indeed, she'd lived and almost died by changing allegiances... and indeed, she was his opposite, but she couldn't exactly openly admit it, not in a room full of people. Instead, she looked up at him, shaking her head. "You're the lucky one then, you know?" she said and offered a faint smirk. "Some of us don't really have that choice."
And then she shrugged. "But I guess we're both here, so at least one of us did something right."
With that, she just chuckled and eyed him. "I feel like you're trying to teach me something, but... if one of us knows what it's like to regret something like that, I doubt that it's you," she said and slowly smirked across the table at him. Indeed, the more she thought about it, the more she wondered just how much this guy knew about her. It was not exactly well known that she'd turned on T'Challa when she had, but... she did openly go on the run after helping Tony. It wasn't like any of the others wouldn't tell him. "But suffice to say, that's a trick I've long ago learned to master. I hope you do too, otherwise... dates like this will be a lot more than you can handle," she warned him, though there was an uptick to her lips that showed she was messing with him. Warning him too, sure, but she was aware that their number of allies weren't unlimited. The more she could keep alive, the better.
But that was when she turned the tables... and put him on the spot. She was a master at espionage, of talking in two meanings at once, of having everything she said have more than one understanding. Then again, she was used to using her body to get what she wanted, and he had already shown he was captured by her beauty when he'd walked in. She couldn't' have missed it, with how he'd stared, like he'd won the jackpot.
But... as she waited for him to answer, the crashing sound of dropped cups, saucers and silverware rattled to the floor... but Natasha didn't turn and look. Everyone else seemed to, including Rick, which she wasn't surprised about, considering he'd jumped about a mile... but no. Natasha didn't. And neither did the two men at a corner table, their dark suits and cold expressions marking them as something she didn't want to recognize.
Her own kind.
Sucking in a breath through her nose, she leaned in and grabbed Rick's hand. "How about we go somewhere a little more private? Get to know each other better," she told him at once, voice flirtatious and the smile she gave him was equally so. But without any hesitation, she leaned in, still smiling at him as playfully as ever... though her voice was a cold contrast. "We've been made. Let's go. Now."
"I've been taken down by more than a few. Big reason I finally got the hog." Of course, it had also been for his birthday...but then again, being not hit by car doors was a nice thing. He nodded when she went on about their friends. "I'm sure you're a lady who makes friends easily." Rick said. Then again, Natasha Romanoff was probably the most famous super spy in the world. It was likely that she could be faking this entire experience right now and Rick would never know. Then again, this was just the job for her...she probably was putting on her game face.
Still, she did have friends. The members of the Avengers who had sided with Captain America over Iron Man. Rick saw both points of view but, in the end, he had to side with the Captain over Stark. The Sokovia Accords were nothing more than what Ross had wanted to do to Banner, just with all superhumans instead of just some. It was essentially a form of slavery, and Rick couldn't live with himself if he had just stood aside and done nothing.
"I don't really know if I would call that lucky." Rick said. He'd gotten close to getting himself into quite a bit of trouble doing this work before, although he countered that fear with the fact that he was helping out others who needed it. He might not have been a World War Two legend or a literal Norse God or a giant, green rage monster, but he could do what he could do. For a little while, he could contribute and help the greater good. It was something he carried with him. "Sometimes, all it takes is showing up." He added, when she mentioned doing the right thing. Doing the right thing wasn't mutually exclusive from that, after all. "So I'd say we both managed it."
He supposed that made sense. Romanoff had most likely had the tables turned on her before, working with SHIELD and then the Avengers. Recent events were probably just par for the course for her. Rick got the feeling, though, that this one had struck her a bit harder than most. Then again, maybe he was reading her wrong. "I'll, uh...be sure to check my little black book more thoroughly next time." Rick wasn't sure where that expression had come from, honestly. He didn't actually own a little black book and didn't know anyone who did, so the term was rather dated if it had ever applied at all.
As he looked back to her, from the chaos, he caught...something in her eye. Fear? Alertness? He didn't know. But it was only for the mere fraction of a second. She reached over, her hand grabbing his...and her voice alone enough to make a man's blood run red hot. To say nothing of the flirtatious smile. He was confused...up until she leaned in and whispered. Rick tried not to tense, but more than likely failed horribly. He didn't look back, he was smart enough to not do that. Rick carefully reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet and leaving a ten.
"There's a side entrance. Quick. Let's go." Rick whispered as they locked arms and moved that way, appearing to be no more than a man and a woman out for a leisurely evening together who were leaving for...other activities. The side entrance would lead them out into the parking lot, where Rick had his motorcycle ready to go.
He felt his pulse quicken as he did his best to keep under control. It wouldn't do to panic right now...
Showing up. Yeah, she imagined that sometimes... it was the hardest thing, stepping up, doing what was right, especially when the dangers loomed so close that a person could almost taste it. If anything, Natasha respected this man for actually doing that very thing, of showing up... even if he was playing the game, and speaking in code, talking about their 'date'.
Later, maybe, she'd tell him how impressed she was. Right then, she couldn't, lest the game be given away.
"We did manage it. It's a lucky thing that neither of us is faint-hearted, then... or your friends and mine would be out of luck," she said with a little twist of the lips, her eyes settled on his coyly, almost playfully.. because she was actually enjoying herself, talking to someone new for the first time in ages. Not only that, but sure... he was cute, but she was more intent on the plan, and of ensuring that Rick got away safely when the time came. After all, with their intelligence having been exchanged, she could leave at any time, pretend that the date wasn't going well... and take off. But she wasn't willing to, not yet.
Instead, she just shook her head a little, as if to clear her mind... and then offered him another one of her playful, crooked little smiles, though the expression didn't quite reach her eyes. No, she was thinking of all those times where she'd been made to contact one of their allies, and then it ended terribly. SHIELD hadn't always succeeded with getting their man... and neither had she always had luck in ensuring that her contacts made it out alright. She had multiple scars to prove it.
Thus... why she just shrugged one shoulder. "I'm sure you'll get used to it, in time," she said for his mention of his black book, before meeting his eyes. "But I think this is going well, so it's not as if you should look that crestfallen," she told him, lips twitching as she fought the urge to smile. Yes, he was obviously a lot less used to this subterfuge, but it was refreshing. Everyone she worked with.. they were practiced. There was a sense of spontaneity to this man that was... nice.
But what wasn't nice was the sudden jerk of everyone's body as the dishes fell to the ground, causing everyone who hadn't been trained to withstand such a shock to jump and look, craning necks with wide eyes. But Nat's eyes were on the two suit-clad men in the corner... and as she simply allowed her eyes to flicker away from them and back to her 'date', it was hard to tell but she was already preparing to run. It wasn't just her own sake... but his. She could hide in a crowd, but she had a feeling he wasn't quite as prepared.
So.. her hand on his, she could tell that it surprised him, and she couldn't miss the way his pupils dilated a little with the beginning hint of lust... before what she said next made her feel as if she'd doused him in cold water. It was a good thing, though... because she needed him alert... and ready to go when she moved. The way he quickly tensed up when she warned him about the two in the corner made her slightly proud of him, including the way he didn't do the instinctual thing of looking over his shoulder at the threat. Later, she'd tell him, but not yet. They needed to get out of there.
Deep down? She was furious. Who tipped them off?
He mind spinning with ideas, she still wore than playful smile... even as she nodded at Rick, pretending a lightness she definitely didn't feel. "Alright. Lead the way," she told him and slid her arm around him as they made their way out and through the side door... to the street beyond. She wasn't sure where he was planning to go from there... but the sight of the parking lot, and some vehicles there gave her a few ideas. Indeed, hadn't he driven there? He talked about traffic... so she imagined he had. "Which one is yours and how fast can you be on the move?" she asked him while walking past the alley and towards the parking lot, her arm slipping from around him, all the while still pretending to be on that date.
Her heart was thudding slow, almost like she was prepared to move faster than the rest of the world, should she need to. Good thing she was armed... and she was fully prepared to use her Bites, should she need to. She just hoped she wasn't forced to. "How far is your place from here? I can't wait to be alone with you." Honestly? She knew she'd have to lie low... and she's researched him enough to know some had. She would just have to do what was best for herself... him... and the rest of the team.
"No good being faint-hearted at this point, right?" Rick joked when she mentioned it. Little did he know that, in a few short moments, he would feel very much that way...and fighting to keep his cool on top of that. For that little space of time, however, everything was kosher and they talked as though nothing strange or irregular was going on.
"Oh, well, thanks. I can't say I've had much occasion to practice." Rick said. Subterfuge was, after all, not his strong suite. He wasn't particularly good with "flying casual" or coming up with excuses for things on the fly or what not. But, he was learning. To get props from the ultimate super spy was definitely something to be proud of.
...unless she were just trying to talk him up, though. He'd never really know. Or would he?
Confusion took a back seat, however, to fear. Natasha made comments about them being tailed, which did not sit well with him at all. Luckily, the two were slyly making their way out. Rick made his way out, grabbing his keys from the pocket of his pants and getting them ready. "That one. Two seconds." Rick said, straddling the vehicle while leaving her plenty of space. He pulled his helmet from the back, handing her his spare. Both were jet black, and hopefully would help them better blend in with the night as they made their escape.
"Oh, yeah!" Rick grinned, playing along. He didn't think he'd be hosting the infamous Black Widow, but even he found himself surprised at times. This was going to be an interesting night, if nothing else...if he didn't end up in prison, anyway. With both of them secure aboard his bike, Rick rode them off into the night. "I'll take the long route!" He called over the hum of the bike as they headed from the parking lot and off into the night. A few turn arounds and a longer route or two chosen would hopefully throw anyone following them off of their trail.
He hoped...it always worked in the spy movies.
Yeah, those were pretty famous last words, weren't they?
Nat knew that being faint-hearted never helped anyone in her line of work, and being kind and gentle was about as useful as a sixth finger. So... as much as she knew that he might've been good in a pinch, and could talk in circles when the need arose... she was not too sure about Rick's ability to focus while on the back of a motorcycle. It wasn't just about speed and knowing where you were going, but also of being able to shake a tail, should they get one. Knowing those two suit-clad men in the cafe? They were about to be followed and she wasn't about to stick around and find out why.
Standing in the parking lot, eyeing the motorcycle, a part of Natasha wanted nothing but to run off, to get the one she'd commandeered earlier that day, and run, so she didn't bring more trouble down on Rick's head. But even more so, she knew that if she didn't sell this, that there was a whole room full of people back there who could be witnesses, and she didn't need to make their lives a misery. Getting the bike going and out of there was a priority, so... as he slid his arm from around her and walked towards it, Nat hung back, keeping an eye out for anyone coming out of the cafe... but there wasn't anyone. Yet.
As he got on and offered her the spare helmet, Nat hurried over, took it... and then put it on, her haphazard bun falling around her ears as her hair trailed from the underside of the helmet. Smirking at him, glad he was playing his part, Natasha just simply slipped onto the back of the bike, holding onto him around the middle... before leaning in, tightening her hold on him... and it only grew tighter as they roared off into the night, the feel of the machine underneath them reminding her of far too many times she'd escaped in just this way.
This time, she would be safe, and so would her contact. Rick deserved that.
Now that they were away from prying eyes... Natasha could be herself, and so, she just dropped the playful smiles and the teasing attitude... and just turned her head to watch as they sped through the city streets, glad that he was apparently trying to throw people off their scent. "Good! The more they have to struggle to keep up, the better for us..." she called out in turn, over the sound of the engine,... and with her mouth so close to his shoulder, she knew that he had to have heard it.
Up ahead, though, she noticed something. "Cut down this alley... they won't be able to follow if you take the next left on exiting," she told him and then slowly smirked, the expression making her look all too cunning. "Too bad for them... it's a one-way."
Once Natasha was on, her arms secured around his waist, Rick took off out of the parking lot and began his "I'm ditching you no matter how long you follow me" routine to avoid anyone who might have been following them. So far, there didn't seem to be anyone, but Rick wasn't going to take the risk. He weaved from street to street, only stopping at the lights if it was absolutely necessary. If he could make it before the light changed, he took it, and they were soon very deep into the flow of New York traffic.
Natasha's shouted words of encouragement helped a bit. At least he was doing something in the spy gig right. From where he was sitting, it still didn't look like they were being followed, which was a good thing. Natasha's suggestion that followed seemed like a good enough idea. If she knew another route, he'd take it. "...wait, what?" Rick asked, catching the 'one-way' part about half a second too late. He turned...and saw that they were going the wrong way. He gripped the handlebars tightly.
No guts, no glory, right?
His nerve was a little shaken when he heard the loud bleat of the horn of an eighteen wheeler. "Oh, shit!" Rick exclaimed as he slowed them down only slightly, his eyes quickly scanning the area...and finding a ramp over a bunch of pallets that had just been used to unload the truck. "Hold on!" Rick yelled as he revved the engine, pushing his motorcycle to speed up as rapidly as possible.
Rick fought the urge to close his eyes as they flew up the ramp and over the pallets, managing to just barely making it over the now trailer-less truck. Rick whooped with glee as they swerved to another road just as the light turned green. That had been more than enough excitement for one night, he thought. It was only a short time later, luckily enough, that they arrived at his apartment complex. Getting through the gate, Rick pulled over to the small garage that served as the bottom level of his building.
"C'mon, there's an interior access." Rick said. No cameras on the stairwell and less likelihood that they'd be seen if they were still being followed. If they had been followed at all. Rick had to suppose they were, or the absolute heart attack he'd just had jumping that truck was going to be all for naught. With his key, he unlocked the door and they headed up the three flights of stairs before getting to his place, him unlocking the door. "Come on in." He invited, waiting for her to go through before getting in and locking the door behind them.
Luckily, he'd just pulled the blinds on the windows shut to dust them, so there was no need to pull them.
Then, only then, did Rick breathe a sigh of relief.
"So...this is the place." Rick said, gesturing around to his...mostly clean apartment. He was a bachelor living in New York, so there was a bit of clutter...including a few boxes of his from moving out of his Aunt's house that he still hadn't unpacked. A few knick-knacks were about but, for the most part, it was sparse.
"Can I offer you a drink? I've got...Water. Soda...Purple Stuff...no Sunny D, though." The humor to deflect the fact they were on the run. That was normal, right?
The race through the city streets wasn't anything unusual, but honestly? Natasha knew that the further they put themselves from those who'd showed up in that cafe, the better off they'd be, even if she wasn't the one driving. She understood it... she knew what it was like to love a vehicle and not trust others with it... but she was putting her life in Rick's hands and knew it.
She was also putting her hopes that he knew where he was going in his hands, too. So far? So good.
But having urged him on, she knew that speed was going to be their ally, along with using the streets to their advantage. Of course, that meant going against traffic, running yellow lights and ensuring that they took alleys and little side streets that were usually just for foot traffic. She hated to gather attention that way, but this was her life that was at stake, and her freedom. Rick's too... and she wasn't about to have another potential friend thrown into the RAFT like Clint'd been... because of her.
So... even as he listened to her and took the turn she requested... his shock and fear wasn't that surprising, to be facing down oncoming traffic. It was the spy's best trick, of using traffic patterns against those trialing them, and though she imagined that those who're following them knew it... there was always the chance that they would be stalled, and that their willingness to chase after someone stopped short, all from the dangers presented in dodging oncoming cars and other vehicles.
All in all, she just squeezed Rick a little more around the middle as they darted into traffic, as if to encourage him.. but as he slowed down a little, she leaned in, urging him onward, even as the loud scream of a horn around them made her glance over at its driver with a scowl. "Go, go now... before you lose your nerve," she yelled at his back, knowing as she did that if they didn't move, either those following would find them, or they would become a smear on the pavement. She didn't want either of those, especially the second one.
Holding tighter to him for his quick urge to hold on, she just leaned in, her head turned to the side to watch as traffic blurred on either side of them, knowing as she did that the speeds they were going at must've been getting to dangerous levels. But... that wasn't the only thing that was dangerous, though. Nope, the second that she realized where they were headed, she let out a softly muttered Russian curse, her lips pressed tight, even as they hit the ramp and raced up and along it... flying over the pallets that were being unloaded like it was nothing.
As they landed with a thump, she had the nearly-insatiable urge to use her Bites on Rick.. but knew that wouldn't be wise. Instead, she glanced around, hoping that they hadn't gathered too much attention with that little stunt. Besides all that, she realized that he'd already driven them down a side street, as if he knew this area better than she did... and almost immediately, the tension in her shoulders loosened, realizing that Steve chose an ally who did, indeed, know what the hell he was doing. A good thing, because she'd been worried for a second there.
Didn't mean she was quite over their little airborne spectacle, but it went a little towards soothing those ruffled feathers.
But as they approached a building, Nat's eyes skimmed along the outside, her lips pursed still, quiet as she always was, as she sought any signs of a weakness. Sure, there were windows and such leading from the outside, but as they drove towards the garage at the bottom level, Nat knew that maybe, just maybe... they were safe. No one would have been able to keep an eye on them, not with the meandering path they'd taken... not unless they had a drone or an eye in the sky. As neither was visible... she was choosing to think that they'd made it.
Getting off the bike, she wordlessly followed him into the building and up through the stairwell, her eyes going everywhere they could, just to ensure her safety and his. Nothing leapt out at her, but she was still going to act with the protocol that she was still being watched, and that meant... moving fast and getting away from anywhere someone could be watching. Indoors, and inside his apartment.. that was the goal.
As the door was unlocked, though, and he invited her in... Nat stepped past him warily, eyes roaming around the room they were in slowly, methodically... just before turning around to face Rick, as he closed the door. "Thanks," was all she said at first, knowing that she'd put him through a harrowing hour of his life, especially that last fifteen minutes. Turning away with a smirk, she just headed towards a bookcase, where a few nicknacks were situated... and picking up one, eyed it... before trying to look over her shoulder at her companion.
A slow, cheeky crooked smile played on her face a moment before it melted away.. because that had to be the first time in a very long time that she'd felt... normal. "No, thanks," she murmured even as she settled the little figurine back where she'd found it... and turned back to face Rick, her expression cautious as ever.
Now, it was time to get back to being The Black Widow and she looked it, with the way that she squared her shoulders and met his eye."I don't think we were followed, but I'll have to stick around here a little longer, just in case. We can't have anyone know that you're working with us... or know that Steve's in town," she reminded him before moving to sit on the sofa nearby. "So, I guess our 'date' gets extended."
And then she smirked. "Nice driving, by the way. Next time, no stunts."
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