6169/You Killed Mother. Now What

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You Killed Mother. Now What
Date of Scene: 10 May 2021
Location: 10 Natasha's Suite - Playground
Synopsis: Having disobeyed Lyudmilla Kudrin AKA Mother, and not only refused to kill Natasha but instead killed Lyudmilla, Yelena's world has shattered. She finds herself in a cell at The Playground, not only lacking purpose, but suffering the guilt of being a complete failure. But just as she was contemplating if she even deserves to live, the only person who could possibly understand her showed up for a visit. Could there be a teamup of Widows in the future?
Cast of Characters: Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena has been silent as the grave once she's finished her harrowing cry the moment she more or less killed Lyudmilla Kudrin, the woman she and Natasha knew as 'Mother'.

She's been silent on the flight back, and for the most part, aside from what Natasha insisted she must answer, she hasn't talked. She's been keeping a rather lifeless deathly stare in her eyes. But not a malicious one, rather, it almost look like there was no soul currently housed inside her body. It was as if she was depleted.

Even when placed in her cell until SHIELD would determine what to do with her, Yelena sat on the floor, her knees curled up to her chest, staring ahead of her without looking at anything specific. She hasn't been eating either, not for some hunger strike or other, but rather, much like Natasha told Morse, Yelena was somewhat broken, in a complete state of shock. Her disobedience to Mother, her genuine choice to ultimately shoot Mother in order to secure her own freedom and sparring Natasha was something unexpected, and perhaps only Natasha herself can truly appreciate the mounumental will power it took to not just kill Natasha on the spot without a thought. To be fair, it was moment from happening, until Natasha spoke the precise set of words that could have altered the outcome. Maybe Mother should have paid attention to how deeply she ingrained worship of Natalia Romanova into Yelena, before deciding Yelena should be the one to eliminate her.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Little reminders that Mother wasn't perfect are something of a cold comfort when the woman continues to define your existance, first after Natasha had left, and how after Lyudmilla had finally, finally died. But any hole in the illussion that she was all-knowing and ever-present... well, it wasn't nothing.

    Natasha hovers outside of Yelena's door for several minutes, steeling herself. She's not sure what to expect out of this, and she's still not in the best shape for defending herself if it comes to that. But she knows what her goal is, so... that's something to cling to, at least.

    Natasha reaches out one hand, and nearly knocks on the door, before stopping herself. Quickly she unwraps the tight bandaging around her previously broken right ring finger. It's not actually healed yet, but she decides it's better not to broadcast any particular targets to Yelena, before she knocks on the door properly, and lets herself in.

    Natasha is dressed oddly normally for someone not under cover, wearing a simple black sweater, a pair of jeans, and a pair of leather boots. "Yelena." She says softly, and begins speaking her native language as she gingerly lifts up a plastic-wrapped roast beef sandwich, and closes the door behind her, <If I throw this to you, will it just bounce off of your head?>

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena remains as she has been, sat on the floor, knees pressed to her chest, she hasn't been moving around in her cell. But what does change when Natasha enters, is that Yelena's blue eyes shift upwards to acknowledge her presence. <Sister,> she greets quietly, her voice a bit horase, she likely should have at least drank some of the water afforded her. <I am not hungry,> she says flatly, though it has to be a lie, since she hadn't touched food since being placed in this cell. It's likely she feels like she deserves to die for betraying mother the way she has.

Taking a deep breath, Yelena finally asks what she's been meaning to ask since she woke up injured on the floor of an abandoned factory, after failing to kill Natasha. <You let me live. That is against protocol. Why? I still don't understand.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    "Mmm." Natasha hums unconvincedly, drumming two fingers against the plastic wrap thoughtfully for a moment. <You are too young to lie to this liar without a shower and a meal,> She says with a hint of good cheer that is almost certainly put on. In a way, Natasha can't quite help it; not because of her training, but because something about the younger girl just makes Natasha want to tease her a little.

    It occurs to her that this may not be helpful right now.

    Natasha's expression falls closer to a more natural neutrality at Yelena's question. Natasha is silent for a moment before, somewhat evasively, answering, <That has not been my protocol for many years. A policy, perhaps, but... people frown during debriefing.>

    So Natasha struggles with honesty as well.

Yelena Belova has posed:
After Natasha speaks those words there's a hint of a smile on Yelena's lip, as she whispers, <you were always better, I'm told, I'm not surprised you can see through it.>

But just as she called out Yelena on her lie, Yelena shoots right back at Natasha's offered explanation, <...but we still went to the same school, I can tell just as you can, a Black Widow coming to end you, there is no second chance to give her, ever. Why spare me? I'm already fucked, I made a choice I shouldn't have, least you can do is tell me the truth.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's heart breaks just a little at Yelena's initial response. She doesn't know how the classes that came after her were pressured; there was no Natasha Romanoff before her. But she can imagine. There was, after all... always Mother.

    <... The truth.> Natasha says softly, nodding reluctantly. <The truth. The truth is...> Natasha sits down in front of Yelena, adding a bit of a grunt to her next word: <... undignified. That is why lies are so much prettier, hm?> Natasha begins unwrapping the sandwich, never quite looking at Yelena. <The truth is, a very silly man came to kill me with a bow and arrow when I was working, and when my target's men were piled all around us, when we were done saving each other's lives between murder attempts, neither of us had the will to kill the other.>

    Natasha takes a bite out of the sandwich and begins chewing thoughtfully. <The truth is a very long line of very serious, scary men strongly recommended my execution; and the most serious and most frightening of them all thought there was value in my life, on the word of an archer who could not finish his job. The truth is I was assigned to watch over a group of eccentrics in colorful costumes, and when I was finished rolling my eyes, I saw that there was, sincerely, a kind of person in this world who could not lie to save their lives; who would die to keep a stranger safe; and who were so terribly difficult to convince to kill an enemy that I still want to rip my hair out to think about it.>

    Natasha sighs softly. <... The truth is, by the time your body lay before me, I could no longer see an enemy that would serve me best as a corpse. Just... a very young girl... who'd lead a very hard life... and had much more to offer than the Monsters who made us could ever recognize.>

    Natasha tears the sandwich in half and holds out the unbitten half to Yelena. <Perhaps the West has made me soft.> Natasha shrugs a little with a tiny smile, <Perhaps age has made me sentimental.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<Yes...lies are better,> Yelena agrees, they both have experienced that for themselves. <I don't understand,> Yelena remarks about the tale involving the man with the longbow, <you had a target, the man with the longbow didn't matter, why wouldn't you kill him? Is it similar to why you wouldn't kill me?> She's starting to wonder if it was a flaw in the ever perfect Romanova. It doesn't make sense, but they were always taught in the Red Room, no mercy. Those marked for death, die, because a Black Widow is always perfect.

When Natasha takes a bite out of the sandwich, Yelena looks, to her credit, her face does not rely her anger, but it's easy to tell from her intent focus on the sandwich. <I'm sure those men would have called for my execution all the same.>

Again, what Natasha shares sounds so much like fiction, that Yelena has a hard time believing it's an actual true story. That man with the longbow sounds like a complete fool, but, could it be the very same one she beat to the elevator? The same who was fast enough to prevent her from potentially killing Natasha when she had a chance? She wasn't sure she was going to, but then Clint didn't give her enough time to mull it over.

<I was very much your enemy, though, Mother wanted you dead because you escaped the clinic.> Yelena relies to Natasha, <she was very angry when I suggested to just bring you back, a good girl doesn't ask questions, or offers alternative, a good girl does as she's told...>> Yelena mimics the very unpleasantly toned warning she got from Mother, for wanting to bring Natalia back into the fold.

She extends her hand to take the unbitten half she's offered, looking closely at it, and yet delaying on actually taking a bite herself. <I would have killed you on that day, I almost did on the catwalk, you've a very fast recovery,> Yelena notes, <stories don't do that justice. I'm not familiar with the West, so can't say if that affected you, but...it bothered me. I was angry when I woke up,> Yelena admits to Natasha, <I thought you figured killing me would be an insult to your kill list, that I'm not worthy to be killed by your hand. I wanted to kill you even more...but when I saw you down there, in the ice, with all the fakes...clones...whatever they were...> Yelena winces, tears starting to well in her eyes, likely a sign of that youth Natasha reminds her is so obvious in the blonde. At least to Natasha. <...when I saw copies of me as well...I realized you didn't lie in the factory. We're all expendable, Mother had lied...I couldn't kill you,> her free hand tightens to a fist as she hisses <a Black Widow that can't kill her target is useless...I'm a failure. Mother was right.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha listens to Yelena very quietly, betraying no pity as she speaks, but feeling a familiar pain; a familiar confusion from the younger Widow that Natasha herself still struggles with sometimes, when she isn't burying herself in work.

    She does, however, slap Yelena right across her face.

    <The only thing Mother was ever right about in her LIFE was potential, and even then she couldn't find it without grinding little girls into mulch!> She says with fierce eyes and a harder voice. <She does not define the worth of your life. That she would have you think so is a crime committed against you that you will not fully grasp for *years*. You have not failed anyone, Yelena Belova. You have only just finally begun to live.>

    Natasha takes a breath and tries to calm herself down. <Mother is-> she catches herself <Mother was nothing more than an egomaniac, who thought a pat on the head and a patronizing word were fair payment for a lifetime of abuse; who thought we should rightly be proud to be puppets for her deluded ambitions. When I realized this, when I finally saw what had been in front of me for *decades*, Yelena... I wanted to die.>

    Natasha lets that hang in the air for a moment. <Comraderie and compassion did not save Barton's life alone; in the depths of my heart I simply hoped it was *over*. This feeling... it was the only thing waiting for you under her, if she did not dispose of you and replace you first. Pity and softness didn't save my life, and it didn't save yours. What Barton saw...> Natasha presses her lips together tightly for a moment, <... what *I* saw... was someone who deserved better. And I am...> Natasha shakes her head, <... I am finished killing people like that.>

    Natasha realises she's leaning forward, and sighs softly as she straightens up. <... And evidently, Shield agrees with me.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
That slap seems to shake Yelena out of that closed loop of self guilt, where she was half pondering killing herself if the SHIELD personnel wouldn't do it for her. There's something about bringing the sudden instinct for self-defense, entering a fight mindset, that just tears apart all other concerns, that too is ingrained with Red Room training. A proper operative has no distractions when it's time to fight. At the very least it forces a full focus on Natasha, and therefore full attention on her words. <...thank you,> the blonde mouths, though it's unclear if it's meant for the slap on her face or the words that followed. But hearing the incomparable Natalia Romanova tell her that mother can and is wrong, is reassuring, because the last thing Mother said to her still burns deep inside of her. When Natalia admits having wanted to die upon discovering the truth, Yelena brightens a bit, <...I wanted to die in Greenland, I want to die now, maybe I followed your path well enough at least for that...> it seems any sort of comparable with Natalia is about the highest praise Yelena can think of.

<You didn't kill Hawkeye, because you wanted him to end it for you...? He didn't kill you, because he thought you could be more than a puppet?> Yelena tries to see if she follows the bottom line of Natasha's words, the core of it at least, though of course it doesn't satisfy her hunger to learn everything there is to learn about that incident. It pretty much changed her life after all, Natasha has no clue how everything was taken to 11 in the Red Room once they thought Agent Barton was able to eliminate their prized Black Widow. It was a sudden realizaiton that even with all the cruelties and endless rigors offered by the Red Room, their agents were not beyond failure. Everything went to overdrive, and while Yelena was luckier than some of her classmates, eventually earning the title of Black Widow, she was afforded no praise for her triumphs, and kept being reprimended for percieved slights, if only to ensure she will not fail where Natalia did...and then the truth came out, leading into this entire ordeal, turning Yelena's world upside down and introducing her to the notion that Mother could lie. Mother could want her little girls to die or be harmed, if it served Mother's goals. And of course, if Yelena were to die, there were many false Yelena's on hand, much like there were many false Natalia's, the mangled bodies of most of them Yelena had to wade through to get to the real one.

If nothing else, Natasha's assessment of Yelena's psychological wellbeing to Commander Morse was pretty much on point. The half sandwich is yet untouched despite her hunger, though at least it is kept by her side.

<I admire your ability to do that...I wonder if I could,> Yelena muses, even though she managed to not kill Natasha, on mother's order at that, in person. <I don't understand why SHIELD agrees with you, but I thank you for having any sort of faith in me, Romanova. I think it is the only happiness I had in my life, besides succeeding you.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha may never know the crimes she committed against her successors by leaving. She wouldn't know what to do if she did. More guilt for the pile, one supposes. For now, though, Natasha is at least free of that, and can focus her attention on one person who was cursed to be so much like her, yet, for now, blessed to have been pulled out so early before her ledger could become so... so hopelessly unbalanced.

    <I am gambling a fair bit that you can. As the people here once did for me.> She says with a small smile. <Tyrants and lunatics have driven us underground. Shield...> Natasha shakes her head, <... the organization, the name, it never really mattered,> not to Natasha, anyway, <but these men are looking to seize power while we hide underground. As far as I am concerned, you are under no obligation to anyone on Earth... but I have reccomended your talents to my allies, if you'll offer them. If so, you will be my direct responsibility going forward. If not... then we've no hold over you, after you have healed and been debriefed. The decision is yours.>

    Truthfully, Natasha is not being entirely honest, a matter she feels justified in, even if she hates it. She knows as well as anyone that Yelena very likely has nowhere on earth to go right now, that there's only one rational choice to make no matter what she really wants. She's counting on that fact. If pragmatism was still the only factor at work in Natasha's mind, Yelena would be long dead now, but... she will always be a Black Widow, to one extent or another.

    Reality is hard.

    She only wishes that wanting the best for Yelena was good enough on its own.

Yelena Belova has posed:
<That...is a dangerous gamble,> Yelena at least has every bit as good a grasp of just what Red Room training did to her, as Natalia does, which is only reasonable, considering they both survived all the way to graduation. But what Natalia says her seems to resonate deeply with Yelena, <I know of SHIELD, but not of its current troubles, for them to be driven like this...? It would never happen to the Red Room,> of course the Red Room has always been a myth, the Black Widow propoganda of Cold War era. Nobody truly believed the Red Room existed, and those that do know, know better than to try a play against them at such a scale. It's truly not an equivalence the Red Room has with SHIELD. But the Red Room is the entirety of Yelena's life, she doesn't understand different structures. Not yet at least.

<Working with you will be an honor, a life long dream, I would love to do that if I can,> Yelena admits, so much the Red Room drilled the adolation of Romanova, that even when offered complete freedom as an alternative, Yelena wouldn't take it when there's a chance to work with her idol. Besides, maybe that's how she'll learn more completely about what happened with Barton.

<These men after SHIELD, they do not know you are with SHIELD, do they?> As an after thought, she adds, <and they likely don't know I even exist at all. I will help you, you kept me alive when you shouldn't have, it's the least I can do. It's right.> Maybe that's why she disobeyed mother? Returning a life debt to Natasha? Everything is possible, but the truth at it's very core is that Yelena lead a life of doing as she was told to do, while besting all opposition, to assure she will be the one given trust in the most difficult tasks. All she knows is obeying orders. If suddenly, there were no orders to obey, she would be very lost. So going free is actually far more daunting than replacing orders from Mother with orders from Natasha, or whoever Natasha's commander might be. <SHIELD...does SHIELD have...a Mother?> Yelena asks, curious. How else would SHIELD operate? It seemed unlikely there was any other way.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    <The perils of a public face.> Natasha says, the same way one might say 'I told them so.'. But she showed up to the party too late to make the rules. <The last our enemy would have heard of me was that I had betrayed my comrades and fled to Russia. They would likely be as surprised as I am that they would spend the time and resources retrieving me.> She answers with a rueful little smile.

    At the end, Natasha shakes her head slowly. <... No, Little Swan. We have a stressed young woman named Morse. You will meet her when you are ready to move about. She is...> Natasha struggles for a word that would mean anything significant given the environment Yelena's used to, and settles on, <... kind. But busy. As we will soon be.> Natasha smiles softly, <I am relieved to have you beside us.>

    It's true, too.

    Otherwise she'd probably have to shoot her.

    Natasha stands slowly in that needlessly graceful, no-hands way that ballerina's have of seemingly defying gravity. <Eat. Rest. We will talk more another time.> She says. She begins to turn away, but stops. <... Oh.> She seems to debate something internally, and speaks again, <... Natalia Romanova is... a name I've left behind. Not for nothing, people may be confused. Around here, people call me...> Natasha hesitates and smiles a little as she decides to use a word she rarely uses in any language: <... my 'friends'... they call me Natasha Romanoff.> Natasha smiles warmly for a moment... and shrugs a little, <It is a lazy pronunciation, but it suits me these days.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<It's stupid...there's no room for public face in spycraft,> Yelena scoffs, she may not have the decades of experience Natasha has, but even she knows it's a bad idea for what SHIELD wants to be. When she was working on more public matters in Russia, it was under guise of G.R.U. but when the time came to namedrop the Red Room, things would usually get solved very expediantly, whether through sudden agreement, or through Yelena donning her Black Widow approach. Either way, nothing was left unsolved.

<Morse...? I would like to meet her.> She makes her request, but not in the form of a demand, she knows what position she's in.

For a moment, Yelena's blue eyes light up, finally getting an explanation for something she couldn't figure out before. <I was wondering why they call you Natasha...so it's not another disguise, it's how you want to be called...by friends?> There's an actual smile on her face, for a fleeting moment, <then I am honored to be considered as such, Natasha.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha smiles kindly, convincingly... thought not one hundred percent honestly. Given how unstable Yelena's world has become, she hasn't the heart to tell her, truthfully, that *everything*'s a cover, on a long enough timeline. But truthfully... it's a cover that she'd like to hold on to, if she can.

    If anything, it's lasted much longer than she thought it would.

    <I am glad, Yelena.> She says warmly. <I will tell Morse that you are ready when she is. Until then, rest well.>