8126/Another Mother

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Another Mother
Date of Scene: 05 October 2021
Location: Food Court: Triskelion
Synopsis: Natasha catches up with Yelena, or rather checks up on her, before informing her of the older Black Widow who claimed she was Yelena's mother. No doubt there's some history there.
Cast of Characters: Yelena Belova, Natasha Romanoff

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena doesn't seem to quite have adjusted to her new surrounding, she's used to meticulous and demanding schedules, knowing what is expected of her every single minute of every day. This sudden freedom she's given ever falling in with SHIELD has been confusing, one of the symptoms has been she's mostly kept to either Triskelion or Playground base, and only left once sent on training assignment or an actual role in an field ops, such as the defense of the Framework from Hydra.

At the moment she was at the food court, looking over the distinctly non-Russian faire on offer, and pondering what should she try. An inane, mundane, most trivial decision that seems to puzzle her, as she's used to just being served the food assigned to her for the day.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Choice paralysis is a real thing. Natasha has experienced it at varying points in her life, depending on how much leeway any given assignment offered her. Even the illusion of being free is kind of a culture shock.

    One says 'almost' because when you're a spy in a former-enemy's organization, you're always being watched for a compelling reason to shut you down.

    "No syrniki in these parts." Natasha notes as she approaches Yelena from behind; silent until just that moment to give her something resembling a heads up. <Animals> She adds, muttering in Russian. Natasha is one of the people constantly keeping a wary eye on Yelena, though she's been the friendliest face out of the lot of them, which is... atypical to her reputation. "All the good stuff around here goes straight to your hips." She says, and offers Yelena a bit of a crooked smile, asking <How are you holding up?>

Yelena Belova has posed:
"So I see...it's very disappointing," Yelena remarks to Natasha's comment, turning to look over her shoulder with a grin, "you're harder to notice on approach when not at all expected." Granted, this wasn't their usual kind of setting, down time at anywhere really. Well, maybe more so to Natasha, though doubtful she allowed much for herself. Yelena is still quite new to this. All of this.

That 'animals' comment in Russian puts a smile on Yelena's lips, bits of familiarity, and an opinion they could easily agree upon given the circumstance.

With the warning about the American processed food that goes straight to the hips, Yelena snorts, <I trust at the very least I could get some decent black tea?> Quite comfortable to switch back to Russian, with the one person she could be at ease basking in her native tongue.

<I am adjusting...> she puts it as politely as she can, no doubt, she's used to being handled quite differently. <It was fun to strike down Hydra agents though.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    >Oh, certainly.> Natasha replies regarding tea, casting a leaning look at the lineup, asthough checking to confirm. <They're not cave men, at least.> She adds before requesting two cups of black tea from the workers in unaccented English.

    Natasha gives a small huff of amusement with a rueful smile, saying <It's always been oddly cathartic to fight them, in my experience. One is so rarely offered such an unambiguously deserving target.> When the ordered tea is presented, Natasha offers Yelena one of the cups and indicates the nearby seating area. <Come with me, sit.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena is more than happy to go spend some time with the woman she grew up idolizing, whether the choice to idolize her was ever her own, the end result is everything in her life was a drive to possibly one day match if not surpass Romanova.

<True, they are a bunch of disgusting fucks,> perhaps uncouth, but an honest opinion nevertheless. <I was thinking of trying to get out and about, without a mission attached, but it felt weird. Why would I leave base if I have no assignment...they would not frown on it, would they?> She asks while sitting down, crossing left leg over right, and taking a sip of her tea, her trained Russian palete handling the scalding tea as one of life's pleasures and miseries all at once.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha makes a show of visibly suppressing a laugh at Yelena's appraisal of Hydra as she takes a seat. <They're cockroaches. You're never really rid of them.> She concludes, rather unkindly, but... fuck em. They're Nazis.

    Yelena's comments about leaving without an assignment draw a soft look of concern from Natasha. She thinks back to what Melina said, about providing an example for the survivors on how to live, how it won't be real to them unless they see it can happen. Easier said than done. Even when Natasha was free, she lived for her work. It was all she knew how to do. Bless Clint and the others for dragging her out now and then.

    Natasha begins to speak slowly, as if uncomfortable with the words, <They might be concerned at this early stage. But... we are... not *just* operatives, Yelena. Mother benefitted from making us think so, because that's all she needed from us. But we...> Natasha hesitates, perhaps appreciating the hypocrisy of this statement, <... We can be alive for any reason we want to be alive. Even...> she shrugs a little, <... silly reasons that waste time.> But because she's Natasha, she still has to add, <When one can get away with it.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<They don't even serve a country, just a cult,> Yelena notes, the derision quite clear, nevermind that a lot would view the Red Room itself as a cult.

Yelena of course shows nothing in her visage of having any concern aside from that which she stated, if she read or didn't read Natasha's report about her meeting, that remains unclear. <That is what I thought,> Yelena says flatly, not a shred of emotion showing in her reply, as she sips her tea, leaning back in her seat. <Any reason...?> Yelena quirks a brow, she had similar conversation with Natasha years ago, and it was very different then. It almost catches her off guard, how jarring the difference is, from the same woman. <Well...are there other reasons?> Yelena asks, confusion evident in her tone of voice, and it makes sense. All she knows is what 'Mother' taught her after all. She knows very well to pretend for the sake of a mission, but there's no true understanding there, not yet at least. <I was thinking...maybe I should go shopping, but for the actual purpose of shopping, rather than trail a target...it just, feels, vain? Pointless?>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    <You're allowed to be vain and pointless.> Natasha says, hiding a slight feeling of desperation in trying to get this across when she barely believes it herself. <You're allowed to do things just because you'd like to. It doesn't have to accomplish a goal. That's... that's the *scale* of what they did to us, little Swan. They taught us being *alive* was something that it wasn't. We don't... *need* an excuse to do things, or an excuse to live. if you never fought again for the rest of your life, no one but a gaggle of *maniacs* would begrudge you. I...>

    Natasha looks away briefly and sighs. <Forgive me. I did not come here to lecture philosphy at you. This is... a drastic change for you.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<Am I...?> Yelena asks, sounding quite doubtful, it goes against everything she knows. <There is a great value in being useful,> Yelena remarks, the easiest thing that comes to mind as to why one should not be vain and pointless. Why life is proper living the way the Red Room taught it. They are both quite formidable after all.

<Never fighting another day in my life...? There's a frightening thought...> Yelena gasps at the visual, what is she supposed to do? Grow old? Get a boyfriend? Get a...god forbid...job? Natasha could almost see that shudder of disgust as these thoughts surface Yelena's mind.

<Yes!> Yelena agrees most enthusiastically with that statement, <a very drastic change it is! I appreciate you looking out for me, I should be dead right now.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    <... Ha.> Natasha laughs softly despite herself. <You are like me. It is a... stressful concept.> She says, in regards to living normally. <But you're young. There's plenty of time for other passions to grab you.> The unspoken element of the sentence being: Natasha was far too old and set in her ways when she finally got away. Nobody came to rescue her.

    <Truthfully, this is about as good a place to keep up a fight as you could hope for. These people...> Natasha's eyes roam briefly around their surroundings. Shield. Global peace keepers. Another attempt at establish order along a narrow ideal. <... they mean well.> She concludes softly. Natasha thinks highly of many people in Shield. Those people won't be running it forever. It's just the way of things. Natasha doesn't begrudge it. Nothing lasts forever.

    <You'll get used to it.> Natasha lies kindly in response to Yelena's confirmation of the difficulty of the situation. It occurs to Natasha that she may have been hasty in throwing such wide open ideas at Yelena this early. Should she really be gambling on what Yelena would find worthwhile? She's still, for all intents and purposes, a brainwashed extremist. Has Melina really compromised Natasha so much that she'd stumble and rush something like this.

    Not for the first time, or the last time, Natasha laments how soft she's gotten.

    Regarding the 'should be dead right now' bit... Natasha shakes her head after a moment. <You're a survivor.> She argues softly, mirroring her appraisal of Yelena's class many years ago. Only one of those girls are around anymore. <Mother was a fool to think you were replaceable.> Part of Natasha means it. Part of her feels slightly sick at the honest truth that she's... 'guiding', if not outright manipulating Yelena with such talk.

    <... Yelena, i actually came for another reason.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
<Am I?> Yelena's blue eyes seem to light up as Natasha casually remarks she's like her, after all, it's only everything she's been aspiring to be from a young age. There's no better compliment, and she can't even manage to hide how much it pleased her to hear that said by Natasha herself. Sipping her tea, Yelena nods, <they mean well...> it seems she picked on what was left unsaid in that statement.

<That I will not argue against,> after all, survivors is precisely what the Red Room creates, those cadets able to suffer the gauntlet and all the harrowing punishments it brings. Such individuals are not easily rid off by the end, making Black Widows formidable agents indeed. When Natasha calls Mother a fool for thinking Yelena was replaceable, for the first time, the blonde breaks eye contact with the red head, looking down and taking a deep breath. While the flattery no doubt sits well with her, she still doesn't seem to quite have gotten over the fact it was she that pulled the trigger. Yelena Belova, a Black Widow, eliminating Mother like some kind of traitor. It is likely the hardest thing she's been dealing with since joining with SHIELD, and that battle with Hydra did a world of good to distract her from that turmoil.

<What reason is that...?> Yelena asks, looking up with concern, she knew this wasn't a happenstance.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    natasha isn't surprised by Yelena's reaction, though it pains her somewhat. Honestly, she hasn't divorced herself from her perception of Mother either... if anything belittling the woman, allowing herself to speak casually of the person who's shadow encompassed her entire life, is selfishly a bit... thereapeutic for Romanoff.

    Natasha sighs softly and regards Yelena almost as if she was reconsidering telling her. But Natasha is an agent first, and a friend second; and honestly it's probably for the best that Yelena is aware of this, even if it's... counterproductive to helping her adjust. <I was approached last night by a Black Widow. Old guard. Around my generation.> It's, of course, difficult to name a Black Widow's age after a certain point, but Melina's eyes struck Natasha as... very old. <She said the Red Room still means to come for us. Sooner or later. Wanted to warn us.> The idea isn't news to a Black Widow, perhaps - well instructed in paranoia as they are - but the last bit is... noteworthy. <... She mentioned you. Claimed she knew you.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
Yelena knows full well what Mother means to her, but she can never guess that the perfect Black Widow, Romanova, also used to live under Mother's shadow, it seems inconceivable that anyone ever been dictating Natalia's every move, though in that respect, they were very similar in their Red Room experiences. So she misses on the potential of Natasha saying those things to better convince herself that Mother wasn't infallible as she lead everyone to believe. Yelena can still feel the intense pleasure and satisfaction she would get for merely being called a 'good girl' by Mother. It shouldn't be a fond memory, and yet, old habits die hard.

<A Black Widow?> At first Yelena is concerned somehow there was a replacement announced, so soon too, quite an insult, until she picks on the words 'old guard'. <That is...old,> Yelena agrees when given a timeline. <Knew me? An old guard Widow?> Yelena looks puzzled for a moment, perhaps having steralized herself from what was once her most precious, fondest memory ever. A small reprieve from her service, where while being awarded for her exceptional work with a rare early age mission, she was able to pretend to have an actual childhood. It was mostly play and pretend for the sake of neighbors, 'friends' and targets, but there was nothing more real at the time. The memories, she was likely forced to repress, or had done so herself in order to succeeded, leaving her appearing at a loss for the time being. <Maybe an old G.R.U contact from when I was just starting...> Yelena offers, very non-committed.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha nods slowly. If Yelena weren't in such a delicate position, she'd probably be more... aggressive in trying to get that across. But Natasha had decades to come to terms with the reality of her situation. Yelena wasn't even fully convinced when she left it. She's so... *so* young. In a way, Natasha sees the deadly spy as fragile. In others, she sees her as incredibly dangerous.

    As such, Natasha hesitates to clarify the matter, but it needs doing. <She claimed you were her daughter. Or like one.>

Yelena Belova has posed:
When Natasha relates how the woman claimed that Yelena was her daughter, she can be sure she hit a button or at the least the woman wasn't utterly lying, because Yelena's visage turns very pale. The half finished tea is placed down, and Yelena gets up.

<I need to go, please excuse me,> the words are spoken calmly, but she proceeds to hurry out of the caffeteria, rushing to her assigned quarters, and not slowing down. Perhaps it's best to let her be for a few hours.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha's eyes widen with concern. "Yelena-" She starts to say, before Yelena excuses herself and quickly moves away. Natasha stands up sharply and calls "Yelena!" to no avail, as the blonde figure keeps moving. Natasha moves to follow her, at first, but suddenly becomes aware of eyes on the both of them. Part of Natasha is embarrassed. A spy causing a scene. Shameful.

    The rest of her is just... worried.