Natasha Romanoff sat in a bar located in a dark alley in New York City. The hood of her jacket helped cover her face as she downed a shot of vodka. Thankfully, she had gulped down enough vodka shots in her life to be used to the patented sensation.
“Hey, bartender.” She lifted her glass. “Another one.”
The bartender, a gruff-looking fellow, grunted as he took her glass and filled it with more of the clear liquid. She was about to take another sip when she noticed out of the corner of her eye two men at the end of the bar staring at her with those typical leering gazes that she had gotten more times than she could remember in her life. She sighed. She didn’t have time for this. There was too much on her mind.
One of the men stood as he obtained the guts to approach her. She pretended not to see him nearing her even as she watched his every move.
“Hey sweetie, can I buy you a drink?” the man asked, flashing her a crooked grin.
She looked up at him, wearing a stern expression. “No, I’m good.”
He ran a hand through his slick black hair. “Oh come on, pretty lady.”
He decided to touch her shoulder. That was a mistake. She stood, twisted his arm, and slammed him against the counter in the blink of an eye. The bartender dropped the glass he was cleaning. It shattered on the floor. The man’s friend, an African-American man, jumped to his feet, his mouth hanging open in shock.
“Maybe you should take a hint from now on when a woman wants to be left alone,” Natasha said in his ear.
The man’s friend seemed ready to charge her when the door to the bar swung inward. The man’s friend stopped in his tracks.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” a man spoke behind her.
She recognized the voice and smiled. She let the slick-haired man who was still pressed against the bar go. He stumbled away from her, cradling his injured arm before his gaze focused on the man who had just entered the establishment. His eyes widened and with a frantic gesture, he and his buddy left the bar with no hesitation.
Natasha returned to her seat, grabbing her glass of vodka. “How did you find me?”
Steve Rogers sat beside her, smiling. “You once told me that you were going to take me here for a celebration if I ever got a date. I figured this was a place you’d like…or at least visit if you were bored enough.”
She chuckled. “That sounds like me.” She looked over at him. “Nice beard.”
He chuckled. “Sharon seems to like it also. She says it makes me look ruggedly handsome.”
“More like ruggedly hot.”
Steve smiled. “I see you’ve changed your hair.”
Natasha pulled back her hood, revealing her blond hair to the world. “My staple was the red hair. It made me stand out. Everyone knew who I was without even having to ask. I’m a fugitive now. I’m not trying to get noticed. So…Goldilocks.”
“Blond looks good on you.”
She sighed, taking a sip of her drink. “Whenever I look in the mirror it reminds me of what happened. How I’m not no longer an Avenger.” There was a long pause of silence before she looked at him. “What are you doing here anyway? Got tired of catching burglars?”
He smiled humorlessly. “Not quite.” His expression turned tender. “I’ve come to see a friend.”
She smiled. “So you still call me a friend even after I tried to arrest you?”
She looked at him. He shrugged.
“We all have choices to make. You had your beliefs, I had mine. It doesn’t make any of us right or wrong.”
She sighed. “With every day that passes I’m reminded of the biggest mistake I’ve ever made.”
“And what’s that?”
“Signing those damn accords.” She sighed again. “Ugh, life.” She chuckled grimly. “Life hasn’t been very good to me.”
“It hasn’t been horrible to you either.”
Her expression hardened as she turned to him. “It hasn’t? You haven’t seen my past. The things that I have done would make your blood curdle.”
“And I’ve had to watch on video thousands of innocents that I was trying to protect die,” Steve replied. “New York, D.C, Sokovia, Lagos, Nat, you’re not the only who has blood on their hands. What matters is how we move beyond our mistakes in the past to better the future.”
“Why are you even here?” she suddenly demanded. “To give me one of your fancy speeches?”
Steve sighed. “I said I came here to see a good friend. That’s all.”
Natasha cocked her head. “You’re a terrible liar. You know that right?”
He smiled. “You can always see straight through me.”
She downed the last bit of her drink before saying, “It’s a gift I’ve acquired over the years.” She placed a hand on his shoulder. “Tell me. What is it?”
His expression softened. “Nat, we need you. There’s a new world-ending threat and I’m going to need all of the help I can get to stop it.”
Natasha suddenly began to laugh. “All of this talking was just to avoid asking me to join you in your little fugitive-club? That’s kind of pathetic Steve.”
“It’s a woman,” he continued. “She’s found a way to revive the Winter Soldiers that were in the HYDRA headquarters where Bucky was kept and is now on a terror spree in Europe.”
Natasha’s eyes widened. “‘Revived the Winter Soldiers’? But…how?”
Steve shook his head. “I don’t know but if it’s true it’s going to take every single one of us to stop them. And that’s why I’m here.” He chuckled. “I guess I’m trying to find out whether you’ve stopped working or not.”
“I was enjoying my days of freedom but what you’re telling me sounds serious.” Natasha stood from the bar.
Natasha turned to the bartender who, to Steve’s horrified realization, had been standing nearby eavesdropping on the entire conversation.
“Hey, Louie. Don’t speak of this conversation to anybody, alright?”
The bartender nodded. “Louie doesn’t tattle.”
She nodded. “Good.”
She and Steve stood from the bar. When they left the establishment, entering the dark alleyway that was even scarier due to the fact that it was after midnight, Steve looked at her.
“Do you really think he’s not going to tell anyone what we talked about?” he asked.
Natasha patted his shoulder. “If he does we’ll know and I’m sure he wouldn’t want to upset me.”
As Natasha distanced herself from him chills ran down Steve’s spine. He sure was glad that she was on his side.