After finding out my verdict, we were given a few days of free time.
Wanda was still recovering, and the young brother and sister were getting along well here, fitting into a schedule easily.
Most of my time I was with Vision while we took care of Lucas and Lucy, but I did visit Wanda in the mornings after breakfast. We talked for a bit and she taught me some Russian, saying that it might be useful in the future.
Pietro and Natasha also helped me when they heard what Wanda was doing.
When it was time for us to go back to training, Pietro and I were called in for a mission after lunch.
"I need two people to be brother and sister," Steve said. "Wanda can't go because of her injuries and Clint's currently on a single mission.
"What do we have to do?" Pietro asked.
"We've been getting weird messages from our bases in Russia," Steve said. "I need you two to go in and see what's up."
"Ok, but why is it specified as brother and sister?" I said, confused.
"Because you two can't be separated," Steve said. "Orphanages are being raided and kids, mostly older, are disappearing. With some work, we can make you two look younger, and if we say that you two are brother and sister and are not to be separated, then they have to honor that. Pietro, Rose will be your Wanda, and Rose, Pietro will be your Clint."
"But wouldn't it be better to get someone who's speaks better Russian than I?" I said. "Like Natasha?"
Before Steve could respond, Pietro said to me in Russian, "Do not degrade yourself like that, Sister. You know more than you think. Can you not understand this and reply in the same language?"
"I understand parts, not all of it," I replied in the same tongue.
"You know enough," Steve said. "Just from what I've seen. And Natasha's unable to do this mission because she's going after a lead she found for something."
I nodded slowly. "So what do we have to do?" I said.
"You'll be going back to school," Steve said. "But you'll be living in the orphanage. Report in if you see anything suspicious. If nothing happens for a week, you'll go to a different one."
"How many will we be going to?" Pietro said. "There's tons in all of Russia."
"We have two bases, Moscow and Sochi," Steve said. "You will be staying in ten each if nothing happens."
"Any guesses who it is?" I said.
"We suspect HYDRA is back to work again," Steve said. "But we have no evidence saying that it is them." He gave both of us files. "While you're away, Rose, you'll have to be on the schedule of a regular human, not the android one. Sleeping won't be too much of a big thing, but your eating schedule will be. Just don't eat a lot each meal, say you're a light eater. That'll work. Please, read your files and ask any questions you have."
I nodded as Pietro and I opened the files, reading the mission information. I'd have to be Roza Ryabov, the shy, careful, scared little sister while Pietro was Pavel Ryabov, the overprotective yet gentle big brother. We were the same age, only a few hours apart. And we'd have to keep together as much as possible, because we would worry about the other if we weren't with them.
"No time to come back to the base?" Pietro said, looking up at Steve. "So we're gone for twenty weeks straight?"
"You'll be back between Moscow and Sochi," Steve said. "Also, after two weeks, if you two elect to, you can come back for a day or two. But that's all."
"We'll report to you?" I said. "It isn't specified and usually it is."
"It'll change," Steve said. "Sometimes me, sometimes Nat when she gets back, sometimes someone else. It'll depend on what's going on here."
"No more questions," Pietro said after a long pause, closing the file.
"Same," I replied, also closing mine.
"You will leave tomorrow morning," Steve said. "If you follow me, we'll get you your equipment."
We followed him to a storage unit, a few agents giving us our supplies needed, along with the clothes we'll have to be wearing.
"Just like old times," I commented as I looked at the torn jeans, faded red t-shirt, and worn-thin hoodie.
"I'd rather not remember," Pietro mumbled under his breath, seeing the dirtied jeans, ragged t-shirt, and patched-up hoodie.
After our gear was situated, Steve released us for the evening.
Pietro went to go see Wanda while I found Vision on the roof, looking out at the horizon.
"Where's the kids?" I asked as I hovered next to him.
"Laura insisted I get some time away from them," Vision replied. "She, Sam, and Rhodey took them out, along with her kids." He paused. "What can you tell me about your mission?"
"That Pietro will be with me, and I'll be gone for awhile," I answered. "The minimum will be two week intervals. The most is ten. This is a twenty-week long mission."
"A really long one," Vision commented.
"Yea, it is," I said. I rested my head on his shoulder. "It'll be all you while I'm gone. I'm appointing you leader for missions while I'm on mine."
"You think I can be a leader?" Vision said, looking down at me, placing an arm around me.
"I know you can," I replied, wrapping my arms around him.
We stayed that way until dinner, joining the others as they ate.
I saw Pietro eating alone at his table, like it has been since Wanda was placed in the infirmary, and waved him over to me and Vision, like usual.
Pietro joined us at the table.
"Evening Pietro," Vision greeted.
"Hey Vision," Pietro replied. "Hey Rose."
"Hey Pietro," I said.
We fell silent, Pietro eating his meal while Vision and I had a small snack.
After he finished eating, Pietro said, "Rose, Wanda wants to see you after dinner."
"Did she say why?" I asked.
"Just wants to say her goodbye before we leave," Pietro answered. "She won't be able to see us out tomorrow. Still bedridden, unable to go more than the opposite wall of the room she's in without someone having to chase her back to bed."
I nodded. "Alright," I said. "I'll head there after dinner's out."
Once dinner was over, I went to go talk to Wanda.
"You have a mission with Pietro," Wanda said in Russian once I entered the room.
"Yea, I do," I replied, also in Russian.
"And you'll be gone awhile," Wanda added.
"Yea, I will," I said.
Wanda held her arms out, meaning for a hug. I walked to her and hugged her. "Be careful," she said. "Wherever you go, whatever you're doing, watch yourself. And watch Pietro. He'll take care of you, but please, take care of him."
"I'll take care of him as if he was my own brother," I said.
"Thank you," Wanda said. She kissed my temple and then pulled away, holding my hands in her's. "I wish I could see you off tomorrow, but I won't have the ability to do so."
"It's alright, Wanda," I said. "I understand. They can be very picky if they want to."
We talked for a little bit longer and then when I said my goodbyes and was leaving, she said, "This whole conversation, you said it in Russian. You're improving greatly."
I paused and smiled back at her. "Practice makes perfect," I replied.
"Study this," Pietro told me, handing me the Russian alphabet. "You will need this down if we are to be in school."
I nodded, looking it over.
We were in the air for about an hour now. Both teams were there to see us off, but we didn't linger too long on the farewells, needing to get into the air at a certain time in order to arrive at the Russian SHIELD base at a certain time.
It broke my heart to see Lucas and Lucy trying to hold back tears as I walked aboard the jet. They were hugging Vision, who was watching me with slight concern.
This would be the longest mission I had where he wasn't my partner so far, and I hoped it was my last.
After studying the alphabet, Pietro quizzed me on it, making sure that if I messed up, he made sure he would teach me until I got it right. He also insisted that all our conversations would be in Russian so that I could learn even faster. And when we addressed each other, it wasn't by "Pietro" or "Rose," but "Pavel" and "Roza." Plus we also kept in character.
It was essential that we didn't break character during the time we were in the field. We didn't know what time we'd have to ourselves, so we needed to be able to understand our characters inside and out and be comfortable in their skin.
It was a ten hour flight, but when we landed, we were greeted by the agents waiting for us.
"A safe flight?" one agent asked in Russian as they led us into the base.
"Yes, it was," I replied, also in Russian.
The agent looked at me, surprised. "You have no accent and your Russian is impeccable," she commented. "Captain Steve Rogers said that you might not know a lot."
"I've had friends help me" I said, glancing at Pietro, who had a slight smile on his face.
"That is good," the agent said. "That will help you on your mission."
"We know that you are tired from your trip, but we have to send you into the field almost immediately," a second agent said when we reached a conference room. "It is five here, and we need to have you out there by seven for dinner at the first stop you're going to."
They had us sit down and told us our first location and the school where we'd be. Then they had us change and get ready to go, including Pietro having to shave to make him look younger.
"I thought I was growing it out pretty well," Pietro commented to me as the two of us walked to where a car was waiting for us.
I chuckled. "Once this is over, you'll have time to grow it out again," I said.
"I guess," Pietro said, reaching the car. He opened the door for me and had me get in before he got in, himself.
There was silence in the vehicle as it took us to where we were going to be dropped off.
Once there was no one around, Pietro and I quickly got out and the car drove off, leaving us alone with only our bags.
I kept close to Pietro, him having a protective arm around me as we walked to where they told us where the orphanage was.
A tall building loomed in front of us, with an iron gate in front of it.
"Well, this is it, Roza," Pietro said. "Our new home."
"I wanna go back to our old home," I mumbled, following Pietro inside.
"I do, too, but we have no choice," Pietro said, kissing the top of my head.
As soon as we were inside and the door was closed behind us, a man was right there, seeing what we wanted.
"We're orphans," Pietro explained as I moved behind him slightly. His grip on me tightened. "We lived in the country. Our home, it was burnt down. Our parents, they were inside. We only have each other. And we need to keep together. We cannot be separated."
The man nodded and brought us to the matron's office, telling her what Pietro told him.
"Sit down," the matron said sternly, pointing to two empty seats.
We quickly obeyed, not really liking the tone in her voice. I stared at my shoes, tennis shoes that were falling apart at the seams, one of my hand's grasping Pietro's as he watched the matron as she typed on the computer for a few minutes, completely ignoring us for the time being.
"Names," she ordered without looking at us.
"Pavel Ryabov and Roza Ryabov," Pietro said, spelling the names out without request.
"Ages?" the matron continued.
"Fifteen, going on sixteen," Pietro said. "Our birthday is July first."
The matron typed on her computer a little bit more. "Education?"
"We were home schooled," Pietro said. "But now we need to be enrolled in a school."
"School name?" the matron said.
Pietro told her the name, running his thumb over my knuckles.
The matron asked a few more questioned, which Pietro answered, and got to her feet. "Follow," she instructed as we also got up. "Boys and girls sleep in the same room. Everyone is getting ready for dinner. Change and go to the cafeteria afterwards. No dwindling. Ask your roommates where to go." She reached the room, ushered us inside, introduced us only by name to the other kids, and then left.
The other kids watched us with uninviting eyes.
Pietro kept an arm around me as we walked into the room, trying to find an empty bed for each of us.
We found only one in the back corner.
"We'll worry about this later," Pietro said as we put our bags down. "Right now, let's change and get something to eat."
I nodded and looked at the clothes laid out for us: gray pants and a shirt for Pietro and a gray dress for me.
"This is too much like HYDRA," Pietro mumbled under his breath and he slipped the shirt and pant on over his current clothing.
I just nodded, doing the same with the dress.
The other kids filed out of the room until it was only us two and one other girl.
She approached us with a kind smile, an inviting look in her eyes, compared to everyone else's cold glares. "I'm Sophia," she said, holding out a hand.
"Pavel," Pietro said, shaking her hand.
"Roza," I said softly, timidly shaking her hand, as well.
"Don't mind the others," Sophia said. "It takes them awhile to adjust to anyone new coming in. Especially with what's been happening here and in other orphanages."
"What's been going on?" Pietro asked as we started walking to the cafeteria.
"The matron comes in, goes to someone, mostly the older kids, and says that someone's here to adopt them," Sophia said. "Now usually when a new parent comes in for adoption, they join the matron. But then they're never heard from again. We always hear followups on how they're doing, like my friend Ilya, he was adopted about two years ago and now he's traveling the world on an all-expenses paid cruise. But the others, it's like they dropped off of the face of the earth."
"How long has this been going on?" Pietro said.
"Few month," Sophia said. "It's...concerning that this is going on."
"Have you seen the person adopting?" I said quietly.
"No one but the kid their adopting has," Sophia said. "I mean, I guess it's a good thing they're getting adopted: teens are always the hardest to find home for, but when we hear nothing about them, that worries us."
We reached the cafeteria and waited in line to get food, Sophia going off to a table with her friends while Pietro and I sat away from the others, keeping to ourselves.
Like what Steve suggested, I ate only a little bit, though it was difficult to even do that. And as an overprotective brother should, Pietro tried to get me to eat a little bit more, but I said that I wasn't hungry, giving him the rest of my food, since he always ate a lot.
The other kids stopped what they were going and stood up as the matron came into the room.
Pietro and I glanced at each other and also got to our feet.
Once the matron sat down, everyone else did, as well and they continued eating.
After eating, the matron gave a few words and then released everyone to go to bed with a strict curfew.
Then came the issue about the bed.
It was one thing being awake and comfortable in his arms when we were doing stuff, but it was a totally different thing to basically be sleeping together.
"Can you try to pretend I'm Vision?" Pietro whispered in my ear as the other kids started to go to sleep.
"I can try," I said softly.
We got into bed together and I closed my eyes, pretending that the arms around me, the breath on my skin, and hand stroking my hair gently were Vision's.
And in my brother's arms, I fell asleep.