She Makes Death Look Seductive
An accurate description, when one glanced through the two-way mirror and into the darkened room beyond. A solitary steel table stood in the centre, supporting nothing but a lone flame encased in glass and burning steady in the stillness. Its wax and wick barely touched, it radiated a warmth that waned in the coldness of the room, its weak luminance flirting dangerously with the shadows beyond reach.
A steel chair accompanied the duo, filled by a warm body in black clothing. He was a silent man with a guarded gaze, staring keenly past the candle before him and still enough to blend into the darkness, yet he remained safely within the candlelight and subtly tensed upon his seat. Ready to stand, to defend and attack if need be, but he was told it would not come to that.
A clipboard rested on his knees, a freshly lined page splayed beneath his ready fingertips, though its lines remained empty and untouched. Ignorant.
Images shuddered within the ring of candlelight, dark ghosts born from suspicious imagination as the shadows of the table and chair stretched to resemble some form of a bedtime monster. Yet it was not the man visible who was threatening, it was the figure opposite, silent and shrouded in profound shadow.
Still the man stared, waiting, before his blue eyes caught at the edges of an intricate design splayed across the floor. Made by symbols of unknown origin, he was told it trapped her – physically, at least – as he sat just beyond its border.
Because she was dangerous.
The candle on the table shuddered, and his sharp eyes dropped to watch. It shuddered three, four times before returning to a steady burn, and he released a tense breath before a soft chuckle startled the quiet and forced his attention back up.
A figure shifted in the shadows, before a face appeared in the candlelight. Creamy-white skin and blood-red curls complemented features that were as stunning as they were unsettling. Her crimson lips curved in a wicked grin, flashing teeth which look deceivingly sharp and pointed in the lowlight, and glistening green eyes stared at him from across the table, the heat of the flame reflected in the darkness of her pupils.
Their eyes met, unwaveringly intense in a silent battle of control. The man did not know for how long he held her gaze, but he knew the connection was disturbingly captivating. Every instinct screamed at him to look away, to preserve his life, to run – but he could not, for he was trapped by her cunning charm.
And so he did not notice when she moved closer, so taken aback by the power in her gaze that he failed to notice the deadly stealth of her movements. She prowled forward on booted feet, in a stance that was predatory as she came to a halt near the barrier of the ring and close to the table. When he finally blinked and severed the connection, his gaze dropped to eye a flawless throat, and then lower to a black suit that fit the voluptuous curves of her body. The zipper was dangerously low over her chest, revealing a satisfying swell of breasts that had his loins faintly aching.
His gaze only snapped up when he detected movement, and then he leaned back in his seat with a mixture of bewilderment and instinctual fear. She had raised a hand, only for it to meet an invisible barrier, but it was not the quick silence of her movements which was so unnerving, it was the wild grin that followed.
She whispered a greeting, then, so soft it was almost a sigh and yet full of dangerous appeal, “Clinton Francis Barton…Or do you prefer Hawkeye?”
He should not have been surprised that she knew his name, after all she was as skilled as he – even more so in some areas – and even though he was expecting such knowledge, it still made him incredibly uneasy. She was a killer, a merciless assassin, and the revelation of her knowing his identity did not sit well with him.
So he said nothing in return.
Her smile widened, as if sensing the unease hidden behind his stoic facade, and her head canted eerily to the side. But she did not draw back into the darkness, instead she hovered in the gloom, in the mixture of light and shadow that was almost as daunting as the inky blackness she had come from.
Suddenly, she reached out to her left, Barton tensing on reflex as she drew something across the tiled floor with a painful squeal. He did not flinch, his gaze did not waver, however he grit his teeth in discomfort as a wooden chair appeared. She dragged it closer, meeting his steady gaze with a mysterious one of her own, and then folded herself gracefully onto the seat and crossed her toned legs, staring.
Barton remained mute, dutiful to the Director’s orders as he watched her with sharp eyes.
A moment of stillness passed, before she moved once more.
She leaned forward slightly, close to the barrier and even closer to the table, and even with the space between them Barton had never felt so overwhelmed. Her gaze dropped to survey his body, lingering on the strength in his arms and legs, before raising to pause on his throat, and he had the sinister feeling that she was watching his pulse race beneath his skin.
He swallowed again, throat now painfully dry, and she watched intently as his Adam’s apple bobbed, before dragging her eyes upwards to meet his blue gaze once more.
“Do you know what it feels like to kill someone?” she whispered into the silence, wicked gaze pinned on him and oddly symbolic of a lioness stalking her prey. “The sadistic satisfaction, followed by the fear and then the regret?”
Barton’s face remained unchanged, carefully guarded as he watched her with cool eyes. However, deep below his emotions were in turmoil because he did know what it felt like to kill, and he understood the grief that followed, the hollowness, the terror.
But not because he had taken a life, all those feelings were because he had enjoyed it.
Even so, he did not speak. So she continued, “No? You don’t know what that feels like?” She paused to shift in her seat, moving her hips in a way that had Barton’s attention, if only briefly, before drawling quietly in her Russian accent, “And you know what’s funny? A few hours ago, I didn’t know what it felt like either.”
Barton had been in her position once, but Coulson had been the person he spoke to. This talk had been completely different.
With a small shrug and an easy smirk, the woman settled back into her chair and tilted her head, fiery red hair slipping off her shoulder, “I guess we’re all innocent, at some point in our lives. But I was once told that as soon as a baby was born, it started sinning. A baby.”
His posture turned rigid, though he did no more. From her tone alone he knew this conversation would not be pleasant.
“And they said,” she continued ominously, “That if the baby died before birth, it was sent to Purgatory, because apparently it had sinned. It didn’t even know what ‘belief’ meant, and yet some people claimed that it sinned.“
“Some people claim ridiculous beliefs,” he replied lowly, carefully as he watched her, and she paused to study him. If he did not know any better, he would have thought the light to pass through her eyes was surprise – but no, it was something much, much worse. It was delight.
A secretive smile curved her lips, “And what do you believe, Barton?”
“I’m not here to discuss religion, Miss Romanova. I’m here to discuss you.”
Natalia leaned further back in her seat with a cooling smile, pushing out her ample chest as she did so, although this time his gaze did not wander. The light in her eyes was almost scornful, because she knew he was resisting her, and she knew it would only last so long.
He was strong, she would give him that.
“What about me?”
“Your connection to the Red Room.”
The red-haired woman suddenly threw back her head and laughed to the ceiling, the sound so full of sardonic mirth that Barton felt the corners of his mouth dip in a frown. When the laughter ceased, plummeting them back into an eerie silence, his brows furrowed in confusion.
What was so damn amusing?
Slowly, her chin dropped back down, and she levelled her charming green eyes with him once more. He quirked a brow in question.
“Ohhh…” she extended the word on a hum, smirking, “If you did not want to discuss religion, then how can we possibly discuss that?”
Barton’s eyes narrowed, and his jaw set. A question that had been lingering in the back of his mind for some time now was slowly pushing to the front. It was a question he was not meant to ask, he had not been ordered to, and it was dangerous to venture away from orders when he faced such a formidable force, but she was the product of an experiment, she was an anomaly, and something in his gut urged him to ask.
If only he realised sooner that this drive was the same one that desired her body. If he had known, he would never have asked.
But it was too late for that.
“What are you?”
He was rewarded with yet another throaty laugh and an amused twinkle in her eyes, but this time her smile was lethal, “Your worst nightmare.”
As cliché as the response was, Barton found goose-bumps rising and his pulse quickening, gripping the clipboard a little tighter in his hands and nearly snapping the pen between his fingers. He held that position for some time, as the woman watched on in interest, goading him with her arrogance.
But his body’s response was instinctive, and his mind held all the power, which was why he was finally able to reply with a simple, blunt, “Bullshit.”
Natalia happened to glance down to his tense knuckles, the skin drawn taught and coloured white, before she met his gaze scornfully. She leaned forward again, toward him and closer to the table, to the flame that lit up her eyes with scorching intensity. “That there,” she gestured quickly with her gaze to the candle, before grinning wickedly at the man opposite, “Is not for me.”
Looking at the scene before him, Barton could not help the feeling that something was so profoundly wrong. He realised she should not be so close to the flame, and not because it could burn her, but because of what she could do to it.
He shifted uncomfortably, though did no more as that portion of the table was out of his reach, inside the restrictive design keeping her physically pinned. Yet even as subtle as Barton was, Natalia detected his unease and grinned menacingly.
But she also seemed to respect the warning in his eyes, because she leaned back in her seat before sneering, and there was nothing seductive about this expression, it was all predatory, “You see, when morality turns to corruption it carries with it a little bit of light. A token, you could say, in the hopes that its carrier will change their mind and withdraw from the darkness.” Her smile turned chilling, “But evil is a seductive beast, and few who enter rarely come back…That light is a safety line for as long as the person can hold onto it. Some hold onto it for a surprisingly long time, but others…” her smile turned sly, “…succumb far too easily.”
Ice stabbed at Barton’s insides from her words, her tone, the wicked intent in her eyes and the steel of his gaze was almost tangible. He retained the frontage of a fearless soldier, a composed agent, but mixed emotions boiled in his blood.
“And this, my dear Hawkeye,” she gestured with the casual sweep of a hand to the candle between them, “This is your lifeline. Your protection against evil, your little light of morality. How long will you hold onto it?”
Barton slowly dropped his eyes to the object, silent and wary, and as if to taunt him the flame began to waver. It prompted a crease to form between his brows as he stared, thoughts running wild. He had never been a strong believer in religion of any sort, but something deep within him felt the significance of her words.
So was she telling the truth, or manipulating him like she had so many others?
Slowly lifting his gaze back to her, he could not stop the feeling of dread that settled deep within his bones, because what he saw on her face was not a lie, and that alarmed him.
“What do you want?” he muttered monotonously. The bland response was a habit that had protected him many times over the years, from his enemies as much as himself, because within it was a grounding quality. But the Red Room spy seemed to look past that, seemed to dig deeper, and Barton was sure he would not like what she found, if that grin spreading across her lips was any hint.
She whispered her words on a subtle threat, “Even atheists believe in something, Clint. Because if you don’t believe in something, you will fall for anything.”
And that right there was what broke his composure. Barton suddenly leapt from his seat and made for the room’s exit, so profoundly confused about what to feel and how to react that he needed to remove himself from the situation. It was the safest option, because they were right, she was dangerous. Physically, mentally, emotionally she was a master manipulator, and she was under his skin – deep under – and playing him like a puppet.
Even if his reactions were subtle, even if those beyond the room could not see his inner turmoil, the spy was extremely sensitive and even if she did not see she felt, she knew.
To some level, he was sure she understood, and that disturbed him most of all.
Yet her response made him pause, palm short of the handle as she murmured gently, “Wait.” He blinked, dumbfounded and downright irritated that she was affecting him so. He spun after a moment’s hesitation to stare coldly at her, arms crossed and back pressed against the cool door – if anything, the unrelenting surface would keep him grounded, because that vixen smile across the room definitely wouldn’t. “I’ll tell you something…I’ll tell you why I’m here, in this room, in this trap,” her green eyes travelled lazily to the roof and then the floor, gesturing to the intricate designs, and for once her smile was almost a grimace.
But her words…she almost made it seem like she had put herself there, like she had chosen to be in the position she was now in, and that unsettled him greatly. Because she was so skilled, he would not put it past her, he would not disregard the possibility of her manipulating every damn person concerned with this investigation for some deeper, darker ulterior motive.
Then she had the audacity to lean back smugly in her seat and part her legs, arching a brow seductively as she watched him, whispering again, “I want you.”
There was a beat of silence, of stillness in which his conscience warred with itself.
And then the image before him drew him to break from the door, to take a step closer – before a deafening bang! echoed from outside, followed by the shout of his name. That second was all he needed to break from her spell, to turn and close his hand around the handle and pull –
Only to be rewarded with a door that would not move.
He grunted quietly and pulled harder, anxiety building in his muscles as he tightened his grip and transferred his weight into the lean, but still the door would not budge. Another shout of his name prompted him to reply, almost cringing at the near tremor in his voice, “It won’t open!”
He took a surprised step backwards when a wild crack! struck the steel, followed by two more in quick succession, and he realised they were trying to break down the door. His face turned grim.
Their efforts would do little, he knew that. These doors were designed to lock the person inside, not let them out.
Sometimes S.H.I.E.L.D. was too good, even for itself.
As he came to that conclusion, he was highly aware of the killer at his back, still imprisoned within the binding design. Quickly he turned to face her, skin ashen and yet his hands were still – the steady hands of a gifted marksman – as he spotted her knowing smirk, and then he knew. “It’s you…” he muttered, stricken, “It’s you keeping that door closed…”
“Oh, but we haven’t finished our little chat, Barton.” Her face transformed, sinister shadows passing through her eyes and a demand falling from her lips, “Sit down, would you? It’s rude to stand while the guest sits.”
“You’re not a guest, you’re a detainee.”
That drew a laugh from her, low, long and taunting, “That’s sweet, but I think we both know who the prisoner is here.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I wanted to speak with you.”
Barton frowned, “That’s a whole lot of effort just to have a little chat.”
Natalia’s smile was slow and sensual, “Oh, but it will be rewarding.” Her eyes raked his form once more, and this time they held a dark hunger. It tingled a nasty feeling down Barton’s spine, one that felt like he was the prey, the hunted, and he despised it.
“Mm…” she hummed, considering, “Perhaps you will require a stronger form of persuasion.”
It was only when she leaned forward, just like before with her chest brushing the tabletop and her face dangerously close to the flame, that he saw her eyes. Her green eyes oozing into a soul-sucking black, a bottomless pit that held darkly onto all the lives she had taken, onto all the agonised screams she had incited.
And she had taken many lives and incited many screams.
She was a monster in its purest form, and she chillingly reminded him of his own mortality. Would he die here in this room, before this terrible abomination that walked the earth beneath a seductive visage? Would he be just another completed mission for her, another mark to her wall and blood on her hands?
There were so many unanswered questions, and so much doubt triggered from the volatile woman before him. But he refused to let any of the internal chaos show on his face, and his guarded exterior was admirable.
She held his gaze as her mouth opened, flashing pointed teeth that he wished was a wicked trick of the light, and leaned ever closer to the flame. She drew in a deep breath, and he stiffened at the delighted hum to come from her chest, her lips parting and forming a rounded shape before he realised what she was doing.
“Don’t!” his voice was commanding and steady – enough to make her pause in surprise, although she did not draw back.
He did not know if what she had said about the candle was true or simply a tactic to unnerve him, but he was superstitious enough to not want to test the theory.
If only he knew his command was going to be ignored, maybe he would have acted differently, because she smiled, shaking her head and horror ran hotly through his veins, “You never could put up a good fight, Barton.”
Then she released her breath in one fatal exhale.
The candlelight shuddered once more, severely, before with a quiet hiss it completely vanished and cast them both into suffocating darkness. He felt the hostility sink deep in his bones, before he spun and pulled on the door in a final attempt to escape.
This time, it opened.
He fled the room without grace, throwing himself from the shadows and into the blinding light with a pained gasp and feral cry. He stumbled against the opposite wall, and then forced himself to keep moving, to run. To place distance between himself and her.
The heavy boom from the room’s closing door echoed behind him, effectively sealing her away from sight and sound, but it was too late.
A haunting feminine laugh followed him down the hall.