Title: Common Cause
Written for a_q
Prompt: Female characters & a team-up
Fandom: X-Men movieverse
Characters: Raven Darkholme (Mystique), Natasha Romanova (Black Widow)
Word count: 1,305
Disclaimer: These characters belong to FOX and Marvel and God knows who else, but certainly not me.
A/N: We don't really know anything about movie-Natasha's background, yet, so I've invented one loosely based on the comics. God knows if any of these assumptions will turn out to be true.
Raven Darkholme is a blonde, now, an ash-blonde with curls so pale and perfect that everyone at the gala will look at the stylish woman seated at the end of the bar and assume she has availed herself of the best colorist in Manhattan. No one's hair should be that perfect.
Natasha knows better. Natasha knows the woman called Mystique, knows she requires no assistance beyond the shaping force of her own imagination to make herself appear however she desires.
Yet aside from the hair, once as sleek and black as her namesake, Raven has come to this party at the headquarters of Stark East looking remarkably like, well, herself.No
, Natasha mentally corrects. She merely resembles the last version of Mystique that I saw
. Which is something else all together. Something that can't possibly be a coincidence. Natasha is all too familiar with the technique of hiding in plain sight, but that assumes the people you are hiding from are stupid or careless. Mystique knows better than to assume Natasha Romanova is either of these things. So. She wants me to do this,
Natasha realizes. She's demanding that I approach her, and if I were a different sort of woman, I might be tempted to say, forget it. Not this time.
Looking around the room, she estimates that there might be a hundred nefarious schemes in the making. Nobody at a Stark Industries gala is entirely innocent. She could call Coulson, get him to put someone else on this. Natasha Romanova isn't the only agent of SHIELD. She's not even the only one undercover in this ballroom. Leave this one to Clay Quartermaine, the ace analyst currently disguising himself as a particularly incompetent cocktail waiter.
Natasha looks at Clay, then looks at Mystique. The blonde gives a ghostly smile that might be directed at Natasha or at something a few feet to her left and over her shoulder.
Natasha walks to the bar.
She stands in front of a stool, two down from Mystique, orders a vodka martini, then waits for it, wishing with great intensity for the days you could smoke inside in this city. Because if now were then, she could simply have struck up a conversation by asking for a light.
Also because she would really like a cigarette.
She stands silently for a moment, studying Mystique's shape in the mirror. The drink comes. Natasha swallows, sets the glass on the bar and, without turning her head, says, in a single breath, "I find few things more soothing to the soul than watching the sun set over the Danube."
The phrase sounded more elegant in Russian, the way she first learned it, but speaking another language here would attract the attention she was trying to avoid.
In any case, Mystique doesn't have to think long about her reply. "Except for the seagulls. The flight of the seagulls reminds me of my girlhood in Avignon." She reaches over, lifts Natasha's glass, and drains it. "How many monkeys do you suppose the OSS and the KGB had slaving over typewriters to invent those contact phrases?"
"It made more sense, I suppose, when we were meant to be looking at the Danube. And it was the NKVD, then, as you know." Natasha glances around, but the party noise absorbs their sound. She looks back at Mystique. "We didn't have the KGB until after the war. Bratislava was 1943."
"Oh, I remember it well, my girl. The Germans wore grey. You wore . . .red, I believe." Mystique's eyes travel up the other woman's body, and Natasha almost regrets the form-fitting crimson sheath she chose for the evening. It's not her nature to regret drawing anyone's gaze -- if she intends to hide, she hides to perfection, but if she intends to be seen, she will
be seen. Knowing the golden flash that hides behind Raven's dark eyes, though -- knowing that, it is impossible not to feel them delving in to her. "I must say my dear," Mystique continues. "You look exactly the same."
"That's funny. Because every time I see you, you look different."
"Understandable, wouldn't you say? After almost seventy years, I would think you --" Mystique's fingers, cold from the martini glass, run over Natasha's hand, and she has to steel herself against the shiver. "-- were the one with the unusual
situation. How do you like working for Mr. Stark?" .
Natasha stiffens. "Mr. Stark knows my history."
"All of it?"
"You think you know all of it?" Natasha snaps.
"Now, darling. You assume I come here to blackmail you."
"I assume you want me to see you. This isn't your normal approach. I expect you to spend half the night making me think you're someone else, then reveal yourself at the moment of maximum dramatic effect." Natasha picks up the glass, and only remembers after she's started to drink that Mystique has emptied it. She tilts it up, anyway, determined to get something for her trouble, and the tiniest tickle of vermouth is slipping over her tongue as Mystique says, impassively and without a trace of bitterness or irony. . .
There is only a little bit of drink to choke on, but vermouth is strong. Only a good deal of practice -- seventy years of near-constant practice -- allows Natasha to keep some semblance of her cool. "Bullshit," she says softly.
"That is, indeed, one word for it. They shot me with one of their --" and now all the venom slips into two words -- "cure weapons."
Natasha drops her voice even lower. "SHIELD didn't approve of that."
"Your inter-agency rivalries," Mystique says, "They break my heart. I'm sure you all wanted the evil mutants for yourselves."
"I mean this!" Natasha feels her cool façade crack a little more, but she manages to lower her voice, and say, "Medical research is not military technology. This should not have been done to you. Not like that." She looks down and Mystique's eyes follow her. They are both looking now at where Natasha has unconsciously been rubbing her own arm.
There were a lot of needles, when she was in the program.
"I've always wondered," Mystique muses, "what is happening to you. Your body hasn't aged in seventy years. Will it all catch up to you at once, or --?"
"We're not the same," Natasha says, too quickly. "I have no love for what the Soviets did to me, but --"
"But if you fall over tomorrow it will have been a good life. I understand."
Natasha isn't sure that is what she meant, not at all, so she repeats the thought she has already completed. "We're not the same. We're the opposite."
"Perhaps," says Mystique. "But in this case we have a common cause." She stands up and raises a small clutch purse. "That SHIELD communicator around your neck has been in close contact with a device of my own. It's been transferring a file to your inbox. When I am out of this building, the file will decrypt. It contains specs to a facility on Long Island that is conducting unauthorized experiments on mutant children who were given the cure by their parents. Or, more often, the state institutions responsible for placing them in foster homes. The details are not pleasant. Mr. Stark, I think, has a soft spot for young people. Innocents. And you, well --" She starts to walk away. "Don't try to follow me or the files will self-destruct. And don't bother having your friend Mr. Quartermaine arrest me. I've had a full presidential pardon, and I worked very hard for that."
"Wait," Natasha calls after her. "It's your information. Don't you want to be part of this?"
"No, darling," Mystique says, with a soft sad smile. "Not anymore."