COORDINATES Who: Natasha & Nebula. What: Sparring. When: After the chaos of Thormageddon the Asgardian Storm and before Plum Island. Where: The Training Area in the Avengers Tower. Warnings: Hanging out? Releasing frustration? Marquess of Queensberry Rules? :)
Nebula was beginning to understand the depth of information the Tower’s AI could access. Basically, it was more than she had previously thought and that observation was likely only scratching the surface of it’s knowledge. Her knowledge? Regardless, Nebula felt that asking Friday for directions was almost insulting to the entity, something a child would do without using an ounce of the intellect present. Regardless, it was revealed that Natasha Romanoff lived on the same floor as Nebula -- 38 -- and only a few doors down from her in Number 10. This meant that reaching the other woman would take no time at all.
She dressed in her usual attire and not one of the two ensembles she had purchased to blend with Human society. Well, her Human illusion would blend. Her bodysuit was far more appropriate for sparring. It hugged her curves, so there wasn’t anything loose for an opponent to grab during a fight or to get in her way or to restrict her movements. Since her hair was also part of the illusion spell Loki had given her, there wasn’t any of that to grab, either. She decided to leave her weapons behind. This was exercise with a teammate, not a battle between two enemies.
Teammate. The concept was still strange to her.
She left her assigned quarters and strode four doors down, knocking twice, briskly, when she reached door 10, thinking of the memories she had of Romanoff: her own and those of OtherHer.
Natasha had been reviewing her own transferred memories of Nebula from the other universe. Their interaction had been brief and focused on the mission at hand and told her little of what to expect here. It was never a good idea to depend on preconceived notions when it came to interactions with new people anyway. She was looking forward to developing their relationship on this side of the timeline.
She was dressed similarly to Nebula, in a tank top and comfortable leggings. At another point, she’d be interested in testing out some of Tony’s weapons training sims with Nebula to see how their individual styles worked off each other. They’d need to know how to achieve that almost ballet-like interplay in the midst of battle and that only came with time and practice. She’d just filled her water bottle at the sound of the knock on the door. She grabbed a towel and set it beside the bottle on the counter. While she and T’Challa had worked out plenty of frustration, there was still an energy thrumming under her skin at the inability to be actively doing something. A sparring session with Nebula would be the perfect remedy to that.
She walked to the door and opened it to greet Nebula with a grin. “Hey, perfect timing.”
Nebula blinked. “You were expecting me, correct?”
She wasn’t sure how timing worked for Humans, but she assumed it was the same as it was for her. No matter. Romanoff seemed pleased to see her. She was more casually dressed than the Luphomoid and Nebula briefly wondered if she should return to her quarters and change. She also noted the towel and bottle of water on the counter nearby, possibly things the other woman was bringing with her, and frowned slightly.
“I don’t have anything,”she said, then regretted speaking because, really, it was obvious that her hands were empty. It also made her sound helpless, which she certainly wasn’t, and she made a small noise of frustration with herself. “I’ll be right back,”she added and took a step away from the door, intending to return for a towel and water, uncertain if she needed either item.
“Yes, sorry, it’s just a phrase. It mostly meant that I was done getting ready when you knocked.” Natasha should probably brush up on her intel on Nebula. She didn’t remember if Friday had much on her. She might also need to speak to Strange and see what means there might be to spend some more thorough time with her own memories to tease out the minor details that had been a layer of haziness over them from the dream transfer.
“No worries. You can borrow one of my extra water bottles and a towel, if you’d like. I’m not sure when and how laundry gets done, but I’m sure Tony’s automated it in some fashion so it all ends up in the same place.” She did have extras of just about everything you could think of from the simple stuff like towels and other everyday items to the more complex like her widow’s bites and other tools of her trade.
A phrase. Of course it was that. Nebula should be familiar with some of the Human idioms by now, and though she was, they weren’t always recognized as such. This had been one of them; something to add to her vocabulary.
To the offer of a towel and water, she replied, “That would be acceptable.” Realizing she wasn’t handling casual conversation very well, she said, “Thank you,” because it was expected and because Nebula was trying to integrate herself better within Terran society and the Avengers in particular.
It was good to see Romanoff alive and well. This was someone OtherHer had trusted and accepted as a leader for five years when the universe had moved on from the devastation imparted by Thanos. Could she trust this Natasha? As things stood, there was no reason not to, but Nebula would still be cautious. Letting her guard down was a rarity before finding herself stranded in this universe. Aside from her crewmates, there were Avengers she could call ‘friend’: Stark, Rhodey and Romanoff. Banner also qualified, but she had yet to meet the version who worked in the Tower. And Pepper, though she wasn’t technically an Avenger.
“Any time.” Nebula reminded Natasha a lot of herself when she was fresh out of the Red Room and learning how to actually be human instead of whoever her handler needed her to be. Developing her own preferences and wants instead of seeking the approval of her masters for whatever choice she made had been a slow exercise in breaking free of Mother Russia’s mental conditioning. An experience no one, especially her, wanted to repeat.
She moved back to the kitchen to grab and fill up the additional water bottle as promised and then a quick step to the bathroom to retrieve another workout towel. “How are you adjusting to the universe? Anything you want to talk about?” she said as she strode back into the living room. “I know when I first came to in this universe all I wanted to do was reestablish connections and figure out what the previous mes had done and there had been entirely too many previous mes that’ve cycled through.”
Nebula watched from the threshold as the other woman moved around her quarters with ease and familiarity. Natasha seemed comfortable here, which made sense since she knew this place or a version of it, anyway. At the questions, Nebula tipped her head slightly to one side while she considered her answers. Was she adjusting well? Did she want to talk about anything?
“I am adjusting,” she replied. “I’ve been on trips around the city and, of course, have recently visited various sections of your underground transportation system. My experiences with food and drink have progressed.” She wasn’t sure how much detail to impart, so she pursued the other point mentioned. “How many of you have been here before?” It was a peculiar question that only made sense due to their peculiar circumstances.
Natasha handed Nebula the extra items before grabbing her own and pulled the door closed behind her. She smiled slightly because she’d done the same thing. Explored the city to see what changed and what hadn’t. It was a little eerie that nothing really was amiss in this universe at the small level details. It was what was different in the big details that the general populace and everyone not recently displaced didn’t know that were astounding. She’d come to terms with it now but that next influx of other universe memories or someone popping in and out was sure to unsettle the equilibrium.
She laughed. “I stopped counting after the number went past five. Tony’s dealt with entirely too many mes and some were nicer than others. I can’t say I really wanted to hear more about them beyond that.” It was also weird how the ones that had stuck around in this universe had managed to accept the ever shifting resetting of the origins of their relationships with friends and family.
Nebula accepted the towel and bottle of water and wondered what it would be like to have been preceded by five or more of herself. At least Romanoff was taking it well and was able to see some humour in the situation. Since she wasn’t sure where they were going to spar, she let the SHIELD agent take the lead. Unable to think of anything else to say, she blurted out, “Five?” Then, attempting to recover her calm demeanor, she added, “Apparently, I have been here once before, but know very little about her or her interactions. Like you, I think I’d rather pass.”
Stark had probably played paper football with her and Banner might have wanted to discuss time travel. Rhodey had taken her for a drink, certainly, and - That made Nebula pause. Her body kept moving but her mind snapped like weak metal in a cheap star cruiser. Why did she suddenly feel possessive of James Rhodes? She had no right to be, as she had no claim to him, and why would she be jealous of herself anyway?
That made her stop moving, only for the briefest of moments before she resumed walking with Romanoff. Jealousy? That wasn’t possible. She didn’t care about anyone or anything -
“Did you meet her?” she asked, her tone unreadable. “The previous Nebula?”
Learning about previous selves got confusing really fast. There was also no way to make up for their past mistakes either. That was a battle no one was going to win no matter how much effort was put in. “Evidently I’m popular out in the universe.” Natasha shrugged. “I’m not sure if that’s a compliment or not. I’m just glad no one holds past me against current me.”
She did wonder if she had adjusted a little too well to everything that was unique about this universe. Her strange upbringing and her view on life wasn’t exactly shared by many. Another thing to add to her mental pros and cons list.
Natasha guided them toward the elevator in the middle of the floor to head down to the 36th floor where the gym and a sparring area would be. “No, I didn’t. A previous me was likely around when she was I’d bet. But you lucked out and we’re both starting with a clean slate on that front.”
“A clean slate,” Nebula echoed. She could work with that, no preconceptions beyond their last memories of one another. “I think we will benefit from this,” she added, stopping in front of the elevator and reaching for her phone. She quickly accessed the photos she had taken of herself as she looked to anyone who hadn’t known her before and selected one to show Natasha.
“I think this is what they call ‘totally random.” She held up the phone. “I have an illusion spell on me, courtesy of Loki. He made me a redhead.” Nebula smiled a little. “Perhaps we could be sisters.” It was a strange thing to think or say, and she wondered if she should have mentioned it at all, but she wasn’t discounting Gamora, who was her sister, and there was no harm in potentially making a connection with Romanoff.
“He does come in handy sometimes,” Natasha said as she leaned closer to take a look. The woman in the image was beautiful. Loki had excellent taste. “We definitely could. I like it.” She smiled back at Nebula. “Don’t expect me to take it easy on you in sparring though. Sisters are supposed to keep each other on their toes after all.”
Her memories of the Red Room were hazy and her sisters, those that had survived, were scattered all over the world. It wasn’t like Widows were supposed to stay close either. Especially not with ones that defected to the other side and had their faces plastered across television screens.
“Sisters are good at that,” Nebula replied as the elevator arrived. “But if you go easy on me, I will be very disappointed.”
True to her word, Natasha had thrown her all at Nebula and it’d lead to some fast and furious sparring. Her pulse was still pounding and she was breathing heavily as she gulped down water. It’d been an exhilarating workout and was just the thing to work out the frustration from everything going on. Nebula was not one to be crossed on the battlefield either. She had some memories of that from the other her, but it was still amazing to see firsthand.
She grinned at Nebula. “We should do that more often. That was so much fun. You’re an amazing fighter.”
Romanoff didn’t disappoint.
Nebula had dealt with more physically imposing opponents, but size - Banner’s green alter-ego and the like aside - really didn’t matter if you were swift, agile, able to think on your feet and be a tactician on the fly. The SHIELD agent lived up to and exceeded any expectations. She was an incredible fighter, her skills honed so finely as to be representative of what the Human mind and body could achieve in the ultimate form. At least, as far as Nebula was concerned.
It wasn’t a fight to the death or even to injury, but it was definitely an exercise in discovery, in knowing when to ensure she didn’t cause harm and perhaps a lesson in grace.
“It was very satisfying,” she agreed, drinking from the bottle of water Romanoff had given her. “I needed to focus on something other than…everything. We must do this again soon. Car-ell also responded to my post and would be interested in sparring with both of us.” Nebula tilted her head slightly and regarded Natasha with a contemplative look. “If I didn’t know for certain that you were Human, I would question your origins. You fight like a warrior from another world.”
“Yes, absolutely! I don’t know if you’d want to set up a weekly thing or not. We should definitely rope in some of the other folks too. Mix it up a bit.” Natasha used her towel to wipe some of the sweat off her forehead and neck. “It’s good to get to know each other’s styles, but don’t want to get too comfortable.” She frowned and tried to remember. “I’m sorry I don’t remember who that is.” Maybe it was time she poked at Tony’s files on everyone again. Clearly she’d let something slip through.
She shrugged as she draped the towel around her neck, tugging on the ends of it with one hand. “Why thank you. I can’t be a hundred percent certain the Red Room didn’t do something weird to me, but as far as I know I’m human. Not even enhanced human like Steve or Barnes. Just plain old human who’s had entirely too much practice from a very young age at knowing how to fight and kill.”
“It may be interesting to note that only females responded to my post for sparring,” Nebula said, patting her face with the towel Romanoff had loaned her. Only parts of her were sweating, but she was used to that by now. She would have a shower later. “It is important to keep our skills sharp, so weekly would be appropriate, and as many as possible should be involved.” Nebula frowned slightly. “Tell me of the Red Room.”
Then her eyes widened when she realized the name ‘Car-ell’ didn’t register with the other woman.
“Car-ell. Captain Marvel. You should know her very well.”
“That does seem like an oversight on the behalf of our male team members.” Natasha would remedy that. They were already scattered in too many directions for her liking as it was. Not that having them all under the same roof would make things any better. “Don’t worry. I’ll make sure they join us.”
Tony would back her up and if he didn’t, well, Natasha had her ways of convincing people.
As for the Red Room…. “There’s much to say about that place. I’m not sure we’d have enough time today to cover it all.” A perspective from outside human norms might be very interesting to have. “But let’s get cleaned up and I can start while we get some food. I’d be curious to hear your opinion on things.”
“Oh! Yes, Carol. She uses her human name more than anything else here. I think I remember reading it in her file now and some mention in a few of the memory transfers. She’s dating Sam by the way,” she said with a wide grin. They weren’t exactly taking pains to hide it from anyone that had eyeballs in their head.
Nebula had no doubt that her sparring partner would be able to encourage other members of the Avengers, including the male component who hadn’t responded, to become part of a weekly exercise routine. The woman was a vital component of the team, as the memories of five years of coordinating patrols and so on that OtherHer had experienced proved. They would listen to her.
“Routine. That is important.” She was curious about this Red Room and pleased that Romanoff didn’t mind discussing it. Being interested in the people around her - and asking potentially awkward questions - meant that she was occasionally treading where angelic multitudes dared not go. That didn’t deter her, but if the person made it clear a certain topic was off limits, she would respect their wishes. Usually.
Adaptation. It was something she was constantly working to master.
She decided not to pursue the Red Room at the moment, though the mention of being trained to be lethal at a young age made it difficult to wait. She wasn’t certain if ‘getting cleaned up’ meant she should have her shower now or not, so she would follow Romanoff’s lead.
Speaking of which…
“She is dating Sam? Ah. Sam Wilson, Falcon, former United States Air Force pararescue airman, who assists other veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.” She smiled a little. “They have flight in common.”
“For the most part. Don’t want anyone to get too complacent but some routine is nice to fall back on with how crazy things can get around here.” She started to head toward the door with the thought of grabbing dinner after they both didn’t stink of the gym. “Besides, a little play fighting doesn’t hurt. It keeps everyone on their toes and fresh.”
“Yes, they do have that in common.” Among other things. They both liked to live on the dangerous side of things. Adrenaline junkies the both of them. That wasn’t to say that the rest of the Avengers weren’t their own brand of adrenaline junkies. It just normally showed in different ways. Natasha should make a point to get to know Carol better. They had worked together well if her memories were anything to go by.
“They seem good for each other. But enough about them,” she said as her stomach rumbled. “Have you had a chance to try some of the restaurants around the Tower? They’re great. We can even get most of them delivered here too. Shower then we’ll meet back up and figure out food?”
She nodded. Getting too comfortable with teammates could be problematic. She doubted they would have sufficient opportunity to spar to make that a concern. Nebula followed Romanoff and nodded in agreement as they left the gym. “I have tried several places, but certainly not all. The city has a good variety to choose from.” It was cooler in the hall or perhaps that was psychological, leaving the space where a lot of sweat had been shed. They reached the elevator and Nebula pressed the button. She would be fine with the stairs, but it would be easier to converse this way. “That is agreeable. Shall we reconvene in… forty-five minutes? An hour?” She didn’t know how long Romanoff would want for cleansing and a change of clothing. Nebula was very efficient when it came to such things. In her line of work, you never knew how much time you had before someone would be shooting at you again. She would shower and dress simply, according to the weather, and let her illusion convince others she was more polished.
“The city does a good job of replicating food you can only find in other places of the world. Still not quite exactly the same, but close enough that it’s still delicious.” She smiled at Nebula. It was good she was getting out and exploring. Being cooped up in the Tower and doing nothing but running from one mission to another was good for no one. Natasha included. She should see what fun adventures she could think up to take T’Challa on. There was much of the world neither of them had explored.
“Forty-five minutes sounds good to me.” The elevator doors glided open and she walked in, hitting the button for their floor. She should take the stairs but sometimes indulging was necessary. It was more time than Natasha needed to get ready since no elaborate disguise or outfits were needed for this outing. But having a little extra time for herself never hurt, especially if Nebula decided she wanted to hear more about the Red Room. That was a box filled with fraught memories. What better way to exorcise them than with someone else who’d been groomed from a young age to do nothing but kill.