She doesn’t always remember everything from Before.
It’s all a haze of people shouting in Russian and gun shots and training and needles and pain.
She was always in pain.
Even now, she feels its phantom.
The drugs they used to keep them all compliant, to make them listen, paired with implants that would deliver neural shocks if the chemical balances were wrong.
But that was Before.
Before she was one the Good Guys. Or at least that’s what they tell her. She doesn’t trust them, they know that. And they don’t trust her, at least beyond putting a bullet in the next target. She knows that, and in a way she respects it.
She wouldn’t trust herself either.
Because after escaping that life, no human would return to it under a different banner.
She tried. God did she try. But she is only good at one thing, regardless of her intelligence, her abilities, and her training. Actually being normal, with no agenda, no purpose, it’s impossible.
So she did her research.
She reads philosophy. What is good and evil, human nature, honor, family, and all those things that make people human, she thinks she understands them; in an intellectual level at the very least. But she doesn’t actually feel them. Those things don’t drive her.
Sometimes she thinks that they still control her, because she focuses on nothing but the next mission.
Then she meets others.
It doesn’t surprise her that there was a Red Room before her own.
When the Black Widow finds out, the two of them ensure that there isn’t another one ever again.
She thinks she likes the Widow. Natasha is mistrustful of her, but she understands. She knows what is like, even if their training was different, the Widow was never made complaint through chemicals and implants. The Widow gives her space, but pushes her when she didn’t know she needed it. It’s a nice rhythm, and it sometimes scares her that she trusts her enough to fall asleep in the same room.
Hawkeye is something different.
At first he is cold, like almost every other Agent she has come across (except for Coulson, because he might breathe and live his job, but he is the first to look at her like she is human). For some reason that disappoints her. She had hacked SHIELD’s files before contacting them to join, before they stuck her in a cell for weeks, gouging her sincerity; she knew that Hawkeye had rescued the Black Widow, seeing something in her that made her worth saving. Part of her hoped that he would see something like that as well. Because she doesn’t think she is worth anything.
And maybe that’s the reason she does it. The Red Room taught her one thing. The mission comes first (and all things that are important to it) then her life. But the Red Room doesn’t control her anymore (even if she tells them that he was more important to the mission than her) so her life no longer matters (not that it mattered to begin with).
So, she takes a bullet for the Hawk (“Clint, call me Clint.”).
Then he looks at her like she’s worthy (after he had apologized, because he hadn't realized, that for once his eyes had failed to see something, something that maybe made her worth saving). And it’s a different kind of respect than the Widow (because their respect was built on common pain and blood, and the secret knowledge that leaving was harder than staying). So he lets her in. And in their next mission together he doesn’t hesitate to fall asleep with his back to her (and in their world that is the biggest possible sign of trust).
After a while she realizes that she trusts them. Not the agency, since Fury has more secrets than she has kills, but she trusts the individuals.
She knows that she is one of the three best operatives SHIELD has (it’s always a tossup between Natasha, Clint and her, but they don’t like to compete, they are all each other have). So it doesn’t surprise her that she rises through the ranks faster than anyone else. She is only twenty four, and a lot of other agents resent her, but she was made to do this. Two years after turning herself into SHIELD, Agent Roselyn Logan (it’s not her real last name but the name her savior helped her choose, a gruff mutant with large sideburns, a temper problem and the habit of saving people), the Black Fox, is a legend.
Roselyn thinks she is in a good place.
Then aliens come and one of them nearly levels a small New Mexico town (she had been somewhere in Brazil, then Culver University for a few months sending a madman General on a wild goose chase so that a Giant Green Rage Monster wouldn’t be found). This sends SHIELD into madness.
But they’re asking her to escort a briefcase, and something about it feels so wrong and if she didn’t know better she would call it evil.
They call it the Cube, and its blue glow makes her want to grab weapon and try to destroy it. Roselyn wants to scream, tell them that it’s not a good idea to use it, but telling them that it has a life of its own doesn’t seem like a good idea either. So she watches from afar, until she gets called to a mission in Argentina and Clint replaces her.
It’s the first mission Rose remembers rushing without having a threat to her safety. Because a SHIELD handler contacted her as she was undercover in a smoky bar, and told her that the Hawkeye had been compromised. So she rushes through the mission, completing it in two days instead of the allotted two weeks. A part of her that will always belong to the Red Room screams about efficiency and stupidity, but she can’t bring herself to care because it’s Clint, and by now he is like a brother to her. And Oh God Natasha.
So she rushes and heads back to Helicarrier as soon as she can. And next thing she knows she is wearing her tactical suit with its hood pulled up and full face Kevlar reinforced full face helmet on a Quinjet heading to Germany, and reading about the Cube and Asgard and aliens and the Avengers Initiative. And in the past two years she has only been caught by complete surprise twice, and it has all been in the past week.
Because the Avengers? Her file is there.
Her: Roselyn Logan.
The master spy and assassin whose file is dripping in red sticky blood, next to Heroes like Steve Rogers, because she might have been born in another country but even she knew he was THE Hero. And Tony Stark, who is a genius that acts like he cares for no one, but she knows what caring for no one looks like, and he is probably the most selfless person she has ever seen. And Bruce Banner, who blames himself for something that was out of his control and has spent so much time redeeming faults that were not his. And Clint Barton, who she would willingly die for, because regardless of their rough start he is her brother and he can see humanity in someone like her. And Natasha Romanoff, a woman who is a sister to her, who feels guilt and always tries to right her past wrongs. And even Thor with his honor that is literally otherworldly and his love for a human woman.
They are so much more than her.
She’ll taint them by being in their presence, because the only good thing she can ever say she did with no encouragement was to save a little mutant boy with indigo blue skin and a bright mischievous smile.
Rose isn’t like them. Her nightmares aren’t of her kills but of her past pain, and to her that speaks volumes of how not human she is. But when they make it to Germany she stills get out of the Quinjet and waits on rooftop for the others.
She gets to see Loki, the handsome mad god, display his power. She knows a part of her should be scared, but that part was beaten out of her in the Red Room, all that remain is a cool detachment that observes everything, but the simmering fury beneath it is new. Because this man has Clint, and she will gladly make him suffer.
The heads up display of her mask tells her that the Black Widow is almost there with Captain America. And part of her thinks she is going to go mad in the next minute, because by now she has to make a conscious effort to not jump off the roof and hit the rambling god with everything she has. And she can only watch and hope that the Captain gets here in time, because she doesn’t like collateral damage and Loki looks ready to kill.
The Captain does not disappoint. Even in the night of Stuttgart she can see the red white and blue of his uniform, and part of her is very impressed to see how well he fills out Coulson’s design of suit, the other part is wondering why he isn’t beating Loki to a bloody pulp.
But she has more important things to do. She straps her handguns back on their thigh holsters and grabs the much bulkier grapnel gun.
She doesn’t hesitate. She takes a running leap off the roof and shoots the grapnel gun towards a light post, before she can begin to fall she is already pressing a side button that reels her closer to her target, and just as quickly she hits another button that ensures the end hook releases the post and rope reels back in. By the time she begins to fall to her intended target she already has the grapnel gun back at her hip.
She lands on one of the multiple Lokis. The illusion is semi corporeal, and solid enough that it softens her fall so that when he disappears she is in a crouch with one leg extended.
He turns to her grinning, and something about his blue eyes reminds her of the Cube, “The Black Fox, a murderess without a conscience here defeat me.” His tone is mocking, but before he says more the Captain has engaged him and she focuses on getting the last of the civilian stragglers to safety. When she turns back is to see the Captain on the ground and Loki about to fire at him. She hears the sound of AC/DC’s “Shoot to Thrill” through her comms but she is already whipping out her grapnel gun and firing it at Loki’s scepter. She reels it back enough to make him loose his balance and aim, which buys them enough time for the newly arrived Iron Man to subdue Loki.
Rosalyn hangs back, and only gets close when Natasha lands the Quinjet. But once inside she still keeps her distance, sitting in front of Loki to watch him instead of joining Captain America and Iron Man in the front. And the part of her that was born after the Red Room and with Clint and Tasha, the part of her that doesn’t live for the mission wants to be sick, because men like them shouldn’t have to work with murders like her.
So she keeps one ear focused on them, and hears Stark bait Rogers. But she ignores it and watches Loki instead, because the Captain has made a point, it shouldn’t have been easy, Rogers had been losing, and she had seen Loki’s power he could have given Iron Man a run for his money. And now he looked almost pleased to be handcuffed inside the Quinjet.
When they hear thunder she isn’t all that surprised. Because Doctor Foster might have said that the Einstein-Rosen Bridge broke, but if Loki was here, Thor wouldn’t be far behind. She wants to smirk when Loki looks mildly fearful.
She is surprised by Thor breaking into the Quinjet and grabbing Loki. But she doesn’t get up when Iron Man, then Captain America go after them, and it isn’t because she doesn’t belong in the same league of good people as they do. But she wants to point out to Natasha that it doesn’t matter that Loki and Thor call themselves gods, because Stark and Rogers are human and good and that makes them better. But she doesn’t say anything because it makes her sound sentimental and weak.
“Welcome back, Rose,” Natasha says softly. And to anyone else it would merely sound like she isn’t trying to break Roselyn’s pensive silence, but she knows Natasha better than most, and she understands.
“What can you tell me, Tasha?”
And Natasha tells her everything that wasn’t on the files. About the scepter and its mind control capabilities, about Clint being under its spell, and how this is the first time they have had any sightings of Loki in two days, but they didn’t see Clint. And Roselyn wants to be sick. Because she knows what it’s like to do things against your will, and when they get Clint back (and it’s a when, because she’d rather die than have it become an if) he will be broken; because he is a good man, and what is happening to him should only be reserved for monsters like her. And she tells Natasha this, and Natasha smiles and looks back at her whispering in their native tongue “We are not monsters.” And it pains her that Natasha with all her cold goodness, thinks herself to be in Roselyn’s level.
When the others return with Loki in tow, they look like they went through one hell of a fight, and judging by the destroyed forest, Roselyn knows she made the right choice in staying behind.
Stark finally seems to take notice of her, and she knows she isn’t hard to miss in such a cramped space (despite blending into the shadows), “Who are you?”
“Black Fox,” regardless of what she thinks of them as human beings, her voice is still emotionless and she replies without looking in his direction, because they might be better people than her but she knows she is particularly skilled, plus she is only here for a mission, and Clint.
“I’m I supposed to sound impressed?” he asks with a smirk, and she knows he is testing her, because he is The Consultant, and he definitely got the Avengers Initiative files, where her own mostly blacked out file resided.
“Unless you are in the business of assassinations and international espionage, no,” she deadpans, and turns to him. Under her helmet she raises one single eyebrow, and while he can’t see that, her answer seemed to be enough for Stark who smirks in her direction.
“I like this one,” Stark says turning to Natasha. “Where did you find her?”
“In a cupboard under some stairs,” she knew that Clint would be proud of her, as he usually was when she made a joke, regardless of how terrible. Stark lets out a snort of laughter and sits beside Roselyn.
“Alright, you aren’t bad for a spyssassin,” the billionaire said with a nudge towards her.
In a very detached way, Roselyn understood that Stark had nothing to gain from her, neither did Rogers and Thor. In a fluid movement she pulled down her hood and pressed the latches on either side of the mask. It was her favorite piece of SHIELD technology. The Kevlar reinforced mask followed the silhouette of her face, except it was smooth over her lips and lightly sloped on the nose area. The entire piece was seamless (which was impressive since once the mask was off it would fold onto itself and become small enough to fit into one of her pockets) and slightly matte like her tactical suit, it helps her blend in the Shadows so well that those in SHIELD who don’t know her codename have taken to calling her The Shadow.
When the mask is completely off Tony actually looks startled, and Roselyn knows why. She is young (for their line of work), in a very detached way, she understands that. But her age doesn’t take away from the fact that she was raised on blood and pain. It doesn’t subtract from the fact that long before he was Iron Man she was already travelling the world putting bullets in targets. So she merely raises an eyebrow at the billionaire, daring him to comment.
He doesn’t and neither does the Captain.
“So when you’re not kicking ass and taking names, what do they call you?” Stark asked.
“Agent Rosalyn Logan,” her reply comes after a pause. This is the first time anyone cares to know her name in a personal way. It’s a surprising realization, and if she were any weaker all the surprises of the last two days would have driven her crazy.
“Nice to meet you Agent Logan,” the Captain chimed in.
“Well met, Lady Rosalyn,” Thor says. She almost smiles, his manners are somewhat endearing.
“A pleasure Mr. Stark, Captain Rogers, Thor,” she replies easily. Because she might still feel slightly nauseous about being there, but these are good men, and part of her can’t help but be impressed.
“Are you a warrior Lady Roselyn?” Thor asks politely.
She has to resist the urge to swallow, and instead replies: “Of sorts.”
“Oh, don’t let her pretty face fool you,” Loki comments with a smirk, making her wonder why the hell no one has put a muzzle on him. “She is a cold blooded murderess.”
Rosalyn raises a single eyebrow, the slight smirk on her face ice cold.
“Reformed,” she deadpans. “Although I can’t say the same about you.”
Rosalyn spares a slight glance at Natasha from the corner of her eye, seeing the smallest tensing in her muscles, more interesting was the reaction of her possible teammates. Stark, who was still next to her, merely raised an eyebrow, gave her a once-over then a small shrug. The Captain and Thor both narrowed their eyes with clenched jaws. She knew that whatever possible hope she ever had of gaining their trust was now squashed. But it was better this way. She hardly trusted herself on her best day around Clint and Tasha, who knew her and accepted her. It was better that they didn’t trust her. Maybe they would raise objections to having her in their midst.
Selfish, that little voice that sounded like a mix of Clint and Tasha whispered. And she didn’t need to psychoanalyze herself. She knew, God she knew. She could admit it to herself. She rather have them not trust her on assumptions (and take the coward way out) then have them know just how much of a monster she truly is (or was, it makes no difference).
Loki, who Rosalyn never dared take her eyes fully off of, seemed to smirk. It was it was too much of a satisfied smirk for her taste. Something told her he wanted to be there.