When you were a young girl, you were taught that love was a weakness, a failing of the human race, an anomaly in your biology designed to keep you weak and the only way to be strong was to train yourself to never succumb to it. It was a lesson you learned well, because you had no other choice. You were a creature incapable of love, incapable of loyalty. And on your eighteenth birthday, with a stolen gun from the top drawer of your father desk, you proved just how much you had learned. The weight of the gun in your hand was a small price to pay for the weight lifted from your soul when you pulled the trigger.
You never forgot the look in his eyes as you fired the gun, nor the way it felt when his blood splattered against the pristine walls. It was freedom, and it was divine.
You never stopped pulling the trigger after that day. Your goal was righteous, your methods were not.
For a scared child who cowed at the crack of a belt, you pulled the trigger.
For a young girl ripped away from her home and stowed away in the dark, you pulled the trigger.
For the young boy enticed away from his family and his veins poisoned and soul stained, you pulled the trigger.
For the parents who would never hold their child again, you pulled the trigger.
Your price was non-negotiable, a promise. To be better. Better than the one who had hurt them, better than you.
But you weren’t a hero, no matter the good you had done for the world. Nobody ever called you a hero. They wouldn’t even call you a vigilante.
They called you what you were.
Drug lords, crime lords, kidnappers, sex traffickers, abusers, rapists, murderers…. They were your victims.
Your methods were brutal, unmerciful, terrifying in their violence, downright sickening in the satisfaction you derived from the heinous acts.
Nobody felt a shred of pity for those who died by your hand. Nobody ever outright condemned you for what you did, but you were just too far over the line for anybody to defend you out loud. But behind closed doors, in hushed voices, they would say it. Whenever the news showed another monster in the world, the whispers were there.
“I hope The Executioner gets them.”
Natasha Romanov had met you only once, and not a word had been spoken between you. She had pushed open the door, gun at the ready. Her mark, the man Fury had sent her to take in, dead or alive was lying on his bed. If it weren’t for the gash along his chest, from Adams apple to groin, he might have been sleeping. Moonlight streamed through the open window, glinting off of the silver blade you carefully wiped on the edge of the bedsheet. You turned your head to look at the Russian Spy, your red lips curled into a feral smirk as you raised a blood stained hand to your face, holding a finger to your lips. ‘Shhh’ you gestured, blood dripping from your fingers.
Natasha nodded once, a short but firm tilt of her head. She knew who you were because she knew who he was. A despicable man who called himself a doctor, she had seen the pictures of his ‘patients’. Or what was left of them. You turned away from her and walked out onto the balcony, disappearing from view.
Had that interaction happened a few years earlier or later, Natasha might have reacted differently. But it didn’t, and she let you walk away. Clint understood why she’d done it.
Clint had met you as well. But he had spoken to you.
You had a gun pressed to the temple of the woman Shield wanted to speak to regarding a string of unethical and dangerous experiments. Biological warfare, her victim was a small town in France. Hundreds dead, thousands more in danger.
“Put the gun down.” He ordered.
“Give me a reason.” You demanded coolly.
He thought it over before he answered because your tone wasn’t mocking or challenging. It was genuine. If he gave you a reason, you would stand down.
“She’s the only one we can get to in time to stop the next attack.” He said.
You raised the gun and pointed it at the ceiling immediately.
“Tell them what they want to know. They will put you in a cell, you’ll be safe from me.” You told her.
You walked away, right past him as if you didn’t think he would stop you.
“Wait…” He said.
“No.” You replied firmly as you continued walking.
“You can be better than this, you just proved that. Don’t you want to be a part of something bigger than this? To actually make a difference, a real one. What you’re doing, you don’t have to do alone.” He offered.
“Not interested.” You said dismissively.
“I can’t let you leave.” He warned you.
“Then stop me.” You told him without turning around as you walked out of the door.
He wanted to, but Fury told him to stand down. Clint had always wondered how you found your victims. Now he knew.
Sometimes when Nick Fury wanted someone dead, executed, a file always found its way to you. You were smart enough to know Fury was manipulating you, he was smart enough to know you didn’t care.
Contrary to what the rumours said about you, you weren’t a vengeful ghost, you weren’t a righteous demon or a dark avenging angel. You were human, an as such, you made mistakes. You were flesh and blood, and when you were cut, you bled, when you were shot, it fucking hurt.
The steady drip of your blood splattering on the floor was loud in the otherwise silent room. It wasn’t a heavy enough flow for you to bother staunching it, you wouldn’t die from blood loss so pressing something against the wound would just be unnecessary effort and pain.
Better to let the blood flow. Words you lived by.
But even lonely serial killer sometimes needed somebody to dig out the bullets and stitch them back together. Sometimes even someone who was used to working alone knew when they were in too deep.
You didn’t bother turning around when the door whooshed open.
“Hello Clint, nice to see you again.” You said.
“Uh, who the hell is this and why is she bleeding all over my clean floors? You, creepy lady, stop bleeding on my floor.” Tony Stark instructed you.
You turned around, smirking at various The Avengers who had all gathered to hunt down the intruder. You held up the flash drive you’d almost died obtaining and tossed it at them. Clint was the one who caught it in his fist.
“Would somebody mind digging this bullet out, I’d do it myself but I’m about four and a half minutes away from dying so I don’t really have the time.” You said sarkily.
“I’m waiting for a reason we aren’t cutting that time short, Clint?” Tony sassed back.
“What’s on the flashdrive?” Clint asked you.
“Seven and a half billion reasons not to let me die. Saving the world is your thing right? Or have I broken into the wrong place?” You asked them.
You were betting you hadn’t. You were betting your life on it.
~~~~~~~~~~The Next Day~~~~~~~~~~
When Bucky was a young man, he’d been what nowadays was referred to as a player. When the war came and he shipped out he was torn between wishing he had someone to go home to when it was over, and thankful that there was nobody he might leave behind. Then came the fall and he didn’t think about things like love anymore. When the hellicarriers went down and Bucky started to regain control of his own mind, there was no space in his fractured mind for something like love. When he was in Wakanda, relearning how to be human again, he realized that someone like him wasn’t ever going to be able to find love. Then Tony Stark reached out and brought the lost Avengers home and Stark’s forgiveness went a long way to Bucky being able to start to forgive himself, but still, there was something in him that just knew love was not in his future.
Or so he thought.
It happened in a split second, on an unremarkable day. He had just returned from a mission with Steve and Sam. He was weary, bruised and tired. All that melted away, forgotten when he heard her before he saw her. A loud, unrestrained laugh, brimming and overflowing with joy. Bucky’s feet led him towards the magical sound automatically, like a siren call. He turned the corner and it was like he’d only been seeing the world in muted colours his whole life without even realising it. She had her back to him and as she turned around, hair flying out behind her, he saw the wide smile across her face, the twinkle in her eyes and everything snapped into place with an earth shattering finality.
She was the one.
“Buckinator, come meet this delightful creature.” Tony called, waving him over.
Bucky didn’t hesitate, it wasn’t confidence, it was desperation to speak to her.
“Hi.” He breathed out, in awe of the shining beauty who was now smiling right at him. For him.
“Hello.” She said and her voice was just as melodic as her laugh.
That was the day he fell in love.
“This is The Executioner, one of the most prolific Serial Killers in the world.” Tony announced.
Her lips curled up at the edges and like a magic trick, she went from sunshine to sinful.
Unfortunately for him, she was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.