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By the time Russia rediscovered Orthodoxy (G-d) Natasha had already been well and truly programmed not to believe in anything beyond orders. Until she defected, she had a policy of not admiring anything, living or spiritual or otherwise. Idols, after all, were easily smashed and scattered and burnt.


Hotels in America kept bibles in their bedside drawers. Natasha found it strange, but also useful, as there were times in hotels that stretched out, long and boring. A book was as good a distraction as any, and there were more than a few instances when the reading material Natasha had brought either ran out or had to be left elsewhere.

The bible, as it turned out, wasn't really her thing. She got enough violence and twisted sex in her real life, thanks, she preferred her books to have humor and show her what ordinary life supposedly looked like. Memoirs were her favorite. Still, it had some good stories, and she could kind of see where people could read it again and again, looking for something more than was really there.

She liked the part about Isaac wrestling with the angel, it felt like something she could relate to, and how Jacob struggled with his brother. She liked the way Moses felt he needed to hide his stutter and the way Miriam danced over the bodies of her dead captors. The bible didn't always take her away, but at times, it had a comforting familiarity to it.


She found out about Esther accidentally, by overhearing one of the junior agents talking about an upcoming holiday based on the story of a woman saving her people. Natasha searched out the text and read it, quickly at first, to get to the good parts, and then again, slowly.

She felt for Vashti, experienced a rush of righteous pride in the queen's choice to walk away from her royal fucktard of a husband, but Natasha saw too much of herself in Esther to be distracted. In Esther, Natasha saw flashes of the times she'd purposely hiked her skirt up an inch or so, tilted her head just the right amount, pursed her lips in a well-timed, subtle come on. In Esther's carefully planned dinner, her courteous invitation to her most reviled enemy, Natasha saw every interrogation she'd ever done well, every trap she'd ever laid.

She wondered, privately, if it was the same, if her actions could be justified, when they had always been about her own survival, rather than that of others. That was changing, with her place in SHIELD, with her bonds to Barton, but it was a slow change and she still considered herself, her needs, first. Esther, if the book was to be believed, hadn't.

Natasha didn't believe everything she read, but the question nagged at her, all the same.


Months later, on a long-term undercover assignment which would hopefully unearth and dismantle a child-pornography ring, Natasha flirted and smiled and teased and thought, I will destroy you, and everything you hold dear.

And when she did, and left them with just enough rope to hang themselves and all their black-market progeny, she decided that justification might not be possible, but redemption, even amongst carnage, certainly was.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile