((Based on this post!))
Smoke curled from Thomas Hake’s mouth as he eyed Chicago’s two most talented killers - to hear them tell it, anyway. He’d heard rumors of their prowess, but part of the problem was that that was all they left behind. Rumors.
Still, they were promising enough that Thomas figured it was worth talking to them. He neatened a stack of files against his desk as they watched him with calm predator’s eyes. They didn’t frighten him. Thomas hadn’t earned his nickname by playing nice; he’d poisoned a rival using mistletoe and, after destroying the rest of his network with minimal force, had been titled ‘Loki’ by those smart enough to fear him.
Finally, by way of greeting, he hummed, “So. Romanoff and Barnes, Hell’s favorite duo.”
"Don’t be ridiculous," Natasha Romanoff said curtly, holding out one hand for the files. No time or love wasted here, it seemed. "Hell would be smart to keep us at a distance." Her partner in crime, James Barnes, said nothing.
"I’ll believe that when I see the results," Thomas responded, handing over the file. "And since you seem eager to get out and get started, I’ll tell you exactly what I need - in that file are the pictures of six annoying little thorns in my side. I would like them taken care of through any means you deem necessary. Blackmail, convenient disappearances, whatever makes your lives simple. My only condition is that you not kill Christopher Hake. He may be a headache, but he’s family."
Natasha nodded to indicate she understood while James continued to stare at Thomas with a sunken, unblinking pair of tired gunmetal gray eyes. Thomas tilted his head slightly, leaning back and taking a long drag on his cigarette.
"Don’t keep looking him in the eyes," Natasha ordered without looking up from the file. She set down the first picture, and James lifted it to examine the man on it. "He doesn’t appreciate it. Tony Stark, speakeasy owner, unmarried, suspected involvement with male co-worker."
"He doesn’t seem to have a problem staring into mine," Thomas responded.
"I’m making sure you don’t pull a gun," James rumbled finally, setting down the picture and holding out his hand for the next one.
"James has exceptional reflexes. I suppose a bad stay in the war will do that to a man, though." Natasha sighed sympathetically, as if she’d been there herself, then handed over the second picture. "Bruce Banner, once a respected doctor, now the big brain behind Stark’s distillery. Apparently also has a terrible temper and a thing for fire." And the next picture. "Clint Barton. Muscle for Stark, along with Samuel Wilson. This is his picture here." She held it out, not seeming perturbed in the slightest that Sam was a well-groomed, clearly moneyed man of color. It was extremely difficult to achieve in Chicago, and Thomas half-hoped they left him alive just because he respected the tenacity it must have taken for Sam to get where he was today. "Wilson doesn’t seem to have much investment in Stark, and is mostly there for a friend, Rogers."
James twitched slightly. ”Rogers?”
"Yes. Steven Rogers. Close friends with Stark, otherwise unemployed. Experienced a huge change in health and muscle mass when - "
James snatched the file and looked at the picture - actually, pictures - lying on top. There were two side-by-side, one of a stringy, unhealthy blond man whose smile looked like it was tiring him out, and the other of someone who looked like the same person if they were healthy and strong enough to bleed water from a stone.
"Is there a problem, Mister Barnes?"
“Sergeant Barnes,” James corrected with icy finality. ”Get a different pair. I won’t take the job.”
Natasha looked shocked. She turned to him with something halfway between anger and amazement. ”What do you mean, you won’t take the job? This guy is - “
"Absolutely not. You can do it on your own if you want to."
Thomas stood with unconcealed menace, fingers tightening on the edge of his desk. There was no doubt, in that moment, that Thomas was every bit as dangerous as his reputation would suggest. ”Now see here. I pulled a lot of strings to get you two in here, and I will not be turned down just because you don’t think you’re up to the task. I can’t afford to attack them myself; I’m - “
"Fuck you." James threw the file down on the desk, shaking his head and marching straight for the door. He muttered under his breath, barely intelligible as he growled about ‘thought he’d be dead’ and ‘nearly forgotten him in Germany’.
Natasha stared after him, mouth slightly open. ”Whoa. That’s new.”
"Damn it all to hell!" Thomas snapped, throwing himself back down in his chair and crushing the cherry of his cigarette into a smooth jade tray. He lifted the tray for a moment, as if to throw it, but Natasha held out a consoling hand and cut him off.
"Now now, Mister Hake. I’ll still take the job."
He eyed her darkly. ”Are you any good without him?”
She mirrored his anger tenfold, crossing her arms over her chest. ”I was good before him, I was good with him, and you’d better fucking believe I’ll still be good now that he’s gone.” She gestured to the smoldering stub of his cigarette. ”You got another one of those?”
Thomas assessed her carefully before nodding, reaching into the thin metal case in his breast pocket and emerging with another cigarette. He placed it between her lips, watching as the red of her lipstick smeared over the paper, and lit it as she leaned over. Natasha pulled hard on it, the smoke rising pale gray from her nostrils before she collected the pictures back up and tucked them away in the file.
"Can I bring this with me? I need to study it before I burn it."
"Study it here. I won’t have news of this getting around."
She glared at him, insulted that he’d question her secrecy, but shrugged and looked towards the large, plush chairs by his fireplace. ”You mind if I sit, then? I’d prefer to be comfy if I’m going to be memorizing things.”
"Be my guest. Shall I have one of my men bring you something to drink?"
"Whiskey, please. In coffee." She sighed and kicked back on the chair, slinging her legs over the arm as if to silently protest her need to stay there. "Mostly coffee. It’s going to be a long night."
((Wanna prompt me? Click here to find out how!))