"They were wrong," she told him firmly. "They did not change you, the man that you are. You have simply been given abilities that they do not understand and cannot have known would be the result. I can help, Nic. They trained me in how to use it; I can train you. And I will not hurt you when you do not progress."
He clearly did not look happy to have had Hydra change him in any way, even if those changes might eventually be used to his advantage. "I suppose there is no way to reverse what was done," he mused aloud. The arm was one thing, but whatever had happened to his DNA was another.
"There may be, but it would take many years of trial and error to succeed," Alyona said quietly. "Lucy is very honest. She is not a genetics doctor, or a biology scientist. She is a medical doctor, and everything she does is from that viewpoint."
He'd be happy just to get rid of the arm, since it seemed he was stuck with whatever else they'd done to him. "How am I to know what abilities I have?" he asked, unsure whether Hydra had programmed him to have certain abilities or whether they just developed at random.
"I do not know," she told him, her expression sad that she couldn't simply pick it out of his mind. "They develop, over time. I could not hear another's mind until I was seven years old, but I was moving things with my red mist from the age of two. And it is only recently that I have even attempted to put my mind into another's."
"What is the red mist?" he asked curiously, now that she'd mentioned it. It seemed he had a similar talent for telekinesis, but there was no red mist or anything else visibly evident to aid him.
"Lucy thinks it is a side effect of the radiation treatment my mother had when she was pregnant," she said thoughtfully, raising one hand to roll her fingers, crimson coils passing about her fingertips easily. "That it affected me so that when I use the telekinesis, the forces that I am harnessing take on a visible spectrum."
"It is very confusing," Nicholai complained, rubbing two fingers against his temple, as though he was getting a headache. They had only freed him from Hydra a few days ago, and it was a lot to take in. "But if anyone is to teach me, I would like it to be you."
She smiled, reaching over to gently touch his temple - just a touch, no power involved at all. "Then we will do that," she promised him. "Whatever I can do to help you, I will."
"You are helping me, Alyona," he replied with a soft smile as he drew her hand away from his temple and linked his fingers with hers, resisting the urge to touch a kiss to her fingertips for fear someone might be watching. The last time he'd tried to kiss her, they'd been very rudely interrupted.
Her smile deepened at the sight of his, feeling the warmth of his fingers curling about her own. With easy grace, she closed the distance between them, settling down comfortably at his side, her head resting against his shoulder as a single gesture with her fingers brought the book she had been reading earlier over to their laps. "I am glad of that."
"Are you going to read me poems?" he asked, with a hint of amusement crinkling his eyes, his gaze darting to the book to try and catch the title and author on the cover. He didn't move or discourage her from resting her head on his shoulder, but only took a sip of his hot chocolate before setting the cup aside.
"Just one," she giggled softly. "You said you knew the poet, but I like this one. It is easy to see myself in the last stanza." Sipping her own chocolate, she turned the pages with a glimmer of crimson, finding the appropriate page before she began to read aloud. "Whose wood these are, I think I know; his house is in the village, though ..."
He smiled as he recognized the words. "He will not see me stopping here, to watch his woods fill up with snow," he recited from memory. Whatever it was Hydra had done to him, it didn't seem to have erased his memory, at least as far as Robert Frost was concerned.
She almost laughed as he recited from memory the words in front of her, her smile coloring her voice as she went on, enjoying the warm comfort of leaning against him as she read aloud, her voice entwining with his through each line and stanza until they reached the last. "... The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep; and miles to go before I sleep ..."
"And miles to go before I sleep," he finished, one brow arching as he wondered why she saw herself in that stanza of that particular poem. "I do not understand," he told her quietly, looking puzzled.
"It is ... it is the feeling, in the words," she tried to explain. "To find somewhere, in all the world, where there is peace and gentleness, a sense of belonging that does not happen anywhere else. And to know that, no matter how much I want to hide away there for the rest of my life, I have promised myself to something that will take me away from it, something that may take a very long time to complete. But for just a moment, everything is still and peaceful, and I am home."
"Hmm," he murmured, taking a different meaning from the poem, though he was not sure what meaning Frost had intended. "I think he realizes that if he tarries too long in the woods, he may not make it home alive. What are the promises he has to keep? Promises to a loved one, perhaps? The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but as peaceful as they are, he cannot stay."
"You think the snow and the woods are a danger to him?" she asked curiously. "I had not thought of it like that. I suppose, to a man like him, they would not be a safe place in his mind or heart. I spent much of the last ten years in snowy forests. Trees and snow ... they will always be linked in my mind with the family who cared for me. They will always be safety. But I was talking about being here. Jarvis says it is something called a metty-for."
"A metaphor, da," Nicolai agreed. "Something which symbolizes something else. So, the question is what do the snow and woods symbolize to you? To some, it might be peace. I believe Frost meant for it to invoke a feeling of peace, but could sleep not also symbolize death?"
"I read sleep as meaning rest, the end of the journey," she mused thoughtfully. "Not death, but freedom from duties and responsibilities that keep you from simply being." She shrugged, tilting her head to look up at him. "I think, perhaps, it is because I have been hunted for a long time, and finding somewhere that is safe, with you, who will help to keep me safe ... That is my wood, my lovely dark, deep place. And it will always be here, for me to return to when my promises are kept."
"Which promises are those?" he asked, wondering if those were promises she had to keep or promises that had been made to her. He had made his own promises, whether spoken or unspoken, but he thought he'd slept long enough. The woods dark and deep didn't sound particularly comforting to one who'd been asleep for too long, but he understood how she might find it so.
"Promises to myself, I think," she said softly. "That Hydra will never be able to hurt anyone again the way they hurt me, or the way they hurt you. That I will help you, any way that I can, to find peace. That, one day, I will have a home, and a family, and we will not be afraid."
"I would like to help you keep those promises, if I may," he told her, reaching over to take her hand and give it a soft squeeze.
It was unclear just which promises he was hoping to help her keep, if not all of them, but time would certainly tell. Whether they were in her woods, or on his journey, they had already made one promise to one another that both seemed determined to keep. That whatever happened, whatever they did ... they would do it, together.
[size=9]((Bloody hell, that was long! Fun, though ... anyone who gets all the way through it deserves a prize of some kind. Once again, any discrepancies in Tony and Natasha's characters can be laid firmly at my door. Hugely enormous thanks to my partner in crime!))[/size]