The knock echoes lightly into Natasha’s small living room, sending her spine into a straight line automatically. Other than the knock, no noise. No tinny clangs of the doorbell, no murmuring, no rustling immediately suggested a good candidate for suspicion. Padding to the doorway, the redhead squints out her peephole, preparing to greet anyone.

          …..Except Maria. With a bottle of vodka. The nice kind. There’s no good reason for her to be here, interrupting the spy’s profoundly uneventful evening, yet here she stands. From the time it takes to meet Maria’s eyes, drop to the label on the bottle, and jump back up, she’s internally shrugged. What the hell.

           “Now that you’re here, yes.” And with that, Natasha steps aside.

         There’s no excuse for her sudden appearance, no ulterior motive. Just a check-in, an informal debrief of sorts over a heavy consumption of grain-alcohol. She tips her head, a nod of thanks when Natasha offers her the space to slip through the door. As far as friendships go, Maria’s notorious for letting them slip away, ebbing and flowing when matters of national security get in the way. 

                   “Good answer,” she hums, passing close by and moving inward, padding toward the kitchen on the hunt for two glasses. “Terrible question to lead with, but how have you been?” The bottle thunks onto the countertop and she’s got the cap off with a brisk movement of her wrist. A slosh of clear liquid per glass, the smell of it permeating the air like a slap of Russian winter air. 

         Maria turns, offering up a glass while tucking her own elbow in against her torso, tilting the lip of hers outward. “Будем здоровы?”


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