Glancing up from her arm as she finished picking shrapnel out of the wound, Vivian pressed a rag against the injury, soaking up blood and forcing herself to take a deep breath. Letting the breath out slowly, she then questioned, “What is it, little one?”
Natalia looked nervous, more so than Vivian had ever seen the girl look. Her gaze kept darting all over the room, she was chewing at her bottom lip, and her hands were nervously ripping at the hem of her shirt. After what felt like over a minute of silence, Vivian gently stuck a foot out and poked Natalia’s knee, “What’s wrong?”
“We had a health class today,” Natalia said, looking conflicted. “We’ve had them before. Usually just about our health and how to locate the best way to kill someone, but this time, we were told about…another aspect of the job we will have to do.”
“There’s a lot of aspects to the job we do,” Vivian pointed out. “I need you to specify, Natalia. You know this.”
A slight blush tinged her cheeks, and Vivian watched as the girl hugged her knees up to her chest before asking, “Is it true we might have to…have sex with people?”
Vivian sighed and scrunched up her nose. Taping down the bandage to her arm, she then adjusted how she was sitting before thinking of how to address this one piece at a time. It’d been quite a while since she’d talked about sex in general. Years, in fact. And the last time she’d had to talk to a sixteen year old about sex, she had also been that age.
“I’ve never lied to you before, Natalia, and I am never going to lie to you. You know that, right?” Vivian asked carefully.
Natalia nodded earnestly, “This is why I’m asking you, Hecate. I need to know. The other girls in my class were saying we would be doing these things, and that the implant in our arm would make it so that we would do these things as much as possible.”
Vivian snorted, “Okay, that last part I can tell you is absolute nonsense. The implant is given to any agent that menstruates to limit menstruation as a way to make everything easier. And it also stops us from getting pregnant if we do so happen to have sex. Although, they’re not perfect, and they don’t protect from sexually transmitted diseases, so we’re still encouraged to use condoms on the job.”
“So I will have to have sex with our targets?”
Natalia looked like she was desperately trying to keep it together and Vivian shook her head. Moving close, Vivian took Natalia’s hand in hers and squeezed it while reassuring her, “Not necessarily, little one. Most of the time, you will be there to infiltrate or kill. Sex won’t be asked of you at all in those cases. And in the cases where the command is something like ‘seduce’ , there is still a great deal of gray area in that.”
“I don’t understand,” Natalia whispered.
Vivian released the girl’s hand and smiled, “Okay, so, example time. Let’s say your mission is to get blackmail material on a politician. Specifically, we need photos of him in a compromising position. Do you have to have sex with him in order to complete the mission?”
Natalia nodded and Vivian grinned, “Nope.”
“To clarify, you will still have to flirt with him and get very close and personal with the subject in order to achieve your objective, but you don’t have to have sex with him. Get him a little tipsy, get him to a hotel room, get him to strip down to his underwear or naked. You need a camera nearby taking plenty of pictures and then you make sure you take pictures of what looks like you doing something to him or looks like you’re about to doing something to him. Then you drug him or find some way to knock him out. You take the photos and honestly, those will be enough to blackmail him. Be enough to ruin his life, really.”
Natalia laid back on the ground, seeming lost in thought, and Vivian moved close while admitting, “In general, I need to teach you how to add sedatives to people’s drinks. It helps in more situations than you’d think. Although if I ever find out that you used sedatives in someone’s drink in order to have sex with them, I will rip your fucking throat out.”
“People do that?” Natalia questioned, looking horrified.
Vivian sighed, “Unfortunately, some people are bastards. Mostly men. Good news is that they die easily. Speaking of which, always remember that if a man ever tries to force you to have sex with them, you are well within your right to slaughter them. Or, at the very least, mutilate them.”
“Has anyone ever tried to…you know?”
Vivian shook her head and gently ran her fingers through Natalia’s hair while she confessed, “Some men I’ve worked with have talked about it. I’ve made it clear what I do to rapists. Some survived to tell the tale, others did not. Did the same for if they wanted to do that to anyone, regardless of gender.”
Vivian paused and released out a breath slowly, “Natalia, know this: no one owes anyone sex. No one. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” Natalia whispered.
“Good. Now what other things did you learn about in health class today?”
Natalia nodded to Vivian’s bandaged arm as she sat up, her brow slightly furrowed as she admitted, “Some basic first aid, but you already know that.”
“Yeah, one of the classes got to blow up a bomb near me. Then they got to poke at the shrapnel so they could tell what it all looks like before they discussed what they can do in the field. They got to even pick out some of the shrapnel, so that was fun for them.”
“My group is doing that tomorrow,” Natalia whispered.
“I should be pretty much healed by then,” Vivian confessed. “I’ll be sore still, but…” Vivian trailed off and then shrugged.
The two sat in silence for several minutes and Vivian lay down next to Natalia. The ceiling was almost splattered with blood. Dried streaks and splatters of her blood just on the ceiling from where weapons connected. She was sure her blood was all over the building if someone really looked for it.
“You told me once that you knew exactly how many people you had killed, and that I should as well.”
Vivian glanced up at Natalia as the girl leaned over her, looking more than a little concerned. Her voice hadn’t given that away though, been that same stagnant tone. She then nodded, genuinely surprised when the girl then asked, “Do you keep track of how often you’re hurt?”
“I don’t understand the question,” Vivian said.
Natalia frowned, “Your injuries. Your close calls with death. Do you keep track of them? Do you keep track of the debts others owe you?”
“No one owes me anything,” Vivian retorted, sitting up and picking at the bandage on her arm.
“I was born with the ability to heal, and the ability to keep going . Almost no one has a single solitary hope of keeping me down. Most can’t even knock me over,” Vivian said, closing her eyes as flashes of Bucky in cryo went through her mind. Swallowing hard, she whispered, “Trust me. These things will never add up to my being owed something from anyone.”
Sitting up, Vivian then glanced over at Natalia and forced a smile, “You’re different though. Slights against you will be debts you are owed. Usually in our line of work though, you’ll be able to collect pretty quickly.”
“And the times I can’t?” Natalia asked, tilting her head and staring up at her with those green eyes.
“Then you find a way to make it better for yourself,” Vivian admitted. “You don’t necessarily have to get something from someone else in order to be fulfilled or to make things right.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Allowing yourself to rest, letting yourself have the things you want and need, just in general taking care of yourself,” Vivian replied carefully.
“Is that why you never take care of yourself? Because you are trying to balance your debt?”
Vivian scoffed, “What are you talking about? I bandaged my arm. I stitch myself up all the time. Just the other day, I took a nap.”
Natalia didn't look like she quite believed her about that, but kept quiet. The two then sat in silence for a few moments.
“Do you think we will be allowed to work together after I graduate?” Natalia asked quietly.
Vivian grinned and gently tucked some of Natalia’s red hair behind her ears as she confessed, “I don’t know. I hope so. I know you’re good enough where you don’t need for someone to have your back, but still…I’d like to be that for you.”
“Together, we’d be unstoppable,” Natalia bragged, sitting up straighter and looking proud.
Laughing, Vivian nodded, “Damn right we would be, kid. An unstoppable team.” Vivian then looked at the clock and stood up, stretching before announcing, “Our plot to take over the world will have to wait until next time though. It’s time for you to go back to your room.”
Natalia nodded and then stood up, but Vivian blinked in surprise when Natalia gave her a quick, tight hug before leaving. Somehow Vivian managed to stay on her feet until after Natalia had left the room. Stumbling backward, she swallowed hard, her heart racing and her breathing hitching in her throat. Shaking her head, she then forced herself to head back to her room, letting herself get locked in before she sank to the ground. Her mind raced and she tilted her head back, forcing herself to count backward from ten.
How was she supposed to keep that girl safe if it was her job to destroy her?