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Beyond The Horrors

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"We want to be sure that the only trail of blood you leave behind is the bodies of our enemies," someone had explained at some point, in answer to a question Natasha didn't ask. There was more to it than just that, of course, but the Red Room was an eminently practical place, first and foremost, and there was no room for menstruation, messy, bloody thing that it was. Bleeding, cramps, anything like that, could hinder the mission, could leave traces that could be followed.

They were ruthlessly efficient about it. They left her ovaries intact, ensuring that her hormones would continue to work (her ovaries would continue to release eggs), but removed her womb and fallopian tubes, sewing up her vagina just at the cervix. Any eggs inside her would go nowhere, just break apart and be reabsorbed back into the tissues of her body. Pregnancy was not just out of the question, it was utterly, completely impossible, on a permanent basis.

Once she healed, she discovered, through careful, personal exploration, that she became easily sore now, where she had not before, during sex. Even just using a dildo for too hard or long was painful, now, and she found herself seeking out partners who were less well endowed.

She also discovered an appreciation for women that had been just theoretical, before. It was easier to be with women, now. They didn't put so much emphasis on penetration, didn't need it, want it, could concentrate on clits and gentle manipulation, in a way that never hurt, of the G-spot.

Of course there was always the mission. Fortunately, the mission didn't usually require her to have actual sex with targets that often, though it did require her to frequently pretend like she was going to, which was always distasteful, in a way that she never quite figured out how to not let show. She was always better at the sorts of missions that needed emotional manipulation of another sort, mind games on a higher level than just sex, and of course, at the part where she left them bleeding in the darkness, from holes they hadn't possessed before, a grim homage to her lost monthly cycle.

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He'd tested himself as soon as possible, which wasn't that soon, after the first incident. In those days, even coming made him go green, and he'd had to be so careful, training and training his breathing, thinking calm, happy thoughts, the whole time, nothing too exciting. He almost lost control when he'd pictured Betty's face, once, and had to snap back, hard, and think of landscapes, mountains and rivers, calm, crisp and fresh, to get rid of the sight of her underneath him, the feel of her warmth, the echo of her soft voice in his ears.

But at last he did obtain the sample required, and looked at it carefully under the microscope.

What he saw nearly made him go green again, and he wasn't sure at first if it was nausea or rage-monster.

Most of the sperm were dead, and the ones that weren't had a faint greenish tinge to them. Even as he watched, the green ones moved around and around in a frenzy, fighting each other, until after a few minutes they were all dead on the scope, drying out.

Well. Children were out of the question, then. And probably - he made a mental note to buy some condoms and run further tests - sex at all was going to be a huge issue, even if he could control himself enough not to turn into The Other Guy.

Further tests established that condoms would contain the little green monsters, especially if coated with spermicide. It was hellish to even have to think about these things like that, but he no longer had room for romance. Everything had to have a practical focus. One slip could mean death - not his, someone else's, and that was never something he would risk for his own selfish pleasure.

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When she finally finds him, somewhere in Fiji, they just look at each other for a long moment. He's sitting back on the beach, glass of fruit juice in hand, and she just slides down next to him in a black bikini that almost shows off her scars, makes a special display point out of the ones on her lower stomach.

He just looks at her with a slow, careful, smile on his face, for a long moment.

"I don't want to hurt you," he says at last.

"You won't," she answers.

Sex, later in a hotel room, is something they do slowly, deliberately. There's no hurry. They're beyond frantic need, beyond that first flush of impatient youth. They can take their time, trade kisses for hours, break frequently, and hold each other for long moments, no need for words.

He makes her come first, stroking her with his hand. Her hand is over his, showing him how she likes to be touched, guiding him, and at last falling away, leaving him to bring her to climax. He takes one of her nipples in his mouth as he continues to stroke her, and she gasps at the sight, head falling back.

When she comes, her mouth makes a little tiny breath of an "oh", and Bruce thinks he could almost come too, just from the sound of that and the feel of her.

She puts an condom on him, and climbs on top of him after that, taking him inside her carefully. He lets her set the pace, lays back, puts his hands at his sides.

She looks down at him and there is a tenderness in her gaze, and for once he stops thinking about how he doesn't deserve that, and just falls into the moment, in the way she rocks on him, carefully, slowly, like they have all the time in the world.

Orgasm is something that almost takes him by surprise, sneaks up on him. His eyes fly open, in sudden worry, but she's still looking at him, her hand resting on his chest, half erotic sensation, half calming. He doesn't change. Stillness, instead, overcomes him, and he just drifts in it, half of a smile on his face.

She curls up against him, afterward, stroking his chest, shoulders, arms, face. He sighs and nestles into her. Somehow she's managed to get rid of the condom, which is good, because he doesn't want to think about the tiny horrors inside it.

There are horrors inside them both, but together they can be more than the sum of their missing and broken parts. Together they can be more.