This is what keeps you alive. You breathe in the stale, bloodstained air—the smell of iron and sweat—and you press down with even pressure on her wound as you listen to her shallow breaths. You can already see the fever in her glazed eyes and flushed face. It doesn’t matter if you can’t actually smell the infection yet.
You’re alive because she dragged you out of the line of fire when you were still coughing up blood and staggering with bullets. You’re alive because you told her to go on without you and she didn’t listen. You’re alive because when you said no one needed you, you had no one, she claimed you as her sister.
It’s your turn now.
She’s alive and she’s breathing shallow breaths and moaning and until she’s dead, this is why you’re alive.
You hold on until morning.
No one comes for help at the first signal or the first several dozen, sent out at regular intervals through the communicator implant nestled under your skin. Your brain feels it at the head of a new hour and you signal again, a thought to your own—Mission completed. Extraction required. Medical attention necessary. Ninety-five oh-four.—and you wait, steady as you have to be to hold onto her life.
But her breaths aren’t even anymore and the hectic sound she makes, the worsening smell of an infected wound, it all adds up to an equation you don’t like the taste of.
Dagach, you think to yourself because it’s what she would say. She swears like the sailor she isn’t in the tongue of the people you’re told you’ll infiltrate the most. Dagach.
You’re not a trained surgeon, you’re a living superweapon whose skin barely contains the fluid substance unique to you that wipes anything out of existence you want. You don’t like touching people because you’re never sure if you’re going to kill them or not.
It’s been a few years since you acquired the ability, but physically you’re still a child, no matter how much training you’ve undergone, and she’s even younger, smaller still. Her own ability isn’t self-healing. It won’t repair the damage if you let the fluid slip through your fingers and into her flesh. You could destroy her by moving too much, by breathing wrong.
You could also save her.
It makes your insides shake, but you’ve long trained yourself to hold still when you’re scared. The fluid moves when you do. It’s a fact that’s guided your life.
You breathe in slowly, as shallowly as her own frighteningly unsteady inhalations. You steady yourself as if you can will the rhythm into her lungs. Then you move.
The fluid is bright, silver, flowing with your hands and out of your palms as you press them to her wound and become the closest thing to a trained surgeon you’ll ever be. This is precision work and the kind you’ve always hated to practice. But she’ll die now if you don’t save her.
You sponge out the infection with your fingers and strive not to draw her blood or vanish her flesh. Even so, your hands are red when you’re done and bandaging her side again. Then you stare at your shaking hands and let the silver pool in your palms until all the bloodstains are gone.
Evac comes. She’s alive, if still unconscious and in critical condition. You’re alive to calmly report in the back of the jet taking her back to your team’s medical bay. You’re alive as you stare into your leader’s young but hardened gaze as she hears that she was right to force you to use your ability on people. If she hadn’t, your team member would be dead right now instead of unconscious.
Your leader smiles in her dark face and slaps your shoulder. It makes you want to flinch away from the touch, but you’ve long trained yourself to hold still when you’re scared.
“Wolf?” you ask as you stare at your team member, unconscious, strapped in with care.
Your leader looks at you for a long moment, then says with a somber seriousness she held back a moment ago. “She’ll live.”
It’s not an assurance there won’t be damage or struggle. You and your entire team know better than that, but it’s something. You’ve kept your hands to yourself since they were able to kill with a thought, a touch, a flick of your fingers in the wrong direction, but you reach out now and tuck your fingers into your team member’s hand. She’s unconscious. She doesn’t need the reassurance.
She’s the reason you’re alive.
You sit in the chair beside the bed in Medical. You pore over satellite photos and intelligence reports of a region you’ve been told you’ll infiltrate the most, muttering in their native tongues. You read books in their primary language and watch their television on the monitor as you wait.
She doesn’t react more than to wince when she wakes. The pain must be terrible. It takes a great deal to make her wince. She looks at you. You let her.
She leans back in the bed and, for the longest time, breathes.
It takes a while for her to pass out of critical condition, longer for the pain to cease, but you hold her to yourself with her own words and anchor her with your tongue, naming her for the heart she doesn’t wear on her sleeve. “You’ll sooner get tears from a rock than the Ice Queen.”
She doesn’t answer, just huffs quietly as they remove another set of bloody bandages.
She dragged you out of the line of fire. She spoke it and she made it true. You’re sisters.0