“Listen… I know you mean well… but you canNOT do that.”
The medic stared at the injured man before her, completely bemused. He was a construction mechanic who generally worked on the main deck. He had been rushed to her after an accident that should have killed him—one of the cables used to stop incoming planes as they landed on the runway had snapped, and struck him across the chest. When she had heard the news, she expected a severed corpse to land on her table, like the many others she had seen through the years who had been ripped in half by the force of that recoil. Yet this man wasn’t just alive but conscious. If you could call it that anyway.
He clutched the remnants of his chest to himself, panic shining brightly in his dark eyes. “Please,” he begged, slurring the words, “just leave me be. I’ll be alright.”
“Sir, you are clearly in shock. I’m going to give you something for the pain, and stitch you back up, alright? You’ll be fine.” She’d never truly believed those words, but they came automatically. In truth, there was only the slimmest of chances that this man would ever be fine again.
He didn’t relax, unlike the other men. Usually it only took a soft word from her to calm her patients when they were in shock. It was a perk of being a motherly-looking medic, albeit a strict one. But this man was clearly fighting more than just pain and panic; it was almost as if he was at war with all of them in the room. A strange feeling filled her gut as she stared into his eyes, something that whispered about a secret best kept quiet. Making a split decision, she turned to the men who had brought him to her.
“What is this man’s name?”
“Arthur Laurel, ma’am.”
“Well alright, you’ve done your job. Now leave, I need to prep for emergency surgery.”
One of her assistants stepped from behind the blood-soaked officers and began setting up his station.
“No, Mayvis. I’ll be doing this on my own. Pull up his medical records, quickly, then the three of you will go into the bay to care for the other patients.”
“No questions! Just go. I need to get started right away.”
When finally they were alone in the room, she turned the lock on the door. As the click faded, she faced him. By now, he was nearly unconscious.
“Hmph. That’s as good as you’ll be getting, you hear? I’ll be damned and sent to hell before I let a man bleed out on my table while I twiddle my thumbs.”
Checking the clamps holding his arteries closed and finding them satisfactory, she quickly washed and readied herself for a long, intense battle. His mouth flopped slowly as she carefully inserted the IV chock full of morphine and began pawing through the tissue and bone. She didn’t pay much mind. After all, whatever words he might get out had a very low chance of making any sense at all. But when her fingers caught a familiar piece of gland, her mind glitched for a half-second, something that never happened when she was working.
“This…” she stuttered. “Why do you have mammary glands?”
She looked into the man’s face, noting the terror there. It hit her then. The fear was not from what had happened. It was for what might.
“You are… transgender?”
He gave the faintest of nods. Then his eyes rolled back in his head, and she was alone in the room.
“Fuck,” she growled, checking his vitals. They were surprisingly steady. How the hell was this man hanging on so tightly? Determination rushed into her arms. This man was going to live.
Ping. Training one eye on her computer, she saw the file she had asked for pop up. Arthur Laurel, it said, and a few lines from the top…
She sighed, turning back to continue furiously mending the bones. “You’ve really gotten yourself in a spot, huh? This isn’t exactly a good time for transgender kids to be in the military. But I suppose you had your reasons, didn’t you? Don’t worry. You’ll be safe in my hands.”
Nearly nine hours later, she collapsed onto the bed next to his, resting her bloody hands on her scrubs. The damage had been so extensive… she could only imagine how he had stayed awake so long after the accident. He must have been so afraid. She shuddered. Iimagine choosing a slow and painful death over being exposed as transgender. Her eyelids fell closed, exhaustion sliding its grip down her neck, all the way into her fingers and toes.
The resulting jolt from the sudden yell did not do her aching back any favors. Rubbing her neck as she sat, she grumbled, “Was that really necessary, Christopher?”
“Of course it was.” The grin he gave her, as always, made her stomach curdle. “Since when do you ask for special treatment?”
Instead of answering, she took the next moment to wonder how he got away with having that much plaque on his teeth. Sure, he was a higher-up in the chain of command, but wasn’t everyone to be held to the same standard of hygiene?
He cleared his throat, uncomfortable with her silence. “I need some information on your latest patient.”
“And what would that be?”
Glancing at the still unconscious man, he leaned conspiratorially to whisper, “Did you find anything… strange, during the operation?”
“Strange how?” The curdling in her stomach began to give off heat.
“Strange like… you know. Strange like, shouldn’t be on a man.”
Carefully keeping her expression blank, she said, “I don’t believe I follow you.”
He gave a disappointed sigh, straightening with fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. Taking a deep breath, he looked down at her. “I’m trying to ask you,” he started slowly, “if the person here is actually a man.”
“Well, of course he is. What else is he supposed to be, an alien in disguise?”
“Of course not!” he suddenly bellowed, throwing his hands into the air. It took all her willpower not to flinch. “I am trying to ask you if this is a woman masquerading as a man! A transsexual!”
She stared him down as he caught his breath. “Don’t you dare,” she hissed, “ever, ever raise your voice at me again. Especially in my own clinic.”
“Apologies,” he said, smoothing the front of his shirt. “But you must understand the severity of the situation. I have been trying for months to prove that this is not a man like it says it is. We cannot have one of those roaming the ship.”
The heat in her stomach had grown into a fire that itched up her neck. It was all she could do to keep from slapping him. “First of all, people of that community are referred to as transgender. Second of all, whether a person is or is not transgender is none of your concern. But lucky for you, it seems. This man is cisgender.”
“What the ever living fuck is that?”
She laughed. “You’re so worried about gender, yet you don’t even know your own? Or is it your own?” She eyed his crotch. “Were you born a man, Christopher?”
He turned such a deep, velvety red that she almost complimented him on the color. After a few moments of his chapped lips flapping uselessly, he turned on his heel and stormed out.
She looked at the man lying on her table, then down at her hands still covered in his blood. It took no time at all for her to make up her mind. Quickly washing her hands and disposing of her PPE, she went into the other room where her assistants were attending to the other two patients they had.
“I’m going to the commander’s office. See that Laurel is comfortable and clean for when he wakes up.” She paused in the doorway, struck by a thought. “Mayvis,” she called, beckoning the young man towards her. “Just clean the wound and stitches. I will attend to the rest once I’m back,” she whispered. “And no one but you is allowed near him, understood?”
He nodded, eyes glinting with steely resolve.
She didn’t bother to knock when she reached the commander’s door. He wouldn’t be in for a bit longer anyway. Crossing to his desk, she took a seat in his high-backed chair. Opening the application she needed, she quickly entered the commander’s credentials into the system. A few taps later, and Laurel’s file popped up.
Glancing at the picture beside the monitor, she huffed. “Don’t look at me that way,” she scolded the frozen image of her and the commander. “You would understand why I’m doing this.”
Any word that could give Laurel away was gone within seconds. Satisfied, she logged out, just as footsteps sounded outside the door.
The commander opened the door to find her sitting at his desk, chin resting on clasped hands and a playful smile on her lips.
“Mary?” he asked, surprise lifting his voice an octave. “What are you doing here? Don’t you have patients to attend to?”
Jutting her lip out slightly, she leaned back against the cushions. “It’s nice to see you too, dear.” Passing a hand across her face wearily, she continued, “I just finished a surgery that took most of the night.”
“A success?” he asked, coming to lean on the desk beside her.
A smile spread wide across her cheeks. “I believe he will make a full recovery. A miracle, really.”
“That’s wonderful to hear, my love.” He kissed her forehead. “Is that the only reason you’ve appeared in my office at sunrise?”
She met his searching gaze. “Well, where else would I find you at this time?”