TO held their hand to their bleeding snout, feeling the blood trickle between their fingers. DH had given them a very good hit, and had they not been in so much pain they might have complimented them on their form. As it was, it was almost reluctantly that TO let DH pull them down the quiet, bright hallways and towards the medical bay.
“What was that for!” they demanded, wincing. It hurt to speak, and the inability to breathe through their snout made their voice sound funny. They could taste blood. Their face felt heavy, and they were certain that their snout was quickly swelling up; the steady humming of their heart could be felt through the hot skin.
“I’m really, really sorry for injuring you!” DH said, their arm around TO’s shoulders, their ears limp with sorrow, “You don’t think I broke anything, do you? I didn’t mean to hit you that hard, OR right in the snout, but you turned to me just as I was about to land the hit to your face, and -
“Why?” TO said again, Still holding their snout. They pulled their hand away and they could see their palms stained with deep blue blood. It made them think of dissections, and made them feel sick.
They decided that they didn’t like seeing blood, and they especially didn’t like it on their hands.
DH pulled them into the nearest washroom and brought them to the sink. Blue blood dripped onto the clean white metal as DH found some tissues. They went back to TO and held the tissues to their nose.
“Hold this here.” They said, “Let’s clean you up before we go to medical.”
“Why?” They demanded again, their voice far more forceful and demanding this time. “Why would you hit me like that?”
“I didn’t mean to!” They insisted, their ears flat, their eyes wide and panicked, “I was aiming for your cheek-“
“Why would you aim for ANY part of my face?”
“Because you’re tired!” They insisted as they put their hands on TO’s shoulder, “You’re not focused. You’re not paying attention, and it’s noticeable! You need to rest!”
TO looked at DH, their ears pinning back, “So you punched me in the snout!?”
“Yes?” They said, trying to avoid eye contact. They went back to the sink and dampened some tissues. With the most gentle of touches, they started wiping away blood from around TO’s snout. “This way, you can get out of physical training for the rest of the day, and if I hit you hard enough maybe you’ll be excused from your vocational training later.” They frowned as they gently pulled TO’s hand away from their snout and blotted away the blood. “That’s what the medic called it, yes? Vocational training?”
“TO sighed. “Yes... Yes it is. But I can’t just not go to my training.” They winced as they spoke.
“Stop talking for now.” They said. “And you can. You won’t get in trouble. If anyone does, it'll be me because It’s not even your fault. It’s mine, remember?” DH wiped off the rest of the blood, tossing the blue stained tissues into the garbage chute in the wall once they were done.
“There.” They finally said. “Uniform has blood on it, but there’s not much that can be done about that.” They examined TO, looking for any blood they might have missed. When it seemed like they had gotten it all they looked up, “I am sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you this badly. I didn’t want to hurt you at all, but you can’t go back to the laboratory. Not today at least! You need rest. You need a break.”
“I don’t.” They insisted, “We don’t need breaks-“
“Didn’t you write a whole report for C12 about how an added break at the end of physical trianing would have greater long-term effects?” They quirked a brow up at TO, “Didn’t King Decon himself agree with you?”
“Well yes.” TO said, frowning as DH turned their own arguement on them, “But that was different. That was physical-“
“Well, you’re tired. That’s physical.”
“I’m only tried because of my own-“
DH put their hand to TO’s mouth, and it was more the surprise than anything else that silenced them. Well, maybe the pain as well.
“You’re tried because you had to do that dissection.” DH said, lowering their voice on the last word, “And it bothered you. That’s not your fault!”
TO shook their head, but didn’t respond. Other synths did this. Other synths could do their job without being reduced to tears. Without nightmares.
Well, at least as far as TO knew.
“If I can’t work,” They whispered through the pain, “what good am I?”
DH blinked at them, confused. They frowned, and grabbed more tissues which they set against TO’s nose. “Hold this.” DH said as they put their arm over TO’s shoulder. They held TO tightly for a moment, and then led them out of the washroom, “You’re good for me.” They said, “No matter how useful anyone thinks you are.”
The Medical Officer was treating another synth for a burn when DH brough TO inside. As theOfficer glanced over they saw that neither of them were in immediate need of assistance, and gestured for them to sit down on a nearby bench. Gratefully, TO sat down, leaning over to try to keep the blood from flowing down their throat while DH kept a careful hand on TO’s shoulder.
“I really am sorry I hurt you so much.” DH whispered.
TO nodded. They were still irritated that they had been struck so hard, but it was difficult for them to be angry at DH. Besides, even if they didn’t agree with their methods, they knew that DH was only trying to help.
The synth with the burn was properly patched up and sent off back to work with a bandage around their arm, leaving the medical bay without so much as glancing at TO.
“You two.” The Medical Officer said as they snapped at an examination table, “Over here.”
DH led TO over to the table and helped them up while TO held the tissues to their nose. Even once TO was sat up on the table, DH stayed near with a hand on their shoulder.
“Are you both hurt?” The officer asked as they tilted their head in curiosity at DH
“I’m not hurt.” DH said, “But 09T07 has trouble speaking at the moment, and they need to hold the tissues to their face; they were hit hard in the snout in combat training.”
The Medical Officer shooed DH out of the way. Without the gentleness that TO had thus far been treated with, the Medical Officer moved TO’s hand away from their face and examined the blood that was oozing from their nose. They ignored TO’s whimper of pain as they pushed their head up to get a better look at their snout. “They got hit, you said?” The Medical Officer asked as they roughly examined the swollen and discolored snout.
“Yes, that’s right.” DH said from behind the Medical Officer. Their ears dipped back with guilt, but the officer was too busy examining TO to notice, “Punched.”
“It was a good punch.” The officer commented, “I do not think anything has been broken, but I will not be sure until the swelling has gone down. How long ago has it been since this happened?”
DH checked their implant for the time, “About… Fifteen minutes?”
“Has the blood slowed at all?”
TO nodded, but didn’t say anything. DH could do all the talking while they were in pain.
“Well that’s good then.” The medical officer said as they pressed around the top of TO’s snout “Any other pains?” They asked. TO shook their head as they held back whimpers. The only other pain they were suffering was being caused by the examination!
The Medical Officer frowned as they looked over them, then let go of their face as they went to a cupboard where they retrieved a small gel-filled pack. They pressed a button on the back, and it glowed blue.
“Put it on your snout.” They said as they passed it to TO. It was cold to touch, and TO gratefully put it on their aching snout as they leaned forward to keep the blood out of their throat. “This will lower the swelling, so I can examine the injury better, to ensure there’s no breaks, no chances of infection-“
“How long will that take?” DH asked.
“As long as it takes.” They raised a brow at DH, “Why.”
“They have vocational training this afternoon in the laboratories-“
The officer’s brow quirked up. “Laboratories?” They asked. They looked back to TO, “Are you the one that I sent off with goggles for eye strain?” TO nodded. The Medical Officer narrowed their eyes at them, their ears pinning back. “Have you been wearing your goggles since?” Another nod. “All the time?” TO’s ears twitched as they shook their head. They needed to take the goggles off while they were following PQ03’s instructions during the dissection. They felt their body tense up as they remembered that, and quickly tried to press it out of their head.
“I’m willing to suggest that you failed to defend yourself from this strike because the eye strain has affected your vision, and your reaction time.” They frowned and gave TO a harsh look. “You will stay here today. I need to wait for the swelling to reduce, and you need to rest your eyes so you don’t hurt yourself more seriously in the future.”
TO noticed that DH’s whole body seemed to relax at that, only to tense up again as the Medical Officer turned to them. “Do you need anything else?” They said.
“No Officer.” They said. “I only wish to report back to physical training. Will 09T07 be alright for physical training tomorrow?”
They frowned as they looked over TO, “Most likely.” They said, “I suspect a minor fracture at worst, but it’s better to make sure.”
TO felt their own shoulders relax; They hadn't realized that they were so tense. The idea had filtered through their head that maybe DH had broken something, and it would be considered too troublesome to waste the resources to heal them. They also worried that maybe something had been broken and while that would heal on its own in time, other complications could arise which would not be worth fixing.
No. That wouldn’t happen, right? They were not an untrained child synth in a tank. They were an adult synth with training behind them. They were a synth that was excelling. At least, they had been before the dissection. They didn’t feel like they were excelling at very much now
“I will report that back.” DH said.
“See that you do.” The Officer said. They turned back to TO, “As for you, stay leaned forward until the bleeding stops, and-“
While the Officer gave TO their instructions, DH flashed TO a quick smile behind their back, and mouthed, “I’ll tell GiDi” to them before they left to go back to training.
“-I’ll check the swelling and see if any further treatment is required. Understood?”
It took TO’s mind a moment to catch up and process what they had said. “Stay forward until the bleeding stops. Hold the pack to my snout. Understood, Officer.”
The Officer turned away and went to the other side of the medical bay to start inputting information into the system, ignoring TO now that their job was done.
With their hand to their face, TO allowed themselves to smile; despite the pain, and despite their disappointment in themselves, they were grateful that they didn’t have to go to the laboratory today. Perhaps they’d have to thank DH for punching them in the snout.
Bio: A writer and Illustrator with scenes to show and stories to tell