Content Warning: Hospitals, Transphobia.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck.” Samantha muttered to herself, pacing back and forth in the hospital hallway.
“How the fuck could he… Ugh!” She said, kicking the wall and taking a seat against it. She has been under a lot of stress over the past forty-eight hours. All this did was add to it. She slept well on Friday, all things considered. It had been a busy few days, but she finally felt like she could take a day to herself. Of course, that would never become a reality.
When she went to visit her brother on Saturday morning, she found him passed out on his floor, burn marks covering his arms and chest. She had immediately called the paramedics and hadn’t left the hospital since. She found him at ten in the morning on Saturday, now it was nearly midnight.
“What stupid fucking thing did he do to himself.” She muttered, wiping a few stray tears from her eyes. “Goddammit, please be okay, Max.”
She hated this. If she could operate on him herself, at least she would have a hand in the outcome, but… relying on doctors, regime doctors, while she had to sit around and trust them. It was excruciating.
Ever since her parents had been taken, it was just her and Max. On the really bad days, he was the only reason she kept going. It had been more than three years since she got her powers, and on that day she made an oath to keep her brother safe above all else. Today, for the first time, she had failed.
Her brother was her best friend, the only person she ever felt entirely comfortable around. She was three years Max’s senior, and yet they had always been inseparable. Max had trouble making friends at school. He was nice, gentle, but he didn’t fit in with other people, especially other boys. She knew he wanted to make friends, but he genuinely struggled to fit in. Sometimes that got him in trouble, but on the bright side he wasn’t stupid and he wasn’t a reckless kid, not like most fourteen-year-old boys could be. So she had no clue how this happened.
Samantha glanced around the hallway, seeing it entirely barren, that was the only cue she needed as she started to weep. She didn’t want anyone, least of all regime staff, to see her cry, but she had to let it out. She hugged her knees tightly and cried, her sky blue eyes going blurry with tears. If something were to happen to Max, she didn’t know what she would do. As much as she hated to admit it, she cared for her brother far more than any of the other lives she had saved.
Samantha was an attractive girl, about five and a half feet tall with bluish-black hair that went to her chin. She had a delicate, pretty face, with fair skin, and an average figure. Today she wore a blue and white tank top with blue skinny jeans and silver high tops. Samantha was only seventeen, but her eyes showed the stress and exhaustion of someone twice her age.
Samantha felt like a failure. She hated that feeling, and she wasn’t used it. She usually had an answer, a way to come out on top. If her brother was going to die because she wasn’t there to protect him because she was so caught up on other things… She’d never fucking forgive herself.
“Ms. Langer?” A mousy women in a white nurses uniform asked. Samantha immediately stopped her tears and looked up at the nurse.
“Yes.” She said, trying her best to recover from her sob session.
“Your brother is awake and responding. You can see him now if you’d like.”
Samantha didn’t waste a second, she sprung up and followed the woman back into the hospital room. Max laid in a reclined hospital bed, he had bandages wrapped around his arm and chest. Burns were visible all along his body with aloe and cream on them. Samantha grimaced and grumbled to herself, she counted at least fifty little things the doctors and nurses had done wrong. The bandages were too tight in one place, too loose in another. They hadn’t used the optimal treatment for the type of burns Max had, things like that.
“Amateurs…” she mumbled.
Max was an average looking guy, he had short, dark brown hair that hung in front of his face just slightly. He was thin, scrawny almost. He didn’t work out and didn’t have the genetics a lot of bigger guys did. He was slightly above average height, just under a half foot taller than his sister. His face was soft, but had a more masculine edge than Samantha’s, with no real facial hair, just stubble. Anyone could tell by a glance they were related.
“Max, thank god you’re okay!” she said, grabbing one of his hands gently. Even at the small touch, he grimaced. Samantha immediately recoiled and quietly apologized.
“Thank you, Sam…” Max said, just above a whisper.
“Don’t. You’re my little brother. Taking care of you is second nature to me.”
Max looked at his sister, trying to smile. Samantha smiled back at him weakly.
“Do you want to talk abou-?” she started.
“No.” Max cut her off.
“I just… I don’t understand Max. You’re so cautious. You’re so careful. You would be the last person I would ever expect to get hurt in an accident like that. I keep going over it in my head, how did that even happen with you?”
“Just a stupid accident, After school, I was down by the warehouses, I wanted to see the wreckage. Some of the barrels were hotter than I thought. One of them exploded. I thought I was fine, but I was burned worse than I thought.” He said.
He was lying, Samantha knew it. None of the explosive barrels would have survived Phoenix taking the building down. Max isn’t the lying type, so whatever he did must have been really bad.
“You can’t lie to me, Max. That isn’t what happened. Please, talk to me. Whatever it is, I won’t laugh or be mad.”
“Sis, I…” Max sighed. “I was cutting class. I was just down by the warehouses, I wanted some time to myself. I got caught up in the blast during that spirit-touched fight. I got burned, but I’ll live. It wasn’t that bad. I could walk it off.”
Alarm bells went off in Samantha’s head. He’s lying, she fucking knew it. First of all, she knew for a fact that everyone got out. They sent Sarah to do it, and she wasn’t the type to miss a person. She was a perfectionist, the type to double and triple check a task, especially one given to her by a fucking superhero. Secondly, he was casually hanging out by that warehouse on that particular day at that particular time? And he was cutting class to do it? No fucking way. What had he done that was so bad that he had to li-
Samantha gasped audibly as her thoughts converged on the answer. No, no, no, no, no! Not him! Not him! He couldn’t be… No. Samantha shot her chair back and looked at her brother in shock, she felt like she was hyperventilating. Max raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. Samantha shook her head in disbelief.
Her brother was Chimera.
“No.” Samantha said gently.
“Pardon?” Max said.
“No, you weren’t.”
“Yes, I w-”
“We got everyone out. I’m sure of it.”
“At the warehouses, this girl made sure everyone evacuated. She isn’t the type t-”
“Well, I guess she didn’t get everyone.”
Samantha got close to Max and whispered in his ear.
“Don’t lie to me, Chimera.”
All the color started to drain from Max’s face, and he let out a staggered breath, staring at his sister wide-eyed.
“I’m not C-” He started.
“Don’t lie to me!” Samantha shot back, nearly yelling.
“How could you possibl-”
“I’m Dragon.” She whispered under her breath.
“I’m Dragon. I’ve worked side by side with you for months, I never had the slightest clue.”
“Oh…” Max said. A few facts hung in the air, realizations neither of them wanted to acknowledge. Samantha looked out the window as tears came back to her eyes. All Samantha had wanted to do, all she ever wanted to do since she became Dragon, was to keep her brother safe. No matter how hard she tried, she could only keep her brother so safe if he was out there being a superhero. She could fight alongside her brother, work to protect him, but she couldn’t keep him safe like a civilian.
Is this possible? Could she really have fought alongside her own brother for four months and had no idea? Was he able to keep that a secret? Keep it secret from his own sister? It had to be true, but… she couldn’t believe it.
“Fuck. I just want you to be safe.” Samantha said.
“I am safe. My power is… I’m strong enough.” Max said. “You saw what I did to you know who, I’m strong. I don’t need to be protected.”
“I… I’m your big sister, I just want to keep you safe. Ever since mom and dad left, you’re all I have… You’re, goddammit Max, why did it have to be you?”
“But I’m proud of you.” Samantha said, smiling at him.
“Really?” Max asked, a look of relief in his eyes.
“Yes. You’re a hero, much more of a hero than I am. You give people hope, and you do whatever you can to save every person you can.”
“It’s the right thing to do. I want to bring heroes back, I know I have to lead by example.”
“How do you do it? You’re fourteen, how are you not afraid?”
“I’m terrified. I thought I was going to die yesterday. Every second I’m Chimera is like walking a tightrope on the line between life and death, but the Spirit picked me for a reason, and I’m doing what feels right. What I know I should.”
“Phoenix and I were basically just vigilantes before you came along. Chimera is heroism personified. She…” Samantha trailed off after realizing the pronoun she just used. The silence hung over the room for a few minutes, neither of them acknowledging the elephant in the room.
“So… our transcended forms, they’re supposed to be a reflection of who we are. I… um…” Samantha said, touching Max’s hand.
“Yeah…” Max said under his breath.
“So… you’re… um…”
Samantha didn’t need to hear the answer, she knew. She had suspected that secret for a little while. She didn’t want to admit it, didn’t want it to be true. Transition, under the Archduke, wasn’t a thing. A “man” dressing in women’s clothing was a misdemeanor, public indecency. As far as medical transition, there was no fucking chance.
“I’m so sorry…” Samantha said.
“Don’t.” Max said bluntly. “The spirit is the greatest gift I could ever receive. It lets me be myself, as close as I can get to that anyway. Max Langer is fucking useless. Chimera is a hero.”
“Max Langer doesn’t exist. But…”
“Madeline.” Max, or rather, Madeline answered under her breath. Samantha smiled brightly.
“Madeline Langer is pretty fucking awesome. You’re my sister, and I love you more than anything.”
Madeline didn’t respond, she just started to cry, pressing her burned body against her sister in as close to a hug as she could feel comfortable. Sister. The word was ecstasy. It made her feel fucking alive. In her fourteen years of life, she had never felt such a relief, such a feeling of things being right, as she did when she heard the words “You’re my sister.”
The two girls hugged each other. Nothing else mattered. Not the Archduke, not their new member, not Phoenix’s tantrum, not the burn wounds that covered most of Madeline’s body. Nothing else in this whole world mattered. Things were wrong in this world, awful, but this felt so fucking right. They had each other, that’s all they needed. The rest of the world faded away. Leaving just Chimera and Dragon, leaving just Madeline and Samantha, leaving just sisters.