Chakotay gently stroked the nearly bald head he cradled in his lap. Her scalp didn’t appear to be damaged, outside of a small burn above her right ear. By some miracle the fire that had seared away her hair had bypassed the rest of her head. Her face was smudged with soot but the skin appeared relatively undamaged; the rest of her body had not been as lucky.
They were returning from their negotiations with the Platzz, a difficult but fair people. Kathryn, exhausted from days of non-stop bargaining, had finally agreed to go to the back and take a nap. Chakotay had just checked on his soundly sleeping captain and returned to the co-pilot seat when it started. It was just a little jolt at first and Tom had laughed at look Chakotay gave him.
“Just a little bump, Chakotay.” Tom laughed. “Remember I’m flying this thing not you.”
“Very funny, Paris.”
The good-natured kidding came to an abrupt halt when alarms blared throughout the cockpit. Chakotay pounded the console trying to retrieve any useful information on what was happening; it told him nothing.
“What is it?” He yelled above the noise.
“I don’t know but we’re going down.”
“Down?!” Sensors had not shown any planets in the immediate area.
“I can’t control this.” Tom fought with the controls. “Something is pulling us in—down—I don’t know. It feels like we are going down.”
“Shields are weak. If there is atmosphere out there, reentry could..” Chakotay never got to finish his warning.
The shuttle entered the atmosphere of
the unknown planet engulfed in a ball of fire. Systems failed rapidly,
the dampeners were off line leaving the officers to be tossed around the
small craft as it tumbled end over end, then began a rapid descent in a
fiery death spiral. Time stood still as the heat built up and the
small craft hurled itself toward the jagged surface of the planet below
them. In a last ditch effort to slow their speed, Tom grabbed for
the controls and fired the reverse thrusters, a semi successful maneuver
which caused the rear of the shuttle to burst into flames just before impact.
“Tom!” Chakotay shouted not expecting a reply; he wasn’t completely certain he was alive himself, until a searing pain in his side reminded him that dead men have no feeling. A cough at his side gave him his next answer. “Tom?”
“Yea.” He coughed again. “Gotta get out; this thing is gonna blow.” Tom struggled to drag himself up.
“Kathryn.” Chakotay forced himself to his feet, gasping as he placed his weight on his left foot.
“Chak.” Tom reached to stop him, but he knew if was futile.
The rear of the shuttle was engulfed in flames. For a minute, Tom watched the big man fight his pain and the flames as he dug his way to the rear compartment.
“Get out, Tom!” Chakotay pushed the younger man toward the hatch. “I’ll get her; you get out of here.”
Tom didn’t answer. The flames were intense and even if Kathryn had survived the crash he was sure the fire had killed her. He needed to get out; Chakotay needed to get out, but Tom knew he wasn’t leaving without Kathryn—dead or alive. Tom stumbled over something in the smoke filled cabin; a medical kit. The fall seemed to have jolted his brain; if they survived, they would need this. Tom pried open the smashed cabinet pulling out all the survival and medical supplies he could carry and fought his way out of the shuttle. He struggled to get as far away as possible before collapsing on the rocky ground.
Chakotay’s eyes burned, his vision blurred by their watering, his breathing hampered by the thick, dark acid smoke as he clawed his way through the debris. His hand finally contacted the edge of the small bunk; it was empty.
“Kath r yn.” He choked out her name; there was no response.
Chakotay began groping wildly in the darkness. His vision completely obscured, his lungs screamed for oxygen, but he couldn’t leave her. He lowered himself to the deck, it was hot but the air was just slightly better. He stretched out his arms trying to feel his way around the cabin. On hands and knees, he began a slow search of the area.
“Kathryn.” Chakotay’s fingers contacted a limp hand; his heart stilled when he got no response.
Following the arm up to the shoulders, he tried to lift her, but something was pining her lower body down. His breathing was extremely labored and his strength fading rapidly; Chakotay lifted her upper body, grasping her around the chest and yanked. They fell backwards together, freeing her legs; Kathryn moaned.
Outside, Tom had hidden himself and their supplies behind a row of boulders, having survived this long he didn’t plan on dying if the shuttle blew. It had only been a few minutes, but to Tom it seemed like hours before he saw the big man stumble from the smoke with his precious bundle.
“Let me help.” Tom tried to take the limp body but Chakotay wouldn’t let her go. “OK, bring her this way; there is a stream behind those rocks.” He guided them behind the boulders. “It’s fairly shallow on this side; lie her down in it.”
“Is it safe?”
“Water checks out.” Tom guided him forward. “You, too. The water will stop the burning.”
Chakotay lowered Kathryn into the cool water and sank to the ground beside her. Tom pulled a tricorder from the medical kit, quickly scanning the captain as Chakotay held her head above the water.
“How is she?” Chakotay barely had the breath to speak.
“Not good.” Tom shook his head. “We have to get this uniform off her. It’s sticking to the burns.” Tom looked up at the pain in the other mans face. “What about you?”
“Don’t worry about me.” Chakotay lifted his eyes from Kathryn for a minute. “You all right?”
“Not bad. Some bruises a few scratches and lungs that burn like hell, but nothing major.” Tom began to peal away the charred remains of the captain’s uniform. “Can you help me lift her?”
“Yea.” Chakotay grunted with the effort of his movement even with the help of the water, but neither man mentioned it.
“We’ll get this off and let her soak a little bit it will help the burns.”
“We need some kind of shelter.” Chakotay gently pealed away the cloth trying to take with it as little of the scorched skin as possible. “What kind of supplies do we have?” Chakotay was trying to take his mind off the blistered flesh he was exposing.
“A few blankets, a phaser.” Tom nodded toward the pile on the shore. “Some rations, but I got out two med kits, so we have some bandages and pain killers.”
“She’s going to need them.”
“You OK for a few minutes? I want to see if there is anything around here that resembles shelter.”
“Yea.” He never took his eyes off the woman in his arms.
Tom didn’t want to leave them for long. Chakotay didn’t look good and the captain certainly wasn’t. He scouted the area as quickly as his tortured lungs would allow; he didn’t find much. Tom decided an over hang with a sandy bottom was the best they were going to do tonight. It wasn’t too far from the stream; it would offer protection at least from rain and shelter them from any wind that might develop. He figured a small pit in the sand would allow a fire; it was going be a delicate balance between cooling off the burns and keeping the captain warm.
Tom retrieved their meager supplies. Leaving all in the shelter, he headed back to his commanding officers. Chakotay was leaning against the bank, the captain’s head resting on his chest. Tom noticed he held her with only one hand now; the other he held under the water.
“Chak.” Tom quickly scanned the captain; she was still breathing; the tricorder said she was stable, but even through the water the burns looked painful. Tom wasn’t sure she would make it. “Chak”
“Yea, still here.” He raised his head. “What did you find?”
“A cozy little beach house.” Tom smiled.
“Hope it has a replicator; she’s a lousy cook.” Chakotay groaned as he sat up straighter. “Damn.”
“Hold still.” Tom quickly scanned him. “You’ll live – is that good or bad news?”
“Not sure.” Chakotay chuckled bringing his hand out of the water to splash some on his face.
“Let me see that hand.” To Tom’s surprise, Chakotay didn’t argue, just extended it. “Can you move the fingers?”
“They’ll move, but they just hurt like hell.” Chakotay grimaced as he demonstrated for Tom.
“Well, I can give you something for that
at least.” He continued his scan.
“You were pretty lucky, the hand is the worst. No permanent damage to the lungs, although you will be uncomfortable breathing for a while, especially with those broken ribs. Your left ankle is fractured. Sorry we don’t have a osteo regenerator.”
“I’ll be fine. It’s Kathryn I’m worried about.” Chakotay watched Tom’s face as he turned the tricorder toward Kathryn. “How is she?”
“Stable. Her lungs are less damaged than yours and probably mine. My guess is she never woke up. The slow even breathing in her sleep meant she sucked in less of that smoke. All those layers of Starfleet came in handy, only scattered first and second degree burns on most of her torso, her legs have third degree burns; the right leg has multiple fractures.”
“She was stuck under something; I couldn’t see it, just yanked her free.”
“Must be when she lost her boots, cause her feet aren’t burnt at all.” Tom looked up with a puzzled expression.
“What? What’s wrong?” Chakotay tried not to panic.
“She..” Tom laughed. “She even sleeps with those damn boots on?!”
“Not usually,” Chakotay had to laugh too. “but then she usually doesn’t sleep in shuttles either.”
“There is nothing here Doc. couldn’t fix in a minute, but..” Tom sighed. “OK we have to get her moved to the shelter and get some fluids in her.
Chakotay struggled, unsuccessfully, to get to his feet without releasing Kathryn. Tom gently took her from him.
Chakotay limped behind Tom. Fortunately they didn’t have far to go. Chakotay found his ankle more troublesome than he had expected and his breathing wasn’t much better. He spread the blanket across the soft sand; it shifted easily cradling her body as Tom settled her down. They placed a second blanket across her body opting to leave her legs exposed. Tom broke open the med kits. He started an IV, a rather primitive method by current standards but quite effective and still widely used in the field, it would maintain her fluids and slowly introduce the pain medication; he administered an antibiotic and applied an antiseptic spray to her legs. Once the captain was settled, Tom had offered some of the medication to Chakotay, but he refused it. Tom knew there was no point in arguing; the captain would need what little they had. He splinted Chakotay’s ankle and used some of the bandages to tightly wrap his ribs.
In about an hour, Tom had gathered firewood,
brought them up a supply of fresh water and shared some rations with Chakotay.
It was dark but luckily not much colder. Tom checked on the captain,
adding more medication to the fluid, elevating her feet a little, then
added more wood to the fire before collapsing on a blanket.
Unable to sleep, Chakotay gently stroked the, nearly bald, head cradled in his lap. Her scalp didn’t appear to be damaged; outside of a small burn above her right ear. By some miracle the fire that had seared away her hair had bypassed the rest of her head. Her face was smudged with soot but the skin appeared relatively undamaged, the rest of her body had not been as lucky.
Kathryn had not regained consciousness, but the occasional moans that escaped her hurt him more than any of his own physical injuries. He prayed Tuvok would find them before their short supply of medication ran out.
“I remember the first time I saw you.” He trailed his fingers across the stubble on her head. “I wanted to pull out those pins and run my fingers through your hair.” He laughed at the thought. “You would have phasered me for sure. You always thought it was those crystal blue eyes, and sprits I do love them, and everyone else is convinced it’s crooked smile, that smile makes my knees weak, but the very first thing I fell in love with was your hair.”
Chakotay settled his back against the stone wall behind them. Kathryn moaned as he shifted her position and bent to kiss her forehead. His fingers idly toyed with the stubby strands of hair. He was quiet for a while, fondly remembering all those times she had caught him as his mind drifted from the boring reports of a morning meeting to the more pleasant thought of finally being free to tear out those pins and lose himself in the soft sweetness of her hair.
“You know it was two years before you ever even let me see your hair loose?” He closed his eyes and pictured her. “I remember that first morning on New Earth when you exited your sleeping area. You wore that blue dress and your hair hung loose down your back.” He coughed with the effort of talking. “You were so beautiful, I wanted to grab you and never let you go. I don’t know how I managed not to or why.” His laughter was mixed with coughing. “Oh yea, I remember you would have phasered me!”
Chakotay found on longer strand of hair, curling up just at her temple. He tugged it gently and it sprang back against her head.
“Your hair is usually so straight, only when the small pieces, like this, escaped that loose pile you did at bath time—only then did I ever see it curl like this.” He brushed his hand across her head again. “It always did burn well. Saved my butt when I couldn’t start that damn fire.”
Chakotay drifted off to sleep, but Kathryn’s moaning woke him only a short time later. He tried to quiet her, but she began to thrash and moaned louder each time she tried to move her legs. After a short time, Chakotay woke Tom. Tom did a quick scan, adjusted the medication and Kathryn began to settle down.
“Remember when she cut her hair?” Chakotay accepted the drink Tom brought him.
“Sure do. It broke my heart.” Tom poked at the fire. “Can’t even imagine what you felt like.”
“It was a shock, but it was kinda cute.”
“If she ever heard you call her cute..”
“I know.” They laughed together. “She would have phasered me!”
“It was cute though. Especially when it was just long enough to reach her ears.” Tom smiled “She seemed like a little kid whenever you tucked it behind her ear.”
“Yea.” Chakotay rested his head back against the stone.
“Why don’t you sleep; I’ll keep an eye on her.” Tom didn’t believe Chakotay would let him do that—not for one second, but he had to try.
“No, I’m fine, not sleeping much anyway. I’ll catch a nap right here; you go rest. Seems you have to do all the work around here anyway.”
“OK, call if you need me.”
Chakotay closed his eyes, visions of Kathryn danced behind his lids. Kathryn with her hair in a tight bun, hands on her hips. Glaring at the enemy, on the view screen. Kathryn relaxed in her bathtub, little wispy curls around her face. The short hair tucked behind her ears, the crooked smile. Other thoughts crept in and he opened his eyes but the picture didn’t go away.
“I remember the day Kashyk tucked your hair behind your ear.” He sighed. “I can see that smug look on his face; he knew I was watching. I wanted to kill him, but the look on your face…. Hell, I can’t blame you. He was dark, mysterious, sexy and challenging and I know you love a challenge. He was also the one thing I could never be—he was not a member of your crew.” He shifted trying to find a comfortable position; this time Kathryn didn’t react. “I’m sorry Kathryn, we never talked much about him. I know it was none of my business and I had no right to be jealous, but I can’t help it.” He tried to think about happier times. “Kathryn, remember the Morkanion?” He laughed at the thought of her needing help to free herself from the plant. “That plant was rather fond of your hair as I recall.” He chuckled; his eyes were growing heavy as the sun started to rise. Finally, as he drifted off to sleep he mumbled the word he needed her to hear. “Don’t leave me, Kathryn. I love you.”
Chakotay woke up in sickbay. His ankle no longer hurt, his chest was much lighter and as he examined his hand, he found no traces of the oozing blisters that had been there when he went to sleep. He sat up.
“Welcome back.” Tom sauntered over to him.
“She’s doing great. Doc still has
her sedated, but the leg is healed and you can hardly see the faint traces
of her burns. She’ll be good as new in a few days.” Tom could
see Chakotay visibly relax as he spoke. “You can see her just as
soon as I get a few scans.”
Chakotay could hardly sit still making scanning him very difficult. Tom managed to get enough to be satisfied with Chakotay’s condition and he knew seeing the captain would only improve it, so he gave up.
“Go on. She’s over there behind the screen, don’t disturb her or Doc. will kill us both.”
Chakotay nodded and slipped behind the screen. Kathryn looked wonderful to his eyes. The dull grayness in her face had been replaced by warm pink cheeks. She was covered with a sheet so he couldn’t see where the burns had been but she was sleeping peacefully, so he would take Toms word for the state of her recovery. He bent and placed a gentle kiss on her fuzzy head.
“Still no hair, Kathryn?” He smiled. “You look wonderful to me, hair or no hair.” He brushed the stubble on her head. “Thank you, for not giving up; I couldn’t go on without you.”
“Commander.” The doctor’s voice was soft but it startled him anyway. “I want to examine you, then you may rest in your quarters.”
“OK, Doc.” He glanced back at Kathryn.
“I’ll let you know as soon as she is awake.”
“Yea.” Chakotay turned back, bending low to whisper in her ear. “I love you.” He stood and followed the doctor out.
Chakotay had returned to sickbay the next day when Kathryn was awake, but the doctor had insisted on keeping her for at least another day. Chakotay was on the bridge the next day when the doctor called.
“Doctor to Commander Chakotay”
“Commander, I require your assistance in sickbay.”
“She’s fine; just please get here so I can release her.” The frustration in his voice caused a chuckle across the bridge.
“On my way, Doc. Chakotay out”
Chakotay entered sickbay to find the doctor pacing and a still bald captain laughing as she watched.
“Kathryn?” Chakotay approached her but she could only laugh.
“Commander. I would be glad to release her, but she will not leave without hair and she will not tell me what to do with it – without you.” He stormed across the room. “Please call me when you decide.”
“Kathryn?” Chakotay couldn’t help but laugh with her.
“So what will it be?”
“Your hair?” He couldn’t resist brushing his palm against the fuzz. “Do whatever you want.”
“I want you to decide. Short and ‘cute’ ?” She made a face. “Long so that you can take out the pins and have it fall down my back? Or just long enough to tuck behind my ears?”
“Well, actually.” He rubbed both hands across her head. “This is kinda growing on me.” He chuckled at the horrified look on her face. “OK, OK how about long enough to pin up, but short enough to tuck behind your ears, to just about here.” He trailed a finger across her neck then rested it on her shoulder; she shivered at his gentle touch.
“Good, we’ll get the Doc to fix it then maybe we can have dinner in my quarters?”
“I would love to.”
“Oh, and Chakotay. Nothing.” She watched him try to understand. “Nothing happened with Kashyk. You forgot there is one thing he is not.”
“He’s not you.” She lifted the
hand from her shoulder and kissed it. “I love you too, Chakotay.”
Return to index