Minshara-class planet, 1340 hours, October 12 2151
Hoshi walked along the bank of a frozen river, stopping every so often to scan the vegetation or to look at the rest of the away team. Reed stood on the opposite bank, scanning something which looked like a discarded tool while Jean was trying to coax a small animal out from under a shrub. Trip was playing in the snow and Captain Archer was speaking with T'Pol on his communicator.
"We should start bringing science teams down to the surface. There's plant and animal life down here that's adapted to survive in the low temperatures. Novakavitch and Cutler would be over the moon down here."
On the bridge T'Pol raised an eyebrow. "I believe that, technically speaking they are already 'over the moon' since Ensign Mayweather has put us into an orbit higher than any natural satellites."
Archer laughed and tried to cover it with a cough, allowing himself to smile and shake his head in amusement only because she couldn't see him. He started to explain but Travis beat him to it.
"It's just a saying, Sub-Commander. Saying someone is 'over the moon' just means that they're very excited or happy."
Yet another human idiom. She looked at him impassively. "Thank you for the clarification, Ensign. Captain, our scans indicate that this is indeed a warp-capable civilization, however their dwellings and clothing seem primitive. Cultural contamination may not be an issue with these people but I advise caution in initiating first contact . . ."
"Understood. We'll try to make a good first impression. Assemble a science team but don't send them to the surface until I give the word."
"I don't want to bring any more personnel down here until after we've talked to these people and gotten their permission to have scientists poking around. Introducing them to our species with a dozen of our people at my back could be seen as a hostile move."
T'Pol nodded. He's being prudent, a welcome change. "Understood. A wise precaution."
While they were talking Archer heard a shout of alarm followed by a loud splash.
"Cap'n!" Trip came running towards him. "Cap'n! Hoshi just fell through the ice!"
"Archer out" he hissed into the comm. and shoved it into his pocket before running to the nearer bank.
The current was strong and it was carrying Hoshi downstream, but because of the ice it was hard to see where she was and impossible for her to get a breath. The other four members of the away team were running along the river, trying to keep her in sight. Every few seconds they'd see her face looking blurred and distorted by the ice as she pounded against it, trying desperately to break through.
All of a sudden Reed put on a burst of speed and raced ahead of everyone else, drawing his phase pistol and aiming it at the ice. Trip saw what he was doing and drew his own weapon, shouting to the others to do the same. When all four were firing their weapons at a spot downstream far away from Hoshi, Reed started aiming at a closer patch of ice which melted by the time he got to it.
Throwing his weapon and his jacket onto the bank, he took a deep breath and then jumped into the frigid water. It was deeper than he'd thought . . focus! You can have your panic attack after saving her. Hoshi hadn't reached that part of the river yet so Reed waited for her to come, looking underwater every so often to make sure he didn't miss her.
He'd just come up for air when he felt something grabbing at his leg. Hoshi! He went back under and grabbed for her but she was just beyond his reach. He dove under the ice, swimming after her and trying to catch her before she got swept past the area of the ice that the rest of the team was trying to melt.
I hope they realize what my plan is, otherwise we'll both be dead.
He could just see her. She was closer now and he grabbed the first thing his hand touched; her arm. She was just barely conscious but she instinctively latched onto him and together they were carried downstream. An eternity later Reed felt himself being dragged out of the water and up the bank.
Air! Sweet air! He gulped it in greedily as he patted the ground next to where they were sitting. Good, solid, firm ground.
"We need blankets from the pod!" Jean shouted and Trip nodded, shooting off in that direction as she started to check both patients. She scanned Reed first and saw that he was alright. His body temperature was lower than normal and his pulse was racing, but otherwise he was fine. Hoshi was still partially tangled with Reed and Jean was about to start scanning her when the captain stepped in.
Archer patted Reed on the shoulder in thanks before lifting Hoshi from on top of him. He lay her down carefully less than a meter away and Jean moved in to check her vital signs. Hoshi's body temperature was below normal, her pulse was thready and erratic and she wasn't breathing. Jean administered a mild stimulant and performed CPR. A minute later Hoshi opened her eyes and sat up, coughing.
Meanwhile Trip had run back with the blankets which he wrapped around Hoshi and Reed. Both of them were shivering continuously and nodded their thanks for the blankets.
"That was very quick thinking, Malcolm. I'm not sure what else to say, but if Starfleet gave medals I'd recommend you for one." Archer was smiling broadly at him.
"Th-thank y-you s-s-sir," Reed managed, taking his hands out from under the blanket and pulling it more tightly around himself. It wasn't this cold earlier, was it? Right, cold water, cold air. My jacket is somewhere. . . it's still dry, I think.
Jean stood up from seeing to Hoshi and turned to see that Archer was still talking to Reed. She smiled. Good, he's congratulating him.
"Hoshi'll be alright, Captain, but she might need a little help warming up."
She could have sworn he was smirking. It was just for a second when she mentioned warming Hoshi up, but it seemed like he had a mischievous glint in his eye. A moment later it was gone and she dismissed it as something she'd imagined. He nodded to her, patted Reed's shoulder again and went over to Hoshi.
She walked over to Reed and smiled at him, resisting the urge to rush forward and hug him tightly. "That was probably the dumbest and bravest thing I've ever seen anyone do."
He smiled as she sat down next to him. "W-well, it w-w-worked, d-didn't it?" She moved closer to him and started rubbing his arms through the blanket.
"We need to get you indoors. Someplace warm where you can get into some dry clothes."
He nodded enthusiastically and shivered strongly. Just rubbing his arms wasn't working too well. She shook her head. I should've just trusted my instincts. She grabbed him in a hug and rubbed his back, trying to give him some of her body heat. After the initial surprise he moved closer and hugged her in return, trusting that she'd hold his blanket in place.
They held each other tightly for a while without speaking. Then suddenly Reed's eyes went wide and his breath came raggedly. He was terrified. But of what? He was frightened and confused until Jean started rubbing his back more gently and speaking comfortingly in his ear.
"Shhh. It's alright. You're alright. Hoshi's safe and so are you. You saved her, remember? Then we pulled both of you out of the water. Shh, Malcolm. It's alright, I've got you. You're safe now. We've moved away from the river. No one else is going to fall in."
The river! That was it!
He'd started to panic when he jumped in after Hoshi but he pushed the fear aside to focus on the task at hand. Now that his job was done the panic came surging back. But why did it wait? Why didn't it hit when the captain was talking to him?
It would have been awful if Captain Archer saw me like this. With Jean it's different. She's seen me at my absolute worst and hasn't ever teased me or thought less of me for it. She's taken care of me and helped me get through situations where I would've lost my head otherwise.
Suddenly he had an epiphany. It's because I feel so safe around her, so comfortable. I don't have to put on a brave face for her to accept me or care about me. She takes me as I am, no questions asked or judgments made.
He smiled and let the fear wash over him completely. Jean soothed him and he buried his face in her neck, allowing himself to be afraid because he knew that it wasn't wrong.
Eventually it passed and he realized just how tightly he'd been holding her. He loosened his grip and found that her cheek was resting against his hair.
"You alright?" Her words sent an odd kind of buzzing sensation over his scalp. It was pleasant, in a strange way.
"Yes. I . ." He pulled back to see her face. Her eyebrows were together and one was slightly lower than the other. She's worried. "I am. Thank you." She still seemed worried.
He smiled, a real smile, and accompanied it with a hug to convince her. "I'm alright now."
"Good. I . . um," She let out a shuddery breath and looked up at him searchingly. "I'm glad that you're alright. When you started shooting at the ice I knew what you were going to do. I was so worried that you'd get stuck under the ice trying to save her. I'm glad it worked and you're both safe, but if had gone wrong, if something had happened to you. . . "
She bit her lip and looked away from him as she trailed off. They were still holding each other so he gently squeezed her shoulder, urging her on. When she turned back a second later her eyes were wet. "You're very important to me, Malcolm. I don't want anything bad to happen to you."
He gently brushed away her tears with his thumb before they could freeze. "Hey, you know the rules. Only one of us can be a mess at a time, and it was your turn last month." His tone was affectionate, caring and silly all at once. He was almost never silly, except around her.
They trusted each other unquestioningly and she knew that his shoulder was available if she ever needed it. But how she felt about him, that was something she'd keep to herself. It made her feel guilty sometimes, knowing his big secret and withholding her own, but she just couldn't tell him.
However, she could indulge herself by hugging him under the pretense of trying to warm him up, and she could enjoy how sweet and vulnerable he was being at the moment.
They were holding onto each other in a way that didn't let her see his face, but he smiled anyway. "You're very imp-portant to me too." Now his fear had passed, he realized just how cold he was.
"I d-don't sup-pose you know where m-my jacket is?" His hands were frozen and he remembered that his gloves were in the jacket pockets.
Her chin was resting on his shoulder. "You dropped it on the bank before you jumped in. It should still be dry. I'll ask Trip to get it."
"N-no. I just n-need m-my gl-gloves."
She shook her head and laughed in disbelief. "What you need is to be in your quarters, in bed, under a huge mound of blankets with hot tea and a good book. Your hands are cold?"
He nodded, not wanting to stutter any more. The warm, comforting image she had conjured up floated in his mind as she unwound her arms from around him and held out her hands. "Let me see."
She frowned and tutted very softly as she examined his hands. "These aren't fingers, they're icicles." She cupped her hands around his, exhaling warm breath on them every so often while she tried to gently massage heat back into them.
After a while his hands began to thaw, but the rest of him had started shivering violently. She looked at him critically and then muttered "that's it, I'm pulling rank as your doctor. Commander!" She raised her voice and unintentionally made Reed wince. "Sorry" she whispered.
Trip came over and stood grinning at them. "Something I can do for you, Ensign?" He always got a kick out of it when she called him by his rank or when Reed did. They were usually on a first-name basis, but on missions or in crises they went back to standard protocol.
"Could you find Reed's jacket and phase pistol? They'll be on the river bank where he jumped in."
"No problem. I'll be back in a minute." He smiled at them again and took off upstream. On the way he passed Hoshi and Archer, who seemed to be having an intense conversation with Dr. Phlox.
"Are you sure, Doctor? None of us brought extra clothes so there's nothing for them to change into, and I really don't think being naked would be good for either of them in this cold."
All Trip caught as he sped by was the word 'naked.' He smiled but didn't slow down. I'll ask him about it later.
While Phlox and the captain were talking, Hoshi managed to stop shivering and started coyly unzipping her uniform. Archer smirked before he zipped her up, shaking his head 'no' as he tried to listen to Phlox. She started to pout but shivered instead, so he sat down behind her and encircled her with his arms.
Hoshi leaned back against his chest and sighed happily. "I'm sorry, but could you repeat that?"
"Captain, it is imperative that Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato go someplace warm where they can remove their wet clothes immediately. Given the temperature in your area, their clothes will begin to freeze soon and then they will go into hypothermic shock."
Sub-Commander T'Pol spoke up. "Captain, we've detected a settlement less than a kilometer south east from your current position. Perhaps it would be possible for you to seek shelter there."
"Understood. Archer out." He closed his communicator and stood up, bringing a reluctant Hoshi with him. He saw Trip come back along the river bank holding a jacket and a phase pistol. Right, Malcolm dropped those when he went in after Hoshi.
He raised his voice and addressed the whole team. "Alright everybody, we're moving out."