The bitter, metallic smell of burning fuel cells and pulverized durasteel caught Koril Rys'tihn's attention as he forced his mind to work and his eyes to open. Still completely insensitive to pain, he had to rely on his other senses to fill in the missing pieces: the entire left side of his body felt almost frozen solid, his left arm was pinned underneath something heavy, and the deadened silence within the Driftdance's cabin was beginning to make him panic.
It shouldn't have been so quiet.
Though unable to feel the pounding ache of a concussion, he struggled to focus his vision despite blinking repeatedly. Once it finally cleared, he saw what was making him so cold that he was shivering.
The Driftdance had been nearly torn in half, and luckily he had been at the far end of the breach, only partially buried under snow and chunks of ice that had fallen in when the transport had crashed into the frozen gorge.
Brief images of what had just happened were coming back to him in flashes, and part of him wished he could have felt the pain of the crash so it would have seemed more real to him. He hadn't wanted to do it; it was far too dangerous, but it was the only way to survive. He was lucky he had survived; the force of the impact could have stopped his weakened heart again, but near as he could tell, it hadn't been affected...yet. Finding his right arm still functional, he dug his leg out of the snow and rolled the ice rock off his arm with tremendous effort, freeing himself to stand...though he immediately collapsed back down to the unforgiving durasteel floor. For some reason his right leg wouldn't support his weight, but he couldn't be bothered with it. He had to find her.
Pulling himself back up into a sitting position, he looked about the cabin in shambles. Only a diffuse green glow colored the wrecked, buckling walls, but the closer he looked, the more he recognized the walls as the transport's floor; it had settled on its side. He couldn't see the cockpit from his position, but if he had ended up in the rear hold after the crash, maybe she had, too.
He took in a breath to call for her, but he choked and coughed, feeling something go down into his lungs. He struggled to breathe momentarily as he realized how heavy his chest felt, and though he heard fluid rattling throughout his airway, he forced his breath out.
Even the echo died quickly, silenced by the insulating snow that packed the transport's gaping hole. He called again, listening intently for his wife, but still nothing. He began to crawl on his hands and knees to look for her, but one small twitch of movement caught his eye just on the other side of an overturned cargo box.
As quickly as he could, he made his way over to her, not caring that his hands were going numb as he pulled himself through the snow. She was sitting up against a wall with her arm resting across her heavily swollen stomach, but her head was rolled to the side, and she seemed motionless.
He feared the worst.
Shaking the icy water from his hands, he propped himself up on his knees at her left side as he looked her over carefully and gently pressed his fingers against her neck. Making him nearly fall over with relief, he felt her pulse steady and strong under his touch, but she still wasn't responsive. Lightly cradling her head in his hands and turning it toward him, he saw why.
A sizable gash at her right temple was still bleeding, matting her black hair to the side of her face. He moved what he could and tucked it behind her ear, but he knew he'd have to stop the bleeding quickly. Without any medical supplies he could find fast enough, though, he progressively applied pressure against her wound with his palm, using his other hand as counter pressure at her jaw.
Not even two seconds after he had begun the compression, he saw her face slowly tightening into a grimace. When a soft moan escaped her, he carefully tilted her head up to him, watching her closely as she roused.
"Elena? It's Koril. I'm right here." He paused briefly, pleading nervously. "Talk to me..."
But her eyes remained tightly shut as she continued to moan, almost whimpering in pain. "My head..."
"I know," he answered quietly, gently repositioning his fingers to more tightly cover her wound. "Looks like you took a pretty good hit. I'm trying to slow the bleeding." Before she could respond, her face relaxed suddenly as though she were blacking out, but he tried to keep her awake. "Elena... Elena, look at me. Look at me!"
Her eyes eventually fluttered open, but he could tell she was struggling to focus.
"Elena, is the baby okay? Can you tell?"
Reaching a hand up to his cheek, she fixed her gaze on his face. "You're...hurt..."
"I don't care about me," he answered immediately. "Is the baby okay?"
Her eyes shifted to look just beside him as she concentrated, becoming more distant with the tense seconds. Terrified, he could hardly breathe...
"She's fine. The baby's fine."
Still holding her head with his hands, he let his own fall forward with relief, and though he was still deeply concerned about them both, he at least allowed himself to smile slightly as he looked back up at her.
"She? I thought you weren't going to tell me."
Elena grimaced again, placing her hand atop her stomach as she shifted her body uncomfortably. "I thought you'd be disappointed."
Koril blinked, somewhat hurt by her assumption. "Why would I be disappointed? I just want her to be healthy. That's all that matters."
Either she didn't hear his response or she was still somewhat out of it. She shifted herself once more as she looked about the ship, understandably anxious. "Have they come back?"
Gently lifting his palm from her temple to make sure her gash had clotted, he sighed. "I don't know. I haven't heard anything, but I was out for a while, too." Looking over her again, he searched for other wounds. Finding none obvious, though he was sure she was in terrible pain anyway, he brushed his fingers against her cheek. "I'm sorry," he apologized softly, "I'm so sorry..."
But she shook her head slightly. "Don't be. You had to. We're alive, and Deilia will find us. We'll be okay."
He would have argued if he hadn't felt so guilty. Getting separated from Derek and the Lyrans during the attack on their home had initially upset him, but considering how he had been forced to shake their pursuers, he was certain the two-year-old boy had fared much better with his grandparents and his aunt. It would take Deilia some time to find them buried in the snow, but he hoped she'd be able to act quickly.
Seeing his breath billowing away from him in light puffs as he thought, he snapped back to the present and realized how cold Elena had to be, resting against the frigid durasteel frame. His comfort didn't matter.
"I need to find a blanket for you."
Before he could move, though, she gripped his arm tightly, refusing him the chance to leave.
"No, you don't," she told him strongly as she tugged him closer to her side. "I don't need it, and you don't need to be moving around any more than you already have." Seeing the confused expression on his face, she continued, exasperated that she had to explain. "Koril, I know you can't tell, but if you have internal injuries and you keep moving, you're going to make them worse if you haven't yet. You're staying put."
Again he wanted to argue, but as the air became colder within the wrecked transport, he noticed it was becoming harder for him to breathe, reminding him that he most likely did have some kind of injury; he just didn't want to think about it until they were found.
Elena winced as she moved herself in discomfort a third time, furthering his concern for her.
"Back spasm, and she's trying to fight it," she managed through gritted teeth, but as she released, her entire body relaxed once more as she began to black out a second time.
"Elena? Stay with me, love," he begged as he put his hand under her chin to steady her head, but she was motionless for several agonizing seconds. Waking up again, she seemed disoriented until she met his gaze, her expression saturated with pain. He gently stroked her face to comfort her, but another grimace froze her in place; she didn't breathe, she didn't move...
Koril felt his own breath leave him, too, as he moved his hand to rest atop her belly, and he could feel it.
It was a contraction.
As it released her, she took in a shaky breath and looked back up at him again, unable to hide the fear in her eyes as she realized it, too.
"You're in labor," he told her needlessly, but she desperately denied it, shaking her head.
"No...no no no, not here, not now..."
"I can...I can delay them," she bargained, "I can hold them off... I did it before with Derek!"
But Koril shook his head, too. "Don't, Elena. Listen. You're hurt...you're weakened already. Postponing labor is only going to drain you more. And if Deilia doesn't find us...I can't get you out of here."
Her eyes became even more fearful. "What! What are you talking about?"
He hadn't meant to upset her further, but rather focus her on the baby instead. "My leg may be broken," he told her carefully, "so if either of us is going to leave to find help, it'll be you."
"But if I deliver now, I'll be even more tired, an--"
Another contraction cut off her words, curling her forward with its intensity. And just as she had done after the previous ones released, her whole body slumped back against the wall as she fell unconscious again, though Koril continued to cradle her head. Was she even going to be able to deliver? Her contractions seemed to be causing her black outs, but why? Were they worsening her concussion? Would she be able to focus long enough to safely give birth?
As her eyes opened back up, he gently caressed her cheek with his thumb, answering her previous argument as she became more alert. "I don't think you have a choice anymore. The crash must have triggered labor to begin..."
Scared, she began taking in rapid, shallow breaths as tears developed in her eyes. "I can't do this..."
He gripped her hand tightly, looking deeply into her eyes. "Yes, you can. I'm going to be right here with you --"
"I should be at home," she interrupted sadly, closing her eyes as if to shut out the reality of their situation - alone, no medical supplies if an emergency arose, no way to contact anyone... Though it had been over two years since his last, most excruciating experience, physical pain was nothing compared to the emotional heartache he felt as she squeezed his hand in return, still terrified.
"I know," he soothed, "and I'm sorry for my part in that." He had gone against Major Jax's advice by leaving Paneau, but he couldn't stand their separation any longer. He didn't have to guess who had followed him to Hoth; he could only hope that they had broken off their chase, thinking the Driftdance destroyed in the explosion and resultant avalanche.
She held her breath as another contraction gripped her, but unlike before, she was finally able to stay conscious after it faded, easing his anxiety somewhat. Maybe she would be able to deliver safely after all. Getting her attention again, he stroked her hair to calm her as he continued softly. "You know what to do, and I will help you any way I can, okay? I wasn't there for you when you had Derek...I was hardly even alive. But I'm going to make up for that now. Rech prepared me for this, Elena; everything's going to be alright." He smiled broadly, gently placing his free hand atop her stomach once more. "We'll have our little girl to hold soon, and she'll be so beautiful. You can do this. We can do this, okay?" Again he gazed into her eyes, asking for her agreement as he kept his expression confident and relaxed. "Okay?"
Though she still looked scared and unsure, she eventually released a long shaky breath and nodded, gripping his hand tightly. "Okay," she breathed, "...okay."
Smiling again as he nodded, too, he leaned over her and gave her a swift kiss before she curled into another contraction, reflecting its intensity in the strength of her grasp on his hand.