Crash Damage

Cohost writing prompt: @make-up-a-starship-pilot — Starship pilot who got disgusting filthy terrestrial mud on their boots

It's almost a kiloday since the crash.

There's a single spaceport on this low-development rock, three hours on an atmo shuttle over to the nearest pad, then overland down from the mountain and up this one, to get to the sensor mast caretaker's cottage. About as far from starships as she can get without making it irrevocable. The nearest other people are at the experimental farm over the other side of the mountain, small-scale crop farming to find out which human-useful plants do well in local conditions, painstakingly zeroing in on grain and bean cultivars and ready to start alfalfa trials, after the winter.

Pixi has a routine. Up with the local sun, see to the chickens. Chop wood. Tend the plants. Take the buggy out for a circuit of the sensor masts. Exhaust herself. Sleep, if she's lucky.

There won't be any sleep tonight.

The wind is gusting into the side of the cottage in the way that feels like an earthquake. When this rain stops, she's have to check all the masts are still there. It's not the worst storm she's been here for, but it's high on the list.

The clattering at the door, she assumes at first, is some ripped-loose piece of debris pinned against it by the wind; but then the handle jiggles in a way that's not the wind, and she sprints to it. Something fucking terrible must have happened at the farm, if they need to trek over here in this

She kicks a door wedge into its path, slaps back the bolts, stands carefully out of its swing, and jabs the handle down sharply. The wind does the rest, ramming the door instantly onto the stop, blasting water and leaves through the gap, hurling someone in to tumble on the floor. Pixi gets her shoulder to the door and, heaving, heels dugs into the gaps in the flagstones, levers it slowly shut. Bolting it again, she mops the rain out of her eyes, turns to the figure on the floor.

"Hattch?" she says, incredulous. The spacer on the floor, flight suit hanging sodden around xem, shivering uncontrollably, plastered to mid-thigh with mud, is so unexpected, so incongruous, that Pixi wonders for a moment if this is real. She slumps against the door, everything feeling floaty and uncanny.

"Pix?" Hattch croaks, eye wide in a pale and terrified face, shaking in a spreading muddy puddle.

"Carbide bones," Pixi says. "Fuck. We need to get you out of that and warmed up—"

It's bewildering enough that she only manages to ask fragments of questions, as she helps the pilot out of xer things, Hattch's hands hovering in uncomprehending revulsion, unwilling to touch the thick, slick, unfamiliar mud on xem.

What are you—


When did you—

Towel-wrapped and clutching a hot mug, Hattch watches her fill a bath with barely less mistrust of it than the miseries of weather xey've been subjected to.

"The aero dropped me on the local pad before the storm," xey chatter out. "Had to walk up—"

"You've been out in that for hours," Pixi says, horrified.

"I heard people like rain," Hattch manages, looking abjectly, miserably uncomprehending.

"Not like that—"

Hattch endures the bath, clutching the edge mistrustfully, but finally stops shivering. Pixi holds her own hands carefully, mindful of them, so they won't reach out and trace the smoothly integrated edges of the smart plastics in flesh. Repairs. Crash damage.

Most of a kiloday of hauling buckets and feed sacks, chopping wood, pulling weeds; Pixi's more muscled than she used to be, when she and Hattch were so similarly sized that they only really had Pixi-and-Hattch's clothes. Her warm clothes hang large on the pilot, making xem look even smaller and frailer than they already did.

Pixi lies on her side, on one side of the bed; watching Hattch on the other side, mirrored and facing her, blanket pulled up to their chins.

"I got tired of missing you," Hattch says finally, brittle and staring.