The doctor stares at his hands, at the bright line of new flesh peering through the slash a ragged edge on the console had torn in his palms. (The ship shakes, turbulence or fire or just miscalibration; it can be hard to tell.) Underneath, he is pale as a jelly, unlined, raw, throbbing against the limits of his old body. This is not new, in any sense, but still he is always taken unprepared, always startled and unhappy as a boy approaching puberty. This body is worn as comfortable as an old shoe, molded to him, friendly and familiar.
He locks the console and retreats to his room for privacy. Better they not see this, the young pyro in her leather jacket or the snobbish mathematician with his red star; they mean well, and they’ve grown used to his eccentricities, but it’s a delicate tension; he doesn’t want them to see him in his unfurling.
It takes days of patient, bloody work. He scrapes himself raw, runs a razor from ear to jaw, over collarbones and along the sternum, across the points on his hips and down the flat plane of his shins. He wedges fingers clumsy with new youth under his skin and pulls, a deep arachnid ache. The air hits his carapace at last and he shudders, an electric current of worry. He forces air into empty lungs, slaps his chest until his hearts stutter and start, twists and turns until his bones harden and his skin solidifies.
The face in the mirror is new but the eyes however are old.