The Obligatory Bald Joke
Character codes: R
Because You've Come to Expect it From Me
Sighing heavily, Beverly Crusher flipped the hand-held tricorder shut and leaned against the diagnostic console. She watched as her patient swung his legs off the biobed, penduluming himself to an upright position. He looked at her as if he expected some sort of answer.
"I'm sorry, Will. I'm afraid it's permanent."
Riker laughed nervously. He reached up to run a hand through his hair -- a habit that had become second nature to him over the years -- but the motion stopped itself short of completion. His hand dropped back to his lap.
"I thought you said it was stress," he ventured finally.
"I told you that was my best guess," Crusher corrected. "From all outward appearances, it seemed like a logical conclusion. Mental anxiety can manifest itself in a number of ways, most of which bear no obvious link to the root of the problem." She gave him a sympathetic smile. "And you must admit, you have been subject to some inordinate stress levels over the past several days."
"Stress," Riker told her grimly, "is a yellow alert. Stress is bluffing with a pair of deuces. Stress is ... is juggling two women that don't know about each other. I think waking up in an alien mental institution accused of murder deserves something a little more flamboyant than stress."
"All right, Will," Crusher agreed. "Psychological trauma."
Riker nodded. "Yeah. Psychological trauma. Now we're getting somewhere. So ... psychological trauma would probably warrant side effects, right? Like maybe this, for instance." He gestured vaguely with one hand, a motion that was little more than just the stirring of air.
Crusher sighed again. She set the tricorder aside and folded her hands before her. "Will, try to understand: I'm not saying this couldn't be a manifestation of stre-- psychological trauma, I'm saying it's not."
"There's a difference?"
"Big difference. The temporal scans are conclusive. It is not stress."
"Maybe the drugs then--" Riker started, grasping for straws.
"And it's not the drugs," Crusher interrupted.
Riker pushed to his feet to pace the medical bay. He paused before one of the blank diagnostic screens that spanned the far wall. The impassive surface reflected his image like a mirror. Staring at the man who in turn stared back at him, Riker reached up slowly and ran one hand across a head as bare as a baby's bottom.
Smooth, hairless flesh passed easily beneath his palm. His fingers ran afoul of the uniform collar at the back of his neck before they did anything else.
"If it's not stress, and it's not drugs, then what is it?" he asked finally.
"Brain damage," Crusher informed him.
"Brain damage?" Riker repeated hollowly.
Crusher nodded. "From the Talonian's cortical probe," she elaborated. "When you pulled it out of your temple, you did a lot of damage. Synapses were torn, neural pathways were disrupted. You actually lost a large number of brain cells."
"And there's nothing you can do?"
"I'm afraid not, Will. I repaired as much damage as I could, but there's just not enough healthy cells left to spare any for growing hair."
Riker grunted. "A few bricks shy of full load," he commented more to himself than to her.
"You were lucky it didn't affect anything more important," she chided. "You still have all your mental faculties. Both short and long term memory are virtually intact. You should be grateful all you lost was a little hair."
"Easy for you to say," Riker told his reflection. One hand shifted to his beard. "I suppose I'll lose this then, too?"
Crusher pushed off the counter and walked up behind him. She watched him in the reflection of the blank diagnostic screen, even as he watched himself.
"Actually, popular theory favors the notion of a proportionally inverse relationship between body/facial hair to cranial hair." She laid a hand on his shoulder and patted it comfortingly. "So you might actually notice some positive results arising from this."
"I doubt it."
"Don't be so quick to judge. You might find you like it."
Riker turned to stare down at the CMO. His eyes were so puppy-dog lost and his expression so pitifully hang dog that she had to resist the urge reach out and pat him on the head.
The very smooth, very bald head.
"Actually, Will," she said suddenly, "I'll tell you a secret. I've never mentioned this before because it didn't seem appropriate; but considering the circumstances, maybe it is now. And who knows? Maybe it will change your perspective a bit."
"What?" Riker asked without much enthusiasm.
"Some women," Crusher said, choosing her words carefully, "find follically-impaired men devastatingly attractive."
Riker's eyes narrowed. "Follically impaired?" he repeated.
"Bald," Crusher elaborated. "Thinning. Sometimes even just receding."
Riker stared at her for a full minute in silence. "Really?" he asked finally.
"Really," she assured him.
Riker considered it, considered her. "You're sure," he pressed after a long, thoughtful pause.
Beverly's eyes glittered. "Positive," she murmured.
Slowly, Will Riker smiled.End