It took about a day after Jim first came out of the coma for flowers to start appearing in his room as if by magic. It was probably pretty easy for magic to happen while he was sleeping like twenty hours a day. He'd open his eyes, trying to see through the cotton in his head, and there'd be a new splotch of colour on some surface to stare at until sleep pulled him back under.
He didn't see anyone but Bones (or Spock, that one time) for over a week, so he marked his visitors by the tags he could read from his bed. Engineering had banded together and left an arrangement shaped like the Enterprise, which was really great and made him well up a little with heavily medicated tears. Carol had brought a mixed bunch that woke him up sneezing till Bones found and disappeared them. Uhura knew him really well and had left a very hypoallergenic foil balloon. It twirled and spun lazily on the end of its ribbon in a draft but Jim caught glimpses of a teddy bear on one side and a bad pun on the other.
The balloon might have been his favourite.
The day he decided to bust out of Starfleet Medical was also, naturally, the day he saw visitors again. It took him ten minutes to disable the monitoring equipment he was hooked up to so that the alarms wouldn't alert Bones, and then after all that, Sulu and Scotty met him in the doorway of his room.
There was a long silence.
"Good to see you up and about," said Sulu finally.
"Those gowns don't hide much," said Scotty. "Look, we brought you a curry takeaway." He held out a bag.
Jim looked at the bag. "I'm glad to see you guys, but this is kind of a bad time," he started.
"We passed McCoy down at the corner," said Sulu, still expressionless. "He's doing his rounds and he said he'd catch up with us in a couple minutes."
Jim glanced back at the giant windows. He was only on the third floor.
"He also gracefully failed to see the edible contraband," said Scotty, giving the bag a little shake. "Really, Jim, this is the calmest he's looked in a month."
Jim sighed. He took the curry. "If I'm going to fix my vitals monitor before he gets here, I may need some help."
"I carry a very small screwdriver for exactly this kind of thing," said Scotty, sauntering into the room.
Sulu just clapped Jim on the shoulder and didn't say another word.
While both the intervention and the curry were great, Operation Freedom recommenced the following day. Jim stepped off the turbolift into the lobby wearing borrowed scrubs, and nearly suffered a heart attack when he recognized the pointed throat-clearing directly to his right.
All Bones did was raise an eyebrow. He was leaning casually against the wall, arms crossed, like he'd been manning his post for a while but could keep going all day if need be.
"I can explain," Jim blurted, frantically trying to think of a way to explain.
"There's no need. I'm your doctor, not your warden. You want to check yourself out AMA, that's on you, kid." Bones straightened up out of his slouch. He was wearing his Dad Face. Jim was in the shit now. "I mean, you were exposed to lethal warp core radiation and I had to cryogenically freeze you like a side of beef, to keep your brain from decomposing before I could revive you with the unethically sourced blood of a genocidal maniac. You were unresponsive for two weeks while you healed and nobody knew if you'd pull through or not. You made everyone you know sick with worry for you, after they'd gotten over the grief whiplash when I literally saved your life." Bones' voice was still preternaturally calm and casual, like he was talking about a book he'd read recently. "But if you think you're ready to leave the hospital then why should I stop you? You are the master of your own destiny."
Jim had said that while incredibly drunk during finals once. He'd known dimly at the time he'd never live it down.
"I was just going for a walk," he managed, his voice cracking a little on the last word.
Bones smiled. It was warm and sinister. "If you wanted me to accelerate your PT, Jim, all you had to do was say so."
Jim got back in the turbolift. Bones came with him.
Uhura came to see him with a cheesesteak hidden in her bag. She was rapidly becoming Jim's favourite and he wondered if she knew.
She probably knew. It was probably all part of her master plan.
"I'm glad you're okay," she said to her manicure as Jim did his best to demolish the sandwich. "We're all--it was hard, when we thought you were--"
Jim stopped chewing and looked at her out of the corner of his eye. She had switched to glaring out his window.
Uhura cleared her throat. "Well," she said finally, "just don't do that again, okay?"
He swallowed. "I'll do my best?"
She nodded, like that was exactly the answer she was looking for. "I saw Chris Chapel," she said in a tone that was definitely turning this conversation in a different direction, hopefully with fewer feelings. "She was on shore leave. She says hello."
"Did she decide she's glad I'm still here?" Jim looked down at his sandwich, plotting his next assault.
"She said the jury's out on that one but nursing's made her more magnanimous in some ways." Uhura arched an eyebrow.
"Well, if you see her again," said Jim, "tell her she's very kind."
"I'll be sure to pass that on," she said, and turned on the TV without asking.
Whatever, Jim had nowhere to be. They could watch daytime reruns for a while.
Spock showed up again two weeks to the day after Jim woke up.
"I understand it is customary to bring some gift of well wishes," said Spock when he ghosted into the room and startled Jim out of reading a book. "But I am aware of your allergy to a wide range of flower pollen and I find it in poor judgment to bring food in violation of your prescribed medical diet."
Jim put his book down and shifted into a more comfortable position. "It's fine, Spock."
Spock nodded awkwardly and sat in the chair beside the bed. "You seem much recovered."
"Bones is hinting they'll release me in a couple days. He doesn't like to lie about that kind of thing because he knows I'll get impatient and break out."
"I have been informed that you have already attempted to discharge yourself three times."
So Spock hadn't heard about the fourth. That might have been the time when Sulu and Scotty had shown up. They were good friends. "Yeah, well."
"The Enterprise was taken in for refits and determined to be unsound," said Spock. "She was disassembled for scrap and the admiralty have decided to reallocate one of the current construction projects towards her recommissioning. It is expected to be complete and ready for launch within eight months."
"That's at least a year in real life time," Jim observed.
"Indeed. Dr. McCoy has indicated that you will be allowed back into active service at the beginning of next month. I have heard that the admiralty intends to follow your medal ceremony with an accelerated program at the Academy, in preparation for your command of the new Enterprise."
"Medal ceremony?" Jim sagged back into the bed.
Spock gave him his Vulcan 'bitch please' look. "You committed a heroic act. Medals generally follow. The original ceremony was to be an award for valour awarded to officers who have died in the course of duty, but certain parties... persuaded the admiralty to a different decision."
"You'd better have gotten a medal, too."
Spock's face soured a little. "I did."
"I think that makes me feel better about the pageantry and having to go back to captain's finishing school."
Spock shrugged, making it look oddly delicate and graceful. "If it improves the experience further, I will be accepting a teaching post at the Academy until our commission resumes."
"Our commission," echoed Jim, thinking things he hadn't dared think in the past two weeks.
"I did not save your life only to allow you to foolishly lose it a second time because there was no one of sufficient personality to keep you on a course of self-preservation."
Jim grinned. He couldn't help it. He felt a little giddy. "There's still Bones. And Uhura."
"Past experience has suggested that this endeavour requires 'a team effort'."
"I thought the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few."
"They do, Jim. So I will see you upon your release." Spock got to his feet and left with a nod.
Jim looked around at all the flowers still crowding his hospital room. "Oh," he said faintly.