Starfleet Medical's cafeteria serves the worst coffee. Nyota drinks it in slow little sips anyway, like she's sitting at her favorite coffee shop in Nairobi. When she's finished filing her reports, she clicks off her padd and snaps the stylus back into its clip.
The corridor leading to Jim's room feels very long.
The sheets on his bed are smooth. The flowers on the nightstand have fresh water. When the sun breaks through the clouds, bathing the room in harsh light, she reaches for the blinds, but the windows darken automatically before she gets there.
There is nothing she can do for Jim.
She clears her throat, crosses her arms over her chest.
"Five years ago, I would have danced on your grave. I was plotting your demise. I would have pulled the plug on you myself."
Jim's face is too pale, and the bruises aren't healing.
"If you don't wake up, I am going to kill you."
Nyota bolts the coffee like it's a shot of Jack. She catches a glimpse of her reflection in the bathroom mirror. She looks haggard; her under-eye concealer isn't doing its job.
Leonard is staring at Jim's monitors when she comes inside. She doesn't know why she's surprised to see him here; it's not as if she's Jim's only friend.
"Any change?" she asks.
Leonard shakes his head. "None whatsoever." He looks as tired as she feels.
"I don't know what to do," she blurts, gesturing at the too-neat hospital room and Jim, too still in his bed. She means more, though: half of San Francisco cordoned off by police force fields. Mass fatalities in London. One hundred forty-two of their crew killed, the Enterprise a lifeless shell.
"The only thing you can do is care," Leonard says. He squeezes her shoulder. "You're doing it well."
In the morning, Spock presses a thermos into her hands.
"The quality of Starfleet Medical's coffee is poor," he says. "This coffee is more flavorful and nutritious."
"Nutritious?" Nyota mutters, but she reaches up to kiss Spock anyway. "Thank you," she says. "You're sweet."
"I am not sweet. I am logical," Spock protests, but Nyota is already out the door. She has no time to waste; Admiral Cartwright wants a debriefing, Scotty wants her plans for the communications array, and if she doesn't leave now, she'll have no time to see Jim.
"Spock made me coffee this morning. It tastes like chalk," she tells Jim. "I think he puts vitamin supplements in it. Anyway, I don't know why you always liked to hear things like that, but thank you for listening. I know you said it was because you wanted ammo, but I always thought it was because you'd never seen a functional adult relationship before, and you wanted to know what it was like so you could have one day."
She takes a step closer to the bed and smooths back a lock of hair that isn't out of place. "I miss telling you things like this, so I need you to wake up. And I'm leaving you the rest of the coffee. It's annoying and nutritious, so Spock would want you to have it."
She hits the coffee machine on her way out the door.
Spock is waiting in her quarters when Nyota comes back from the hospital. She doesn't protest when he peels off her jacket and pushes her gently into bed. He lies beside her, an arm around her waist, his body radiating warmth.
"You have not been resting adequately," he murmurs in her ear. "Coffee is not an adequate substitute for sleep."
"Is that Vulcan for 'I'm worried about you?'" she asks.
"As a linguist, you are no doubt aware that phrase does not exist in the Vulcan language." He pauses. "Yes. I am concerned for your welfare."
She traces a finger over the dark green circles beneath his eyes.
"You haven't been sleeping either."
"Vulcans do not require eight hours of rest each night."
"So you haven't slept at all." It's not a question.
"No," Spock says, "and I do not intend to until I am certain you are asleep."
"Blackmail is immoral."
"Yet sometimes necessary."
Nyota sleeps well for the first time since Khan.
When Nyota comes back from her coffee run, Spock is standing beside Jim's bed.
"You came," she says softly.
"Jim is my friend," he replies, as if that settles the matter. Of course, Spock would never do anything without logical justification, so he adds, "Dr. McCoy shared three studies which demonstrate that comatose patients remember their visitors when they awaken."
Spock turns back to Jim. "First officer's report. Repairs to nacelle number two are thirty-eight percent completed. The main engineering bay is functional. Support pylons on deck six, seven, and eleven have been replaced. Starfleet estimates repair cost at 2.58 billion credits, which they have threatened to bill directly to you. I will return with further status updates tomorrow."
"Vulcans," Nyota mutters under her breath when Spock is gone. Jim lies on the bed, unmoving, but she can picture how he would grin.
She carries a cup of Starfleet's shitty coffee and a replicated breakfast sandwich up to Leonard's office. It isn't much of a gift, but she has a feeling Leonard needs it.
"Thank you," she says. She has to shift around a stack of padds and styluses to make room for the coffee cup on his desk.
"What've I done?" Leonard asks gruffly.
"You sent Spock those studies. He never could have come unless he had a logical reason to visit." She settles in the uncomfortable plastic chair across from the desk, curling her fingers around her own coffee to keep them warm. "Were the studies real?"
"Only a damn fool would send a Vulcan fake scientific data," Leonard says. He makes a face when he drinks the coffee, but he drains the cup in one long bolt.
"So it matters? What I've been doing?"
"Yeah," Leonard says. "Absolutely."
Jim is not awake. His vitals are strong; his brain is functioning. There is no medical reason for him to be asleep, but he is. Nyota hadn't missed the desperation in Leonard's eyes when he told her.
She pulls a chair close to the bed and lays her hand on Jim's.
"Listen, Jim, you are one of my best friends. I don't know how it happened, but you are. Maybe it was after the Narada, when my friend died and you --"
Her voice breaks.
"But we agreed to never speak about that again, so we won't. You almost died for me on Omicron Theta VII, and I promised you I was going to return the favor, so you can't die before that happens. And anyway, you're a really good listener even though you're an obnoxious prick, and you give disturbingly good advice even though you don't come close to having your own life together. I just don't think I'm going to find that combination in anyone else, okay?"
She twirls the coffee cup in her hands. She's already threatened, cajoled, begged, what else can she do?
"Look, if you'll just wake up, I'll answer your annoying questions about my sex life. Well, one annoying question about my sex life. So make it a good one. And you're right, Gaila and I did get drunk and go down on each other after finals third year, and Spock knows because I told him about it. In great detail. If you ever want to hear about it, you'll have to open your eyes."
She stays until the sun sets, a cold cup of coffee in one hand and her other hand wrapped around Jim's.
Jim is awake, and Nyota barely knows what to say.
Jim speaks first. "It freaks me out when you cry. It's much more comfortable when you glare at me. Yeah, exactly like that."
"You're still you," Nyota manages.
"Yeah." Jim winces. "I don't know if that's a good thing."
Nyota's about to say something, but Jim holds up a hand.
"I need you to answer something really honestly for me, okay? I asked Bones already, but he'd lie."
Nyota nods. "Whatever you need."
"Did I do enough, at the end? Was it enough to make up for the mistakes I made before?"
Nyota sighs. "I don't know how to answer that, Jim. It's not like there's some kind of mathematical equation to measure out penitence and blame. All I know is you're my friend, and I'm glad you're alive."
"Yeah, well, I'm not the only person who died that day. I'm just the only one who woke up. I'm going to need your help to make sure I'm worth the second chance."
Nyota raises an eyebrow. "You're saying you want me to judge and criticize you more? And to never hold back my opinion?"
"Something like that," Jim says.
Nyota smiles. "I think I can manage."