Nyota wakes up to the sight of a smiling Andorian.
"Good afternoon," he says, his stethoscope swinging towards her where it hangs from his neck. He leans over her, antenna moving back and forth and his eyes flicking between hers and the tricorder in his hand.
She tries to get out a greeting but her throat sticks, dry and scratchy and she's left trying to swallow, though her mouth is too gummed shut and parched to do so.
"You're ok," the Andorian says as he helps her sit up. He presses a cup of water into her hand, his touch leaving a coolness on her shoulder when he gives her a friendly pat. "Nasty case of the Elnathian flu, but I'm happy to say that you're on the mend."
His white coat and the chart he's holding identify him as a doctor, and the display of her vitals and the scratchy sheets of her biobed tell her she's in the hospital, but that still leaves her looking around, trying to place herself her with answers of why and how, and coming up with nothing other than the list of medication she's on, typed out on a filmplast that hangs on the wall and is echoed in a neatly lined up tray of hypos that call up a dull ache in her neck. She touches her skin there, just below her ear and finds it tender.
"Your roommate called a medivac for you," her doctor says before she can start to ask all the questions that have begun to tumble through her, coming out only in how her lips part and her eyes meet his. "We brought you over a few days ago, and you've been asleep ever since. Common, really, with the course of the illness."
"Days?" she echoes, her voice rough.
"Sorry you missed the beginning of your break," the Andorian says and taps his padd against the edge of her bed as his antenna dip. "You're not the only cadet in here sleeping through the beginning of your vacation."
Gaila comes in when he leaves and sits on the edge of Nyota's bed, giving her a hug that Nyota struggles to return with how heavy her arms are.
"Good thing you always get your work done way too early, cause a lot of other cadets who got sick are going to have to make up their finals in January." Gaila nods her head towards the door and their ostensible classmates also in the hospital, the motion making her curls bounce. Nyota swallows as the bed shifts slightly under Gaila's weight and presses her hand to her stomach. "You went down like a rock. It was very dramatic, Ny. I had heard it was going around, but you got it particularly bad, though I guess all the humans in Xenoling did too, so it's not like you were unlucky. The rest of us were spared due to, you know, superior genetics. Guess it's a human thing, coming down with it."
"But you're ok."
"Obviously," Gaila says, waving her hands towards herself. "But I'm sorry about your trip home."
"Oh," Nyota says and covers her eyes with a hand that weighs too much.
"I called your folks. Your mom says hi."
Nyota lays back against the pillows, letting her hand drop so she can better stare up at the ceiling, a thick, coursing disappointment rising through her that she squeezes her eyes shut against. She'll see her parents some other time. February, maybe, since they have a long weekend then and she might be able to go home if she doesn't have too much work, or maybe her parents will come out here and it will be like spending Christmas with them except not at all, since she should be in their kitchen right now enjoying a home cooked meal, not laying in a hospital bed with monitors beeping at her, her stomach turning over on itself.
"I'm sorry," Gaila says again, her nose wrinkling. Her hand finds Nyota's and Nyota tries to let the slight squeeze Gaila gives her make her feel better.
"I wonder who I got it from," she says to the monitor spelling out her pulse, blood pressure, temperature, and other statistics she's growing too tired to make sense of.
"A lot of people have it. And anyway," Gaila says her eyes shining, "It was probably all the excitement that did you in. Compromised immune system, what with the anticipation."
"All the…" Nyota starts and is drawing in a breath even as the realization forms, as the thought takes hold and grows, her chest going cold and her stomach freezing up. "No."
"I let him know too," Gaila says and squeezes Nyota's hand again. "He says to feel better."
She can feel her forehead bunch when she presses her fingertips to it, grimacing behind her palms. "No. No, no, no."
"He understands. Logic, right? That you couldn't make it since you were kind of passed out in an emergency room?" Gaila pats at her knee. "But I know you were looking forward to it." Her sympathetic grimace slides into something else entirely, her tongue pressed to the corner of her mouth and her eyes shining as she gives Nyota a grin. "Dinner with the Commander and all."
"No," Nyota repeats, like saying it just once more could undo everything, could have her out of her hospital bed, could rewind time and give her chance to redo the last few days, to do it right this time, how it should have been and how she had imagined it, the hours she spent playing the entire evening out in her mind over and over since he had first suggested finding a night to share a meal together. "He must have- Did he think that- When I didn't show up…"
"It's ok," Gaila says.
"But he would have-" Been there. Waiting. She can't say it, can only stare at Gaila and let the thoughts crash through her. No matter how much dread it wells up, how it makes her skin feel too hot and too tight, she can't stop herself from trying to work through if he would have stayed there at the Academy gates where they had planned to meet, how long he would have waited for her to come, only to have her never arrive. Her stomach turns again, this time at the idea of what could have possibly gone through his mind as the minutes would have ticked by, as he would have finally decided she wasn't coming. The fingers she presses into her forehead do nothing to keep at bay the thoughts of how long he might have stayed, if it would have been logical to leave right away, if he came up with explanations for her absence, if he had tried to call her only to have her not answer, if he had thought even for a few minutes or hours or a day until Gaila called him that Nyota would have chosen not to come with no word and no explanation, that she would have left him there alone waiting for her.
"I can see your blood pressure going up," Gaila says, her head tilted at the monitor. "Huh. That's kind of neat."
"This," Nyota says, her head falling back onto the pillow, "Is the worst winter break ever."
The gifts she bought for her parents are tucked into her bag already. She pictures it where she had left it on the foot of her bed, waiting for the shuttle she never got on that next morning after the last evening she spent in her dorm, a day that passed half a week ago now. She be home wrapping the presents and listening to the chatter of her aunts and uncles and cousins, smelling the scent of her grandmother's food that she can imagine clearly enough above the antiseptic and stale notes of air caught perpetually indoors that she's sure her mouth would water if her stomach would stop churning long enough to approach anything like hunger.
The turning won't cease though, and she's not at home, and she's not with her family, and she's not back in her dorm in those moments before the room swam before her eyes, but is laying in her hospital bed, listening to beeping monitors and whirring machinery and watching the shadows stretch across the walls. Her padd lays in her lap and she picks it up only to put it down again, finding the energy only to run her finger over the edge. A look at the clock on the wall tells her it would be morning at home, time for coffee and a walk with her father and the dew drop shine of the morning's moisture clinging to garden plants. She picks at the blanket beneath her hand, tries to remember the feel of the leaves of her father's plum tree under her fingers, turns far enough to watch birds wheel by outside her window, playing in wind she can't feel.
She pushes herself upright when there's a knock on her door.
"Come in," she calls, expecting her doctor, his smile and his hypos and the padd that he taps against his palm as he talks to her, telling her she's doing great and no, that she can't leave yet.
Instead it's Commander Spock - no, just Spock, like he had asked - and she wets her lips quickly, her tongue passing over chapped and too dry skin. It's a reflexive movement as if she is about to speak, though no words come, her mind slowing to a standstill at the sight of him hovering in the doorway, his eyes on her, deep and brown and making it hard to think about anything other than the sight of him there. She has a half written message to him that she's been working on for too long, each word overthought a dozen times over and she no more knows what to say to him in writing than she does with him suddenly halfway in her room.
"I'm sorry," she finally gets out, voicing the first thought that springs fully formed to her mind, hearing it spill out into the quiet of the room.
"How are you?" His hands are behind his back and he hasn't moved from the door, lingering too still and unmoving in that way that he has of near complete motionless, the same way he would stand behind his lectern or sit at his desk, those hours she spent listening to him lecture last year, and the afternoons she spent in his office with him that always seemed to draw to a close too soon.
"Better," she answers because she's been awake now for two hours and that's something at least. Markedly better than she was, for Gaila to have called for a medic and for her to have passed out midway through dressing. She's spent hours laying in her hospital bed, remembering spreading out a selection of earrings on top of her dresser and trying to probe her mind for anything that came after that. She can't find what she seems to keep looking for, no memory of Gaila coming into the room, no recollection of her arrival to the ER, just her doctor smiling at her when her eyes finally opened and the beeping bustle of the equipment of her hospital room that hasn't ceased since she awoke.
Her hair is in knots when she drags her fingers through it and she stops when she decides she's making it worse, smoothing her palms over it and trying to tuck it back behind her ears. She wants to run her knuckle under her eyes, wants a mirror, a change of clothes and a hairbrush and the time in the morning she always takes to get ready, wants to look at put together as he is, standing there in his neatly pressed uniform with his eyes still on her.
She clears her throat, still too dry no matter how many cups of water she goes through. "I'm really, really sorry about the other night."
"It is no matter," he says like when he had asked what is days ago now if she might join him for dinner, his eyes hadn't met hers and slid quickly away with an agitation she had never seen in him before. For the successful completion of the semester he had said, quickly qualifying his suggestion, and her heart had pounded and her stomach had fluttered and it's threatening to do the same now, her stomach turning over in a way that is all together different than the low lying nausea that hasn't gone away since she woke up.
"Please," she says and gestures to the chair next to her bed. The motion spurs him forward, his long legs taking the short distance from the door in a way that she's still, two semesters of him later, trying to figure out exactly what makes him so graceful.
He sits on the edge of the chair, perched there with his back ramrod straight.
"How has your break been?" she asks and stills her hands in her lap as they threaten to twist together.
"Productive," he answers quickly. "A number of students had questions regarding the comments on their final papers which I had an opportunity to address and I have also been able to complete much of the preparation for my classes next term."
"I should have been there to help." She was, all semester. Day after day in his office with him, sharing cups of tea and conversations that stretched on until she lost track of time, padds spread between them on his desk, the business of grading and lectures and office hours feeling at times secondary to everything else that passed between them.
She should have been at dinner with him too. She wonders where he would have suggested they go, if he had a place in mind or if he might have been as silent on the matter as he is now, his eyes on the wall past her. She can nearly see it, that evening that she missed, her wearing one of the many pairs of earrings she might have chosen, dressed in the skirt she had finally settled on, her chest probably still as tight and jumpy as it had been all of that day.
"That is not what I-" His brow furrows and then his head shakes once, just as quick as his words. "It is logical that you rest."
She picks at the blanket again, stares down at her hand and tries not to wonder how it might have gone between them if she hadn't gotten sick. "There's not much else to do."
"I hope your recovery is expedient," he says.
"Thank you," she says and watches him rise, pull the hem of his jacket down and turn on his heel to leave the room, her heartbeat filling in for the noise in her ears where his voice had been.