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How I Won Over the Dear Doctor

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That impudent cadet Sylvia Tilly. Paul Stamets could only shake his head and wonder why he had agreed to have lunch with her.

“How did you and Dr Culber first meet?” had been Tilly’s innocuous question, asked with a smile, in between sips of her soup. Did Tilly think
that she was going to be fast friends with him, as she apparently was now with Burnham? Had she not experienced enough interactions with her superior officer? Would she be calling him by his first name next?

Stamets answered her question with a look. An unmistakable look which let her know she’d crossed a line.

“I’m sorry Sir. It was inappropriate to ask a personal question.” Tilly looked down at her plate.

Paul took a surreptitious glance around the room. The mess hall was fairly empty at this time, and most other occupants seemed engaged in their own conversations. So perhaps no one had seen the softening of Paul’s expression, the flash of realization that Tilly reminded him a bit of his younger sister, a sister who he sorely missed.

“In the academy. Twenty-two years ago,” Stamets added, leaning forward in his seat. “He was dating someone else though so we weren’t a couple back then.”

The personal revelation was worth it to see the look of delight on Tilly’s face. It was worth it even more for Stamets to be reminded of his victory all those years ago, how he always found a way and got what he wanted.

***

Eighteen years ago....

Ensign Paul Stamets stomped down the corridor, reached his room, tossed his tricorder on his bed and looked around to see that neither of his annoying roommates was there. It has been another dreadful day in the lab. He tried to drown out his boss’s voice, tried to block out the unbearable indignity of reporting under someone who was nowhere near as knowledgeable or innovative as Paul himself.

He sat down and rubbed his temples. The day could not come soon enough when Paul himself would be calling the shots.

A beep indicated that Paul had a message, from someone not on the ship. It was Tatsuko. The biggest gossip in the galaxy. Paul had few friends apart from Straal, but he’d been drawn to Tatsuko since he first met her at the academy and they had bonded over late night lab sessions. He marveled at Tatsuko’s ability to connect with everyone and learn their business, though he could never understand her desire to do so. Outside of Straal and his immediate family, Stamets wasn’t overly interested in the goings on of other people, but he was always impressed at Tatsuko’s fact-finding skills and he knew her to be of use.

Paul pressed the button on his device, and Tatsuko’s message was succinct.

“That hot doctor you liked at the academy has broken up with his boyfriend.”

There was not a flicker of doubt as to who Tatsuko was referring to. Paul had been on plenty of first dates and a few second dates. He’d had his share of bedroom partners, no lack there. But yes, he remembered Dr Hugh Culber very well. As he stared down at the screen, Paul leaned back on his bunk and kicked off his boots. He remembered Hugh’s kind, caring eyes. His broad shoulders, the physique that looked more like it belonged in Security instead of Medical. Most of all, he remembered Hugh’s manner. Patience, geniality, the ability to allow others to be who they were without constantly wanting to change everyone and everything.

Because despite what others might have thought, Stamets knew his own flaws. He was brilliant, yes, but he knew he was a pain, he knew he was a challenge. He knew he was likely to be alone for the rest of his life with only his research as company.

But throughout the entire time Paul had known Hugh at the academy, Hugh had been in a relationship. Paul had interacted with both men over the years - Hugh’s boyfriend had run in some of Tatsuko’s circles. Paul would watch them, would feel the sick bile of jealousy rise in his throat and force himself to choke it down. Despite Paul’s hopes, Hugh’s boyfriend never transferred or met someone else or just disappeared.

Really, the boyfriend was an arrogant know-it-all; what did Hugh see in him?

Paul closed his eyes. It had been a couple years now but he’d never forgotten Hugh. He could visualize him perfectly, remember his sweet voice. He could think about kissing those lips which had been so off-limits.

Paul sat back up. Sitting around and wishing for things to happen was not one of his flaws. He messaged Tatsuko back.

“Is Hugh still on the Yamato?”

Tatsuko was as prompt as she was well-connected.

“Yes. They have some openings in Engineering too. You still hate your assignment?”

“With a passion.”

“I know someone who could put in a good word with the Yamato’s Chief Engineer. You will owe me for the rest of your existence though.”

“Do it!” Paul practically banged his fingers onto the keypad. “I am not letting Hugh Culber get away from me this time!”

***

Tilly was still smiling back at him. Stamets had to clamp down on the smile that threatened to form, though now he was unsure whether the smile was a result of remembering his triumph or a result of something in Tilly.

“Maybe someday I’ll tell you the whole story,” Paul said.

“I am so here for that if you do!”

***
More to come soon; please leave a comment!

Chapter Text

Chapter Two

 

Straal could not believe what his friend and research partner was telling him. “You’re leaving? After we fought so hard to get stationed together!” He shook his head incredulously, his mouth hanging open.

“We can continue our work remotely,” Paul insisted. “There’s so much we can do without being in the same room.”

Paul’s plan had gone off without a hitch. The Yamato indeed had been eager to fill more than one engineering position, Stamets’ work was impeccable, and his current boss – eager to get rid of him – wrote a glowing recommendation. The transfer would be completed in a matter of weeks; Stamets would board a shuttle headed for Starbase 7, at which the Yamato would restock shortly after.

Straal’s face was flushed from a combination of anger and disbelief. He forced himself to take a few breaths. “Is this doctor really worth it? Isn’t there somewhere else in the galaxy you can find a guy who’s handsome and has the ability to put up with you?”

“Well so far I haven’t been able to,” Stamets admitted with a shrug and an embarrassed grin.

“Yeah, no wonder there. And you’re never gonna change, are you? You suck, Paul. You make shitty decisions, you need to be in charge of everything, and once you have your mind made up, there’s no stopping you.” He paused, and then smiled. Straal, too, shared some of Hugh Culber’s better traits. “Okay, I’m pissed at you and will hold this against you till I take my last breath, but I give you my blessing. Go get your doctor.”

Paul lunged forward and hugged the best collaborator he’d ever had. “Thank you.”

“And I hope this doctor is the most patient person ever created. I really do.”

***

Messages exchanged between Paul and Tatsuko:

Paul - Are there any other single men on the Yamato who like other men? I hope I don’t have competition already.

Tatsuko - Okay, I’m good but I’m not omniscient. I don’t know.

Paul - Well see what you can find out. Also, is Hugh’s ex still on the ship?

Tatsuko - I don’t think he’s going anywhere, but it’s a really big ship so don’t worry too much.

Paul- You know for sure that they’re over?

Tatsuko - Yeah, it’s been pretty big news.

Paul – What’s his ex’s name again? Something stupid like Finnigan, right?

Tatsuko – Phineas.

Paul - Does Hugh still like old movies and - painting? He likes to paint right? Or was it sculpting. Something artistic.

Tatsuko - Stop asking me and ask HIM, dumbass!

***

 

Paul’s next step involved mapping out his approach. The paperwork was in and the transfer approved, but how and when to reach out to Hugh? Paul paced around his room as his roommates slept and snored. Options were brought forth, mulled over, and discarded. Hugh would remember Paul; that was not a concern. They had communicated a few times since graduation.

He decided upon a message, text-only to start with. A brief message with a photo. Not a nude photo though, no need to be that forward yet. He reached for his device and tapped, deleted, and re-tapped until satisfied.

“I’ll be transferring to the Yamato. See you in about 6 weeks when she arrives at Starbase 7. Want to have a drink so I can hear what you’ve been up to?”

Simple, boom, don’t re-read it too many times. Paul scrolled through and found a recent picture, cropped out the two crew members standing on either side of him, and sent it off to Hugh.

Then he waited. And waited some more, but the device was silent. Paul contemplated trying to sleep. He was due in the lab in five hours, but fatigue was not a concern when you loved your work (if not your boss) and when you were high on the possibility of getting what you wanted. He waited some more, then looked up the current time on the Yamato. It was the middle of the day shift. Well Hugh might be performing surgery, or perhaps he worked nights and was asleep now.

Beep. A reply to Paul’s message.

“Paul! It’s been too long. Wow, what a great surprise that you’re transferring here! Let’s have that drink for sure, you can tell me how your
mushrooms are.”

And a minute later, Hugh sent a pic as well. Also not naked, but he was wearing something other than his uniform. He was posed next to a painting, holding a drink, and smiling.

The next phase of the plan would involve a few messages and calls with Hugh over the next six weeks. Not too many, not too much. He needed to leave Hugh wanting more. But a few occasional check-ins would do the trick.

Paul knew he’d ultimately be successful. He just needed to wait the six weeks and be judicious with his messaging. It would all be worth it. In six weeks’ time, he would talk to Hugh, listen to that gentle voice, touch those strong hands. And not too much longer before those luscious lips would be on his.

***

Two weeks to go now until the Yamato would reach Starbase 7. Time passed at an interminable rate, but Paul survived it by working. He had his lab, he had his mushrooms, and his current boss was slightly less odious now that she knew he was leaving.

When Paul reached his room at the end of his shift, he did as he always did: picked up his device. Tatsuko had left a message.

“Bad news. I think Hugh and his ex are back together.”

 

MORE SOON

Chapter Text

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Well, you gotta love the fact that the writers give us the canon story of how they got together, airing days after I finish my fanfic! Sorry, I guess I have to consider this an AU now or something akin to the TNG episode “Parallels”. (And the canon version is lovely).

 

Chapter Three

Tatsuko’s people on board the Yamato weren’t sure. But apparently Hugh and his ex been spotted together in public twice in the past two days. Fortunately they hadn’t gone back to sharing a room but for all Tatsuko and Paul knew, it could simply be that they hadn’t yet put in a request to room together again. Paul hadn’t heard from Hugh for four days, but that was typical as they didn’t communicate much more often than that.

“What the fuck am I doing?” Paul asked himself out loud. (Paying no heed to the fact that he was not alone. One roommate and his girlfriend were sitting together inside their bunk, but they ignored Paul as he always ignored them.) “I’m hurdling through space and uprooting my life and work, I’ve pissed off the best research partner ever and now it might be for nothing. And I was an idiot to not see that they might get back together. That’s what a lot of couples do after they break up, they get back together – maybe if I’d ever been in a relationship that lasted longer than two weeks, I’d have known that!”

“Amen,” his roommate’s girlfriend muttered.

“He’ll be gone soon, hon,” the roommate said to his girl.

***

Paul sat in the mess hall on Starbase 7 and watched the Yamato approach the station. He drank his coffee and looked at the ship, impressive viewed through the floor-to-ceiling windows. After spending days in a state of anger and chagrin (directed at himself, no use blaming Tatsuko), he had been trying to view his predicament with an attitude of acceptance. So he had made a mistake. The Yamato was a prestigious ship, and his new role would advance his career. His old boss had been terrible, and now he was away from her. He would miss Straal but maybe an even more brilliant research partner awaited him. And perhaps Paul would become great friends with Hugh and Phineas. Maybe there was another guy as wonderful as Hugh Culber out there somewhere; just because Paul had never met someone else like him didn’t mean that he didn’t exist.

Maybe he’d be able to keep himself from burning with envy when he passed Hugh’s boyfriend in the corridors.

But probably not. What was the crew complement on this ship again and how often would he be forced to see him??

Since Hugh and Phineas had gotten back together, Paul had received one message from Hugh. It had been innocuous and pleasant, and Paul had spent far too much time revising his reply. He finally came up with something and had sent it off yesterday.

“Yes, damnit, I do want to hear all about those paintings of yours even though I’m no artist. I’ll board the Yamato tomorrow– are we still on for that drink sometime? You have a boyfriend, right? Will he be ok with it, or does he want to join us?”

He hated the message, hated all the question marks. ‘This is another reason why you’re single, Paul,’ he’d told himself. ‘Putting yourself out there and sounding ridiculous is a truly horrible experience.’

Hugh hadn’t replied yet, but that was typical of their communications. Like all Starfleet officers (except Tatsuko), they did have more pressing matters than personal correspondence.

The ship continued its approach and Paul’s device beeped with a reminder. It was time to do one final inspection of his temporary quarters on the station and prepare to embark on the Yamato.

***

Paul embarked and jumped into his work with both feet. For his first 72 hours, he spent every waking hour in Engineering. Food replicators inside crew members’ quarters ensured that he didn’t even need to visit the mess hall. He placed his personal communications device inside a drawer and didn’t open it. He had set his brain to “work hard, please the boss, forget everything else” and Paul prided himself on being able to do exactly what he required of himself.

On the morning of the fourth day, Paul rose with his alarm, showered, dressed, and ordered black coffee and a bagel from the food replicator. He was about to drink his first drop of the bitter liquid when his room’s doorbell sounded. A few thoughts flashed through his mind during the next second: ‘That’s odd, my roommate’s not here, I don’t know anyone – Could it be? Could it be him??’

“Come!” he called.

The door opened, and Doctor Hugh Culber stepped through.

Paul’s heart skipped a beat or two. Although he’d seen recent pictures of Hugh, he was taken aback by the other man’s sheer beauty. How was he even more handsome than he had been at the academy? And now he stood right before Paul.

“Hi,” Hugh said. “Hope I’m not interrupting you or making you late for your shift.”

“No, not at all!” Paul replied, forcing himself to steady his voice and hope it came out sounding confident. When his brain could get passed Hugh’s looks, it also made some observations. Hugh’s voice had almost seemed to shake a bit, the tone was tentative. Was it the look in Hugh’s eyes or the way one of his hands was clasping the other that made it appear that Hugh was a bit nervous? When Hugh had first stepped inside the room, he’d looked for a second like he was moving to give Paul a hug, but the coffee mug and bagel Paul held would’ve made that difficult, so the men did not embrace.

“I just wanted to welcome you to the Yamato! I, uh, got the idea you’ve been really busy since you got here. I mean, it’s always hard when you’re on a new assignment. But I just wanted to come by and say hi. It’s nice to see someone I went to the academy with.”

Paul ensured he smiled but not too broadly. The way Hugh’s words had tumbled forth confirmed the notion that the doctor was in fact nervous.

“Thanks. And yeah, you’re right – I haven’t done anything since I got here other than work and sleep.” Paul looked down at the coffee cup and the bagel. “And eat - sometimes.”

“Well, hey, speaking of eating….if you ever do want to grab a bite to eat or a drink, just let me know when you’re free,” Hugh said.

Was that perspiration on Hugh’s forehead? Was Paul dreaming or did the look in Hugh’s eyes suggest something akin to what Paul had dreamed about?

Maybe this was the time to ask the question. It had to be asked sooner or later, and he felt now was as good a time as any. Paul took a sip of his coffee, hoping to appear nonchalant, and began, “Since I have been so busy, I haven’t even looked at my personal messages. You’re still with Phineas, right?” He tried to force a joke, “I don’t want to end up on the receiving end of someone’s fist if I’m spotted having a drink with a married man!”

Hugh awkwardly returned the laugh and took a second before replying. “It’s complicated, but we’re actually over now. We were together for more than four years – these things just aren’t easy. Breakups, I mean. But he and I are over for good now. In fact, his paperwork just came through to transfer him off this ship. That will be good for both of us.”

A few things happened during the next split second. Paul lost control and broke out into a wide smile. He then fought to regain control but realized from the glint in Hugh’s eyes that he’d been too slow that time.

“I – uh – I know breakups are hard,” Paul managed, remembering that the information Hugh had just shared merited a proper reply. “I mean, people tell me they are. How are you holding up?”

“I’m doing okay.” Hugh took a breath. “The last year or so’s been rough but the breakup is definitely for the best. I’m ready to turn that page and begin a new chapter in my life.”

The two men made plans to have a drink that evening, and Paul reiterated his joke about being relieved that he didn’t have to fear being on the receiving end of Phineas’ fist if they were spotted together.

***

Ten hours later, Paul found himself on the receiving end of Phineas’ fist.

Up until that point, their dinner had been like a dream. They sat and they talked, neither man ate much, both men listened. Paul simultaneously wanted to hear everything Hugh had to say and to tell Hugh everything about his life. They leaned into each other as they spoke. Hugh was making bedroom eyes at him, even when Paul went on too much about mushrooms. Ten minutes into the dinner, Paul had dropped the bullshit, decided to stop pretending to be in charge and stop planning his next move. He gave in to his heart, which beat more rapidly than was comfortable.

Hugh apparently had decided the same.

“You know, I hope you don’t find this too forward,” Hugh said. His cheeks looked mildly flushed and his voice was using a tone that could only be described as adoration. “But I always liked you when we were at the academy. I always was so interested in you. But I was already with Phineas and I don’t know….I just didn’t know how you felt about me. I couldn’t tell if I should rock the boat with Phinny so….”

Paul metaphorically laid his cards on the table. “I always wanted you. I transferred to the Yamato to be with you.”

Hugh’s mouth dropped open and stayed open for a few beats. Paul gently laid his hands on the sides of Hugh’s face and pulled him in. They kissed. They kissed and kissed, and didn’t stop. Paul felt like star systems were exploding, like he and Hugh were the only two humans ever, like his ears were ringing, like he needed to devour those delicious lips and the perfect man to whom they belonged.

And then seconds later, he felt himself being grabbed by the arm, brought to his feet, and punched in the face.

“Phinny!” Hugh screamed.

“You son of a bitch Paul Stamets!” Phineas muttered through clenched teeth, balling his fists and preparing to strike another blow. “You slimy –“

Before Phineas could say or do more, two members of Security who had been dining at the next table apprehended him and removed him from the mess hall. Hugh had already rushed to Paul’s side. “Let’s get you to sick bay!”

“I’m fine,” Paul said.

“You’re bleeding. Let’s go.”

“Okay. But kiss me first.”

Hugh complied. A few onlookers watched and applauded or hooted.

***

Back in the present day, Paul sat next to Sylvia Tilly. Weeks had gone by since the day she’d asked the harmless question, asked how he and Hugh had first met. He liked Tilly now. Hugh had always taught him to open his heart and keep it open “no matter how much it might go against your crotchety instincts,” as Hugh had put it. Besides, Hugh loved Tilly so that was another point in the cadet’s favor as far as Paul was concerned.

“Wow!” Tilly said. “Thank you for telling me all of that.”

“It was kind of fun to relive it,” Paul shrugged.

“And so that was it? You’ve been together since that day?”

“Since that punch in the face from good old Phineas, eighteen years ago. Hugh took me to sick bay, and we haven’t been apart since.”

“I, um, I hope someday I find love like that. I think it’s rare what you two have.”

Paul smiled, took another sip of his drink, and turned towards Tilly. “Well, when you do find that person, I recommend you do what I did. Go for it and take a few risks. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if I hadn’t transferred to the Yamato.”

The door to Paul and Hugh’s quarters opened, and Hugh walked through. “Am I late?” the doctor asked, laying eyes on Tilly. “I thought we have a bit of time before game night.”

“You’re fine,” Paul said, getting up and planting a quick kiss on his mouth. “The others aren’t here yet. I was just telling Tilly the story of how we got together.”

“You mean how we first met at the academy?” Hugh asked, his brow furrowing.

Paul laughed. “No!” He turned towards Tilly. “See, that part, we don’t agree on. We know we met each other at the academy, we know we hung out in the same circles – but neither of us agrees on what was the very first time we saw each other.”

Hugh rolled his eyes. “My memory is fine.” He also turned to Tilly. “It was at this big party that our mutual friend Tatsuko threw.”

Tilly smiled. “I know all about Tatsuko.”

Paul shook his head. “No, no, no – we had already met by then. The first time we saw each other was at a lecture by a visiting expert on – what else? – astromycology. We sat near each other and talked a bit afterwards.”

“I have zero memory of the lecture or us meeting there. I’m positive that Tatsuko’s party was the first time we ever spoke!” Hugh insisted.

Both men smiled and Hugh turned towards Tilly. “This will happen to you when you have a couple more decades on you.”

“Memory loss or silly disagreements with my husband?” Tilly asked.

“Both!” Paul and Hugh said in unison.

 

 

THE END – For now. A romantic addendum will be coming soon.

Chapter Text

The bed was warm, the sheets were soft, and Paul felt Hugh finally begin to stir. That doctor slept the sleep of the dead. Or the sleep of the contented. Paul wasn’t sure but it seemed the doctor always slept this well; this was only their third night together and Paul’s mind was generally doing too much buzzing to allow him to be so fortunate. Especially recently, he was far too keyed up, having won the man he’d dreamed of for so long.

Hugh made the strange noise he made when he was waking up, something akin to a groan or a sigh. “You awake already?” Hugh whispered, turning slowly so he could see his lover. They had been spooning, but Hugh’s shoulder was tired after sleeping on it, so he moved to lie side by side with Paul.

“Uh-huh,” Paul said.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen you asleep. I think you’re awake when I fall asleep and you’re awake when I get up.”

“It’s the burden of having this genius mind,” Paul said straightforwardly. “The mind just doesn’t rest.”

“Oh good grief!” Hugh tilted his head upwards. “As your new doctor, I can’t help but to think that we should check this out. Your lack of sleeping, I mean, not your runaway ego.”

“I knew you were going to say something along those lines, so let’s shut you up right now,” he said, moving in for a kiss. Hugh returned the kiss, enjoying the way Paul drew it out, slow and languorously. This was a lovely way to ease into the morning.

The two men were quiet for several moments, just savoring the kiss and its aftermath. Paul absentmindedly ran his hands along Hugh’s chest and stomach, playing with Hugh’s chest hair.

“What do you like best about it?” Paul asked, his eyes searching.

“About being shut up with your kisses?” Hugh asked, confused.

“No. About sex.”

Hugh smiled. “You know Paul, I like the way your mind works. Literally no one has ever asked me that. You come up with some good questions.”

“Thank you.” And then Paul added, “That was a sincere compliment not an attempt at being sassy, right?”

“It was a real compliment. It’s too early for me to do too much teasing. I haven’t been up for a while, as you apparently have,” Hugh added. He waited, looked at Paul’s face, saw that he sincerely wanted an answer. “Okay, to your question, let me think for a second. I like kissing, I like being touched, I like affection. I mean, of course I like the physical release too; I figure everyone does so that’s a given. I guess you think I’m a big softie if ‘kissing’ and ‘affection’ are my first answers though, right?” Hugh asked with a smile.

“That’s nothing to feel bad about,” Paul replied, one of his hands now entwining with one of Hugh’s.

“So what about you?”

“I was just thinking about this – I guess that’s why I asked you.” Paul had indeed spent part of the night mulling over the topic as he’d watched his lover sleep. “Up till now for me, I was all about the carnal aspects. I loved to bend a guy over a desk, loved to grab his hips and rut, that sort of thing. I still love it,” he quickly added. “But I’m all with the kissing and affection now too.”

Hugh smiled and kissed Paul’s mouth. “Good,” Hugh said. “And you – um, have you been satisfied with how we’ve handled the, how did you put it?, carnal aspects?”

“Do you really have to ask?” Paul laughed, his eyebrows shooting upwards.

“Just making sure. I mean, I love positions where we can look into each other’s eyes, and I love spooning because there’s so much full body contact. But you can bend me over a desk someday if you want too. I’d like that.”

“Mmmmmm,” Paul nuzzled his face against Hugh’s neck. “Can’t wait.”

Hugh luxuriated in Paul’s touches as his own mind spun. He figured now was as good a time as any to ask his question. “Hey Paul? Since we’re asking each other good questions, I have one for you.”

Paul looked up and looked into Hugh’s eyes. “I’m all ears,” he said.

Hugh smiled and slightly bit his lower lip as he asked, “The Paul Stamets I knew at the academy was about 50% bitchier and more sarcastic than the Paul Stamets I’ve known since we got together. I was thinking…well sometimes when we start a new relationship, we put our best foot forward and hold some things back. I just want to let you know that you can be who you are with me. Don’t hold your tongue, you know?”

Paul shook his head and looked downwards for a second or two. “Your memory is right on. I have been trying to rein it in a bit. It’s hard being brilliant and witty all the time – which some people view as being snippy, so I didn’t want to put you off.” He paused. “That last sentence was a joke. I mean, kind of.”

Hugh rolled his eyes. But he wasn’t having Paul’s joking mood, and he gently added, “Just so long as you know that I want to get to know -- and hopefully fall in love with -- the real you, and you don’t need to try to win me over. Just be who you are, and bring on the – what did you call it? – snappiness if you need to.”

“Roger that,” Paul said, echoing Hugh’s serious tone. “I appreciate the open invitation to be myself. I suppose that’s what it takes for a relationship to work.” He then added, smiling, “I just hope you know what you’re getting into!” Hugh shared a laugh with him over that.

Paul then tilted his head to the side and continued. “What about you? I don’t remember seeing you get sarcastic back at the academy too much. You must have some flaws. What are they?”

“Well….let me think here. I like to hum opera. My ex told me that I spend too much of my free time cooped up inside my room painting when I could be interacting with others. But I feel that I bring so much of my heart to my work that when I’m off work, I like being alone with my paintings. Um – what else? I forget to call my parents even though they were the most sweet parents I could wish for and I really need to spend more time messaging with them.”

“That’s it?” Paul asked after Hugh fell silent.

“I’m sure there are a few others. You can always message my ex to get more from him. But maybe that’s not a great idea given your last encounter with him.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be doing that anytime soon.” Paul then broke into a devilish grin. “Now then….you said I could bend you over a desk sometime. How about now?”

“Yes!”

THE END