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“Stamets!”
“What?”, he snapped.
“I found the only compatible DNA.”, Straal replied.
“What is it?”, Paul asked, jumping up.
“Human.”
“Why so serious? That’s great news!”, he laughed, slapping his arm. “I’m going to do it!”
“It’s not save, dumbass.”, Straal replied. “You know that this is a fucking stupid idea.”
Paul bit his lip.
“I know that you want this, to be able to connect to the network like the tardigrade does. But let’s test it first. You know my work would only go half as fast without you.”
Our work.”
“Not if you’re dead.”
Paul was never sure how much of it was a joke. He wanted to believe that Straal was his friend and that he wouldn’t just kill him, but then again…
“What about you?”, he asked warily.
“I don’t feel the need to be tortured like the tardigrade, thank you very much.”
“Fine.”, he muttered. “Computer, open line to Doctor Culber.”
“Hey, Paul.”
“Hello, love. I’m going to need to borrow one of your test subjects.”
“Sure, darling. What do you need?”
“A human, a healthy one.”
“Male, female?”
“Preferably male, but it doesn't really matter.”
“Anything for you. Should I send him to engineering?”
“Yes. Thank you.”
“No problem. Love you.”
“Love you too, bye.”
Some people found it weird, how open they were about their relationship, but anyone who had the slightest understanding of tactics, could relate to them. They protected each other. If you didn’t want to get poisoned by Stamets, you’d better be nice to Culber, and if you didn’t want to end up as one of Culber’s test subjects, you’d better do whatever the fuck Stamets told you to.

Minutes later two guards brought the man in. Young, dark hair, angry eyes.
Straal injected him with the DNA while Paul lingered at the console with crossed arms. The young man crouched and screamed through gritted teeth in the pain the DNA taking over his body inflicted.
“You’re weak.”, Straal said toneless, pushing him into chamber.
Paul meanwhile opened a communication to the bridge. “Requesting permission to jump, Captain Tilly.”
“Permission granted, Lieutenant. I’m expecting success.”
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Black alert.”, she ordered and the lights changed.
“Initiating sporedrive.”, Paul said while doing it. He pushed the button and raised his head to see the man in the chamber screaming in pain when the metal pierced his chest.
Eventually the spores dissolved.
“Did we make it?”, Straal asked.
Paul stared at the console, fingers moving quickly.
“Stamets!”
“Wait!”, he snapped back, checking the last detail. “Yes. Yes, we made it!”
Both of them laughed excitedly, like stupid children.
“Fuck yeah, Stamets!”
“Congratulations, Lieutenant Stamets. And to you Mr. Straal.”, Tilly said.
“Thank you, captain.”, both of them grinned.
The man in the chamber was fine, obviously upset but physically fine. He had stood up and left the chamber, when Paul walked up to him. He grabbed his neck and rammed his knife into his guts several times before slicing his throat.
A bit out of breath he dropped the bloody knife and it hit the floor with a clattering sound.
“No one…”, he started, raising his voice, even though he already had the attention of every single person in the room. “... will navigate the drive except for me! This place…”, he pointed at the spore chamber. “... is mine! Understood?”
Everyone muttered in agreement, except for Straal.
“Straal!”, Paul snapped.
“Yes, sir.”, he said amused.
“Good. Someone get rid of that and clean up.”, he said, gesturing at the corpse.

Wiping his bloody hands on his pants, he left. His uniform was covered in blood. The extra amount of respect that brought him, by the people he encountered on the corridors, added up to the success high he was on. He entered the laboratories, walking straight up to Hugh and pulling him into a passionate kiss.
“You did it.”, Hugh smiled proudly.
“Yes.”, he grinned, before being pulled into another kiss. “I kind of got a little bit of blood there on your face.”, he apolegized, when they seperated.
“No problem, love. As if I wasn’t used to that.”
“And your uniform too.”
He looked down. “Where?”
“There.”, Paul said, poking his chest
“There’s a reason I wear red, honey.”, he chuckled, walking into the washing room for the surgeons and Paul followed him. They started cleaning off the blood.
“What about the tardigrade DNA?”, Hugh asked.
“I have it with me.”, he said. “I thought, maybe you wanted to be with me when I inject it.”
“Sure.”, he smiled with glowing eyes. He dried his hands and passed the towel to his partner, to do the same.
“I should probably get a new uniform.”, Paul chuckled, when he struggled with the zipper that was blocked with clotted blood.
“It suits you though.”
Paul laughed and held up the injector with the DNA.
“Are you scared?”, Hugh asked.
“No. I’m excited.”
“That’s my man.”, he grinned.
Without allowing himself a moment of hesitation he injected himself with the tardigrade DNA.
“Shit.” The injector slipped through his fingers. The pain spread from him arm to his entire body. He could feel his cells changing.
“Paul.”, Hugh chuckled. He sustained him with one hand on his side and the other on his cheek and made him look up, but Paul looked right through him. His senses were dulled in a haze of pain, he was shaking and panting. But it was okay, cause Hugh was there to smile at him, to pull him close and hold him.
Paul cursed under his breath when the pain finally started to go away.
“Are you okay?”, Hugh asked, caressing his neck. He still held onto him because his knees seemed a little too weak to stand on his own.
“Yes. Just a little drowsy. This was…”
“...weirdly hot.”
“The hell…”
Hugh made him shut up by kissing him.
“You’re pretty insane.”, Paul said.
“Is that new?”
“No. I've always been the sane one of us two.”
“The more sane one.”
“That’s debatable. At least I don’t cut open people for fun.”
“For science. By the way, remind me where all the blood on your uniform comes from?”
“Sometimes I hate that you’re smart.”
“You love it.”
“Lieutenant Stamets.”, the captain said over comm. “Back to engineering. We have been called to help the Constellation fight rebels and need another jump.”
“I’m on my way captain.”, he said and turned off the comm. “Wanna watch me get stabbed?”, he grinned. “Maybe it’ll turn you on too.”
“I’m never gonna get rid of that again, am I?”, Hugh sighed.
“Nope. Come on with me, you’ll have to patch me up afterwards.”
You get yourself stabbed purposely and expect me to patch you up everytime?”, he said raising a brow.
“The faster you patch me up, the faster I have time for you.”, he smirked.
“That sounds better.”, he laughed, picking up a few instruments. “Let’s hurry before Tilly gets mad.”

They went back to engineering.
Hugh helped Paul out of his armor, which earned him a kiss, before his partner entered the chamber. He positioned himself and nodded at Straal.
“Ready to jump, captain.”
“Black alert. Any time, Mr Straal.”
“Engaging spore drive.”
“Hey, Hugh.”, Paul said with laughing eyes. “I love you.”