The surface mission wasn't supposed to be a big deal. They were supposed to go down, monitor the radio activity on the surface of the planet in case of anomalies, and get out. But he certainly didn't expect this. No one had told him how cold the planet was, and though his uniform was pretty insulating, the chill still cut through his jacket like a knife.
Lorca had split them up, sending Stamets alone to check one tower, Michael and Tyler to check another, and himself and Saru to check the last. It was really supposed to be a routine mission, it honestly was, but the side effects from the spore drive wouldn't allow that. He hadn't thought it would be a problem until the dizziness set in, all of the gray and white blurring around him, hadn't thought it would be a problem until he tried to take a step and promptly fainted.
When Paul Stamets woke up he didn't know where he was.
Now, this wasn't exactly uncommon; recently he'd gotten a few flashes of being out of time because of the spores. But this was different; it was like when you slept over at someone's house for the first time, and when you woke up, you were confused for a minute or two.
He didn't want to say that he had fainted, but he had definitely fainted. The white, frozen landscape around him didn't exactly lend any clues or comfort to the situation, and he was pretty sure he'd twisted his ankle when he'd fallen. He had genuinely no idea how he'd gotten there, other than that they had been on a surface trip.
He supposed that he'd gotten lost? This was very, very lost, however. He didn't even bother to get up; that wouldn't do him any favors at this point. Even after a few minutes of being conscious, he was feeling the effects of the weather. Stamets was shivering a bit, nothing too bad, but it was certainly freezing here. The whir of Tardigrade DNA in his blood did nothing to warm him up. Not to mention he was dizzy enough already; maybe he'd hit his head when he fell. He remembered what his moms had told him when he was a child: if you ever get lost, stay put. If you leave your spot, you'll likely just get even more lost.
So he stayed put. He rubbed his hands together, trying to conserve what little warmth he had left, and he was shivering harder now. He did know, however, that shivering was good. If you got so cold you stopped shivering, that was bad. Perhaps he was thinking so much because he was panicking, or trying not to panic, or both. Or neither, oh god, he had no idea at this point and what if no one ever found him and what would Hugh think, oh god, Hugh-
It didn't take much for him to start crying painful, ugly tears as he thought of his husband, hands trembling as he rubbed his eyes. After awhile, he managed to stop crying and just sat on the ground shaking, shallow breaths making him dizzy. Something told him that this wasn't helping his condition. He told that something to shut up, and continued to take labored, shallow breaths as his vision spiraled. He hoped he didn't faint again. Stamets also knew it was a likely outcome of the whole thing.
Soon he decided that staying put might be a bad idea, considering he had no idea what lived on this hell planet.
Decidedly enough, standing was a worse idea. The second he got to his feet his ankle practically pulsed with pain, and against his better judgement he fainted again.
This time around he was out for a little less time, awakened by his own violent shivering as he lay on the frozen ground. Fear swirled through him like a tidal wave, but he had to control his breathing if he wanted to, you know, not black out again. He was shaking and trying not to just cry when he heard an achingly familiar voice ringing out through the cold, heavy air.
"Paul? Paul! Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.." Hugh Culber was rushing to him seemingly out of nowhere, and the taller man dropped to his knees beside him with panic and relief in his eyes. Stamets managed to sit up and Hugh pulled him into a tight embrace, practically cradling him in his arms. He was shivering hard and tears he hadn't realized were there were pouring down. Gently, Culber managed to pick him up bridal-style, which was slightly embarrassing but also very sweet. Stamets cried and halfway spaced out the whole trip back to the Discovery, and Hugh softly told him that he loved him and that everything would be alright.
Stamets believed him.
"N-no medbay." He stuttered, and Hugh frowned, but carried him back to their quarters anyway. The Discovery was comparatively warm, when you compared it to that awful planet. Hugh holomessaged Lorca to tell him that Stamets was alive and safe, and that they could leave when needed.
Gently, Hugh set him down on their bed, helping him get his jacket off.
"Computer, set the lights to 50%." The lights in their room dimmed, and Hugh rummaged through the room, attempting to find as many blankets as possible. "Here, sweetheart, take these, okay? We have to get you warmed up." He gently pulled 2 blankets around Stamets and took off his jacket as well, pulling him into his arms. Hugh was very, very warm compared to him, and when he leaned up to kiss him, he got dizzy. He kissed him anyway, and Hugh began to gently run his hands through his hair. "You're okay, sweetheart, see? I'm here, I'm here. I told you we'd be fine."
Paul tried to respond but he just leaned exhaustedly against his dear doctor's chest, his shivers lessening. His eyes still burned from crying, and he felt like crying again when he saw the worried expression on his husband's face. When he realized his vision was blurry he also realized he was already crying, and Hugh gently pushed his hair back, kissing his forehead gently. "Honey, what's wrong? You're ok. I'm ok. I love you, Paul."
He could say that a million times and Stamets would never get enough of it. He entangled himself even closer with his husband, his body shockingly warm compared to his. Hugh pulled him close, whispering words of gentle comfort to him. Sleepily, he thought about Hugh.
He remembered one time, not too long ago, actually, when he'd gotten really sick and had been in sickbay for nearly a week. It had been before Burnham had joined on, before the war, and he'd been half delirious the whole time. Hugh had been worried sick, but he took care of him anyway, even though Stamets had only been in sickbay because of how long he had waited to tell anyone he had the flu.
"I love you too," he managed, already halfway asleep in his husband's warm arms, one arm slung around his waist and the other holding his hand.
Stamets managed to sleep for a while before eventually willing himself back into consciousness, but found he was no longer in the warm embrace of his husband. He reached out with an arm and found nothing, then let out an annoyed groaning sound. Without Hugh there, he really did feel hypothermic, all shaky and cold. "Huuuuuuugh," He called, and frowned, curling up into a little ball.
Footsteps echoed through their room.
"Are you alright? Do you need anything, sweetheart, what's wrong?" Hugh rushed in, brown eyes soft with worry. He was clutching a mug if something that was probably tea, which he promptly handed to him.
"I'm alright, I'm just cold. You're really quite warm, you know." He sipped his tea and smiled slightly. Hugh sat down on the bed, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek and wrapping his arms loosely around his waist.
"Maybe you're just hypothermic." Yes, that was true. He sipped his tea, letting the heat of it warm his throat, his insides, his whole body. They sat like that for a while, Hugh occasionally kissing him while he drank his tea, and soon enough, Stamets was warming up a little. He certainly didn't feel hopelessly frozen anymore. He did feel tired, however, so he finished his tea, set the cup down on their bedside table, and snuggled into Hugh's embrace, kissing him lazily once or twice before settling into his lap. He pulled a blanket around him and found himself getting sleepy again. Hugh laid back, evidently a little tired himself, and Stamets pulled another blanket around both of them.
"Love you." He mumbled.
"Love you too, Paul." Hugh kissed him with warm, yielding lips, one hand on his back and the other gently caressing his face. There was nowhere he would rather be at this moment, he sleepily realized, and nestled closer to his husband. Paul found himself drifting off again. Even after the long, cold series of events, he eventually surrendered to the gentle darkness of sleep.