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And Then Again

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Hugh looked up from the calibration he was running when he heard the door open and was supremely unsurprised to see Paul walk in.

“Good afternoon Lieutenant Stamets,” he greeted him, putting the tricorder down.

“It’s fifteen-hundred hours.”

“Yes, it is,” Hugh agreed, keeping his tone light.

“So, your shift has ended.”

“Alpha shift doesn’t end for another four hours.”

“Yes, but you’re done.”

“Paul, my fellow doctors and my commanding officer have cleared my returning to normal duty patterns and as much as I enjoy giving you exactly what you want, I’m staying till the end of my duty shift.”

“I just… it’s only been a few weeks and…” Stepping towards him, Hugh pulled his partner into a close hug and held him there. To give Paul his credit, it had been 5 hours this time and that was the longest stretch that he’d managed so far.

“I’m fine Paul and I’m not going anywhere,” he whispered, holding tight until some of the tension bled out.

It was absolutely understandable, after everything that they’d all been through in the last month (never mind the rest of the war before) that most of the crew were showing signs of post-traumatic stress. Compared to some, Hugh felt he’d gotten off rather lightly. His death had been quick and while he had been off-stage as Paul had taken to calling it, he had been strangely calm even in the face of the encroaching contamination. Then, when Discovery had been swept up in the shock wave of spore energy Hugh had suddenly realised that all he had to do was step through the divide to really touch Paul. When he’d woken up on the floor of the spore reaction cube, the only really traumatic element had been the fact that he was entirely naked.

He wasn’t naive about the impact that this had had on him though, and his superior officer was a Vulcan who was treating the whole matter with the utmost suspicion, which was peculiarly comforting. For the time being however, he was coping well and was happy to have been allowed back to work.

“How about I take a break and we go get coffee?” he suggested after a minute, squeezing Paul’s shoulder as they separated.

“Coffee would be good,” the other man admitted. This separation anxiety was much less frantic than the spore driven compulsion he’d displayed after the incident with Mudd, but it was certainly a trend nonetheless. It also, like so many other things, brought his thoughts back to Gabriel Lorca. Their betrayal was so complete that Hugh struggled to even get his mind around it and if he was aware of any area where he was perhaps not dealing healthily with the consequences of recent events, it was in the way he shied from thinking about their former lover.

“I’m coming back though,” Hugh said with a smile, knowing that clear contracting was always a good idea with Paul, “and I’m working till the end of my shift.” Paul looked at him for several moments before smiling.

“I suppose I can live with that,” he said, “but I’m having cake too.”

“Only if you share,” Hugh said, “I’ll just let them know I’m heading out and I’ll be right back.” Buzzing him gently on the cheek and taking a moment to cup his jaw, Hugh left to let the others working in the labs know he’d be in the Mess if they needed him.

When he returned to the main ward, he walked in on what looked and felt like a standoff. Paul was stood at attention staring cold faced at the diminished figure of Gabriel Lorca standing just inside the doors. Hugh was drawn into their tense silence as he tried to come to terms with what it was he was seeing; he’d known that this other, original, Gabriel Lorca was on board but hadn’t seen hide nor hair of him until now. He’d been rescued while Hugh had been off-stage and by the time he’d returned, Gabriel had been released to quarters from which he didn’t seem inclined to leave. He’d only once made the mistake of asking Paul about the circumstances around the death of ‘their’ Gabriel and the rescue of the other.

It was Paul who moved first;

“I’ll see you in the Mess for dinner,” he said tightly before walking briskly past the other man and out into the corridor.

“Apologies,” Gabriel said with a frown, “if I’d known he was here… I’ve read the ships logs, I know that I am not Lieutenant Stamets’ favourite person.”

“It wasn’t you,” Hugh said, finally shaking his shock, “and he does know that but he cares deeply about his work.”

“Nevertheless, I’m sorry if I interrupted but I… I’m really not feeling very well.” And just like that Hugh’s medical training kicked in. This Gabriel was thin as a rail and now that he was paying attention, a decidedly unhealthy shade of grey.

“How can I help you, Captain?” he asked, gesturing towards the nearest diagnostic bed.

“I think I might have lost my space legs,” he said, perching on the edge of the bed and breathing carefully.

“Nausea? Dizziness?” Hugh asked, initiating a basic work-up.

“Yes.”

“I’m just going to pull your records up. You’ve been on board for about 20 days now and we haven't encountered any anomalies or had any notifications about the inertial dampeners, so there’s likely something else behind it. How long since your symptoms started?”

“A few days,” he said after an awkward pause which was followed by a twitch that Hugh hoped he would have recognised whether or not he knew the man, a version of the man, intimately. He’d grabbed a bowl and thrust it under his patient’s chin moments before he started vomiting.

“Easy there,” he said, resting a hand on the other man’s back as he continued to retch, “easy.” There were results appearing on the screens beside the bed now and glancing up, “Ok, well at least I know what the matter is.”

Hugh’s first reaction was surprise given that this particular strain of Andorian Flu had been vaccinated against months ago when it had first appeared within the crew of Discovery. Gabriel’s medical records that had also been pulled up however and it made it abundantly clear what had happened. He could see the challenge, but it looked like no-one had thought to split the records of the actual and alternate Gabriel Lorcas. When this Gabriel had been given a full workup after his rescue, someone had looked at his records and seen that he was up to date on all relevant inoculations without the application of any logic. “Ok, it’s ok,” he said absently as the fit passed, handing the older man a glass of water so he could rinse his mouth.

“Sorry,” Gabriel said again, hunched over the bowl and looking thoroughly miserable.

“There’s no need to apologise, particularly given it looks like you’ve picked up a virus that we should have been immunised you against. Admittedly, you should have come to see us as soon as this started but this should help,” he said, depressing the hypospray against his neck, “The virus has gotten a good hold now though and it’s going to take some time for it to run its course.”

“Thank you, I’ll just…” he stood carefully, obviously intent on discharging himself.

“Hey not so fast,” he said, urging him to sit back down with a hand against his shoulder.

“I understood that everyone else had been immunised? I’m not a danger am I?”

“No, we probably don’t need to keep you here but I do want to monitor you for a while.” If for no other reason than Hugh was about as convinced that this Gabriel Lorca could and would look after himself properly as the one he had known. Thought he had known. The medical records he was looking at showed exactly the state that this Gabriel Lorca had been in when they’d rescued him, and the instructions he’d been given when he’d been discharged but even before this, it was quite plain he hadn’t been following them.

“Really, that’s unnecessary,” he protested, trying to stand back up despite looking like he wanted to do nothing more than lie down.

“Just get back in the bed, Gabe.”

It had been so instinctive that there was a moment before Hugh realised what he’d said, and froze.

“Well,” Gabriel said after a moment clearing his throat gently, “I could be wrong, but I suspect that this has something to do with my counterpart.” Hugh opened his mouth but found that he struggled formulate anything to say. “Please don’t. I’m well aware that he… that my continuing presence here is awkward. Admiral Cornwell assures me that I will be transferred as soon as they can figure out quite what it is they want to do with me.”

“It’s not your fault,” Hugh said quietly.

“Well, if I’d not allowed myself to be captured by him in the first case then none of this would have happened, but… thank you for… well.” He gestured losely at the bed and displays before walking across the room towards the door.

“Try and rest,” Hugh called after him, “and I’ll…” the door closed, leaving him alone, “I’ll come by later.”