Paul adjusted his suit jacket for the dozenth time, making sure that his baby blue suit looked nice in the mirror and wasn’t wrinkled or bunched in the wrong places. He patted his pocket, making sure his handkerchief was straight, and let out a shaky sigh. He took an uneasy breath as Hugh emerged from the bathroom and smiled at him. His heart flipped at the sight of Hugh in his dark blue suit with a blue patterned button-down. The top button strained to contain Hugh’s chest muscles. Paul stepped over to him and undid the top button, patting his chest.
“Much better,” Paul whispered.
He started to move away, but Hugh grabbed his fingers. “Are you okay? You seem… nervous.”
“Fine. I’m fine.”
Hugh made a face and let his hand run down Paul’s arm, making him shiver slightly. “It’s just a formal dinner and dance with the crew to celebrate life. It’s not a big deal.”
Paul nodded. “Sorry, I’m being weird.”
“I love all of you, including your weirdness.” Hugh kissed him softly.
Paul pulled Hugh’s lower lip into his mouth and released it slowly, breathing evenly and trying to stay calm. He pressed his forehead against Hugh’s as Hugh rested a hand on Paul’s chest. Hugh pulled back first, making a face at Paul.
“You sure you’re okay? Your heart is racing. Are you feeling sick or is your chest bothering you?”
Paul smiled and took Hugh’s hands in his. “No, my chest is fine. I haven’t had any residual pain in a while. And I’m not feeling sick. Promise.”
Hugh kissed him again. “Okay, but you tell me if you start feeling off. I don’t want anything to happen to you.”
Hugh sat down on the bed and put his shoes on as Paul observed him. God, he loved Hugh. Paul put out his hand and offered it to him when he finished. Hugh didn’t hesitate to wrap his fingers around Paul’s. He could do this.
They walked to Holo-suite One, where they were all meeting to have their dinner and dance. It was Michael’s idea to celebrate that they saved the past and to remember the ones they left behind. A little bittersweet, but it was okay. They passed several crewmembers, dressed in their best suits and gowns. His anxiety grew a little bit, but Hugh squeezed his hand again. They stepped onto the holodeck and Paul gasped. It was beautiful. The ballroom had tables on both sides of a large dance floor, making it feel comfortable and open at the same time. Candles lit the tables and strings of twinkling lights hung above the dance floor. The perfect ambiance for a perfect evening. The tables were lightly decorated with lace cloths and dark blue flowers in a single vase. Beautiful and simple. Hugh and Paul settled at one of the tables, next to Tilly and Reno. Tilly wore a knee length red dress with a black belt and her curls gently flowed down her back. Reno looked very well put together in a white button down and dark blue slacks.
“You sit. I’ll get you something to eat,” Hugh said.
“I can get my own food,” he protested weakly.
“I’m not sure you are feeling well and that’s not reassuring me. I’ll be back.” Hugh kissed the top of Paul’s head and started toward the buffet table with Reno joining him.
As soon as they were out of earshot, Tilly leaned forward, bouncing in her chair. “How’re you doing?”
They all knew; Paul wanted their help and their support in this special day. It reassured him a little.
“I feel like I’m gonna throw up and ruin it.” Paul leaned back in his chair and covered his face with his hands.
“Paul, err – Stamets, you’re gonna do great. I know you will.”
Tilly reached out and patted his hand before tucking her hand back in her black cashmere wrap. “Everything is ready and no matter what, it’ll be just the way it should be. He loves you.”
“I know.” Paul gave her a soft smile. “I’m just still nervous.”
“Totally understandable! I’d be a mess of nerves, but you’re gonna be amazing!” Her cheeks turned pink. “Sorry. It’s gonna be okay.”
Michael came over, wearing a long silver, one shoulder gown. She leaned in close to Paul and gently hugged him around the shoulders. “How’re you doing?” she asked.
“Almost sick to my stomach,” he murmured. “This isn’t helping.”
“It’s gonna be amazing. Promise.” Michael sat down beside him, sweeping her dress to the side so no one stepped on it. “Do you have it?”
Paul nodded vigorously. “It’s in my pocket.” He patted his left pocket, just to make sure. Yep, it was still there.
“Just breathe,” Tilly said, grinning at him.
Hugh returned with Reno and two plates of food. He set one down in front of Paul and sat beside him. Reno placed a glass of wine in front of each of them before disappearing to get her own food. Michael and Tilly left them alone for a moment as they went to get food. Paul quickly started eating, focusing on the encouragement of his friends. It was okay.
Paul managed to eat half of his dinner, but he couldn’t stomach another bite. Too nervous. Hugh made a face at him, but he didn’t say anything. Paul was honestly surprised that Hugh hadn’t pulled out his medical tricorder to make sure Paul wasn’t ill and lying about it. Saru, dressed in a black suit, came over and offered his hand to Michael. He slowly guided her onto the dance floor. Paul watched her, thinking of the time they danced together, and wondered if she was thinking about the loss of Ash. His anger toward Tyler had dissipated and Paul knew Michael loved Ash. They danced slowly and Saru gently spun her around, making sure not to step on her gown. The fact that Saru could dance surprised him, but it was fitting with how graceful he was.
“Would you like to dance?”
Paul glanced up, noticing that Hugh was standing next to him with his hand out. He felt his stomach roll. “Can I have the next one?” he said softly, not trusting his legs to support him yet.
“Okay.” Hugh squeezed his shoulder, giving him a questioning look. He turned his attention to Tilly. “Tilly, may I have this dance?”
She blushed red and nodded. Tilly shared a look with Paul, but he smiled back at her and motioned for her to go. He watched as Hugh took Tilly onto the dance floor and spun her around as she laughed. Reno moved over next to him.
“How’re you doing, kid?” she asked.
Reno gave a noncommittal shrug. “You ready for this?”
“I think so.” Paul watched as Hugh dipped Tilly as she gasped and then started to laugh again. He smiled at him. “Yeah, I’m ready.” He stood up and turned to face Reno. “Do I look okay?”
“You look scared, but attractive. Good luck Stamets.” She nodded and took a sip of her wine before heading over to talk to Owo.
Paul stood up, checking his pocket again and took two steps toward the dance floor. Nope! He turned around and ran toward the bathroom. He leaned against the sink, breathing heavily and trying not to panic. It was going to be fine. He looked up at his own reflection, pale skin and blue eyes looking back at him. He did look terrified. But there was no need to be scared. Hugh loved him. He loved Hugh and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with him. Paul stood up straight and fixed a stray hair on his forehead. He could do this.
Walking back out into the ballroom, Paul’s eyes searched for Hugh. He frowned when he didn’t see him on the dance floor. Hugh knelt in front of Tilly as she sat in a chair at their table. His medical tricorder was in one hand and her right ankle was in the other. Paul walked over to him.
“What happened?” Paul asked.
“I fell. I’m not a good dancer.” Tilly winced as Hugh moved her ankle slightly.
“You’re a lovely dancer. Dancing in heels is tricky, trust me, I’ve fallen in them before.” He looked up at her and gave her a soft smile as she laughed at his words. “It’s just a sprain. I can give you something for it and you’ll be feeling better in a little bit. You might want to take your shoes off for the rest of the night.”
“Fine with me!” Tilly kicked off her other heel.
Hugh administered a hypospray from the medkit and gently touched her arm, reassuring her. Someone handed him an ice pack. He lifted Tilly’s ankle onto a chair and draped the cold pack over the swollen ankle. Paul loved how attentive and sweet Hugh was to Tilly. The small crowd dispersed and most of them went back to the dance floor. Paul put out his hand to Hugh.
“May I have this dance?” he asked.
Hugh’s lips turned up into a smile as he took Paul’s hand. “I’d love to.”
The song wasn’t exactly what Paul wanted, quick and full of beat. They danced together. Paul laughed as Hugh wiggled his hips in time with the beat and made Paul’s cheeks flush. His heart pounded as the song changed. It was the song that Paul had chosen and arranged with Reno. It was time. Hugh put his hands on Paul’s waist, pulling his hips toward his as Paul put his arms around Hugh’s neck. They swayed to the music in the twinkling lights above the dance floor. It was so perfect. Paul buried his face in Hugh’s chest and tried to stop the trembling in his body. His feet froze to the floor, halting their dancing. The soft song played, but all Paul could hear was his own heart thudding away. Hugh put a finger beneath Paul’s chin and lifted it. Paul blinked at the moisture forming in his eyes. Nope, he wasn’t going to cry. Yet. He didn’t even notice that everyone around them had stopped dancing and formed a small circle. Hugh’s lips soundlessly said Paul’s name. Paul released Hugh and he put one hand in his pocket, drawing out the small box. Kneeling on one knee, Paul glanced up at his love. Hugh covered his mouth with one hand as he gasped in delight. All of the carefully prepared words about their love story, the uplifting moments of first time saying “I love you” to the pain of loosing Hugh and getting him back again – all of those words went blank in his mind. None of the details mattered; only that they loved each other.
Hugh put his hand on his chest, fighting back tears of his own. He nodded. “Yes. Yes, I will marry you.”
Paul’s fingers shook as he removed the silver ring from the box and slipped it onto Hugh’s ring finger. His ears filled with the sound of their friends cheering and screaming. Hugh grabbed Paul’s hands and pulled him to standing. He enveloped Paul in his arms, holding him tight. His fiancée. Paul blinked at the tears in his eyes, not caring as two of them rolled down his cheeks. He looked at Hugh, seeing the same on his face and laughing. They were a perfect love match. Paul kissed him, loving how Hugh brought his hand up and rubbed the back of his neck. Paul felt the cold metal of the ring on his neck and shivered. Amazing.
“I love you,” Hugh whispered.
“I love you too, my future husband.” Paul brushed his nose against Hugh’s, getting him to laugh.
Drs. Paul Stamets and Hugh Culber, future husbands and completely, utterly in love with each other. They smiled at their friends surrounding them. Paul and Hugh held hands; Paul’s thumb brushing the smooth metal of their engagement ring. It was perfect.