Dex wasn’t homophobic when he came to Samwell. He didn’t hate gay people, or think they were going to hell. He didn’t even think they shouldn’t be allowed to get married or adopt kids. He just… hadn’t really met any before. Well, no one who was out and proud the way Bitty was. Maine might tend to swing blue in Presidential races, but that was mostly thanks to the more heavily-populated areas down south around Portland and Augusta. His tiny coastal town was full of Men’s Men who played football and worked on lobster boats and did not kiss other men or think much of men who did. So if there were any gay kids at Dex’s school, they must have hidden it.
So yeah, it took him a little bit to adjust to the fact that someone could dress and talk like Bitty, be a former championship figure skater, and be that into baking, and still kick ass at hockey, but he never disliked Bitty or held his sexuality against him.
But—and he at least had the self-awareness to be ashamed enough of this to never admit it to anyone—he did see Bitty as a bit of a curiosity.
So he may have paid closer attention to how Bitty acted around other guys than most of the team. When he ran into Bitty chatting with some guy as they left a lecture, or flirting and dancing with guys openly at parties, or going out on a few dates with some dude Rans and Holster set him up with. It wasn't because he thought Bitty was weird, he just found it interesting because it wasn't something he'd ever seen before outside of movies.
Which is how he became pretty sure that he was the only one on the team who noticed how bad Bitty had it for Jack.
He tried feeling the others out for information a few times, but it quickly became clear that nobody else saw it.
“You think Bitty acts… different, when he’s around Jack?” he asked Chowder.
“I dunno, probably! I mean, most of us do, right? He’s the captain! And he’s Jack Zimmermann! I know I’m still a little intimidated, I mean I know Bitty’s known him a whole year longer than us but I bet I’ll still be intimidated a year from now. Not that Jack will be our captain anymore then, but…” Dex quickly regretted his choices.
On one of the rare days he and Nursey were getting along, he took advantage of the conversation they were having about Chowder and Farmer.
“Bitty’s not seeing that guy from Winter Screw anymore, is he? I wonder if he’s after anyone right now.”
“Brah,” Nursey replied, and Dex could tell by the tone of that one word that their hour of peace was over. “Are you seriously worried that if the gay kid is single you’re not safe?”
He finally straight-up asked Ransom and Holster one day after practice.
“So, uh… Does Bitty have a thing for Jack?”
“What?” Ransom looked at him like he’d just mixed up a hockey stick and a lacrosse stick.
“Jack’s straight,” Holster replied patiently, as if that mattered.
“Dex.” Rans put an arm around his shoulder. “You should know by now that Bitty’s like that with everyone! He doesn’t bake Jack any more pies than anyone else. He doesn’t smile at Jack more than anyone else, or stare at Jack’s ass more than anyone else does.”
Dex frowned, because he was pretty sure Bitty did all three of those things. But maybe everyone was right. Maybe he just really wasn’t used to being around gay guys… but that didn’t explain why it seemed like Bitty was into Jack in particular. If he acted the same with everyone, shouldn’t Dex think he had a crush on every guy on the team?
And then that fall, Bitty was clearly Jack’s number one fan, and Dex seemed to be the only person on the team who was not the least bit surprised by that fact.
So when Jack came to visit, Dex was pretty sure he was the only one who saw the look in Bitty’s eyes every time the two of them spoke. Or the corresponding look in Jack’s eyes, which had definitely not been there the year before. Bitty was acting the same as he always did around Jack, but Jack acting the same way around Bitty was something new.
And when he saw Jack and Bitty coming downstairs together during the kegster—well, he was pretty sure he was the only one who noticed that at all. Or saw the look on Bitty’s face when Jack insisted to Shitty that he didn’t have a girlfriend.
It was another two weeks before he got up the courage to actually ask Bitty. It wasn’t any of his business, of course, but after nearly a year of feeling like he was crazy for noticing anything at all he needed to at least ask.
He had been at the Haus watching the Falconers game with everyone, and obviously everyone was horrified when Jack was led off the ice with blood gushing from his face. But Bitty was the only one who looked like he might cry.
The next day, he was studying in Chowder’s room when Farmer called. He stepped out to give them a little privacy, and found himself staring straight at Bitty’s door. So he knocked.
“What’s up, Dex?” Bitty asked as he opened the door, his face open and friendly as always. Dex stepped into Bitty’s room, glancing down the hall behind him.
“Hey, uh…” He closed the door for good measure. “Look, I know this is none of my business, and I swear to god I won’t tell a soul anything, but, uh—are you and Jack, like… together?”
He had his answer from the look on Bitty’s face before he had even made it through the question. Bitty’s eyes widened, looking terrified for a second, before he schooled his face into something that didn’t look nearly as casual as he probably thought it did.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Jack told y’all himself he’s not seeing anyone.”
Dex rolled his eyes. “You know as well as I do that he very specifically said he doesn’t have a girlfriend. He stopped himself when he was about to say he wasn’t dating anyone and changed it to girlfriend.”
Bitty turned around, suddenly finding some papers on his desk very interesting. “Did he? I didn’t even notice. Well, same difference, right?” His laugh was strained.
“And I’m pretty sure I was the only one looking, but you seemed pretty broken up about it, whatever words he used.” Bitty sighed, but didn’t say anything, and Dex shook his head. “Look, it’s not my business. You don’t have to answer anything. Just… I know we’re not best friends or anything, but I’m good at keeping secrets and if you need to talk to someone about it, I’m here, okay?”