Actions

Work Header

unapologetically unafraid

Chapter Text

Nursey goes to Samwell with one strict rule: “Don’t fall for a straight white boy”.

He breaks that rule almost instantly when he sees William Poindexter, aka Dex, aka one of the most attractive people Nursey has ever laid eyes on.

Which wouldn’t be a problem if Dex didn’t hate him from literally Day One, which leads Nursey to believe it’s due to the fact that Dex is a Straight White Boy™. (His assumption is all but confirmed when the Republican sticker mysteriously shows up on Dex’s laptop.)

Whenever they end up in the same space together, it feels like all the air is sucked from the room, replaced by a challenge. It’s in the permanent scowl and dismissive scoffs and irritated eye rolls that only Nursey seems to receive. It’s in the way Dex tenses whenever he sees Nursey and the guarded look in his eyes.

They have to be careful. If they lit a match, there’d be no way to stop the blaze that would consume them.

Rather than confront his feelings for Dex, Nursey decides the best plan of action is to annoy him. It’s quite easy, considering Dex yells at him for 99% of the things he does.

No joke, last week Nursey picked the character Dex likes to play as in Mario Kart to see if Dex would yell at him for it. Sure enough, Dex got mad and accused Nursey of doing it on purpose, which he denied, and Chowder ended up starting the game without them, which then led to Dex getting mad at Nursey for making him lose the race.

To be fair, Nursey isn’t nice to Dex. He pushes and pokes and prods, like a child trying to squeeze a balloon until it pops. He moves Dex’s stuff around if it’s in his way without telling him, leaves cabinets open, and puts his feet up on the couch before Dex sits down, well aware he’s stoking the fire.

He ignores Chowder’s attempts to get them to reach some kind of truce, and the disappointed looks the team gives them when their altercations disrupt the Haus. Dex ignores them too, in favor of jumping at Nursey’s throat at any opportunity.

What Dex doesn’t know is that Nursey is hopelessly and tragically infatuated with him. Dex’s whole face and neck flush when he’s mad, and Nursey would be lying if he said he wouldn’t love to put his mouth on his neck and feel the blood pulsing underneath.

He can’t see that happening anytime soon — or ever, really — so he settles for Dex’s burning hatred instead.

What never ceases to surprise the team is their chemistry on the ice.

For all their differences and jagged edges that don’t quite fit together outside the rink, they play like hockey soulmates, and even Dex will admit it. It’s second nature, knowing what the other person’s doing, seeing where they are and predicting where they’re going. There are some bad calls, misjudged plays, but that happens to everyone, and the good far outweighs the bad.

Nursey has a sneaking suspicion the rest of the team wouldn’t be as lenient about their fighting if they didn’t play as harmoniously as they do, because they really are like magic on the ice.

He’ll be the first to acknowledge how nice it is to not fight with Dex, even if it is temporary and the spell breaks as soon as they’re anywhere else.

It’s chill.

Had one or both of them swallowed their pride enough to take a step back and be honest with themselves, they would’ve seen that the embers were already there, and sooner or later a gust of wind would send everything up in flames.


~


Their animosity flourishes because it’s the beast they’ve chosen to feed.

By sophomore year, it’s gotten to the point where they can barely be in the same room as each other without it ending in a pointless shouting match. Rather than finishing a dispute, they let it stew until the next outburst, where it comes back more brutal than before.

They’re fighting, again. The whole team has gathered near the kitchen, like fire extinguishers waiting to stamp out whatever inferno is coming.

Because this fight is particularly nasty and Nursey has had enough.

He’s ready to douse them in gasoline and start the fire. He’s going to burn the whole fucking forest down. Maybe then a new one will grow in its place, and they’ll finally stop having this goddamn contention.

“Fuck you Nurse,” Dex says, for what must be the millionth time. They’ve lost track at this point. “The world doesn’t fucking revolve around you. I know that might come as a rude awakening to you, since you’ve never had to try for anything. Everything just falls right into your lap, and all you had to do was ask.”

“Have you ever been arrested?”

Dex is so startled by the non sequitur, he puts his little tirade about the Rich and Privileged on pause. “What?”

“I said,” Nursey repeats coolly, “have you ever been arrested?”

“Nurse—” Ransom starts warningly.

“No,” Nursey cuts him off. He keeps his face as neutral and his voice as level as he can. He’s had many years of practice. “I wanna know. Since apparently my life is so goddamn easy and nothing bad has ever happened to me because my parents just magically happened to fall on their asses onto a fortune.” He turns back to Dex. “So, have you?”

Dex’s mouth twitches. “No.”

“You wanna know how old I was the first time?”

“Nurse, enough.”

“I’ll tell you, since you so kindly asked,” Nursey continues as if Ransom hadn’t spoken. He stares at Dex, never breaking eye contact. “It was May nineteenth. I was fourteen. I was walking home from school — keep in mind I’ve always been tall for my age, or so I’ve been told — and a police car pulled up next to me. Two police officers got out of the car and asked me what my name was and where I was going. Two grown, white men versus an eighth grader. I told them my name is Derek Nurse and I was on my way home from school because I was under the assumption that if you were honest and answered the police, everything would be fine.”

The whole Haus has fallen silent. Nursey has the whole stage to himself. He feels a twisted delight at the shock and horror on Dex’s face.

“They said they were going to take me down to the station, because they had some questions they needed to ask me. I said I didn’t want to, but they must not’ve known how rich I was because it didn’t matter what I wanted. The one with the thin, bony face grabbed my arm. I, being fourteen, hadn’t learned yet that the best thing to do is remain calm and tell them they were hurting me, so I struggled. The other officer, who had a scar on his temple, handcuffed me and together they shoved me into the back of the police car in front of all the other kids who were also walking home.”

Dex’s face is pale. Nursey lights the match.

“They don’t tell me what I’ve done wrong. They won’t give me a cup of water. They won’t let me call my mom or dad. They call her, and she leaves work early to rush to the police station. Come to find out, there have been a string of burglaries in my neighborhood, and I resembled the suspect who, not only was a grown man, but also had at least a good fifty or so pounds on me.”

Around them, the flames devour the trees. The smoke is thick, filling their lungs and stealing the oxygen inside them. The tongues of fire lick at their heels.

“So no, Poindexter. You’re right,” Nursey concludes, smiling politely, as he allows the fire to swallow them whole. “I don’t know what it’s like to share a house with six or seven other people, or to sometimes barely make ends meet. I’ve always gotten, quote unquote, everything I’ve ever wanted. But don’t you dare stand there and fucking tell me that my life is easy, because no matter how much money I have, it’ll never change the fact that I’m not white. And, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not people who look like you who are on the news as victims of police brutality or racial profiling. It’s people who look like me.”

He stands and everyone starts. They’re all staring at him, too stunned to say anything.

“Chill,” he mutters, gathering his belongings.

Nursey is a creature of habit, which is why when the fog has cleared enough for him to properly receive and interpret sensory information, he finds himself in the library. Instead of going to one of the tables, he goes to the fireplace and sinks into one of the armchairs.

It’s been a while since he’s had to think about that day, but he’s taken the panic he felt in those moments with him as a fun little souvenir. The plummeting in his stomach, and the cold terror that numbs his mind, the barriers that go up in order to distance himself from reality.

“Your son suffers from panic attacks,” the doctor would tell his mother, after she brings him in because passing by that street makes him nauseous and unable to breathe.

He takes a deep breath and focuses on the feel of the armchair. He anchors his attention on the movement of fire. He recites the years classic poets were born, like his therapist helped him figure out he could do.

Robert Frost: 1874. Emily Dickinson: 1830. Walt Whitman: 1819. Edgar Allan Poe

“Hey Nurse.”

1809.

“‘Sup Poindexter? Here to lecture me about how none of my problems are real because I can just go cry into my enormous money pile I keep in the chambers of my gigantic castle?” Nursey drawls.

Dex scratches the back of his neck. “No. I’m here to talk to you.”

Nursey tilts his head at the ottoman.

“Right okay, um.” Dex takes a seat. “I was wrong.”

Nursey’s eyes, which had previously begun to wander, snap back to Dex.

“The way I’ve treated you these past couple of years was wrong. And immature. I’ve been a huge asshole, and you’ve gotten the worst of it. I’m really sorry and from now on I’m going to try to be a better teammate and a better person.”

It feels like his brain is dragging behind the rest of his senses because what he’s hearing and what he’s processing doesn’t make sense with what he associates with William Poindexter. Who is apologizing. To him.

He wonders what strange rabbit hole they’ve fallen into. He briefly considers responding wryly and then just as quickly abandons the idea.

Dex is trying. Isn’t that what Nursey wanted all along — a crack in the door that’s been sealed shut with a big “Fuck off” sign taped onto it?

And it’s not like he’s been a saint this entire time.

The fact that Dex is here now to apologize — the very concept still very foreign to Nursey — means he’s swallowed his pride enough to extend his hand. The least Nursey can do is meet him halfway.

Dex stands.

“Wait.” Nursey’s voice freezes him in his tracks. “You don’t have to go.” Nursey lets out a long breath as Dex sits back down. “You’re not the only one who’s been a major dick. I purposely antagonized you and made up my mind about you prematurely, which wasn’t cool of me. I know we’ve spent a lot of time as enemies, but I’d like to give friends a shot.”

The corner of Dex’s mouth lifts. “I’d like that too.”

Nursey holds out his hand. “I’m Derek Nurse,” he deadpans. “I’m an English major, and yes I’m every bit as pretentious as that makes me sound. My skills include being able to trip over the same thing three times in the same day, being able to crank out an essay I’ve had weeks to do in a day, and getting my own Nursey Patrol because of the questionable decisions I make while I’m drunk.”

Dex laughs, and Nursey immediately falls in love with the sound. He’ll do anything to hear it again.

“Nice to meet you. I’m William Poindexter,” he replies, “I chose computer science as my major because I hate myself, and my skills include writing out what would be an entirely functional code if I didn’t leave out a single goddamn bracket, fixing just about anything you could think of, and picking fights.”

They sit for a long time, talking and joking and making up for lost time, their words like rain clouds gathering above them and washing away the smoldering ashes of the forest below.


~


It happens gradually.

One day Nursey is poking around the freezer and notices vegetarian chicken nuggets. No one else on the team is vegetarian.

“Yo C, do you know who went grocery shopping last?” he says.

Chowder pauses his game. “Uhhh, I think it was Dex. Why?”

“Just wondering. You can go back to playing.”

Their insults lose any actual bite, becoming light, good-natured chirps. The Republican sticker disappears from Dex’s laptop. Dex picks up a book Nursey needs if he happens to be in or near the library. Nursey makes an effort to type quieter when Dex is around. They do their best to bridge the gaps they’d always skated around (pun intended) before.

Which isn’t to say they don’t disagree anymore. Nursey is still Nursey and Dex is still Dex. But the vicious, lethal nature of the fights they used to have is gone. Now it’s purely getting on each other’s nerves, which is bound to happen given how much more time they spend with each other.

Nursey doesn’t even realize how far they’ve come until he walks by the kitchen and catches a glimpse of Dex helping Bitty make pies.

He blinks, trying to reconcile the scene in front of him. Because William Poindexter, the Dex he knows, would never pick up a rolling pin, unless it was to whack him with it.

And yet, here he is rolling out dough and sprinkling flour and gently adding filling to the pies.

He’s wearing a lobster-printed apron that says “Party Like A Lob-Star” on it. Nursey’s pretty sure Bitty got it for him, which means not only has Dex done this before, but it’s become a regular enough occurrence that he gets his own apron.

“Is this good?” Dex asks Bitty.

Bitty peeks over his shoulder. “It looks wonderful sweetie!”

“Hey,” Nursey says, because he’s been lurking without saying anything long enough. “Is it okay if I do my homework at the table?”

“Yeah sure,” Dex answers, before Bitty can. Bitty and Nursey exchange a look of mild surprise. “Just don’t type like you’re trying to break your fucking keyboard.”

Nursey nods, even though Dex isn’t looking at him and takes a seat.

He should’ve known the second he came into the kitchen he’d accomplish nothing. He’s trying to do a reading for his Poetry and Politics class, but on his third read of the same paragraph he sets it aside. He pulls out his notebook and puts down on paper the precision of Dex’s fingers as he weaves the lattices, the concentration that settles on his face in the crease between his brows, the smell of sugar and fresh fruit.

It’s ironic, really, how those hands can throw the meanest, hardest punches (Dex drops his gloves a lot during games) but also have the delicacy to cut the dough into letters that spell out “Samwell” and lay them across the top of the pie. It shouldn’t be that much of a shock if Nursey thinks about it though.

Dex fixes things all the time. He takes apart and puts back together. His hands work skillfully for that, so why wouldn’t he be able to translate that into making something?

Maybe they shouldn’t have decided to be friends because Nursey doesn’t know how his heart is going to handle this.

Because Dex’s newfound gentleness extends not just to him, but to the rest of the team as well. Dex has started engaging with everyone else, reaching out to them and participating in more group outings.

Chowder could not be more thrilled with the turn of events.

“Man, having my best friends be friends with each other is ‘swawesome. I knew you guys would come around eventually,” he gushes. “Think about how many more fun things we’ll get to do now. Oh! That reminds me, I wanted to…”

Nursey smiles, listening to Chowder ramble about his Best Friends Bucket List (it’s real — Nursey’s seen the physical copy).

Every laugh, thoughtful gesture, and glance they share tips the scales from a harmless crush into vehement desire and longing.

Nursey isn’t usually one to let his emotions get the best of him, so he lets this one go too, convinced that he has this under control. (He doesn’t.)

It, he reasons, is nothing more than wishful thinking. Dex doesn’t feel the same way. He couldn’t, because he is straight.

The fire returns, but it’s the complete opposite of the raging embers it once was. This is the soft, dancing glow of a lit candle in a dark room.

Under control, he tells himself after he writes the tenth poem about the colors of autumn (or alternatively: the colors of the sky at sunset) and the fourteenth poem about the ocean and its opposing faces.

One is sweet and tranquil, luring you in with its sparkling, clear eyes and vibrant world beneath the surface. The other is powerful and ruthless, dragging you under and trapping you there, helpless as the darkness builds its home around you.

Under control, he tells himself when they’re on the ice and Dex skates by after a good play, nudging him with his shoulder and shooting him a crooked grin, and it sends tingles down his arms into the tips of his fingers.

Under control, he tells himself when he lays in bed at night, daydreaming about holding Dex’s hand and knowing it’s futile, but wishing they were something more than friends.


~


Nursey does what he considers a good job at concealing his feelings. Even when all he wants to do is back Dex into a corner and do things that would make him really blush, he keeps his cool. He doesn’t want to drive a wedge between them because he has a crush that he can’t seem to shake.

He’ll take pathetic pining over sending them back to square one any day. Everything’s cool.

Until the Dib Flip.

It’s the most they’ve argued since the beginning of sophomore year, and Nursey honestly doesn’t understand why Dex is so upset about it. Yeah, the room isn’t that big, but it beats living in a dorm and Dex has made it very clear that he’s been crammed in a room with at least one of his siblings before.

But he acts like even the idea of sharing a room with Nursey is inconceivable. Appalling, even.

“I don’t get it C,” Nursey says, flopping down onto Chowder’s bed. “I thought we were getting along so well. You should’ve seen his face, dude. It was the closest he’s gotten to Freshman Dex since the fight…” His eyes fly open. “Do you think he’s figured out that I like him?”

“I don’t know if you consider this a good or bad thing, but if it were anyone else I’d say yes, but given that this is Dex we’re talking about and he is one of the densest people in the Haus aside from you, I’d say no.”

“Hey!” He props himself up on his forearms. “Wait, I've never told you I liked him.” He narrows his eyes at Chowder. “Why aren’t you surprised?”

“Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you’re not exactly slick Nurse.”

Nursey sputters indignantly. “Wh- I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“When we’re hanging out in a group, every time you make a joke you always look at Dex to see if he’s laughing. And if he is, you get major heart eyes. It’s kinda gross but in a cute way, but, uh, it’s really not that hard to figure out you have feelings for him.”

Nursey groans and drops his head back.

“Hey, look on the bright side.” Chowder wiggles his eyebrows. “After the kegsters, you might be able to finally sleep with Dex.”

Chowder ducks to avoid the incoming pillow Nursey throws at him.


~


Dex must feel bad about freaking out over the Dib Flip because he does something he’s never done before; he texts Nursey over the summer to ask about how he’s doing and what he’s been doing.

At the beginning of junior year, Nursey falls and ends up injuring his wrist, which takes him out for the fall/winter semester.

Maybe Nursey pushes him a tad too far, but it seems like nothing he does is right, whether his intentions were to be annoying or not. Any time he asks Dex for a simple favor, like handing him his backpack or getting something from a shelf, Dex grumbles about it before begrudgingly doing it — if Nursey’s lucky.

More often than not, he tells Nursey he doesn’t need help, he can do it himself. Also, he gets extremely irritated when Nursey refers to his wrist as a sports injury.

“It’s not a sports injury,” Dex hisses through gritted teeth. “You weren’t playing when it happened.”

Still, for as annoying as Nursey is and as irritated as Dex gets, there’s nothing that makes Nursey think Dex would explode the way he does.

“Ahhh I can’t take it anymore!” Dex screams, after Nursey compliments his DIY Fortress of Solitude. “You win! I’m moving into the basement, to get away from you!”

He slams the door on his way out, and it feels more definitive than it should.

Even after Dex moves into the basement, Nursey calls it their room. Mostly when he’s trying to convince Dex to come back, but Dex doesn’t budge.

Finally Chowder suggests Nursey give him some space to cool off and once they’ve gone a couple of weeks or months without each other, Dex might be ready to come back to the room.

Until then, he just has to be patient.


~


The world operates on a system of balance.

That’s the whole idea behind yin and yang, that seemingly contrary forces can be complementary and are necessary for true equilibrium.

The Dib Flip and subsequent quarrels that lead to Dex moving into the basement knock them far enough off their trajectory that it appears as if they’ll never make it back. They have yet to discover the system always kicks in and stabilizes what’s become unbalanced.

The chain of events that acts as the counterbalance happens as many significant moments happen: unexpectedly and without warning, and sends them hurtling back on a course that, though not their original path, brings them to their destination all the same —

It starts with a phone call.


~


The phone call in question occurs after one of the biggest kegsters the Haus has ever seen.

Nursey and Dex haven’t been talking to each other as much since Dex stormed out of their room. They’re by no means enemies or even adversaries, but there’s undoubtedly an underlying tension between them that coincides with an unresolved conflict.

Nursey wakes up at 2 pm with the worst hangover he’s ever experienced. He vaguely remembers someone helping him into the bathroom and leaning against the sink while he threw up in the toilet, then leading him back to his room.

On the side of the table is a glass of water and two aspirins. He takes them, grateful to whoever left them there, and peels himself off his bed.

After a nice warm shower, he feels a little more alive. His dirty clothes are piling up in the corner of his room, and the clothes he had been wearing reek of alcohol and vomit.

He gathers up the offending garments and goes into the basement.

Seeing Dex’s belongings, neat and organized, still causes his heart to jump. It’s been long enough that he could probably ask Dex to come back to their room again, but he hasn’t been able to work up the courage to do so.

He tosses his clothes in the washer, pours in what he guesses is the right amount of detergent and fabric softener and starts the cycle.

The washing machine gurgles for like ten seconds and then shuts off. Nursey sighs. He’s not in the mood for this.

“Hey, has anyone seen Dex?” he asks, coming back up to the main floor.

“He got a call from his dad or something and went out front to take it,” Ford answers.

“Thanks.” He jogs out the front door. “Yo Dex, the washer’s acting up again—” He stops short on the porch when he notices Dex pacing around the front yard, clearly in the midst of a heated argument on the phone.

“So what if Nolan likes Disney movies?” Dex snaps, in an accusatory tone Nursey knows all too well. “Is there a problem with that?”

He should leave. This is obviously a private conversation and he should just go, but Dex is very upset about it and Nursey can’t help but be curious.

“You just implied that there was something wrong with being a boy and liking Disney.”

Nursey can’t believe what he’s hearing. Dex is challenging someone about gender issues.

Dex stops pacing. “Oh, so what you’re saying is that all guys who like to sing must be gay? Is there something wrong with that?”

His jaw tightens at the answer.

“You don’t know anything about Bittle,” he enunciates, and his hand clenches into a fist.

He looks like a volcano about to erupt. Which he does.

“It matters because I’m gay!” he blurts out. When he realizes what he’s said, all the blood drains from his face, and his entire demeanor changes.

The response is not good. Dex grimaces and sucks in a long breath.

“You heard me,” he says, voice wavering through his gritted teeth. His shoulder blades draw together, and he looks so much like the rage-filled freshman Nursey used to know. “No, I’m not lying and I will not apologize to you. I’ve done nothing wrong.”

His dad must hang up because Dex’s arm lowers slowly, like he’s not fully in control of his actions. His phone slides out of his hand and drops into the grass, but he doesn’t acknowledge it. He sets his jaw, something Nursey knows he does when he’s about to cry, and whirls around so fast Nursey doesn’t have time to react.

Dex’s body goes rigid, and his face crumples. There are tears rapidly welling up in his narrowing eyes.

“Dex—”

Dex pushes past him, straight into the Haus, slamming the door behind him.


~


Nursey hears voices in the living room and tiptoes into the kitchen to retrieve a piece of pie.

He glances over to see Bitty and Dex sitting on the couch, talking too softly for him to make out what they’re saying. He makes eye contact with Bitty.

Bitty shakes his head ever so slightly.

Nursey had picked up Dex’s phone from the lawn, and held onto it. Based on Dex’s exit, Nursey assumed he was the last person Dex wanted to see, so he’s been waiting for the right time to return it.

He’s gotten a whole slew of texts from a Louise Poindexter, who he assumes is one of Dex’s numerous siblings.

Louise
Hey, Dad’s kind of on a rampage right now but Mom is trying to calm him down.

Louise
I herded Kitty, Daphne and Nolan into the car and took them to the arcade. They asked me what Mom and Dad were yelling about, so I explained it to them. Nolan asked me if we could get French fries, so I don’t think they care.

Louise
By that I mean they don’t, like, hate you or anything.

Louise
Neither does Dad. He’s just... shocked.

Louise
I hope you’re okay.

Louise
We love you.

Nursey’s almost successfully made it out of the kitchen when he tilts his plate a little too far and his fork clatters to the ground. He freezes, as Bitty starts and Dex twists his head towards the source of the noise.

Their eyes lock. Dex’s are red and puffy, and his tear-stained cheeks are flushed. Even like this, he’s unfairly attractive.

Nursey shoves the thought way. God, not the time or place Nurse.

“I um, I have your phone,” he offers weakly, holding it up.

Dex’s eyes narrow, but it’s not the fiery glare he’s accustomed to. This one’s filled with pain and sorrow, and Nursey’s heart lurches.

Dex doesn’t say anything, so Nursey takes that as his cue to go.

“I’ll uh… be upstairs if you need me.”

He retreats back to their room and does what he always does when emotions are welling up in his chest, threatening to drown him.

He writes.

Eventually, he hears a hesitant knock on the door.

“Come in,” he calls out.

The door squeaks and someone shuffles in.

“Nursey?”

Nursey closes his notebook and turns around. Dex looks deflated. That’s the only way Nursey can describe him. Like everything inside him has been hollowed out.

“You alright man?” Nursey is aware how stupid of a question that is, but he still asks it.

“Yeah I’m just here to get my phone back.”

“Oh, right.” He picks it up from his desk and walks over to Dex. “Here. Your sisters have been texting you nonstop.”

Dex scans his notifications. There’s nothing from either of his parents. “I should get going,” he says.

“Right. Yeah.”

Dex turns and puts his hand on the doorknob, but doesn't leave. “Nurse? Is now a good time to talk?”

“Of course,” he says like he wouldn’t drop anything if Dex asked. “Come sit down.”

They sit on his bed with their backs against the wall, close enough that their shoulders touch. Dex curls up in a ball, like he’s trying to make himself into nothing.

“I know you heard, but I’m gay.” Nursey opens his mouth to respond but Dex isn’t finished. “I came out to the team last year, but for some reason I couldn’t tell you.”

“Oh.”

“I’m sorry. I— we’re friends and I should’ve told you but I just.” He takes a wobbly breath. “I hope you’re not mad.”

“Dex no, it’s chill. You shouldn’t force yourself to come out if you’re not ready to just because we’re friends. You don’t owe anyone that.” Nursey stares straight ahead. “I’m sorry for eavesdropping.”

Dex shrugs. “It’s whatever. Can’t undo it so there’s no point in being bitter about it. I wanted to tell you anyway.”

They stay there like this, unmoving and not talking. In the peaceful stillness, Dex leans his head on Nursey’s shoulder and it feels like the pieces are shifting back into place.

It dawns on Nursey that maybe this was the source of their problems this year. “Is that why you moved out?”

“Huh?”

“Because you didn’t want me to know you were gay? Did you think I would have a problem with it because if I’ve ever done anything that would lead you to believe that, I mean, I think you already know but I’m very gay—”

“What?” Dex sits up. “Nursey, what are you talking about?”

“I dunno, you were hella uncomfortable from the moment that coin landed in the crack and after the events of today, I thought it was possible that maybe you thought I wouldn’t be chill with it?”

“Oh Nurse.” Dex shakes his head. “You’re lucky you’re pretty.”

He called me pretty he thinks I’m pretty Dex thinks I’m pretty

“What uh, if you don’t mind sharing, did your dad say?” Nursey so he doesn’t dwell too much on Dex’s last statement.

Dex’s face falls. “He told me that I… um... that I shouldn’t bother coming back for Christmas.” He tugs at a stray thread on Nursey’s comforter. “Lousie is optimistic that he’ll be fine— or at least he won’t try to murder me on the spot by summer. He’ll probably pretend I’m not there, which would be the best case scenario.”

A storm brews in Nursey’s chest.

“Celebrate Christmas with me,” he blurts out without thinking.

“What?”

“I’m serious. Come to my apartment in Manhattan. My parents are traveling for the holidays so I’d be alone otherwise.” He shrugs. “It’d be nice to have the company.”

Dex studies his face, like he’s working out if Nursey’s trying to trick him. What kind of joke would that be anyways? “Haha I invited you to my apartment but it was just a joke bro haha I really got you good you shoulda seen the look on your face.”

Nursey rolls his eyes. “Dex, man. C’mon. I’m not trying to hustle you. I’m inviting you to stay with me for winter break because we’re friends and friends help each other out.”

Dex picks at the skin peeling around his fingers. “Okay,” he says, after a long silence.

Nursey can’t fight the dumb grin that spreads across his face. “Lit.”

Dex wrinkles his nose at Nursey’s response. “Ew never mind. I take it back.”

“You cannot wait to spend Christmas with me Poindexter,” he teases.

“Are you sure you want me there the entire time, ‘cause I can come back early or—”

“I’m starting to think you haven’t completely grasped the concept of friends.”


~


Dex and Nursey are the last ones to leave for the holidays. No one besides Bitty and Nursey know what happened with Dex’s dad, so they assume they’re going home for the holidays.

“I don’t want to make a big deal over nothing,” Dex had said to Nursey.

“That’s a first.”

“Fuck you.”

“You wish.”

Dex frowned. “Anyways, like I was saying. There’s a good chance I’ll go home for the summer, so I’m not gonna be dramatic and act like this is the end of the world. I’m not you. ”

“Rude. I am the King of Chill.”

“I’ll pay you five bucks to never say that again.”

“Deal.”

Bitty is the second last to leave. He gives them each a warm hug on his way out.

“You’re not allowed to fight for these couple of weeks,” he orders. “It’s a holiday; act like it.” He stares pointedly at each of them, then he’s out the door.

“He sure doesn’t look like it, but he can be legit scary sometimes,” Dex says as he and Nursey wave goodbye from the porch.

“Are you ready to go?” Nursey asks when they’re back inside.

“Yeah I just need to grab my coat from upstairs.”

They’re relatively quiet on the drive up to Manhattan. Dex sleeps a lot, something none of them did much of during finals. Nursey wakes him up only to ask if he needs to use the bathroom while they’re stopped and when he wants to eat.

Most of the time he’s awake, he gazes out the window.

Nursey is afraid to talk, afraid that if he brings Dex back to reality, Dex will change his mind, or they’ll get into a fight and it would ruin the entire break. So he leaves Dex be. He figures he has a lot on his mind, and he understands that this is hard for him.

Nursey utilizes this time to sort through some of things himself.

Dex’s Christmas present should be there. He ordered it extra early to be on the safe side. He thinks it’s a good mix of serious and funny, and he really hopes Dex does too. He doesn’t care if Dex got him a present, for real. Not like when he used to say he didn’t care if he and Dex weren’t friends outside of hockey. He wants this holiday to be fun, and although it won’t replace celebrating with his family, he’s going to do everything in his power to make it a good time for Dex.

He doesn’t have a whole lot planned. A nice, low-key break seemed like the right choice. And if Dex decides he wants to go out and do stuff, they can, but the main focus of this trip is to get him to relax.

He does want to watch fireworks on New Years, but he knows Dex isn’t a huge fan of crowds, so they can do it from his balcony. Otherwise, it’ll be pretty chill.

“Hey Dex,” Nursey says gently to wake him. “We’re here.”

“Already?” Dex mumbles.

“I suppose if you’re a free-loader and you don’t have to drive in this weather.”

Dex cracks his eyes open to side-eye Nursey.

“If you want to sleep, my bed’s a lot comfier than the car.”

He doesn’t mean it the way it comes out, but Dex must be really exhausted because he replies, “Okay.”

As soon as they get up to the apartment, Dex kicks off his shoes and Nursey shows him where his room is. Then he settles on the couch and drifts off to sleep too.


~


Dex emerges from the bedroom a couple hours later, after the sun has already disappeared below the horizon. Nursey’s sitting at the kitchen table, drinking tea and working on a poem.

He lowers his laptop screen when he notices Dex shuffling into the kitchen out of the corner of his eye.

“How’re you feeling?” Nursey asks.

“I’ve never slept in a bed that big,” Dex states. His eyes sweep across the apartment. “This place is nice.”

“Thanks.”

“I can see why you invited me though. It’s too much space for one person. My entire family could live here and there’d still be too much space.”

Nursey doesn’t know if that’s a testament to how much their family can compact themselves into a space or a chirp. “What if I just wanted to spend time with my best bro?” he says, just to be obnoxious.

Dex turns away, but Nursey catches the smile he’s trying to suppress. “You sound like Ransom and Holster.”

“You mean, you don’t want to have friendship cuddles and share a friend hot chocolate while we platonically hold hands?” he says innocently.

“I’m good, thanks.” Dex glances at Nursey. “Is that coffee?”

“It’s tea, but I could make you coffee if you want.”

“No, that’s okay.” He slides into a chair next to Nursey. “What’re you doing?”

“I was listening to nature sounds while writing a poem.” He opens his laptop back up. “Now that you’re awake, do you want to eat?”

They decide on Chinese food and once it’s delivered, they sit on the couch and Nursey turns on Netflix.

“Do you like The Nightmare Before Christmas?” Nursey asks.

“Oh my fucking God, no one else in my family thinks it’s a Christmas movie!”

“Most of the movie is about celebrating Christmas.”

“That’s what I told them!”

“So it’s a yes then?”

“Fuck yeah.”

As the end credits begin to appear, Nursey turns to Dex. “So I totally forgot to bring it up, but I can sleep in my parents’ room and you can sleep in my room.”

“What.”

“Sleeping arrangements.”

“Oh, right.” Dex shrugs. “Whatever works for you.”

“Okay. I don’t think it’ll be a big deal tonight, since we both fell asleep pretty late.” Nursey searches through his list. “Want to binge Planet Earth with me?”

“Sure.”


~


The next couple of days are, as Nursey predicted, laidback. They decorate the apartment so it has “a little personality” as Dex says. They go grocery shopping on the second day, after Dex tries to make breakfast and discovers the lack of food in the apartment.

“Of course you have like thirty different types of tea but no eggs,” he mutters as they bundle up.

Three days before Christmas, they visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art because Nursey’s parents are members and there’s a seasonal exhibit Nursey wants to see.

Nursey thought Dex would find it boring or pretentious, but he actually gets into it. Based on the intensity with which he studies certain pieces of art, Nursey would even go so far as to say he was moved. He wonders if Dex has ever been to an art museum.

“What’d you think?” Nursey inquires once they’re back inside the apartment building.

“It was awful. Hated every minute of it.” Nursey squints at Dex. Dex is facing forward, hands in his coat pockets as he walks through the lobby. His eyes flicker to Nursey’s, then back, and the corner of his mouth lifts.

“I could really tell by the fact that you wouldn’t let me drag you away from the abstract exhibit.”

“Well I wanted to know what I was looking at.”

“You have to use this thing called imagination and interpret it for yourself. Scary, I know. I hope those big boy words didn’t go right over your head.”

“Fuck off.” Dex shoves Nursey’s arm. “Is that really how rich people pass time?”

“Nope. Usually we’d at least have champagne.”

They lapse into a comfortable silence. It’s not until they’re walking from the elevator to Nursey’s door that Dex speaks again.

“It’s hard.” He fixes his line of sight to the floor. “Growing up and being told exactly how you’re supposed to act and think. There’s not a whole lot of room for creativity.”

“I get it,” Nursey says, turning the key in the lock. “You don’t have to explain yourself to me.”

“I know.” Dex unwraps his scarf and hangs it on a hook. “I used to think art was unnecessary because we never had time or money to appreciate it, but my world becomes a lot bigger when I’m with you.” He stops outside Nursey’s room. “Goodnight Nurse.”

“Night.”

Dex closes the door, oblivious to the fact that he obliterated Nursey seconds ago.

He just says things like that, like they don’t float around Nursey’s head and replay themselves in the middle of the night when Nursey has trouble sleeping.

He has to hand it to Dex. No one else makes him feel this way. Every interaction with him pushes something to burst in his chest with the force of a supernova. (Yes, he knows he’s dramatic. He’s an English major.)

Nursey lays in bed (if Dex thinks Nursey’s bed is too big, he should try sleeping in Nursey’s parents’ bed), head filled with thoughts of a singular desire.

Dex is here, in Manhattan, in his apartment right now, sleeping in the room adjacent to him. Even though they shared a room for almost a semester, somehow this feels more significant.

He reminds himself that Dex wouldn’t even be here if he hadn’t slipped up on the phone. And sharing a room at the Haus was just a coincidence. (Hah coin-cidence.)

He yanks the blanket over his head. It’s incredibly draining to continue the “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not” routine, and yet here he is.

After a solid hour of tossing and turning, he throws off the covers and tiptoes into the living room with his laptop. He writes a poem titled “desire’s cherry red lips and bloodthirsty smile”, and dreams that he's trying to put out a burning building with a water gun.


~


Nursey wakes up on Christmas morning to the smell of coffee.

He wanders into the kitchen, where Dex is already up and flipping pancakes.

“Merry Christmas Nursey,” Dex says, adding a pancake to the pile of already-done ones. “Sit.”

“Merry Christmas,” Nursey replies, rubbing his eyes. “What’s going on?”

“It’s a tradition. My mom makes us pancakes every year for breakfast. I also made eggs, but they’re in the warming drawer.”

There are two places set; the syrup is in the middle of the table.

Dex joins him, carrying the plate of pancakes and the pan of eggs. He sets them next to the syrup.

“Wow,” Nursey says. “Now I feel like a shit host.”

Dex shrugs. “You can’t be a shittier host than my father. Consider it my thanks for letting me stay here.”

“Oh my God Poindexter, for the last time. I did it because I want you here.”

“Again, better than my father.”

After breakfast is the moment Nursey’s been waiting for. The gift exchange. They move to the living room couch, where Nursey's present to Dex is already under the fake tree.

“Wait here,” Dex says as he slips into Nursey’s room, and Nursey kinda can’t believe Dex got him anything.

He returns with a neatly wrapped present, complete with a perfectly tied bow. Very on brand for him.

“Here,” he says, holding it out to Nursey. “Open yours first.”

Nursey rips the wrapping paper carefully, to reveal a forest green scarf and matching mittens.

“I almost made you a blanket, but I thought that you’d get more use out of these. I thought the green would, uh,” he clears his throat, “I thought it’d complement your eyes.”

“You made these?” The mental image of Dex sitting in a rocking chair, knitting quietly makes him want to laugh.

“Yeah. I was worried I wouldn’t finish them in time.” He gives Nursey an amused grin. “Did you really think I go to bed that early?”

“You wake up at the crack of dawn, so it wouldn’t surprise me.”

“Well, I hope you like it.”

“I do. Very much.” Nursey gets up and retrieves Dex’s gift bag. “I hope you find this as funny as I do.”

Dex eyes him suspiciously. “You didn’t put like, a live lobster or some shit in here, did you?

“Chill,” Nursey assures him. “If I got you a live lobster I would’ve put it in your bed.”

Dex removes the tissue paper and pulls out the three aprons, all with different lobster-related prints. “Jesus, Nurse.”

“I know it’s kind of stupid but I wanted to get you something that a) you would get use out of and b) would give you, like, a taste of home,” Nursey explains. “Plus now you can have a whole rotation of sick lobster aprons.”

Dex swallows hard. “Nursey…”

His phone dings, notifying them of Louise’s incoming text. He unlocks his phone and sees that she’s sent him a video.

“Hey! Hey! Guys!” Louise yells at their siblings. “Come here and wish Will a Merry Christmas!”

Kitty pops into frame. “Hiii Will!” She draws out her vowels as she talks. “We miss yoouuuu!”

The camera jerks to the right, and the twins smile brightly at him. “Merry Christmas Will!” they say, so in sync Louise must’ve made them practice before.

Louise turns the camera back to herself. “It’s chaos here, but what’s new, right? Matthew is… Does anyone know where Matthew is?” She yells over her shoulder.

“He’s hanging out with his girrrlllfriennnd,” Kitty yells back.

“He’s hanging out with his girlfriend,” Louise repeats. “Anyways, I hope you’re having a nice holiday with Nursey! We just opened presents, and Mom’s making breakfast downstairs. It’s weird without you, but we miss you and we love you. We’ll see you soon!”

“Byeeee Will!” shouts the chorus of his other siblings, and the video ends.

Dex stares at the screen so long his phone goes to sleep. He looks up at Nursey, and it’s only when a tear drips off his jaw and onto his hand that he realizes he’s crying.

“Shhh it’ll be okay,” Nursey says softly. “It’s okay,” he reaffirms, holding Dex and rubbing his back. “I’m here for you.”

Dex sobs noiselessly, his body shaking as jagged breaths force themselves out. Eventually, his breathing steadies and he shifts back.

“Fuck, I’m sorry,” he says, wiping his eyes. “I didn’t mean to ruin today.”

“Dex. Seriously, you didn’t ruin anything. You’re allowed to feel emotions, okay?”

Dex nods. Nursey searches his face.

Dex hunches his shoulders. “Don’t stare at me like that, you’re freaking me out.”

“Oh thank God,” Nursey says sarcastically. “I worried for a second you were getting soft on me.”

Dex snorts. “Don’t insult me like that.”

Nursey rolls his eyes. “Alright, get up.” He pushes off the couch. “I’m going to do a face mask and you’re going to do one with me.”

“What if I say no?”

“Too bad,” Nursey says, already on his way to the bathroom. “I wasn’t asking.”


~


“Nursey hurry! You’re going to miss it,” Dex whines.

“Okay, hold your horses Dex, jeez, I’m coming.” Nursey steps out onto the balcony. “It’s not like I live here and see this every year or anything,” he mutters. “Here, take your stupid champagne flute.”

“Dude, chaotic does not even begin to describe this.”

They can’t see all of Times Square from the balcony, but they have a good view of the lights and you’d have to be deaf to not hear the uproar of the massive crowd.

“Yeah. It’s fun to be this close, but after a couple of years you get tired of it.”

They can hear people getting ready for the countdown in the distance.

“What should we toast to?” Dex asks.

“To you.”

Dex laughs.

“No I’m serious. It was a big year for you.”

Dex shakes his head, grin plastered on his face. “We can’t toast to me, that’d be, like, the lamest toast ever. How about we toast to…” he scrunches up his face, “to us. For overcoming our differences and ending up as friends.”

“To us. Hashtag new beginnings.”

Dex sighs, shaking his head. At that moment, the countdown reaches zero, and the crowd erupts into cheers. The fireworks explode in the sky, and the commotion steals Dex’s attention.

Nursey leans against the railing, so he can look at Dex’s profile. The reflection of the fireworks sparkle in his eyes, and the flashing lights from the surrounding buildings cast a soft glow of color on his face.

He almost kisses him then. They’re close enough, physically, and he wants to so badly. It would be worth it, he thinks, even if it meant throwing away their friendship and even if it sent Dex back to his freshman year.

It would be worth it to kill his curiosity before it kills him.

“Nursey, you’re staring at me again.”

Just like that, the chain breaks and he’s flung out of his thoughts.

“Sorry.” Since he chickened out on kissing him, he compromises with himself and does something else he’s wanted to do for a while. “Dex, I was thinking, um. I think you should come back to our room.”

Dex’s mouth drops and he gawks at Nursey. Nursey forces himself to maintain eye contact, and also not launch himself off the balcony.

“You still want me to come back?” Dex’s voice is tentative, like reaching out into the dark without knowing what waits there. “Even after everything?”

Nursey’s heart shatters. “Even after everything.”

Dex blinks at him, before nodding.

“Yes?” Nursey whispers. “You’ll come back?”

Dex’s lips curve into a crooked smile — the one Nursey loves the most. “I mean, fuck it, why not?”

And just like that, the pieces fall back into place.


~


They return to the Haus a few days early so Dex can move his stuff out of the basement and wait for the others to trickle in.

They get so busy catching up with the others, that they forget to tell everyone until Tango goes into the basement and comes back up with a puzzled look on his face.

“Did someone steal your stuff Dex?” he asks. “It’s not in the basement anymore?”

“No Tango,” Dex answers, while typing away on his laptop. “I moved back upstairs.”

Bitty and Chowder react immediately. Chowder congratulates them and Bitty demands to know why he’s just finding out about this now. His questioning seems to be hinting at something else, but Dex just smiles and shakes his head.

“No Bitty, we didn’t know.” His eyes find Nursey’s. “It just kinda happened.”


~


The semester seems to fly by, and before long they’re getting ready for Bitty to graduate. Everyone is sad to see him go, but it hits the Frogs especially hard.

“I’m not dying,” Bitty jokes, when Chowder starts getting puppy eyes whenever he sees him.

Which then leads to the Frogs going out of their way to pretend like he is, because they’re ridiculous like that.

“Bits, who will get your room when you’re gone?” Nursey cries out.

“Betsy will be so distraught!” Chowder adds.

Dex places his hand on Bitty’s shoulder. “I’ll make sure to tell the freshmen what a good man you were,” he states firmly.

Bitty swats his hand away. “Knock it off y’all,” he sniffs, but he’s laughing.

Chowder is voted Captain, and Dex and Nursey cheer like they’re parents at their eight-year-old’s soccer game.

While Dex is packing up, Nursey leans against the doorframe. “You’ll be okay this summer?”

“I’m not worried.”

“You sure?”

Dex twists his head enough that he can look at Nursey. “Hey, you’re not getting this room to yourself next year, if that’s what you’re implying.” He smirks. “But you might want to keep an eye on the local news just in case a tall redheaded hockey player goes missing.”

“Morbid, Poindexter.”

“Funny, I only think about death after I’ve talked to you.”

Nursey places his hand on his chest. “You wound me.”

Dex finishes filling his last box, and picks it up, resting it against his hip. “Have a good summer Nurse.”

“You can Skype me whenever you want,” he shouts down after him.

“Okay Derek!”

The front door swings shut, and Nursey takes one last inventory of the room before hitting the road himself.


~


He gets a couple of updates from Dex that summer.

Dex
Everything’s fine. As I predicted, my father is spending the least amount of time around me as he can, but at least we’re not fighting.

Dex
My sisters say hi. I must’ve talked about you enough that they felt like they should be formally introduced to you.

This leads to them Skyping and Nursey meets Dex’s family. Dex's mom asks him what he’s been up to this summer, and he informs her that he’s mostly been writing. He’s starting the first draft of a novel he’s had in the back of his notes for a while.

She ends up stealing Dex’s laptop, ignoring his protests, and they talk about what the book is about and Nursey’s plans for next year.

“Jesus Christ,” Dex says when he finally snatches his laptop back. “You charmed the pants off every female in this fucking house.”

“Well it’s too bad for them—”

“Because you’re gay.”

“—because there’s only room in my heart for one Poindexter.”

“What?”

“Nothing,” Nursey says quickly. “I have to go. Talk to you later bye!”

“Wha—”

Nursey ends the call and leans back in his chair. Holy fuck. He almost just confessed. Dex has to navigate enough rough waters with his father; he does not need the burden of Nursey’s feelings as well.

Chill, Nurse. He’s got one more year and then they’ll go their separate ways and even though they’ll probably always be friends, Nursey will finally put all this behind him and rest.

Little does he know, Chowder has other plans.


~


Chowder barges into their room while Dex is in class.

“Holy shit C, you nearly gave me a heart attack—”

“Nursey, I’ve let this slide for almost three years, and I absolutely refuse to for another.”

“It’s been like a week, what the fuck are you—”

“You look at Dex like a lovestruck puppy and I’m sick of you moping around the Haus.” Chowder stands tall. “As your captain, I’m ordering you to tell Dex you like him or I will.”

“What?” Nursey sits up. “You can’t—”

“I can and I will. You should’ve told him at least a year ago.”

“But—”

“No buts. Do it or I will.”

“Not fair! You’re abusing your power.”

Chowder blinks innocently at him, and he looks scarily like Bitty when he initiated the Waffles. “What’re you gonna do about it?”

He giggles — fucking giggles — and pulls the door shut behind him.


~


Nursey worries himself sick over Chowder’s threat. He can’t just confess like he hasn’t been afflicted by this for four years. He needs time. He needs a plan. It has to be special.

He tells Chowder this, and Chowder eyes him, unimpressed.

“Nurse. You’re way overthinking this,” he says. “Dex’s definition of a date would be ordering a pizza and watching old episodes of Wipeout. You could text him ‘I think you’re really great’ and he’d probably think about it for a week.”

Nursey wants to argue, but Chowder’s right and they both know it.

“Dex likes uncomplicated, straightforward things. Just be honest with him.”

So Nursey stops thinking and acts.


~


“Nursey!”

Nursey glances at Chowder, who’s already looking at him.

Be honest, he mouths.

“I’m coming!” Nursey yells, ignoring his heart leaping into his throat. He drags himself off the couch and up to their room. “What are you—”

“What the fuck is this?” Dex holds up the lobster beanie baby and note Nursey wrote that reads, “You’re my lobster”. His face is flushed scarlet.

“I dunno, Dex, you’ve got eyes. What the fuck does it look like?”

“It looks like you’re fucking with me.”

Nursey rubs the bridge of his nose. “No, you belligerent dunce, that’s what I want to be doing.”

Dex’s eyes widen. “You… you…”

“Yes, Dex.” Nursey speaks like he’s encouraging a child to read. “I. Like. You.”

“Why did you… This came out of nowhere?”

“When would you recommend I throw that in Dexy?” Nursey throws his hands up. “‘Nice assist, by the way, I've more or less had a crush on you since freshman year’?”

“Nursey what the fuck!” Dex sputters. “You’ve liked me since freshman year and you didn’t tell me?”

“How the fuck was I supposed to? You acted like you hated me and even when we were ‘friends’, you always held me at arm’s length!”

At least Dex has the decency to shut his mouth and let that sink in. Then, he has the audacity to burst out laughing. He laughs so hard, tears pool in his eyes. Normally Nursey enjoys the noise, but right now he doesn’t find it very fitting.

“Care to inform me what’s so goddamn funny, Poindexter?” Nursey spits.

“We,” he struggles to get out between breaths, “are the dumbest fuckers in the entire world.”

“Huh?”

“Nursey, I haven’t been able to get you out of my head for four years.”

“You mean—”

“Yes, you idiot. I like you too.”

The sentence knocks all the wind out of Nursey’s lungs. He’s heard it a million times in his wildest dreams, but as nice as they were, they could not come close to capturing how fucking good it feels to hear for real.

“Hey, um Nurse.” He hadn’t even realized that Dex moved to stand in front of him.

“Yeah?”

“I think this is the part in the movie where we kiss.”

“Movie?”

His brain is currently running at half a thought per minute, but it doesn’t matter because Dex closes the gap between them and holy fucking shit Dex is kissing him.

He brings his hands up to cup Dex’s neck and feel the muscles and tendons and soft skin that he’s been dreaming about putting his lips on since he first saw him.

“Oh thank God, I didn’t hear anything so I thought maybe you murdered Nursey—”

They break apart to see Chowder standing in the doorway.

“—and then I thought what if I’m the one who caused Nursey’s death by encouraging him to tell you and I wouldn’t be be able live with myself if that happened—”

“Chowder,” Dex says, and Chowder stops abruptly. “We’re fine. No one killed anyone.”

“Miraculously.” Chowder beams at them. “I just wanted to say, I’m happy for you two. It’s about damn time.”


~


Nursey lives for the sweet moments they have.

Dex is laying on the bottom bunk, and Nursey lays with his head on his stomach.

They’ve opened the window to let the warm air in and sunlight trickles into the room, spilling onto the bed and the books on the desk and the dirty clothes on the floor.

Nursey twists his neck so he can see Dex but he isn’t quite prepared for the way the sun shines on Dex’s pale skin, his freckles standing out even more in the golden glow of the light pouring onto him.

It’s crazy, that two individuals as polar opposite as them could even ever have a shot at being together. But they’ve both grown a lot since the beginning. It might’ve taken four years, but they managed to find each other despite all the odds being against them.

There’s a fine line between love and hate, as far as Nursey’s concerned, but when it comes to Dex, he’s not sure if the line ever existed in the first place. It seems like they’ve blurred the line between being this close to killing each other and this close to kissing each other, until even they can’t distinguish where one feeling ends and the other starts.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” Dex asks, his face already turning red.

“Because I love you,” Nursey says reflexively, and Dex’s body tenses beneath him. Nursey rolls over so he can look Dex in the eyes. “I do. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone else. I love you with the same force that causes stars to be born and planets to form.”

Dex reaches out and places his hand on the side of Nursey’s face. “You… are so mushy,” he says in a low voice, and flashes his teeth at him. “But I love you too.”


~


(After they graduate, they move into an apartment in Boston, where they both plan to start working.

That year on Dex’s birthday, Nursey gets him lobster printed hand towels — Dex apparently didn’t even know that was a thing — and a card with a drawing of a lobster and a big red heart, presumably done by Lardo.

Inside the heart, written in Nursey’s unmistakably impeccable cursive, are the words “You’re my Maine man”.

“You did not pay Lardo to draw a fucking cartoon lobster and send it to you.”

“Oh I didn’t, did I?” Nursey says, showing Dex the emails they’d sent, working out the details.

Dex rolls his eyes. “You are ridiculous. A complete and utter buffoon.”

Nursey leans over and presses a kiss to Dex’s temple. “I love you too.”

Dex smiles and sticks the card to their fridge, which will eventually become the “Museum of Nursey’s Love for Dex”.

In Nursey’s opinion, it’s better than any grandiose art museum in the entire world.)