Disclaimer: Ngozi owns the characters; I do not.

A/N: This story owes a lot to stories by shellybelle on AO3: the idea of Dex finding out Nursey likes him at a poetry slam comes from "polyglot," and the idea of Nursey having panic attacks is something I first encountered in "in front of the same small bathroom mirror."

Nursey hadn't felt this much like a mess in years.

He honestly hadn't expected this semester to be this fucking hard. He hadn't been fool enough to think it would be easy; Samwell didn't make it easy to be a student athlete, ever, and too many of his class numbers started with threes for him to think that this would be some kind of academic walk in the park, the way his frog year had been. (That year had been hard on other fronts—see: Dex and Nursey's crush on him—but academically it had been no sweat. There were people who had trouble with the academic transition from high school to college, but for the most part those people hadn't gone to Andover, and none of them was named Derek Nurse.) But he hadn't counted on the way Advanced Creative Writing was going to fucking gut him. Intro to Creative Writing hadn't been easy, exactly—he'd barely eked out an A—but it had been the sort of thing he could chip away at steadily, even if he hadn't been sure his professor would like what he came up with. But Advanced Creative Writing. Not only was he just as uncertain about his professor's favor as he had been during Intro, but now the workload was such that he felt compelled to spend every minute writing when he didn't absolutely need to be doing something else. Hadn't anyone ever told Dr. Fretheim that creativity took time?

There wasn't time for worldbuilding these days, or even for really detailed character work, especially not when he was in practice multiple hours a day and on roadies at least every other weekend. So Nursey did what he always did in a writerly pinch: he stole from real life. He knew it was a common tactic for writers; he wasn't worried about it from that perspective. What did worry him was how much he was writing about Dex. Sure, Nursey was also writing about his childhood and Andover and all the fucking rest of it, but Dex just kept cropping up, all over the place. Dex and his politics. Dex and his stick handling (and no, that was not a euphemism, much though Nursey wished it could be). Dex and his checking. Dex and his flannels. Dex and his fucking arms.

Nursey spun stories and produced poems, as assigned, and in those stories and poems amber eyes met green and sparks flew. Freckled skin touched brown and stars aligned. Whoever they were—neighbors, coworkers, enemies, friends—and however they met, fictional Nursey and fictional Dex wound up together. They belonged together. Because Nursey was pining for his D-man.

He knew he shouldn't. He knew that, even though Ransom and Holster made it look easy, those two were a once-in-a-century D-man couple, that romantic lightning wouldn't strike Samwell's defensemen twice in one decade. He knew Dex would never slide an easy arm around him the way Holster did with Ransom, that Dex would never be his first call in a panic attack the way Holster was for Ransom. He knew that, even when he and Dex had chemistry on the ice, they weren't that same kind of drift compatible that Ransom and Holster were.

Nursey knew all of this. He knew he was just dreaming—just a mess of a dreamer, to quote Taylor Swift. It just didn't stop him from wanting.

Advanced Creative Writing always hosted a mandatory open mic at the end of the semester to show off the students' work. Nursey very deliberately didn't tell the team about it, and being absolutely sure that no one on the team would possibly have read to the end of the campus-wide email about on-campus events to see the brief mention of the open mic was the only thing that gave Nursey the courage to read his favorite poem of the semester:

White siding and crumbling concrete steps,

Blue hallways and a green couch whose mold

Might be developing sentience,

Curtained windows and pies in the oven,

And up the creaky steps,

Cracked floorboards that determined my fate:

I call this Haus my home

With as much fervor as I ever used

To apply that word to a Manhattan brownstone,

But what I really mean

Is that I live here with you.

If fifty percent of all coin flips land heads,

And fifty percent of all coin flips land tails,

Then no coins land on their sides—

It's impossible; we've already reached one hundred.

You, my dear, are impossible.

No one told me that eyes could be amber

When we did Punnet squares in high school biology,

And no one told me that I was one pole of a magnet

Straining for my opposite—

And darling, if attraction is just physics,

Then I'm doomed to never understand it

Nearly as well as you.

I had never wanted

To crawl inside of the mind of a scientist

Until you,

But you make me hungry

For balanced equations and computer code,

For a periodic table and precise taxonomies,

Because I want to know the landscape of your thoughts

And heaven knows I've absorbed nothing

Through osmosis,

Nothing through the brushes of your fingers

Or the drinks we've shared

Or even that one night in your bed

When I fell asleep on you

In the middle of an episode of Queer Eye.

Yes, I want to know the landscape of your thoughts

From the mundane to the fantastic,

But most of all I want the answer to the question:

Darling, do you want me?

Nursey stepped back from the microphone as his classmates and their friends began snapping. The stage lights were too bright in Samwell's little black box theater for him to see who was out there, but he'd looked around before his turn to perform, so he knew approximately who his audience was. He took a bow and then made his way offstage and back to his seat on one edge of the crowd.

He'd scarcely sat down when someone tall crouched beside him. He blinked a couple times, eyes still adjusting from the stage lights, and carroty hair and broad, flannel-clad shoulders resolved into view.

Fuck.

"D-Dex?" he whispered as his classmate Marie started reciting her poem.

Dex didn't answer, at least with words; he just threaded his fingers through Nursey's and pulled Nursey up to standing. Nursey followed Dex to the back of the theater and out the side door, wincing as light from the foyer spilled into the black box.

As soon as they were outside, Nursey stopped walking and said, "Dex, I'm so sorry; I didn't think you were going to be here, but—"

"Did you mean it?" Dex asked. His tone was—hopeful? It couldn't be. Could it?

"Of course I meant it," said Nursey, not looking at Dex. "What good is poetry if you don't mean it?"

Dex glanced around quickly and then stepped toward Nursey, leaning forward until his lips captured Nursey's. The kiss only stayed chaste for half a second, and then both of their mouths were opening and Dex was sliding his tongue into Nursey's mouth. Nursey moaned in response and clutched Dex closer so that their bodies were flush. Their tongues probed each other's mouths as their hands found each other's hair and tangled in it. It was a long time until they broke apart.

"I suppose that's the answer to my question, then," Nursey rasped when their mouths finally separated.

"Yeah," Dex murmured, and then: "How long, for you?"

Nursey ducked his face to hide his grin. "Since frog year."

"Seriously?" Dex said, and Nursey could hear the strain in his tone, the attempt to keep from yelling. "We wasted so much time!"

Now Nursey looked up at Dex. "What, you too?"

"Of course, me too," said Dex. "Have you seen yourself? Or heard yourself? Doing anything, ever? Of course, Nurse. But you really—me?"

Nursey reached up to caress Dex's face. "Darling, of course."