Disclaimer: These characters are Ngozi's.
A/N: Still hugely indebted to shellybelle, but this chapter and the way Dex sees himself draws on "I Know I Am, But What Are You?" by sysrae as well. Oh, and the moth/flame metaphor is from Rainbow Rowell's Carry On. Also, just a heads up: this chapter covers the same events from Dex's perspective. There's a good amount of internal monologue but no new events.
Dex knew he was fucked.
His crush on Nursey, which had been going for more than two years at this point, was completely hopeless. That was acutely fucking obvious, and Dex was many things, but stupid wasn't one of them—he knew he and Nursey could never wind up together. Not when Nursey was so handsome it almost hurt to look at him, and so good with words that he won almost every argument. Not when Nursey had gone to a fucking prep school and Dex had gone to an underfunded public school without a single AP or IB class in the middle of nowhere, Maine. Not when Dex's body was covered in freckles and scars from years on lobster boats and Nursey had never done manual labor in his life. Nursey was way out of Dex's league; this was just an objective fact. And Dex had the nerve to adore him. All Dex could do was orbit him and hope that someday he'd learn how to avoid pissing Nursey off quite so often.
This semester had been . . . an experience. Living with Nursey was seven kinds of torture, beginning with the fighting and ending with the crush. Dex felt like a moth drawn to Nursey's flame, constantly stepping close enough to get burned. He just couldn't help it, couldn't stay away from someone he'd wanted so desperately for so long.
But being drawn into Nursey's gravity well wasn't the only thing making this semester hard to describe; there was also the way Nursey was acting. For the first two years of college, Nursey had seemed to have two settings: chill and pissed. But now Dex was seeing a third side of Nursey—the stressed side. He was clacking away on his computer (which had a mechanical keyboard, of fucking course; how pretentious and obnoxious could you get?) or scribbling in Moleskine notebooks at all hours of the day and night, pretty much whenever they weren't in practice. Dex wasn't sure if Nursey had always been like this and Dex just hadn't noticed because they hadn't previously been living together, or if this was new this semester, but either way it had him worried. Nursey was usually up when Dex went to bed and often also when Dex got up, occasionally even in the same spot wearing the same clothes. Everyone in the Haus lived on coffee, of course, but Nursey's caffeine desperation tended to outstrip everyone else's by a good few miles. Sometimes he was even sloppy on the ice, though that was rare and he was still a damn good D-man. Dex wished he and Nursey had the kind of relationship where he could wrap Nursey up in his arms and pet his hair and ask him what was going on, but instead all they could do was snipe at each other, so Dex tried to keep his temper in check and his insults to a minimum where Nursey was concerned, and he hoped fervently it was enough, though he wasn't even sure he knew the answer to the question, Enough for what?
Dex knew almost no one read the campus-wide emails about on-campus events, but he personally thought that was a shame. Sure, hockey and homework combined to ensure that he couldn't make it to hear most of the speakers who came to campus, and he wasn't interested in a lot of the clubs announcing their meetings and fundraisers and whatever-the-fuck else, but he wanted to make the most of his college experience, and sometimes that meant going to an on-campus event that wasn't affiliated with the hockey team. The boys would probably chirp him if they knew he read the emails, but he'd managed to go this long without them finding out, so at this point he felt like he was probably safe.
So, on the Tuesday before finals week, Dex read that English 3020 was having its open mic in the black box theater that Friday night. Surprisingly (or perhaps not so surprisingly, since Ransom and Holster had always planned the kegsters and they were gone now, and Bitty was a good captain but he also enjoyed running off to Providence every chance he got), there was no pre-finals kegster planned for Friday night, so Dex put the open mic in the calendar app on his phone and made plans to attend. He'd never heard any of Nursey's writing, unless you counted the freestyle rap Nursey sometimes indulged in when drunk—the dude kept everything he actually put on paper strictly under wraps around the team—and Dex was eager. He wanted to know every side of Nursey, every thought that went through his head. This wouldn't give him that, but it would give him a glimpse. He'd take every glimpse he could get.
Dex didn't know what to wear to an open mic, so he settled on his usual flannel and jeans. Let everyone else think he was a hipster. Whatever. (Was he a hipster? His family certainly didn't seem to think he was still one of them, if he ever had been.) He was intentionally just barely on time getting to the black box, so there was no chance of him running into Nursey, who was sure to be early. Dex took a seat in the back and let his fellow Wellies' words wash over him. There were poems about relationships and poems about trees. One girl even wrote a poem from the perspective of one of Cinderella's stepsisters, and it was surprisingly okay.
And then it was Nursey's turn. Dex recognized the description of the Haus immediately, but his breath caught on the line "Cracked floorboards that determined my fate." That had to refer to the dibs flip . . . right? Where could this be going? A few lines later, it was even more obvious that Nursey was talking about the dibs flip. And then he said "my dear" and Dex nearly choked. This couldn't be—Nursey was so far out of his league—there was no way—was there?
Dex processed words in choppy bits and pieces, registering that at least some of them applied to him: "eyes could be amber." "Straining for my opposite." "The mind of a scientist." "That one night in your bed."
"Darling, do you want me?"
Dex found himself standing just as Nursey stepped back from the mic. He was pretty sure Nursey couldn't see him there, all the way in the back, especially given the stage lights. Dex moved forward as Nursey made his way to his seat and then crouched beside him.
It took Nursey a second before he said, "D-Dex?"
Dex hated the uncertainty in Nursey's voice, the raw fear, and so he decided he needed to be brave. He took a deep breath to steel himself and then threaded his fingers through Nursey's, pulling Nursey up to standing and towing him toward the door.
Nursey stopped walking as soon as Dex had gotten him outside. Dex didn't mind—they could talk just as well here as anywhere else—so he stopped, too, and turned to face Nursey.
Nursey's face was full of fear and regret. "Dex, I'm so sorry; I didn't think you were going to be here, but—"
"Did you mean it?" Dex cut him off, both because he needed to know and because he needed Nursey to stop babbling apologies.
Nursey looked at his feet. "Of course I meant it. What good is poetry if you don't mean it?"
Dex glanced around quickly—he'd never kissed a boy before, and even though he knew this was Samwell he hadn't quite shaken the fear that his middle school and high school years had imparted on him. He didn't want an audience, even though a part of him—the part of him that was starting to process that Nursey wanted him—kind of did, kind of wanted to show off this beautiful man for all the world. Seeing no one, he leaned in and pressed his lips to Nursey's, opening his mouth almost immediately. Nursey's lips parted in response and Dex wasted no time in sliding his tongue into Nursey's mouth. Nursey moaned into Dex's mouth and pulled Dex even closer, eliminating the space between them. Their tongues slid along one another, exploring, while their hands roamed each other's backs and found their way into each other's hair. It was one of the longest kisses of Dex's life.
"I suppose that's the answer to my question, then," said Nursey when they finally broke apart. His voice sounded rough.
"Yeah," Dex replied. "How long, for you?"
Nursey lowered his head. "Since frog year."
Dex wanted to scream. "Seriously? We wasted so much time!"
Nursey looked up at him. "What, you too?"
What kind of a question was that? "Of course, me too! 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, and Dex had to wonder if he'd died and gone to heaven. "Darling, of course."
A/N: 100th story on FFN, holla! And I've taken some stories down over the years, so this is well over my hundredth fanfic, but still. Exciting!