The Gift

Disclaimer: This is a purely fan-made piece that is using the world and characters from Ngozi Ukazu's Check Please!, and is made entirely for enjoyment. No financial gain has been made in the making of this piece. All other situations and plot developments are mine.

Summary: Dex had thought of him and got him something.

It's Nursey's birthday.

Author's Note: Happy birthday, Nursey! Possible out-of-characterness and un-beta'd.

Constructive criticism and comments are always welcomed.

Published: 14 February 2020

Rating: T

Nursey flings himself down in the chair across from Dex with as much drama as he can muster up. "Dex! Dex! Dex! Dexxxxxx! Deeeeeeex—"

"What," Dex says through gritted teeth.

"I don't understand my homework."

"That sounds like a personal problem. Now go away."

"But Deeeeexxx!"

"For fuck sake, Nursey, I'm not your fucking professor or TA or even in your class! I can't help you and since I have my own homework to do, I won't help you, even if I did know what the fuck you were doing. Now leave me alone."

Nursey pokes Dex a few times with his foot and when then doesn't get a proper response, he starts pulling out the big guns. "But Deeeeex! You always explain it so well! I always do better on a test after you've explained it to me!"

"You're not an idiot. Figure it out on your own."

"Aw, Poindexter! That's like, the nicest thing you've ever said to me!"

Dex grunts and types more forcefully.

Deciding that is not enough of a proper reaction, Nursey gets up and ups the ante, tossing himself across Dex's lap like some sort of swooning Victorian heroine. "Dex! I need your help!"

"The fuck! Get off! What is wrong with you!" Despite his words, Dex does not immediately toss his defensive partner on the floor—which he definitely is strong enough to do (mphf, those arms! Those shoulders, uhn!).

"What's wrong is I don't understand my homework and I need your help!" Nursey says as theatrically as he can. "You're my only hope!"

"You are—without a doubt—the worst Princess Leia ever," Dex informs him, his forehead twitching and his jaw clenching. "Now get off of me and go away."

"Rude! I make a great Leia, FYI! I rock that Slave Leia look!"

"What do I have to say to make you leave so I may do my homework in peace?" He bites out, looking like he's two seconds away from become a homicidal maniac.

Nursey luxuriates in having all of Dex's intense focus on him. "Say you'll help me with my homework," he says, stretching out and making himself more comfortable across Dex's (very, very, very) strong legs (unh!).

"No."

"Fine. Say you'll take me out to a romantic dinner on Valentine's Day!"

"Fuck off, Nursey. I'm not going to waste money on hauling your over-priced ass out on your birthday. Get a significant other and make them do it. Now get off of me."

"Say you'll make me a V-Day dinner instead?"

"I already told you—no! I'm not doing anything for your birthday!"

"But you could. You totes could!"

"No."

"But it's my most ardent wish that you would! You wouldn't want to ruin my b-day by not giving me my most ardent birthday wish, would you?"

"I live to crush your hopes and dreams. It warms my black, shrivelled heart," Dex says crossly. "Now get the fuck off of me and go away."

"You still haven't helped me with my homework. If you're going to be mean and not celebrate my birthday with me, you can make it up to me by helping me with my homework."

"No. Would you please get the fuck off of me?"

"Aw, look it you, Poindexter! Sayin' 'please' and everything!"

"Clearly, it's a wasted gesture because you're still here." Dex shoved at the other teen's shoulder. "C'mon, Nursey. You've had your fun. Now fuck off and let me finish my problem sets."

"Nope! Not until you help me out or agree to make me the besteset birthday dinner evah."

"If you don't get off of me, I'm returning your gift," the redhead threatens.

"You bought me a gift?" Nursey asks, delighted and flattered. Dex is almost stingy with how little he spends, and so if he bought Nursey a gift...Nursey can't help himself and he wriggles a little bit in joy.

Dex's mouth thins slightly, which means he's not saying something. "You'll never know, now will you, if you don't get up and let do my homework in peace."

"But if I don't leave, you can't return it," Nursey happily points out. "So...nope! Not going anywhere!"

"Nursey."

"Deeeeex."

The redhead pinches the bridge of his nose. "Nursey. You have precisely ten seconds to get off before I break your other arm and then you'll really be out for the rest of the season."

Nursey has a quick debate-stay and keep up their playful banter and hope that it doesn't turn ugly because that tone of voice means that Dex is on a tipping point, or get up and move away from Dex's nice, warm lap, and deprive himself of Dex's company but probably making Dex more likely to talk with him later in the day?

...Damn it.

Nursey heaves a huge, put-upon sigh and flails about as he tries to get his arms under him so he can push himself off of Dex. It takes him longer than it probably should, but Dex had put one of those strong hands on Nursey's back to steady him and Nursey's arms abruptly quit working the moment he realised it.

"Thank you," Dex huffs when they both finally manage to get Nursey upright safely and he goes back to his typing.

"I still need help on my homework."

"Of course you do," Dex mutters darkly, but then he sighs. "What are you doing?"

"The parts of the brain."

"Google Pinky and the Brain's 'Brainstem'," the redhead say shortly and goes back to his homework.

Nursey blinks, then beams and immediately pulls out his phone. He slips in an earbud and clicks on one of the links suggested. And daaamn, it's brilliant! Catchy, too. He pulls out his homework. Humming, he gets to work. It's not as good as getting Dex to make him a romantic birthday dinner, but he got Dex to pay attention to only him for a bit, and Dex had even helped him, despite saying that he wouldn't. Nursey counts it as a win.

Next step: Getting Dex out on a date with him. Barring that, taking up all of Dex's focus.

Nursey's got this.

xXxXxXxXxXx

Nursey wakes up on his birthday and it takes him until he's almost at hockey practice before it sets in. He feels himself almost immediately wake up and perk up. It's his birthday and there'll be pie and cake and presents and well-wishes and a gift that Dex bought specifically for him. He cannot wait!

The team has decorated his locker with balloons and streamers and there's confetti everywhere (he does not envy whoever is going to have to sweep the floor later). Chowder cheerfully leads most of the team in singing 'Happy Birthday' (Bully only rolls his eyes, and because neither of them has had any coffee, Dex and Whiskey glare at everyone and refuse to sing).

Nursey rocks it out at practice and at the team breakfast and at breakfast, Hops and Bitty bring him a chocolate-chip waffle with a candle in it; most of the team sings again and they get halfway through the song before the cafeteria staff comes over, annoyed about the candle. Tango gives him a magnetic set of Shakespeare's insults and the Waffles have gotten him a gift card for the local indie bookstore.

"So, Poindexter! Where's my gift?" Nursey asks, draping himself over Dex's fabulous shoulders.

Dex elbows him. "Expectant bastard, aren't you." He tries to shake the poet off.

"Hey, you're the one told me that you got me something!" He tightens his arm and refuses to budge. He can't wait to see what it is—Dex had thought of him andgot him something. "C'mon, I'm dying over here!"

The redhead sighs heavily. "I don't have it here. I left it at the Haus—C let me in so I could leave it on your desk so you won't undo all my hard work by spilling coffee on it or something. Now get off of me; I have class in fifteen minutes and I still need to finish my breakfast."

Nursey immediately latches on to the most important part of what was just said. "You made my gift?!" This might be, hands down, the single greatest thing that has ever happened to him. If Dex made his gift, it meant he was thinking of Nursey for hours on end as he worked on it. It meant he spent any free time he had (and if there is one thing Dex does not believe in, it's spare time) working on something for Nursey. It means it'll be highly personalised and there won't be anything else like it out there.

"Shut up and get off of me. Seriously, go away."

"You can't be so mean to me—it's my birthday!"

"I never would have known," Dex says dryly. "The singing, the cake, the gifts, the corny decorations, the stupid hearts everywhere—are you sure don't have the dates mixed up? Now get off of me."

"You haven't wished me a happy birthday yet! OR a happy Valentine's Day! I'm gonna think you don't care!"

"Why would I wish you a happy Valentine's Day." Dex sounds slightly pained. He finally manages to shrug off Nursey's arm.

Nursey retaliates by resting (digging) his chin on (into) Dex's shoulder and wrapping the arm that just had been over Dex's very nice shoulders around his waist. "Because! It's the nice thing to do. And because you like me and want me to have a good day!"

"I don't know where you got the idea that I like you from," Dex mutters and shoves Nursey away with a bit more force. "I'm going to be late if you don't get off me right now."

"You also haven't asked if I have a Valentine yet!" Nursey pouts as he reluctantly sits back in his chair.

Nursey hears Dex roll his eyes. "'Bye, Nursey. Ready, Chow?"

"Yup! Happy birthday, Nursey! I've got the coolest gift for you, but it's supposed to come today, so you'll have to wait until I wrap it, okay? 'Bye! Happy Valentine's Day everyone!" Chowder waves energetically before scurrying after Dex.

Nursey manages to make it through the rest of breakfast without bursting, but only just barely. All he can think about is how Dex made him a present and how it's just sitting on his desk back at the Haus. Even as he heads back home, while Bitty happily chatters about the pies he's going to make for Nursey and Jack (whom he is texting as they walk), he doing all he can not to break into a full-out run. And Bitty keeps stopping and blushing and Nursey is going to leave him behind! Seriously! The shorter player can be speedy when he wants to—he's easily the fastest skater on the team—but he is not employing any of that speed now! Why is he dragging his feet so much?! Doesn't he understand that there's a present for Nursey from DEX waiting at the Haus?!

They finally get to the Haus and Nursey yells 'thanks and catch you later' as he races up the stairs, unable to wait any longer. He nearly drops his keys twice on the way up and he almost stubs his toes on the edge of a hall wall, but he fumbles his door open and he drops everything as he barrels over to his desk.

As promised, there's a box wrapped in an old copy of The Daily with a small folded slip of paper taped to the top. 'To: Nursey. From: Dex' is all it says, which is so Dex that it's almost adorable.

Nursey eagerly rips off the paper and opens the box.

Inside, a wooden book gleams. Nursey's name is burnt into the top with a steady, easy script (he can see a few points where Dex's own handwriting has crept in, like in the slopes of the lines on the 'k's and the swoop of the 's') over a small carving of a maple leaf. When he carefully takes the book out, his finger finds a small hole near the edge of the spine and when he lifts it up to look at it, he discovers it isn't a hole but a space for a turnkey. He turns the key a little and a few muffled notes from the first movement of Vivaldi's 'Spring' play.

Nursey is utterly charmed. Dex made him a music box and had even picked one of his favourite classical pieces for it to play—it's sweet and thoughtful and the fact that it is book-shaped is just icing on the cake.

There's a small latch that's nearly invisible along the thumb side of the book and he flicks it open, delighted to discover that the book actually opens. He lifts the cover and all the air leaves his lungs in a sharp exhale.

For a moment, all he can do is sit there and stare. He had thought that the box had been clever and beautiful, but the inside…the inside blows that all away.

When the book is opened, a gorgeously carved wooden tree with glass-bead leaves unfolds—almost like a pop-up book, but far more elegantly—and sits in front of a small silvery mirror. Around the edge of the mirror, words are delicately etched. Nursey leans forward and feels his breath catch as he reads them—"Podrán cortar todas las flores, pero no podrán detener la primavera"—and he has to take a minute.

Nursey shuts the box slowly. For a moment, all he can do is breathe because this? This is not a gift you give a friend. This is not a present that you just 'happen upon'. This is not something you give someone casually.

This is—as his grandmother would say—a courting gift.

Nursey has to put his head between his knees.

Because for all that Dex can't use his words to save his goddamn life, this music box is screaming intent. It's saying that Nursey's hopeless, one-sided crush is neither of those things. It tells Nursey that he is not alone in this. It makes it clear that Dex want to woo him, wants to wow him, wants to win him.

This is a statement piece.

Dex, it seems, is playing for keeps.

Nursey gets up sharply. He gently picks up the music box and takes a step before panicking. What if he trips? What if he drops it? What if he breaks it and Dex never speaks to him again because he ruined Dex's perfect and completely amazing gift? He could never live with himself if he let that happen, especially now that he knows that Dex wants him back.

Nursey grabs his messenger bag and upends it on to his bed, dumping books and notebooks and pens everywhere. He rights the bag and tenderly puts the music box in it. Then he takes it back out, gets his thickest cardigan, wraps the music box in it, and puts the whole bulky bundle into his bag. He makes sure everything is zipped and fastened so nothing could fall out. Only then does he scramble down the stairs.

"Hi, Nursey!" Bitty says brightly as the taller teen clatters into the kitchen. "You've still got some time before your pie is ready, but—"

"Bits, do you know where Dex's class is right now?" Nursey interrupts, clutching his messenger bag's strap, as if Bitty will try to take it away. "It's important," he tacks on.

Bitty immediately gets a worried look. "I don't. Sweetie, what's the matter? Are you okay?"

"I really need to talk to Dex."

"Why?" Wicky—who's sitting at the kitchen table, looking as if he's trying to pretend to be actually be doing his homework—asks curiously. "What's going on? Can we help?"

Nursey's fingers flex and he doesn't have enough words to explain his urgency. So he takes a page out of Dex's book: He opens his bag, gently unwraps the music box, turns the key a few times, and puts it down on the kitchen table. He opens it.

"…Oh," Bitty breathes, eyes getting wide.

"Dex made it," Nursey says, probably needlessly.

"I'll look at the Samwell Comp Sci webpage," Wicky says, opening his laptop.

"I'll text Chowder." Bitty pulls out his phone. "He's in the same class."

"That's a better idea than mine. I'll pull some of the building maps instead." Wicky starts typing.

Nursey gently closes the box and re-wraps it in his sweater before safely ensconcing it in his bag while he waits for Chowder to respond.

Bitty's phone pings a few times and since he starts blushing, it's clearly not the response Nursey's waiting for.

Nursey has more energy thrumming through him than he knows what to do with, but he forces himself to sit; what if he starts to pace, trips, and falls on Dex's gorgeous gift? He would never forgive himself (or gravity) for that.

He realises he is tapping his finger when Wicky shoots him a look, but he can't keep still. And it's either finger-tapping or pacing, and since finger tapping is infinitely safer, so that's what going to happen.

Finally, Bitty looks up after a ping. "Room 1658 in Babbitt," he says.

Wicky clicks a few things and then spins his laptop towards Nursey. "Right there, on the north side of the building on the second floor, by the central plaza."

"Thanks." Nursey immediately gets to his feet and starts for the door.

"Um, Sweetie, not to delay your big romantic moment, but you should really tie your shoes and get a coat on. It's absolutely freezin' out there!"

Nursey looks at his feet. Just as Bitty has pointed out, his shoes are untied. Now more than ever, he's glad that he didn't start pacing. He definitely would have stepped on a shoelace and ended up breaking something.

"Gimme your keys." Wicky holds out his hand. "I'll get your coat while you tie your shoes, and save you both the time and the chances that you'll break your leg on the stairs."

"Yeah, okay. Thanks, man. It's the one with the green cap." Nursey tosses them to Wicky before tackling his shoelaces.

He yanks on his coat as soon as Wicky gets back, but he is very careful as he picks up his messager bag and pulls the strap so it lays across his body (so it can't slip off of his shoulder and fall that way). "Thanks again," he says and hurries out the door.

Even trotting at a very brisk pace (both for time and to combat the cold), it takes Nursey longer than he wants to get to Babbitt. He finds the room right as the class is let out and he scans the group of students for that familiar, pretty shade of red.

And then there he is, walking through the sunlight from the skylights, nodding seriously as he listened to whatever Chowder was saying. He's so...pretty that it nearly takes Nursey's breath away and he spends a moment staring inelegantly.

Then Nursey shakes himself and stalks up to Dex.

"Hey, Nursey!" Chowder greets him. "What are you—whoa!"

Nursey ignores his friend in favour of catching Dex's startled face between his hands and pulling Dex's mouth down to his. "Yes," he says before kissing Dex again. "Yes." Kiss. "Yes." Kiss. "My answer is yes." Kiss.

"I don't even—" Dex tries to say but Nursey kisses him again. "I haven't—"

"Guys?" Chowder's voice says, but Nursey has more important things to worry about, like kissing Dex some more.

Someone wolf-whistles. "You go get yours, man!"

"I still don't know—" Dex starts, pulling back slightly.

"Still yes." Nursey chases the words from his mouth to Dex's.

"Guys, you have to stop. You're blocking the hallway and Dex, we're gonna be late if we don't get going."

Dex tries to put some space between him and Nursey. "Nursey, let go, I've got to—"

Nursey doesn't release his face and pulls him back in to be kissed again.

Someone catcalls them.

Nursey exercises what little self-control he has left and does not plaster himself again Dex's (very strong) frame because he knows if he does, it's only going to end with either them getting arrested or orgasms (or both), but that's as far as his restraint goes. He stops being so chaste with his kisses; Dex tastes better than he thought another person's mouth could ever taste and he's been dreaming of this for so long that he's not about to cut things short.

"GUYS!"

Damn it, Chowder sounds genuinely annoyed. Slowly, Nursey pulls away, but only after one last quick, filthy swirl of his tongue. His eyes flutter open as he reluctantly lets go of Dex's face and he is immediately torn between two emotions—immense pleasure because Dex looks debauched and utterly gobsmacked, and deep frustration because he can't kiss Dex with Chowder glaring at him and he really, really, really wants to, especially with Dex looking like that.

"While I'm glad that you both finally figured it out," Chowder says, "we have to run now or we're going to be late!"

Dex blinks and abruptly swears. "Sorry, C. 'Bye Nur—"

"See you tonight," Nursey mumbles against Dex's lips.

Chowder makes a noise in the back of his throat and he grabs Dex's arm. "'BYE, Nursey!" He yells as his physically yanks Dex down the hall.

Nursey sighs dramatically and once Dex's pristine ass is out of sight, goes down to one of the benches that surrounds the plaza. He pulls out his phone and immediately sends Dex a text, telling the redhead how much he misses him and how this has been the greatest birthday ever.

And it has—he got a beautiful present, and it led to the greatest gift that could ever be bestowed on him.

Humming, Nursey tucks his phone in his pocket and he gets up, cradling his bag.

It's going to be the best Valentine's Day he's ever had and it's only going to get better from here.

He can't wait until tonight.

x Fin x