Disclaimer: The characters and setting belong to Ngozi.
Dex finished brushing his teeth and exited the bathroom he shared with Nursey and Chowder. Nursery was at his desk, hunched over a truly imposing stack of note cards. Dex leaned down and kissed Nursey's forehead, still astounded that he got to do that now. It had only been a few days since he'd attended Nursey's open mic and heard Nursey read the poem about him, and he'd barely felt his feet touch the ground since. It was almost unbelievable that someone as talented, beautiful, and intelligent as Nursey could want him, but apparently his life really was that charmed.
"Are you going to get some sleep tonight, Nurse?" Dex asked.
Nursey blinked up at him and then said, "Oh, do you want the light off? I could try to get stuff done downstairs, or I think the library is open overnight during finals . . ."
"No," said Dex, trailing his fingers lightly down Nursey's cheek. "I can sleep with your desk lamp on. I've been doing it all semester. I just want you to get some sleep, too."
Nursey looked down. "I need to go through these flashcards at least two more times. The final tomorrow is going to kick my ass."
Dex kissed Nursey's forehead again, trying not to regret starting a relationship heading into finals week. "There comes a point where rest does you more good than more studying."
"I know, but I don't think I've hit that point yet, especially not considering caffeine exists," said Nursey. "I know my limits and I know how I do school, okay?" There was something defensive in his tone, and Dex tried to remind himself that he and Nursey had always fought, that this didn't mean they were heading for a breakup.
Dex took a few steps backward, in the direction of their bunk beds. "Okay," he said as gently as he could. "Good luck with your studying. I mean, not that you need it. Just. Fuck. You know what I mean. I hope?"
Nursey nodded. "Go to bed, Poindexter," he said, and his voice only had the barest hint of harshness in it. Dex tried to take refuge in the sense that it could have been worse.
Dex and Nursey both had 9:00 a.m. finals the next morning, so they ate breakfast together in a silence whose tenseness Dex didn't trust himself to gauge. Nursey drank nearly an entire pot of coffee; Dex had one cup, and Nursey literally drank the entire rest of the pot himself. Dex was a little worried that Nursey was going to have to pee like four times during his upcoming final, but he decided not to stick his nose in Nursey's business again given the way Nursey's defenses had gone up last night.
Dex grabbed lunch in the dining hall after his final and then spent the afternoon in the computer lab, working on his final project for one of his Comp Sci classes. He'd been relieved when he'd seen on the syllabus that there was a final project instead of a final exam, but now he was wishing it were the other way around. He couldn't make his program do what he wanted it to do, and he was sure that his professor would have been more lenient on a timed, in-class exam than she'd be on this project, since the project had been assigned two weeks ago and was obviously open-book (and open-internet, for whatever that was worth—which, okay, StackExchange was not useless). Dex honestly felt like the computer lab was one of his homes at this point (along with the Haus, Faber, and his parents' house back in Maine)—he always worked on assignments here since the Samwell computers were way faster than his dinosaur of a laptop, and he had definitely reached the point in Comp Sci where compile time mattered.
He'd been in the computer lab for five and a half hours when he finally was able to get his program to do what he wanted it to do. He was grateful that coding did something to his focus that reminded him of the ice—his world narrowed and he did what he needed to do without a lot of stray thoughts to distract him. Project completed, he stretched and took his phone out of his backpack. That's when he saw a text from Bitty, timestamped to 20 minutes ago, asking if he and Nursey were coming to dinner. (He and Nursey hadn't meant to announce their relationship to the team this early, but Chowder had walked into their room unannounced the day after the open mic and caught them making out—thank goodness they were at least mostly clothed at the time—and his exclamations had been loud enough to summon everyone else in the Haus, and after that there hadn't been any point in trying to keep the relationship a secret from the team members who hadn't been in the Haus at the time.) Dex texted back that he was down for dinner but couldn't speak for Nursey, and then he walked back to the Haus.
He was planning on just throwing his backpack in his and Nursey's room and then heading downstairs to help Bitty with dinner, but Nursey was sleeping when Dex entered the room. Dex eased his backpack off his back, lowered it slowly to the floor, and was shutting the door when he heard Nursey croak, "Dex?"
Dex turned around and reentered the room, shutting the door behind him. "Shit, sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."
"You're fine," said Nursey, rubbing his eyes and sitting up. Dex realized Nursey was wearing one of his flannels. "What time is it?"
"Almost six," said Dex. "Why? Did you have an afternoon final that you were supposed to go to or something?"
Nursey shook his head. "Nah, I'm done. This morning was my only exam, actually. The other classes just had papers or projects, and those were due last week." He looked down at his hands, which were twisting in his lap. "Did I fuck things up last night?"
Dex frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"You were being sweet. And, like, helpful," said Nursey. "And I got annoyed and told you off. And then you didn't talk to me at breakfast or text me at all today."
Dex finally took the few steps necessary to cross from the door to the beds. "Nurse. You were right to feel micromanaged last night. I meant to be helpful, but I was treating you like you didn't know what you were doing. And I'm sorry for not talking to you at breakfast or texting you throughout the day. I wasn't sure if you wanted to talk to me this morning, and after lunch I got completely sucked into my final project for Comp Sci, which I just finished like 15 minutes ago."
"So we're okay?" Nursey asked, still looking nervous.
"That's up to you," said Dex. "I want us to be."
"Please," said Nursey, standing and lurching into Dex's arms.
Dex held Nursey tightly for several long seconds. When Nursey pulled back, Dex asked, "So what are you doing in my shirt?"
Nursey looked at the floor. "I just—in case it was my last chance—I wanted to wear something that smelled like you."
"In case it was your last—? Nurse," said Dex, feeling glad that he finished his project earlier, because the despair in Nursey's voice was going to be echoing in his mind for the rest of the night, probably strongly enough to break through his usual concentration. "If you were really that worried, you could've texted me. Please. Don't freak out about our relationship without talking to me about it. I want this to work, okay?"
"Okay," Nursey whispered. "Do you mind me taking your clothes?"
Dex shook his head. "I like it."
"Really?" Nursey asked.
"Really," said Dex.
Nursey kissed him, and they found their way onto the lower bunk without really breaking the kiss. By the time they heard Bitty calling for them to come downstairs and eat dinner awhile later, Nursey was no longer wearing Dex's flannel. Or the T-shirt he'd had on under it.
Dex liked Nursey this way, too. Maybe even loved him. It was too soon to say that, for sure. But he suspected that he might get the chance to say it, someday.