Dex wiped his arm across his forehead, dragging away the sweat that was gathering there. If it hadn’t been Bitty asking, there’s no way in hell Dex ever would have thought of building new, ‘matching’, chairs for the kitchen table. And, really, it was only because Nursey somehow broke one of the mismatched old ones that Bitty decided they needed new ones in the first place.
Even though Dex had been assured that they needn’t be anything fancy, he had a streak of perfectionism, and after he had built the chairs, he knew something was still missing, and it wasn’t something that could be fixed with a nice stain.
So Dex had hunted down the carving knife his grandpa had given him for his eighteenth birthday, a tradition in his family, and he decided on a simple design to carve into the top. (He still wanted a stain for them, but he was hoping that if he waited until after Jack visited in two days, there’d be enough money in the sin bin to get the nice brand.)
And unfortunately, on his third chair (out of eight), the grain in the wood was getting in the way. Dex scowled, and reminded himself that stabbing the wood was counterintuitive. He moved his attention to another part of the design instead, resting his left hand over the offending grain, hoping to build his patience up by not looking at it.
Dex’s hand slipped when he heard Nursey’s voice. He watched the sharp blade slide through the top of his left forearm. Nursey walked up to him as he watched his blood begin to well up.
“Well, fuck.” That’s when the pain hit him. And it hurt like hell.
“Holy shit!” Nursey said. Dex looked at him, his beautiful gray-green eyes terrified. “Are you okay? We need to go to the hospital!”
Dex laughed tightly. “Dude, ’s okay, go grab me a clean washcloth.” Dex knew it was really bad timing, but he watched Nursey run up the stairs into the Haus (God, why was he so attractive?) before he looked back at his arm. There was blood, but it didn’t look like too deep a cut. He started rummaging through his toolkit, pulling out his roll of duct tape at the same time Nursey ran cursing back into the yard.
“Here, Dex, Rans is nearly back from class, we can use his car… What the hell are you doing?” Nursey stared at Dex, his mouth slightly open, emotion painted on his face.
Dex had finished making his makeshift bandage, washcloth bound tightly over the cut with duct tape, and picked up his knife again, moving to keep working on the chair. “Nursey, I’ve had worse, I don’t need a doctor.”
Nursey’s mouth fell open, and it worked for a moment before he managed to say, “But… you’ve got blood on the chairs.”
Dex frowned, running his eyes over the chairs and spotted a small puddle of blood on the chair he was working on. He rubbed at it a little, and then said, “I’ll have to get a darker stain to cover it, but that’ll look nice in the Haus anyways.”
Nursey scowled. “You might need stitches. You need to go to the hospital.”
“I only go to the doctors for check-ups. This is fine.”
“Dex! Are you just going to sit here and keep working til you bleed out?”
“That’s the plan, except the bleed out part. The bandage will stop that from happening.”
Dex turned his full attention back to the carving, ignoring whatever Nursey was saying about the benefit of medical attention, but Dex noticed when his talking stopped, and Dex turned in time to see Nursey slam his way into the Haus.
A moment later, he was back, with Ransom and Holster trailing him. Ransom took one look at the blood droplets on the ground and the drying blood on the parts of Dex’s forearm that wasn’t bandaged before nodding.
“Wha-” Dex started, but he was disrupted by Nursey and Holster lifting him up, and within a minute, he was strapped into Ransom’s Subaru, in route to the hospital.
In all honesty, Chowder was probably the most graceful member of the SMH. That’s why no one bought it when he said his new shiner, split lip, and assorted bruises were the outcome of an unfortunate tumble down the stairs. His getting into a fight was just the slightly more likely option.
“I swear, guys, I’m okay! It was just a water bottle threw off my balance!” Chowder claimed, but the Haus members (+Dex) mostly ignoring him.
Bitty was talking non-stop, asking questions without pausing for answers and chattering his worry into the air. Ransom and Holster were reflecting each other’s vindictive energy, spewing schemes to reap vengeance for their “sex-god of a goalie”. Lardo was standing directly in front of Chowder, her hands cradling his face, turning it this way and that to examine it.
“Christopher Chowder Chow, I am not making you any peanut butter cookies until you tell me exactly what happened!” Bitty said. “What if you had gotten seriously hurt! Just because our season’s over doesn’t mean you can go hurting yourself willy-nilly!”
“It’s okay, Bitty I swear…” Chowder tried to protest, but Bitty continued his tirade.
“Then we can take his bike-”
“If he doesn’t have a bike, his sneakers-”
“Good one bro! And we can steal his woman!”
“Not that he owns either of them but breakups hurt!”
“Guys,” Chowder says weakly, as Lardo moved onto inspecting his arms and hands. “Please just leave it…”
Chowder’s face without a smile was bizarre enough, but Dex saw his eyes sinking fractionally lower as the chaos around him escalated. That’s when Dex decided he’d had enough.
“C’mon C, let’s patch you up,” Dex said, and he grabbed Chowder’s hand to drag him from the room. He kept hold of his hand, using that connection to lead Chowder into his bedroom. If it also helped reassure Dex that Chowder was in one piece, well, it’s good to multitask.
Dex let them sit in silence for a moment, Chowder sat on the closed toilet seat, and Dex dug through the first aid kit for the Neosporin. Each time he glanced at Chowder, he built himself a picture of defeat, and it broke his heart. Before he turned his full attention to being a nurse, he sent out a quick text to Nursey and Farmer, ‘Poly cuddle pile tonight guys, C might need unquestioning support.’ He shoved his phone back into his pocket before he got any response, but he knew both Farmer and Nursey had a class for a while longer. It would be at least twenty minutes before they showed up.
Dex dabbed Neosporin on Chowder’s bloody knuckles and wrapped them in princess band-aids (“They were cheap, besides, Princess Tiana is the love of my life!”). Dex frowned. The icepack and the salt were both downstairs in the kitchen.
“Hey, C, I’ll be right back, okay?”
Chowder nodded, and Dex ran downstairs, grabbing salt, a glass, and a bag of frozen peas as quickly as possible, ignoring the clamoring of questions from the upper-classmen. He was back in the bathroom moments later.
“Hold this over your eye,” Dex said, handing the peas to his boyfriend.
Dex turned his attention to mixing salt water, but a moment later, Chowder spoke.
“They always treat me like I can’t take care of myself.” Dex bit his lip to keep from commenting. If he said anything now, Chowder would just clam up completely. “I just… I know I shouldn’t have gotten into a fight. It was stupid, I was just so mad I had to do something. But if you showed up all beat up, you’d just get someone cleaning you up, someone asking if it worked in your favor, and Bitty would whip up a dessert of your choice. And I come in and it’s like war has been declared! I took care of it! I won the stupid fight and still they wanted to hunt him down and hand his ass to him because apparently I can’t take care of myself!” Chowder took a heavy breath, and Dex set his hand down on Chowder’s knee. Chowder grabbed his hand and threaded their fingers together.
“I’m sorry,” Chowder said, wincing as he rubbed away the tears from his black eye. “It’s fine.”
“It’s bullshit, Chowder, you don’t need to be sorry.” Dex used his free hand to dip some gauze into the salt water and dab it on Chowder’s split lip, and the other face scratches. After a moment of just their breathing filling the room, Dex asked, “Do you want to talk about the fight?”
Chowder took a breath. “It was stupid. Just some guys being racist. Saying shit about Mexican immigrants. And you know, with all the stuff with Caitlin’s abuela last month, I got angry.”
Dex carefully unclasped Chowder’s hand, smoothed a butterfly bandage onto his cheek, and pulled him into a firm hug.
They sat there a moment like that, quiet, and Dex tried to soothe the stiffness in Chowder’s shoulders. Dex didn’t let go until he heard two people crash into Chowder’s room next door, the two graceless beings that they loved tripping over God-knows-what.
“Hey,” Dex said, pulling lightly away from Chowder. “Looks like the cuddle brigade is here. Any movie ideas?”
A short five minutes later, the four of them were tucked onto Chowder’s bed, cocooning him in as much significant other as they could. “The Princess Bride” played in front of them, and they quoted nearly every line from memory. Dex laughed along with the people he loved, and though Chowder started the movie quietly, the tension had bled from his shoulders more quickly than Dex expected, and by the Battle of Wits scene, Chowder was clutching a tissue to his re-split lip, the product of laughing too hard.
Dex was only going to be home for a couple of weeks, so he was honestly hoping to avoid at least some of the chaos that engulfed his family. His hoping was useless, as his family was nothing but chaos.
His older brother was building his own life down in Augusta, but both of his sisters were still living at home, at least during the summer. The sister closest to his age was moving back the same week he was. Surprisingly, it was his youngest sister that was the source of the biggest drama, and it came only three days into his stay. His youngest sister was quite the character, so in retrospect, he really shouldn’t have been that surprised.
Breanne was only fifteen (a couple of months from sixteen), and Dex was sorry to say he wasn’t as close with her as he was with any of his other siblings. So, it was a bit of a surprise, when it was just the two of them at home for the evening and Breanne came down in a floral skirt and nice blouse.
“Where’re you headed?” Dex asked, staring at her as she came down the stairs, one eyebrow cocked in a look that Farmer taught him.
“Out,” she said, and sat on the bottom stair to pull on her shoes.
“Not if that’s all you’re giving me.”
Breanne looked at him hard, eyes narrowed judgmentally. “Do you promise not to tell Mom and Dad?”
Dex’s eyes narrowed slightly, but he reminded himself that Breanne was smart, she wouldn’t be doing anything more reckless than what he got up to in high school. “Promise.”
“I’m going on a date,” Breanne said, and her eyes narrowed fractionally more. “With my girlfriend.”
Dex blinked, his face relaxing. “Thank you for trusting me,” he said, and he started thinking rapidly. What else should he say? Should he let her go without meeting this girl? Should he come out to her? Instead, he asked, “What’s her name?”
“Dahlia. Dahlia Spear.” Breanne’s eyes were still guarded.
“How long have you been dating? What’s she like? Do I get to meet her?” Each question he asked, trying his best to be a good brother without coming off as homophobic, the defiance in Breanne’s face and frame softened.
She smiled a bit. “She asked me out in November, so since then. She’s a year above me, but we were in Advanced Algebra together, and the debate team. Billy, I really like her.”
“I definitely want to meet her now.”
He and Breanne laughed, and after, there was a silence as Breanne texted someone, likely her girlfriend. A few moments passed and they just sat there in the silence of a new bond, before Breanne spoke again.
“You’re the only one in the family who knows.”
“Your secret is safe with me, Bre.”
“D’you know why I told you?”
“Cause I looked up that fancy school of yours. I thought you might know… some people like me.”
Dex could hear the question in her voice, and he took a moment to think of the right answer. “I know quite a few people who aren’t straight, and at least one person who’d flay me alive for accepting straight as the default. Do you want to hear about them?”
Dex looked over at her, and Breanne was nodding vigorously. “Yes, yes, totally, yes,” she said, then she suddenly looked down at her phone. “Shit, Dahlia’s here.” She looked at Dex, making full eye contact, “Tell me later?”
“Will do, sis. Be safe,” he said, then yelled as she skipped through the door, “Have fun on your daaaaaate.” Breanne glared back at him, but her smile told the real story.
Dex enjoyed his quiet evening off. His parents were visiting his older brother for a few nights, and he honestly didn’t know where his other sister was, but she was old enough to take care of herself. Until Breanne got home from her date, he simply planned to lay on the couch with a bag of chips and watch Netflix.
Breanne got home a lot sooner than he had anticipated. In fact, she had only been gone about fifteen minutes when she walked back into the living and sat down on the couch next to Dex.
“Bre? What’re you doing back already, did something happen?” Dex looked at his sister’s face, and he saw it start to crumble, a few tears slipping out of her eyes, her bottom lip starting to tremble.
“She-” Breanne said, and the tears only started to fall faster, her resolve dissolving in them. “She…” Breanne stopped talking, and threw herself at Dex, and he encompassed her in as big a hug as he could. Whoever this Dahlia was, she was a jerk for breaking his sister’s heart.
They sat there like that for a while, until Dex’s shirt was covered in tears and makeup, and a little bit of snot. Finally, Breanne sniffled and pulled back a little. “I’m sorry…”
“Hey, there’s no need to apologize,” Dex said, holding her shoulders and looking straight at her. “I’ll always be here for you when you need me.”
Breanne rubbed under both of her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, but it was obvious she was still hurting, and maybe she would be for a while.
Dex stood up. “Come on,” he said. Breanne stood and followed him to his car, oddly silent. Once they were both buckled and pulling out of their street, he spoke again. “Do you still want to hear about the queer people at my school?”
Breanne didn’t say anything, but when he glanced at her, she was nodding.
“So, if you looked up my school, you know the phrase ‘one in four, maybe more’? Well, it should be ‘one in four, definitely more’ in my experience. There’s one guy on our team, Bitty, he’s from Georgia, and he bakes a lot. He’s gay, and it’s kind of easy to assume based on his appearance and stuff, but he doesn’t get any crap. In fact, our captains tried to set him up constantly before they learned about his boyfriend. His boyfriend is in the closet, but we all try to give them a safe space when they’re at the hockey house.”
Dex glanced at his sister, to see how she was doing. Her eyes were fixed on the steering wheel, watching his hands. She seemed interested in what he was saying, but still, understandably, shadowed by her sadness. He continued. “Speaking of our captains, they realized two months ago that they were it for each other, and since then it’s lucky if we could go a day without seeing them start to make out, or worse in a few instances. They were pretty public about their affection, and the only comments they got were asking them how long they’d been together. And there’s Ollie and Wicks, but nothing has been confirmed on them, they just hold hands a lot. Our old manager, Lardo, is pansexual, which means she’s attracted to people regardless of gender. The tadpoles, freshmen, last year, are both queer. Tango just calls himself queer, and Whiskey is bi, and trans.”
Breanne was completely tuned in now, her eyes wide. Dex knew this sounded so strange to her, he could list the queer people he knew on one hand before he went to Samwell. “That brings up gender, huh? So, there’s Whiskey, and Shitty, who graduated last year, is non-binary. He’s okay with any and all pronouns, he says his gender is expressed more through presentation. And Nursey, my D-man partner, said he’s figuring out his gender, he’s leaning towards gender-fluid right now, but he isn’t sure.”
Dex gulped. Now would be the perfect time to come out to Breanne, but would she be okay with it? He knows polyamory isn’t widely accepted, even in the LGBT community. But… he could take the chance. She wouldn’t tell anyone else, even if she though he was disgusting. And he’d still be her brother. It would be ok.
“Actually, Nursey is dating Chowder and Farmer.” Dex swallowed. “And me.”
Dex pulled to a stop at the stop light, watching the light for a moment, measuring his breaths. Soon, though, he chanced a glance at Breanne. Her hazel eyes were wide, and her mouth was working itself open and closed. Dex closed his eyes for a moment, before looking at her with raised eyebrows. “Got anything to say, or are you trying to become a fish?”
“You,” Breanne started, then she snapped her mouth closed. “Huh?” she finally squeaked.
“I’m bi. I have two boyfriends and a girlfriend. We are all dating each other.” Dex kept his eyes forward even as he pulled into a parking spot. He didn’t think coming out to Breanne, of all people, would be this nerve wracking.
Breanne was quiet for a moment, brows furrowed and eyes piecing together some invisible puzzle. “How’d you find that many people to date you?”
Dex broke out laughing, just for a moment, but once he was quiet again, he felt much more at ease. “I wonder that all the time. If you want, I can tell you all about them once we’re inside.”
“Yeah, where are-” Breanne’s questioning cut off abruptly as she saw the sign on the building in front of them. She started to grin at the only Dairy Queen in town.
“Ice cream, the best heart break remedy I know,” Dex said, smiling at his sister. He noticed her smile turn bittersweet, but he pretended not to.
Instead, he climbed out of the car, and by the time he was walking through the door, Breanne was on his heels. They ordered their large blizzards and a variety of food items, and then climbed back into the car in companionable silence. Dex drove them to the elementary school, and he and Breanne walked into the old playground, a place of memories for both of them, all the way back to the big oak tree at the back of the lot. They sat down there, and the next few hours were filled with stories and laughter and a few tears, but Dex was confident that by the time they were driving slowly back towards home, Breanne knew that her first break-up wasn’t the end of the world. That, and Dex knew that he and Breanne weren’t alone in the world, and that felt like enough.
Part of the reason Dex was only home for a couple of weeks was because he was offered an internship in San Francisco, and Chowder’s family had offered to house him during it. The other part was that he was staying in NYC for a few days with Nursey, to spend time with him, and convince him that Nursey would be more than welcome in Cali with all of his date mates.
It’s been something Farmer, Chowder, and Dex have been working on since they first invited Nursey, and he declined solidly. It was the kind of refusal that stung all of them, and they quickly realized Nursey was being callous on purpose, so they would all drop it. They just didn’t know why he wanted them to drop it.
They probably would’ve dropped it, too, except from June 1st until July 31st, Chowder, Farmer, and Dex were going to be living in the same place (Farmer’s family lived in the bay area, but she had gotten a job at the Aquarium of the Bay and it was easier to not commute) and they would miss Nursey.
Dex got off the bus at Grand Central Station, and only got lost twice before finding his way to the front of the building, where he and Nursey planned to meet. It only took Dex a moment to spot Nursey’s curly hair leaned up against a wall near the door.
“Nurse,” He said, as soon as he was close enough.
Nursey looked up, eyes scanning the crowd until they landed on Dex. His face lit up. “Poindexter! Took you long enough.”
Dex laughed and leaned into Nursey to peck him on the lips. “Miss me much?”
Nursey laughed as well. “If I couldn’t handle two weeks without your grumpy face, how on earth am I going to last the rest of the summer?”
“Missed you too,” Dex said.
Nursey grabbed a hold of Dex’s hand and dragged him through the crowd and out into the street. Dex let himself be dragged, taking in the city stretched high above him. Moments later, Nursey herded Dex and his bags into a cab. Once Dex had his seatbelt on, he turned his attention out the window, taking in the city.
“It’s like this… all the time?” Dex asked.
Nursey laughed. “Pretty much. Bad weather and big holidays might put a little bit of a dent in it, but not much. What do you think?”
“Holy shit,” Dex said in a breath. The biggest city he’d been to before was Boston, and this was completely different. Everywhere he looked, it seemed as if the city’s lifeblood was its people. They paced everywhere, a rush of bodies on every street Dex could see. He wasn’t sure he wanted to admit it, but he was starting to understand why Nursey loved the city so much.
It didn’t take long for them to get to Nurseys house (“That’s not a house Nursey. That’s a brownstone.”), but they weren’t there for long. Nursey had placed dinner reservations.
“Wait, are your moms here?” Dex asked as Nursey was hassling him to put nice clothes on.
“Not right now, my sister’s in town for a while, so they went out for dinner and a musical they’ve been meaning to see. I think they also wanted to give us some alone time. You’ll probably meet them in the morning.”
Dex stood frozen by Nursey’s words. “Wait, they know about us?”
Nursey smiled a half smile. “I would have told you if they did, but no. I think they might suspect something though.”
There was a silence as Dex tucked in his button up. Nursey spoke next. “I want to tell them soon though. I think they’d take it well. And I think my sister would like you guys.”
Dex turned to Nursey and punched him lightly on the shoulder. “We’re with you, whatever you decide.” Nursey smiled at him and nodded, grabbing hold of Dex’s hand and threading their fingers together. Dex looked into the dresser mirror and fought to keep his dopey grin off his face. Standing next to Nursey always did that, even as he wished that Chowder and Farmer were there too. Dex said, after a moment of looking at their reflections, “Is this a place I can roll my sleeves up for?”
Nursey laughed and kissed the corner of Dex’s mouth. “Yes, but only because your arms look hot like that.” It felt like they laughed their way to the restaurant.
Dinner was nice, but the company was better. They held hands over the table and flirted and stole kisses maybe a bit too often. They were walking home, hands linked and swinging freely, Nursey’s head nestled in the crook of Dex’s shoulder. Of course, that picturesque scene ended upon entering Nursey’s house.
On their way up to Nursey’s floor, Nursey tripped up the stairs, pulling Dex down on top of him, and sliding down a few steps, scraping up his arm.
“Ow,” Nursey groaned, laying his head back on a stair.
“Holy shit babe,” Dex laughed, resting his forehead on Nursey’s chest. “How did you even do that?”
“Chirp me laterrrrrr I’m injured,” Nursey whined. Dex responded by kissing along Nurey’s neck and jaw.
“Want me to kiss it better?” Dex murmured, lips vibrating on his skin.
It was a wonder that Nursey didn’t cause them to fall again with how fast he was up and pulling Dex to his bed.
When the four of them first started dating, Dex was a little uncertain on how he and Farmer would get along. She and Chowder had been dating before, and she and Nursey attended a few protests and events together, but her and Dex, while they enjoyed hanging out, didn’t really spend too much time together. But once they were dating, she had come to Dex with the same concerns, and they established a weekly date, just the two of them. Often, it was just at Annie’s, but sometimes they went to movies at the drive-in, or put-put golf, or on hikes wherever they could find them. Dex had already been in love with Chowder and Nursey, but he realized he loved Farmer one morning, on a sunrise walk on a beach, when the pink light caught her brown hair, and they had their first kiss.
Once Dex and Farmer were both established in San Francisco, their weekly dates started up again, mostly doing touristy stuff to spare Chowder. One day in particular, they realized they both had time off while Chowder was babysitting, so they decided to try riding around on the trolleys.
Trolley riding, of course, quickly dissolved into people watching.
Farmer elbowed him sharply in the side, nodding discreetly to a woman holding a red headed child on her hip. “Boo, is that you as a child?”
Dex laughed and nudged her back, nodding to an old woman being helped off the trolley. “That’s you in sixty years, hun.” She laughed and shoulder checked him, staying leaned into him even after.
They continued at it, teasing flirts mixed with taking in their surroundings. Eventually, they reached the end of the trolley, so they hopped off, hand in hand, wandering around the streets, making their way towards the docks.
“You know,” Farmer started, walking balanced along the curb, “I never thought you’d be one for pet names.”
Dex hummed in thought. “I’d only been in one relationship before this, and I didn’t really use them then. I think… I just want the three of you to know how special you are to me.”
Farmer kissed his ear, licking him slightly. “Ew,” Dex said, wiping his ear against his shoulder.
“You’re so sappy.”
“You like it.”
“Eh,” she said, but when he looked at her, she was smiling, though resolutely not looking at him. “The jury’s still out.”
Dex saw something, and ran off, dragging Farmer after him into a nearby park. They sat down near the landscaped flower garden.
“What’re we doing?” Farmer asked, laughter in her voice.
Dex stared straight into her eyes. “You cannot tell Nursey, he will chirp me to death.”
Dex squinted at her, studying her carefully. Farmer looked back at him, wearing her best you-can-trust-me face. “So, I have two sisters.”
“Yeah,” Farmer said, confused. Dex started picking some daisies from the garden area.
“I’m their designated flower crown weaver.”
Farmer’s face lit up in a smile. “Teach me!”
Around thirty minutes later, the two of them stood, brushing crumpled flower stems off their laps, each wearing a beautiful daisy crown, with extra fluffy pink flowers tucked in where possible. As they walked back to the sidewalk, Farmer sent off a text, and Dex got the notification a moment later.
Before he had even unlocked his phone, he had gotten at least five more notifications. When he saw what group chat they were from, he frowned at Farmer. “Betrayal,” he said to her. She just laughed.
In their ‘Poly kisses’ group chat, Farmer had sent a picture of Dex from the back, focused on his flower crown.
Farms: Who knew our boy was so crafty?
C: *string of heart emojis*
C: I want one!
C: Angela wants one too!
Angela was the little girl Chowder was babysitting, both Farmer and Dex had met her before, and she loved having all three of them around to play with.
Nursey: Miss you guys
Nursey: Flower crowns are my jam
Farms: When we get back to Samwell, we’re gonna have a flower crown date night
C: That sounds fantastic
Me: Miss you too Nurse
C: We love you so much Nursey!
Farms: Only seven weeks left! Then I’m going to kiss your face so much
Dex realized he was smiling so wide his face hurt as he thumbed his phone to sleep. He slipped his phone quickly into his pocket and threw his arm around Farmer’s shoulders, pulling her close. She kissed his cheek.
Halfway down the block she spoke. “I love our boys.”
Dex smiled. “I love them too. And I love you.”
“I love you too,” Farmer said, and she stopped and turned to face him. It was the first time they had said that to each other, but as Dex stared into her eyes, he was so incredibly glad he had fallen in love with Farmer, and that she had fallen in love with him.
He leaned into her, catching her lips with his, and they stood there with the summer heat radiating from the sidewalk beneath them as the sun sank fractionally closer to the horizon.
After a moment, Farmer pulled away from him, muttering “Ow!”
Dex stepped back from her, concerned. “What’s wrong?”
“I think… Fuck.” Farmer was looking at her arm, where they could see the end of a bee stinger sticking out of a rapidly swelling mark. “I’m allergic to bees.”
Dex’s eyes widened. “I’m gonna call 911.”
Farmer nodded, digging through her bag. “My epipen should be in here, too.”
Dex quickly gave the operator their location and was assured an ambulance was on its way. Farmer finally pulled out an epipen, and looked at it for a moment, fear in her eyes, but then she handed it to Dex.
“Can you?” Dex nodded, and let the operator know he was going to hang up to do so. “Just stab it in my thigh, and you’ll have to hold it there, ten seconds.”
Her voice was getting distorted, her throat swelling shut. Dex nodded again, and got the epipen out, holding it in his fist, and he stabbed it into her thigh, wincing as she did, and he felt her weight lean into him. He counted slowly to ten, before taking the needle out and dropping it to the ground. He lowered himself and Farmer to the ground, with her leaning against his chest, her labored breathing returning, excruciatingly slowly in Dex’s opinion, to normal.
That’s how the ambulance found them a few minutes later, and Dex helped Farmer up and into the ambulance, which carted them away to the closest hospital, explaining that even though she seemed to be recovering incredibly well, they needed to observe her for a few hours just to make sure.
Once they had her set up in a room and the doctor had been in to explain things to them, Farmer looked Dex directly in the eyes. “Can you do a favor for me?”
Farmer nodded, serious. “I need you to take a picture of me, and send it to the chat with the words ‘next time, fake flowers’.”
Dex nodded with a fond eye roll and a squeeze to her hand before letting go, and as soon as he’d done what she asked, he dropped his phone on her bed, momentarily ignoring the flood of notifications.
“You’re going to kill our boys,”
“They’ll be fine,” she responded, and Dex quickly kissed her on the cheek.
“I love you.”
“Love you, too.”
Together, they opened the chat and quickly reassured the borderline frantic Chowder and Nursey, their hands clasped lightly at Farmer’s side.
Two and a half weeks before they were set to return to Samwell, Nursey stopped responding to their texts. Texts turned to phone calls and skypes and even emails, but still, he was silent. Even on social media, he last posts dated to before his disappearance. After five days of this, Dex, Farmer, and Chowder were going frantic. It was that night, as they were stalking his Facebook to find his moms’ profiles so they could contact them, that they saw it.
“Found it!” Chowder said from behind his laptop. “Melody Nurse!”
“Good job C!” Dex said, scrambling over to sit next to him.
“Did good, sweetie,” Farmer said, settling on Chowder’s other side with a kiss to his cheek. “Should we message her?”
“Yeah, but what to say? ‘Hi, we’re Derek’s polyamorous lovers and we’re worried about him because he’s been silent a few days’?”
“Guys,” Chowder said.
“Maybe we could say it more tactfully than that, like-”
“Guys,” Chowder said, cutting Farmer off, but his voice was quiet. “Look.”
Dex and Farmer looked at the screen Chowder had up. It was Melody Nurse’s Facebook page, but after a moment, Dex knew want had caught Chowder’s attention.
The first post on her page was a link to an article. An article titled “In Remembrance of Bianca Sabrina Nurse”.
Dex felt his stomach in his throat, and, unbidden, memories flooded back of him meeting Nursey’s sister in New York. She had a buzz cut, and a septum piercing, and wore a beautiful deep red lipstick nearly constantly. He met her the first morning he was there, he and Nursey got back from their morning run (it was different running among skyscrapers) and when they walked into the kitchen Nursey’s face lit up. “Bianca!” he had screamed before sweeping her up into a hug. She has laughed, and pushed his head aside as he tried to kiss her forehead. They had taken over making breakfast, and the three of them sat laughing, eyes twinkling, with the atmosphere of home filling their lungs. Once they had eaten, Nursey’s moms came in, and the noise escalated along with the mood. All four of them had driven Dex to the airport, and before Dex went through security, Bianca pulled him aside. “You’re good for him,” she’d said, nodding to Nursey. “Don’t let him get hurt too much.”
Dex had been confused, but he understood her a little better now, as Chowder opened the article and began to read.
“Bianca Sabrina Nurse, born April 24th 1993, died July 8th 2016. Bianca was a light to all she knew…” Chowder kept reading, but Dex wasn’t hearing him, only feeling Farmer’s hand clutching at his as phrases swam in and out of focus. “… diagnosed with late stage osteosarcoma… survived by her mothers, Melody Catherine and Gloria Jean Nurse, father, Michael Cole Moritz, and brother, Derek Malik Nurse…”
Chowder’s voice dropped off after a moment, all of them sitting there, in pain, and imagining the pain Nursey was going through right then.
“It says the funeral was earlier today,” Farmer said, and she buried her face in Chowder’s shoulder. They sat there for who knows how long, and Dex tried to focus on the pressure of Chowder and Farmer next to him, nothing else, because he knew he couldn’t handle anything else right then. He could barely handle the emotions that were seeping through his wall.
Chowder’s parents called them in for dinner, but they stayed mostly quiet other than the most basic pleasantries. Luckily, Chowder’s little sister was off spending the night with a friend, Dex didn’t think they could handle her bubbly spirit that they normally adored. Chowder’s parents quickly noticed that something was up, but they didn’t comment on it, and simply left the kids to their quiet. Dex didn’t know about the other two, but he was trying to figure out what they could say to Nursey, if they should say anything to Nursey.
That’s when a knock came at the door. Chowder’s mom frowned. “Were you kids expecting anyone?” They all shook their heads while wearing matching confused faces. Mrs. Chow frowned slightly, but stood and answered the door. They heard her voice drift into the kitchen a moment later. “Derek! I’m sorry, you surprised us, we weren’t expecting you.”
Chowder, Farmer and Dex didn’t wait to hear a response, they had run to the front door in moments. The moment they saw Nursey, they froze.
He looked terrible. He was still wearing his funeral suit, rumpled, and his hair flew wildly from where he had ran anxious fingers through it too many times. He was standing, but he was slumped, as if trying to spill onto the ground. His eyes were the worst, staring unfocused at the pattern on the tiles, bags beneath his eyes that seemed to darken by the second, and his eyes told a story, that in that moment, he was totally broken.
Dex moved first. He walked to Nursey and threw his arms around his shoulders. Nursey responded by burying his face into Dex’s chest. Chowder and Farmer followed not moments later, enveloping Nursey from all sides.
And Nursey cried, and he cried, and he cried, and Dex knew there was nothing more he could do.