A dragon’s boy is usually, but not always, human, and sometimes—many times—not even a boy at all. – Jones, Philbert. The Dragons Who Vanished
That entire sentence was frustrating. –Poindexter, William J.
Will slipped into the lecture hall, not late but definitely not early, and had to take one of the seats near the front. A few people glanced over, got a look at his face, and flinched before quickly turning away. He ducked his head as he sat down and tried not to poke at his healing split lip with his tongue.
The bruising on his cheek and down by his mouth must have darkened over the course of the day. His summer tan, if he could call his constant sunburn that, had faded in the three months he’d been back at school, so the black and purple bruises were probably quite a sight.
He poked at his lip again, absently enjoying the sting of torn and healing skin while digging in his bag for something to eat. Two study sessions, some time in the computer lab, and this extra credit lecture from a visiting professor meant he hadn’t had time to eat since breakfast.
A rolled up paper bag almost squashed by his books held two muffins. Will took the cranberry one, left the maple and brown sugar, and tried to shove it in his mouth as surreptitiously as possible. He winced as he did, but was too hungry to stop. He even ate the crumbs that fell onto his sweatshirt.
Despite that, he didn’t touch the other muffin. He’d grabbed them both at team breakfast, intending to give the maple to Nurse, along with some orange juice, as both a silent apology and preventative measure against any winter colds. Since, as Will had learned their freshman year, dragons could catch a cold.
It was hilarious, really, even if it never lasted longer than a day. A dragon’s better-than-human healing assured that.
Nursey probably only even caught the cold in the first place because he was human as well as dragon. For one glorious day, he’d had a runny nose and watery eyes and looked less than perfectly beautiful. Then the next day he’d been fine and making fun of Will for worrying.
Will hadn’t been worrying.
But Nurse should still drink the orange juice.
Of course, he hadn’t. He had ignored the glass completely and continued talking to Chowder, trying to act calm, to act chill, as if Nurse hadn’t been puffing out gray, agitated smoke all morning.
Well, since the night before really. Since Will had gotten on the bus for the ride back to Samwell with his face banged up and his knuckles red. Nursey had flipped out, wanting to know who’d hurt him and why, asking Will to tell him their names, while the bus had rocked with the force of his concern. And then when Will had refused to answer, Nurse had pulled away from him, and sat, glaring and huffing like a chimney, for the entire trip.
Their room had filled with so much smoke last night that Will had opened the window all the way despite the early November chill. Although having a dragon around was better than a heater, so he might have to start doing that anyway, even through the winter.
This morning, Nursey had cooled down enough to walk with him to Faber so the coaches could go over last night’s game. Murray had given Will an appraising look which Will had done his best to ignore, but Nursey hadn’t. That had been enough to set him off again, to have him drape himself over Chowder’s shoulders but not Will’s and suggest that someone ought to put ice on his face.
He’d stayed draped over C all through breakfast, and left Will no place at his side, so Will had spent the entire meal listening to Tango’s neverending curiosity on one side and Bitty’s prying questions on the other.
“Treasure,” Nurse had said loudly to Chris, “did you want to get lunch together today?”
Treasure, Will thought with an angry little snort. Nursey called almost everyone on the team treasure. He called Ford treasure. He’d even called Coach Hall treasure once.
He did not call Will that.
That was probably Will’s fault. Knowing that didn’t make Will feel any better about it.
He checked his phone, skimming through the group chat comments about last night’s game, the betting pool Holster was trying to set up about Will’s face—although how Holster knew about it already was a question for later—and two texts from Whiskey, of all people, about using arnica on bruises.
Will was pretty sure Whiskey had magic, but it was impolite to just ask. Samwell had that written in the handbook. Samwell was one of the few Being and magic-friendly colleges, and it took that very seriously. Every class of freshman was given copies of The Guide to Human to Magical Being Interaction to answer any etiquette questions they might have about werewolf or fairy classmates.
For sexual questions, he would have had to go to the student health center. The handbook was short on details like that, which was a shame.
Will might have scoured it for clues once or twice, because there was no way he could trust the internet. Werewolf romance novels were a joke, apparently, and Will still hadn’t encountered enough fairies to feel comfortable asking them anything like that. And as for dragons… Will had no idea.
Some people said dragons were like weres, and though those people were probably wrong about what werewolves were like in bed in the first place, if Nursey was strong, or dominating or possessive in bed, Will was probably better off not knowing. It was hard enough seeing how many people liked Nursey, how girls and boys and genderfluid pixies sought him out at kegsters and cheered him on at games.
Nurse had texted him. Several hours ago from the looks of it.
Coffee @ A’s?
Will answered immediately. Speaking to me now?
The response was almost instant. Technically this isn’t speaking, Poindexter
Will settled further into his seat. English majors are so annoying.
Nurse was definitely still huffy. Cannot believe you put a period at the end of that do you understand text-speak at all?
You just said speak. Will jumped on that reply with a vicious sense of satisfaction. Text-“speak”
… was his only answer for several minutes. Will imagined Nurse staring at his phone with an irritated frown, and grinned until it cracked his lip.
Then Nurse texted again, changing the subject completely. U didn’t get coffee w/me.
Will poked his lip, tasted a bit of blood. Miss me not being there to order for you?
… was Nursey’s response again, but only for a few seconds this time. I admit nothing. The screen indicated he was still typing, so Will waited. I can’t. They give me looks.
Will sighed to himself. The girl at the counter likes you.
She’s scared of me Nursey corrected him.
Will had nothing to say to that. He thought the girl had a crush, like everyone had a crush, because Nurse was friendly and extremely good-looking, and because everyone, on some level, seemed to want a dragon’s attention.
Shitty thought this was a throwback to the days when humans had both feared and worshiped dragons. Nursey usually just tried his best to be someone no one was afraid of.
Will sighed again, this time with frustrated sadness. Next time I will order for you
As if he hadn’t said anything, Nurse carried on. When u back?
Late. Extra credit lecture.
Shit. Nurse sympathized. Someone good at least?
Will didn’t get a chance to answer. Sudden motion on the stage made him shove his phone in his pocket and sit up.
Then he froze. There in his seat, for several moments he was motionless and stunned as a dragon walked out to the podium.
That was a dragon, Will’s mind helpfully reminded him. He should stop freaking out. He knew a dragon. He lived with a dragon.
But that was Nursey, who was part dragon and just… Nursey. He tripped over his own feet and had once eaten an entire box of Otter Pops and passed out in the Reading Room. He regularly smoked more weed than a human would be able to consume and hadn’t known there were different types of screwdrivers until he’d met Will.
This was a full-grown, mature dragon, who took over the stage with a single look, who stood at probably only six feet but gave the appearance of being much larger, like a shadow impression of his true form lurked behind him.
Nursey never shifted unless he was sleeping, and it had to be truly deep sleep. He could rest his head on Will’s or Ransom’s shoulder and start to snore out of his perfect human nose, but if he was in his own bed, more often than not, Will would climb down from the top bunk and see a dragon curled up on all of Nursey’s pillows.
But not like this. Nursey was bigger than this guy even in his human form, but he didn’t loom like that, didn’t have a presence that said a thirty foot, village-destroying, rich and powerful creature was hiding behind a pretty human face.
Nursey, Will realized, must make an effort not to.
This dragon didn’t.
The dragon, the visiting professor, almost looked like Nursey’s family in the pictures Will had seen. He had scales that Will knew from Nursey could not be felt. They weren’t on his skin—they were in his skin somehow, beneath it, almost like tattoos. Because according to the handbook, a dragon didn’t shift like a were. Dragons used magic. What Will was seeing was something between shapeshifting and an illusion.
The professor had gold and green scales, colors like a peacock visible at the sides of his neck and on the backs of his hands. His fingernails gleamed. He had dark hair and golden brown skin and appeared Asian, although Nursey said these days most dragons were mixed, and that anyway, older dragons tended to identify as dragon over “small human constructs like race.”
Nursey didn’t like a lot of older dragons, as far as Will could tell. He also pointedly identified as black and Arab and cis before he said dragon, and talked about his immediate family but none of his other relatives.
Will wondered if they were more like this dragon, who barely acknowledged Professor Allen from Will’s American History class, and wore a fancy pen hooked into the pocket of his suit, which he wore with no tie, and which probably cost more than Will’s meal plan for the year.
He stopped at the podium in a haze of white, neutral smoke, and looked out over the assembled students with eyes of deep, volcanic black.
They fixed on Will for a moment, startled, then carried on before Will noticed he was holding his breath and finally exhaled.
His pocket buzzed as if Nursey had something else to say, but Will didn’t move, didn’t even reach for his notepad or laptop, as the professor started to speak.
Will had not controlled his staring much by the time the lecture ended and Professor Moreau started taking questions.
He was slightly more casual for the Q&A part. He leaned against the podium and popped some breath mints. Will remembered Nursey remarking about that, joking about dragons and their anxiety over humans thinking they had bad breath.
Will had found it funny at the time. Dragons were rare and powerful, and apparently every single one was annoyingly fucking beautiful, but they were obsessed with their breath.
Nursey’s really wasn’t that bad. Smoky, but not like cigarettes or anything. More like… cook fires or campfires or, generally, in Nurse’s case, weed.
Will sank down to be as unobtrusive as possible, but had never felt more like an awkwardly big defenseman in his life. Will had grown into his shoulders last year, and had already been built like a were. On a hockey team that didn’t matter. But in a class of normal-sized humans and an elf or two, he stood out. Professor Moreau glanced to him a few times. Will’s face probably didn’t help.
Or maybe his confusion had been too obvious. Will was only here because he liked having extra credit to give him some cushion with his finals, and not because he had a special interest in history. He hadn’t even read the notice for what the lecture was about.
He wished he had. Eo-jin Moreau discusses his recent book, The Loss of the Flight of Dragons might have made him want to be here, and to have a notepad handy.
Having a dragon talk frankly about current efforts to raise the dragon population, about how dragons had decreased in size over the years due to interbreeding with humans, how it felt to be a dragon in academia, had told Will more than Nursey probably ever would have.
It had also raised a lot of questions, but Will was not about to lift his hand to ask any.
“Dragons do not mind other dragons taking an interest in humans or nondragons—in fact, it’s revered in most dragon cultures,” Moreau had said. “But many dragon parents also encourage their young to meet and interact with other dragons their age, so that when it comes time for children, there might be a few hatchlings alongside those human infants.”
Which—holy shit. Nurse had never said anything about that, except mumbling once that he probably knew every dragon his age and of European or Asian or Turkish descent in the entire country.
Well, and once he’d curled around the arm of the green couch and exhaled white curlicues of smoke and admitted that he thought hatchlings were, “the cutest, bro, like so dope.”
Will had just barely resisted telling him that he was the cutest, and focused instead on not thinking about Nursey with some other dragon, Nursey with kids.
But he’d probably have some. He’d get older and mature and look like Professor Moreau and then go home to adorable, shiny, smoky children and his crazy-hot dragon spouse, and—
Will was still not thinking about it.
College had done a lot for Will to let him acknowledge that dragons hatched their children from eggs without batting an eye. But it still didn’t really explain why Professor Moreau had used gender-neutral terms when describing breeding dragon pairs. It’s not like dragons could create eggs from thin air.
Unless they could.
Will was possibly the shittiest friend alive because he didn’t know that. Even after this lecture, he had no clue.
“If that’s all?” Professor Allen came up to the stage to end things for the night, and Will snapped out of his daze to find Professor Moreau watching him with his eyebrows raised and an amused hint of a smile at his mouth.
Not that Will was looking at his mouth.
Dragons were stupidly attractive and it was the worst. Like arriving at a queer-friendly, Being-friendly college an awkward virgin who had never even seen a Being in person, and finding himself paired with one on the ice, and of course it was Nurse, who had Will stuttering and furious in about five seconds.
Years of experience of dealing with Nursey’s everything—and Will’s feelings about Nursey’s everything—allowed Will to quickly glance away while Professor Moreau thanked everyone for attending.
Then people started to get up and stream out. One or two hesitated as if they wanted to go talk to Professor Moreau, but ultimately, they walked out too.
Will glowered at them judgmentally as he wiped several stray crumbs from his lap and stood up. He stretched, feeling the pull of muscles from the game now, as well a few bruises in other less obvious places.
He reached for the strap of his bag and darted a glance to the stage.
Professor Moreau was talking to Professor Allen about something, shaking his hand, but his attention was on Will.
The flush that ran through Will was swift and hot, and probably turned him bright red down to his shoulders.
He wasn’t used to looks like that, although he knew what it was. Humans didn’t often look at him that way. Sometimes they did, usually when they were drunk, or when Will had his shirt off. That was for his body, and Will had uncomfortably acknowledged that his body would be a bigger draw than his face would ever be during the end of his Freshman year.
But Beings… Beings looked at Will like that sometimes. A were had once studied Will from head to toe at a kegster and introduced himself with a soft, growling voice that had sent shivers down Will’s spine. The only fairy Will had ever spoken to one-on-one had met Will’s eyes and said, “Oh wow, shiny,” before holding his hand.
Chowder had said the same thing, actually, although C sadly insisted he wasn’t related to any fairies when people asked. So did Ransom, despite how he left people in awe on a daily basis.
Will realized Professor Allen was leaving, and watched him go with startled blink. Then he swallowed and risked another look over.
Professor Moreau was no longer smiling. “I want to apologize if my stares bothered you.”
If it had been Nursey, Will would have called him a creeper. As it was, he had to keep his voice from cracking. “Is it my face? I play hockey.” He let that be his explanation. It had worked on most people today.
Professor Moreau licked his bottom lip. The act looked thoughtful, but Will knew for a fact that dragons did that to find scents on the air. They didn’t have noses like werewolves, but they could identify smells better than humans. Nursey tried to be more subtle about it, not that he ever was, the doofus.
“What?” Professor Moreau asked as he came down the steps from the stage. “Oh, you mean the bruising. No, that isn’t what caught my eye, although it is intriguing.”
Will’s face was red-hot. “Hockey, like I said.” He slung his bag over his shoulder and clenched the strap tight.
The way Professor Moreau inhaled at that was almost sexual. Will felt like his ears were on fire. He cleared his throat, but the professor spoke first. “There is a dragon on the Samwell hockey team, isn’t there? I remember reading about it.”
Will snapped his head up before he remembered he was talking to another dragon. “Yeah, so? You have a problem with that?”
The professor’s eyes lit up. The hall felt exponentially warmer than it had a few minutes ago.
“Sorry.” Will took a breath. “Oh my fuck—I mean God, I did not mean that.”
“Beings are barred from professional and college-level sports,” Professor Moreau politely ignored Will’s dumb, belligerent mouth. “As we used to be banned, both officially and unofficially, from higher education. It’s a big deal to many of us whenever there is progress.”
Will bit his lip, flinched, then looked away. “He’s part dragon, and they judged his strength to be more or less that of a very strong human, so they allowed it.” He rolled his shoulder. “They still don’t let the wolves play. They set up their own rugby league with some of the trolls and demons around here, though.”
Fairies were welcomed at Samwell but most still stayed away. The weres on campus had a makeshift pack, with meetings and some intense-looking group hugs. Magic was allowed on the grounds but explicitly forbidden during sporting events, with witches on hand to ensure things were fair. Despite all of that, even at Samwell, there was a lot of scrutiny of the Being students. Nursey got a lot of attention during games, usually from the opposing team, usually negative.
“He just gets a lot of shit,” Will added, softer now. “You know? For that and for being one of the few black players out there, and people—humans—make jokes about Beings as it is.” Obviously, Professor Moreau would already know that, how people still mocked Beings for being slutty or gay or weird. How people still said that about the humans who were friends with them too. Will cleared his throat and didn’t wait for the response. “Is that what you were curious about?”
Professor Moreau had stopped at the bottom of the stairs. “Is that what you think I was curious about?”
Will tried to shrug casually. “Lots of people are interested in Nursey—Nurse. Derek.”
Professor Moreau had a warm, crooked smile. “I imagine they are,” he agreed, but with his gaze fixed on Will.
For a second, Will was eighteen again, leaving for college while his dad warned him about Beings, and how Will didn’t know what they could be like. His parents had stuck a Republican sticker on his laptop “to protect him, just in case” because TV said fairies seduced innocent humans and left them broken, and weres would claim you whether you liked it or not, and hinted that there was just something wrong with pixies and any human who would want to be like one.
When that werewolf at that kegster had touched him, Will’s body had seemed to hum, as if something good and almost right was about to happen. Will’s stomach had flipped and he’d flushed. But he hadn’t been afraid, not like that, not of anything more than making a fool of himself in front of someone so incredible.
“You have a very expressive face, even with—” Professor Moreau gestured gracefully to his own face to indicate Will’s bruising.
Will rolled his eyes automatically. “I’m aware,” he answered sourly.
He kind of wondered if all dragons found him amusing when that made the professor grin. “And wonderful eyes, if I may,” Moreau added.
Will tensed again. Even the werewolf hadn’t bothered to compliment his eyes. “My eyes?” It was different with fairies. Fairies didn’t see things the way everybody else did. Supposedly they saw Truth.
Professor Moreau came a few steps closer. “You aren’t even all human,” he commented, almost to himself, while Will’s mouth dropped open. “At first I thought were, but no, there is nothing wolfish about you. I’d say you’re part elf, despite your size. Probably a family secret somewhere. When you actually started listening to me, you were intensely focused. Those eyes? Those ears? Must be some sort of elf in your bloodline.”
Will was sure it was rude to just discuss someone’s bloodline like this. His mother would probably have a heart attack at the idea of one of her ancestors having a baby with a Being. But of course that couldn’t be true. Will was as boringly human as it was possible to be.
“My ears aren’t pointed,” he said shortly.
“But the size of them,” Moreau answered with a pleased sigh. “And those hands!” Will glanced to his scraped knuckles and calluses from a summer of hard work. “What you might make for me… what they might do.” Professor Moreau’s smile was both warm and predatory. “Humans get rough hands. I find them stimulating.”
Humans get scraped and callused hands because humans didn’t have quick healing like most magical Beings did. Somehow, Will had never thought of Beings fetishizing humans for something like the ability to not have soft hands, but it made sense with how much humans fetishized the Beings. Shitty would have a field day with this.
Will just looked down, wanting to distance himself from the moment. He felt the same way whenever a wasted puck bunny found him after a game, as if any hockey player would do.
He didn’t like that, never had even though he ought to be grateful for the attention. That’s what some people said.
It wasn’t… he didn’t need to special. That would be stupid. He just… thought he’d been wanted, for a second there.
But of course someone like this wasn’t going to. So far, no one had, but especially not a rich, brilliant dragon intellectual.
“You seem confused?” Professor Moreau broke into his thoughts. “Or alarmed. Have I scared you?”
“No.” Will jerked his chin up. “I’m not scared.”
“Confused, then?” Professor Moreau’s gaze was hot, but he kept a respectful distance.
Beings didn’t regard physical beauty the way humans did. The handbook was very clear on that. Especially fairies. Although Will hadn’t gotten to spend much time with that fairy. Ransom had insisted on setting Dex the Frog up with a date for Winter Screw. He hadn’t warned Will it would be a fairy—a boy fairy—hadn’t told him the fairy would take his hand or float in the air in front of Will when Will felt brave enough to ask him to dance. Hadn’t said the fairy would ditch him the second Nursey had walked into the room.
Will didn’t need to bite his lip to bring himself to his senses. “Not confused,” he admitted quietly. “But I—” He didn’t know what else to add and stopped there. He wasn’t prejudiced enough to think he was going to get roasted for saying no, even if Dex the Frog might have thought exactly that. But saying no seemed reckless when he might never have another dragon’s interest like this.
Professor Moreau wet his lower lip, and then his eyes lit up with that internal fire once again.
“I see,” he said, in a voice like smoldering embers. He smiled to show teeth. “You poor gem.”
Will squared his shoulders without thinking, an automatic response to a dragon teasing him.
“What does that mean?” he demanded, volume too high. The words broke. “What do you see?”
“You poor gem,” Professor Moreau said again, and shook his head.
Will stormed out of the lecture hall with his head down and his shoulders tight. The lamps along the sidewalk lit his path and illuminated his every fast, hard breath. He was puffing so much he probably looked like a dragon, from a distance anyway.
He kept his shaking hands in his pockets.
If he thought about it, he was going to be mad. So it was better to not think about it.
Anyway, none of it was true. Someone was wrong, or there had been a misunderstanding.
Nursey had even given Will a Talk before Will had moved in.
The Talk had occurred over the summer over Skype, which Will hated to use because it seemed to be inviting Nursey to make some kind of comment, only Nursey hadn’t. Maybe he’d been too surprised to hear from Will after everything.
That was fair. During and after the Dib Flip, Will had been… well, an asshole, and he knew it. He’d apologized, both in person and in text, and Nursey had shrugged as if it was nothing, said, “Chill,” and proceeded to act as though everything was fine.
Which should have made Will happy. Except he knew Nursey now, so he knew everything probably wasn’t fine, and it wasn’t in Will’s nature to see a problem and not try to fix it. His real dilemma had been how to explain his anxiety about sharing a small room with Nursey without mentioning all the ways Nursey already drove him out of his mind.
He’d left it until July, then sent a text that read Skype? And waited, restless, annoyed, and impatient, for two hours for Nursey to answer.
Nurse said, Chyeah, because he wrote that out, and Will hated him, really, he did.
Actually, that was the second Talk Nursey had ever given him. Although the first had been during their Taddy Tour, and had been aimed at everyone in group. It had mostly been a younger, slightly smaller Nursey clearing his throat and making jokey comments about the handbook and Being-sensitivity seminars some high schools had. Not Will’s, but some schools.
“So that’s how it is with dragons,” Nursey the Frog had said, with Shits looking proud behind him. Nursey had been smiling the whole time, an easy, relaxed smile that had put Will on edge for no real reason. Now, he thought it was because faint trails of gray smoke had been curling in the air around Nursey, which meant Nursey had not been relaxed during his speech, not even a little bit. “But if you don’t like it, you can ask me to stop,” Nurse had explained further, before letting Shitty carry on with his talk of the Haus by-laws.
Since then, Will had seen the weres on campus do the very same thing, patiently explaining they communicated differently than humans and didn’t always use words, but if it bothered anyone, they could try harder to use speech.
Will cringed at the thought being forced to talk, even though he knew people like his parents would say it was easier than having humans try to communicate through scent and body language like weres did. There was something embarrassing about werewolves being able to sniff out his emotions, but something nice about it too. It meant Will didn’t have to use words.
The weres also had those talks to calm down people who were worried about their size. Weres could get up to about six-five, trolls got even bigger. Samwell was the only place where Will had ever experienced regularly being smaller than anyone.
Not Nursey, of course. They were probably roughly matched in size and maybe strength, except for the magic Nursey hardly used. Holster was even taller than Nursey. But nonetheless, Nursey had laughed at lot and smoked up with Shitty, and made sure everyone saw him reading in a pile of fall leaves like a complete idiot.
He saved the leaves too. Called them treasure. Whispered, “Mine,” to them in the drawer where he kept them. Which was definitely a thing that was weird and not somehow annoyingly charming. Nursey was rich and probably owned actual treasure of, like, diamonds and rubies and stuff, but his prized possessions at Samwell was a shelf of notebooks, a few books, some dumb—but soft—hipster scarves, and then the drawer full of Valentines and birthday cards, dried leaves, a sachet of lavender a fairy had given him, a Sharks keychain from Chow, two stolen pie tins from Bitty’s collection, and a bunch of candy wrappers and crumpled notes. He also had one of Will’s hammers. They were both pretending it wasn’t there.
That was how dragons were. They collected things. Valuable things and pretty things and weird things. Anything that caught their eye. Like magpies, almost, like gold and dumb memes were the same to them.
That’s how they were with people too. That was why Nursey called Chowder and Bitty “Treasure” and had touched Rans all the time, and threw an arm over Will’s shoulder every chance he got. Friends were “his” in a way, same with his teammates. It didn’t mean anything. That’s what Nursey had wanted them to know.
The liar. It meant something to him, that’s what he should have said.
It had seemed unbelievable to Will. And gay, Will had thought uncomfortably during that first Talk, even though he’d jerked off to thoughts of boys as well as girls, even if he hadn’t actually touched either, then. The word Will should have used was queer, although he still wasn’t sure if Beings counted or not, since they didn’t use that term. Beings had sexuality and genders all over the place, and found humans labels offensive or limiting or wrong or… one of those.
Fuck, he was confused.
But one thing Will was certain of was that the gift-giving and the touches and the random piles of shit—treasure—Nurse collected were very real. They were also normal dragon stuff. Not… not what Professor Moreau had said.
The second Talk, over Skype, confirmed this.
Nursey had answered looking reserved and chill, and instead of being annoyed by that, Will felt like garbage again.
“Look, I want to live with you,” he said, first thing, frowning at nothing and everything. “I just worry and there’s a lot of stuff that makes me nervous.” Stuff like having to be in the room with Nursey while Nursey got dressed—and undressed, like being there while Nursey hugged his pillows as he read, like trying not to panic when Nursey inevitably found someone and wanted alone time in their room. Will had almost bitten his tongue. “Not you,” he had insisted, which wasn’t exactly a lie. Will was nervous about his reaction to Nursey being that close, not Nursey himself. “I was worried about a lot of things, but not pissed at you or anything.”
“Chill,” Nurse said, likely just to piss him off. But then added, softer, “Yeah, I could tell you were anxious, not mad.”
Will had frowned at him that time. “Did you smell the difference?”
“Bro,” Nursey objected immediately, flashing Will a smug—beautiful—smile. “I’m not a werewolf. Didn’t you study the handbook?”
Suddenly, Will had been defensively crossing his arms and absolutely not smiling back. “Shits said the handbook was outdated.”
“Yeah,” Nurse agreed, then scoffed. “But it still says I’m not a werewolf.”
“Well, then what do you smell?” Will had wondered, only to blush with the heat of a hundred suns. “Oh,” he realized out loud. “Oh shit,” he went on, hoping Nursey’s senses just picked up jizz and B.O. and farts and nothing deeper, the way a werewolf’s would. Some werewolves could detect emotions in scent. “And you still want me—I mean, a human in there with you?” Will thought he was pretty clean compared to some of the others—not to name names, Ollie—and he didn’t hock loogies on the floor like Nurse, but he also had skipped doing laundry and worn the same shirt and jeans for several days in a row on more than one occasion.
Nursey had been bright-eyed at all of Will’s blushing, but Will had pressed on despite that. “You want to live there and you earned it. I just… can’t afford not to live in the Haus right now… and I’ll take two showers a day? Or give up the burritos on Tex-Mex night at the dining hall, although they are so good, and nutritious, actually—”
“Dex. Will. Seriously. It’s fine.” The computer hadn’t dimmed the brilliance of Nursey’s eyes. They roamed over Will’s face as Nursey’s smile got softer and smaller and private, somehow. “You were a dick but I got that you don’t hate me. Yeah, it felt like it for a second,” he added, glancing to the side and simultaneously knifing Will in the gut. “But you get like that,” Nursey finished. “Anxious, then focused, then obsessed. You have a hard time letting go. I get that. ”
“Shut up,” Will had grumbled.
Nursey was letting him off the hook too easily. Will had been debating asking why or letting it go when Nursey had made the decision for him.
“Listen, Dex,” he began, moving his gaze to somewhere just to the side of Will. “What you were anxious about…. I told you about this before, remember? How dragons are? You’re my… you’re my teammate and my friend, and I’m dragon. So of course I want you there. I might—” He pushed out a breath with some smoke in it and flicked a look at Will. “I might a little too much, and… I thought that was what you were worried about but I can tell from your face right now you weren’t.”
“Fuck off.” Will wrinkled his nose. “Leave my face alone.”
“Yeah no, never.” Nursey’s grin was going to kill him one day.
Will had flipped him off like his stomach wasn’t doing cartwheels.
Nursey huffed and curled his hands as if he needed to hold onto something. “Just listen. You will be in my space and I’ll try not to… if you need air, time. If you need—” Nursey took a deep breath “—the room. I can do that.”
“Yeah right,” Will had sneered playfully. “Just try to let me know before you sexile me, okay?”
Nursey had stared at him, so startled and wide-eyed that Will snorted on a laugh because it was that or touch the screen.
Like that could calm Nursey down. Like Will would be good at calming anyone down.
He’d leaned forward. “So what have you been doing? Spending hours drinking cappuccinos and going to poetry readings? Walking in the park? Touring museums and adding to your treasure?”
He’d been teasing, or meant to be teasing and not obviously desperate to keep the conversation going, but Nursey had stared at him for another moment before answering quickly, almost in a rush, “I have to go, but you can Skype me tomorrow if you want.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m always free to Skype you.” Will shook his head as though he wasn’t smiling and lighter than he’d been in months, and Nursey had smiled back at him, wide and goofy, before ending the call.
Will stopped when the campus clocktower started to ring out the time.
He looked up. The sky was truly dark now. He could see his breath even though he was no longer breathing hard.
He reached for his phone.
The last text was from Chris, and just said Did you ice your face???
Will didn’t have any more texts from Nursey, but he’d been tagged on Instagram three times. One was a DM from Nurse to a picture of a pissed off ginger cat—like looking in a mirror I bet. One from the team’s account, run by the coaches and Ford, with a shot of Will during the game last night, beaming a nerdy grin to someone off camera, his face not yet black and blue. The last one was also from Nursey. This one was a shot of the desk in their room, with the desk lamp spilling light dramatically over the empty chair. All Nursey wrote aside from tagging Will and the rest of the team was #whenwillhereturnfromthewar.
The team, of course, was now mourning Will in the comments.
Will sighed and did not smile to himself.
Obviously, Professor Moreau was all wrong about everything. Nursey was his friend. He was a dragon, and also just fucking weird, but they were friends.
They certainly were not boyfriends. And Will was definitely not… that thing, that Moreau had said.
The… the boy thing. The dragon’s boy thing.
Will was not a dragon’s boy, was not Nursey’s boy. He would have noticed.
Anyway, that sounded serious—marriage serious—and that was not Nursey with Will.
The whole thing was crazy.
But Will considered going back to their room while he was still breathless from the thought, and turned to head down another path instead.
“When I saw you, I was half-expecting you to be taken, dating, as you humans charmingly call it.” Professor Moreau’s regretful sigh had only ratcheted up the tension Will’s shoulders. “I was not expecting this.”
“This what?” Will was more and more grateful he’d refused whatever it was Moreau had been offering. Maybe he didn’t get offers every day, but Professor Moreau was starting to remind him of every professor villain in every cliché movie.
He could hear Shitty’s voice in his head, telling him Beings could be creepers too and how Will shouldn’t so surprised. But honestly, Will was not in the mood for a Shitty lecture, even an imaginary one.
“Naturally, you’d say no, you lost little human.” Moreau clucked his tongue. “Which is a shame. I might not have a household set up for a boy, but I wouldn’t have minded enjoying you for the night.”
“This is not happening.” Will shut his mouth hard, then reopened it so he could argue. “I didn’t say no because I was taken. I said no because I said no. And I’m not—stop talking like that.” He suddenly really wanted Nursey there.
Imperious, Nursey had said. Told them some of his relatives were “imperious, reactionary assholes” before shrugging to close the subject. He’d gotten wicked high once after a visit home and complained about dragons stuck on the old ways. Will wished now he’d been more specific.
“Talking like what?” Moreau studied Will with gleaming eyes. “You attend this school. I’m sure fairies have talked about you.”
Actually, from what Will could tell, the few fairies on campus were mostly in love with Chowder. Chow got droopy and sad every time he had to break a heart.
“They haven’t?” Moreau went on as if Will had answered. He seemed genuinely concerned. “Then your dragon. The Nurse son. He must have told you.”
Will wet his lips only because they were dry. He wished he could smell what the fuck was going on. “No one has told me anything ever except that my abs are nice and that I’m shiny or whatever. So whatever it is you’re talking about, you’re wrong. And there’s… I’m not taken. I just think—” he steadied himself “—you and I, uh, have different ideas about—” God, Will hated words “—this.”
Moreau abruptly dropped to sit on one of the steps. He rested his chin on his hand and regarded Will like a lab specimen on a slide. “You honestly don’t know.” He seemed stumped, which wasn’t elegant, but he made it elegant anyway. “Are you sure you don’t want to come to dinner with me? I would be more than happy to feed you. Spoiling you would be my pleasure.”
Will closed his eyes, ignored how much that voice saying those things could have been Nursey’s, except Nursey would say, “Jerry’s? My treat.” And he’d practically glow whenever Will gave in and said, “Fine, you can buy me waffles, but I’ll get the coffee.”
That was dragons. That’s all.
Like Nursey looking at some of Will’s older flannel with this pinched, pained expression, or shaking his head at Will’s shampoo and casually replacing it.
He’d done that to Chowder too. It didn’t mean anything. Nursey said that all the time. “It’s a dragon thing,” he’d explain, and ruffle Will’s hair, or fix his tie for him, or turn off the marathon of House Hunters when Will was flipping his shit at the people, and turn on Bake Off instead.
Bake Off was so soothing.
Will opened his eyes. “I don’t need to be spoiled.”
“I beg to differ.” Moreau actually looked insulted. “If you didn’t have that need, you wouldn’t have attracted a dragon in the first place.”
Will choked on his own spit. Wow, would Shitty have something to say about that. A dragon blaming his attraction to Will on Will? “What the fuck?” he breathed.
“Hmm and you aren’t angry.” Moreau tapped his chin thoughtfully. “But something got you furious enough to earn those bruises on your hands, and I’ve only seen one thing truly anger you so far. Do you really not know?”
Will scowled and kept his eyes up so Moreau wouldn’t see his shaking hands.
“You know, I’ve never wanted a boy. I’m too busy, and frankly, not powerful enough for one.” Swirls of smoke followed Moreau’s words. “But you’re making me reconsider.”
“Are you… are you seriously offering to make me some kind of…?” Will couldn’t even say the word. He didn’t even know the word. Mistress? Rent boy? Nursey was going to laugh at him so hard when he found out.
“A dragon’s boy is not someone to be taken lightly.” Moreau rose to his feet, imperious again. He lifted his chin. “Only the most powerful dragons are strong enough to care for a human and to answer their needs. Humans used to understand this. Centuries ago, only the bravest and most beautiful men and women were offered to the dragons, and from them, the strongest dragons would choose a boy. Humans have already forgotten.”
Will was pretty sure the humans being offered to dragons centuries ago had not been offered with anything romantic in mind. He also was pretty sure Moreau kept saying “boy” and “men and women” as if they were the same thing.
Sometimes, talking to Beings was like an American talking to someone from England. They were both speaking English, but they were saying very different things.
Or maybe Will was still a kid from a town in Maine that didn’t have any Beings in it, and everyone else at Samwell would know exactly what Moreau meant.
“What is your name, by the way?” Moreau asked abruptly.
“Dex,” Will snapped at him, and had no idea why except that one of the oldest rules humans ever made for dealing with the Fae was to hide your real name. But dragons weren’t fairies, and real fairies didn’t care about that kind of thing. But Will kept his mouth shut anyway.
“Dex,” Moreau repeated, unbothered or unaware that this was not a normal human name. “There are three kinds of relationships among dragons. Casual sex. A bonding with an equal, what you might call marriage. And then there is the third, when a dragon—a powerful dragon—chooses someone both less and more than himself. Someone usually but not always human. Someone dragons refer to as a boy. Whether or not the gender matches the term is irrelevant. Before you ask—” he held up a hand “—there is some debate about the origin in historical circles. Some think it was a mistranslation. The point is that I wasn’t insulting you.”
Will stared at him, not agreeing to or accepting anything.
Moreau looked amused again. “Although it pains me to admit we are as possessive as humans imagine, we are. But not of someone weak. Dragons only mate with dragons.”
Will scowled. “You just said—”
Moreau cut him off. “Perhaps Dr. Jones’s books should be required reading for humans.” He shook his head. “I just told you, only the bravest are allowed to serve a dragon. Only the bravest could.”
“So you weren’t insulting me.” Will twitched. “I still don’t understand why you told me all that.”
“Because you are, as a fairy might say, very shiny, and you’re good-looking, and I was hoping to fuss over your wounds and feed you and playact that—” For a second, it looked like Moreau was blushing. “Just go, before I embarrass myself further. Your need is really very strong. It’s amazing that any dragon would be able to resist it.”
“My need to be spoiled,” Will repeated flatly, although he was blushing again.
“Yes.” Moreau straightened up. “I can see now we are not suited, but still, it calls to me. Which of course means….” He trailed off. “You’re irritated with me.”
“Irritated is not the word.” Will had a feeling he growled it. His cheeks were stinging.
“Standing up to a dragon with no hesitation.” Moreau tipped his head to one side. “You say you aren’t taken, and I believe you, but are you sure you couldn’t be?” For a moment, Moreau was almost sad. “Are you absolutely sure?”
“Dinner?” Nursey asked, after four hours of silence as both of them did assigned reading.
Will blinked a few times before looking up from his textbook.
Nursey stood in the light from the window, playing with a fidget cube he’d gotten at the Stop ‘n’ Shop a week after the semester had started. The sunlight hit his hair, hit the gleaming golden brown of his scales, made him look like fire or a sunset or something haloed and beautiful.
Will was down off the bed in seconds. He tried to frown, to not lean toward that smile. “I’m starving,” he explained, as if hadn’t just jumped off the top bunk to stand next to Nursey one moment sooner.
“Shit, Dex.” Nursey laughed. “Did you know it was Tex-Mex night before I asked?”
“It’s burrito night and you reminded me anyway?” Will arched an eyebrow and kept his voice deadpan. “You must love me.”
Nursey shoved him away by his shoulder.
He reeled Will back in by his sleeve a moment later, slung his arm around Will’s neck and knocked on the door to the bathroom. “C, we’re going to dinner. You coming?”
Will shook away the memory, and others, because they were wishful thinking. He knew that. He’d known that for years. Maybe even Nursey knew that, and that was why he always reminded Will it was all simply something dragons did.
“’S dragon thing,” he’d murmur, weed on his breath while he snuggled against Will’s back.
“Dragon thing,” he said, putting pictures of Will’s hair on Instagram. #mine
“It’s just a dragon thing, Poindexter.” Getting Will a beer and crooning Beyoncé in his ear and laughing at Will’s flustered blushing.
Will walked on, although he hadn’t dressed to be out all night in the November chill. He could still hear Professor Moreau’s voice as he implied all that bullshit about Nurse. And Will. And what he thought Nursey felt for Will, as if he knew anything about Derek just because he could breathe fire too.
“Does he touch you? Leave his scent on you? Play with that hair like fire? Of course he does.” Moreau hadn’t even waited for an answer.
Will had tried to answer anyway. “He touches everyone.”
He hadn’t sounded as casual about it as he'd wanted to.
It had taken a while to get used to that… the touching. First, Nursey liking him enough to hang around Will at all, although that had started somewhere around their first Hausgiving. Then all the one-armed hugs and the startling press of Nursey’s warm hand to the back of his head. Then the rest of it.
Sometimes Will tried to touch him back, but unless it was practice or something stupid like a slap fight, it always felt wrong. Like it wasn’t Will’s place to touch Nursey. Will didn’t have an excuse. He wasn’t dragon. He was just… just… not thinking about it because there was nothing to do about it.
“Does he allow you to date?” Moreau had leaned onto on the steps behind him and gazed into the distance with something like pity on his face. “I started this because you were pretty, but I have to say, this must be torture.”
“It doesn’t feel great.” Will’s jaw hurt it was clenched so tight.
“Not you.” Moreau waved off Will’s complaint. “I suppose I find it hard to believe that it’s one-sided. It can’t all be you. You are—and this is offensive, and I’m sorry—but you are prime dragon’s boy material. Unless perhaps he doesn’t care for boys, or males.”
Will narrowed his eyes. “Look, I can’t tell if you’re fucking with me because I said no, or because you’re bored, or what. But fairies see truth, not dragons. And you might have figured me out, okay. Okay.” No one else had ever said anything, even if C caught him staring, or Ransom somehow knew enough to match Will up with a fairy boy, or Jack once nudged Will away from watching how a pixy could flirt with a dragon and told him Bitty needed help in the kitchen.
Will’s heart was racing, telling him to fight or flee, and he couldn’t fight a dragon and win, and he couldn’t back down, so he stood there. “But you don’t know shit about Derek.” Nurse was a hipster pain in the ass, and he liked the dumbest jokes, and he was beautiful and stubborn, and not forgiving, exactly, but he gave Will more chances than he deserved. He didn’t have to put up with Will trying to figure out how the rest of the world wasn’t like one town in Maine, and the fact that he did—with some chirping and mockery aimed at Will—was a miracle. It was something precious, though Will usually shied away from soft words like that. This guy shouldn’t even be talking about Nursey. They weren’t on the same level. “Nursey is not in love with me. He doesn’t want me. Sometimes he doesn’t even like me. I’m the only person in the Haus he doesn’t call treasure. That’s just the way it is.”
Will stopped in the cold and took a shaky breath.
Moreau had suddenly turned into a professor again, hitting Will with a sharp, lecturing tone. “You didn’t answer my question. Does he allow you to date?”
“He doesn’t allow me to do anything!” Will had honestly been done with the entire insane conversation. Nursey wasn’t kidding about some dragons being reactionary assholes. “We’re teammates and roommates and friends, sometimes. And he still wouldn’t do that, even if we, you know, were. That. If we were that.”
Nursey trying to get Will to drink a sticky cup of tub juice.
Nursey appearing on the edge of the dancefloor and leaning in to wonder if Will needed a wingman.
Nursey staring at Will’s neck the morning after the kegster with the werewolf, the bruises and faint bite marks.
Giving Will a silent fist bump for it before announcing he was gonna go, had somewhere else to be.
Spending the next kegster at Will’s side, pushing Will toward weres and humans and an elf, trying to wheel them for Will, with a hand in Will’s hair and his mouth by his ear, turning Will red without even trying, as if any of that could ever help get Will laid. As if anyone was even looking at him with Nursey there. As if Will wanted someone else with Nursey that close.
“Nursey thinks of all his friends as his. Everybody still dates,” was all Will had told Moreau. Though, of course, eventually even Farmer became part of Nursey’s treasure. Which made sense, Caitlin was awesome and Nursey wasn’t an asshole, not like that, anyway.
“If I made you my boy, you would know it.”
Moreau’s words stopped Will at the end of the row as he headed for the door.
Will turned so sharply Shitty would have been proud. “That is—if you were a professor here, I’d make a complaint.”
“I mean,” Moreau sighed heavily, “that you would demand to be. It’s a place you have to take. The dragon isn’t going to order you, or even ask. Not these days.”
Will kind of doubted every ancient dragon acted the way this guy thought they did. But one thing he did know from both countless rants by Shitty and from the Haus by-laws regarding drunk hook ups was that an imbalance of power mattered. “The dragon is always going to be more powerful. A dragon asking wouldn’t mean anything if the boy is always weaker.”
Moreau actually nodded. “Very good. The dragon has the power but the boy is in charge. That is why the boy has to ask, or in your case, demand it with clenched fists.” Moreau rolled his wrist, as if waiting for Will to catch up. “He must be very strong, to live with you, to not answer that need burning away inside of you.”
“Fuck off!” Will snapped at him, although his mom would have lost it to hear him talk that way to a professor, even a Being one.
“He must have such a soft heart to need someone like you to stand guard at the door,” Moreau added quietly, leaving Will silent. “It must kill him. You’ll protect that heart, won’t you? And give him what he wants?”
Nursey didn’t want that from Will. Will had bruised knuckles and knew that for a fact.
“What do you care?” Will finally asked, the words stiff.
Moreau clucked his tongue. “Because I might run into the Nurses at some point, and I’d hate for them to think I tried to take their son’s treasure. Now, I need to get going, and you have somewhere to be, no doubt.”
His smug grin followed Will as Will shoved open the door and stormed out.
He almost headed to his old dorm, where he would have had the space to avoid this whole issue, and file it away in an unnamed, nondescript folder no one would ever look at, with all the other things that were impossible, like understanding poetry or learning to knit, or baking.
Except hockey players who baked was definitely a thing. And so was someone liking women and men and whatever like a fairy. And Will was pretty sure knitting was just programming with yarn, although he still hadn’t tried it.
He walked to the Haus with his shoulders bent and a familiar tension as he got close and could feel the hum of magic. The Haus had felt the way before Nurse had ever lived there, though it was stronger now because of his presence. Will wasn’t sure how many of the others could sense the magic. Some of it probably was Bitty’s, although Bitty, like Whiskey, had never volunteered anything about it, or even taken one of the witchcraft electives as far as Will knew.
Crossing the threshold instantly took some of the tension out of Will. He wasn’t welcomed, exactly, more like recognized. The Haus was still the Haus, had received plenty of Will’s blood, sweat, and tears, but for the next two years, it was a dragon’s house, and it loved it.
Nursey probably hadn’t edited Lardo’s assignments for the dibs, or not totally for them. He’d done it because he was a giant nerd and because the opportunity to live in the same building as many of the people closest to him was something he’d wanted.
And it showed. The dryer might break, the fridge had started to make random buzzing sounds, but the Haus itself was intact. So far even the porch steps were holding together.
Nursey was going to cry his eyes out when he had to leave this place.
Soft heart, Will thought, and clenched his hands in his sweatshirt pocket.
Holster had been lowkey worried that Nursey would have a problem living in the Haus and not getting territorial about it—dorms were full of strangers, but the Haus was the team—and Nursey acted as if hearing that hadn’t bothered him.
Maybe it didn’t. Maybe even modern dragons had or wanted a lair of their own to protect. Nursey had turned the bottom bunk into a cave of fluffy blankets and deep pillows, after all. Let C or Farms or Ford into their room but kept it strictly off limits during kegsters. Will didn’t see anything wrong with that. And Holster had a big mouth.
Will smiled at Bitty as he passed the kitchen, but kept going through the living room when he didn’t see Nursey. His stomach was growling. He had work to do. He had a dozen reasons to put off seeing Nursey for a while. But he’d already faced a dragon today. If Nursey was still pissed at him, it was best to get this over with.
The rest he would continue to not think about.
The door to their room was closed, ATCQ just audible through the wood.
Will swallowed dryly and glanced around, although no one was there to see him like this, afraid like this. Nurse should not be upset and pretending that he wasn’t. He shouldn’t have to. But Will wasn’t going to force it either, at least unless he got stupid and lost his temper, which was only a matter of time.
He hadn’t even gotten him a birthday card. He didn’t have to call it a Valentine. He could have said it was for Nursey’s birthday and written it on a plain piece of paper and it would probably be in that drawer right now, and Will would be treasure too.
That was not the best thing to be thinking as he opened the door and walked in.
Nurse was in the chair he’d taken such a dramatic picture of an hour before, his back to the door, typing something on his laptop. He didn’t slow or stop immediately, so Will hid a sigh and carefully shut the door behind him.
He shivered, suddenly about ten degrees hotter than he’d been from just walking inside the Haus, and dropped his bag so he could remove his sweatshirt.
Nursey tipped his head to the side, aware of Will, then, even if apparently they were back to how they’d been that morning.
Will nodded and kicked off his shoes to wriggle his chilled toes in one of the rugs Nursey’s mom had sent to cover the floor. She was worried about the cracks and holes in the wood, as if the coin wasn’t still where it had landed and their fate wasn’t already sealed.
Maybe Will should take some of those magic courses, try to fit them into his schedule somehow. Then he could deal with the Haus better, take care of it better. Maybe he ought to read that book too, not Moreau’s, but the one Moreau had mentioned. Just in case Nursey did want a boy someday—a dragon’s boy. Nursey already did want boys. Regular boys. Males. Shit. Nursey was pan. There.
This time Will did sigh, confused and a pining fool, the usual.
He stripped out of his sweatshirt in front of the closet, shivering when his T-shirt rode up, but he’d adjust to the warmer temperature quickly, and his sweatshirt smelled like anxious sweat to his nose, so who knew what it stank like to Nursey.
He pulled out a clean—semi-clean—flannel and slipped that on before he glanced over.
Nursey was still looking at his laptop screen. Not that Will would have expected him to try to sneak a peek at him getting dressed. Nursey wasn’t creepy. But if anything Moreau had said were ever going to be true, then he’d kind of hoped Nursey would want to see his body. What else did Will have to offer?
Guarding a door, apparently. Whatever that meant.
Will was going to have a breakdown soon, he could feel it. He might be able to put it off, maybe until finals when no one would notice, but he was definitely going to have to find a pillow and scream into it where no roommates could hear him.
Eo-jin Moreau could eat a dick.
Just not Will’s.
Will choked on a hysterical little laugh and Nursey twitched without turning around.
Fine. It was better that he ignore Will right now anyway.
Will turned from him, planning to grab a textbook from his bag and scrounge for food downstairs until he found the brown bag from that morning. He made a face, then tossed it to the desk and quickly looked away.
“Muffin,” he said shortly, and got hot with embarrassment to think about carrying that around all day.
Nursey reached for the bag. Will heard it crinkle. Mad at him or not, Nursey would probably eat it, and then stow the wrapper somewhere until Will had to find him and go through his collection and painstakingly discuss what was and what was not treasure, and how anything that molds fell into the latter category. Will would get him more muffins. Nursey didn’t need to keep each paper cup as if it was going to be the last one.
“Thanks, man,” Nursey broke the quiet first, with a mouth full of maple and brown sugar from the sound of it. “Was thinking about food.”
Will swung around in time to receive a soft smile.
Nursey had muffin crumbs on his striped sweater, the colors of which were bright and should have looked ridiculous on someone who seemed gilded in the right light, but weren’t. He’d pulled a knitted beanie over most of his hair, because though he heated the room with his presence, he said his human body could never quite be warm enough in the winter and fall. Thin trails of white smoke disappeared into the air above him.
Nursey had crumbs at the corner of his mouth too.
Will was pretty sure he would die for him.
No big deal. No reason to panic. Nothing he hadn’t known before. Nothing he hadn’t accepted before agreeing to live here.
Nurse swept his tongue along his bottom lip, to get the crumbs, or so Will thought until Nursey inhaled. Then he blinked green eyes that had no business being that pretty and drew his eyebrows together. He focused on Will’s face—the side of Will’s face that was currently purple—then frowned before turning back to his laptop.
“School activities page says the lecture you went to was by a dragon,” Nurse said casually, not quite asking. “Cool cool. That’s cool. Hey, so, you missed dinner. Wanna go off campus and get something?” If the number of times Nursey said ‘cool’ wasn’t a tip off that he was anxious, his careful pause before he went on would have been. “I didn’t get dinner either. So it’d be my treat.”
He didn’t look up, but at least he wasn’t pretending to type anymore.
Nurse would be smug if Will let him feed him. On the other hand, if Nurse was still pissed at him, this would help. And Will was starving.
“Fine,” he allowed, and didn’t think his begrudging tone fooled Nurse one bit. “But I pay the tip.”
“Just the tip, huh, Dex?” Nurse asked, and snort-laughed at his own joke like a loser. His shoulders were actually shaking he thought it was so funny.
Will’s heart roared in his ears. It was bad enough wanting to date him, to be the boyfriend of someone who was that much of a dweeb, but now he couldn’t help but think, he could be his boy. He could make Nursey do that all the time.
He crossed his arms, but he could hear the fondness in his voice. “You’re such a child.”
Nurse just snorted again. “Only one of us here is old enough to order alcohol, William.”
“Whatever, dumbass.” Will hesitated, then went to get his shoes. He sat, carefully, respectfully, on the corner of Nursey’s bed since he had no other place to sit.
Nursey’s eyes followed him. His lips curved up the tiniest bit, then more when Will stayed there. “I buy you dinner,” Nurse said again, gaze lit up and bright. Not even “Poindexter Pride” as he liked to call it was going to take away his good mood now. “You can pay the tip and you have to try something new from the menu. Something you haven’t had before. Ooh and we have to get dessert.”
Will rolled his eyes despite the smile on his face. “Chow, too?”
For one heartbeat, Nursey’s grin seemed to freeze, and then he was nodding. “Chyeah. Of course.”
“Or not,” Will said immediately, and froze too. He widened his eyes, glanced away, then glanced back. “I think he’s with Caitlin, I mean.”
“Yeah, yeah. That’s cool too.” Nursey stared down at his keyboard. “If you’d rather not go out, that’s chill. I’m not about making you uncomfortable, it’s just—”
“A dragon thing,” Will finished for him, on an exhale. He squinted at his rough human hands. “Can I ask you something?” His chest felt tight. “If I stopped… you know… being so difficult—”
Nursey scoffed, turned it into a cough.
Will flicked a pissed off look in his direction without actually meeting his eyes. “If I stopped being stubborn and let you spoil me—” Oh God, he was breathless “—would I be enough like the others that I could be treasure too? Or is that I’m just not and never could be?”
The question hung there without even a whisper to banish it.
“Yeah,” Will agreed as if Nursey had answered—because he had—and got up. “I’m gonna go help Bitty in the kitchen. Maybe I’ll get his dibs next year and then I’ll be out of your hair.”
“I didn’t expect you to last this long.” Nursey stopped him without even trying. He tipped his chin up, challenging, but he spoke quietly.
“Did your plan to drive me out include buying me dinner?” Will demanded reflexively, although all he wanted to do now was go somewhere and mope over the fact that all his clothes smelled a little smoky now and it didn’t even bother him.
“Plan?” Nursey echoed. “Whatever I joked about, I was planning on you leaving, not me kicking you out. And anyway—” Nursey curled his hands over his knees, digging his dark nails into his jeans “—Dragons don’t let go.”
Any other time, Nursey would have been the first one to tell Will that blanket statements about an entire group of people were not always true. But this one felt true, in the same way that dragons said boy to mean more than boys, and dragons to mean not always dragons.
Dragon as an idea. Or something like that. And Nursey, even though he had his issues with what he was expected to be, was telling Will he was very dragon.
Will sank back down to the bed. Nursey didn’t like to talk about that, and Will was, in Shitty’s words, honored at being so trusted.
“So,” Will began, his throat suddenly dry enough to make his voice break. Nursey thankfully didn’t laugh. “The guest lecturer tonight mentioned books I ought to read—not fiction, don’t start in again. Um,” he continued, when at least Nursey managed a slight smile. “Non-fiction, I think. Being history.” He didn’t think he imagined the tension in Nursey’s posture. “Dragon history. By someone named Jones? You know them?”
“Because all dragons know each other?” Nursey wondered, coolly mocking.
Will held up a hand. ‘One, you said you knew most dragons your age in the country, and two, I meant his books.”
Nursey huffed, not pleased but not mad. “Yeah. They’re kind of poetic, actually. Though history isn’t my thing.”
Will glanced over again. “What about his book on dragons? Would you say it’s accurate?”
Nursey paused, clearly thinking over how to answer.
Will narrowed his eyes. “I know I’m a dick sometimes, but do you really think I’m still that guy I was when I first got here?”
“What?” Nursey huffed again, a perfect gray circle that rose to the ceiling. “No. I wouldn’t have allowed you to stay here if you were.” The absolute confidence in his ability to do that was telling. Will shivered. Nursey shuttered his gaze. “Now we’re roommates.”
“Oh my God they were roommates,” Will quoted automatically, then shook his head and didn’t allow himself to get distracted by Nursey’s dumb memes. “I guess I’m interested because the, uh, the lecture tonight made me think about some things.”
Nursey closed the laptop with a tight, sudden movement, then seemed to regret the music being gone. “Mmm? That’s good. You shouldn’t count on other people to educate you, so. Yeah. Good.”
“Moreau was the professor’s name.” Will frowned, but pressed on. “It was weird. For a second, I thought he was into me. Stupid, right?”
The room seemed to tilt. Will blinked away the dizziness and decided he was hungrier than he’d thought.
“The lecturer,” Nursey repeated slowly. “A dragon. Was into you. Was he—?” Nursey’s voice sounded both far away and deeper, warmer. “Did you like him?”
“He wasn’t really into me, Nurse. Fuck.” Will raised his head to find himself being watched covertly. “Of course he wasn’t. Not like that.”
A few more smoke rings gradually made their way to the ceiling, slowly lightening in color as Nursey’s breathing slowed down. “Like what?”
“Me, I mean. Not just the hockey ass.” Will sighed noisily. “Don’t laugh.”
“I’m not,” Nursey assured him quickly. “I wouldn’t, Will, you know that.”
Will tugged at the cuff of his flannel, then scowled at it. “I don’t know why I care.” Will was a liar. “He kind of tried, though? To pick me up. It was… weird, because I know dragons aren’t like that, but he was saying they are, and he said what a boy I would make. And I didn’t know what that was. So he told me. I thought maybe a book by someone else would be a better source.”
“What.” The flat question carried through the room before Nursey could even attempt to pretend he wasn’t pissed. “Did he touch you? I mean, hurt you? Will, just because he’s dragon doesn’t mean he gets to pull that possessive shit on you—”
“Nurse.” Will made sure to meet those green eyes. “Derek. Chill.”
“You aren’t funny,” Nursey told him immediately. “This isn’t funny. I don’t know what he told you, but he had no right to take something like that and use it to make you feel bad.”
“He didn’t. Well, yeah, he did. But….” Will shook his head. “It doesn’t matter. I guess I’m just curious about it. Not with him, though. Not ever. It’s already going to be trouble the day I try to talk to my parents about this, no need to bring in Professor Douchebag.”
Nursey took several deliberate breaths. His hands were still clenched in his lap. He gave Will another sideways look. “You would make a terrible dragon’s boy. You wouldn’t like it at all. Putting up with dragon stuff all the time.”
“Nurse.” Will stopped to stare at him, then gestured at his everything. “I literally already do that. Every day. All the time.”
“True.” Nursey was puffing like a volcano now. “But also… also….” Now he just looked cagey. “You don’t even know the extent of it, William.”
“There’s more?” Will frowned suspiciously, thinking of the constant warm touches and the way Nursey whispered mine whenever he picked up a notebook or ate a piece of Bitty’s pie. “Are you fucking with me?
Nursey slowly shook his head. “Trust me. The Poindexter Pride? You’d hate it.”
There was more than Nursey scratching his dark nails gently at Will’s nape, and more than Nursey bouncing with glee when Will accepted a Solo cup from his hands, and more than Nursey’s eyes lighting up when Will brought his latte to their table at Annie’s and plopped down into the seat across from him?
“Have you wanted to do more?” Will asked without thinking. “Have you been protecting me from it?”
Nursey flailed backward and nearly fell out of the chair.
Will was up and reaching to catch him before Nursey righted himself. He stared at Will with glassy, shocked eyes, then swung his gaze away. “Bro,” he chided lightly. “I warned you about this before you moved in. Dragons get like this. That’s all it is. Maybe I’m keeping a little bit back, but that’s ‘cause I know how annoying it is. I’m not protecting you. You’re not—we’re not like that.”
“Oh.” Will was going to die of mortification before the broken heart killed him. That was something. He was such an idiot. He and Nurse were friends, but not friends like that, certainly not anything else. Nursey wasn’t going to go out of his way to spare Will’s feelings. He was doing what he would do for any human in his space. He’d probably done this back at his private school too.
“Will,” Nursey said suddenly, his tone urgent.
Will shook his head. “No, I mean, yeah. Of course. I can’t believe I even halfway implied it. That Moreau guy didn’t want me and he’s not close to what you are.” Will ought to finish standing up, then walk out the door. But he was frozen. All those concerns from his parents about Beings seducing him. All the jokes in high school about the fairies that went to Samwell. Will was still Will, and Derek was so out of his league Will had to throw a fit to even end up in the same room as him.
The thing was, Will knew the Haus by-laws. They were the kind of thing he had to know, even if he hadn’t seen them written on walls next to appliances he’d been fixing. And now he knew dragons, or he knew enough to know that Will had needed to live in the Haus, and Nursey had been there, standing right next to him. Will was his friend, Will had needed to stay, and Nursey’s magic had made that coin do that, probably without Nursey’s conscious decision.
“You should kick me out,” Will announced, and bit his lip to let the sting clear his head. His voice didn’t shake. “Derek, kick me out. This is your room and I have no place here.”
“Dex.” He thought Nursey was standing up, but Will wasn’t ready to look at him. “Will, what—what are you saying? You can’t just go.”
“Do you remember Freshmen year? Winter Screw?” Will slowly straightened up. “Ransom set me up with a fairy. A boy. I’d never even been out on a date with a boy, and never talked to any Beings but you and an elf in one of my classes. He was really pretty.” Will had blushed and stammered all over the place. “And he said I was shiny. Then you got there, with your date.” Will didn’t have a single memory of Nursey’s date, but he remembered Nursey walking in, and finding it hard to breathe when Nursey had looked at Will on the dancefloor with the fairy. “And he just… left. Whispered, “That’s too bad. You were cute.” and left.”
“I’m sorry,” Nursey whispered, which at least got Will to look at him.
“Why would you be sorry? It’s not your fault you’re gorgeous.” Will frowned hard. “Don’t be stupid. You can’t help your face any more than I can help mine.”
“That’s not why he left, asshole,” Nursey answered, voice tight.
Will snapped at him. “I’m trying to talk about my feelings for once in my life, dickwad. Let me do it.”
For a moment, Nurse’s eyes were like flinty jade. “You’re not leaving,” he announced, and then a look of pure horror crossed his face.
Will’s heart thumped against his ribs. “This is what I mean.” He pushed the hope down. “He said I wanted so hard to be treasure that he could feel it and had to respond to it. You shouldn’t have to deal with that.” Yesterday, Will would have denied all this. “I must be irritating. Sorry.”
“He wanted to call you treasure?” The air around Nursey seemed heavier. Hazier. “What did he do to earn that? Who is he to walk in and call you that and not even approach you with respect?” Nursey took a long, shuddering breath. “The smell of him was on your clothes when you came in here. But your scent wasn’t aroused. You didn’t want someone to touch you. Was it that bad?” Nursey softened his tone, but only barely. “Did you hate having another dragon’s interest? Did he scare you?”
“Not scared.” Will shook his head. “Disappointed. And creeped out, a little. He was rude and kind of, I don’t know, inappropriate. Plus he was older and adult. Which, I am, but he was like, an adult-adult. Sophisticated. Like you when you aren’t falling on your face.”
“Cold, Dex,” Nursey interrupted.
“Mostly I was confused.” Will continued with a forced shrug. None of this changed anything. “So I’ll read the book, and I’ll stay out of your way, and I’ll—” he suppressed the anxiety and tried not to sound hysterical “—figure something out. Give you space, time, air, whatever you need….” The familiar words had him trailing off until he realized where he’d heard them before. He looked sharply at Nursey. “Did you say another dragon’s interest?”
Nursey’s eyes were huge. “Um,” he said.
“This is my sister,” Nursey appeared back onscreen, trying not to look nervous while his sister peered curiously at Will. He and Nurse had Skyped four more times after that first times. Nursey claimed he was bored. Will told him no one else in the house was up that late for him to talk to. He figured Nursey couldn’t sniff out lies—or insane amounts of anticipation—through the computer.
Nursey’s sister glanced at her brother and then back to Will.
“Hello,” Will greeted her uncertainly, wishing he’d cut his hair or put on a better shirt before meeting someone in Nursey’s family.
“She has to go now,” Nursey added a moment later, as if his sister hadn’t just gotten there.
“Hey,” she protested, older than Nursey and equally beautiful, but let herself be dragged away.
“Sorry about that.” Nursey came back, breathing hard and flushed. “Sisters. I tried to tell her this was mine.”
“Sisters,” Will agreed, wondering why anyone as wealthy as a family of dragons would worry about sharing a computer.
“Mine,” Nursey said once more, glaring first toward where his sister had been, and then fixing Will with an assessing, pleased look. “Is that actual color in your pasty white cheeks?”
“Rouge,” Will answered flatly, warm inside, and sat on his hands to keep from getting fingerprints on his computer screen.
“You would make such a good boy, Dex.” It streamed out of Nursey in a rush. He took a step forward and then seemed to stop himself. “It’s just—I already—but you’re so protective and cranky and insistent. Which is just code for needy. Like, in a good way, like, you worry and you can’t even hide it because of that face. You fix things because that’s what you grew up with, but you also because you care. And you worry… I already said that. But you do. You worry too much about everything.”
“Like you don’t have anxiety too,” Will argued faintly, still processing.
“I am chill as fuck,” Nursey countered, with a tic in his jaw.
Will waved distractedly to the laptop on the desk. “That was your Calm Down music. You play that when you’re upset.”
Nursey narrowed his eyes. Will stared back. Neither of them said anything.
Which was good, because Will was in shock.
“You said I’d be a terrible dragon’s boy,” he answered at last.
Nursey swept his gaze over Will’s face, then seemed to find the wall interesting. “For the wrong dragon, you would be.” Nursey was using the voice he talked to his mom with, the gentle, real one that not even Will had ever mocked him for. “But for a strong one you’d—ah, don’t get mad, but there’s like this famous story among dragons about an ancient boy and his dragon, that’s kind of like a fairy tale is for humans, and that’s you, man. You get to fight and you get to take care of stuff, and you get a dragon to, you know, love you. Which is a serious thing and not for everybody. We’re kind of intense, or so people say.”
“The dragon provides and the human protects.” Will recalled Moreau’s words. “I can provide for myself.”
“Well, I can protect myself.” The air started to get hot again. Nursey glared. “I didn’t ask you to do that.” He gestured at Will’s face. “You went after that Yale piece of shit last night, didn’t you?”
The one who had hassled Nursey all during the game. Being too rough, saying things, with the rest of his team watching and not doing a damn thing to stop him. Hockey was hockey, but that was personal. Will had thought about it, and considered the next two years of these games, and made a decision. Now the next time Yale played Samwell they’d know what was waiting for them.
“Yeah,” Will said simply.
“You were that mad?” Nursey worked his jaw and the room went hazy.
“No,” Will explained impatiently. “I wasn’t mad. If I was mad, I would have lost that fight. I would have lost us the game. I waited until I wasn’t. Then I did something about it. Nobody gets to treat you like that. They can try to win. They can come at you for that hipster beanie you love so much. But they don’t come near you for this in the one place where you aren’t allowed to do anything about it. Not if I’m there. He knows it now, and so does his team.”
Nursey stared at him for another few moments. “That’s not any better,” he finally answered, the words slow and hot. “Look at you. You’re going to have those bruises for weeks. And for something I didn’t ask you to do. You think I do this and I can’t defend myself?”
“Yeah,” Will said again, and squared his shoulders. “I think you can’t. It would look worse for you if you did. But I’m just a human, so I can.”
“Just a human.” Nursey snorted.
“Human.” Will wondered if he was breathing hard, or if they both were. “Which means I’m not your equal and I won’t ever be.” He had spent his entire Freshman year pretending to be mad about that, and his Sophomore year confused about why it still wasn’t enough.
“Will, don’t be stupid, of course you’re—“
Will cut him off. “It means you’re the dragon.” He paused, shaking down to his feet but refusing to look away. “And I’m the boy.”
Nursey took a breath. “Dex,” he said. “Will. I—only powerful dragons can take care of a human.”
Will squinted. “I thought I’d be taking care of you.”
Nursey gaped at him, then snapped his mouth closed. He stared at Will without blinking. “You want to—? That’s for legendary dragons. That’s… that’s a fairy tale, Will. I’m not from a fairy tale. I play hockey. I’m part human. What if I mess it up?”
“But you want that.” Will’s heart was going to burst but he would care about that later. “Nurse,” he said. “Derek. All I have to do is ask, right?”
Nursey’s eyes were shining. Luminous, that was the word. He was so soft. Will played hockey and baked and that was the only gentle thing about him. He didn’t feel anything but rough inside, shaky and restless. “Dex,” Nursey kept saying, the way he whispered it when he was high and thought no one else could hear him.
“I’m not creative. I make you mad. And I’m not much to look at.” Will still wasn’t sure this was real. It didn’t feel like magic, except for how warm he was, and how the sounds from the rest of the Haus had disappeared.
“Shut up.” Had being near Derek always felt this electric? Will was burning up.
“No, really,” Will insisted without tearing his gaze from Nursey’s face. “Just because I want this and you want a boy doesn’t mean you should settle for me.”
Nursey lowered his head and his expression went fierce. “That’s my treasure you’re talking about, Poindexter.”
Will growled at him. “You don’t have to say it now. I know you don’t mean it.”
“You’re Dex!” Nursey hissed at him, miming an explosion with his hands. “You’re a mad annoying white boy, straight boy human, until you weren’t anymore. Well,” he paused to breathe. “You’re still white. And human.” He took another breath. “And you’re not Being-bait like Rans or Chris, but you might as well be. Some dragon is here for one day and he thinks he can talk to you. Fairies touching you. Weres marking—” Nursey cut himself off with a strangled sound.
Will was confused again. “Are dragons not supposed to talk to me?”
Derek glared at him, wounded, and made a noise. More like a mumble.
Will shook his head. “You don’t have to—”
“This beyond antiquated and I know that power imbalance is kind of hard to explain away, except that you have to understand that a dragon will do anything for their treasure, okay? So don’t freak out.” Nursey sighed, final and sad. “I don’t want to be that kind of possessive old dragon who talks this way, but…. But you’re mine? That is, like, I don’t own you. You are a free and proud Poindexter, but you’re also mine.” Derek’s voice got softer and softer as he went on. “Don’t get mad. It’s just a dragon thing.”
Just a dragon thing. A drop of sweat trailed down Will’s back beneath his shirt. He shivered.
“I tried not to feel like this. Don’t freak out at that either.” Nursey stared at him earnestly. “I wanted you. I still want you. But I’m not supposed to feel like this about another person, I don’t care how much my mom says it’s normal. It’s like everything is fine, okay, I’m good, except if I don’t know where you are I don’t like it. It’s like anxiety but not. You could be in Maine and I can deal with it, I just need to know where you are. You want something and I’m ready to give it to you before I even realize I’m doing it. And I… and I want people to know. I want you to know. That’s really what I want. For you to know, and for that to make you happy and not terrified or weirded out. Which, you could be still. I would respect that. I’d get it. I weirded out myself out with it too. Even having the little things made that not-anxious feeling settle.”
“You lied to me,” was Will’s first thought, although about this, at least, Nursey hadn’t actually lied. This was a dragon thing. Little things, he said. None of that had felt little to Will.
“What was I supposed to say?” Nursey studied Will’s shoulder. “You don’t just tell a human they’re yours. That they are the sort of boy dragons write stories about, or how cool it is that they can be so direct and honest—even when you’re being pigheaded and are completely wrong, by the way.”
Will was probably red down to his navel. “You could have tried the boyfriends thing.”
That got Nursey’s eyes back on him. “I passed that a while ago,” he admitted, with a guilty little twitch.
“Oh my God!” Will shouted, and absently hoped Chowder really was out with Farmer and that everyone downstairs would assume this was one of their usual rounds of bickering.
“You barely let me buy you food,” Nursey argued.
This time, Will mumbled. “I didn’t want you to know that I like it. And I’m not a charity case,” he added, louder.
“You like it,” Nursey repeated back to him, in a strangely blank voice.
“I like everything,” Will snapped, and then stepped backwards to rest his weight against the wall. He’d held onto that for over two years and he was tired. “I like all of it. It’s weird how much I like it, all right? I worry about that too, or I did, until some asshole professor decides to tell me he wants to spoil me and I instantly thought of—” Will shut his mouth.
“Dex.” Nursey tripped over his feet, or maybe nothing, and landed with his arms on the wall on either side of Will. “Oh shit, sorry,” he whispered, then, “What did you think?”
Will screwed his eyes shut. “All those things you do. The dragon things. And how much I like them.”
He could hear Nursey’s soft inhales, feel the heat pressing in. “That’s a lot, Dex.”
Will opened his eyes and caught his breath at how close Nursey was. “You said there was more.”
“Oh shit,” Nursey whispered again. He wet his mouth, blatantly checking Will’s scent, and whatever he found turned his pupils to slivers. Dragon’s eyes. Will shuddered and closed his eyes again. His lips parted. “You’re into it,” Nursey marveled, his voice hoarse.
“You couldn’t tell that already?” Dex demanded gruffly.
“It’s really not that specific,” Nursey explained, distracted with smelling Will, a lot. Will’s semi-dirty laundry didn’t seem to bother him. “It’s… its embarrassing, what I want to do with you. How much I want people to know. The things I think.”
Will fisted a hand in Nursey’s sweater. “Yeah?” A dry rasp was all he could manage.
He wondered if Nursey’s eyes were closed too. “I want to call you treasure without thinking it will scare you.” Maybe Derek understood from Will’s heavy breathing that Will was not scared. “I want to touch you without an excuse. In front of people. I could hold your hand or have my arms around you. I just… need to… and for people to see it. So they know. That’s too much. That’s so much, Will.”
Will gave a minute shake of his head. “Go on. Please.”
Nursey inhaled sharply at the please. “Call you mine.”
“Hashtag,” Will answered, voice uneven when Nursey put one hand on his hip.
“I want to get waffles more so I can watch you eat whipped cream—shut up, I know it’s—”
“I like knowing I’ve made you happy.” Will was twenty years old, but close to squirming. The warm, incredulous laugh from Nursey was worth it.
“I don’t like some dragon bothering you.” Nursey put his other hand on Will, slow, like he was waiting for Will to change his mind. “I don’t like you fighting. That Yale dick put a mark on you and seeing it makes it harder to feel settled. I can’t settle, Will. You’re hurt, and I don’t like it, but also I just don’t want to see marks on you that aren’t freckles or blushes or—sorry, but—marks I put there. I want to come on your face over those bruises, and in your mouth and all over you. Fuck, Dex, I want you everywhere. That’s what I mean. It’s too much. It’s messed up and you’ll hate it and you’ll leave.”
He shivered under Will’s hand.
“I don’t have a lot of experience, dating and, uh, with sex,” Will confessed shakily. “But that sounds good to me.” His skin was on fire. His blood was pounding. “Do you think I’ll like that? The, uh, come thing?”
Nursey pulled back, which was irritating, so Will opened his eyes to glare at him.
“How would I know?” Nursey didn’t whine, but it was close. “I don’t exactly have a lot of experience either. They’re weird dragon fantasies and urges, and I could hardly ask anyone if I could come on their face.”
He could have asked plenty of people that. “You just want me to tell you how attractive you are.” Will let go of Nursey’s sweater.
Nursey picked up his hand and put it back. “You just want me to tell you that you’re the only one I call mine.”
Will stared at him, flushed and sweating.
Nursey definitely whined. “I want to touch you and I want to feed you. I want to show you off but we can’t go out like this. Shit, this is happening. This is really happening. You want this. It’s not clingy or creepy?”
Will shook his head. Like he had any idea. “Maybe. But it’s what I—” He went still, although his heartbeat felt frantic. “Oh.” He frowned as if that would make everything hurt less. “Nurse. What if you only want this because I was desperate enough to need it?” That explained everything. “You wanted a boy and ended up on a team with a sad loser who wanted to—” Will couldn’t actually say be special out loud.
“Yo,” Derek cut him off, using one of the phrases he knew got Will’s attention because of all its false chill. “Do you really think I don’t know the difference between what I want and what you need? Because let me tell you, Poindexter, I didn’t spend the first three and a half months of knowing you pissed off at liking you at all, and then the next year feeling weird at how much I enjoy getting your attention solely on me, just for you to decide this all snuck up on me.”
Will swallowed. “That isn’t what I meant.”
“So you were just shit-talking my treasure?” Nursey tipped his head to one side, dragged his tongue along his bottom lip in a way that was cocky and hot. “You’re saying my taste is in question?”
“You’re nuts,” Will told him firmly. “And I’ve already mentioned that beanie.” But he waited, and breathed, and his heart seemed to slow for the first time in years. “I just want you to be good. That’s really what this is, right? That’s what he said. I have to know you’re okay.”
He got dizzy again, or the room moved.
Nursey didn’t trip this time, or even sway. “Yeeeaah, how about you don’t mention that guy again right now? Like, I’m not jealous, just so you know. I just don’t like how he upset you.” He attempted to look nonchalant, then clenched his hands. “I’m not possessive. I’m concerned.” He exhaled, a small puff of black smoke that did things to Will’s insides with the truth it revealed. “And you’re mine,” Nursey added, in a small, slightly ashamed voice.
“Yes,” Will agreed, an easy, feather-light, terrifying sigh of a word.
Nursey’s eyes went wide.
Will stared at him, more afraid than he’d been when arguing with a strange dragon, or in June in Maine with Nursey not talking to him, or standing outside this door a few minutes ago.
“My Dex?” Nursey asked, with a smile building on his face that he couldn’t wipe away. “I mean, yeah. That’s awesome. That’s… can I touch you? I’m not gonna presume that I just can whenever. I am not about that. Um, we could go out, if you want. I could feed you. Will. You’re only for me. That’s…. Will, that’s….”
Will would have liked to tell him to forget about food, but his stomach would kill him. “We could order in?” he suggested, as if Nursey’s hands weren’t back on him, under his shirt, petting his skin. Will couldn’t have stopped his shivers if he’d wanted to.
Nursey buried his face in Will’s shoulder. “Pizza in my bed.” He tightened his hold. “I don’t need to handfeed you, but if I did… like, just once, that’s not too bad, right?”
“You’re a giant nerd,” Will told him seriously, as if he wasn’t trying not to moan. “The biggest nerd ever. And I’m so into it, it’s sad. Please do not accidentally spill pizza everywhere.”
Nursey raised his head. “I also want to kiss you, and even though I don’t like you hurt, there’s something about you with a split lip that, um, makes me need to get close to you.”
“Mad at me and horny,” Will realized, with a strange feeling of pride. “You do love me.”
“Chyeah,” Nursey agreed, because he was the worst, but then kissed him, softly, carefully, once and then again.
The room shook. Or that was the Haus, the floor trembling beneath them.
Nursey squashed Will in his effort to stay on his feet. Downstairs, someone, Chowder maybe, started yelling about earthquakes.
“Oh yeah,” Nursey commented, in a tone that went from surprised to smug in about a second. “Having a boy makes a dragon powerful. I forgot. Maybe that’s what the stories actually mean when they say it’s for the strong. I’ve never shaken a whole house before. Sick.”
“You leveled up?” Will blinked, dazed and aroused in a way that would probably alarm him later. “Nice. How does that work?”
The shrug from Nursey wasn’t really a surprise. “It’s got something to do with your need. I don’t actually know. It’s not like we all know everything.”
“Fair.” Will poked his bottom lip with his tongue and considered the situation. “Will it happen again if I kiss you?”
Nursey’s gaze was so soft. “Maybe. I’m new at this.”
“We could do something else?” Will suggested, itching to touch Nursey’s face but still not quite daring. “Go slow?” Two years was slow enough already, and he had a feeling Nursey agreed. Will waited for the nerves in his stomach to settle, and thought he understood what Derek had been trying to tell him about his need. “Or we could warn the team via the chat and then make out, and after I could try to blow you?”
Nursey possibly hadn’t expected Will to be that open that fast. Neither had Will. But when Nursey pulled out his phone and began to type, Will reached for his sweater and carefully, stupidly, tugged him closer.
He wondered if he ought to say “Mine” or something similar. If he could be soft and not too big or too rough.
But in the end he blushed and said nothing and it didn’t matter. He put his hand to Nursey’s jaw, and slid it down to his neck to cover the scales he couldn’t feel, then moved it back up to brush his fingers over Nursey’s mouth.
Nursey looked up, looked at him, and whatever he saw made his eyes light up, made him stand tall and proud, with a shadow of something great behind him.
The Haus shook again, and Derek blinked in surprise, and Will… Will was on fire.
The dragon became their protector, as the village itself became the village of the sunset dragon. They had saved him and most importantly, they had given him his boy, the brave, beautiful peasant boy who had refused a fortune in order to save the dragon’s life and to whom the dragon gave its love instead, which was a gift the boy could accept. He came to live with the dragon in his lonely cave and served him well until the end of his days. Jones, Philbert. The Dragons Who Vanished
If this Haus is a rockin’ don’t come a knockin’ #myboywill #helovesme #worththefines #thistreasure Nurse, Derek M.