It’s in freshman year. The whole thing with Bruce Jenner actually being a girl and ‘Call Me Caitlin’ and all that comes out. Shitty starts talking about how brave it was, and how it blazes a path for other transgender people.
It’s not something Dex has come across. As usual, he puts his foot in it.
“But he’s a guy. How can he just suddenly be a girl now?” He asks.
The whole table goes silent. Nursey and Shitty snap their heads around to look at him, their faces scowling as if he’s said something wrong. He just doesn’t understand.
He gets nothing short of an impassioned lecture that leaves him feeling attacked, belittled, and to be completely honest, frightened.
Because he realised something, in the midst of the hellfire raining on his soul for his ignorance, and he stops listening, his eyes going wide and his mind going blank, and everything comes together in his mind to go:
Shit. That’s me. I’m a Bruce, a Caitlin, whatever. I’m not a guy.
Dex does what he does best: attacks them back, spouting all the shit that makes them think he’s one of Them, the Evil Republicans, and runs.
No one follows him to the comp sci lab, and then back to his dorm, then out to the lake, then as far from campus as he can walk because he realises he can’t work, his roommate is in, and the lake is full of people and he needs to be alone to panic.
He’s not male.
But how can that be? He’s a guy. He was born a guy, he’s 100% sure of that. He can’t be a girl. It’s not possible.
Except, maybe it is.
He needs to do more research, but the thought troubles him constantly after that point.
Dex is good at research. He’s good at hiding, and he hides from Nursey, Shitty, the hockey team the best he can outside practice. Chowder seeks him out first, mostly because they’re in the same comp sci class, and he asks Dex to talk to him, why he’s avoiding them.
Dex shrugs him off, but promises to integrate more. He tries, at least. There is still tension between him and Nursey, but he does sheepishly apologise to Shitty. Shitty forgives him, knows how it is sometimes in these smaller towns, and that he doesn’t blame Dex for not knowing, but to never say anything like it again.
He can’t find the words to say anything about it to Nursey.
He doesn’t want to talk about it. Wishes he could forget, because now it’s always there. Constantly. He notices things he just passed off as habits he has, and starts wondering why he does them.
The vague unease of using the men’s bathroom, like he’s not meant to be there. He links it back to one time his brother snuck into the girl’s restroom, and got grounded for a week and an extended lecture about the right thing to do, which Dex was forced to listen to as well in case he got any ideas.
The way he’s always the fastest to shower. He doesn’t really look at himself, either, or talk about his body, like some of the others do. Ransom and Holster – many of the guys, actually – will just walk around without a towel with unerring frequency.
Dex changes as fast as he is able. He has it down to an art. Chowder laughs and asks him if he’s ever just chilled in a bath or whatever.
He doesn’t even remember swimming all the much, let alone subjecting himself to his own naked body, always a sense of malaise and disassociation whenever he did.
Dysphoria, the internet told him. Has he ever wished his body was different, not necessarily thinner or more muscular, but more… feminine. More shapely. Has he ever imagined himself in girl’s clothing. Has he ever just imagined himself as a girl?
He doesn’t think he’s let himself, but then he goes home at winter break and stumbles upon photo albums and finds ones of him in dresses, and it just feels more normal than the ones where it’s so obvious he’s a guy. When his mum catches him looking and laughs, says he always enjoyed playing with his sisters more than his brother, happy to join in on their games.
But he rejects it still. It’s impossible. He likes hockey, he likes fixing things. Always thought if he didn’t go to Samwell he’d try get work in a mechanic shop. He loves coding, and all those things are pretty manly, right?
He practically hears Shitty lecturing him, and he shuts off that line of thought. It still pops up a lot. He starts disliking his body more, the whole thing confusing him, happy for the cold weather meaning he can just cover up in thick sweaters and coats and walk snow lined streets.
It’s when, on one of these walks, he meets one of his old school friends, what might have been his best friend, until Dex realised that his feelings really weren’t just friendly.
He recalls being called gay, a pansy. He remembers that sounding wrong, because he wasn’t gay, he just liked guys, and he never really acted on it, anyway. It’s not like he’d wanted a relationship, he’d known it even then, would rather work hard and get out of Maine.
He has to work the next day, but all he wants to do is curl up in bed and forget. Forget that he ever realised anything, forget that he ever made any comments, wishes for nothing more than being able to go back to that moment and stuff a wedge of pie in his mouth so he couldn’t fuck up his life like he had.
He ignores texts to the group chat, texts to him alone, from Chowder, from Nursey. He does his best to ignore them, because it is so tied up in Samwell and they are all Samwell to him and he just can’t cope.
Because in his internet forays, he finds horror stories of people being ostracised, tortured, killed. No one gets it. He finds out how people transition, but it takes years, and he idyllically plans on moving to a new city far away, with a new name and a new body and a new life, where no one would follow him, until he was happily there.
He doesn’t want to want to be a girl. He wants to be a guy, and happy about that. The former, he is, physically, at least.
The latter, he is not.
Nursey rings him, and he happens to be in the same room as his sister at the time, and she picks it up even as he hisses at her, thinks he shouldn’t have brought the damn thing downstairs with him, but he’d been messing around on a game and then he’d put it down for three seconds to wash up and then-
“Dude, you’re avoiding me.” Nursey accuses. He’s right, of course.
Dex wants to hang up. Instead:
“No I’m not. I’m busy working.” He replies, and gets a sigh in return.
“Chill, Poindexter. Chowder was getting on my case, saying he couldn’t get through, and thought I might have some luck. It wasn’t even you that actually picked it up, was it?” Nursey says, more resigned than anything, and Dex gets the weird urge to tell him everything. Maybe he’d understand. Maybe he’d even be alright with it.
He bites his lip, glares at Anna, who grins unrepentantly, doesn’t see the turmoil she’s started. Samwell, where he fucks everything up. Where he realised he’s not a guy-
Not a guy.
Men’s hockey team. Men being the operative word, and-
“Shit.” He whispers, eyes going wide. If he’s a girl, he can’t be on the Men’s Hockey Team, can he? And he’d lose his scholarship and he’d have to drop out and he’d lose everything he’s worked so hard for.
“Dex? Will, what just happened?” Nursey sounds faintly worried, but Dex can’t even bring himself to reply, presses the red button and hangs up and turns it off, and retreats to his room, curls up under his comforter and feels himself sob.
He can’t be a girl and on the hockey team. They don’t even have a woman’s hockey team, but he’s not sure he’d belong there either, and he’s not even 100% sure he’s actually a girl, maybe 85%, and he can’t get used to the idea.
He’d assumed he might be gay, before Samwell. That because he was male and people called him that, maybe he was, and he’d thought it would be a more freeing environment, and he’d wanted change.
This is too much. He wants to stay where he is.
Wants to stay as he is, unburdened by this revelation.
He has sixteen missed calls when he reluctantly turns his phone on two days later, mostly from Nursey and Chowder, but one from Jack, who leaves a message.
“Some of the team told me you’ve been unreachable, just wanted to check you were alright, but I guess you are busy.”
It’s so stilted and far away from the issue it makes Dex laugh.
He has two from Bitty, and 24 unread messages. He doesn’t read them, but he doesn’t delete them either. Leaves them there like a spectre waiting to ensnare him.
He’s not alright, but he can’t ignore it anymore.
She is not alright. She is not alright with any of this, but until – if, she thinks – it goes away, she will adapt.
She looks at names.
She hates them. She looks for hours, until her mum calls her down for dinner. Then late into the night.
She can’t find anything. Decides, in the meantime, she’s fine with Dex. It’s suitably nondescript, and even better, some people are already halfway to accepting it as her name, without even knowing.
Her mum calls her Will, and she thinks she might have to deal with that forever. She can’t imagine telling her family, not now, not ever. They wouldn’t get it.
So she works and ignores and researches and works, until she can’t avoid the issue forever. She has to go back to Samwell some time, and the minimal confidence she’s gained slips away, and suddenly she’s back to being reluctantly male in her mind too, because it’s too odd. He’ll start correcting them, and he doesn’t even know yet. Shitty, Nursey, Bitty, they’re all so sure of who and what they are.
Dex just isn’t.
Nursey, of course, calls him out on it.
He gets a glare and a shout and maybe, if he looked closely, a worried look.
He doesn’t look closely, though. He looks down, tries to evade, talk to Bitty, because he forgets that everyone knows, and he gets the Spanish Inquisition about his utter lack of contact. Chowder must hear his voice, rushes in to hug him, worried.
Dex freezes, and tries to brush them off. Says he was busy.
Nursey sarcastically says that even work has breaks, and he wasn’t working the entire time, because he’d gotten through, but that just makes Dex think of what he’ll lose by being who he thinks he might be (she she she, it starts to hurt him, her, Dex to think this way, Dex is so confused).
Dex decides just to tell a version of the truth.
“Some stuff happened, and I needed to think about it.” He says, reminded of hours spent looking at names he hates, of taking his sisters clothes shopping and trying not to look envious of their ease in their skin, when he starts wanting to scratch his off.
They try and get the full story out of him, but he clams up, and leaves, obviously avoiding the subject.
They bring it up a few times, until he explodes at them, tells them to leave it alone, he’ll say something when he’s ready and keeping bugging him isn’t going to help him. They seem concerned, but they do back off.
But it’s there, lurking. It’s constant, a wraith hanging over his shoulder. It gets more difficult to see himself as male, gets more difficult, and she mentally slips back into female pronouns again, slides back to them and feels relieved.
Maybe, just maybe, if she can keep it quiet until she graduates, she’ll be alright. She can start a new life and maybe play hockey recreationally and make enough money to actually do something about her physical form, the hatred of it seeping in gradually. The showers get even shorter, and she learns to do those blind, distracted, closing her eyes because she can just imagine it’s not the male body anymore.
It’s so difficult. Chowder asks her if something’s wrong, and Dex just smiles and laughs and brushes it all off. She doesn’t want anything to be wrong. She wishes magic existed. Wishes she could be in one of those computer games she likes to play occasionally, where she can just change the characters at a whim. William J Poindexter: delete. Replace with: Dex Poindexter, which alright, sounds dumb, but she hated all the other names, and her family will disown her if they ever find out. So she’ll probably have to change her end name too, and not for any nice reason like marriage.
She just doesn’t want to be like this.
But she plays hockey and pretends she doesn’t hate her body and survives and if she has to sometimes not shower for a day or two because she can’t quite stand it, no one has to know.
She survives surprisingly well during summer. It helps that the paralysing fear of what her parents would say, what her brother would think, stops her from even thinking about telling them. She spends long hours on her uncle’s lobster boat, mindless manual labour that leaves no room for thought, not really, and she makes an effort not to completely drop off the face of the earth, but only because she’s not fully convinced that Nursey wouldn’t track her down and turn up on the doorstep.
She had discovered, over the final weeks of the semester, finals all done and the assignments in, chilling around Annie’s and the Haus, that her feelings for Derek Nurse had changed, somewhat.
Consequently, she doesn’t want to see him. Wants to avoid him entirely until she has to see him, and hope, pray, that he never finds out about her stupid crush on him. Because wow, that is something she never wants to explain, how she likes him but she’s not gay because she’s a girl only she looks like a guy, and ain’t that a whole spiral of hurt she’s thrown herself into.
Nursey becomes a banned thought topic. Her body becomes a banned thought topic as far as she can manage.
She wants, though. She wants to explore this just a bit further. Wants to see what it would be like, wearing a dress, skirts, even though she’s sure she’ll still prefer jeans. She’s not brave enough to go into a shop and find something, but finds herself wondering, sometimes.
Her mum isn’t slim, by any means. She’s not huge, but not small, and Dex wonders, sometimes, sees her wearing some pretty dress, and a plan forms in her mind…
It’s a bad idea and she knows it. It’s an awful idea, but she fakes being ill to get out of a family gathering – not an important one, but enough to know that the rest of them will be out of the house for the evening, and she feels so, so ashamed of herself as she sneaks in, rifles through her mum’s dresses, vetoes the shoes because her feet are too big (damn damn damn genetics, and life, and everything) and picks one. A shimmery blue one, a bit stretchy in case it doesn’t fit, and she locks herself in the bathroom and tries it on and it-
Dex just looks at herself in the mirror. It kind of looks stupid, because even though her hair has grown out a bit – stupid curls, and it’ll take forever, even though she doesn’t think it’ll even suit her, she’s got the summer to try it out and see if it works and if it doesn’t she can cut it all off again before she goes back – she still, obviously, painfully, looks like a boy.
It’s so weirdly freeing, wearing it and knowing that maybe, one day, she could wear this outside, and people wouldn’t know, maybe, would maybe not realise that she hadn’t been born the wrong gender. She’s not quite as tall as she could be, and she’d not huge in stature like- like Jack Zimmermann, or Holster, although she’s kind of envious of Bitty being small and delicate and yet not, because Bitty could so easily pass as a girl as he is, but he doesn’t even want or need to, it’s just not fair at all.
Five minutes later has Dex sobbing on the floor at the utter inhumanity of it. She thought she’d been good enough, thought she’d prayed hard enough at church and alright, so she wasn’t the most pious, but she tried her best. She wasn’t overly mean to people, tried her best at everything, to make herself better, but it all feels like such an attack. How is she meant to live like this, with everyone thinking she’s male, everyone making jokes around her about it and she feels like dying every time her father calls her ‘his son’.
She only wants to stay there and never emerge, but she’s scared that the rest of them will return and find her in her mum’s dress, so she reluctantly changes back again, and goes to bed, feeling the fake illness be a little less fake, even if it’s more in her mind.
Nursey is weirdly insistent about either visiting her, or her visiting him.
Dex half wants it, and half thinks that she won’t be able to control herself, or her mouth. If he visits, he’ll be like an oasis in the utter terror, and she might tell him everything. She makes up every excuse she can, and eventually falls back to that her parents said it was a nice thought but they didn’t have enough room, and no, Dex could not borrow the car for a weekend, her father needed it to get to work.
Dex didn’t even ask them, but she sulks for a few days, and then is glad for a trawl to distract her. She needs all the distraction she can get.
And then, she gets a phone call as they’re starting to pull into the harbour, and Dex sees Nursey’s name with an odd mix of pleasure and dread.
She picks it up, and waits.
“Dex? Hi, I was bored so I drove out to Portland, I know your parents said I couldn’t stay at your house but I wondered if you wanted to meet up? It’s chill if you don’t, though, I’ll just…” Nursey rambles, and Dex can practically hear the desperation in his voice, wants so badly to comfort him.
And why, she thinks to herself, can’t she? She can get the bus. Keep it impersonal. It’s not like Nursey will stay long (probably) and surely she can cope?
“Uh, sure, I’m just- busy right now, but I should be able to get in in about an hour? If the bus is on time…” She says, and Nursey laughs, relieved, although why that should be, Dex doesn’t really know. They get on better, but they still bicker all the time. It’s not like they’re as close as either of them are to Chowder.
“I can come pick you up, I have a car?” Nursey chirps lightly, and Dex blushes, spreading her lips into a thin line.
“Shut up! It’s fine, I can get there on my own.” Gives her time to gather her thoughts. She didn’t have anything else planned for the rest of the day, mostly relaxing and maybe trying to learn more C++. Nursey laughs again, and now she thinks about it, Dex can hear seagulls in the background, the chatter of people, and the sounds of boats.
A wave of excited dread hits her.
“Hypothetically, if I were already at the harbour I suspect you’re going to land in, would you get in the car?” Nursey questions, his tone light, and yet there’s an undercurrent of something else that Dex does not want to decipher. Her heart rate jumps.
“You creep. How do you even know you’re right?” She asks, smiling slightly.
“I have magical information skills. Also, you told Chowder – and not me, I’m very hurt Poindexter – that you were out, and he thought it was weird you weren’t telling me and he may have let a few more things slip than necessary, but- do I see red hair?” He pauses to ask, and Dex spins, squints into the sun at the harbour, scans along, sees a few cars and a guy who vaguely resembles Derek Nurse, who is on the phone and waves. Dex buries her face in her hand, and down the phone line, she hears him chuckle.
It should not make her want to smile.
“Are you up for an outing, Poindexter? You can say no, by the way, it’s chill if you have other stuff to do, I just- I thought it’d be nice.” He says, and how can she say no to that, even if she tried?
She is disgustingly crushing on him. She can only hope he doesn’t find out, and forgets for a moment that she’s not actually a girl – on the outside, anyway – and feels a wave of disappointment, because there is absolutely no way at all, even if she wanted to make a move, that it would be reciprocated.
On the upside, no one questions her being closer than expected. Not least Nurse, who is physically affectionate with everyone, even her, once they’d started getting over their teething issues.
“Fine, Nurse. Kidnap me to the city. After I shower. I stink of fish guts.” Brine and sweat and lobsters, actually, but it sounds better.
“Does this mean I’ve finally got an invite to the Poindexter household?” He asks, sounding intrigued. Dex mentally does her calculations, and guesses that no one will be home. Perfect. Nursey will not catch her lies about him not being able to stay, either.
“Don’t get too excited, we’ll be there ten minutes max.” She replies as the boat draws closer, and she sees him smile.
“All I need for a satnav destination, Dexy.”
She is absolutely fucked, she thinks to herself.
Somehow, she manages to have a nice time in the city with Nursey, who admits to getting a hotel room, and even offers her to stay with him for the night, a vacation without going away, but she has to decline, she’s working again early tomorrow.
He asks if she’s free tomorrow, and like an utter idiot, she says yes. Nursey grins cryptically, says he’ll pick her up again, same time, and he’s got Plans.
Like an idiot, she doesn’t say no.
Plans, as it turns out, involve some sightseeing, Dex falling asleep in the car on the way to some quaint little village that’s too hot but has a nice museum and a forest nearby and they walk and it’s everything Dex needed from a home vacation, and it’s such a relief, a breath of fresh air seeing Nursey. She can’t believe how she manages to keep her mouth shut the entire time, how she manages to forget that she’s not supposed to be falling more in love with him, how to Nursey, ‘she’ is still ‘he’, because Dex cannot come out to him without jeopardising her spot on the team and the whole dynamic between them.
She hadn’t realised how much of an oasis of fire she’d put herself back into. Samwell is the shores, where at least she can like guys without too much issue.
Here, she has to repress everything. Nothing is safe to say, at all. Apart from hockey. Her siblings all roll their eyes whenever she mentions it, but Dex feels like it’s the only thing she can say regarding college, aside from maybe classes, but that’s all been and gone and been said a hundred times.
But all things have to end. They sit on her driveway, the engine still, the heat beating down on them, and Dex doesn’t quite want it to end. She can’t quite motivate herself to move, back to where she is ‘son’ and ‘brother’, and she’s just not quite prepared for that.
“So,” Nursey starts, and Dex kind of wants to cry. Why did she ever stop this happening? She looks across at him, sees him watching her back, and it feels like leaning across the gap between them would be so natural.
But she doesn’t. Nursey doesn’t know, and she can’t find the words, doesn’t know how, and swallows the regret and the desire, looks away.
“You’d better get going, traffic gets bad around Portland.” Which is rubbish, really. This late, the traffic is starting to die away like the sun in the sky, and she suddenly can’t stand being there, so close to him without actually doing anything, the words on the tip of her tongue and it’s just- no. She can’t.
She opens the car, hops out, making sure she has all her stuff, closes it, and walks around the front, smiles blandly at him, still watching her like- like he’s trying to decipher her. Dex has the urge to hide, as if he’ll know everything she hides just from watching in this moment.
“Thanks for driving down. See you.” She says, simply, and turns. She makes it as far as the threshold of the porch before she hears him call her nickname. She looks back at him, the setting sun in her eyes making it difficult to see him as more than a silhouette.
“It’s chill, I’d do it again. Anytime.” Nursey actually sounds sincere, and Dex nods, waves him off, runs to her room and slides down the door because she’s torn between smiling so much it hurts, and wanting to cry, and ending up somewhere in-between.
And then the new term starts.
She makes it through the first kegster unharmed, a pleasant level of drunkenness carrying her through most of it, enough for a good time but without the hangover or the danger of blurting all her secrets. It helps that Nursey doesn’t stick around long, although when she thinks about what he’s probably doing, well. She doesn’t think about that, and has a good time getting thrashed at beer pong by Lardo and chatting easily with Chowder and Farmer before leaving them all to it and meandering home, staring up at the stars.
The second kegster is when it all goes to pieces.
And when she means pieces, she means smashed into shards.
She’s having a perfectly good time. She’d been hanging out with Tango and Whiskey, both much more relaxed and amused once they’d gotten a cup of tub juice in them, the conversation flowing easily, and then Nursey is just suddenly there, and more drunk than Dex. Which is fine, Dex has a higher tolerance now than him, although not by much. Nursey was simply insistent on trying to beat people at flip cup, and failing miserably, had to drink more than Dex had, taking it upon herself to integrate the tadpoles. They’d seemed lost last time, and she’s glad she’d done it, just since they seem to fit in better now.
But the two of them spot one of the other tadpoles mid-kegstand, and race over to get a closer look, and Dex is left there with Nursey, who leans his head on her shoulder.
Dex feels her heart start to thud uncomfortably, and closes her eyes to will it away.
“Dexy, you a’ight? Swayin’.” Nursey pseudo-explains, and Dex opens her eyes again when he shifts, lifting his chin off her shoulder, and she turns her head and Nursey is kissing her.
Just like that.
It feels like the easiest thing to sigh in relief, to twist into it, to crush her cup of tub juice nearly with the force of not pulling him closer, with the shock of it happening at all.
She wants. She doesn’t know how to want, or how to kiss him, but she hums because it feels good, and she’s disappointed when Nursey pulls back, slowly, looks at her, surprised and happy, and he whispers-
And all of it comes crashing down. Because Dex has no idea what this even means, she’s so crushed by it. Nursey doesn’t know, and that means that if they are going to pursue this at all, he’ll need to know, and Dex doesn’t want that, Dex doesn’t want to have to tell anyone, doesn’t want to have to deal with reactions.
She backs up a step.
“Nurse, I’m not- I’m not-” She starts, trying to say I’m not who you think I am, but she can’t, the words stick in her mouth, and Nursey thinks she’s making a different confession, swears loudly, enough to make everyone turn to see what was going on.
Dex cannot deal with it, everyone looking at her, and she backs up more, vaguely waves her nearly full, half-crushed tub juice cup as if she needs a refill, and turns her back on the kegster, panicked and in flight. Dumping the cup on the lawn, she runs to her dorm, and then beyond, because the wind feels good on her skin, and she knows she’s ruined everything, made it weird. She should contact Nursey now, let him know, but she’s trapped by fear. It’s everything she’d ever wanted, but it’s also all under an illusion, and she’d have to choose. Hockey, or Nursey.
Hockey is not going to leave her. It’s predictable, it’s safe – emotionally, anyway – and she can at least skate whether the world hates her or not.
So she chooses hockey, even though it pains her to do so.
Nursey avoids her.
Dex feels awful.
She really does, but she cannot bring herself to explain. Why is it this one time Nursey’s not looking at the whole picture? Or did he think she kissed back just to pull him along? But she’s hurting too, she hates this, but then she reminds herself of what she could lose by coming out to him, and it forces her silence again.
Chowder wants an explanation. Lardo wants an explanation. They all do, why they’ve suddenly regressed to the first semester of freshman year, except not, because it’s quiet between them, and it never was.
She hates that it’s her fault, but she bites her lip and shoulders on, hating and ignoring and denying and pushing herself to make it hurt because it’s the only way she knows how to silently repent.
She wants to say something to someone. But she also can’t.
And then Nursey confronts her. She doesn’t get it. He’s the one who’s been avoiding her, but he looks hurt and angry.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” he demands, an utter lack of his usual chill. Dex just blinks; she’s alone in the computer lab, trying to work out the bugs in some code, a project she’s got, and it’s totally out of the blue.
“Nothing…?” She ventures, hand hovering over the keyboard, but Nursey slumps down in the seat next to her, and glares.
“You’ve been avoiding the Haus, and me.” He says, and oh, two can play at that.
“You were avoiding me!”
“No, I gave you space, and then you decided to keep not talking to me! I know I overstepped the mark, but give me a break!” He says, and Dex just gets it. Sighs. Looks down at the desk, because she can’t hold that intense gaze for too long.
“If you’d let me finish, I’d have said ‘I’m not who you think I am’.” She murmurs, and pauses, wonders if he wants more than that, maybe she just gave herself away.
“Huh?” Nursey instead comments. She sighs again, chews the inside of her lip in irritation.
“Nurse, I- it’s not what you did, it’s that it’s me, alright? I can’t… I’m not good at this.” She gestures vaguely. “I dunno if that was more for you or not, but if it was, you don’t want more with me.”
Nursey pauses for a long moment.
“Don’t tell me how I feel, Poindexter.” He comments, and she ought to have known he wouldn’t give up so easily.
“I’m not. I’m saying you do not want more with me,” she says, trying to stress it, see if the meaning translates without her saying these things out loud.
“Weird. Sounds like you think I shouldn’t like you.”
“You don’t know me. You wouldn’t if you did. You wouldn’t know me at all. ” She says, irritated with it. She feels, somehow, like she’s going to have to come out to him to get him off her case. And she might lose hockey while she’s at it, but then… doesn’t Nursey also deserve the truth? She did run off on him, and she did hurt him without necessarily meaning to. She’d not even thought it a possibility, but now it was being presented to her, she was dismissing it out of hand.
“Aren’t we friends? You secretly a superhero or something? Fucks sake, look at me Dex, I’m trying here!” Nursey cries, and she takes a breath, and looks, and starts to speak.
“If I tell you, promise you won’t tell anyone else.” She says. Nursey blinks.
“Wha-” he starts, looking scandalised, but she cuts him off.
“Promise. I need you to keep this quiet, alright?” She says, feeling the nerves rise. He nods slowly, trying to work out what she’s doing, or telling him, and she sighs, take a breath, and- “I don’t think I’m a guy. I can’t let you fool yourself because I’m not this, I’m not- I’m not who you know as Dex.”
Nursey stares at her.
“What?” He breathes, and she loses it. She’s glad they’re alone.
“I’m a girl, Nurse, or I think I am! You can’t just pretend that doesn’t change things, because it does. I don’t care if you don’t speak to me again,” She lies, but she falters, “I just need you not to tell anyone else.”
“You’re a girl?” He asks, dumbfounded. She nods, her anger cooling off with fear over his non-reaction. “How- I mean, shit, Dex, but like, why, I-” Nursey cuts himself off, and takes a moment to compose himself. It doesn’t quite work how Dex imagines he wanted it to. “Why is that a problem with me? You know I’m bi?” He says, and Dex laughs out of sheer frustration.
“So? There’s male, female, and then there’s this mess of what-the-fuck, and don’t even try to tell me that’s the same thing.” She huffs, turning back to her coding. “Just leave it, Nurse. As long as you don’t tell anyone, we’re good.”
“Dex, please.” He says quietly. It makes her pause. “Is Dex alright? Is there something else you want me to call you?” She blinks, stunned.
“Dex is fine. Anything but Will.” She remarks, and Nursey makes a sound of realisation, and covers her hand where it lies on the mouse. She can’t help but glance towards him.
“Dex. I don’t think I’d care all that much which gender you were, or if you were transitioning the other way, or agender. I don’t care. I just care about you, and if you don’t mind that, if you want, I just… want.” He finishes, lost.
And it takes her a moment, because it’s big, for her; she’s never been anything other than William J Poindexter to anyone else, never been a girl, never been accepted as other.
But Nursey proposes to do just that, and he watches her sincerely, and Dex feels a blush crawl unattractively up her face and wonders how, and why. Maybe the universe struck her down pretty hard with the whole girl-in-a-boy’s-body, and she’ll never forgive it for that, but at least a few stars must have aligned for this, surely.
“I’d like to, uh… I’m happy with trying it.” She confirms, and Nursey smiles at her, just a bit more enthusiastic than his usual, and it makes her feel warm. Twisting her hand under his, she laces their fingers together, watches as he jolts, and then squeezes back just slightly.
So she’s not happy, per say. She’s still in a shitty situation that, according to the internet, will take years and a lot of money to rectify, and a lot of persuading medical professionals that she really wants and needs it. She dislikes this current body she’s in, and she still hates that she’ll have to come out to every single other person, including her family, and she’s genuinely not sure if they would have taken her being gay worse than her being transgender, and she doesn’t want to find out, not really.
But. Nursey giving her that silent support, and a little bit of hope that maybe she wouldn’t be alone doing all that, makes the future feel that little bit lighter, where Dex hadn’t even realised it closing in around her.
It won’t be plain sailing, she knows that; storms and squalls will be commonplace, she senses, but at least she has someone to help steer, she thinks, even if only temporarily. It gives her a bit of hope that she’ll make it through.