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in the dream where i am an island

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In the dream where I am an island,

I grow green with hope.

- Duplex (I begin with love), Jericho Brown




The chaos that blew up Chris’s phone all afternoon seems to have died down by the time he makes it back to the Haus that night.


He lets himself into the kitchen, checking his phone to see if anything new has come in since the explosion of texts from Nursey, Dex, Bitty, and Ford earlier in the day, all with varying accounts of some last-straw fight ending in Dex moving out of his and Nursey’s shared room. The relative quiet of the Haus suggests that the worst of the drama has passed, but the distant clattering and thumping coming from behind the closed door to the basement makes him second-guess that. Dex, at least, is still burning off some emotional energy.


Chris pauses, looking at the door. After two and a half years, he knows that Angry Dex needs space to cool off. And he loves Dex, he does, but Chris really isn’t interested in putting himself in the line of fire for whatever Dex still has to get out of his system. He finishes refilling his water bottle and pads up the stairs.


The second floor is just as quiet as the first. Bitty’s door is shut, but the light’s still on inside and Chris can hear Bitty talking as he passes, a barely-audible murmur tinged with sweetness. Probably Jack, then. He tiptoes past and goes right for Nursey and Dex--well, just Nursey’s room now, he guesses. The door is ajar, but he taps his knuckles on it anyway, waiting for a response before he pokes his head in.


Even though he’d known, intellectually, that Dex was moving himself out, it’s still another thing to see it. All of Dex’s stuff has been cleared out already, the Fortress of Solitude (and seriously, he thinks, maybe a little uncharitably, Dex calls Nursey extra?) dismantled, leaving behind an empty bottom bunk. An open suitcase sits on the floor, half-full of clothing, like Dex got fed up with packing and just left.


He says he’s going Down Into The Darkness, Ford had texted, along with a lord, give me strength gif.


There’s no sign of Nursey. Chris frowns, tapping his fingers against the side of his water bottle, then catches sight of the open door to the bathroom leading to his own room. Going on a hunch, he heads through, absently turning off the light in Nursey’s room on his way.


Sure enough, there’s a Nursey-shaped lump in his bed. The overhead light is off, Chris’s bedside lamp casting a soft yellowish glow onto the few curls peeking out from the teal comforter. Chris hesitates in the doorway for a moment, uncertain, and then, as he watches, Nursey’s shoulders give one small, shuddering shake.


Chris makes up his mind. He sets his backpack down quietly, then takes out his phone to text Farmer.


Think I’m taking Nursey duty tonight. OK w/u?


He only has to wait a few seconds for her response, because she’s the best in so very many ways.


Whatever he needs. Text me when he’s ok or if you need me. Love to you both. Xo


Satisfied, he silences his phone and heads over to the bed, putting his water bottle and the phone on the bedside table. Gently, he tugs the edge of the blanket free of Nursey’s cocoon and climbs in behind him, curling himself around Nursey’s back and tucking his nose against his neck. He breathes in the familiar scent of cocoa butter and Nursey’s sandalwood shampoo, soft hair still shower-damp tickling his nose as he pushes a few loose curls away. “Hey,” he says quietly, when Nursey doesn’t react to him. “You with me?”


Nursey takes a breath so deep Chris feels his ribs expand through his back, then lets it out slowly. “Yeah.”


He doesn’t need to ask why Nursey’s there. Chris’s room has been his refuge since way before he and Dex moved in together. He knows that if Nursey’s in his bed like this, hiding under the covers instead of lounging back with a welcoming grin, he’s not in a great emotional place. “You wanna talk about it?”


“I don’t know what to say.”


Chris shifts to tuck his arm around Nursey’s waist, pressing his palm flat against his chest. Nursey’s heartbeat is reassuringly steady under his hand. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to.”


Nursey closes his good hand over Chris’s, thumb moving idly over his knuckles. “It’s I really that awful to live with?”


“No.” He means it, too. Nursey’s not necessarily a dream roommate--Chris has had enough stubbed toes from poetry anthologies to know that--but Chris had been to Dex’s last two years of dorm rooms and met both his old roommates. Neither of them were saints with their music or laundry, either, but somehow Dex had more than managed not to blow a gasket at either of them. “You guys are just really different people.” He hesitates. “And I think he was kind of primed to be oversensitive to you.”


Nursey huffs, but it’s not an unhappy sound. “I guess.”


Chris knows resignation in Nursey’s voice when he hears it. “Hey,” he says, nudging his chin against Nursey’s shoulder. “This isn’t your fault, okay? This whole thing was like--mutually assured destruction.”


It sounds bad, but it’s also, unfortunately, kind of true. He’s known since Dex’s absolute meltdown over Dibs last spring that the likelihood of the two of them having a harmonious roommate experience was pretty much nil, but he hadn’t wanted to crush the little bit of hope he knew Nursey still had. As excited as he’d been at the potential to live with both of his best friends, those two were a match made in roommate personality hell.


Still, none of that makes a difference now, with Nursey radiating sadness through his clothes. Chris shifts and kisses the back of Nursey’s neck. “What can I do?”


Nursey doesn’t answer for a long moment. When he does, his voice is hesitant. “Can I stay here tonight?”


“You can stay here any night. You know that.” Nursey says nothing, and Chris amends, “You should know that.”


“I just don’t want you to get sick of me.”


Chris’s heart clenches. Part of him wishes Cait were here--she’s better at the emotional stuff than he is, always seems to know the right thing to say. He settles for propping himself up on his elbow and using the arm he has around Nursey’s waist to pull him onto his back, taking hold of his chin to gently force his eyes up. “I’m never,” he says firmly, “gonna get sick of you.” Nursey presses his lips together, but Chris doesn’t break eye contact. “Hey. I mean it.”


Nursey gives a small, slightly jerky nod.


“You believe me?” Chris presses.


Another nod.


“Are you sure?” Chris leans down, nuzzling his nose against Nursey’s. “Are you sure you believe me?”


Finally, Nursey’s lips crack into a grin. “I believe you, C,” he says. “Promise.”


Thank you,” Chris says, putting extra exasperation into his voice, scrunching up his face until Nursey laughs and reaches up, taking his face in his hands and drawing him down for a kiss. It’s light and gentle, and tastes like mint toothpaste. He runs his thumb over Nursey’s cheekbone, pressing him back against the sheets, and Nursey makes a soft, wanting sound into his mouth.


Chris pulls back, just far enough to look at him. “Yeah?” he asks, carefully. Nursey has a habit of using sex to distract himself when he’s unhappy, and Chris loves him to death but he’s really trying to get him to...not do that anymore. “You sure?”


Nursey nods, pushing Chris’s hair off his forehead. “Yeah. I just want…” He shrugs one shoulder, a small, almost sheepish movement. “I want something nice? It’s been...a day.”


“I can be nice,” Chris says, bending to kiss him again. He runs his fingertips over the smooth column of Nursey’s neck, and gets a shiver in response. When he pulls away, Nursey grins at him, eyes heavy-lidded.


“You don’t have to be too nice.”


Chris rolls his eyes. “Ha, ha,” he says, and shoves--gently--at Nursey’s hip to push him back onto his side. “Turn over.”


Nursey rolls with a good-natured laugh, letting Chris spoon up against his back again. Chris nips at the place where his shoulder meets his neck, barely accessible above the collar of his t-shirt, and wraps an arm around his waist to pull him closer. He noses at Nursey’s neck as he slips a hand under his shirt, trailing his fingers over the panes of Nursey’s abs.


(He has no idea how Nursey’s managing to keep his body like this while he’s supposed to be taking it easy until his arm heals, and under any other circumstances he’d probably pause to ask, but he’ll give him a pass.)


It’s always tempting to rush this part, to pull Nursey’s shirt off or stick a hand down his pants to touch skin he knows will already be heating for him. They’re always faster when it’s the two of them, without Cait there to remind them to slow things down, to savor. Chris closes his eyes and tries to channel her easy patience, to ease the kisses he’s pressing to the hinge of Nursey’s jaw into gentleness. It’s harder than he wants to admit, and he gives in after a minute or so, scraping his teeth against the sensitive skin and getting a quiet moan in response.


“C,” Nursey says. He presses back against him. “Come on.”


Chris smiles and kisses the place where the pressure of his mouth has already started to leave a mark. “Relax,” he says. “Let me do this.”


“I am relaxed,” Nursey says, though the tension in his shoulders says otherwise, and Chris shakes his head in exasperation.


“Lift your head up,” he says, and slips his arm under the crook of Nursey’s neck when he does, tucking himself between Nursey and the pillow. It brings them closer, and Nursey noses at his bicep through his sweatshirt.


“You’re wearing a lot of clothes.”


“So’re you,” Chris counters, in no rush to change that. He lets the hand on Nursey’s stomach drift, running his fingers in light circles, lower and lower, brushing the waistband of his sweatpants but not dipping under it. Nursey pulls in a shaking breath. “Relax,” he says again.


“You relax,” Nursey mumbles, turning his face into Chris’s arm, but some of the tension eases out of his spine and shoulders, his body warm and solid against Chris’s chest. Chris hums and slips his hand into Nursey’s sweats as a reward, tracing his fingertips over the fabric of his underwear, but feather-light, too high to touch anything important. “Tease.”


Chris grins, kissing his shoulder. “You said not to be too nice.”


Nursey bites his arm. It doesn’t hurt much through the fabric of his hoodie, but Chris pinches his hip in retaliation anyway. “Ow,” Nursey says.


“Baby,” Chris teases. Nursey makes a disgruntled noise, and Chris chuckles, nuzzling his neck and kissing him just under his ear. “Baby,” he says again, softly, and Nursey melts back against him. “There you go,” he murmurs. “Just like that.”


“You cheated,” Nursey says, a little weakly.


“Mmhm,” Chris agrees, because it’s true. Pet names are easily the quickest cheats to Derek Nurse’s code, and he’d be stupid not to use them.


Plus, he likes them. It’s a win-win.


Snuggling closer, he drops his hand down again, smiling at the gratifying moan he gets when his fingers run over the swell of Nursey’s dick, outlined half-hard against his sweatpants. He traces his thumb against the tip and then slides his hand down to hold him in a loose grip while he hardens, hot even through two layers of clothes.


Nursey rocks his hips slightly, trying to get more pressure, but Chris keeps his touch intentionally light, countering it with wet, messy kisses trailed over his neck, pushing the collar of his t-shirt aside with his nose to get closer to his shoulder. His own jeans are starting to feel tight and he’s beginning to regret leaving them on when he climbed into bed, but he pushes the thought aside.


Patient, he reminds himself. He can be patient for this.


He flicks his thumb over the head of Nursey’s dick again, just to hear the soft rush of air through Nursey’s lips, and then pulls his hand away. Nursey lets out a soft whine and shifts his hips forward, chasing the touch. Chris shushes him and tugs at the waistband of his sweatpants, and Nursey immediately shoves a hand down to push them off, wriggling them down over his legs and kicking them somewhere under the blankets. He presses back as soon as they’re gone, grinding against Chris’s lap, and even through his jeans it’s enough to send a jolt of heat through his gut. “Yeah,” he murmurs. “Go ahead, you can.”


Nursey shivers against him. “Touch me?”


Chris tucks his forehead between Nursey’s shoulder blades, suppressing a shudder of his own. His fingers twitch, the desire to give Nursey whatever he wants crashing up against the plan to draw this out. He rubs his thumb over the cut of Nursey’s hip, and Nursey’s quiet, shaking inhale makes the call for him. “Okay,” he says, “I got you.”


The way Nursey’s entire body jerks against him when Chris wraps a hand around him is gratifying in more ways than one, and Chris lifts his head just enough to seal his mouth over the juncture of Nursey’s shoulder and neck to keep back a groan. He licks over Nursey’s pulse as he strokes him through his boxers, keeping his grip loose and teasing. There’s a slick patch at the head where Nursey’s started leaking, and he circles it with his thumb, pressing where he knows he’ll dip into his slit, and Nursey’s breath catches.




He says his name like a plea or a prayer, and the sound of it sends a shudder up Chris’s spine. He tightens his fingers and gets a sharp moan for it, Nursey’s hand moving back to grab at his hip and haul him closer--as if there’s any space between them to begin with. He swallows. “What do you want, Derek?”


Nursey stills in his arms. It’s a particular type of stillness that Chris recognizes; uncertainty and desire warring against each other, like he doesn’t know what to ask for. It seems to last an eternity, and Chris gives it to him, pressing closed-mouthed kisses to his neck and shoulder, waiting. When he’s like this, the last thing he needs is to be pushed.


After what feels like forever, Nursey lets out a long, slow breath and moves his hand from Chris’s hip to his own waistband, pushing it down. Chris feels the slide of the fabric against his own hand, and moves out of the way to let Nursey pull his underwear off. He slides his hand back to Nursey’s hip, a tingle going through him at the touch of Nursey’s bare skin under his palm, and feels it when Nursey shifts on his side to draw his top leg up, bending his knee towards his chest. Chris catches his breath, his hand moving down and over the curve of Nursey’s ass almost without his permission, his fingertips dipping against where he’s spread.


“Fuck,” he says eloquently. “What do you--”


“Your fingers,” Nursey says, breathy and hopeful. “Please?”


“Yeah.” He almost chokes the word out. “Yeah, I--fuck.”


Nursey shivers out a laugh. “We could do that, too, if you want.”


Chris muffles a groan in Nursey’s shoulder. “No,” he says. “Not tonight.” He’s trying to take this slow and easy, and even though he was with Cait this morning, being with Nursey like that still shatters his self-control every time.




Nursey’s gonna be the death of him. “If you want,” Chris agrees. “Lift up,” he says, shifting the arm currently pinned under Nursey’s neck. Nursey moves and Chris props himself on his elbow, reaching over him to tug his nightstand drawer open.


The lube bottle rolls helpfully into his hand. He sets it on the bed next to Nursey and then, caving, wriggles a hand between them to undo his belt and push his jeans off.


He leaves his boxers on. He’s only human, and Nursey knows his weaknesses.


Nursey rolls back against him when he settles down again, tucking his back against Chris’s chest. He hooks his bottom leg between both of Chris’s, as if to nudge him closer. It’s a little strange, both of them clothed from the waist up and their bare legs tangling, the naked curve of Nursey’s ass against his lap. He’s sweating under his hoodie and kind of regrets leaving it on, but the last thing he’s going to do is pull away now.


“Gonna be cold,” he warns, flipping the cap on the lube and slicking his fingers.


“Mmhm,” Nursey says, sounding totally unbothered. Chris shakes his head and trails his hand down, slipping his fingers between Nursey’s cheeks.


Nursey jumps at the touch. “I warned you,” Chris says, and gets a huff in response, Nursey wriggling his shoulders back. Chris kisses his neck in acknowledgement, stroking a fingertip against him. He’s tight, probably the stress of the day mingling with an instinctive flinch against the cold lube, and Chris kisses his pulse point. “Let me in, love.”


It takes a moment, and then Nursey relaxes against him until the tip of Chris’s finger slips in. He waits, just in case there’s more resistance, but Nursey makes an insistent sound, reaching back to hold Chris’s hip, and Chris gets the hint. He presses the rest of the way in, gives him a few seconds to adjust, then pulls out and slides back at a different angle, testing. His own arousal drops to the back of his mind, burns low and simmering under his skin, hot but not urgent.


“C’mon,” he murmurs, nuzzling the nape of Nursey’s neck. “Help me out here.”


“I--” Nursey’s voice hitches, and he lets out a hard breath. “Yeah.” He tilts his hips back, shifting, and Chris has a sudden, vivid flashback to the last time Nursey rode him, the way he moved like a dancer, finding the exact angle and pressure he wanted and sending sparks flying through Chris’s body.


It’s not quite the same, lying on their sides like this, but Chris bites his lip at the memory all the same and holds himself still, lets Nursey take what he wants. He presses his face into the back of Nursey’s neck and loses track of time, caught up in the scent of Nursey’s skin and the slick tightness of his body around his finger.


Nursey jerks suddenly, a sharp sound leaving his throat and his hand tightening on Chris’s hip.


Chris opens his eyes. “Yeah?” he says, pressing harder where Nursey’s angled him.


“Yeah,” Nursey bites out. “Fuck, I--please.”


“I got you.” He opens the lube cap with his teeth and slicks another finger, slides it in alongside the first, careful to find the right spot. Nursey swears and grinds back against him, shaking, and Chris bites down on the collar of Nursey’s t-shirt to keep himself from going for his skin instead, exhaling hard.


It’s tempting, so fucking tempting, to push his underwear off and trade his fingers for his dick. It would be so good and he knows it, knows a dozen tricks to bring Nursey off like that, is sure Nursey would let him learn a dozen more. He regrets the way he’s curled on his side, one arm pinned under him and the other very occupied, wishes he had a hand free to just press against himself. Even a little pressure would be a relief from the way he’s aching now.


He takes a steadying breath and pushes the temptation away, focuses on Nursey instead, the way he’s shuddering at every slow, dirty circle of Chris’s fingers inside him. He can get Nursey off like this and he knows it. Nursey’s trying to muffle any noise in Chris’s sleeve, but he’s slowly creeping up in volume, his shoulders tensing where they’re pressed against Chris’s chest.


“Hey,” he says. It comes out hoarse. “You close?”


Nursey’s fingers dig into his hip and he nods against Chris’s arm. “I need--” He chokes out, and Chris presses a hard kiss to his shoulder, soothing.


“I know, I know.” Chris sits up and pulls his fingers free--Nursey gives a sharp whine of protest--and grabs the lube again. A rush of cool air makes the sweat on his skin prickle into goosebumps as he kicks the blankets away, and shivers as he slicks both his hands. He gives himself just an instant to take in the way Nursey looks, spread out and shaking for him, before he slides two fingers back into him, reaching to curl his other hand around Nursey’s dick, thick and heavy and sliding wet against the sheets where he’s been untouched and leaking.


Nursey gives a full-body shudder as Chris finds the right angle and pressure inside him again. He starts up a firm, dirty grind with his fingertips even as he strokes his other fist over his dick, and the sound Nursey makes goes right to his gut. “Chris,” he says, almost a gasp. “Fuck, I’m--”


“Yeah,” Chris says. He misses the pressure of Nursey against his chest, but fuck, sitting up was worth it to be able to see. “Come on, sweetheart, I’ve got you.”


He doesn’t know if it’s the sweetheart or his touch that pushes Nursey over the edge, but he chokes a groan into the pillow and shudders before Chris even finishes talking, spilling over Chris’s fist and clenching down on his fingers. Chris swears and keeps moving, working him through it with both hands until Nursey chokes out a breathless “can’t” and grabs at his wrist with a shaking hand.


Chris loosens his grip, leaning down to kiss his cheek. “Okay?” he murmurs.


Nursey laughs, breathless. “Yeah,” he says. He tenses slightly around Chris’s fingers, and Chris kisses him again as he carefully pulls them free. “I kind of wrecked your sheets, bro.”


“I really don’t care.” He’s so hard it hurts, and Nursey’s come is hot and slick on his fingers. “Derek, I’m--can I--”


Nursey twists to look over his shoulder at him with heavy-lidded eyes. “Whatever you want,” he says. Chris bites his lip, and Nursey flashes a grin at him, shifting over almost onto his stomach and drawing his knee further up. He tilts his hips back, inviting and intentional.


“C’mon,” he coaxes, a hint of his usual smirk in his voice, and fuck. Chris shoves his boxers down and pushes Nursey’s cheeks apart with the hand not dropping straight to his dick, unable to look at anything other than where Nursey’s still wet and open and glistening. He slides his thumb against him, biting his lip to keep himself quiet, but gives up when Nursey hums and presses back into his touch, the tip of Chris’s thumb dipping into him with no resistance.


“Fuck,” he chokes. “You’re so--fuck.”


He comes hard and fast, jerking his thumb away so he can spill over his hole, striping across his ass and the hem of his t-shirt. Nursey groans at the contact and Chris swears, using his free hand to spread his come over Nursey’s skin, dragging a last, weak shot out of himself with a tight fist. He lets out a shaking breath, half-collapsing down onto his elbow and sliding his fingers through the mess he made, using his fingertips to push some of his come inside him.


Nursey puts up with a minute or two of that before he gives a pointed clench, and Chris grins against his back, pulling free. “Sorry.”


“Nah.” Nursey shifts back against him, loose-limbed and warm. “Think we kept it down, or are we gonna get fined?”


Chris winces. “Let’s not think about it.”


“Mm,” Nursey hums, agreeable.


There’s a soft, sated curve to his lips, the unhappiness from earlier melted away, and Chris can’t help smiling to see it. He leans down to kiss his cheek. “I’m gonna get us something to clean up.”


Nursey nods, turning his head for a real kiss, and Chris grins, catching his mouth with his. It’s slow and lazy. Nursey scratches his fingers through Chris’s hair as he pulls away.


“I’ll come back,” Chris promises, pulling away and rolling off the bed. He tugs his boxers back up and shrugs off his hoodie and shirt, dropping them into his laundry hamper as he shuffles towards the bathroom. He opens the door, trying not to grimace at the sticky rub of his dick in his cold underwear, and almost runs right into Dex.


The world goes briefly, uncomfortably still.


Dex’s face is flushed a vivid red, his eyes wide. He has his shower caddy and his towel in his arms, which explains why he’s standing in the bathroom, but Chris has no idea how long he’s been there, and he really, really doesn’t want to ask. His cheeks heat when Dex’s gaze flickers down, over his bare chest and the wet patch he knows is still visible on the front of his boxers, and he pushes down the urge to find something to cover up with.


“C?” Nursey’s voice drifts in behind him, sleepy and confused. Chris freezes. “You get lost?”


Dex swallows visibly. He shakes his head, and his expression does something wry and apologetic and maybe, Chris thinks, regretful.


“No,” Chris says, looking back into his room. “No, I’ll be right there.”


When he turns back, Dex is walking away, the line of his shoulders tight and tense. Chris takes a deep breath, counts to three, and lets it out slowly, digging a washcloth out of the cabinet and running it under warm water.


Nursey’s naked when he comes back, propped up on his elbows and looking at him with curious eyes. “You okay?”


“Yeah.” Chris pushes his underwear off again and climbs back into bed, nudging Nursey’s legs apart with a gentle hand before running the cloth down over him, cleaning away come and sweat and lube. Nursey makes a pleased sound, shifting to give Chris more room, and Chris leans down to kiss his collarbone as he brings the washcloth up to get his stomach and groin. “How are you doing?”


“Better.” Nursey closes his eyes, tipping his head back. “Less…” He shrugs. “It feels less awful, now.”


“Oh, well,” Chris teases, giving himself a quick wipedown and tossing the washcloth in the general direction of the laundry hamper before stretching out next to him. “Less awful. High praise.”


Nursey gives a soft laugh and opens his eyes, looking at him with warmth and affection. “You know what I mean.”


“I do.” He runs his thumb over Nursey’s sternum, feels the reassuring beat of his heart under his palm. “You think you can sleep?”


“Mm.” Nursey shifts closer to him. “We should say ‘night to Cait.”


Chris hms his agreement, reaching over him for the phone he’d abandoned on the nightstand and opening Snapchat. He flips the camera and flops back next to Nursey. “Smile,” he says, angling to get both of them into the frame. Nursey makes a face but tilts his head toward Chris’s, and Chris smacks kisses against his cheek and jaw until Nursey cracks a grin. Chris snaps the photo.


“You cheated,” Nursey says.


“You’ll live.” Chris captions the picture I FIXED HIM!!! and sends it to Farmer, then curls around Nursey to wait for a response.


His phone buzzes. He flips Cait’s message open, snorts at the two full lines of heart-eye emojis, and shows it to Nursey. Nursey smiles. “She’s the best.”


“I know.” He clicks his phone off and hands it to Nursey.


Nursey puts it back on the nightstand and turns the lamp off, reaching down to pull the blanket closer and tugging it over both of them. He rolls over to tuck himself against Chris’s side, his casted arm resting over his stomach. “You’re the best, too.”


Chris traces his fingers over the plaster. “You’re not so bad yourself.”


Nursey’s silent for a moment. When he speaks, his voice is quiet. “You promise?”


Someday, Chris thinks, he will sit Nursey down, and tell him all the ways that he loves him, until he unravels all the hurt and loneliness and insecurity buried under those easy grins and sparkling eyes.


He settles, now, for curling a hand over Nursey’s, drawing the broken arm carefully up until he can kiss his fingertips. They’re cool under his lips.


“I promise,” he says, and doesn’t let go.