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Dex knows he can be an asshole. Chowder also know this, which is why he gives Dex the perfect amount of space if Dex is mad, and pushes back if he is really mad. Chowder knows when to leave it, but Chowder also knows when to knock Dex down a peg. They’ve come a long way since frog year, and although Chow’s still sometimes like a 10-year-old on pixie sticks, he’s not afraid to tell Dex and Nurse to shut up. He’s not Bitty’s baby anymore (but try telling Bitty that).

Nursey knows that Dex can be an asshole, too. But Nursey’s also an asshole. They make it work. Unlike freshman year, these days they both know their limits. They rarely fight now; it’s usually all banter. That doesn’t stop either of them from being petty. Nurse still isn’t allowed in the bungalow.

So, yeah, Dex can be a jerk sometimes. He lashes out. Dex knows he gets loud and defensive and red in his face and the back of his neck and the tips of his ears.

Whiskey, though, Whiskey can be a bit of a jerk, too. But he’s quiet and flippant and just raises his eyebrows when confronted. Whiskey’s the type of chill Nurse dreams of being.

Dex thinks it’s kind of cool. If he had that control, Nursey wouldn’t give him shit about during into a lobster when he’s angry.

But anyways. Dex is a bit of an asshole, but his friends still love him. And he loves them. Freshman year, Dex would’ve been defensive, too scared of letting himself be too “girly” or “gay” about his feelings. Now, Dex claps Chowder on the shoulder with a “love you too, buddy” when Chow clamors over Dex’s fresh pie. He responds to Bitty’s “love you, hun”s when on the phone. (He doesn’t say it to Nursey. They both know they’re good friends, but no way in hell is Dex giving Nursey something to hang over him. Nursey doesn’t say it either. Mutually assured destruction; they’re both assholes.)

It took Dex a while to get to where he is, so he knows that it’ll also take time for Whiskey to open up and trust the team. Though it didn’t become apparent how long that might take for Whiskey until Dex became captain and Whiskey moved into the Haus.

Dex’s been around loud personalities. Between Nursey, Bitty, and Chowder, he feels like his ear or his space is always filled. He likes people who are quieter, and not just verbally. Jack and Lardo made it easier to breathe. So it’s nice to have Whiskey to balance things out, but sometimes Dex notices Whiskey’s quiet for the wrong reasons.

“Sometimes I don’t know what to say to Whiskey,” he admits to Bitty one night, as they Skype, mixing a peach pie filling together in their separate homes.

“I felt the same way,” Bitty replies, sighing. “But he’s allowed to grow at his own pace. I don’t get it, but I’ll respect that. I’m sure y’all are doing the most you can. Just be there for him.”

Dex does just that. He loosens the bylaws about the lax bros, even as Chowder raises an eyebrow. And although the frogs know they’re betraying Shitty’s memory, Whiskey relaxes a bit more when they’re at a kegster, and hangs out at the lax house without looking over his shoulder.

“Won’t Uncle Shits be mad?” Tango asks Dex the Friday after his call to Bitty, as Whiskey stands in the lacrosse house yard, laughing as he takes a shot for every catch he misses with a crosse.

“What Shitty doesn’t know won’t hurt him,” Nursey says wisely from over Dex’s shoulder. Dex starts to smile in gratitude, before Nursey trips over Dex’s right shoe and splashes his vodka-Gatorade mix all over Dex’s back.

“Jesus fuck Nurse, who even drinks orange Gatorade?”

“Matches your hair,” slurs, grinning at Tango and Dex. Tango looks scared for his life, or maybe for Nursey’s. Dex doesn’t care, Nursey’s done (and spilled) worse.

“Asshole,” he tells Nursey anyways, almost fondly.

Dex trips Nursey again, just in case Nurse is starting to think Dex is going soft. Nursey squawks. Where, Dex wonders, where is whoever‘s supposed to be on Nursey patrol?

-

Things are going better with Whiskey. Mid-November, he even comes up to Dex, and, cooly as ever, asks for Dex’s help baking something for his girlfriend. It’s nice. They talk about hockey, and Whiskey even wears the extra pair of oven mitts without complaint (unlike Nurse, the one time Dex let him help), even though they have flowers on them.

-

Winter break finds Dex going back to Maine. Nursey’s off being rich in New York, or so he says, although Dex knows he’ll be in Boston after Christmas to get the tattoo Lardo designed for him inked. Chowder’s heading back to California for his first holiday with Caitlin’s family. He’s been vibrating with excitement and nervousness since his last final ended, and Dex thinks he’s bouncing enough to cause turbulence on the flight there.

If he’s excited now, Dex knows that Chow’s going to lose it when he finds out Cait got them Sharks tickets for a game against the Bruins. Nursey bet on it being Chowder’s favorite gift by the time he returns.

Dex bet against him, because Nursey doesn’t talk to Bitty as much as Dex, so he doesn’t know Jack and Bitty are getting Chowder Sharks vs Falconers tickets with a locker room pass, courtesy of Jack. Chowder might just faint like Bitty did when Jack proposed. Nursey’s going to never forgive Dex for winning the bet. Chowder’s definitely going to cry in front of San Jose. It’ll be awesome.

“I don’t think my mom and dad are getting me half as swasome of a gift as Chowder’s,” Dex teases Bitty as he packs for his trip home. (Swasome? Dex was definitely hanging around Chowder too much).

“His par— oh, very funny, Mr. Poindexter. I am not his mom. Jack? Tell me I’m right.”

“You do mother him, bud,” Jack laughs in the background and Dex rolls his eyes.

“Remind Jack he’s the dad,” Dex adds, “since he’s the one who have Chowder dibs.”

Dex is right. His parents don’t give him anything like locker-room pases to his favorite team, but Dex isn’t expecting that. The Poindexters all expect to give and receive presents within a budget. Still, the new clothes and Best Buy and Home Depot gift cards are nice and thoughtful, and it’s nice to see his family again.

His parents have always claimed that they like homemade gifts the best. Dex knows 10 years of popsicle frames and handprints aren’t actually what they want, but they still insist. Dex promises himself he’ll get them whatever they want when he’s got a software designer’s salary. But for now, he bakes four pies for his parents and the rest of the family from scratch.

His mom tears up a little. She says it’s the best thing she’s ever eaten. She’s never tried Bitty’s pie, so she might not be lying. His dad grunts in agreement, and doesn’t make a comment about Dex‘s new hobby.

That night, Dex and his mom sit on steps of the peeling wooden porch and talk. He knows he’s grown. Even two years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to handle a heart-to-heart. He’s not an angry kid anymore, but a stubborn young man who knows a little about how to express himself now. He hopes it’s enough.

It is. Dex thanks her for everything she’s done, thanks her for college. She cries a little, tells him how he’s gone and grown up now that he’s been away. He knows, someday, he has to have the same talk with his dad. But dad’s the one who gave him his freckles and his emotional repression, and Dex isn’t quite ready to face that, yet.

By the time Dex is ready to head back to Samwell for New Years, he’s had his fill of home. He’s decimated his cousins at shinny on the old pond (he’s captain of a D1 team, after all), eaten more seafood than he could catch, and had to bite his tongue to stop himself from launching himself across the table at relatives who snidely comment on Jack Zimmermann.

The New Year’s kegster is at Jack and Bitty’s apartment. Snowy and Nursey are wasted; Nursey spread-eagle under the pool table, and Snowy trying to grab the kitchen scissors from behind Holster for an impromptu haircut. Ransom’s too star struck to be of any help. Jack’s sitting on the couch with a nearly-naked Shitty halfway in his lap, sober, yet nodding along to Shitty’s rant with a small grin. Lardo and Tater are trying their hand at some sort of trick-shot Rube Goldberg versión of beer pong that involves knocking down dominoes and a pie tin.

Chowder is a few drinks in, so he’s at the level of tipsy where he’s somehow even more chatty than normal.

“—but her parents have a point! We did talk about getting a place together in the area, but we’re not sure how everything will be after this summer’s prospect camp. I’ve been looking for jobs there, though. It’s really scary, but I can’t believe I get to plan a future with her! I can’t wait! And then once I find out where I’ll be, and we live together for a bit, I can propose! Ohmigod, how am I gonna do it? Jack’s proposal was so romantic! Should I propose where we met? I did knock her down, though. To be fair, Jack did the same to Bitty. Many times. On purpose.”

“I’m glad you’ve got this figured out, Chowder,” Dex smiles, halfway to drunk himself.

“I really don’t have this figured out, though,” Chowder turns serious and holds Dex’s eyes. “What if I end up in the NHL, but it’s, like, the Leafs?”

“That would suck, but I think Caitlin would follow you anywhere.”

“I love her,” Chowder agrees, softening, before screwing up his face in confusion. “Dex, do you think I’m a sloppy drunk?”

“Where’d that comes from?” Dex looks around as if someone had implied it. His vision shifts back and forth like a camera in a bobble head. That’s what he feels like, at least.

“I dunno. . . sometimes I watch Bitty and wonder, ‘is that me’?”

Dex snorts, and Chowder giggles at him. “If Bitty knew you said that—“

“—Dex!”

“—not that I’m telling him,” he promises. He doesn’t want neither him nor Chowder to get full named by Bitty. “Nursey says Bits gets white girl wine drunk, and for once, I agree with him.”

Chowder giggles, again.

“To be Eric Bittle,” he says to Dex, “what a life.”

“To touch Jack Zimmermann’s ass,” Dex agrees, scrunching his nose at how much he sounds like Shitty.

“Are you gay, Dex?” Chowder asks, playful but carefully serious.

“Nah,” Dex tells him. Freshman Dex would’ve been offended and halfway to red ears by now. But Dex knows that Chowder knows he’s never dated anyone, that he keeps things to himself sometimes. Hell, even Nursey had asked once, too drunk to worry about getting punched in the face. “I’d tell you if I was, promise, Chowder. I just don’t really care about dating.” It’s true. He’s liked girls, sure, but the teams, his friends, mean everything. Dex has put four years of effort into these people, and right now, loving them was most important, and made him happier than trying to get laid.

“But,” he says slyly to Chowder, “I might be into Bully just because he gives Nurse and inferiority complex. And he’s got an amazing flow.”

Chowder laughs brightly. Dex smiles to himself.

-

Dex loves the ocean.

Sometimes he doesn’t, halfway through the summer, sweat dripping down his sunburnt neck, miles offshore and smelling like raw fish.

But usually, he does. New England isn’t necessarily “coastal” in the most picturesque way, but he likes the rocky beaches anyways. When Dex was little, he’d lift rocks to try and catch a glimpse of the little crabs nestled under them, waiting for high tide. When he was older, his cousins made him catch the crabs and skip them in the ocean like stones. They laughed when he cried, so soon enough, he was throwing crabs back into the water with the same force and teasing others into doing it as well. Now, when Dex is on break and has the chance to walk the beach alone, he once again lifts rocks and just stares at the crabs.

“In some ‘nother life, I mighta been a marine by-b’yolgist,” he slurs to Chowder that New Years, thoroughly drunk by that point. “But no one promis’ss you a job.”

“In another life, I’d wanna be a shark,” Chowder replies matter-of-factly, with all the sincerity of a four-year-old boy and a drunk twenty two year old.

“We sh’d go to an ‘quarium sometime,” Dex tries to look at Chowder seriously, but Chowder’s eyes are blurring together and he looks like a cyclops to Dex.

“Yeah!!!”

When Dex wakes up the next day, all he remembers clearly is Nursey’s attempted New Year’s kiss (after Dex turns him down three times, Shitty ends up doing Nursey and planting a wet one right on his mouth), and promising to take Chowder to an aquarium.

They go four weeks later. Nursey wriggles his way into the trip, and Dex has a lot of fun comparing him to the weird looking fish. Nursey buys the three of them the ugliest souvenir shirts the gift shop sells. Chowder‘s both horrified and awed by the sunfish. They have a great time.

-

Dex is an asshole, but not enough of an asshole that he doesn’t vote Whiskey for Captain next year. Whiskey’s a good leader and a great hockey player. He deserves it. But it doesn’t mean that Dex is going to let Bitty’s traditions die off.

Whiskey’s roped into a few baking sessions, one with Bitty himself, just so Dex can make sure the Haus is always capable of providing pie. Dex also gives Whiskey a sheet of paper that tells the story of Eric Bittle and the Transformation of the Glorified Sriracha Room and Jack Zimmermann’s role of contributing a weirdly perfect courting gift. He instructs Whiskey to read it to the tadpoles during Taddy Tour, no exceptions. Whiskey accepts with a wry smile and places it carefully in the over mitt drawer. Dex has faith in him.

They may not have won the Frozen Four like last year, but Whiskey looks even happier this year. If Whiskey can look happy. But Dex sees the way his shoulders don’t tense anymore, how he spends more time lounging around the Haus. This is Whiskey, happy.

Dex knows Whiskey‘s going home for a bit, then to a prospect camp, then on a two week road trip with a Chad, then coming back to the Haus early.

“Can’t go without practice for too long,” he tells Dex. They both know the Haus had grown on him.

-

Dex’s dibs go to Bully, much to Hops and Louis’ lament. Nurse had given his to Hops out of “solidarity, not that you would understand, Poindexter”, though Dex knows it‘s because Nursey is still pissed that Bully‘s cooler than him with none of the effort. Chowder gave his dibs to Louis, resulting in a feedback loop of excitement.

Not that Bully had been a last resort. Dex acknowledges that Bully has taste. Louis would’ve turned the bungalow into an EDM cave, and Hops would’ve made everything yellow. Bully will treat his space well.

Dex couldn’t’ve imagined where he’d end up after four years at Samwell. He never thought he’d spend his last day baking pies with a NHL star, the NHL star’s award winning baker boyfriend, and (albeit reluctantly) a forward named after a drink. Or less that he was making said pie for a tatted, wannabe-hipster English major and an enthusiastic NHL backup goalie.

Not that he’d have it any other way.