“Thanks, Maggie. Love you,” Dex says, and Nursey’s heart stops beating for a moment. His lungs refuse to inhale or exhale. The muscles in his legs forget that they are holding up an actual person.
Then Dex’s eyes catch his, going wide at the interruption, and Nursey somehow finds it in himself to pretend that everything is exactly the same now as it was thirty seconds ago.
He looks away and heads for the fridge, his limbs remembering themselves once more.
“Hey, uh, sorry, I gotta go. Can I call you back?” Dex says into his cell phone on the other side of the Haus kitchen.
Nursey rummages through several pounds of butter in search of something edible. He silently repeats to himself his old mantra from Andover, from when he could barely see straight for the tears welling up in his eyes at every backhanded remark or micro-aggression. The mantra he used to train his emotions not to show themselves at every turn, the way they had done with abandon throughout his childhood.
“Write it down instead,” his sister suggested, when he confided to her his inability to keep things bottled up. And, after a time, that strategy seemed to work.
Write it down instead, he still tells himself now, at the end of his Sophomore year at Samwell, whenever the world becomes too much, whenever he feels suddenly as though his façade of always okay always fine always chill isn’t strong enough to handle the current situation.
Nursey begins to silently run through the words again in his head now, trying very hard not to analyze why he needs to.
“Um, so. How much of that did you hear?” Dex asks him, and luckily Nursey’s got his head buried so far into the freezer that he doesn’t have to cover his pained grimace.
“Not much, man, don’t worry about it. Hey, you think Bitty would murder us if we used his new oven for store-brand taquitos?”
He barely hears Dex’s reply, though, too busy faking normalcy. Too busy wondering who it was on the other end of Dex’s phone call that got to hear the words “I love you” from the guy, and so casually offered up that Dex must say it to her daily.