Nursey had just been trying to help. The porch had been sagging more and more on the left side, and when Bitty had dropped a can of condensed milk at the door and it had rolled down the porch until it dropped under the wall, Dex had decided that enough was enough. That weekend, he’d pulled out his tool kit and took a crowbar to the siding until he could shine a flashlight in and locate the problem.
“Yikes. It’s a good thing I looked when I did, or we might be in serious trouble.”
“What’s wrong?” Nursey asked.
“You gotta come see it.” Dex passed Nursey the flashlight, describing what he was going to see. “The beam, off to the right, towards the corner of the porch? See how wet the ground looks around it?”
“Yeah.” Nursey straighten, leaning against the wall. He was more interested in watching Dex talk than staring at some wooden beam, though he would never admit it.
Dex continued, “You know how, whenever it rains, there’s that line that always stays squishy longer than the rest of the yard?”
“Yeah, dude, but did you just say squishy?” As soon as the words left his mouth, Nursey flinched, though he tried to hide it with a grin. He thought it was incredibly cute (and he wouldn’t mind watching Dex say the word a few more times, the way it made his nose wrinkle did something to Derek), but he was worried that Dex would hear it only as a chirp, not as the flirting it was maybe meant to be.
To Nursey’s surprise and relief, however, Dex just went with it. “Yeah, squishy, its a technical term. You know what I’m talking about?”
“I think there’s, like, a creek or something underground. You ever notice that on the other side of the road,” and here Dex pointed towards the back fence and the road on the other side, “there’s one of those big drainage pipes, but nothing on our side? That’s cause it runs through our lawn, and apparently, under our porch.”
“What are you going to do about it?”
Dex sighed, then grabbed the flashlight back from Nursey and leaned under the porch again. His voice was slightly muffled when he said, “I think right now the goal is just to make sure it doesn’t fall any further.” He straightened up again. “Once there aren’t people coming through all the time, I can pull off more of the siding and replace the beam with something metal, maybe in some newer concrete, so it’ll be sturdier. For now, though, I think a sheet of plywood, a stack of cinderblocks, and some of that caution tape Ransom has for kegsters will do the trick.”
That was how, an hour later, Nursey found himself trying to help Dex arrange cinderblocks through a one foot by three foot hole in the side of the porch. Dex hadn’t wanted to damage too much of the siding, so he’d only pulled off one piece, but that meant there wasn’t a lot of room for two large defencemen to maneuver the bricks into place.
“Nursey, can you make sure the top brick’s lined up?”
“Dude, I know it is, I just put it there, of course I made sure it was straight.”
“You should check it again anyways, because once we side the stack into place, we’ll need to work the top one in and we won’t be able to adjust!”
“Fine! Fine.” Nursey leaned in, twisting awkwardly to fit his body around Dex’s, ending up with the point of Dex’s shoulder pressed to the center of his chest while he used one hand to shift the brick so that it was perfectly aligned, and if he was paying more attention to the brick than was strictly warranted, then at least he wasn’t thinking something ridiculous like oh my god, his shoulder or I wonder what the freckles look like, just there, where we’re touching.
“There. Its straight.”
“Okay. Time out for a sec while I strategize.” Dex backed up a few steps, dropping to sit on the ground away from the mud. Nursey oh-so-casually leaned against the side of the porch again, angling so that Dex was squarely in his line of view. This meant that Nursey had a perfect view when Dex pulled off his tee shirt.
Instantly, Nursey’s brain whited out. Oh shit oh shit oh shit. He’d never actually seen Dex shirtless outside of the locker rooms, and Nursey followed the Locker-Room Bro-Code to a tee, so really, this was his first time seeing how defined Dex’s muscles were, long and lean, how broad his shoulders really were, how absolutely covered in freckles Dex was– dark reddish brown ones on his shoulders and forearms, orangey ones on his upper arms and around his collarbones, pale, barely-there gold ones spreading further down his chest and–
And Nursey had no idea what color the freckles were around Dex’s waist, above his hips, because he was not going to look, because there was no way he would be able to stop looking, and hadn’t enough time passed that Dex should know what they should do by now?
“Uh…” it took Nursey a second after he started making sound to remember actual words, “uh, what’re we gonna do?”
Dex didn’t seem to notice. “I think I’m gonna have to take another piece of siding off around the corner, and I’ll pull the stack into place while you push, okay?”
“Yeah, fine by me, bro!”
Which is how, five minutes later, Nursey found himself doubled over, trying to push a stack of six cinder blocks into place while Dex pulled on some rope contraption he’d created on the other side.
“Nursey! I need you to push more, from the bottom of the stack, or else I’m just gonna pull them over!”
“Dude, I don’t think I can reach all the way to the bottom brick. I can’t get my arms in there enough!’
“Just get on your knees and shove ‘em in!” And god, if that wouldn’t give Nursey ideas, but as it is, he decided to put off thinking about it until he didn’t have an angry, sweaty, gorgeous hockey-player-slash-handyman yelling double entendres at him with no idea what he’s doing.
Once they finally got the bricks into place, and Dex had packed up his tool box and put his shirt back on and left to go shower back in his dorm, Nursey walked into the Haus, and, seeing Lardo sitting at the table in the kitchen fiddling with her phone, dropped into the seat next to her with a groan.
“Oh my god Lardo. Just… oh my god.”
Lardo slid over a bowl of some sort of chocolate-peanut-butter clusters Bitty had made with a sympathetic smile. “Yeah, dude, that sounded rough.”
“How much did you hear?” Nursey asked, and when she just raised an eyebrow at him, he dropped his forehead to the table and groaned, nearly loud enough to drown out the sounds of her laugh.