The evidence is plain to see.
Muddy boots left to dry outside, the scent of fresh fish being cooked with more herbs than she can even name, and, when she pushes the door open, a faded Spider-Man bookbag dumped precisely where a less careful parent would trip right over it.
"Hope you made enough for three."
Not so very long ago she would have been horrified at all this domesticity. But after confronting genuine horror after horror at work, there's something truly nice about coming home to an adoring husband who likes nothing better than to cook her dinner (while logged onto the FBI's crime database via his laptop, but she tries not to dwell on that).
Frank grins and leans over to kiss her hello, still stirring the pan. "I did. We just got home in time to see your press conference. Another evildoer behind bars thanks to LA's finest."
"And I didn't even swear!" She'd pinch a chunk of fish out of the pan, it smells so good, if she didn't know from experience just how annoying burnt fingertips can be.
"Honestly I miss the swearing."
"Mm, I'll swear for you all you want, baby." Her briefcase and jacket dropped onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar, she casts a look around for any signs of a young man who normally won't let anything stand between him and Frank's cooking. "Okay, where is he?"
"Outside, trying his very best to mope in bright sunshine on one of the world's most beautiful beaches."
"No broken bones. Not even a bruise as far as I can tell. Usual twelve year olds trying to fight. Apparently one of the other kids was reading up on the Bay Harbor Butcher online."
"Shit. What happened to porn?"
Once upon a time, halfway across the country, she'd been perfectly content with the idea of never having kids at all. Her brother had three of them, and cute as they were, she'd really liked the idea of just being the cool aunt who bought them birthday presents and maybe babysat once a month, but had absolutely no responsibilities outside of that.
She'd been pretty happy with the way she and Frank had worked things out too: they could both live their own lives, do the jobs they loved, but still make the relationship work through vacations and email and more sex than any two people had previously managed to fit into a 24-hour period.
But then she'd discovered her brother's secret life, and everything had changed.
One legal battle had put Dexter away forever, barely escaping Death Row due (officially) to the assistance he'd given the prosecutors and (unofficially) to the immense sympathy the Miami public had for their "Dark Defender".
Another legal battle, to win custody of Harrison, meant getting married to Frank and moving to the West Coast to give the kid a fresh start. It should all have been fucking horrible, losing everything she'd ever known practically overnight. But Frank had been an absolute rock, and she'd barely put a foot in the door of her new precinct before they'd had a call notifying them of a spree killing.
That was ten years ago. She's barely had time to breathe since.
But every night (or sometimes in the wee hours of the morning), she comes home to Frank's arms and kisses and fucking great cooking, and to the little boy who's slouched in the sand now, glaring through locks of blond hair he won't let her cut. He's twelve years old and thinks he's the coolest thing to ever walk the earth. She thinks he looks like a Hanson brother.
He pokes a finger into the sand, drawing hieroglyphs. "Hey."
"Want to talk about it?"
"Okay. Well, Frank's making dinner…"
"I want to see my Dad."
They've had an entire series of conversations on this theme, spanning everything from vague ideas of "is Daddy a bad man?" to more in-depth discussions about what exactly had happened and why. Frank's always dealt with it better than she has. The two of them go fishing and talk for hours. Or don't talk, knowing Frank. Every time the questions fall to her, though, she just wants to slap Dexter. Or cry. Or shoot something. All three would be nice.
She stops and takes a breath. "What would you say to him, if he was here?"
She expects hesitation, but instead the words tumble out. Of course, he's been rehearsing this all afternoon. "He's an asshole! Why'd he have to get caught? Why didn't he stop when he had me? Doesn't he know that I need him? He's my fuckin' Dad!"
His hands have been tightening into fists, but at the curseword he meets her eye, flushing red with sudden embarrassment, and she just can't help laughing. And in a split-second, he's laughing too, a little boy again rather than the angry teenager she'd glimpsed for barely a moment.
They have dinner after that, telling family stories with the news broadcast on low in the background. Harrison eats and shares and laughs. Crisis averted, she'd like to think.
"We are so totally fucking screwed," she tells Frank in their bedroom, long after the telltale click-click of videogames has died down in Harrison's room. "Ten to one he asks to go see his brother and sister this summer. And ten to one he tries to somehow sneak into a maximum security facility while he's there."
Frank's lying on the bed, the very picture of calm, watching her undress. "I'm not sure there's much harm in either. Aster and Cody are good kids. It might help for him to talk to them."
"Oh, you know they're chatting online all the time anyway." She frowns. "You think we should get him back into therapy? I mean, not that it worked much for Dex, but... Shit I just don't want him to be fucking unhappy for the rest of his life because people know his dad used to kill people."
"Kids always find something to bully other kids over. Harrison's a tough kid. He'll be fine. If anything I'd send him back to taekwondo."
She switches off the light and crashes down to the mattress beside him. "You are not training some junior division of the FBI in our backyard."
"Course not." His fingertips are a light thrill against her thigh. "CIA's much more his style. His Spanish is excellent, and I'm sure we could teach him Mandarin or Arabic in a couple of years..."
"Fuck me, you are the worst…"
If she ever thinks that she married him just because of paperwork, nights like this always remind her of the real reason: the feel of his smile against hers in the darkness, the warmth of his arms, the way he always, always manages to make her laugh...
"It'll be fine," Frank says, and kisses her.
Even after so much has happened, even after so many years, she still believes him.