You wanted to be in love
and he happened to get in the way.
(Richard Siken, “A Primer for Small, Weird Loves”)
Debra gets a message on her voicemail from Angel and then one from Quinn and then one from Matthews. All of them sounding level and calm and professional. All of them sounding like cops. Asking her to come in to answer a couple of questions. About Dexter. About the Bay Harbor Butcher. About the murder of Maria LaGuerta.
She listens to the messages once and then drives straight to Dexter’s, pounding on the door as hard as she can, over and over again until he answers, bare-chested and sleepy-eyed, his hair standing up in a million directions.
“I think they know,” she tells him, and his eyes snap open even as his face goes blank. “Angel, Quinn, motherfucking Matthews. They fucking know, Dexter. Or at least, they almost know. God. Fuck. I don’t know, but. Something’s wrong.”
“What?” he says, pulling her into his apartment. She hasn’t been here in almost a year, but it looks exactly the same, clean and neat and completely fucking perfect. “How?”
“How the fuck should I know, Dex? But here --” she holds out the phone, and plays the voicemails on speaker phone, all of those coolly professional cop voices filling Dexter’s living room. His face is incredibly still, his eyes turned cold. “How the fuck do they know?”
“Vogel,” he says, his eyes shifting back and forth, back and forth, like he’s trying to figure out how all of this has gotten out of his control. Which, god fucking damn, you’d think he’d have realized by now that he can’t control shit.
“The fucking shrink?” she demands. Jesus fuck. Dexter’s got the worst fucking taste in women.
“We have to go,” he says, heading down the hall towards his bedroom. “Get Harrison.”
Harrison’s asleep, clutching a stuffed white dog to his chest, and Debra packs a bag for him before she wakes him up, piling underoos and t-shirts and tiny sneakers into a duffle bag. Once she’s done, she sits on the bed next to him, running a hand over his head. He smiles in his sleep, and Debra bites her lip to keep herself from crying. God damn, this kid’s life is fucking ruined. After just a few minutes, Dexter comes in, two black bags clutched in his hands.
“Ready?” he asks, and Debra nods, slinging the duffle bag over her shoulder and scooping Harrison up, his body a solid, comforting weight against her chest.
He snuffles against her shoulder and then blinks awake, giving her a sweet, sleepy smile. “Hi, Aunt Deb,” he says.
“Hey kiddo,” she says, and, god, what the fuck are they going to do? She holds him tightly to her as they leave, the apartment door closing behind them with loud click.
Once they’re in the car, Dexter hands her the bags and she looks through them, just to give herself something to do. One of the bags is filled with clothes, stuff for Dexter and Harrison and even some things for her -- jeans and t-shirts and underwear, all in her size. The other bag is filled with cash -- a lot of fucking cash, actually -- and there are three passports, one for David Johnson, one for his wife, Deirdre, and one for his son, Harry. There’s also a small black velvet box and when she opens it there’s a ring inside, a thin silver wedding band, and she stares at it for what feels like a very long time.
“Hope you don’t mind being married to your brother,” Dexter finally says, and Deb makes a noise, something between a laugh and a sob, high pitched and a more than a little hysterical.
He’s wearing his wedding ring again, she notices. If Rita could see them now, she thinks with a wry smile, and then she remembers that Rita ended up in a bathtub full of her own blood, and she stops smiling and slips the plain silver band onto her hand, the metal cool and slick against her skin.
And that’s it, they’re a family and they’re all they have left, and Debra almost can’t believe this is actually her life. When Dexter merges onto the interstate he looks at her out of the corner of his eye, like he's expecting her to say something.
So: “Where are we going?” she asks.
Dexter doesn’t answer, just tightens his hands on the steering wheel and breathes out hard through his nose. Debra sighs and leans her forehead against the window, the glass cool against her skin.
If they don’t stop, they can be out of the state before dawn.
“What about Astor and Cody?” she asks. They’re on I-95, just outside of Orlando, and it’s two in the morning, and she was right. By dawn they’ll be out of Florida altogether.
Dexter blinks, and she knows this is the first he’s thought of them. “They’ll be fine,” he says. He sounds emotionless, robotic. He sounds fucking inhuman. “They’re with their grandparents. They’ll be fine.”
Debra nods and stares out the window, thinks about Astor, the way she reminds her of herself at that age. She’s fifteen years old and has two dead parents and a serial killer for a stepfather. She’ll probably be a fucking heroin addict by the time she’s old enough to vote.
“Right,” she says and she doesn’t recognize her own voice, low and dull and so much like Dexter’s it makes her want to scream.
They finally stop for gas just outside of Jacksonville at one of those big travel plazas that has everything, a restaurant and a drug store and a coffee shop. Dexter takes Harrison to the bathroom and Debra ducks into the drugstore and buys hair dye and scissors and a baseball cap for Harrison. Her hands won't stop shaking and she presses them flat against the check-out counter as she waits for the clerk to count out her change.
The next morning, in a motel bathroom just outside of Savannah, she chops off her hair and dyes it platinum blonde. There are dark circles under her eyes and her lips are pale and chapped and her hair looks ugly as fuck, and she stares at herself in the mirror for a very long time, trying to get used to it.
She looks like a completely different person.
They move around a lot, no more than two nights at any one place. Debra doesn’t ask Dexter where they’re going, just sits next to him and stares out the window. They’re still somewhere in Georgia, she thinks, cotton fields stretching out white and clean all around them.
There’s a manhunt for them happening in Miami, their pictures splashed across all the newspapers in the state, the headlines calling them cop killers, calling them partners in crime. Fucking Bonnie and Clyde or some shit. Which is true, she guesses, even if it doesn’t feel like she and Dexter are together in anything anymore.
Dexter takes to wearing baseball caps and he grows a beard, a really fucking ugly beard, actually, red and thick and patchy on his cheeks.
“You look like a goddamn lumberjack,” she tells him one morning, the two of them standing side-by-side in front of the sink in some shitty motel outside of Charlotte, brushing their teeth in their pajamas.
He glances at her, eyebrows knit in confusion. “Is that a bad thing?” he asks.
When she laughs, she’s not sure who’s more surprised, him or her, but he gives her a tentative smile and he’s got toothpaste in his beard, and Deb feels a surge of love for him so strong that it almost takes her breath away.
They’re eating breakfast at a truck stop just outside of Louisville when someone finally recognizes them, some fucking truck driver asshole with rotting teeth and hard eyes.
He stares at them just a beat too long, a flare of recognition in his eyes, and then he’s heading over to the payphone next to the bathroom, watching them carefully the whole time. And, yeah, it could be nothing, but after he hangs up the phone he smirks at their table, and Dexter freezes beside her.
“Deb,” he says. His voice is flat, but she can hear the sharp edge of tension there.
“I saw,” she says, and he’s still looking at them, that motherfucking fuck. The faint sound of police sirens start up somewhere in the distance and Deb bites down on the inside of her cheek, hard enough to draw blood.
“Shit,” she says, a hot knot of anxiety forming in her throat. “Fuck. Shit. Jesus fucking Christ, Dexter. What the fuck are we going to do now?” Harrison’s scribbling on his placemat with a crayon, the jagged red streaks bright under the harsh fluorescent light in the diner.
“Stay calm.” Dexter’s getting out his wallet and dropping two twenties on the table, cool as anything. “Just stand up and follow me, okay, Deb?”
The sirens are getting louder and Debra’s heart’s beating too fast, racing away. She’s going to have a fucking heart attack, she thinks, laughter building tight and hysterical in her chest.
“Okay, Deb?” Dexter says again, low and intense. He’s already on his feet, Harrison’s hand in his, the two of them just looking at her. Harrison’s still holding the crayon in his hand, clutched tight in his thin, pale fist.
Debra feels like she’s going to pass out. She can hear her heartbeat in her ears, and her chest feels tight and her vision is starting to black out around the edges, and, fuck, she really is going to have a heart attack.
“Debra!” Dexter hisses. Beside him, Harrison flinches a little, dropping the crayon on the floor, the movement so small Dexter doesn't seem to notice, but it's somehow enough to make Debra snap to. “Okay?”
Deb blinks. “Okay,” she says, nodding, nodding, nodding. How are the cops not here yet? What the fuck is wrong with the world? They’re going to fucking get away, just walk right out of here like nothing’s wrong because the fucking cops in this fucking town in the middle of buttfucking nowhere can’t get their asses in gear to arrest two goddamn serial killers. “Okay.”
Dexter gives the waitress an easy smile and a little salute, and then Deb’s holding Harrison’s other hand in hers and the three of them walk out of there together, holding hands as they stroll through the front doors. No one tries to stop them. It's totally fucking surreal.
Debra straps Harrison into his carseat on autopilot and then she’s sliding into the passenger seat, trying not to freak out, trying to keep it together. Dexter drives them unhurriedly out of the parking lot, coming to a complete stop at the stop sign, taking a moment to flick on his turn signal. Deb can see lights strobing in the distance, red then blue then red again. Her heart feels like it’s in her throat, and Dexter turns left out of the diner parking lot, pointing the car towards the police cruisers tearing down the road.
“What the fuck are you doing?” Debra demands, and her voice comes out high and shaky and hysterical. They need to run, they need to get the fuck out of Dodge, not drive right towards the fucking cops.
“Just relax,” Dexter says, and then they’re passing the cops, the sirens loud enough to make Harrison cover his ears.
And Dexter must know what he’s doing because they don’t get caught. They go back to the motel and pick up their stuff and then they’re back in the car again, Harrison asleep in the back seat and Deb’s hands shaking so badly she can hardly buckle her seatbelt.
They head west until they cross the state line into Missouri and Dexter pulls off the interstate and up to another shitty roadside motel.
Jesus Christ, he’s like a fucking fleabag motel magnet, always finding them the shittiest fucking places to stay, brown shag carpeting and wood paneling and goddamn polyester bedspreads. The next time Deb decides to kill a bunch of people and flee from the cops she’s going to stay at the fucking Ritz.
They take their bags inside and then bring Harrison down to the crappy little motel pool, the three of them splashing around together in the shallow end in the waning evening light. There are water droplets clinging to Dexter's beard and the air smells like summer, cut grass and chlorine, and for just a second they can pretend that they're happy, that they're a family, that they're normal.
But then she blinks and she sees the way that Dexter's eyes are far away, the way Harrison clings to her arm, the kind of insecurity a kid gets when he's moving around every day of his life, and the illusion's gone. Normal, Debra thinks. What a fucking joke.
“I need to go out for a while,” Dexter tells her the next night. It’s just past sundown and Deb’s sitting on the bed she shares with Harrison, the two of them watching some stupid cartoon about a fish that lost his kid.
“Deb?” Dexter says, and he waits for her to turn to look at him. He’s wearing a tight army green shirt and cargo pants, black leather gloves tucked into his back pocket, and Debra really can’t believe that this is her life now.
“Okay,” she says. On screen, the blue fish is swimming in panicky circles, calling desperately for the orange fish. Beside her, Harrison leans forward tensely, a worried look on his face like he’s really worried something’s going to happen to that fucking cartoon fish. He doesn't even look over at Dexter when he leaves, and Debra wonders if Dexter even knows what he's doing to the kid, how Harrison's already learning that his father would always rather be somewhere else.
When Dexter finally gets back, Deb’s giving Harrison a bath, running a scratchy white washcloth over his thin arms. There’s a rust-colored stain on the floor of the tub, snaking its way up from the drain, and Deb keeps holding Harrison to the side, making sure he doesn’t touch it. Not that it fucking matters anyway, whatever fucking corrupted shit is in the tub is surely already all over him. But still. She keeps him away from that fucking stain.
Dexter leans against the doorway for a couple of minutes, watching them in silence. He’s got that little fucking smile on his face, the one that he always has when he’s vetted or stalked or chopped up some dipshit lowlife piece of trash he’s decided to rid the world of.
“I want to go to California,” she tells him, keeping her eyes trained on Harrison. His fingers are all pruney, and he’s probably as clean as he’s ever going to get so she reaches into the water and flips open the drain. “I’m sick of the fucking South.”
“Okay,” Dexter agrees. He’s got a smear of blood on his left cheek, and it looks black in the dim light of the bathroom. “We’ll leave tomorrow.”
“Good,” Debra says. She lifts Harrison out of the bath and wraps him in one of the shitty motel towels, the fabric rough against her hands. His body is small and fragile and warm and she holds him close, closing her eyes and inhaling the sweet, clean scent of baby shampoo.
When she carries Harrison out of the bathroom, she brushes up against Dexter, and her hip nudges up again his.
She hears his sharp intake of breath, and she holds Harrison closer to her, like maybe she can get his innocence to somehow flow into her through osmosis or what the fuck ever it's called. It doesn’t, of course, and she has to force herself to think about something other than the way Dexter’s shirt clings to his body, about how she still can’t look at him without her heart skipping strangely, traitorously in her chest.
Debra loves Harrison, but the kid kicks like a fucking donkey in his sleep. Most nights, she can ignore it, but for some reason tonight she can’t, and every time he moves she gets a flash of red behind her eyes. She’s just so tired.
Finally, she gives up, throwing off the covers and tiptoeing over to Dexter’s bed, sliding under the covers next to him.
“Deb?” he whispers, and she can barely hear him over the hum of the air conditioner in the corner.
She doesn’t answer, just squeezes her eyes shut so hard it makes her head hurt. She just wants to get some fucking sleep.
“Deb?” Dexter whispers again. She can feel the heat of his body behind her, solid and so familiar it makes her chest ache. He took a shower after he got back from wherever he went, and he smells clean, like soap and baby shampoo.
“What?” she snaps, loud enough that she feels Dexter flinch behind her. In the other bed, Harrison shifts restlessly, his feet kicking violently at the covers, and Debra waits to make sure he doesn’t wake up. He doesn't. Honestly, the kid sleeps like the fucking dead. “What the fuck do you want, Dexter?”
“I...” he starts and then stops. Debra closes her eyes and wills him to shut up, to just go to sleep and not say anything else. “I’m sorry,” he finally finishes and she bites down hard on her lower lip to keep herself from screaming.
“Fuck you,” she says, and he makes a noise like he’s been hit, this sharp intake of breath that fills her with rage. He’s a fucking psychopathic serial killer, he doesn’t get to act like his feelings are hurt.
“I love you,” he says, quiet and sincere, and Debra doesn’t think she’s ever hated him more.
She wants to tell him again that this is all his fault, that he’s destroyed her, that he’s ruined everything, but instead she sighs, rolling over so that they’re face to face. In the darkness of the room, he’s just a vague silhouette beside her, hazy and indistinct, but his dark, hooded eyes are strangely bright.
“I love you, too,” she hears herself say, and she just. She really, really does. She loves him. And he’s her brother and he killed someone just a few hours ago and all she can really think about is how he’s the only person who actually matters to her. This is pretty much the most fucked up thing that she can imagine. “I just really fucking love you, Dexter. And I fucking hate you for it.”
He makes a strange, strangled noise deep in his throat, and then he’s shifting closer to her, moving so that their bodies are pressed together. He’s hard against her hip and there’s a warm, tight feeling deep in her belly, sick and desperate, and she hates how much she wants this. Even after everything he’s done -- after everything they’ve done -- she still wants to be with him.
His breath is warm against her lips and he kisses her softly, and he’s her brother and he’s a monster and he’s the only good thing in her life, and this whole situation is just so completely and utterly fucked to hell. She should hit him, she should scream at him, she should shoot him right in the fucking chest, put right all of the things she's done wrong.
She kisses him back instead, opening her mouth under his and biting at his lower lip, hard enough to draw blood, hard enough to make him flinch. But even as the sick, coppery taste fills their mouths, he doesn’t let her go, doesn’t push her away, just puts one hand on her hip, tentative and soft and so fucking gentle she almost can’t stand it.
His beard is scratchy against her skin, and if she closes her eyes she can pretend he’s someone else. Instead, she keeps her eyes open, holding his gaze as she reaches down to stroke his dick through his sweatpants, his hips surging against her hand and eyes going wide and startled and dark.
She’s wanted this for so long -- longer than she would ever admit -- and maybe she’s been destroyed and broken long before she ever shot LaGuerta. Because when Dexter gasps into her mouth and slides his fingers underneath the waistband of her pants, Debra feels whole for the first time in what feels like forever.
She keeps her eyes open the whole time, watching him watch her, their bodies fitting together like they were made to, the two of them clinging desperately to each other as they move together in the dark.
Afterwards, she feels changed, somehow, like she’s becoming something different, something new. Which is pretty fucking ridiculous because it’s just sex, but still. She feels more fucking alive than she has in years. And part of her just wants to embrace that, just hold on to that feeling and not worry about anything else, but she is who she is and there’s some shit she just can’t let go.
So: “Who was he?” Deb asks, keeping her voice low.
“Who was who?” Dexter mumbles sleepily.
Debra rolls her eyes. “The guy you went after tonight. Who the fuck was he, Dexter?”
“Does it matter?” he sighs. He sounds as exhausted as she feels, and Debra feels a quick, bitter surge of triumph. He should be fucking exhausted, he should be tired as fucking shit.
Debra snorts. “Did he fit The Code at least?” she asks.
Beside her, Dexter doesn’t answer, just sighs again, his breath hot and close on her cheek.
“You’re never going to stop, are you?” she says, and it’s nowhere near the first time she’s had this particular epiphany. It probably won’t be the last.
“Do you want me to stop?” He sounds legitimately curious, like he’s not sure of the answer.
Debra laughs, low and bitter. “Do I want you to stop being a motherfucking serial killer? Yeah, Dex, I really fucking do.”
He doesn’t say anything for a few minutes, and then: “He was a pedophile. I saw him watching Harrison when we brought him to the pool yesterday. So I broke into his room, took a look at some of the files in his computer, and, well. Let’s just say the world’s a safer place for Harrison tonight.”
“Oh,” Deb says because she’s not sure what else to say. Then: “So you did it for Harrison?”
She feels Dexter tense beside her, like he’s holding his breath, and this is it, she realizes, this is the moment that’s going to decide them. She’s given everything she has to him, and he still thinks about lying right to her face, hiding himself away from her, pushing his Dark fucking Passenger or whatever the fuck it is somewhere deep inside where she can never see.
But then he sighs. “Partly,” he finally says. “But mostly I did it for me. I liked doing it. It was...fun.”
And Debra knows she should feel something like disgust, but mostly what she feels is relief, and she lets out a short, quick sob, scrubbing one hand across her face.
“I shouldn’t have told you,” Dexter says, making it sound like a question. He’s got his arm around her waist, but starts to pull away.
“No,” Deb says quickly, reaching down to wrap her hand around his wrist, keeping his arm around her, not letting him go. “I’m glad you did.”
He rests his chin on her shoulder, staring intently at her in the darkness. “You are?”
“I am.” Because, fuck, it’s not like she’s going to shed a tear because the world’s down one piece of shit kiddie-fucker. “But...you were careful, right? I mean, Jesus Christ, I can’t fucking lose you, Dex.” She gets a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach just thinking about it, and she presses her body closer to his, relishing the feel of him against her, skin on skin.
“I’m always careful, Deb,” he tells her, and she feels him smile, his lips curving against her shoulder.
“Which is why we’re on the run like fucking Bonnie and Clyde, right?” she says, nudging him gently with her elbow. His chest is smooth and hard, and she can’t seem to stop touching him. Because, yeah, he’s her brother, but he’s also the only person in the world who really, truly knows her and loves her anyway.
“We’ll stop running,” he tells her. “Eventually.”
“When?” she asks. On the other bed, Harrison has started to snore lightly, the sound strangely comforting.
“When we get to California,” he says. She thinks he might be making fun of her, but there’s a wistfulness to his voice and she knows he can’t change who he is – won’t change who he is – but. She doesn’t know. Maybe he wants to stop just as much as she wants him to stop.
“When we get to California,” she repeats, and she squeezes his wrist gently and closes her eyes, wishing that everything will be okay, wishing that things weren’t so fucking fucked up, wishing she wasn’t in love with her brother, wishing he wasn’t a monster, wishing that Harrison could have a normal fucking life, and just. Wishing.