Title: In the Open
Summary: Rita confronts Dexter after he demolishes the neighborhood watch light in the episode "Blinded By the Light."
Word Count: 939
Disclaimer: All things “Dexter” are, sadly, not mine.
Notes: For smarvelous . Possible spoilers up through episode 403.
‘He isn’t Paul.’ She repeated this numbly, with the mindless ease of a childhood prayer, desperately hoping it would bring comfort. ‘He’s not that violent. He’s not that addict. He’s not that kind of man.’
If he had been Paul, if this had been before, she wouldn’t say anything. She’d creep back inside, smile if the kids woke up, and pretend everything was under control for them. Now she didn’t creep or cower, and that was owed in part to Dexter. He’d never pushed her in any sense of the word. In his own way, he’d tried to protect her and the children from Paul as much as she had.
Stepping off the porch, she crossed the cool grass towards him, meeting him halfway across their yard. They would have this out now, in the open. There was nothing to hide behind a closed door. That was a life from another time, one she was done with. It was too dark to make out any nuances on his face, but he could be hard enough to read in any light. Reaching out, she firmly grasped the rake in his hand with one of hers. After a moment his hold slackened, relinquishing it to her. His breath was even, exhaled down on her face in warm streams. His eyes searched her, letting her take the lead in how to begin. Dexter almost always let her lead. Why, then, didn’t she feel more in control?
Standing surrounded by the broken shards of the light her husband had been compelled to smash, she wondered if maybe she simply wasn’t very good at it. A good wife, a real partner, shouldn’t have to ask, “What happened?” After a moment of silence she pressed. “Dexter?”
“I’m sorry.” The words sounded contrite and sincere.
Was he sorry he had done it, or sorry she had seen it? She couldn’t even begin to know how to phrase that, and anyway, it wasn’t the real issue. In a quiet, searching voice she asked, “What’s wrong?” A bit more firmly she pressed, “And don’t tell me nothing. People don’t destroy their neighbor’s property for nothing.” She wanted to understand.
“He wouldn’t give me his infamous Block Party Blast barbeque sauce recipe?” Dexter offered, the droll quip attempting to lighten the mood.
It wasn’t entirely unsuccessful, but nor was it that easy. “Dexter, be serious. Did you have a fight with some of the neighbors?”
“If we did, I’m sure the hidden cameras, motion detectors, heat sensors, psychic readers, and whatever else is part of the neighborhood watch would have picked it up,” he said, the lightness edged with frustration. A moment later it was gone, and Rita almost wished it wasn’t. If he was feeling frustrated, that could be dealt with. She could handle him being tired and frayed. She could handle him being human, when he let her see it. Letting the rake fall to the ground, she slid her arm around him, resting her head against his chest, grounding him firmly with her. After a moment she felt his arms slowly wrap around her, his voice once again placid and reassuring. “Sorry. Things have just been crazy at work. Dealing with those cases building up, then coming home to lights flashed in my face by everyone playing caped suburban crusaders-“
“I don’t need excuses, Dexter,” she cut in. Pulling back enough to look into his face, she asked, “What I need to know is, what do you need?”
“You.” He said it so simply, so sweetly, so perfectly that it lodged itself in her chest, filling her with warmth. After everything they’d been through, there was nonetheless something incredibly uncomplicated, and therefore reassuring, about him summing up his answer in a single word. And that it was an answer she could provide.
She brought his hand up to her face. “You already have that. So why this?” She gestured at the debris on the ground.
“That… comes with us.” His eyes trailed from the shards back to her face, seeing her puzzlement and elaborating, “The parties. The carpools. The watches. It’s just all been a bit… much.” He was overwhelmed; that she could understand. As she nodded she heard Dexter’s voice gain in confidence; she believed it was because he was finally feeling his load lighten as he shared the burden with her.
It made sense. He was a new father of three, living in a new area, adjusting to a new life while balancing a job that kept him out all hours. He couldn’t just be telling her what she wanted to hear. He wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t Paul, and he wasn’t the past. He was different, she was different, their family was different. “It’s normal to feel that way. But you can talk to me about it. I know exactly how you feel.” She paused and watched him, waiting for a sign that he either agreed or disagreed, but when he remained silent she added, “Besides, it’s worth it.” She smiled, hoping a light tone would mask just how badly she wanted him to answer when she asked, “Right?”
“Right.” His voice sounded distant, or perhaps tired. Then he smiled and kissed her forehead. She closed her eyes and felt him tilt his head near her ear to add softly, “Let’s go in.” She nodded, taking his hand in hers, and led him inside. The rake and pieces of wreckage scattered outside their home could wait to be dealt with. They could get up early and clean it up together. They could pay for a new one, or talk the neighbors out of wanting them.
They could fix this.