TITLE: Three Conversations that Dexter Will Never Have
PART: Chapter 1: Graduation
AUTHOR: Marisol
FANDOM: Dexter
CHARACTERS: Dexter and the gang in 2018
DISCLAIMER: If you think this is the official website of the New York Yankees, you're an idiot. Go away.
FEEDBACK: Good, bad, ugly. I want it all.

Cody's high school graduation was due to start in 45 minutes and—unsurprisingly—they hadn't even left the house.

"Dexter," Astor protested, "Me and Jackson can just follow you to the convocation center in his car."

"But there's limited parking and they said we should carpool." Astor face wasn't budging. Whenever she got a new boyfriend she was like this—her family became disposable. "Besides, why pay another seven dollars in parking when we can all ride over together."

"I don't mind paying the extra seven dollars," Jackson offered cheerfully. "If…if that's what Astor wants."

The three exchanged looks in a battle of wills.

"Can you excuse us a sec, Jackson?" Dexter asked. Jackson nodded and took his leave. "Look, Astor," Dexter began, "The truth is, we went from seeing you everyday to every few months at best. You may not miss us—"

"Don't say that," she interrupted.

"I know. It's just that…Cody will never admit it, but he's really been looking forward to you being here. And so have I. I mean, is it a crime that I want to spend some time with my only daughter?" Astor lowered her head, hiding a smile. "I just want to make the most of our time together."

Astor nodded, and put on her sunglasses. "Jackson, we're riding with Dad."

It was a weird thing that they did; Cody and Astor always called him Dexter to his face, but referred to him as Dad. He had never asked them why. But he secretly liked it.

Everyone piled into the van and Dexter took a look around him. Cody was riding shotgun, busily texting his buddies and no doubt making plans for whatever they would be doing after the family dinner was over. Dexter didn't begrudge him his time with his friends. Besides, his graduation party wouldn't be until tomorrow, and Dexter had a surprise for him—a boat of his own. Out of everyone, Cody had enjoyed their days on the water the most, and more than once, while Dexter had watched Cody struggle to pull some oversized fish onto The Slice of Life, Dexter had thought back to his own days of hunting with Harry. Those were days he still treasured, but now, with all that he knew about his father, those memories were a little tainted. He could only hope Cody wouldn't look back at their days together and feel the same way.

In the rear view mirror he saw Astor, compact in hand, putting the finishing touches on her makeup. Just like Rita, she was 5'3" and not an ounce over 100 pounds. Tiniest little thing. But unlike her mom, she would never suffer from years of insecurity or mistreatment before she came into herself. At 21, she already knew what she wanted out of life, and she wasn't going to let anything or anyone stop her—boyfriends included.

"Where's Harrison?" Dexter suddenly asked. He heard a giggle coming from the back seat. "Buckle up, we're running late."

"I'm not here," came another giggle, and any other day it would have been cute, but with the clock ticking, there was no time for this.

"C'mon Harrison," Dexter pleaded, only to hear more giggles.

"Harrison," Astor said in her sternest voice. "Get in your seat and buckle up." Harrison suddenly appeared, sat down and hurriedly put on his seatbelt.

She was practically Harrison's mom, and there was…something in her voice or body language or whatever that always got Harrison moving. Dexter had given up years ago trying to figure out what it was.

With everyone in, Dexter pulled off.

Twenty minutes later they were parked outside the convocation center among the throngs of families and graduates ritualizing the end of childhood. Cody jumped out of the car first and raced for the door. Dexter followed suit, jogging behind him. "Cody!" he called.

"Dexter, I gotta go," he said, turning around but barely slowing.

"I know, I know…" Dexter called for Astor to grab Harrison and shot up to where Cody was. He was squinting in the sun, but smiling.

"Wow, Cody," Dexter said at last. "Look at you."

"I know," Cody replied, shaking his head.

"It's just," Dexter sighed. "I just, wanted to tell you that I'm really proud of you. That's all."

Cody nodded. "I know." He stopped, and both of them looked at each other a moment, seeming to finally grasp the real significance of the occasion. Cody looked like he could conquer the world decked out in his cap and gown, not to mention a few chords that recognized his academic achievement. If Dexter were a different man he might have teared-up a little.

"Astor and I don't say it enough," Cody began, "But….even though we're not really your kids—"

"Yes you are," Dexter interrupted.

"Oh, I know, I know," Cody replied. "But, there were so many things that you didn't have to do, but did anyway. You've been the best dad anyone could ever hope for."

The two…men…hugged. "I just wish mom could be here," Cody said.

Dexter nodded. "You know she would be if she could." His phone rang. "Look, there's Rita now."

"Great," Cody said nodding. "See you inside." He ran off and Dexter answered.

"Hey you," he said.

"Hey Dexter," Rita said. "How's it going down there?"

"Great, great. Cody just went inside and we're about to go find out seats. He says he wish you were here."

"I wish I were too," she said, "but that damn back injury I got on our almost-honeymoon is finally catching up with me."

Dexter sighed. "Down to this day I should have just let you get your own ID and then you would have been on that later flight. We probably could have even left together, but no—I just had to bring it to you. If I hadn't you would have never gotten on that raggedy puddle jumper. And everyone claims that those things never crash."

"Hey, I survived, OK? Which is saying a lot. Can you imagine if I had—"

"Gosh, don't even say it Rita." The thought sent a chill through his spine. "We never did get a honeymoon."

"Everyday we love each other is our honeymoon," Rita said. "And we've had thousands of them."

"I guess you're right," Dexter replied.

"Anyway, I just have to be on bed rest a couple more days before the surgery and then we'll take it from there. But I didn't call to talk about me. I just called to tell you all to have a good time and not to forget to bring me a program, OK?"

"Absolutely. See you in a bit."

He hung up and turned to find Astor, Harrison and Jackson standing next to him.

"That was Mom," he explained. "She wants us to get her a program."

"Oh, right," Astor nodded. Then she handed Dexter his ticket.

"Let's go make some noise," he said, and they all headed inside.