Title: Summer Stole What Fall Replaces (or the Trades We Make)
Description: Death is his life.
Word Count: 1252
A/N: Coda fic to Episode 5.12, "The Big One". Title taken from "Covered in Rain" by John Mayer.
"Whichever shirt you think is better is fine with me," Dexter replies, chuckling. "You know more about baby fashion than I do."
The party starts at three, and Dexter must head out a little early to make sure everything's right. But she will be gone even sooner. Her flight leaves at noon. By three, she will be… somewhere else.
Sonya is in a frenzy. There are questions and decisions that have to be made: who will pick up the cake, if the boyfriend of some woman named Wanda can come, which credit card to use for the tent. And that's Dexter's job, to make decisions. Out of the corner of his eye, as he rifles through emails to find Sonya a confirmation number, he can see Lumen sweeping up shards of green ceramic. He wishes she wouldn't, but he can't quite bring himself to stop her. He can't bring himself to speak to her at all.
When she's done, she disappears into the bedroom and when she returns she is holding her suitcase, a grocery bag and a small purse—all her earthly possessions. She came with little, and she's arguably leaving with even less.
She mouths to him that she must go. Dexter places his hand over the receiver.
"Wait, Lumen. I'll take you."
She shakes her head, then opens the door and steps outside.
"Wait Sonya, I'll call you back," he says and hurriedly follows her out onto the porch.
"I called a cab," she said. "He should be here any minute."
"Please, let me take you to the airport," he pleads.
"Train station," she corrects.
"Train station, then."
She swallows hard looking stalwartly ahead. "It's alright, really. I know you're busy with your family, your son."
"No really, I don't mind. The party is practically running itself at this point," he assures her.
"It didn't sound like it," she says turning to him, and the slightest bit of light returns to her face. But as soon as it's come, it's gone again, and she turns away. She looks out over the balcony determinedly.
Dexter watches her for a moment, riveted by her indifference. It confuses him, hurts him, and still he can't turn away. He wonders where the woman is that two days ago told him that she wasn't going anywhere. It's all still so hard to believe—that she's leaving—and yet here he is, staring at it, and it becomes more real with each passing moment. He doesn't even know if he's ever felt this way before; it's something like watching Rita in that tub. Something like it, but… different. Because this is so deliberate and preventable, and yet just as final. He feels baffled, maybe a little like an idiot.
Dejected is how he feels.
She turns to him, and she sees it. He knows she does. She tells him so with her eyes.
"Dexter,' she whispers, flinching, and looks down.
He takes a step forward. "Let me take you," he pleads. He won't ask again.
She looks at him and nods. He dares to smile a little, and takes her suitcase from her.
She brushes ahead and down to the van.
They ride in silence, and she watches Miami go by—all palm trees, salsa music and terra cotta roofs. When the station is only a few minutes away, he finally asks.
"Where are you going?"
She turns to him briefly and returns to her post at the window.
"Away," she says simply.
She shakes her head.
Soon enough they are on 37th Street, and at the station. He hops from the car, and pulls her suitcase from the trunk.
And then… here it is. This is goodbye.
They stand there, both paralyzed by the finality of the situation. Dexter, sparing them both, wordlessly hands her the suitcase and then turns to leave.
"Dexter," she calls. He looks around. "I'm sorry."
Saying nothing, he turns to leave, but she begins again.
"I'm not done."
He stops, but doesn't face her this time.
"Thank you. For saving my life. For helping me. For… loving me."
He snaps his head around. Does he… love her?
"Then why are you leaving?" he hears himself ask.
"Because…" She pauses. "Because, Dexter, if you ever…" and her voice is breaking, but it's strong and free. She walks up to him and places a hand tenderly on his cheek. "Dexter if you ever get a chance to live life, to really live life without darkness and without death… promise me you'll take it."
Death is all Dexter has ever known. Death is his mother, his father, his sister, his wife. Death is what he understands. Death is his life.
He doesn't answer.
A tear runs down her face and she kisses Dexter on the forehead—one last time—and Dexter leans into it, savoring what he is sure he will never have again. When he opens his eyes, she is already walking away.
After the party, everyone—well, almost everyone—heads back to Dexter's apartment. Even Quinn makes a brief appearance before finding an excuse to leave, which suits Dexter just fine. They've had enough bonding for one day. The assembled group eats too much popcorn, candy and leftover cake. The TV hums in the background—sometimes Phineas and Ferb wins out and sometimes it's Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Dexter thanks the people (who are not his in-laws) for their help with the kids, and they continue to avoid the topic of Paul. As things wind down, a sober toast goes up to Rita and Dexter's wedding ring makes another appearance, maybe for the last time.
Soon enough it gets late, and after a flurry of hugs and kisses, they all prepare to go back to the hotel. Cody begs to take Harrison with him for just one more night, and Dexter obliges. He knows they won't see him again for a while. It's a small sacrifice.
And it will give him some time alone.
When the last one files out, he looks around his apartment; it's littered with Styrofoam plates, beer bottles and Silly Bandz. The neat nick in him wants to get to work immediately and restore order to his home. But everything else in him wants sleep. The latter wins out. He drags himself to his room and, fully dressed, collapses onto the bed.
But sleep eludes him. Despite the day's festivities, his mind returns to Lumen. He marvels that a body drop and a sleepless night can rid someone of a demon that he's wrestled since toddlerhood.
That they can rid someone of him.
But he's let people go before, and surely he will again. That's one more thing he knows about life—one more thing Jordan was wrong about. He can let Lumen go too.
He turns to her side of the bed—where he watched her this morning. It's then he notices them tucked near her pillow: two black leather gloves. He reaches out for them, turns them over in his hands, sniffs them. They smell like lavender. He imagines them on her hands, gripped around a knife…
He rises, then leaves to go outside and, after starting his van, he drives the distance to the Bay. He stands on the banks—staring out at a horizon that's dotted with flickering lights—and experiences a moment of quiet reflection. He plucks the gloves from his pocket and then, arm outstretched, he drops them into the concealing depths of the infinite sea.