The What-Ifs

Summary: He lies awake and wonders if it could have been different. Could there have been a man without the monster?

There are many things, so many things, that could keep me awake at night. I could think of all the lives I've taken, think of their screams and my own twisted pleasure in it. I could think of Deb and Rita and how I've entangled their lives with my own messes. I could think about the mask I wear, the web of lies around me. I could worry about getting caught, getting killed, having my secrets exposed.

But most often, these are not the thoughts that keep me awake at night.

No, instead I lie beneath twisted cold sheets that never seem to warm up, stare up at the blank ceiling and think of the what ifs. My conscious dreams follow this pattern, and they always feature Harry as the star. Always.

Oddly enough, I don't think about what if my mother hadn't been massacred so terribly in front of my young eyes. That event is so much a part of me, I cannot imagine my life had it not occurred. I don't bother trying to imagine the who I could have been had the monster never been born. That's too difficult for my mind to configure. Instead, I think of Harry.

And what he did.

He had choices, I know he did. My adoptive mother...she saw the signs, the evil in me. The dark longing in me. She tried to get me help.

He, Harry, didn't think it would work. Didn't want it to work.

By the time my adoptive mother saw it, by the time she sought help for me, it was most likely too late.

But maybe, maybe, Harry could have killed the monster earlier than that.

Maybe he could have killed it with therapy sessions from the time I was young, or with watchful eyes following my every move. Or with open and honest conversation about it, that nightmare from my past. Or maybe he could have instilled a much more...traditional sense of right and wrong in me. Punished me when I confessed to killing the animals. What if he had told me, just whispered to me, that it was never ever okay to kill another human being? I idolized him so much. Could I have repulsed the evil in me for him?

The what-ifs are useless, I know. They make me weak. The past is the past, there is no changing it.

But still they persist, the lingering questions. What if Harry had done more to kill the monster, instead of teaching it? Instead of cultivating it, letting it fester and grow and become inseparable from me...

I always would have been involved in law enforcement, that much I'm sure of. Adopted by Harry...it was too in-bred in me, and I would have wanted to fight the evil that had stolen my family from me. But would I have stayed firmly on one side of justice? Could I have been not Dexter, the secret monster, but just Dex, good worker, good man?

Or was I just too far gone, too damaged for a normal life to ever be mine? Was my path set in that instant that they murdered my mother in front of me?

I can't imagine not craving it. The blood, the desperate pleas, the beauty of a meticulous kill.

And then that thought just begets more, so many more. If Harry hadn't taught me that oh-so-precious code, the one that says only killers deserve it...

Where would I have been?

What would I have been? A young man, confused about his strange, dark impulses to harm? A monster unable to control it, master it, and with no standards with which to target his victims? Would I have been exactly like my dear brother, Brian?

I can see it. The younger me, the teenage me, the bouts of violence and aggression. Towards everyone.

Women. Children.

Innocent men with families.

Would I have perfected the skills on my own and massacred freely? Given no thought to right or wrong, justice or injustice, evil or good?

I could have killed people like Deb. Or maybe even Deb.

Would I have become an even worse monster, the types I easily kill now with no remorse or second thought? Would I have been caught and thrown in prison, faced the death penalty?

I live by Harry's Code, even though I have long since learned that Harry himself could not handle the horror he created.

Never harm the innocent.

I have a family that I would never dream of hurting. Not for a second. I have friends that I would die, yes die, to protect. I cannot say that I love them, that would require more feeling than I am capable of, but I would still never hurt them. I shudder at the thought of killing one of them, recoil from the idea.

I have killed, but not the innocent.

Never the innocent.

I'm a monster with standards.

I must be better than them, the ones that go after everyone. The ones that kill children, rape women, and murder the innocent without remorse.

I must be better than them.

And it's with this thought, usually, that sleep finally comes to claim me.