Author's Note: To hell with the season 4 finale. I cried my eyes out. Here's a story of the aftermath of an alternate ending to the Trinity arc, if Dexter came home on time to save Rita from the killer. This fan fiction is for the lovers of Dexter x Rita and the believers that there's a Dark Passenger in every one of us, even if latent, just waiting to be awakened.

Rating/Additional Info: No surprises: contains sex, violence, alcohol and drugs, just like the show. Just violence and sexual situations in this chapter; lemons later if this doesn't get pulled. To be clear, this is based off of the events from the TV series, while written to emulate the style of Jeff Lindsay (original book author). Lastly, if you care to put your name on the petition against Fanfiction's embargo on MA material, please visit the link on my profile. Thanks for your support!

Summary: Imagine that Dexter comes home to the sound of running water and finds the Trinity Killer, naked in his bathroom. A death struggle ensues and Dexter is victorious, but when an unsuspecting (and very much alive) Rita Morgan walks in, Dexter knows this is one body he won't be feeding to the fishes. Follow Dexter as he plays the traumatized "victim" and helps his wife go through some "killer" changes. Aftermath of an alternate season 4 ending.

Preview: "You know his M.O.," I continue. My mouth is moving faster than I can control it. I can feel Rita trembling in my arms, but I can't stop myself from saying what I'm about to. "The bath was already running. The razor was on the sink. He was going to strip you, touch you, force you into that bath with him and slash your femoral artery right in front of our baby boy. That power of Knowing his intentions, Rita, even if they didn't fall through—it makes all the difference."

Tonight's the night. And it's going to happen again and again. It has to happen.

I can't explain my addiction—never have been able to, not even metaphorically. It's not like heroin. It's not like alcohol. I've never even touched a drug in my life, except to plant it on someone else. I just know there's something dark in me that's become like second nature—this Need, creepy, crawly, cocked and ready—that I see in everything and everyone around me.

It's like a million tiny voices, cackling and bellowing in my ear at every swell and ebb, every decrescendo, like an unsettled tide that rises and falls to the hard pulse of the moon and gravity on its glasslike plains, though it barely scratches the surface.

I hear the Need in every one of Harrison's wordless babbles as Rita bathes him in the kitchen sink; I hear it in every mechanical whir of the micro-centrifuge in my lab. I see it in every shadow that crosses the beach outside of my old Coconut Grove apartment, and I see it in the face of every dead body as I scour photographs and crime scenes for some kind of clue—some sort of insight into the mind of the unknown perpetrator who is-yet-isn't just like me.

I am everyone and no one, and yet a Name exists for vessels of my kind—those who bend to the will of the Dark Passenger. Whether it's Monster, Psychopath, Vigilante, Sociopath, Non Compos Mentis, Murderer, Hero, Serial Killer—I say all of the above. And the list goes on.

I'm a dexterous hunter—no pun intended—and the night is my safety blanket. Cloaked in it, I hunt to protect; I hunt to feed; I hunt for ritual. But more than that, I hunt for the base, primal, hedonistic Need to satisfy my most intimate urges, whispered to me only by my Dark Passenger.

The urges swell and thrash in me like a good beach break off of the shore—a gnarly wave. And when sated, the satisfaction burns, building slowly, reaches its height, crashes down before languidly receding into the depths of its dark lagoon, born in blood, just like me—and the enjoyment thereafter is even greater than sex.

Sex, which in itself is an indulgence that used to disgust me; yet here I've come to embrace it in earnest—actually look forward to it on some nights—and have even fathered a child. But it is with that sense of exclusive validation that I can promise you, the privilege—the gift—of satiating the Need belongs to a league of its own: a league of luxury that very few humanitarians have the pleasure of belonging to in this day and age. It is totally incomparable to the rapture that writhing, moaning, sweating bodies can bring.

Better than sex, you ask? Now that is a marvel to behold.

I don't expect anyone to understand. But I savor the thrill of the kill enough that it makes me something inhuman. I go to lengths to disguise my Dark Passenger, and I've done well, wrapped up in the illusion of this pleasantly normal life. Years spent diligently crafting the facade have given me Dexter Morgan, loving husband and father; Dexter Morgan supportive brother; Dexter Morgan, the spatter guy—and on those really good days, just "Donut Guy."

But there came a time when the mask no longer acted as a scrim. My red herring, carefully hatched with the sole purpose of diverting the wrong kinds of attention, became the very tool, in all of its abstractness, that mutated my sociopathy. What used to separate me from the human emotions I never thought I had became the unforeseen rejoinder to my unanswered questions and lamentations—"evolve, you insensate prick!"—and doesn't it sound a lot like dear doting Debra? Then the mask began to slip. I began my metamorphosis into this tender, bleeding heart.

I grew clumsy, crude, careless; I grew negligent and tired. I nearly lost everything.

Even now, father of three, going on one year happily heartily hilariously married, I still hear Harry's voice in my head—see my father watching me with those judgmental basset hound eyes, shaking his head, telling me, "They're holding you back, Dex. Leave them behind, before it's too late." And all I can ask in return is, "Like you left Deb and me?" Harry never has anything to say to that, so he retreats into my mind, watching intently for my next big fuck-up so he can jump up and and say "I told you so." Until then, he lets me mull. And that's exactly what I do, once he leaves me alone with my thoughts.

I wonder how my happy little life would be if I were to do exactly as Harry says. What if I were to flee Miami—leave Rita and the kids behind? I would leave everything to them, of course. My money, my things, the big house in the suburbs, with the counterproductive night patrol and the shithead vandal and the security lights and the sleazy two-faced neighbor. All I'd need is my kill tools, my blood slides, my boat. And maybe my car. But I would never leave them penniless. I would never leave them to fend for themselves, like Trinity nearly left Jonah, Rebecca and Sally. Like Dad left Deb and me by killing himself.

Dammit...I still can't make sense of it—the fact that I became everything Harry ever wanted me to be. I lived up to all of his ridiculous expectations: became a kid who asked girls to Prom, awkwardly tried to unhook their bras despite having zero interest in what package(s) lay beneath. I endured long visits to the beach despite hating the sand, built freaking castles out of the stuff with Deb, and smiled for photographs, even when I wasn't happy.

I did the Deceptive Dance for nearly twenty years of my life—pretended to be normal because it was part of Harry's Code: fake emotion and normality; fit in if you want to survive. But he never even got to see me truly be normal—probably never even suspected it was possible. In the end, he'd rather die, shamed by what he'd made, than watch me go from his little lost lamb to a sentient individual, capable of achieving—or even just pretending to achieve—some small measure of normalcy.

Nothing about my children could shame me like that. Nothing could lead me to abandon them. Not even my stepchildren. Cody and Astor are treasures I've come to consider mine. And Harrison... Harrison is just a baby, so young and so pure. He has so much potential for a good, wholesome, innocent life. The kind of life that Rita's children could have if, say, their stepfather wasn't a sociopathic serial killer. The kind they'd have if I just butted out. If I just...slipped away...

No, Dex. Fucking no. I couldn't. I can't. Even if it comes down to losing it all, I would rather be on death row meeting an ironic fate, strapped to a table, eye to eye with a hypodermic syringe that has intentions more for me than to deliver a healthy dose of Etorphine. I'd rather face death than live without them, because of every self-centered, self-seeking, self-indulgent reason in the book.

At the root of my hubris, it all comes down to "can"s and "can't"s.

I can at least begin to imagine how my secret would tear them apart—I can see Rita skirring the kids into a police cruiser, Debra apprehending me, cuffing me in front of all of my village idiot neighbors. I can see Rita getting all my things, filing for divorce, full custody of the kids, just moving right along—maybe even into Elliot's bed. I can see it, and I hate every miserable minute of it. I hate it, but I could learn to deal with it. I would even deserve it, for putting them through that—marking them with my stigma.

If anything, it's a motivator—a motivator not to slip up so badly that it comes to that—because I can't even begin to imagine my life without her. If the future holds more for me than solitary confinement, cold iron bars, orange jumpsuits and a poison needle, I'm nowhere if it isn't with Rita. That fear of losing her has a hold on me even stronger than my Dark Passenger's. This attachment, you could call it, to my three kids, to my wife, is a territory I'm not entirely familiar with. I feel as though it actually vitiates me. But to think I'm actually teaching them things—valuable little life lessons—and learning from them in return?

I used to think the only time I truly felt real was when the Dark Passenger was in control—when I was so half-sick with the thrill of complete wrongness that there was no way the fluttering in my gut and the languid freeness of my mind couldn't be called an emotion. For the longest time, the thrill of the kill was the only thing I felt, because I never fought my Passenger—never ever even wanted to fight him—because he knows exactly what I like and he always delivers—"like the perfect whore," Masuka would say. I even thought the Dark Passenger was all I had—that nothing in the world could love a monster like me: not myself; least of all Rita and our kids. That may have been true once, but if it was, things have changed.

I see that now. I see it in the way Harrison falls asleep to the sound of my lullabies (I'd thank God for Katharine Lee Bates if I weren't such a repeat Commandment breaker); I see it in the way Astor tells me it's okay to be dumb sometimes (I know it doesn't sound like much, but it's a lot coming from a bellicose preteen); I see it in the way Cody has come to heart-and-soul accept me as his new father—is even thankful for my presence in his life (incidentally the one thing that's helped me realize I must be doing something right). But more than that—wonder of wonders!—I see it in the way Rita never exaggerated, all those long, awful nights in couples therapy where bodily fluids and tissues abound, about the good that absolute honesty can do for a relationship.

After acknowledging all this, I began to really experience things for the first time in thirty-odd years, like Harry always hoped I would. I began to have moments where I felt needed by someone other than myself—felt connected to things and people other than myself. I felt real, for the first time, and I didn't even have to kill anyone. It used to scare the hell out of me. Now it just feels right. Normal. Which is antithetical in that there's really not much normal about me: Miami's resident serial killer, darkly dreaming Dexter.

Especially not tonight, when my Dark Passenger calls to me. And, oh, does it call. It senses inherently that this night is different from the rest—though in what way? I don't even know. But it knows, and it brays and sings to me like the clash of steel blades—my kill tools, gleaming under the harsh light that hangs like a beacon into death over my kill table, signaling the way to hell, if I believed in such things. It's hungry for the hot mess of blood, so achingly warm, pooling puddles on plastic, sickly-sweet. It feels that I've brought it close—the nearest we've come in months, because it likes to wait and watch, and it makes me wait and watch.

But it's been too many sleepless nights of waiting and watching, researching, stalking, slinking through the blackness, fussing over missed opportunities that just kept piling up, making sure. It takes a toll on me, and it makes the Passenger even hungrier with the Need. But rest easy, my psychotic friend. The time is nigh. I'm finally done waiting.

Like a godsend, Rita would call it, the last piece of incriminating evidence has fallen into place, and just as I'd hoped, it validates him—one Adrian Mateo Vasquez—for murder. Bless this pervert, he is everything tonight that I've needed him to be. He fits the Code to a tee, the murdering, molesting son-of-a-bitch. I like to think Harry would be proud.

But he sits in the back of my mind, the truth of his death haunting me, niggling like a parasite that Harry has never been proud of anything I've done. But nothing is going to keep me from this release tonight. If anything, Harry's disapproval only spurs me on harder. This is the thrill of the hunt—the best part—watching all of the pieces culminate, melt like butter in my mouth. The silence before the kill. Ah.

It hums through me like a dirge—slow and lamenting, dissonant like chromatic scales on a church organ. But there is nothing deplorable, nothing regrettable about this impending justice that cries to me, full-throated and glorious, soft but wild. I hear it, feel it, taste it, see it, and it glitters as though flecked with diamonds in the silver moonlight, bringing joy, joy, joy to the sleepy Earth below. The world will be better off with one less degenerate lowlife to kick start its downward spiral into decadence. I can hardly wait to watch him bleed on my table.

More than anything, I can't wait to sleep again. And yet, somehow, I know I won't be sleeping much tonight. I ache for it...but the alternative isn't always so bad.

I try not to grin from ear to ear as I pull up to an abandoned strip mall. The remains of backlit signs say that there was a shoe store here once, and a pizza parlor, a photography studio, a toy store. I throw open the swing gate on my Sportage with some enthusiasm, pausing to admire my work. There he is. Adrian Mateo Vasquez is unconscious in my trunk, 180 pounds of M99-induced deadweight that I throw over my shoulder like a sack of flour—or pure gold. Despite my efforts, I feel my grin become manic. I am so proud. "You have no idea how long I've been wanting to do this to you," I tell Vasquez. I can rarely be so honest with other human beings.

I go immediately for the abandoned toy palace—a fitting place to die for a man who luxuriates in raping little girls. Vasquez sickens me so severely that it's a physical barrier being broken into bits, this little undertaking, this pursuit, this game of cat and mouse finally coming to an end. With his unconscious body weighing me down on one side, it takes a minute to juggle my lock picks from my cargos, but I barely have the tool kit out before the knob twists and the big metal door swings open.

"Thank God, Dex, I've been waiting for an hour!" Rita cries. Her form suddenly fills the doorway, but her body is so small. The light frames her like an avenging angel come down from the sun—or Heaven, if I believed in that, either. "You could have called. I thought you were in trouble!" That's Rita the Wife, right then, always fussing over me, always worrying. Her hair is pulled back from her face and her eyes are bloodshot, red-rimmed, and glassy with old tears. She looks me square in the eyes with blue orbs that flicker and gleam with a burning Need of their own. Then her glower shifts from me to Vasquez once she realizes I come bearing gifts.

"That's that bastard...," she hisses fiercely. And that's Rita the Accomplice, then. She regards his unconscious form like a rabid animal, as if it'll stir and sink its fangs into her at any given moment. Her face, previously pinched with worry, wipes clean as slate and ices over with impervious condescension. Rita exudes the protective fury of a mother bear, seeing in all of Vasquez's victims the familiar faces of her own children—my children—and this sets my teeth on edge.

I think she can hardly believe it, herself, that this moment has finally come.

I slip past her into the kill room, perfectly lined from floor to ceiling in plastic sheeting. Fifteen young, laughing, pink pixy-like girly faces beam at me from their perches on the walls, makeshift easels that Rita has graced with all of her feminine touches. Their eyes follow me. Even I feel a little uneasy as I walk the room, as though I've barged uninvited into a stranger's wake, and I think that Vasquez will be in for quite the surprise once he wakes up. I notice even the toys and stuffed animals, mangled and mutilated where rats have chewed away button eyes and noses—very atmospheric, very symbolic. Rita does a nice job preparing my kill rooms for me because she has a taste for histrionics. When it comes to exacting this kind of revenge, Rita says it's all in the aesthetics—the dramatic representation. But more importantly, Rita is clean, meticulous, careful—and she adheres precisely to the Code. There exists no need to mislead her at every corner, because she, like me, but unlike Miguel "Fuckin" Prado, is a very neat monster.

Rita closes the door behind me and joins me by the kill table. "Some minor unforeseen complications," I tell her, grunting as Vasquez's weight shifts off of my shoulder. His body hits the metal kill table like a potato sack, and it rattles beneath him like an angry thunder clap. "Vasquez took a detour. I had to follow him to Weston. It's not a big deal. I wasn't seen."

Rita laughs, a hollow sound that drips mirthlessly from her pink, pouty lips. I frown at her profile, watch her produce several rolls of Saran wrap, and realize I've upset her in my tardiness. "Weston—that's quite the 'detour'," she says, and her cynicism as she happens upon the word "detour" is stifling. "What is that, Dexter, a thirty minute drive?"

"Forty," I say, studying her carefully. This isn't her first time on the hunt with me—no, so I know she knows what to expect—but her nerves don't hold up well to uncalculated developments. This is one proclivity that her Dark Passenger has yet to completely remedy. She's never been a part of the Ritual itself—other than to prepare the kill rooms—and furthermore, she likes to "stand watch" outside while the actual killing takes place.

If I'm being honest, I often find her waiting in the car, staring off into space with that look in her eyes that says the lights are on but nobody's home. She'll just sit there for hours while the minivan fills with the festive cadence of marching music, and while it's always helped me concentrate on those jittery nights when the Need is at its strongest, it seems to have the opposite effect on Rita. She's much more at ease singing at the top of her lungs to Bananarama and Culture Club.

But in all seriousness, the real reason she flees at the first stirrings of murder is not that she is afraid. Rita knows exactly the reality of what goes on behind the kill room door. She hides because she's disgusted with herself for actually liking it—the secrecy, the theatrics, the blood, the bone saw, the disposal—but between you and me, she just doesn't know it yet.

Decorating the kill room is her favorite part—likely the reason why it's the only part of the Ritual she'll actively involve herself in—and she takes it very seriously. My victims are never as remorseful for their sins as they are when Rita comes along. In fact, I think she's set a record-high for tear-inducing murder accomplices in Miami. How could you not be shamed by that pretty, perky, innocent face looking down at you with such disgust?

I reach out to smooth her curls with one hand, little blonde spirals that spill down her back like glossy threads, alluring as a noose fastened from fifty-pound-test fishing line. I stare deeply into blue eyes that begin to slowly lose their edge, and she sighs, a soft whisper of air that passes over sullen lips. She's just happy to know I'm alive, the dear little darling. I kiss her softly in apology, then cross the room to dress in my personal protective equipment—vinyl apron, rubber gloves, sleeve guards, visor that all go on briskly and ceremoniously. We match, but all she wears are the apron and the gloves and little blue medical booties. Beneath the apron, her body is wrapped in a light cotton sundress that emphasizes all the right assets. Cute.

Rita is studying Adrian, her fingers tentatively tracing the bridge of his nose, the arch of his eyebrows.

She's so innocent in her curiosity about death, though she's no stranger to the shock of having someone permanently disappear despite always being there. It's inevitable, death. But the feeling is infinitely novel when you know you're the reason for the light going out. This is why Rita both cherishes and condemns his life in the same breath. "I'm glad you're okay," Rita whispers, reserved for all her worry. She pulls her hand carefully away from Vasquez's lips and tucks it securely to her chest, fidgets with her glove.

It's getting closer. She's feeling it, just like me—that buttery melt-in-your-mouth culmination. I show her Receptive Dexter, flashing a smile that I hope looks sympathetic, and nod encouragingly towards the rolls of Saran wrap that wait expectantly near her hand. She takes one as I position Vasquez's body on the table, methodically stripping his clothes with a box knife. Rita begins to wrap the parts to the table as I uncover them, diligently doing my work for me.

"That's it. Good and tight," I murmur, watching her hands approvingly. She looks up, very slowly, and her eyes knowingly follow my every move. I recognize that look, lewd, lusty, libidinous.

"Dexter, I know how you like it," Rita says coyly. Her lips take on a sultry curve and I realize I'm getting distracted. My mouth is drier than sand, and my cargos fit a little tighter.

Suddenly the sound of tearing Saran wrap sends the blood flow back to my brain, and Rita is packing up her portion of the kill kit. "I'm going to stand watch," she says predictably. There's a tremor in her lilting voice, but to her credit, her hands are steady as a surgeon's when she shoves the remaining plastic into a garbage bag by the door, my neat little monster. "Don't play with your food, Dex," she quips. "His little detour really put us behind schedule."


Her hand comes up, a universal gesture that kills the words dead in my throat. "I'm okay, Dexter."

"Actually, I was going to ask if you wanted to do it tonight."

"'Do it'?" Rita's eyes are sharp when they meet mine, eyeing me like she does the unlucky door-to-door insurance guy who has the bad timing to interrupt dinner two nights a week. Her pallor is the only thing that betrays her anxiety, pretty pale perfect, and her voice still trembles slightly like a palm tree in the breeze."I don't know, Dex," she says. "I've never actually killed anyone before. Doing this would make it...would make it seem so—"

"Real," we finish together. Her eyes glaze over and she nods slowly, bobbing on the water.

"Yes, real," she agrees, her arms falling limp at her sides. "I'm not a killer, Dex. I may be an accomplice, but I'm not a killer." Her face is torn as she says this, as if she fears it's an insult to me to abhor killers.

I'm not insulted. I abhor killers, too, after all, though her struggle is entirely different from mine. Rita loves me. She truly does, and though I may never understand why, she's chosen to love the killer in me, too. Late at night, when she looks at me, half-asleep and half as aware, I wonder if she sees a good man who does bad things or a bad man who does good things. Other nights, I think she just sees Dexter, and it infinitely comforts me to be seen at my core: Dex sans Dark Passenger—father, friend, husband, brother, blood spatter pattern analyst. I don't blame Rita for being confused, though. It's only fair. In her eyes, I went from dearly devoted Dexter to death-delivering Dexter in the course of one night. I'm just fortunate that the part of her that loves me has enough influence to make her stay.

How many killers are actually like Dexter, she asks herself? How many of them are truly bad? Should I help him? Should I stop him? Should I try to understand?

I see in Rita's eyes how she struggles with the truth—grapples with the Dexter and Rita she used to know: the Dexter and Rita who Waited, who used to honeymoon in the Keys, who had candlelit dinners and then called it a night to make it home before ten to relieve the teenaged babysitter. Then she lightens up a little and starts all over again, mentally dissecting the Dexter and Rita who spend date night on the water, and not for a midnight sail. She dissects the Dexter and Rita who use their Friday nights to dump black biodegradable garbage bags into the ocean over the Gulf Stream, and strangely, she doesn't look all that horrified.

Rita knows precisely what she needs from Vasquez tonight. She's always known. She just can't give voice to the desires that are so new—so foreign—so appalling—to her.

"Rita," I say, as she slowly turns her back to me. Her hand is already on the door. "I see you."

"You...see me." Rita turns slowly, her face set in turmoil that is overshadowed by skepticism. She is utterly crestfallen. "And what is it that you see, Dexter? What am I?"

Indecisive, I think, but I press my lips together and shake my head sympathetically. I'm getting better at Receptive Dexter. "You're my partner, Rita," I say, strolling up to her with rousing confidence. "You're my wife." Rita looks at me, and I can visibly see her heart break in her eyes at the utterance of that one little word. I reach out to lightly stroke her arms—long, smooth motions that ease the tension from her body. Rita tilts her head back, closes her eyes and exhales loudly through her nose, shaken once more by the urges that consume her.

I can help you make sense of this.

"Rita." I whisper her name tenderly, and I can tell by the way her shoulders drop from her ears and her breath leaves her in a whimper that she hears me in her soul. Slowly, I break her down. "I've been this monster my whole life—"

Rita's eyes snap open and so does her mouth. "Dexter, no, you're not a monster!" she begins to protest, but I squeeze her arms gently, and she stops.

"Just listen, Rita," I say in my soft command voice—the same voice I use to make my victims cooperate when the garrote is around their neck. (I never claimed to be romantic; after all, have you heard my wedding vows?) "I've been a murdering sociopath nearly all my life. I know how I look to other people. How do you think I've made it this long without getting caught?"

With a few lucky breaks. Once more, Harry is at the forefront of my mind to remind me of my mistakes. He is suddenly beside me, a manifestation of the very Code that is my conscience, and he circles us with a condescending gleam in his eyes. Tell her the truth, Dex, before you drag her down with you. You're not as good as you think. Only lucky.

I shove him down as memories of Lila and Miguel begin to surface, poking prodding provoking me. I hate him for doing this. Why now? Why when Rita is looking to me for answers? I don't let her in on this dark little secret of mine, because Harry's right. Few serial killers are as equal parts skilled and lucky as I am. Rita isn't aware of how close I've come to losing it all, and on how many occasions, if not for Luck. This information serves no purpose but to scare her, so it stays in the back of my mind where Harry can shoot sour looks at it all he wants.

"When you go this long trying to hide what you really are—" Pause. Silence. No signs of Harry. "—you start to pick up on what it looks like when others share your burden. I could spot a killer in a crowd, Rita. I know exactly what it looks like, and when I met you, you didn't have it. But that night—that night in the Keys—" I have to pause because I'm getting ahead of myself. "Do you remember before that?"

"Of course I remember, Dexter," Rita supplies. Her eyes are gleaming now, not with tears. Not with hatred. But with love, only for me, and an underlying fear as her memory alights on the night we left for the Florida Keys—what would go down as one of the most horrifying honeymoon weekends in history.

The night I saved her life.

"That night, something changed in you."

Rita laughs bitterly and shrugs out of my grasp, but the glimmer of love and reminiscence doesn't drain from her eyes. "People don't just change on a dime like that, Dexter," she accuses, turning on me. "It takes some serious exposure to become so twisted that you can kill a person against your better judgment. I'll reason that I've been a pretty peaceful person—submissive, even—for nearly all of my adult life. Lord knows I've been through every kind of hell because of Paul. But seeing you stab someone? It hasn't turned me into a murderer. That's just bullshit, Dex. I'm stronger than that. And I have morals!"

"Is it bullshit, Rita?" I grab her again, hunch over to look directly into her eyes which are brimming with tears that burn with a vengeance. My voice is alive with mania. My Dark Passenger sits on the tip of my tongue and it tastes like blood. "What if Trinity was just the straw that broke the camel's back, huh? The psycho was in our home, Rita—where our children sleep at night—and he was waiting for you to walk through that door with Harrison in your arms, and he was going to kill you."


"You know his M.O.," I continue. My mouth is moving faster than I can control it. I can feel Rita trembling in my arms, but I can't stop myself from saying what I'm about to. "The bath was already running. The razor was on the sink. He was going to strip you, touch you, force you into that bath with him and slash your femoral artery right in front of our baby boy. That power of Knowing his intentions, Rita, even if they didn't fall through—it makes all the difference."

Her tears are flowing freely now as she proves my point, relives a memory that isn't real. For a minute, I'm trapped in those glassy blue eyes, wondering if it was me or Arthur who caused Rita that pain, tears that fall heavy as stones, so big, so wet. I know she's thought of that night more times than she can count. Even a month after the red tape surrounding Arthur's death finally disappeared, it creeps like a demon in the dark, bloodthirsty and brutal, and she wakes up crying and screaming and clawing in the middle of the night. But she's always turned to me for comfort. She's always sought me out.

And there it was again, Luck staring me straight in the face. How Lucky that the first time Rita saw me killing someone would be in her defense. I could have even stopped there—let that be everything she needed to know—until we were in the Keys and she was loose enough on margaritas to tell me how fucking scared she'd been when she found me on the floor, covered in blood and bathwater, grappling, rolling, fighting with the Trinity Killer for my life and for hers. How relieved she'd been that I'd killed him and that he hadn't gone to trial. That was when I first noticed. Stupid me, I'd wanted to share.

My hold on her grows gentler, and she leans into me a little bit. "Rita, I'm sorry," I say, as this odd twisting sensation grows prevalent in my gut. It grows stronger with each broken sob, until it can no longer be ignored. I'm not sure how to interpret this feeling. I'm sure the closest I've ever come to it is regret—the regret I felt for screwing up so stupendously, cheating on Rita, losing her love, to a shell of a relationship where sex meant more than conversation. Dexter the Husband has so much room to grow.

"I just need you to understand. Some experiences are so big they change your DNA," I say. "It's what happened to me—I watched a man dismember my mother with a chainsaw, and then he left me to stew in her blood in a hot, dark shipping container for two days."

"And I'm so sorry that that happened to you, Dexter," Rita moans into my chest. Her tears are all over the place, hitting rubber and vinyl with the soft sounds of pattering rain. Her nimble little fingers clench tightly around fistfuls of henley and pull me in closer. "I can imagine how going through that would trigger some changes," she mumbles, and she sounds stuffy from crying. "But we live in Miami. If every homicide witness became a serial killer, there would be a lot more out there than you."

You really have no idea, do you?

Denial is such a powerful monkey wrench.

I sigh, relinquishing my grip on Rita. She still clings on for dear life and my hands go awkwardly to her hair. She doesn't know how many serial killers are really out there—in Miami alone—and she doesn't know that I account for more than three of them just by framing and passing off my ill-executed murders. Luck again. I wonder what she'd say if she knew that I was responsible for the the Bay Harbor Butcherings. I wonder if it would even matter.

I lean our weight on the kill table while Rita holds on, and I suck in a deep breath. "Do you remember how I explained it to you in the Keys?" I prompt her. I listen carefully for some sound of recognition. Rita unburies her face and looks up at me—squints so imperceptibly that I wonder if I've imagined it.

"Your Dark Passenger," she recites, nodding slowly.

"Yes!" I say this with tremendous relief. Finally, some headway. "My Dark Passenger. The only way I know how to explain it is that every person has the capacity to do bad things. Whether it's fudge-the-numbers-on-your-tax-report bad or murder bad, I don't care. But it's there. If you compare a murderer to the average human, it's like a...a 4 liter versus a 2.5 liter gas tank, do you get what I'm trying to say?"

Rita looks skeptical as she looks up at me. I untangle my fingers from her curls to cup her cheek in my hand, forming the words in my head that I need to make her understand. "The bigger the gas tank, the higher you rank on the whack-job Michael Myers scale. It's when the gas tank is full that the urge to do bad things becomes seriously prevalent—and I mean, get-some-immediate-relief-or-I'll-stab-an-innocent-bystander prevalent."

I watch the doubt slowly ebb from Rita's delicate features. I almost hurt a little for her as I realize she knows this feeling. She's been this helpless before. "The things we go through make us who we are. Safe to say I've been a killer since Harry took me in, and my gas tank is 50 fucking liters, always topped off. But Rita, you...your Dark Passenger didn't wake up until that night you saw me kill Trinity."

She winces.

"You don't have to be ashamed of it. You went through something."

She winces again. "I don't know, Dex." Rita continues to struggle, but I can hear in her voice that she's already given up. She knows that what I say is true, and she's known it for quite some time now. As she opens her mouth to speak, says, "It all sounds very plausible, but I told you, people don't just change like that. Not overnight," her underlying question is, why me? "You were protecting me. You didn't even go to trial. I shouldn't want to kill anyone over a self-defense stabbing..."

"But you do," I observe tactlessly, and this makes her squint. I lean in and kiss her, and after a moment of resistance, her lips soften beneath mine, so pliable. She's come over. She knows. "You may be right. Most people don't just lose their minds like that overnight. But you lost yours a long time ago, Rita."


"No, I'm serious," I say. "You had this gaping chasm in your heart when we met—this ache for violence. Hell, your 'capacity for evil' went through a fucking taffy pull when you were married to Paul. He beat it into you, Rita. He cheated on you. He gave you diseases. He broke your sanity, and he went after your kids, for fuck's sake. I see you, Rita. I see your Dark Passenger."

Rita shudders and suddenly shoves me with force, but I seize her lips in an imperious kiss, holding on. I'm absolutely beside myself, thinking about the bloodlust that she harbors like a bittersweet secret in her mind, and nobody knows it but me. I feel a connection to her that I've never felt before, able to say for the first time that I really get her, and she really gets me. She knows how I feel. She knows my secret.

And she can't tell because I know hers, too.

I deepen the kiss with my tongue, back her into the door, and she moans into me, her hands fumbling up my back to the nape of my neck where she pulls me in deeper. Her hips are flush with my thighs and she presses into me with her middle, setting my blood alight with a blazing ache for her tiny, powerful body beneath me, above me, all over me.

"I want to do it," Rita gasps when I buck into her, my lips trailing urgent, open-mouthed kisses on her neck and along her collarbone. "I want to kill him. Just hurry up before I change my fucking mind."

It takes a lot to understand what she's saying; the Need for the kill is raging in my ears again, pounding behind my eyelids with thick Hulk fists that hammer to the beat of my pulse in my temple, my neck, my...other places. But it also rages for Rita's touch, so teasing tantalizing titillating, turning me on. Her hand knots up in my hair and yanks—hard.

NOW! my Passenger roars.

I tear myself away from her—quickly kiss her lips to show my gratitude for her concession. Even with my Passenger making a holy mess of my concentration, I stop to brush stray hairs from her face. She is beautiful, even with her face set with a rigid, steely determination. Rita glows with equal parts rage and lust, but I have to move quickly or she'll lose her nerve.

I go for the smelling salts first. They wait for me by my kill tools, arranged neatly on a shiny metal tray that rests on a cart beside the kill table. My God, everything is ready for me, so carefully thought out...

Rita is my deadly nurse.

I wish that vinyl apron were frill and lace as I take the smelling salts and move on hunter's feet towards the head of the kill table. When I look down at my prey, I realize that this feels eerily like Rita's and my first Thanksgiving together. Vasquez is the delectable bird and she and I head the dinner table. I can't wait to carve the fucking turkey.

But first things first.

His sleeping face stares up at me, looking far too innocent for what evil dwells beneath those heavy black lashes. I snap the ammonia capsule and hold it under his nose while Rita looks on expectantly. And then his big brown eyes snap open and he sucks in a sharp breath. "Dios, what the fuck is that smell, man?" Vasquez yells. I raise an eyebrow and wait for it to sink in. Really, the smell is the least of his concerns.

Instantly, the terror dawns in his eyes as he takes in the photographs, plastic, stuffed toys, surgical tools. My Dark Passenger shudders and rears like a wild stallion inside me. "Fuck, man!" Vasquez yelps. His body thrashes against his restraints, limp and boneless from the Etorphine. "What the fuck is this?"

My spine is tingling, oh-my-God. I bend low and put my mouth close to his ear—hiss, "This is recompense." The words drip venomously from my lips, taste so bittersweet and delicious. Vasquez's rounded eyes follow me like a snake basking lazily in his path. I stand between him and something important, but more than that, I scare him to death. His gaze flicks with wild confusion from my manic leer to Rita's mask of reproach. "For those little girls you molested. For all of the girls you murdered, you sick fuck. Was it worth it? Was this worth destroying their innocence?"

"Man, I don't know what you're talking about! I didn't kill nobody! I didn't molest no fucking kids!"

"Liar!" I roar, slamming a fist down by his head. Inside my mind, the Dark Passenger mirrors this reaction, and it violently rattles the foundations of my conscience. The sound of clattering metal fills the room, and Vasquez whimpers and turns away, as much as he can with his head taped to the table. He uses his whole face to close his eyes, shuddering and convulsing as he loses himself completely to the fear. The room is suddenly rancid with the smell of ammonia, and I check to see if I've spilled the smelling salts. I haven't. Filthy. Vasquez has fucking pissed himself.

"Dexter, he says he didn't do it," Rita whispers. Vasquez jerks as if he's noticed her standing there for the first time. I slap him across the mouth, stuff a wad of cotton between his lips when he tries to beg her for her help. Oh, Rita. So naive.

I can see that she's already lost her resolve, but I don't have the time or the desire to seduce her again, not in front of a conscious victim. Two hours until we need to be gone from this place, and we'll need all of it to do this right. "He's lying, Rita," I tell her confidently, selecting an eight-inch kitchen knife from the cart by the table. No time for foreplay. I hold it out to her. "Come on, Rita. This is it. Just one thrust. Then it's over. I'll take care of the rest."

Rita's eyes flick everywhere, from the knife to Vasquez to me to the door. I see the confusion well up for the umpteenth time and have to remind myself that she's only a novice at this. I want her to feel what it's like to sate the urge, yes, but I would never force her to do something she isn't ready for.

"I can't, Dex," she says, and I know by the sound of her voice that there's no way I can convince her to kill Vasquez tonight.

"The blood slide," I say, gesturing at a box of microscope slides and coverslips.

Rita looks at me curiously, the tears still in her eyes. Those tears make me cringe inside—a reaction I interpret as sadness—pain—empathy, perhaps—for my wife in her suffering. Receptive Dexter should be hanged. "What do you mean?" Rita asks.

"I'll kill Vasquez. You make the trophy. A taste of the Ritual with a fraction of the mess."

I see it when the relief fills Rita's eyes. Her lips twitch hesitantly into a smile, the first time in a while that they haven't held a sullen pout or frown, and the tears seem to instantly dry. "I think I can do that part," Rita says, and she sounds like a child who's just learned to tie her Keds. Rita skirts around the table, and I notice the extra distance she puts between herself and Vasquez as she edges up to the cart. His eyes grow bigger once he realizes this sweet-looking woman isn't here to save his life. She's just as instrumental to his death as I am, and he cries even harder.

Rita fingers the gleaming blades on the tray, the split second of hesitation as she doubts her decision to remove herself from the murder fleeting across her face like a shadow. I'm about to tell her it's not too late to change her mind when her fingers close around the surgical scalpel. She turns so fast I almost miss it when the blade bites into his cheek, just below the right eye. He screams, muffled by the cotton wad, as Rita shoves a pipet into the wound and sucks up a few milliliters of his blood. She squeezes them onto a blank slide and lays another on top, the button sized bead suddenly as big around as a nickel.

Her full attention is on the slide as Vasquez drools and cries and snorts. She ignores him pointedly, even though the faint cadence of his muffles could translate to help me, kill me, even ride me, possibly. But Rita doesn't give two fucks. She just holds the slide to the light and looks through it, seeing a future born in blood.

My Dark Passenger is alive with, what the fuck does Batista call it? La pación. Passion for that spot of blood between the slides in Rita's nimble fingers, red round refreshingly just blood, and passion for Vasquez's blood that I can't wait to spill.

An eerie calm lifts over us before settling like a heavy smokescreen in the room. It fills all the little crevices, makes everything right again. Even Vasquez is quiet as Rita sighs her resignation. This is it. I'm witnessing the birth of a virgin killer. Her fascination is just as surreal as the moment she bore me my son.

"Now I'm going to stand watch," she says suddenly. Rita carefully lays the slide down on the table, turns on me with ice-blue eyes that hold the look of a life-long thirst that's finally been sated.

This is only the beginning, I think, as she hands me the scalpel and floats on silent hunter's feet out the door.

This is only the beginning of a very beautiful tragedy.

End Chapter 1. Thanks for your kindness and patience. For those of you who were cool enough to read on to the very end, I have a saucy sneak preview for you from Chapter 2! Read on for more Dexter x Rita!

Rita's humming floats on the wind like a death song that celebrates life, the most twisted of paradoxes that appeals very much to my sated Passenger. It purrs and stretches languidly in the recesses of my mind, lazy and content to part ways until the Need should rise again. "Come lay with me," Rita says, and my brows lift as I turn to make eye contact with the moon. "I miss you."

"Right here, Rita? On the dumpsite?" I toss her a glance over my shoulder, briefly note the way her breasts rise and fall with each breath, in time to the swaying of the boat. She watches me with a predatory gaze, half-lidded eyes that promise things...very good things.

"Sail a little ways over, if you like, Captain. I'll be waiting right here."