Morgan and Masuka after Meaning

Ninnik Nishukan

Summary: He always came through for her, even if what he came through with was always really weird. Masuka keeps his "big mouth shut" to Quinn about Rita cheating on Dexter, and this time it's Masuka, not Quinn, who shows up to help Deb with the house after Rita's death.

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, this story contains absolutely NO Quinn bashing. This is merely wishful thinking.

Dexter AU, set directly after s04e09, Hungry Man and during s05e01, My Bad. More friendshippy than romantic, but with a bit of romance, too.

Masuka is fun to write. Why don't people do it? :P

"Hey, what's up with you today?"

The awkward Thanksgiving dinner had finally ended and Vince had been going for his car at a rather brisk pace when Deb called out to him.

Cringing, he halted in the driveway, clutching his car keys. "What do you mean?"

With this back to her, he couldn't see her expression, but she sounded honestly curious (and annoyed). "When you first came over, you were all cheerful Mister Innuendo, with the mouth-melting chocolate rivers of love— then you suddenly wanted to take off. What's up with that?"

When he finally turned around, Deb had her hands on her hips. "Uh, I dunno…guess it just felt weird. Not being even remotely part of the family and all, and I don't really celebrate Thanksgiving, anyway."

"Yeah, you said. What's the real reason?"

He shrugged; looked away. "Think I was making people uncomfortable. Apparently, Rita told the kids not to talk to me."

"Gee, wonder why."

"Hey, give me some credit…!"

She grinned, gave him a pointed look and went to her car. "I'm sure you didn't traumatize them too badly. See ya 'round."

Just as he was fiddling with his car keys, something (maybe the expression she'd worn earlier that evening when she'd agreed she needed booze) compelled him to turn around, and he caught her just as she was closing her car door. "Hey, Morgan!"

She paused with her hand on the door. "What?"

"You wanna…uh, go get a beer or something?"

There was one of those pregnant silences as she seemed to contemplate any possible angles or intentions from his side, like so many others appeared to do whenever he invited them somewhere. Sometimes he wondered if maybe law enforcement (as good as he was at it) wasn't for him, as it naturally tended to attract the serious, suspicious types. He was already considering just turning around and getting in his car, a dull, squirmy sort of familiar disappointment in his gut, when she nodded.

"Yeah, okay."

This was surprisingly…nice and normal, Deb was thinking, as she watched Masuka weaving expertly through the crowd, transporting their drinks to the safety of their table. Or at least as normal as her life could get: She still had her disturbing suspicions about Christine Hill and her possible connection to Lundy's murder, nagging away at the back of her mind…but Quinn had been right. There wasn't much of anything to be done about work today, when everybody was busy with Thanksgiving celebrations. She'd just have to wait until tomorrow. No big deal, right?

They were on their fifth round now, and conversation had been flowing well. Masuka was easy to talk to; they always had the common topic of work, and if that ran out, they were both natural banterers and could just talk and joke about nothing much. And of course, what with Masuka's many strange hobbies, not all of which actually included sex, but all of which he had a habit of bringing up with his co-workers, he sort of helped to remind her that there were other things in life than work (and often introduced her to bizarre subjects she otherwise would probably never have heard of, although she wasn't sure if that was always such a plus).

In fact, she mused wistfully, she could almost remember having some hobbies of her own at some point. When was the last time she'd played baseball or even read a damn book, really? She nearly snorted as she suddenly remembered Yuki Amado and her patronizing suggestion that she should take up scrap booking. God, what an arrogant fucker she was.

"Here's your change back," Masuka said as he arrived, slapping the coins down on her napkin with a soft thud. She'd wanted to go Dutch tonight, and he hadn't objected. The thought of Vince Masuka buying her drinks when there were only the two of them there just sounded plain wrong. Somehow, that wouldn't just be buying your buddy another round, that would be…well, Vince Masuka buying her drinks.

Picking up her beer and taking a long swig, she noticed he was sending her a sort of sideways glance she couldn't quite read, an uncharacteristic tenseness to his narrow frame, his own beer halting halfway to his mouth. "Did you ever cheat on somebody, Morgan? Or get cheated on?"

This strange conversation starter blindsided her. "What, why? If you're gonna inform me of some freaky new kind of fetish—"

"What, netorare? Nah, never been into it. Just wondering."

Vowing to forget this term and the fact that there actually existed such a thing, she quickly pushed the conversation along: "Why?"

His eyebrows knitting, Vince took a long draft from his beer before shrugging one shoulder. "Well…my mom cheated on my dad when I was fifteen."

"Shit," Debra blurted out in sympathetic surprise. As she stared at him, it began to dawn on her that she had basically no prior knowledge of Masuka's family. She'd just never thought to ask. Her own tiny family, which consisted of her and Dexter (and up until a few years ago, her Dad), everybody knew about, so she never really had to explain or talk about private family life, because a lot of it was right there, every day at work. Well, now there was also her sister-in-law and the kids, but people usually asked Dexter about that, not Debra. And now she had no idea what Masuka's family did, or if he had any siblings.

"I could never do it," Masuka was confessing now. "I mean, sure, I'll have more than one partner at a time, but then they know about it, so there's no betrayal."

"They know?"

He grinned at her. "Kinda hard not to if we're all in the same room."


"Hey— don't wanna know, don't ask."

For a while, she stared down into the golden well of her beer bottle. "I cheated on Anton. Not that it's a surprise to you, I mean— one minute I'm with Anton, then Lundy shows up, we start hanging out all the time and suddenly I'm not with Anton. You probably all did the math."

"Well, yeah, I guess, you just never said anything, so…" He shifted a bit uncomfortably in his seat; he'd had his own thoughts at the time, of course, but when he'd asked her about cheating now, he'd been so preoccupied with Rita and Elliot that it had completely slipped his mind.

"There were a few other things, too, and I'm pretty sure we would've ended it anyway, me and Anton. But I always thought I'd never do it, either. Cheating, I mean." She drew a shivering breath. "Dad cheated on Mom, too."

Now, it seemed Masuka had no comeback, for once. In the end, he concluded weakly: "Wow."

Her chest starting to burn, she realized she was actually holding her breath; she held it a few seconds longer, as if wanting to punish herself for thoughtlessly blurting out something as acutely private as that to Masuka, of all people. This wasn't like her, was it? Who knew if Masuka could even keep it under wraps? Well, at least she hadn't revealed the most important part; that Dad had cheated on Mom with an informant. "Yeah," she gritted out. "And that secret stays with you, by the way, unless you like your balls crushed, which on second thought I guess you might, so— anyway, I'm probably only blabbing about Dad 'cause I've had one too many."

He appeared mildly wounded for a moment, but affected a dry tone when he replied: "And here I figured it was because I shared my sordid family history first."

"Why're you so hung up on cheating all of a sudden, anyway?" she asked, then, her hands going palms up in a curious, exasperated gesture. "Flavor of the month leave you for bigger and better or what?"

He flashed her a scowl. "Thanks for that, but no."

"Hey, whatever happened to those chocolate cakes today? Hate to admit it, but they looked pretty tasty."

Glancing at her, he puzzled for a second about the frequency of her subject changes, but let it slide. "Kinda…lost my appetite, so I chucked 'em."

Her eyebrow cocked. "Why, did you flip through your mental catalogue of the gross and dubious?"

Now he looked like he'd sucked a lemon. "No, I just…saw something I didn't like."

She leaned in, frowning at his face, trying to read him. "What?"

"Nothing important."

"Okay, c'mon, Masuka, now I know something's definitely up! It wasn't just because of what Rita had said to the kids about you that you left today...was it?"

Vince shut his eyes and took a sip of beer. "I saw Rita kissing that next door neighbor guy."

Deb choked down the urge to gasp dramatically. "What, Elliot? Are you kidding me? How? I mean, when the fuck was that supposed to have happened?"

"Uh, it was when they went over to Elliot's house to use the oven. I had to go over there to heat the lava cakes, so…yeah."

For a moment, they sat rigid, looking at each other, the rest of the bar still moving, pulsing, chattering and laughing around them.

"Okay…" Deb took a deep breath. "Okay, so that sucks…that really sucks. But I'm not sure if I'm qualified to point any fingers…and neither is Dexter, considering what he did with Miss English Titty Vampire, so…"

Masuka frowned; somehow, he hadn't considered Dexter's past mistakes (possibly because he hadn't actually witnessed them first hand). Come to think of it, he even remembered bragging about them to Quinn. At the time, it had simply been in order to defend a fellow lab geek's masculinity to a macho cop who'd been calling his friend "poindexter", but now he partly regretted it. Cheating was a shitty thing to do, and even shittier to brag about, even if you weren't the one who'd done the actual cheating. Maybe this wasn't such a big deal, then, because Dexter had no other choice than to forgive his wife, right? Then again, this was the next door neighbor, which kinda put a hefty strain on the whole day to day life. Maybe it was best if Dexter never even found out.

"So what should I do?"

Deb shrugged one shoulder. "I think you should probably let her tell him herself."

He exhaled. "You're right. And it might not have been more than that kiss, so…"

"Right," she said dully, before getting the sudden, irrational urge to defend herself: "You know, it wasn't a one-night stand. I wanted to get back together with Lundy."

He didn't know what to say to that, or if he was even expected to say anything, but it hardly mattered, because she didn't wait for a reply as she went on: "That kinda thing gets you wondering about choices. How things might've been different, like some kind of stupid fuckin' time travel movie or something. Like, would Lundy still be alive if I'd stayed with Anton? Drives me nuts."

Nodding in discomfited sympathy, Masuka decided to change the subject (slightly, at least) for her this time. "How're the scars now?"

Deb gave an elusive, muttered reply he couldn't quite make out, her hair slipping down to partly obscure her face as she bowed her head.

When he (almost without thinking), touched her side, her long, slender back immediately swayed like a bamboo branch in the wind and she stiffened. For a moment, he wondered if she was going to bolt.

However, when she'd squirmed for a second, she settled down a bit, and something dark and lonely about the glance she shot him from behind her curtain of hair compelled him to slide his hand gingerly beneath her shirt and across her lower back.

There was a muffled noise somewhere between a bleat and a grunt from Deb, her elbow jerking away from where it'd been resting on the table.

His hand was already gone from her skin before she had time to direct her patented what-the-fuck-Masuka glare at him. "Sorry, completely inappropriate even for me. Please don't sue," he said automatically.

She gave him another dark look, more pissed off than lonely this time. "That's it, I'm cuttin' you off," she declared.

He swallowed, his thoughts running away with him for a moment in his somewhat alcohol-buzzed mind, conjuring up all sorts of unpleasant interpretations of her words— everything from the loss of limbs to the loss of friendship— before he noticed she was simply pulling his Corona away from him with a deep frown.

"Probably not a bad idea," he mumbled absentmindedly as he watched her downing the rest of his beer without protest, even though he'd barely had any of it. He clearly did not have any use for more alcohol this Thanksgiving, as untraditional a notion as that was.

Besides, watching her drink from his bottle was pretty hot.

This was not going to be easy, but she couldn't allow herself to think about it, couldn't allow herself to stop, so she steeled herself, got out of her car and walked briskly across the lawn, towards the house that had formerly been the home of Rita Morgan.

When her cell phone rang, she was sure she was close to having a heart attack, right there on the lawn next to Cody's overturned bike.

"What?" she snapped. She'd been on the phone all day, whether it was her calling or vice versa, and she was getting pretty sick of it. She wasn't cut out for all this arrangement stuff. Whenever she moved, she always had a light moving load, and if she had to plan a party, she usually just took everybody drinking or had Dexter fire up the barbeque. Nobody ever expected anything fancy from her. And this was no party.

There were just so many practical things that had to be taken care of when somebody stopped living that you never considered until it happened to somebody close to you. When Dad had died, they'd had so much help from all his friends and colleagues, and Dexter had been right there with her. She'd hardly had to do anything. Now, she was expected to do everything. Rita's parents were too busy taking care of their grandkids, and Dexter was a wreck.

Now, she bit the inside of her cheek. She shouldn't have yelled; she couldn't afford being on bad terms with somebody she needed to co-operate with to pull this funeral together. Not to mention it was completely unprofessional, because it might be something work-related. Closing her eyes for a while and taking a breath, she tried again: "Sorry, I'm just— this is Debra Morgan speaking, how may I help you?"

"Hey, Morgan. I, uh…actually, I was calling to see how I might help you."

It took her brain a few seconds to catch up with reality and recognize the voice. "Masuka?"

"The very same. Look, I have a half-day and I don't have any plans, and I figured you could probably use some assistance with— whatever you're doing. I know there's always a lot to take care of when—"

But she was still not quite out of her daze yet. "Masuka? What in the actual hell?"

There was a stretch of silence on the other end. "…okay, bad idea. Sorry, I get it, you're probably right in the middle of something and there's probably already somebody there— I'm probably interrupting—"

"Masuka, sorry, just…shut up. I'm…I'm about to go inside Dexter's house and clean up a fuckload of blood. I can't really deal with anybody right now— fuck, I can hardly even think straight, so—"

"Well, I'm not gonna lie, I'm not crazy about going in there again, but I guess…it'd be even worse for you, especially alone."

She gaped, feeling lost for a moment. Was he offering?

"Need some help?" he prompted, then.

Her eyes welled up; she dabbed a quick hand at them. She hadn't even thought of asking anybody. She didn't know who she could ask. Because normally, she would have called Dexter.

"Fuck, yes," she breathed.

"I'll be there in like twenty minutes."

When Vince arrived at Dexter's (and Rita's) house, he found Deb sitting out on the curb. He couldn't blame her. It was so strange; from the outside, it practically looked like Barbie's dream house or something (pink, serene and surrounded by palm trees), but inside

"Hi," he said when he'd gotten out of the car, walking up and halting in front of her.

She immediately stood, dusting off the back of her jeans. She wasn't up to mocking him about it at that very second, but the sight of his ridiculous, lightning-decorated monster truck, larger than life, made her feel marginally better. Something like that existed, even in a world of literal blood baths. Dexter had mentioned that it had blared country music from huge speakers. She could just imagine Masuka picking it out.

Masuka's face was suitably somber, but the contrast only made the truck look even sillier. It couldn't quite make her laugh, but it helped. "Hey, um…thanks for volunteering."

He sent her a quick, half-hearted smile. "No problem. So, uh…how's Dexter holding up?"

When her eyes darkened and she gave a mechanical sort of shrug, Vince knew he shouldn't have asked.

Deb was grateful when he simply nodded and gestured towards the door, ushering them along. If they'd kept standing out there on the lawn for another minute, she'd have lost her nerve completely. She might have wanted to leave.

Neither of them in any particular hurry to enter, though, they did an awkward little dance in the doorway before they were both on the right side of the door and it was shut behind them.

"Should we just, uh…get started?" he asked, when she didn't immediately start bossing him around. Which he'd expected, considering this was her brother's home, considering they had a job to do, and considering this was…well, Deb.

Deb shook her head, feeling faintly addled. "Right, yeah…I mean, you sure look ready. What's in the bag?"

He was already decked out in rubber gloves, and she wanted to make a comment about how, wearing them outside of work, he looked like even more of a creep than usual…but mostly she wanted some rubber gloves. The thought of touching all that…red that had seeped out of her sister-in-law turned her stomach. One moment dead, the other alive. Even after all she'd seen through her job, it was still unfathomable to her how people she saw all the time could suddenly just…cease to exist like that.

"Basic supplies," he said flatly, glancing at her; standing there waiting for him like some robot waiting for a command, except robots weren't lost in thought (he hoped, at least, because that would be creepy). It was always unsettling to see her as anything but her usual spitfire self.

Bending down, he opened the bag he'd placed on the back of the couch and pulled out a short, thin, pliable, rubber-covered apron. He felt her sharp, odd look burning a hole in the side of his face as he put it on.

This isn't a crime scene, dork, she wanted to say, scolding him for what seemed like some kind of insensitivity, seemed like crossing the line that he was so prepared, but it immediately occurred to her that it was a crime scene, or had been, and a very messy one at that. He was just being practical.

"Here," he said, offering her a pair of rubber gloves of her own.

"Thanks," she said, glad she didn't have to ask. May I please have some fucking rubber gloves so I can clean up the blood of my dead and murdered sister-in-law? The carnage in the bathroom? Every word, especially every full sentence out of her mouth concerning this death just served to make everything realer and realer, robbed her of even the illusion of emotional distance or control.

Next, he pulled out a second rubber apron and handed it to her with what seemed to her like a subdued but unmistakable air of wry amusement.

"You just wanted to see me in an apron, you sick fuck," she said, but took the apron anyway, relieved she had a reason to joke at all.

A lopsided smirk bloomed momentarily on his face. "Nah— trust me, Morgan, that kind of apron would be a lot smaller, a lot frillier, and would come with a special hat and see-through panties."

Yeah, joking felt good, even if her laughter sounded reedy and unnatural as all hell.

When they opened the bathroom door, the sharp, sweet, metallic stench of partly congealing blood slammed into them like an inconsiderate jerk on the street. Then it gave them a couple of seconds to adjust before it seemed to slowly creep into their pores instead. For a second, Vince felt as if he could actually feel the odor behind his eyeballs. For those first couple of seconds at least, it somehow never got any easier. Why couldn't serial killers choose to inhabit somewhere with a colder climate, where the remnants of their handiwork wouldn't fester so quickly?

The tub had been drained, but there was still blood everywhere, pooling or crusting.

Vince swallowed, took one look at Deb's rapidly paling face and carefully, arms out for balance, made his way over to the tiny bathroom window to let in some air.

As he allowed himself a couple of seconds of simply standing there, breathing through his nose, he was put in mind of his older sister, at nine, when she'd cut her knee open on a wooden stool in the bathroom. He remembered her pale face and how she'd told him her mouth tasted like pennies. He hadn't understood it at the time, that it was just her reaction to the smell of blood (he'd been too fascinated by examining the wound; should've known he'd turn out to be a weirdo), but now the thought zipped across his brain unbidden every time he smelled blood. Which in his line of work was often.

"Pennies," he said under his breath.


He turned to face Deb, who was now crouched down, rummaging through a bathroom cabinet. The view of her shirt riding up a bit, exposing a narrow strip of her lower back, might have distracted him if she wasn't looking so ashen-faced. And if they weren't surrounded by blood. "Huh? Oh, nothing. Just…the blood, you know. Smells like pennies."

She gave him a sort of long, empty stare, before finally mumbling: "For a second there, it sounded like you were actually just standing there saying 'penis'."

He feigned offence, though it was a feeble attempt. "Please, like I'm that unimaginative with my filth? Who am I, Beavis and Butthead?"

"Coulda fooled me," she said, her tone limp and distracted. "Sponge. Rag. Brush. Some kind of cleaning spray…stuff." She declared this flatly, holding the items up to him, her eyes fixed on a spot of wall without any blood on it.

Not waiting for him to answer, Deb set to work when he'd accepted the supplies.

He simply stood watching her, studying her furrowed brow and bouncing hair as he contemplated where to begin.

All that could be heard was the furious shika-shika-shika of her scrub brush on the bloody tiles, turning the soapy water pink.

In the end, Vince went for the tub, thinking he'd spare her having to do it herself. Thinking she wanted him to, but didn't want to ask.

When the showerhead suddenly went off, Deb was so startled she had to bite the inside of her cheek to prevent herself from yelping. She glanced across her shoulder; whether he hadn't noticed her jump or pretended not to notice, there wasn't another peep out of Masuka as he started to rinse off the tub.

Job done. Escape bathroom. On to the next chore. Keep working until Dexter wakes up.

The second she was out, Deb rid herself of the dirty apron, pulling it off and stuffing it in a plastic bag. Then she let out an explosive breath, inhaling it just as hard, but it didn't really help much. Her body was still rigid with discomfort even with a solid wooden door between her and the bathtub of horror.

She couldn't close a door on the thoughts that steamrolled through her head: about what the killer had been doing, what he'd been thinking while he was doing it, why he'd done it, how he'd done it, how Rita had reacted when she'd first realized what was going to happen, what she'd been thinking right before she died— the situation having been what it'd been, Deb guessed Rita must've been going out of her mind with worry for Harrison—

Deb had been studying identical cases for weeks. Whether she wanted to or not, she could paint a pretty vivid mental picture of what exactly had taken place here.

Here, in her brother's home.

And Masuka, who was even further technically engulfed in the details of the how and when, didn't look like he was able to close any doors, either, right then.

She gave him a sidelong look, where he was leaning on the wall adjoining with the bathroom door, wiping his brow with the back of his arm, and suddenly she had to know: "Hey, d'you ever wonder…if how we think is just us doing our job, or if it's a defensive mechanism or if maybe this is just how we think now, because we're slowly becoming even more messed up than even regular human beings? I mean, even in a personal case…we still automatically…"

Vince took a moment before answering, removing his apron and putting it in the bag with hers. He thought to himself that in fact, she'd never actually stop caring, would never give a shit about who saw her showing emotions, would always let stuff get to her, in a good way, when it mattered, when it showed her humanity, or even when it wasn't appropriate, although she'd gradually gotten better at reining herself in to further her career— but he wasn't about to say it, and never would. He wouldn't be able to put it into words that wouldn't offend her or wouldn't make himself look dorky, and she wouldn't want to hear it even if he did. During those sorts of conversations, her inner defensive teenager had a tendency to emerge, scoffing and scowling.

"Yeah, I know I can't turn the science off. Even here, y'know, in Dexter's house, when it was…Rita, even when it's someone I know, it's kinda hard to…well, it doesn't necessarily mean anything huge and tragic— I mean, we've just got knowledge other people haven't, you know? So we think. We can't just undo that."

"Maybe, but…do you ever wish you were just a layman? That you didn't know?"

Hesitating momentarily, he shook his head. "Do you? Knowledge is power, Morgan. Professor Neil Degrasse Tyson says that people who are scientifically literate see a different world. And it empowers them to know when somebody's full of it."

Deb looked almost hopeful when she spoke next; wishing for frivolity. "Next I bet you're gonna offer to enlighten me with some basic lessons in biology, right?"

Grinning, he indulged her: "You will find there is no better teacher, Young Grasshopper."

Her insides bubbling with a fragile brand of relief, she smiled back, palely. There had never been a more inappropriate time for his inappropriate comments, but that was why she felt so grateful for them. She knew this was a complicated subject that could've most likely lasted them for hours; they'd barely scratched the surface, but she'd gotten the little piece of reassurance she'd wanted, and would leave it for another day. "Just for that cocky attitude, I think I'll leave this chore to you, sensei," she said, handing him the small garbage bag they'd accumulated; they'd had to use up the entire rest of the cleaning spray, not to mention sacrifice a whole roll of tissues. "Garbage goes out back."

Their glove-covered hands brushed as she handed him the bag. Vince favored her with a leering, appreciative smirk. "You know, this seems familiar…you, me, nothing between us but a thin layer of rubber…"

"Oh, yeah, I remember…it was that one time in your dreams," she shot back dryly.

"Sure it wasn't yours?" he parried, waggling his eyebrows.

"No, mine usually involve me, you and a restraining order," she said, stripping off her rubber gloves and shoving them into the trash bag.

"Well, I didn't think you—" he began, but she never found out what he did or didn't think about her, because she chose that moment to put her heel on something that made a loud, squeaky noise. As they both looked down, they discovered it was some sort of neon green rubber bath toy, probably Harrison's, which must've tumbled partly underneath the kitchen table. She supposed it should've been comical, but it really wasn't. It was a toy. Children used to live here. Now they probably wouldn't. Harrison, who'd been there while his own mother was being murdered, wouldn't live here. Would he remember? Was he too young? He was too young, right? And how would Dexter deal with it? How long would it take before he came out of it?

Their eyes met for a while, silently and inevitably communicating that they both knew they were going overboard with the jokes, and that they both knew why. Deb was the first to look away.

Swallowing, Vince began to carefully peel off his own sudsy, blood-stained gloves. He was so used to it that he normally did it without any ceremony or a second thought, ripping them off to fling them at the appropriate trash can, sometimes even making a game of it, as if he was playing basketball…but this was different. It didn't feel appropriate to toss Rita's blood around like a goddamn clown juggling balls at a five-year-old's birthday party.

He was quick to clean his hands at the kitchen sink, silently stepping aside so Deb could have her turn; noticing that she was applying the hand soap far too liberally, that she was scrubbing just a little too hard.

"How are you?" he asked then, fastening his gaze somewhere between Deb's shoulder blades, almost glad she had her back turned.

Deb shook her head and began to dry her hands. "Fine. I'm just…Dexter, you know how he is, it's hard to know how he's holding up. Impossible to read," she said in a thick voice.

"Yeah, tell me about it," he mumbled. Even after all these years, Vince still couldn't quite shake the feeling that he didn't really know Dexter.

There came a sort of pained little noise from her, then, and he could swear she was on the verge of tears. "I…I don't even…I swear to God, I have no idea what he's thinking!"

"Well, none of us—" he attempted, but it was as if she wasn't even listening anymore.

"He's the big brother, he's always so together, he almost never needs any help for anything, and not he's just kinda— kinda switched off, like he's barely there anymore, and I have to do everything for him and he doesn't even respond to questions and it's kinda fucking dawning on me more than ever that I'm not much of a nurturer, you know? I can't take care of people! Never bothered me much before, but now I have no fucking clue what to do— it's not like I'm useless, I can do all the chores if I really have to, of course, all the preparations for the funeral, but I have no idea what to do with Dexter! Or what to say to the kids!"

His mouth felt as if it'd dried up. He'd never seen her quite like this before. "He'll come around eventually. He's just in shock."

Now there really were tears in her eyes, spilling over. "I know that! I just— fuck, Masuka, just— say something useful, okay? Don't just— ugh!"

Babbling had to be contagious, because now he was the one doing it, his hands and gaze flitting from place to place like humming birds, his voice scratchy and uneven, and his desperate brain evidently picking his words at random: "Uh, well— remember that thing I said when you were all worked up about Lundy coming back when you were with Anton? How maybe it would be easier to deal with if you knew it was supposed to be weird and confusing? I guess that couldn't double as advice for this, could it? I mean, uhm…"

Reminding Deb of Lundy at a time like this had only been to add gasoline to the fire. She was trembling now, her long spine bending, as if she was trying to curl in on herself and cease to be. He was clearly a fucking idiot. Out of other options and out to fix his faux pas, he went in for a hug.

He had assumed she wouldn't push him away, considering how much she seemed to need it, but he honestly hadn't expected her desperate response, either. A choked wail in her throat, she clutched him to her, pressing her face into the first place it met, which was somewhere above his ear, bordering on the top of his head. He found himself half-heartedly wishing he was taller, or that she was shorter, because didn't people want to be enveloped in such a situation as this, didn't they want to feel small and taken care of? Or maybe that was the kind of ridiculous, soppy thought that Debra Morgan usually made fun of? He was sure, however, that they needed a shoulder to cry on, and his was about half a foot too low for her.

She surprised him, then, when she bent down and found his shoulder anyway, sobbing into it in a raw, quiet, wheezing sort of way that pulled and tore at something inside his chest and made him not give a damn that she was probably getting snot and make-up all over his brand new shirt.

Patting her back with one hand, he gingerly removed his glasses with the other to stuff them into the back pocket of his khakis. She was kinda smushing him now; not that he minded.

Then, however, she was kissing him, moving from his cheek to his lips with painful, yearning little sniffles and gasps. Dumbfounded, he froze, but she either didn't notice or didn't care, because then she was gripping his arms and fully capturing his mouth with her own. It wasn't in his programming to resist a sexy female when they were both single, so it only took him a moment to get over the initial shock; now, his eyes drifted shut and he automatically responded, mouth opening, body pressing up against hers, hands resting on her warm waist—

Then he became aware of her tears dampening his face; heard an imprisoned sob rattling in her chest.

On their own, his hands decided to gently push her away. "What're you doing?" he murmured, eyes tripping across her face before settling on the relative anonymity of her shoulder.

It utterly threw her, the sudden loss of the warmth, the nearness of the desperately coveted human contact, so she said the first thing that came to mind: "I don't know."

His head tilted back with a heart-felt groan. "Ugh…I'm probably going to kick myself for this later, but…this is obviously the worst idea ever."

For a moment, she looked hurt, but then her expression changed; now she appeared to wonder if she should be laughing, as if she was searching his face to see if this was another one of his horribly timed jokes. "Wait, what? Lemme get this straight— here I am, practically throwing myself at you for whatever reason, and you're rejecting me? You, Vincent 'Office Pervert' Masuka, are telling me you don't want a piece of this?"

"Look, you know I think you're smoking hot, but didn't we already do this? Or do I have to turn back into— what was it? 'Tie wearing, please and thank you zombie Masuka'?"

"Dress shoe wearing, and what the fuck are you talking about?"

Masuka pursed his lips. "Yeah, that. Do I have to turn back into that guy for you to get that I might have some actual serious thoughts and feelings sometimes?"

Deb moaned with realization. "Mothershitfuck— Masuka, do I look like I need a fuckin' lecture right now?"

He sighed. "Fine, if you wanna know why, it's exactly because of the 'for whatever reason'."


"You have no idea why you're doing this. After Lundy, after Christine Hill, after Rita— you're clearly upset— we're all upset. Everything is pretty messed up nowadays, kinda more than usual. Not a good basis for…well, anything. And I'd suggest that it would be taking advantage of you, considering, but I know you'd only laugh at that, so—"

"Damn right I would! Like I need some chivalrous bullshit from a lab geek I could take down with one arm— and as if I can't make my own choices?"

"Exactly." He gave a delicate little cough. "Look, we gotta be around each other at the same office every day after today. So it's obviously gonna be…really awkward."

"Shit." She dragged a hand across her face, glanced at him. "Of course, yeah, I know that, I'm not an idiot, it's just— I just wanted—"

"To be distracted?"

She squeezed her eyes shut. "I need something else, something that isn't fuckin' death, I guess…and I'm not gonna lie, it's been a while."

"You and me both." Vince nodded, his eyes surreptitiously roaming across her face and body; lingering, longing, then moving away.

Deb could tell his resolve was weakening, and tried one last time, despite herself. That alone probably proved she had to be so nuts that maybe it would be taking advantage of her, she thought. On the other hand, the little freak just had to be something as unfair as a good kisser (and it really had been a while). "Then why couldn't we just…?"

His mouth felt dry again when he spoke. "I suppose…maybe we could— not now, maybe later. If, you know, there was…more, after."

She barked out a laugh, which made him frown with humiliation. "I'm serious— I didn't mean just like round two or whatever—"

"No, I know what you meant," she said quickly, nodding. She sounded part amused, part panicked now, her voice a little shriller than usual. He suddenly wished he hadn't said anything at all. He'd been around her enough to pick up on her relationship issues, so why had he been insane enough to even hint at some sort of shadow of a possibility? He knew he was lonely, which was why he'd jumped at the chance when she'd invited him to a real family dinner, but he had to be lonelier than even he'd been aware of. He had his own family, of course, but they lived in Hawaii, and visiting them wasn't something that happened too often, what with his job and what with the distance. And as for girlfriends...yeah, it'd been a while.

Now she was practically ranting: "I'm laughing because it's just a little messed up when my idea of stability and security is having some guy keep being a disgusting creep, you know? You only freak me out when you act like a responsible, thoughtful, adult human being— so stop it! I mean, Jesus, you're starting to sound like Angel!"

His mouth became a tight line, his frown deepening. "I'm not fuckin' proposing or anything, I'm just trying to show you I respect you—"

Again, she let out an incredulous burst of laughter. "Really? Try tellin' that to the fuckin' HRM guys— by this point, I'm probably the only one who hasn't threatened to report you for sexual harassment! How many more times have you taken that course now than the rest of us?"

Vince waved a dismissive hand. "Who's counting? And you know nobody's threatened me, it was just that one intern that one time like three years ago— I'm pretty much irreplaceable, anyway, can't get fired. But whatever, Morgan, you know I don't actually mean any of those things."

She raised her eyebrows at him.

"Okay, so maybe I mean some of them, but we know it's all in good fun. It's not like you don't give back as good as you get," he reminded her, before adding with a slight pout, "and you're often mean about it."

She smirked. "You deserve it, and you like it."

He shook his head. "I'm not a masochist, Morgan— been there, done that, figured out I didn't have those kinds of issues, and besides, leather thongs really chafe—"

She glared.

"Anyway, I respect you when it counts."

"Like when?"

"Like just now." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder, as if the past was a physical object behind him.

She stared at him for a long, silent moment before her head dropped until her chin nearly touched her clavicle. He looked down and could see her hands wringing nervously together; then she started absentmindedly fingering her shirt buttons. "You know, Masuka, I just figured if something like this ever happened, you'd eat it up— ugh, I mean—"

His expression went carefully blank. "I'm gonna go ahead and let that one lie there, Deb."

She snorted. "That's a first."

"Well, it's basically a day of firsts, so…"

Deb shook her head in baffled resignation. "I figured you'd be all over me like white on rice."

His eyebrows rose. "I hope that's not supposed to be some sort of Asian thing, or you might be the one who's sent to sensitivity training."

Again, she made this strange little snort-chuckle. "Hey, um…you're surprisingly not…the worst guy to have around in a crisis. Everybody else is such a hardass. It's like you're the only one I know who's not completely messed up, you know?"

Now it was his turn to laugh, loudly.

She shot him a pale grin. "Yeah, soak it up, 'cause it's the first and last time you're ever gonna hear it."

He shook his head, still looking spun. "Wow."

"Whatever, you know what I mean!" Deb said, rolling her eyes. "Everybody, including me, has got issues coming out their asses. You're like the only guy I know who fucked up shit doesn't seem to happen to!"

"Well, there was that time in Vegas when I met the Swedish twins—"

"Shut up, Masuka! I mean, you don't get shot or kidnapped or have your girlfriend turn out to be a serial killer or watch her get killed right in front of you— or have somebody commit suicide right before your eyes— or find your wife in a bath tub full of her—" Deb's mouth snapped shut, her features contracting in a painful grimace, her eyes welling up. "Fuck."

Vince suddenly regretted making jokes. "Morgan— Deb—" He tried reaching out to her, with his words and his arms.

When he touched her upper back, she was shaking. "D-do you have the urge to just keep cleaning and cleaning that bathroom? Like you can feel there's still like residue and shit in there and maybe they're still g-gonna have to u-use it— like you feel you could keep cleaning it forever but it'd never be—?"

Sighing softly, he let his arm slip around her shoulders.

Deb drew a shuddering breath, leaning gently against his side, and just stood there, trembling and sniffling.

It took a while before she spoke again.



"If something's happened to you, or you've done something…if you do have some kind of secret, I mean the really dark and fucked up kind…"


"…then never tell me, okay?"

Looking into her watery eyes, he thought to himself that he'd rather recommend her a good psychiatrist, but if promising that even some sort of concept of reliability and (dare he say) normalcy (however strange and Masuka-shaped) existed in her life would make her feel safer, then that was what he'd give her.

"I think I can manage that," he said at last.

Feeling tear tracks going down her cheeks, she wiped at them. "You better."

"I'm not gonna tell anybody that you secretly couldn't wait to get your hands down Vince Masuka's tight little pants, either," Vince said gleefully, giving her shoulder a little squeeze; knowing the reminder would really cheese her off.

Deb shot him a look that withered before it turned somewhat fond. He always came through for her, even if what he came through with was always really weird. "I know, fuckwad."

Standing there and beaming goofily at her for a while, he then cleared his throat, putting on a brisk sort of tone: "So, um…are we done here for now? You wanna get out of here and get some coffee or something?"

She detached herself from his arm, suddenly all motion, long limbs and flying hair. "Fuck, yeah. I'm gonna throw up if I don't get some fresh air soon."

When she reached the front door, however, she paused, a wretched look stealing across her brow. "But um, I actually gotta come back here right after and choose a dress for…for Rita to be buried in, so…could you come with? It wouldn't take long."

Using the pretense of putting his glasses back on to cover his hesitation, Vince shrugged. "I've done worse things with my time off."

Deb treated him to a fleeting, shaky smile. "I bet."

The End.

Author's notes: Deb/Masuka fanfic is a thing which simply did not exist. If it did, I haven't been able to find it, at least. So naturally, I had to remedy this lack of ficcage. Here it is.

No beta. Feel free to nitpick.

Netorare: A creepy term I've stumbled across on some less respectable manga sites on the net. It involves cheating and often rape, 'nuff said. Don't go looking for it, even if it's only drawings and doesn't involve actual real people. I really can't imagine Masuka liking this at all.

Masuka's family: I have no idea. I'm just making stuff up. I just get the vibe that his family's probably far away. He never seems to have any plans with them and he seems pretty lonely. Masuka's mom cheating on his dad is completely made up, too. Never happened in canon, as far as I remember. Same goes for that bit about Masuka having an older sister.

Beavis and Butthead: C.S. Lee has stated that Masuka's laugh is in fact partly based on these two idiots.