"Where are we going, Dexter?"

They sit on the sand, knees balled to chests and celebratory beers in hands. It is the New Year, after all. New hopes, new beginnings, new lies to start telling herself – oh, fucking hell.

Her shoes are off, her toes curled into the surf. Dexter looks at her feet instead of her eyes and she wonders what's inside her gaze, what he's afraid to confront.

"I guess – after this – home," he says. "You can stay at my place tonight, if you don't want to be alo – if you'd like to."

She takes a fistful of sand and drops it slowly into the water, watching the sea carry away the grains. "That's not what I meant. I mean after – this. All of it. After . . . life."

She feels him trying to make eye contact now, but she stays focused on the grains dribbling away with the surf, on burying her feet in the sand. On keeping herself whole.

"You mean – once we're dead," Dexter tries to clarify.

"Yeah."

"You know I'm not a religious person, Deb," he says on an exhale. He falls backwards, letting his back hit the sand, his knees still propped up.

"I know," she replies. "Me either. I've never bought into heaven or hell or reincarnation or anything beyond a decomposing body. But if there's not any sort of resolution – retribution . . ."

She drags the grains of sand across her knees. "I don't know if I can bear that. That there's no justice beyond for what we do here."

Once she had believed that justice in the afterlife was not needed, that this world is all that exists and that this world is enough. Now she knows better.

Dexter remains supine but turns his face towards her. She meets his gaze, unafraid. "People like me need to get our deserved punishment somehow, after all," she says, "and it sure fucking won't happen here on Earth, so – "

"Hey, easy," says Dexter, propping himself on one elbow. "Deb – you're a good person."

Her hand clenches tight around the sand and stops its flow to the ground. That's what Laguerta said to her too. Dexter winces as he realizes his mistake. "I didn't mean to – look, who are we to say what's just and what's not, or what's deserved? Morality was invented so people wouldn't live in complete chaos. It only has the value we give it. So really, at bottom our morals are . . . meaningless. Founded on nothing."

She snorts, clawing both fingers and toes into the sand, anchoring herself to reality. "Don't go all Nietzsche on me now, Dexter."

"I'm not – I just . . ."

But he doesn't seem to know how to finish and she doesn't harp on it. Instead, she pulls a necklace from her pocket and sifts it between her fingers as she did the sand, a soothingly repetitive movement.

Dexter jerks towards her then recoils when he sees the necklace's pendant. She would probably laugh if she remembered how. "Deb – when did you – why did you – " You fucking idiot, his eyes scream, but her brother's too adjusted to his daily persona of amiability to ever say something so rude aloud.

"I won't get caught, Dex. I know how the law works. We cleaned up all the evidence well. And – I wanted to keep it." She closes her fist over Laguerta's cross tightly, imprinting the pendant to her flesh. "I never asked Laguerta about her religion. How she practiced, or what it meant to her." She clutches the necklace tighter and feels the chain bite her skin. "I hope she's in heaven now."

He runs a hand through his hair, not seeming to know how to reply. "So you do – believe in an afterlife?"

"No. I don't believe in heaven or hell, but I hope for them. I don't believe in justice either, but I hope for it. That probably doesn't make sense, does it?"

"As much sense as anything else makes on Earth," he replies, and it isn't funny, what he says, but she finds laughter choking her throat. Strange, she never remembered humor being so painful.

Dexter reaches up a hand and touches her cheek and she chokes again, in surprise and confusion and – she hates herself for feeling any sort of happiness tonight, but she can't deny its presence - delight. He's wiping away her tears. She hasn't realized she is crying until now.

Then her body pitches forward and lands on top of his, knocking him on his back into the sand, her mouth falling on his not with greed or caution but simply the need for something solid, dependable, something that does not rest solely on intangible and threadbare hopes –

Dexter pushes her away with the lightest of touches and yet she goes reeling backwards, sprawling loose-limbed on the sand. "Deb, please. Don't – "

He doesn't finish and she doesn't answer as she stares, immobile, up at the stars – but she won't do try again, not ever again.

It's pointless to hope for anything.


A/N: Reviews are love.