DISCLAIMER: I do not own Dexter, Buffy or any of the other characters that are not mine. Jimmy's mine and I have enough of a soft spot for him so…Fox, Showtime, Joss Whedon, Jeff Lindsay and other people that make way more than me, own the main characters. For fun, really not here for the money (and the benefits package leaves a bit to be desired too).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A few things need to be discussed before any of you begin reading. We can also me being home ill today for the early posting. First – this story is the second piece of fiction set in the One Last Shot Universe. While I tried my best for yinz guys to not have to read One Last Shot, I think it would help. There's back story there and not all of it is explained here. So you will see some femslash (Buffy/Willow). If you don't like it, really you can close the browser window or tab now. It'll save you lots of grief and me the headache of wanting to beat people about the facial area with a dead fish. Second – For the crossover elements in the story, the Miami that Dexter lives in and Dexter himself (along with his family and co-workers) are an amalgamation of the series that airs on Showtime and the characters as they were written by Jeff Lindsay (for those of you that don't know, Dexter is based off of a novel the first book is called Darkly Dreaming Dexter, there are three other books that follow). Side note. Italics are internal dialogue i.e. telepathy between characters. Thank you – Didge and Valyssia, I'm sure there are others…it's uber early and I can't remember all of them right now. Oh, and thank you to Powerman 5000 for helping out with some musical inspiration while writing this. The chapter titles are lyrics from Heroes and Villains.
FEEDBACKGood, bad, I usually take it all…leave it here or drop me a line: whedonistic.tendencies@gmail.com
SPOILERS: All of Buffy and Dexter, both the books and the show as it is a bit of a mashing of the two mediums.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Dark Passenger
By Whedonist


Chapter 4 – Looking Pious & Pure

A strong, ocean breeze blows through the open sliding glass door causing the curtains to billow and the papers strewn around the living room to flutter. My hand shoots out reflexively and stops a stack from scattering. The living room coffee table looks nearly as bad as my desk back at the precinct. It's the way things go though. Death waits for no man or er, uh, woman in this case.

Willow barely notices the wind's attempt at disorganizing our disorganization. Her head's practically attached to her computer. Just as well. This murder or murders, as we've found, has kinda dampened the whole 'vacation' thing we have going on.

We did get some shopping in. We had to. Neither of us brought much in the way of slaying type clothes. Truthfully, I think Will just wants to see how many skirts she can get me into. She has this thing with them. It's not a bad. Just means I get to shop. Can't complain.

I look over the reports from the first victim. Jimmy faxed them over the other day when I first told him and he's sending everything that he can get. I've got Autopsy, Toxicology, Blood Spatter Analysis and affidavits for the witnesses. The first vic hasn't been identified and from all the reading, no one will be able to.

Will and I are looking at local demon haunts. And surprisingly enough, the demon population down here is pretty integrated. As much as any demons can be. It's a good. Of course it also means that if it's a local demon, no one'll spill the beans about what's doing this. The most I hope for is the fear of having a slayer in the area.

Last night should be enough to spark some rumblings. Hopefully. It was…uhm…interesting enough. Will and I started out towards the south end of Miami and ended up working our way north. The last place we visited had no name on the outside. My guess: if you didn't know what it is or hadn't been there, you wouldn't go in anyhow.

The bartender was less than helpful, but what really sucks was a small group of vamps that thought they were actually going to take me. Now, sure, I know this sounds cocky, but I have a right for the cock…uhm, I … ya know, there's no way I'm salvaging this. Moving along now.

They start in on me. "Big bad slayer. Think you can come in here and start stirring up trouble." I would also like to add, vamps with Spanish or Islander accents – too funny. He carries on like that for a few. I let them blow hot air. They don't know who I am. Well, one of 'em started mentioning me by name.

Plane tickets – two grand. Cab fare – fifteen bucks. The looks on their faces when I flash my ID – priceless.

Of course you think it'd be enough. That they'd firm up. That a case of the stupids wouldn't happen. Not so much. They attack. Dumb. Dumber considering Willow's behind me and laughing at them. We walked out of the bar right after it caught fire. Didn't need to stick around for that headache.

I haven't burnt anything down in a while. Does it make me a socio if I say it felt good?

Probably, but I'll deal.

I tear my gaze away from the reports and search through the papers looking for something a little more visual. Ah, autopsy photos. They're grainy, but they do okay. Faxes just aren't that good for picture quality. I study a shape of something resting on the gray steel slab of an autopsy bench. The footnote says it's the excised skin that was left on the floor.

Yep, this is my life. Just can't have enough excised skin…gross. The skin's clean, dry and lays out nice and flat so you can get a solid look at it. Turning my head to the side, I look at it cockeyed and frown.

It looks like a rough triangle and the angle of the photo is skewed. I twist the photo so the point of the triangle is facing up. Weird. It kinda looks…well, it looks like a bunch of scratch marks. We call them hesitation cuts. For some reason, my tinglies kick in and I'm not sold on the idea.

The wounds in the skin are rough and shoddy. If I didn't know any better it looks like they tried to cut into the skin with a really dull knife. The flesh around the laceration's jagged and frayed. I search for the coroner's report and come to hi - I look at the name of the M.E. – his description on the photo.

'Blah, blah, blah, serrated edge used for the excision.' Bingo. 'Kay is that all? I turn to the next page and what…?! Rolling my eyes, I turn frustrated to the other autopsy report, hoping to find something useful.

"Buff?" Willow questions. I look up and meet her gaze. She knows I've found something. Well a maybe-something.

"Think I got – these look strange to me. I'm just checkin' something," I chirp and go back to a stack of fax papers.

"Wanna share?"

"Will if it's something, Will." I grin back up at her and she rolls her eyes at me before going back to her computer screen.

I find the document I'm looking for and flip through the back to the photos. There it is. All grainy in black and white, but I tilt the page and it jumps out at me. Both vics were carved and marked before they were killed. Go me, go Buffy!

"Hey Will…" I look up at her and wink.

She puts her laptop on the coffee table and comes over to the couch. I hand her both photos and tilt them so she can see what I'm looking at. Her head goes to the side and her face scrunches. Too cute for words. I need a photo of her like that. Just like that. I'd replace the one I have on my desk at work for a picture of her like this.

"Hey, those…" Her scowl deepens as she reaches for her laptop. I direct my gaze back to the photos. It's hard to see. But if you squint, you can make out what the lines are. A primary line runs the length of the excision. The top part of the line has…okay the best I can get is two pac-mans lying over the top. The center has a single slash mark bisecting the line. The bottom…it's uh, an 'X' over top the primary line.

Will types away on her computer and I see she's sending an email to Dawn. "Buff, can you grab me my phone please?" I nod and go to the kitchen counter. I bring back her phone and she switches the thing over to camera mode.

Nothing is safe anymore. Technology's taken away all excuse for ignorance. You want the knowledge. It's out there if you know where to look. She snaps a few pictures of the faxes and sends them out.

Setting the laptop back on the coffee table, she grins at me. "I think they might be something. Dawn'll let us know soon."

"No clue on the what?" I ask.

"I- they could be runes. Used for a spell. It would make sense. Could be a calling card."

"Or it could be tic-tac-toe and we're barking up the wrong tree?"

She blushes and nods. Well at least it might be something. It'd help lots, if it was something.

"So," I say getting up and clearing up some of the paperwork, "What do we do now?"

She leans back on the couch and shrugs.

"Beach?" Oh please, oh please let it be break time. I see her mind run over the possibilities and then she nods. Yes!

I extend my hand to her and we go back to the bedroom. Behind me she asks, "Are you gonna try wearing the two piece you bought yesterday?" The hope in her voice makes me smile.

I turn back to her and shrug. She steps up to me and pulls my tank top off. Her hands slide down my ribs and over my stomach. Goosebumps follow her every touch. She leans in and captures my lips. It's hungry and warm and soft and makes me love her just a little more. And I think the beach's gonna wait.

Her mouth moves from mine and her lips blaze a trail down my neck and chest. She drops to her knees and begins a more thorough exploration of my body paying careful attention to the main scar that prompts her need to reassure. I know she worries about them. She doesn't want them to affect me. I get it. It's just that they aren't very nice. My pants go and she nips my side causing my knees to shake. For balance, my hands wrap themselves in her hair. I get it, Will.

Sweaty's usually bad. I mean it makes you sticky and kinda stinky. Usually when I get sweaty it's 'cause I'm running, nervous or scared. All of them not very good. Nope. But, sometimes, sweaty is a good. Like right now. I'm sticky, tired and sweaty. All of it though's 'cause of Buffy, so ya know, she can make me sweaty as much as she wants.

It's nice. The covers rest at the end of the bed and we're both all snuggly. The smell in the air is familiar and comforting. It smells like us. If I could find a way to bottle it, I would. Instead I just gotta live with trying to make the smell as much as possible. It's a burden I'll bear.

I look down at Buffy who's resting contentedly in the crook of my left arm. Her hair kinda tickles, but I'll deal rather than move it. She's peaceful and with everything, well, these moments are the few peaceful one's she gets. I know she loves her job. You can tell, but it's hard. I know it. I can feel it.

Sometimes I find her at night on top of our roof. I don't know what she does up there. I just know that when she wants to think or get away for a few minutes, that's where she goes. It's also when her eyes get the saddest. If I go and get her from up there, I see her weight. It's different – not the weight of the world, not like it was in Sunnydale or when I first came. Jimmy gets it too. It's their own thing. Which I get. Which I thank Jimmy for. He helps her when I can't.

I know that I'll probably never 'get' her job. I won't get the things she sees on the daily. That's okay. She has Jimmy for that and well, I've never quite figured out how to thank him. I run my hands over her arm. I play with her fingers and she barely stirs. Her like this with me is…heaven.

Of course it would be nice if we were left alone. The buzzer on the phone rings and I scowl over at the device. Hey, I was woolgathering here. Have some respect. I reach for the receiver and try for chipper, "Hello?"

"Hi, can I talk to Buffy Summers or Willow Rosenberg?" the female voice asks.

"This is Willow. How can I help you?" Sounds like a cop. Probably is.

"This is Detective Morgan. I was hoping I could swing by in a few minutes and follow up with you and your partner?"

Might as well get it out of the way. Means I'm gonna hafta wake Buffy. Poop. "Yeah, uh, sure."

"Great. I'll be up shortly," she sounds way too happy. Up? Up where?

Up here! No, not good. Research. Confidential police reports that she doesn't know that we have. "Uhm, wait, Detective, can we, uh, meet in the lobby?" Great Willow, sound fishy. Just what you and Buffy need.

"That's fine." If I try, I can probably here her cop radar going beep. I won't.

"Great. Just have the front desk ring us when you're here." If I could smack myself in the head right now, I would.

"I will. Thanks Ms. Rosenberg." The line goes dead and I scowl at the receiver in front of me. Ms. Rosenberg? Why does that make me feel old?

Placing the phone back down, I nudge Buffy awake. "Hey sleepy, we need to get up. Fast."

She rubs her eyes and blinks up at me. Ah, sleepy Buffy. It's all sorts of cute. Of course the question's written all over her face. I lean down and kiss the wrinkles away. "That was Detective Morgan. She wants to meet for a follow up. We need to meet her down stairs."

The information registers and she nods. "Shower?" she asks with the smallest amount of hope.

I shake my head. "She said a few minutes." I get up and start to dress. I look at the floor for my discarded bra and pick up…nope that's Buffy's. I toss her bra on the bed and go back to searching for mine. Aha!

By the time I'm dressed, Buffy's already in the bathroom. How she does that I don't know. On a good day, it takes me forty-five minutes to get ready. For her, it's like fifteen tops. And she manages to look good every single time. It's not fair.

The phone rings as I spit the last bit of toothpaste from my mouth and I hear Buffy pick up. She's here. Buffy drags me from the bathroom, to the living room for shoes and out the door. One day I'll get her to be more patient. Not today, but it'll happen.

Our reflection slides away as the elevator doors open. Buffy and I walk out of the elevator into the lobby hand in hand. I recognize Detective Morgan immediately and cringe as I see the tall, redheaded man behind her. I didn't catch his name last night. I just know that he's with their Forensics division. What's he doing here?

Buffy squeezes my hand and then let's go to extend a handshake to the officer.

"Ms. Summers, Ms. Rosenberg." She nods greeting us.

Buffy takes her outstretched hand and I see the small wince pass over the Detective's face. Buffy…

"Actually," my lover chirps, "It's Detective and Doctor, but Buffy and Willow will do just fine."

"Sorry," she says pulling her hand away, "This is my brother, Dexter, he's with C.S.U.. If we're gonna go by first names, then call me Deb."

I watch Dexter step forward and take his outstretched hand in greeting, "Hi," he smiles, saying, "Nice to meet you. I saw you at the scene last night, but didn't get a chance to introduce myself."

He still kinda wigs me out and I don't know why. He's all smiles and really nice. Maybe I was just creeped last night. "Nice to meet you too."

"Hi Buffy, nice to meet you. So do members of your forensics team usually come on follow ups?" Buffy asks shaking his hand.

I watch Dexter's face light up and he says, "Not usually. It's the Morgan version of family bonding. Our family's full of cops. Our dad was one, Debs followed in his footsteps and I work with them."

I nod and Buffy says, "Cool. The more the merrier, I suppose." I look down at her stomach as it growls. Well at least I know where we're going to be talking. "Uh, would you two mind if we took this to the restaurant? I haven't eaten yet." She offers an apologetic smile.

They look at each other and shrug. To the restaurant we go. Getting a table's easy and as we sit down, I take in the silent communication between brother and sister. Still weird that he's here. Guess if he works for the department it's fine.

The waiter comes and we all place our drink orders. Deb looks through her note pad and starts in, "So last night, you two, well you, Willow, said that you were going to grab some ice. Saw the blood on the door and then…?"

She trails off expecting me to finish and I do. It's not like the story's gonna change. "I noticed the smear on the door. So I went back and got Buffy. The door handle was already messed up so she pushed the door open and we saw. We left. We called nine-one-one."

She nods and looks back down at her notes. Does she think that we're lying? What's there to lie about?

Well, the lock on the door, but…

"And Buffy, you were where?" she asks looking up.

"I was actually in our suite. Will left. Mentioned ice. She came back a few minutes later and told me what she found. We went. We saw. We called."

"Nothing else out of the ordinary?"

I can't help the short hard laugh that bubbles forth. For that I get a small glare from Buffy and curious looks from the other two. Trying to play it off, even if it's not gonna help, I explain, "Well, flayed bodies that are missing organs aren't really ordinary. Just…" The heat flames my cheeks and I resist the urge to sink down in my seat.

And suddenly the tension at the table breaks. Everyone starts laughing and I calm down. Deb nods and Dexter continues to laugh. Well it helped at least.

"True. It's not really normal or ordinary." A wry look crosses over his face and the left corner of his mouth turns up just a hair. "What I wanted to ask was about the amount of blood and the little to no tracking at the scene. For it not to get tracked was odd. Did you notice anything?"

I shake my head and turn to Buffy. "I know," she says, "That's what sorta bugged to. But I'm on vacation and this is your guys' puppy. We just got the short end and found her."

"It is rather ironic. You ladies come all the way down here and end up working or at least you do, Buffy." Dexter turns me and asks, "What kind of medicine do you practice?"

"I, uh, just got done with med school. My residency ended in June."

"Well congratulations. So you two are here to celebrate?" he asks. It feels like he's fishing, but not. His eyes say genuine curiosity so I indulge.

"Pretty much. A month off at the beach sounded good."

"Miami's the place for it. If you have the chance, there are some really nice places to go out at night. Clubs and a few restaurants that I could recommend."

"Sure," Buffy jumps in. She's been dying to check out more of the 'locals' scene. "Recommend away. The concierge recommended a few places, but they had tourist trap written all over them."

"Deb, paper?" he asks, before plucking her pad and pen from her hand. Her scowl says volumes and I resist the urge to laugh.

"So how long have you worked for the N.Y.P.D.?" Deb asks Buffy. Ah, professional curiosity. I was wondering how long that was going to take.

Buffy, as she usually does when talking about work, smirks, "For about five years now. You?"

"Four going on five here at the end of the year," Deb commiserates.

Dexter rips a piece of paper off the pad and hands it over to me. "I think that's all the best places. If you guys like Cuban food, go to Rodrigo's. They're Mojo Chicken with black beans is the best in Miami."

The waiter brings our drinks and the conversation devolves into Buffy and Deb talking about work and Dexter and I discussing food. Not sure that's how I pictured this going, but I'll take it.

I check my seat belt for the fifth time since we left the hotel. While Deb can drive, well even, she tends to bring out my survival skills. And to add to my unease, she's got her phone jammed between her ear and shoulder, using her only free hand to concentrate on finding a radio station.

A few more moments of this and she slips the phone into her lap. "Angel says we got the post on vic. number two. You want me to drop you off where?" Her hand finally stops with the radio and settles on an alternative station.

"Station, please. My car's there. I need to leave a bit early and pick up Astor and Cody. What are you going to do for the rest of the day?"

She glances over at me and shrugs. "Angel and I are going to be looking at security camera feeds. Go over a few of the reports. Whoever's doing this shit is a sick fuck. Did you get a look at the skin that was removed? Sick shit, Dex," she stops and realizes what she's saying.

I'm sure my face shows surprise as she asks, "So last night, you were…?"

She looks nervous and I understand that. To her, it's not normal, but justifiable. "I was taking care of the missing house wives. I found the person. I stopped them."

Her mouth pinches and she nods. I know her. She's thinking, running that through and…here it is, "Dex, have you ever tried not to? I mean fuck, it's like, I mean can you try not to?"

"Yes and it doesn't work." It's the only thing I can offer her. It's what I have. When she found out, I laid everything bare for her. I explained what Harry and I did. The reasons why she was never allowed on any of our hunting trips. She now knows why.

My answer only gets her to bob her head more. "Then today…why'd you wanna come along?"

Ah, yes. I knew this was coming. The question I haven't answered is how honest does Dexter want to be. Not very, right now. I need more. The meeting with them today was good. They're quite the charming couple. In fact I found that I enjoy their company. In another life, perhaps we could be friends. But, now, I'm just more curious.

I flash my sister a winning smile. "No, I just wanted to tag along. We haven't spent a lot of time together lately and it seemed like it would be fun."

The office comes into view and I give an internal sigh. I'll be able to avoid my sister's questions just a bit longer.

The car pulls into an empty space and she throws it into park. We get out and she looks over to me before heading up the steps to the entrance. "Dex, don't fuckin' pull my chain on this. If it's something, I need to know. I may not fuckin' like it or agree, but we're family. I need to be able to trust you."

My hand goes to my forehead and shields the sunlight hitting me in the face. I gaze up at her and grin. "I know, sis. I'm not and you can. Have I ever let you down?" I know the answer and she does as well. It's why she nods at me sort of smiling. I stop her chance of talking and say, "If you guys come up with anything tonight, call me. I'll be at Rita's."

She agrees, and turns walking into the station. Fishing my car keys out of my pocket, I turn in the opposite direction. I glance down at my watch and notice I've just enough time to make it to the school.

I jog my way over to my trusty Ford Taurus, get in and fire her up. I hate making the kids wait. I slip into traffic and feel a little tickle in the back of my mind. I know what he's thinking. It's the same thing I am. When did Dexter's life take such a turn that he has to worry about picking children up from school?

I will admit to always having a soft spot for children, but there's always been something more between my girlfr…my fiancé's children and I. They are just as damaged as I was at their age and the recent development in our relationship has further deepened the bond. Who knew 'Dexter the Damned' would be a softy for the young?

When I come upon a shark in my waters and I know said shark's prey is for the young, it makes it doubly satisfying. The school is just letting out as I pull up to the curb. I switch the engine off and go stand next to the car. This isn't part of my regular routine, but their babysitter wasn't able to sit today. In comes 'Daddy Dexter' to the rescue.

Cody is the first one I see and I wave. He gives a small wave and comes to stand next to me. Smiling down at him, I ask, "Hello, young knight. How was the battle today?"

He shrug's non-committaly. It's what I expect. He doesn't say much. Never has. Recently, when you get him at the right moments he will talk. It will be less than ten words strung together, but we are making progress.

"Astor!" he yells and waves his hands to get his sister's attention. "Over here."

Astor looks in our direction and skips over to the car. She peers up at me and smiles, "Hi, Dexter."

"Hello, my lady." I usher them into the back seat and close the door. As I step in, I check my rearview mirror to make sure their seatbelts are secure. "Shall we be off?"

"Yeah! School was fun today, but I'm ready for home," Astor speaks on her and her brother's behalf. She is his great protector.

"Then off we shall go." I signal and turn into the flow of traffic. I glance back and they are going over something that Cody drew today.

Let's see Rita won't be home for another hour. What to do? Park? Ice cream? "What say you young ones about ice cream?" I look over my shoulder and see their faces light up.

But Astor's falls quickly. "What about dinner?" she asks.

"Well, we could go to the store and pick some up for desert if you don't want to spoil dinner. But I don't' think an ice cream cone will."

She gnaws on her lower lip contemplating my suggestion. She looks to Cody and they communicate in their silent way. "Can we share one?"

"Of course! And we'll pick some up for desert after our most proper meal with your mother." I smile back at them and head towards the store. 'Dexter Domestic' strikes again.

The store's vast selection of ice cream is impressive. Who knew they made pineapple sherbet? I look down the aisle to where Astor and Cody are contemplating their afternoon snack. I try to remember how 'Dexter the Demented' got to become 'Dexter the Dad'.

It was supposed to be simple. Deb introduces to me to a charmingly broken creature by the name of Rita Bennet, a creature that Deb found on a domestic disturbance call. She found my Rita beaten and raped in her bed, Astor with Cody locked in the bathroom, and the assailant, their father, passed out with his pants around his ankles, lying on the floor of Rita's bedroom.

For some reason Deb thought I'd be good for her. I couldn't disagree. To be 'Dexter the Man', 'Dexter the Demon' needs a good disguise. Rita is the perfect one. She is as emotionally crippled as me. She has little interest in sex and she has two small children that I appear to enjoy immensely.

It was pure bliss…until, in some unfathomable mix up, she thought I proposed. Truthfully we have been seeing each other two years. Perhaps it is time for the next step, but it's not one I'd do if I had known what I was doing. So now 'Dexter Deranged' becomes 'Dexter Engaged', and I even have a ready-made family.

I keep up the engagement for two reasons. Rita and her family add to the layers needed to keep my mask in place. 'Dearly Devoted Dexter' is a cover above reproach. The second is a bit of a surprise. I know Cody had suffered physical abuse from his father. Astor as well. I didn't know that what they witnessed has changed them. It was one of the neighbors coming to inquire about a missing pet that made me take notice. It was then that my 'Dark Passenger' glowed in paternal pride and set a knowing gaze on the two young children.

While their biological father is currently serving a life sentence in federal prison, I, Dexter Morgan, will raise them. I will teach them the Code of Harry and they will be my legacy. I think above all else, my affection for them is why I've decided to stay.

I grab a half gallon of Rocky Road and make my way down to my two budding sociopaths. Astor looks up at me and holds a Drumstick in her hand.

"Dexter, is this okay?" she asks and I nod my agreement.

"As okay as okay can be. How do you two feel about Rocky Road after dinner?" I take their selection and we go to the register.

"Good. When's mom coming home?" Astor asks. They move in front of me and begin browsing the candy bar selections.

"She should be home by five. So we have some time." I pay the cashier and hand over their ice cream. Cody takes it and carefully pulls the paper from around the ice cream. I make sure they're secure in the back, content sharing their Drumstick and head out of the parking lot towards their home.

I grab their attention and ask, "Are we up for a game of Kick the Can?"

Cody's head snaps up and he smiles a small smile. It's genuine and that's what matters. "Can we play Hide and Go Seek instead?" Eight words in a single go. For him, it's nearly a dissertation. As a reward for his speech, I nod to his nearly predatory smile and pull into the drive way. Cody does love to play the hunter.


Chapter 5 – With an "S" on Your Chest

Pushing the Bluetooth in my ear I secure the gizmo and look at Willow straddling the lounge chair. She's trying to finish up the configuration on the conference call we are about to have.

She scowls and looks at her phone. Maybe trying to have this call on the beach wasn't the best idea, but neither of us is willing to move from this spot. It's hot, muggy and the sun is shining bright, almost too bright. It's a beach day if ever there was one.

"And 3, 2, 1…" she stops counting and the phone rings. She nods to me and I hit the button on the side of the earpiece.

"Hello? Cupcake? Red?" Jimmy's voice comes through clear and Willow smiles triumphantly.

"We're here, Jimmy," Willow says into the earpiece that's the mate to mine.

"Hiya, Old Man," I say and rest against the back of the chair. Good. No weird feedbackyness. Will was worried about it.

"Cupcake! Where are you two at? You sound clear enough, but I'm catchin' some strange background noise," Jimmy asks. If I close my eyes, I can see his annoyance.

"We're on the beach," Willow starts. Her hands fly over her keypad once again and the earpiece gets…muffled? I guess it's the best way to describe it. "That better?"

"Tons, Red. Why are you two having this thing on the beach? Your room that messy?" he jokes.

"Hey, I just want some sun. I'm a firm believer that we can slay demons or talk about the slaying of demons while I work on my tan at the same time." I wink at my witch. My reward is an eye roll and a shake of her head. Does no one get a decent joke?

"Cupcake, I keep tellin' you, you need better jokes. Also you two, I've been keepin' watch from up here since you found the body. You gonna tell me why a bar burnt down two nights ago?" Jimmy's voice comes through the Bluetooth headset clear and clearly annoyed.

I stifle the laugh and muster a good response, "Act of God. Don't you Catholics have them? Call'em miracles or something?"

"We do. But we don't usually view the burning down of private property a miracle. Personally, and this may just be the cop in me talkin', but I view it as arson. You two wanna tell me why?"

"We, uh, it wasn't our fault..." Willow tries. Even to my ears it sounds a tad lame.

"Red, darlin' if that's all you got I ain't buyin." Jimmy doesn't believe us and if I were him, I probably wouldn't either.

"We were attacked. Will and I ended it. The ending wasn't supposed to be a burnt down anything, but those pesky vamps, they just don't know when to say when." I shift in the chair and reach for the bottle of water to my right. "Personally, I think vamps could learn a lot from those beer commercials. I showed them the when. They didn't like it."

"Right. Knew I shouldn'ta asked," he puffs. "Who else we waitin' on?"

"Dawn," Willow answers. "Give her a minute. I just got an IM. She's trying to get to a more secure location."

We wait for a few seconds and the line beeps. Willow taps a few keys and, "Willow? Hello?" Dawn's voice comes through.

"We're here Dawn. Me, Buff and Jim. You ready to start?" Willow responds to my sister's confused plea.

"I am." I hear some rustling then, "Damn!"

"Dawn?" I question. She cusses about as much as Will does, which is almost never. It's kinda surprising considering that I've not got the cleanest mouth that hasn't been helped by Jimmy.

"Yeah, I know. Hold on." The line breaks off leaving us silent and waiting. I look to Will who shrugs. A few seconds later, the fourth line comes to life and she's back. "Sorry, had the wrong papers. Okay. How is everyone?"

"Good here, Princess. How's the Queen?" Jimmy knows how much that annoys Dawn. I can hear the steam coming out of her ears. Why he took to calling her 'princess' is anyone's guess. I just know that when she and Ken came for Christmas a few years ago, he started in with it and hasn't let up.

"Good and I wouldn't know. New York?"

"Eh, full of people and crime. Just the way you remember it. Of course with your sis and Red not in town, crime's kinda dropped off." I hear him laugh and I roll my eyes.

"Hey," Willow jumps in, "I'm not all crime causing." Of course he would joke about the one time Willow got arrested. It wasn't even that big a deal. She was chasing a vamp through the subways and hopped the turnstile; well she magicked the turnstile, but whatever. A patrolman caught her, arrested her and the vamp got away. She fumed for days.

I lean over and rub the small of her back and say, "As much fun as hearing you all poke at each other is, I've got my tan to work on and a demon to find and kill." I shift my attention to the papers Will has on her lap and direct my question to 'The Watcher With All The Answers', "What kind of demon is it, Dawn?"

"I would like you to know it was hard to find. Andrew and I were in the basement for nearly the entire day." I bite the inside of my cheek to stop the snarky remark that I have. She and Andrew do not have a good history together. Despite both finding other people to "go to the basement" with. Them, together, alone, just shouldn't be allowed.

"But between the images you sent over, Will and Jimmy, the autopsy reports you sent, I think I've found our creature feature," her voice carries a bit of pride. I guess it really shouldn't surprise me that this is what she chose to do. "The thing goes by Naumbraug. It's not a very powerful demon and doesn't kill that often. The problem is that it's old. By my guess, it's close to a thousand years old and it's the last of its species in this dimension."

"It's called a wha?" My face pinches in annoyance. Can't these demons pick normal names? Like, I've yet to run into a demon called Bob. Why can't I find one of them? It would so be a good change.

"Naumbraug," Dawn restates slowly going over each syllable so that it sounds like 'nam – br – og'. "It only needs to feed about once a century so it's never had a chance to be caught. I've looked at some news archives and there was a small rash of killings in 1808 and 1909. Seven people died once every six days. The thing likes to take parts in order. Liver, kidneys, stomach, intestines, lungs, heart and brain. One part from each victim."

Wonder if this thing would be any good at Operation. The stupid wishbone always trips me up. On the upside, at least it just started. Gives us a little bit of time.

"Right. Now, once this thing is done feeding, it disappears," Dawn continues, "I haven't actually found out where it goes. Not sure if it's a hibernation thing or just likes to keep the low profile. Either way, finding it before it gets its next snack would be a check in the plus column for us good guys."

Jimmy speaks finally, pressing, "Buffy, you sure you don't want me to come down?" his voice laced with worry. He worries way too much.

"Jimmy, I said 'no' the first time you asked," Will answers for me. "It's one demon. We'll be fine. Stay in New York."

"What about a team of slayers?" Dawn asks from her end.

"Nope," I squash that. I don't need a group of teenage girls to look after. "We're good. Will's right. One demon equals no big."

"Fine, but if you don't check in regularly, I'm sending a squad down," Dawn warns.

"Me too," Jimmy jumps in. "I don't hear from one or both a yinz daily, I'm flyin' down there and they won't like me too much once I get there."

"Over protective much?" I snort. He's worse than I am.

"Damn straight, kiddo. Just like someone else I know." The jibe stings mildly. I know I'm protective, maybe even overly so. "Fine. Daily check-ins. Dawn, we'll email you."

"Thanks, Dawnie for the leg work. One last question: How do we kill it?" That's my Will always asking the important questions.

"That's the easy part. Decapitation will do nicely. Immolation works as well. It's an easy demon to kill. The clean up's gonna suck. It doesn't poof."

I glance over at Will and she just shrugs. Her shrug says, 'We'll work it out after we kill it.' I nod and say, "It's okay, we'll deal. Dawn, anything else?" It's nice to talk to Dawn and Jimmy, but I'm itching to start tracking this thing down. We've only got two more days to find it. The last body was found four days ago. Two left. Not a lot of time and I would like to enjoy the rest of my vacation.

"Yep, and this you owe me for. You and Will are supposed to meet a contact at a place called Club Space in downtown. Someone, and before you ask who, I don't know, will be giving you some info. It was a contact of a contact of a contact. Be there tonight around ten. Someone or something will have some info. You're on the guest list for tonight."

"Huh?" Will and I ask at the same time.

"I asked around," Dawn explains, "I've got someone that has ties in the area. They're gonna ask around in the day and get with you tonight. Just be there. They have your general description."

I shrug. That club was on Dexter's list. I can totally work with that. "We done?"

"I've got nothing else. Love you three. I need to go. I have a training session with a group." Wishing good luck in our hunt, Dawnie says goodbye.

"Cupcake, Red. I'm gonna go too. I got some stuff to do. You two take care and check in with me tonight after your meet."

"Will do. Love you old man. Be safe." I wonder what he's got going on up there.

I shouldn't be this nervous. It's a club. Been to many in my time of going to clubs. I've never actually had to meet someone, an informant someone, at a club. Jeeze, sweaty palms are icky. I wipe them on the leather of the seat and look over at Buffy. She just seems so calm. Cool. One could even say collected.

It's annoying.

Can't she spaz a little with me? A sympathy spaz would not go unappreciated. Not one little bit.

Instead, what does she do? She takes my hand kissing the back of it before resting it in her lap.

Hey, where'd the sweaty go? Right, I can do this. Nothing to it. Meet a guy, get information, and leave.

The limo pulls to a stop and we wait for the chauffer to open the door. The limo was a complete surprise. Dawn arranged it for us. She's sweet sometimes and not nearly as bratty as she used to be. Thank the Goddess for growth and maturation.

Buffy steps out first and reaches back in to help me out of the limo. I wouldn't need help if she hadn't picked my outfit. This skirt may as well be spray painted on. I'm not saying the outfit isn't nice…it's just tight.

For some reason, she chose similar outfits for us. My top is a deep green and glittery with a scoop neck and no sleeves. I'm not sure, but I think it's also a size too small. Buffy's is a royal blue. She was also kind enough to put me in a black mini-skirt. She's wearing her white leather pants and I'm still not sure where she found the high heeled strappy sandals we're both wearing. I almost need magick to keep myself upright. Stupid slayers and their balance.

Gosh. This is a busy place. There are two lines. One on the left and one the right. I peer over to my right and see that the line is stretched around the corner. So, I'll go with one of the hot night spots in Miami. Four big very intimidating men stand in front of the entrance. All four look like they could have been extra's in The Gladiator. Thick, 'barely-there' necks with muscles that have no right being that large. All are dressed in black from head to toe with earpieces discreetly tucked away.

Buffy saunters up to them as I trail behind clutching her hand. She squeezes my hand when I bump into her shoulder and smiles sweetly at the security guard with the clipboard.

He looks down at us and I crane my neck to look up. Who knew people came in such heights? He's like seven feet tall. Well, maybe not seven feet, but he's darn close. His gaze trails over Buffy then me. It's a little disconcerting. I can practically hear his thoughts. All of them are unquestionably naughty and I resist the urge to glare.

A smile breaks out on his stone like face and he rumbles, "Good evening ladies."

"Hi," Buffy puts on her best Valley Girl voice and chirps, "This is Willow and I'm Buffy. You should have us on your list thingy there." She points to the clip board and bats her eyelashes at him.

He glances at the board for a second and steps aside taking the blue velvet rope with him. "You are indeed. Enjoy." Buffy walks past him and pulls me along. I'm pretty sure if I look back I'm going to rat him.

Buffy glances at me and winks right before we step through the doors. The first thing that hits is sound. Heavy techno comes pouring out of the doors. We bypass the coat check and go straight towards an open table close to the bar. A throng of people move and gyrate on the floor.

We sit down and I look around getting the lay of the place. It's two stories and there's another DJ booth set up upstairs. I can't hear the other floor's music, but by the way the few people I see are dancing, it's not techno. Rap or hip-hop maybe.

The place itself is black walls, blue and purple lighting, and plush. It all looks soft. The stool I'm sitting on has a thick, comfy cushion and there are rows of couches towards the back wall. Two bars are set up on opposite sides of the club and both swarm with people.

Buffy presses into me and nips my ear. "You want anything to drink?"

I shake my head 'no' and turn to her, softly pressing my lips to hers. I pull back and say, "We can dance if you want or sit and people watch."

Pulling back, I look at her face as she pulls me to my feet. Dancing it is. We move to the edge of the dance floor carving out a little niche for the two of us. She places me in the center then spins around me, brushing me with her hips, legs, and hands. I feel her tongue snake down my shoulder as her breasts push into my back. Her hands wrap around my waist and she pulls me to her. Close would be a loose way to describe our embrace. She moves me to the music. I'm an extension of her.

She's done this only a handful times, but every single time it sends wormy tendrils of need from my chest down. I love it. She guides my body. It's her's; she can do as she pleases. She sweeps my hair aside and her teeth graze the nape of my neck.

I turn and wrap my arms around her neck pulling her face close to mine. My eyes zero in on her lips and…I feel a hand on my shoulder. Who? It's not Buffy's. Her hands are gripping my hips. A growl passes my lips.

I turn ready to really give it to the person who's interrupting my kissage. It's darn rude.

Buffy's gaze follows mine and we are motioned off the dance floor. The slight tickle to the back of my neck tells me two things: one: our interrupter isn't human and two: Buffy's just as annoyed as I am.

He leans in close so that both Buffy and I can hear, "Outside."

I look at him and give him a look. I'm going for a look that says, 'Are you crazy?' Opening up my link to Buffy, I ask, "Think this is the guy?"

She gives a physical shrug and her voice fills my mind, "Dunno. If not, we dust him. Vamp."

Nodding, I take her hand and motion for the vampire to start walking. We follow him behind the bar and through an 'Employee's Only' door. As we clear the noise, he starts talking, "I hear you two are looking for someone?"

"Yeah," Buffy says behind me.

"Good. What I got isn't a lot, but it might be what you two want to know." He pushes open a fire entrance door and steps out into an alley. We follow him through.

Turning right, Buffy and I are shoulder to shoulder as we look at the seven other vampires standing just outside the door. Great. Weren't we going to be friendly? We just wanted information.

Ya know, this vacation is getting less vacationy the more we're here.

Buffy pushes me behind her and quips, "Should we have R.S.V.P.'d to the party, boys?"

The vamp that led us out here turns and stands with the others. He shifts and as he talks a lisp comes through, "No need. So you're Buffy Summers?"

I look down and Buffy's got a stake in her hand. Where was she hiding that? I watch her hands go to her waist as she pops her hip out and takes on a more imposing stance. "The one and only. What is it that I can do for you?"

I see it coming from a mile away. Before the guy's feet even leave the pavement, Buffy directs, "Save three for me. Burn the rest." And she's off. Two steps and then a roundhouse to the first one's face. He goes sailing and smacks against a dumpster. Two others advance on her but she's already prepared for them.

I glance left and see three coming at me. My eyebrow rises and I fold my hands across my chest. Three vampires used to scare me. Now they kinda bug. Apparently they didn't get my memo. Oh well. I suppress the smirk and concentrate on directing the energy I'm building.

The three are about four feet from me and I wave my hand in their direction. They don't feel the fire until it's too late. It burns bright for a second before ash floats to the pavement. I really should have perfected this in Sunnydale. It would have saved so much time.

My attention goes back to Buffy. She's playing with them and they aren't smart enough to know it. The three vampires circle her and try to get in a shot. They all fail miserably. The vamp that led us out here is watching the fight not moving a muscle. I think he forgot about me. Good. With another wave of my hand I bind him to his spot then pull the vampire that hit the dumpster away from Buffy and watch him turn to ash.

Buffy glances over her shoulder at me and winks. Ladies and gentleman, here it is.

Glued to my spot, I watch as she backhands the vampire on her left and if you're not paying careful attention, slip her stake into his heart as he staggers backwards. He turns to dust and she's already pummeling the one right in front of her. Her right arm strikes out and connects with the last vampire, snapping his jaw.

The pummeling stops as more dust floats around her. The one with the broken jaw stumbles and turns to flee. Ah! Why does he think he's getting away? She watches him for a second and then sends the stake flying through the air. It imbeds itself in the vampire's back. The stake and the vampire crumble to the alley floor.

I walk up to her all smiles. "Feel better?"

She pecks me on the cheek and says, "Oddly enough, yes."

We both turn to the remaining vampire and I ask, "What did you have to tell us?"

It's always weird to see already pale vampires pale even further. I mean there's no blood flow so how? It's not like their heart's tickin' away. Could be part of that whole curse thing. Buffy pokes him in his forehead and demands, "Talk."

He sputters and coughs a few times then manages, "What?"

"Lookin' for a demon that likes to cut girls up in hotel rooms."

He swallows thickly and begs, "If I tell you, will you not kill me?"

She appears to give it a thought and shrugs. "Maybe. Depends on the witch's mood. She can be prickly."

He seems okay with that so he nods. "The only thing I know is some talk about getting a room ready at the La Playa on Collins for tomorrow night."

Buffy nods and pats him on the head. Gently she takes my elbow and steers us towards the door we exited. "Will," she says my name and I know. I release the spell holding the vampire to the alley floor and wait. His foot falls start to echo less and I wave a hand over my shoulder. His scream is muffled as we enter the club again.

I know I should be listening to Rita. She's saying important things about the wedding. About our honeymoon. Instead my mind wanders back to work. To those blood samples that I pulled from the hotel room.

Not typeable. The thought is foreign to me. There are only a limited number of blood types available to the human race. None of them match the sample I have.

"Dexter," Rita's voice cuts through my pondering, "did you make the deposit to the travel agent?"

Travel agent? Ah yes, that entirely too chipper woman. I'm not sure if she kills innocents, but being that perky should certainly count for being a monster. It's unnatural. And if anyone were to pay attention to her shoes. Honestly, plaid high heels with yorkies at the end. That alone should give me license to help her take the ultimate vacation. My 'Dark Passenger' could be her travel agent. We'll make sure she has a wonderful send off.

"Dexter?" Rita questions. I look over to her flashing what I'm sure is a fantastically mimicked sheepish half smile.

"I'm sorry; yes, I dropped off the last deposit yesterday." Her smile brightens and she kisses me on the cheek.

"Thank you. Is everything okay? You've been quiet?" She snuggles up to my side and takes my arm off the back of the couch to wrap around her.

I don't usually initiate contact of this sort. I have no real interest and I don't want to upset her. While we've been intimate, I've made a point to give her the reigns in how I touch her. It gives me the mask of sensitive and concerned and minimizes the actual contact.

While I care for Rita, I even find her pleasant to look at and be around; I have never had a real interest in sex. It's why I know Rita's the perfect fit for 'Dexter the Dutiful'. Usually when I've gotten involved, the relationship ends the day after we have sex. With Rita, it deepened. She didn't see the hollow man staring back at her as we made love. She saw what she wanted to see.

"I'm okay. Works been a bit hectic," I answer her question and she nods.

I look at her and concern creases her brow. I wish she wouldn't. "Do you want anything? Can I get you anything?"

I shake my head and kiss the tip of her nose. She really is a marvelous creature, all full of worry for everyone, but herself. "I'm fine. Tired. It was a long day."

"You were out later than usual. Was it really bad?"

I look over my shoulder to make sure the bedroom door to the kid's room is closed. Satisfied, I whisper, "You know those killings at the hotels? That's what we've been working on. I was at the last scene tonight. I'm sorry about missing dinner though."

I'm not horribly sorry about missing dinner. I was at the hotel snooping. 'Dexter the Inquisitive' visited the hotel room that houses the two charming travelers.

I found some interesting pieces of information. Someone has given them access to the reports. My reports, the medical examiner's, Debra's. They have all the information the police do. What I want to know is why? It's the missing piece of my perilous puzzle.

On the one hand, they are in town for only a visit. They'll be gone in two weeks. I don't need to fret over them traipsing over my hunting grounds. To further complicate matters, I'm nearly sure the N.Y.P.D. would grow to miss such a decorated detective as Buffy.

What is that anyway? Buffy? Who name's their child that? Her name alone should give her license for her and her darker self to do as she pleases.

But this is also a problem. My only moral compass, the code of my foster father, says that if I suspect and can prove. Action must be taken. It's what we agreed upon.

The other was nothing that I found damned them to a night with 'Dreadful Dexter' and his nice collection of flaying knives.

I rest my head against the back of the couch. The search will continue.

Rita's hand begins a slow, gentle rubbing on the back of my neck. "It's okay. Astor and Cody missed you, but they understand."

I lift my head and raise my left eyebrow, "Are you saying you didn't miss me?" She does love it when I tease her.

She blushes and a half smile creeps up her face. "I might have."

Hopefully, I can get her to sleep sooner rather than later. The one piece of information that could prove fruitful needs to be followed up on tonight. They are out this evening at Club Space and I want to follow them. I just need to get Rita asleep before then.

Deciding to take action, I scoop Rita in my arms and carry her back to our bedroom. Yes, our bedroom, since the engagement, she has the silly notion that we should live together. It had to happen eventually. It just makes my nocturnal needs maddening to hide. Where does one hide the tools used to cut and kill in a house with two young children and a blushing bride to be?

I flip her over onto her stomach and straddle her waist. Her giggles are hushed as my hands knead the pliant flesh of her back. 'Doting Dexter' has many skills. Of these, the most useful is my ability to put Rita to sleep in under a half hour with a carefully applied massage.

It takes me a half hour of decreasing pressure on her back until I hear her soft snores. Gently, I ease myself off the bed and cover her with the comforter. Wouldn't want her getting cold. She might wake up and find me missing. I've no urge to try and explain anything right now.

Creeping quietly out of the room, I head for my "study." Rita's old sewing room that she turned to a 'man den' for me. I grab the gym bag holding a few essentials and turn to leave. My car keys rest on the kitchen counter and I snatch them up like a kid going for candy.

Out the door, in the car and down the road in amazing time. I'm not only quick-witted, but quick-footed as well. Now off to do some spying. I head north out of Coconut Grove and make my way towards downtown. The display on my dash reads 10:51pm.

It's time to wait. I make sure my car is on the opposite side of the street with a clear view of the entrance to the club. The lines stretch nearly around the corner causing me to shake my head. How a mass of gyrating bodies and sweat are appealing has escaped me. It perhaps is the one thing that I have failed to pretend to enjoy.

Luckily, my wait isn't long. I look at my dashboard once again and only a half hour has passed. I watch Buffy and Willow exit the club and a limo pulls up to the curb. The driver hops out, but Buffy stops him before he opens the rear door. He nods, gets back in the limo and leaves.

The two women walk hand in hand down the street. Absolutely intriguing. I exit the car and begin a leisurely pace behind them. I don't want them to realize they are being followed after all. Their voices carry and I catch snippets of conversation. Apparently, they are after food.

Three blocks down and one right, I stop in my tracks, receding into the shadows. A trio of young punks stops my prey. Do I step in? How do I explain my presence? I'm close enough to hear what is being said.

"What is this? Can't you guys get a clue?" Buffy's voice rings angrily down the street and I smile. I'm not sure their attackers know what they've gotten themselves into. I'm certainly curious enough.

"Shut the fuck up, bitch," one of the punks snarls. The three half surround the two women and to my eye, neither woman seems to be particularly frightened. Willow's posture says relaxed and Buffy is standing there with her hands on hips, dare I say defiantly?

One of them pulls a gun from his waist band and I step forward. If anyone's going to dispatch these two creatures it certainly won't be these three looking for easy money.

I take two steps and stop. Willow steps back giving me a clear view of Buffy knocking the gun out of the punk's hand. I watch slack jawed as a single round house kick sends all three sailing a few feet off the ground and back. They land folded in on themselves unmoving.

I rub my eyes quickly and step back into the shadows. Huh? She's five foot two…maybe. A hundred and five pounds if I'm lucky enough to guess right. I watch, hidden once again, as she stalks up to the three and drags them together.

"You ready babe?" Buffy asks the redhead, offering her hand.

"Yeah, but are we just going to leave them here?" Willow looks around nervously and motions towards the heap of street trash.

Buffy's hand drops and she looks back over at the would-be attackers shrugging. "I don't think they'll be doing this again."

Willow's brow furrows as she looks between the bodies on the sidewalk and Buffy. She decides to agree with her lover. Grabbing the blonde's hand, they make their way down the street appearing light and care free.

I rub my eyes once again trying to shake off the shock. Did I just see what I saw? Has 'Dear Old Dexter' become 'Delusional Dexter?'

I quickly walk up to the three unconscious youths. Spatters of blood cover their faces. One most certainly has a broken nose, one a broken jaw and the other has a large gash on his cheek.

My leashed darker self lets loose a slow rumbling belly laugh. There is more here than 'Demon Dexter' seemed to think. And I, as usual, am in complete agreement.


Chapter 6 – Do-gooder Knights

I turn my wrist up and look at the read out on my watch, 8:15. 'Kay, so, it's only been 3 minutes. I can't pace. So instead, I throw my head back against the seat of the car we rented for tonight. I hate stakeouts. A fiery passion could be used to describe my hate if it were said with stronger language.

I turn my head right and look at Willow who is happily reading a book with a pen light. I know I shouldn't, but I do anyhow. "Will, I'm bored," I whine.

Her head slowly turns to meet my gaze. Her left eyebrow is elevated and the smirk on her lips is infuriating.

"No, no eyebrow. No…" I wiggle my pointer finger at her lips, "none of that either."

Her features soften and she puts the book on the dashboard. "Buffy, we've been sitting here for maybe an hour. That jerk from last night said something was going on here tonight. We have to see."

"Do we have to see in the car? I thought maybe we'd just use it to get around and cart demons bits in. I didn't know when you suggested this that it would involve me sitting here for hours. Besides, how are we gonna catch the demon if we're stationary?" Ah! Logic. She can't refute that one.

She scratches her nose and her face scrunches. Did I miss something in my very logical argument of not sitting here? Great.

"Buffy," she says, using a tone that is laced with forced patience, "I know you're not good with the waiting, but…ya know, never mind." She folds her arms across her chest, leans back against the passenger side door and smiles. I swallow. That smile. It's all smuggy and evil – evil in that Willow's gonna let Buffy have it way. "We have the room number; the research and the autopsy reports indicate that we have another two hours…maybe. We can either rent a room next door to it, we can wait in the room or we can wait in the car. In the car, where there's at least some music and we can make some noise. What do you want to do?"

Fuck. Wilting into my seat, I prop my arm on the door, rest my head against my hand and watch traffic whiz by. After a reasonable amount of time, I sneak a peek at her and she's already gone back to her book. Wonder if she'll be up for a make out session in the back seat. We've never done anything in the backseat of a car. Could be fun.

My right hand stretches and I begin a slow caress of her neck with the tips of my fingers. I trace the outline of her ear and smile when she shudders. Her lower lip gets sandwiched between her teeth; maybe the hotel room wasn't such a bad idea. A few hours to kill anyhow.

Leaning in, I pull her closer to me. Her face turns to meet mine and the look she's giving me causes me to stop. Right, so no kissing for Buffy. I'll just be over here on my side of the car then.

I go back to resting my head on the seat and close my eyes. Resting my eyes won't hurt. We've got time.

"Buffy!" I hear my name and…what? Ow! I grab the finger that's trying to bore a hole in my side and sit up.

"What?" I growl. Where are we? I look around and notice the hotel.

Oh, stakeout, right. Uhm…

Swiping at my mouth, I ask sheepishly, "How long was I asleep?"

"Two hours. It's getting late and I haven't seen anything," her voice is anxious. Automatically, I grab her hand. Willow anxious? Not good. All the times she's been, bad has happened.

"Why did you let me sleep?" I ask. My brain starts to kick in. Looking at my watch, I cuss, "Damn. 10:30. No one's showed?"

She shakes her head gnawing her lower lip. I meet her worried gaze. Right, so Buffy gets to move. I snatch the keys from the ignition and step out of the car.

Stretching, I wait for her. When her hand slips into mine, we dart across the street. "What was the room number again?" I ask scanning the U shaped building. This hotel is vastly different than ours. It's set up more like a Motel 6. The doors to the rooms are outside. The only lobby is the office where you check in and out. It's off to my right and I scan inside looking for a desk clerk. I don't see one and move forward.

"243," she answers and slips her hand free. I reach for the gun at the small of my back. Better safe than demon snacks. I slip the safety off bringing it flush with my thigh to conceal my firearm. All we need is for someone to see a short blonde woman with a gun. Explaining this would be fun.

We make our way up the steps slowly, the sound echoes off the concrete of the building. Ya know, for a hotel, this place is way too quiet. As we reach the top of the stairs, I look at the map of the hotel. It directs us left.

Oh-kay, here we go. Three doors down on the left, I stop. Edging to the side of the door, I press my ear against the cold wood. The only thing I hear is the hum of the air conditioning and running water. Not sure from where. Helpful of the not variety.

I try the projecty thingy that Will taught me ages ago, "You remember what Jimmy and I taught you?"

"Yep," she answers.

"Good. Stay behind me. And get something ready in case I need back up."

When I see the nod, I step away from the wall. Squaring my shoulders, I lean back and kick for all I'm worth. The door splinters, freeing itself of the lock. Not waiting for it to swing all the way open I dart through, my gun raised in front of me. I know it won't do anything but slow the demons down. I don't care. Slower is better and me less deader in my book. I'll use it.

My eyes adjust to the darkened room. I feel Will at my back and she flicks on the light. Dropping my gun, I look at the un-messy clean room. A room that doesn't look like it's being prepared for a ritual sacrifice.

What the fuck? Did I miss something?

"What the fuck?" I hear my lover hiss behind me.

"Uh, huh. Do you get the feeling we were duped?" I grumble.

I sweep the room. Looking under the bed and in the bathroom. Nothing. I holster my gun and rest my hands on my hips. Looking around, I wait for Will to catch up. She's still wearing fish face. It's cute, but I need her to catch up.

Her head shakes and she says, "He lied to us! Why that little, creepy…ya know, I was feelin' bad that I let him think he wasn't gonna die. Now, I wanna do it all over again." She crosses her arms over her chest and pouts.

Still cute, just not what we need right now. "Will, uhm, ideas? This thing's attacking tonight. I need answers."

"Uh, well, uhm…" Her hands drop to her sides and then she begins to fidget.

I run my hand through my hair and look around. Moving to the nightstand that's between the two beds, I pull the drawer open rifling through the contents. Phone book? Not needed. Bible? So, unnecessary. Oh, hmm, this might be of use. I wonder?

"Will, do you really need herbs for spells?" I ask pulling the local map out of the drawer.

"Depends. The herbs are mainly used for focus. Why?" she queries as she rests her chin on my shoulder and peers down at what I have in my hand.

"You think you could?" I hold the map up for her to see clearly.

I feel her shrug and she reaches for it. "Worth a shot." She moves to the center of the floor and sits down Indian style. "Is there any…uhm, I need something to mark the map with."

I look around and see something that might work. I snatch the bottle off the dresser and bring her my find filled with multi-colored sand. Instead of being a glorified dust collector, it'll help stop a demon.

She looks at me slightly confused. "Hey, we're working with limited supplies," I defend my choice of markings.

Shrugging, she takes the offered bottle and dumps some out into her hand.

I grab for the first solid thing I find. My head spins. The contents of my stomach start a protest. I swallow down the urge to fulfill their request. No, they can't come up. Buffy's arm encircles my waist steadying me.

"Will?" Funny. Her voice sounds far away. "Baby, sit down." I feel something hit my bottom and the weight's taken off my feet. Oh. That's good.

Right, when your perpetually impatient girlfriend asks you to do an impromptu teleportation spell, tell her no. I'm hoping we got the right place. At some point, when I can see properly I'll know.

I try blinking and my vision slowly clears. That hurt. Lots. More than it's supposed to. I breathe in a fresh lungful of air. Breathing helps. Apparently I forgot to...oops.

The air brings with it the smell. My stomach starts rolling again. This is not good. Nope. Non-good. Non-helpful too. I clamp down and bite the inside of my cheek. The small bit of pain focuses my mind.

Go me. I got the right place. At least I'm pretty sure. It smells god-awful. Like bile, blood, and poop.

Knowing I shouldn't, I look up and wish to un-look. No, siree bob shouldn't have done that. I close my eyes, begging to un-see the seeing that they saw.

"Willow," Buffy's concerned tone makes it through the sound of blood rushing through my ears. "Talk to me."

Her hand grabs for mine and I close around it hungrily. "Good," I manage. "Just give me a second that was a lot."

Her finger's trail over my face. Her cool hand comes to rest on the back of my clammy neck. I find my center then. Focus on that. I regulate my heart rate, slowing my system to a normal pace.

Hesitantly, I crack one eye open. Buffy's hazel eyes stare at me concerned. I smile weakly and nod. "I'm good. Just don't ask me for any more spells anytime soon."

I close my eye again. Just need a few more seconds. I feel her lips press into mine. She mumbles, "You did good."

I know that. I just don't wanna look again.

Right, gotta open my eyes sometime. Might as well be now.

I return the kiss first. She's still right there. I don't need to see for that. I pull back from the peck and open my eyes.

The room looks like the last one. More blood though. Lots more. The body's on the bed. Its face up this time. Gutted. Intestines are spread out on the bed. The mattress underneath the body is soaked in blood.

I walk over. Not sure why, but I think I need to see. The girl's face is stuck in terror. Her last moments on this earth expressed clearly on her face. Her abdomen has been sliced open. I look into the hollow cavity. Yep, no stomach.

Well, stomach's more work to remove. Once you slice open the thoracic cavity, to detach the stomach you have to remove it from the lower intestines…it's, uh, fun?

Buffy's behind me. I feel her press into my back.

"We need to leave," she commands. Her voice is clipped. She's pissed. Really, really, uber, all sortsa pissed. She takes my hand and leads me out of the room.

Luckily, this hotel is set up like the one we came from. The night air feels just as oppressive. It's warm and stifling as we step out of the hotel. I look around for any indication as to where we are. I can't see the name of the hotel. Drats.

I follow Buffy. She leads us around the corner of the building towards the sound of traffic. We pass a pool with several young people splashing about. It always seems surreal. Life, happy go lucky life, carries on when upstairs…well, there's just not life and its most certainly not happy go lucky.

The sign for the hotel comes into view, The Palms. As we hit the sidewalk in front, Buffy wraps me in a hug.

"You sure you're okay?" she asks her eyes searching mine.

"Yeah, good now." I smile and rest my forehead against hers. I mumble, "Just that teleportation spell took a bit out of me. Think maybe the distance was a stretch."

She nods then steps back to pace. I practically hear her thoughts. The blame she's placing on herself is all too apparent. I stop her and force her to meet my gaze.

"Don't even think it. We thought we knew. We didn't. We tried. Let's focus on what needs to be focused on." I set my features and continue, "What next? Do you want to call Debra and have her come out here?"

She looks lost for a second deciding.

This is going to be hard to explain. I'm not sure how we will. 'Oh, yeah, ya know we were just in the area and happened to stop by this hotel. Pure coincidence that we stumble on another gutted corpse.'

I can see the handcuffs now. Not the good kind either. These one's go behind my back and hurt.

"We have to, Will. We'll explain that we got a tip. Didn't want to bug her if it was a bad one," her tone decisive as I watch her transform before me.

It's always a bit of a shock. She wears these hats and they're so interchangeable. She goes from concerned lover, to cop, to slayer, to Buffy, to decisive so fluidly. It's unnerving occasionally.

Her phone comes out and she's speaking while I look around the area. Our car's two miles up the road. Someone's gonna need to go get it. Maybe I can while she waits for the police.

Buffy comes over slipping her phone into her jeans. "She's on her way. 'We are not to leave,'" she mocks scrunching her face up.

I nod, "I figured as much. Is she pissed?"

"Define pissed?" she jokes back.

"Cranky, cussy, crabby?"

"Uh, yeah. That's about the it."

There's a bench by the front of the hotel. I grab her hand and lead her to it, pulling her down next to me, we sit and wait.

"Buff?" I speak quietly as I rub my thumb over the palm of her hand.

She squeezes back and bumps my shoulder. "Yeah, Will?"

I bring her hand to my lips and kiss the knuckles. "The next time we do a vacation; can we go to like a deserted island? Or find someplace demon free?"

She laughs and nods. "There's always the moon. I don't think there are any up there."

"We'll have to research locations." I scooch closer and rest my head on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry, sweetie," her voice pensive as she apologizes.

I look up at her and fish, "For what?" There was something to be sorry for?

"Demons. Death. Mayhem. I was really going for a special, relaxing vacationy experience." Her arm encircles my shoulder and she squeezes.

Firming up to the reason for the apology, I ask, "Did you plan the demon interruption?"

"No," she pouts, "but it's here anyhow."

"No one could have known. We'll…" My voice trails off as I see an unmarked come careening into the parking lot. On top of the roof, a small red light twirls in its plastic globe. Nifty, she's got a Kojak light like Jimmy and Buffy do.

The car slams forward then stops. She's out before the engine's even off. "Goddamn, sunuvafuckinbitch. What the fuck do you two think you're playing at?" Deb demands.

Buffy removes her arm and reaches Deb before she can get to the bench. Standing toe to toe with the irate detective, my slayer snarls, "Trying to help." She poses, daring Debra to say something else.

I flash back to a thing I saw on the Discovery channel where two pack wolves circle each other, challenging each other silently with only body posture and looks. Buffy and Debra may not make with the circling, but the posture and the looks are dead on. I wonder if Deb knows she's gonna lose the staring match?

I stifle the urge to giggle as Deb deflates a little. "Why didn't you call me?" she snips dropping her hands from her waist.

"I didn't…we didn't know. I thought it was a bunk lead, but worth the check out. I was wrong. It's in room one-thirty-five," Buffy explains, relaxing as I put my hand on the small of her back.

"You two touch anything?" She marches back to the car and pulls out a small bag. Throwing it on the hood of the car, she pulls out a pair of rubber gloves and jams them in her pocket.

"No. Nothing." Buffy walks over and snatches a pair from the bag.

"Wait, Buffy, what about the chair?" I don't want questions being raised about our prints on that chair.

"Oh, yeah, one chair that was in the corner of the room that should have my prints. The corner of the dresser next to the chair should have Will's. She got dizzy."

Debra nods and snaps the gloves on. She eye's Buffy as my lover does the same. "I don't think so New York. No way am I letting you back up there."

Buffy arcs her eyebrow and smirks. "Too bad. I'm involved. Deal." She turns and marches towards the room we just came from.

It's going to be a very long night.

"In the wake of a devastating earthquake in Southern California, a small group of residents were able to make it out relatively unharmed from a small inland town that was literally swallowed by the earth.

Rupert Giles, Robin Wood, Buffy and Dawn Summers, Alexander Harris, Willow Rosenberg, and a handful of girls drove out of the collapsing town on a local high school's bus. When asked to comment, Mr. Giles' reply was 'no comment.' In fact it seems that's all that's coming from this lucky group of survivors.

The U.S. & California Geologic Association are coordinating to understand how such a disaster could have happened and what could have been done to help prevent it. Some private interest groups are also assisting the government, most notably a group from London, England, The Watchers Council Ltd.

Colonel Riley Finn of the U.S. Army is heading up the team and when asked about the concern for other towns in the area, he replied, "We are doing everything we can to ensure the safety of all of the residents in California. We've gotten some helpful information from some of our partners."

COL. Finn was tight lipped in regards to their "partners," but word from inside the camp says that the small group of survivors is actually a part of this endeavor. Rupert Giles was named C.E.O. of The Watchers Council Ltd. recently after their main headquarters in London was bombed during a terrorist attack…"

I scroll through the rest of the article mildly interested and wanting to know more about what exactly this "Council" was. Typing in my query, I wait for the search engine to kick back results.

Several come up. More on the organizations tie in with the disaster in Sunnydale, financial statements, some other reports given to the Companies House in England and the most recent article naming one Dawn Summers the newest C.E.O. as successor to Rupert Giles who took a position heading the Scotland branch. I skim the article and come up with nothing much. I nearly scowl at my computer.

I, Dexter Morgan, researcher extraordinaire, Mr. Impossible to Hide From, is having trouble digging up information on my newest prey. How is that possible? I strum my fingers lightly across the keyboard. There must be something. I type in 'Buffy Summers' once again and await a response.

As the page is loading, my cell phone begins vibrating across my desk. I look at the display and my face lights up. Maybe dear old Deb will have something helpful with which to soothe my savage beast.

"Hello sister dear." I smile into the phone.

"Where are you?" she growls. Honestly I should be used to this. I'm not and that's disconcerting, but never-no-mind. Something's afoot. Deb only gets like this when she's at a scene.

"Who died?" I ask flippantly.

"I don't know, but I need you down at the Palms off Collins." I tilt my head trying to hear her clearer. If I didn't know any better I would say that Deb is "freaked out" and it takes quite a bit to get my sister into such a state. "Dex?"

"Yeah, Deb?" I soften my tone. It sounds as if she needs it.

"I need you here. Soon?" the last bit coming out more like a plea.

"I'm leaving now." I stand and look briefly at the search that gives me little to no new information. I sigh. No time for Dexter's extracurricular activities. I shut the laptop and grab my keys and wallet. I try for soothing, "I'll be there as fast as I can drive."

"Well break some fucking laws. If anyone tries to pull you over, just have them follow you here."

"Will do. See you in jiff, Deb." The line goes dead. I close the phone staring at it briefly wondering what's going on. Slipping the phone into my right front pocket, my wallet in my left hip, I clutch my keys and make my way out of the den.

Easing Rita's bedroom door open, I notice she's in bed. I walk up to the bed and nudge her awake. I place a light kiss on her forehead and whisper, "Work. I'll be back later."

She mumbles and rolls over. So much for spousal concern. I make my way to the living room and am nearly to the door when Astor's soft voice interrupts my progress.

"Dexter, where are you going?" I turn and see both my young protégé's standing there in their p.j.'s slightly tousled from sleep.

I walk back to them and escort them to their beds. "Work called. I need to go take care of some things."

Astor eye's me suspiciously, "You aren't going out to do…to…"

"To hurt things?" Cody finishes. I look sharply at him. Three words and such a direct question. I should be shocked. I think I might be. I hope it's not showing on my face.

"No, I am not. I'm going to help find someone that does." I make sure to put Astor in her bed first then set my sights on Cody who appears to not want to go back to bed at all. This is proving quite a challenge.

"I wanna go with you," he demands. I try not to show my shock further as he continues, "you promised us, Dexter. I wanna know. I'm not going back to bed."

I try to count the words strung together, but am completely flummoxed by the back bone shown by Cody. Never in the time that I have been with him has he talked so much nor been so demanding.

A small seedling of…pride wells up in me and I must wonder if this is what fatherhood is like? Is this a defining moment of 'Daddy Dexter'? Insane things like this is a school night spring to mind. They should be in bed. Even little monsters need their rest. For a well rested monster is a mindful one. And all monster's no matter their size need to be well rested.

I also glance down at my watch. I need to get moving. Does he know he's making my sister crankier by the moment as I try to explain to him that this is work and not play?

I stand there between their beds, glancing between two small expectant faces. True, I have not yet begun teaching them anything. They are after all very young. Not only are they young, but things, other things, like the wedding, the plumber, and now Buffy and Willow have been taking up my time. I think perhaps these excuses only work in my head.

"I want to learn. You were supposed to teach us," Cody nearly whines.

"I will. I am, but not tonight. Tonight is really about work. Someone's been hurt and I need to go help," I try for logic and the truth once again. Hoping for a payoff.

Cody tilts his head to the side mulling over my words, gauging their sincerity. He does this all standing in his p.j.'s, clutching the teddy bear I bought him a year ago. The contrast he presents causes me to feel slightly flustered and I idly wonder if Harry ever felt these things with me.

From my perch on the edge of his bed, he comes up to me. Looking me directly in the eyes. This too is out of character for Cody. He rarely meets anyone's gaze. Tonight he does and tonight he bargains, "Fine, but soon?"

I nod and pick him up placing him under the covers. "Soon, very soon. Sleep now though?"

He yawns and nods while I look to Astor for confirmation, she too is heavy lidded. She gives me a small smile in acceptance of the terms. Satisfied that 'Dark Papa Dexter' has won this round, I kiss Cody's forehead and tuck him in securely. Turning around, I do the same for Astor. Backing out of the door, I whisper, "Sleep now, I'll be back in a bit."

I shut the door to their room and try to remember what it was that I was doing. Their interruption of my departure has left me rather confused. The wooly feelings of frustration and pride rage war inside me.

I look to the couch and notice my C.S.U. bag. Right. Deb and a new murder. Slightly dazed, I make my way out the door.

By the time I arrive, Deb's already called me twice. Perhaps she thinks cussing at me will get me to move faster? As it was I broke a dozen traffic violations on my way here. Luckily, Miami's Best has other things to do besides hound a lowly analyst of the Miami Dade Metro Division.

I make my way through the yellow police tape and find Debra outside a room pacing. My sister, the foul mouthed pacer. I look around for Angel and can't seem to find him.

"It's about damn time. What the hell took so fucking long?" She glares at me. Usually I would give her trouble for her impatience, but the way her body sets. The tension's nearly tangible as I move closer to her. Her eyes set to slits as she asks, "You were coming from Rita's, your new place?"

"Astor and Cody woke up. I'm sorry." And truth, I nearly am. I could have lived with out the little talk I had with my two children to be.

More surprising than Cody's sudden need to talk is Deb's quiet acceptance of my excuse. She nods and places her hands on her head lacing and locking her fingers together. I turn and am nearly to the door when she stops me. "Dexter, wait!"

I turn back, my eyebrows lifted. I'm used to Deb and her neediness. There is something different here though. Something's off. Something I'm not familiar with. She motions me over and I oblige.

Taking me to a secluded corner, she begins to explain, "There's something different with these killings, Dex. I need your help. Anything that you can find. Any little special "feeling" that you get. I need to know about."

"Of course, would I leave me favorite sister high and dry?"

She rolls her eyes and says, "I'm your only sister. Also if there are prints in there that belong to Buffy or Willow, squash them. They would be around the chair and the dresser if there were."

Huh? Why would there be and why is my sister, one of the most ethical cops, trying to cover up potential prints? Other questions fill my head and I ask the only one that's blinking in neon lights, "Why would their prints be here?"

She bites her lower lip and says, "They're the ones that found the body. I sent them back to the hotel before back-up got here. I told Angel and everyone else it was an anonymous tip."

I'm sure my jaw is on the concrete some five and a half feet down. She's covering up for two women she barely knows? Two women who have found not one but two of the bodies, two women who have been gathering reports about these cases, why? The only thing I can manage is a curt nod. I turn around to the suite door, clench my jaw and make my way inside.

Part 7

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