Nine: Day 16: Dexter.

"Trevor's going to be okay. You know that, right?"

I glance over at Kyler. His face is pale and he has bags under his eyes; he's still in the clothes he wore last night.

"I know. I just don't want him to wake up in the hospital alone."

Kyler makes a soft noise of assent and watches a few of the nurses bustle past the waiting room we've sat in for the past seven hours.

I swallow hard and press my free hand against the top of his. He sandwiches mine in and gives me a wan smile. "Thank you," I say finally, "for being here, I mean. For letting me come. Most clients wouldn't let me sit at the hospital. No client would want to sit with me, either."

Kyler shrugs. His fingers are warm in mine; I rest my cheek against his shoulder and close my eyes. "I'm not most clients."

I lick my lips, try to think of anything to say. "Right after I was raped," I say quietly, my fingers pulsing in his, "I stopped living. I laid on the couch for days and I didn't shower. I cried a lot and I refused to leave the apartment for almost a month. I stopped sleeping, really, because if I did, I tossed so much that the cuts on my back opened up and would bleed all over the place. Once the cuts healed, I was left with these four scars that ran from my shoulder blades to the small of my back. I was standing there one day staring at the mirror and Trevor came in. He looked at me and said, 'You understand how I feel, living with this terrible reminder that you're alive and breathing when you just want to die. I don't think you really understand how I feel about you, though, because knowing someone hurt you in a way that can't be fixed is far worse than dealing with a daily reminder of the mistakes I made.' I get how he feels now, you know?"

Kyler opens his mouth to respond but shuts it quickly, his gaze refocusing on the elevator. People are filtering in and out, bringing the chill from the cold day into the waiting room, but one woman is stepping carefully into the room. She clutches her purse and glances around, probably looking for a help desk.

Ali pauses in the middle of the action taking place. Her hair, normally ruffled to perfection, kinks in messy curls around her face. There are lines around her mouth where the skin had once been perfect, and she has bags beneath her eyes. She stops and looks at the two of us sitting there too closely on the couch: my cheek on Kyler's shoulder, his hands clasping mine, our knees brushing with every shift.

"Oh," she says softly, as if she's surprised that I would be here when Trevor needed me, "you're here."

Everything comes rushing back—her deceit, the underhanded deal with Jimmy Carlisle, the way she just let me go when she knew what he wanted to do to me—and my eyes suddenly burn. I swallow hard and try to see past the red haze and the film of tears marring my vision.

"Dexter," Kyler murmurs, trying to save me, trying to rescue me, "are you okay?"

Kyler wants to save me, even after I told him I couldn't love. That, I've come to realize, is his problem. He cares to a fault. I want to tell him save yourself, but I don't. A sinking ship takes down the passengers on board unless they choose to save themselves, and Kyler is no exception. He loves me; he'll go down with me.

I nod curtly and raise my face, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek. He sighs and gives me another smile, but it doesn't reach the stormy blue of his eyes. "I'll be back," I say to him, standing and turning to Ali. I clear my throat and drop Kyler's hand. "Let's get some coffee before we see Trevor, yeah? They have a Starbucks here."

She looks slightly panicked. I'm sure this is unusual for her, stumbling upon an escort and his client in the middle of a job. "I—coffee would be good," she says, clutching her purse a bit closer.

I lead the way to the cafeteria. I look back once to see if Kyler's going to leave and he's standing, brushing off the thighs of his jeans and giving someone a brief nod of acknowledgement. The elevator doors close then, and I'm left with Ali and a nurse pushing an empty wheelchair.

We're silent until we exit on the first floor. I begin walking quickly, but Ali lags behind in her heels. She catches up with me once the people have thinned and we're in the hallway alone. The cafeteria sign looms as we pass beneath it; I dig in my pocket for change.

"How do you like Kyler?" she asks softly, slipping an arm into mine.

I pull my hand out of my pocket and pick through the change and random dollar bills. "He's very formal, but he's nice once he warms up to you."

She chuckles and pulls the wallet from her purse. "Don't worry, Dex, I'll pay." Her wallet is scattered with hundred dollar bills and pieces of loose change; she passes a twenty over to the attendant and gives our orders.

There's something comforting in that familiarity. It's the simple knowledge of what coffee someone likes, how they take their cream and sugar, but it's somehow very intimate.

We take our coffees and sit at a table in the corner. She pops the lid from her coffee and blows gently on the liquid, her eyes trained on the steam coiling from the cup. "I noticed that he could be rather abrasive under some circumstances," she says, addressing our previous topic. "He was always very business-oriented when we spoke."

What do I even know about Kyler? His eyes change with his emotions, and he loves Bayside. He rarely drinks, but if he does, he takes Scotch. I asked him why he drank that and he told me it was because that's what all businessmen drank. He's overprotective and he rarely sleeps. He loves Grace and is terrified of disappointing his father. He loves me.

He acts differently now that he's told me his feelings, but I don't think the honeymoon phase will last. He is arrogant and self-deprecating, and the high he is riding on from telling me he loves me will end. It always does.

"He was rough when we first started, but it's gotten better. He knows how to handle me, I guess."

She nods and takes a sip of her coffee. "How's Trevor?"

I shrug. "The doctors say it's just a bad case of bronchitis. He'll get to come home in a few more days."

"How is he going to pay for this?"

I shrug again. "You've already taken him off of your insurance?"

"Yeah. He finished his last week at the club and was taken off immediately. I just… I hate that this had to happen right after. This isn't going to be cheap, Dexter."

I nod and run a hand through my hair. "I'll figure it out. I asked Kyler to pay me in advance, and he said we would get something worked out."

Ali stares out at the people passing through. Someone cries in the distance, their sobs choked and ragged. There are so many questions to ask Ali. I want to scream at her and rip her hair out and burn her clubs down, but I won't do those things. I won't do the terrible things I should because that means stooping down to her level. That means she's won after all this time, and I won't give her that satisfaction. I scratch my jaw and try to think of where to start.

"Why did you let Jimmy Carlisle have me?"

"Dexter, he lied-"

"No," I snap. "You're lying right now. I know what you did. He gave you a big check, right? He was into BDSM, and he heard I was the best. You let him have me even though you know how badly he was going to hurt me."

She shakes her head. "I didn't know he was going to slice your back open, Dexter. It was a rape fantasy. He paid us fifty-"

"The money doesn't matter! Don't you get that? The fact that you let him hurt me is what matters. You knew what I was walking into. You let me go because you were getting a big payday for it, and then you didn't even stop to clean up the mess he made. There was—there was someone else who wanted me even more than Jimmy Carlisle did, and you weren't willing to give me to him. Why?"

Ali folds her hands on the table and tightens her jaw. "You don't want to hear that."

My voice shakes more than I want it to; tears blur my vision. "Tell me why Kyler wasn't good enough to have a fair shot until I was used goods."

She stares away from me, at the people in line. Some are glancing this way and noticing the man from the magazines; others simply look irritated that we're causing such a commotion in the Starbucks of a hospital.

"You were a whore, Dexter. You were always the first to leave your current client for the next highest bidder. I knew you had potential. If I would have given you to Kyler two years ago, you would have left. You were young and stupid; he knew how to play the game. He had money and good looks. You would have realized he could give you the type of life you were escorting for, and you would have stayed with him. I couldn't afford that, so I lied. I kept him as an afterthought. I knew he would stick around because just like everyone else, he wanted the best. Escorting him now is just a test run to see if you can come back. If you can't, I was hoping you would decide to stay with him on your own."

There's a very small part of me that admits to her being right. I would have left the business for someone like Kyler. He's beautiful and rich. Anyone would have left a career for him, and pre-rape Dexter would have been no exception.

My fingers are white around the edge of the table. I stare at the mottled white of my hands, unable to look at Ali. "Why would you put me through that?"

She reaches across the table, her hand seeking mine. "You hurt the people you love the most. There was a part of me that hoped you wouldn't be angry if you found out."

I suddenly need Kyler. I want him here, sitting beside me. I want him to hear what Ali is saying because I don't think I'll be able to tell him later on. I need him because I know he would save me.

My stomach churns. I don't want to remember Jimmy Carlisle's hands on my skin or the way I felt after, the way I feel now when I see the scars he left me with. I push away and stand, resting my hands on the table and leaning in close to her.

I don't want to speak to Ali. I don't even want to remember knowing her, if I'm being honest here. I gave her my trust, and she let Jimmy Carlisle have his way with me. I should have never trusted her. Trusting people is what screws me over.

I trusted my mother when she told me she would help me understand my homosexuality, and then she locked me in the church basement and tried to pray the gay away.

I trusted Ali and she sat by and let a man rape me for her own personal gain.

"Did you know that he tore me open, and I had to get stitches down there? A nurse stitched me up on our kitchen table. My entire back was meat. It bled and scabbed over, and when I took my shirt off, the scabs ripped off and started bleeding again." I shove my sleeves up and push my wrists in her face, forcing her to look at the two vertical scars traveling their way up my arms. "I tried to kill myself, and you let it happen. I almost bled out in a fucking bathtub because you wanted to open up a new club. Everything—my dignity, my pride, my sense of safety—was stolen from me for your own personal gain, and I sure as hell hope you're happy because I'm not and I never will be."

"Dexter-"

I'm already gone.

xXx

I rap on the door to Kyler's office and twist the knob. The door swings open and I step in, shutting it behind me. Kyler barely glances up from the papers on his desk. I remember then that starting tomorrow, he'll go back to work. This is how the remainder of our time will be spent together: him huddled in his office, working on campaigns, me huddled in the corner with a panic attack.

I take a seat across from him and peek at the papers on his desk. I barely note Trevor's résumé, with his valedictorian rankings and the work experience he's had in the past. Instead, I see my own résumé, the profile Ali always sends to my clients. There's a photo of me attached to the top paper of my file with the does not play well with others and does not handle rejection well-

"Is there something you needed, Dexter?"

I can hear Kyler from our beginning in his voice. He is overwhelmed and tired, and he doesn't want to deal with me. There is a slight note of arrogance and a larger one of anger in his tone. It makes me almost rethink the guilt gnawing at my stomach.

"I wanted to tell you something," I begin. I look up at him. He's wearing a pair of black-rimmed reading glasses that are vaguely sexy. I swallow hard.

Kyler sighs heavily. I know he hasn't slept in several days. He rarely sleeps in the first place, but we spent our entire night and most of the day at the hospital. He hasn't had a chance to wind down. "What is it?"

My stomach churns and I think of those pills Trevor gave me after Christmas. There were ten in the bag, and I took two. I haven't taken any since. Kyler will be angry, and I don't know what will happen.

I'm not sure if I want to know.

"I got pills right after Christmas," I blurt. Tears burn at my vision and words pour out of my mouth. "I haven't taken any since you started sleeping with me, but I wanted to be honest with you."

A spark of anger flashes across Kyler's face; it disappears in an instant. He smoothes it over, tucks in the creases, and remains emotionless. He looks down at the papers on his desk and does not meet my eyes again. "I want to be alone, Dexter."

"I'm sorry-"

"Get out," he says quietly.

"Kyler."

He shakes his head imperceptibly. "I can't do this right now. Please, just leave me alone."

So I do. I walk out of his office and I watch a movie with Grace. I shower and I stand at the edge of Kyler's bed for a long time, debating on getting into the California king alone. When I do, I reach out and press a hand to the cool surface of Kyler's pillow. Memories tug at my eyelids and promise a nightmare, and I wait for Kyler.

He never comes.

Author's Note

I've got one question, and then I'm off: what do you think will happen between Dex and Ky now that Dex has come clean about the meds?

Oh my God, where did Alex go? Jesus Christ, he'll be in there somewhere. Promise.

Thank you, as always, to those who reviewed: monarchos, Vega Nightshade, Starlette420, cocoa bean, I saw water, S. H. Marr, and Aletiah. You're all amazing, and you deserve all the reviews in the world. :* I'm returning your reviews now, I swear!

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