Characters: Lumen Pierce, Dexter (Gen)
Summary (from the prompt): Lumen thought she'd find light outside the darkness, but only finds shades of grey.
Author's Notes: Too late for Yuletide Madness, but in time for NYR 2012. An offering for freneticfloetry, for a prompt I couldn't resist. Spoilers through the end of Season 5.
Also for writers_choice ("Echo").
After all those lengthy enactments of vengeance, it was supposed to be over. Life was supposed to become normal again.
Lumen had counted on that. It was what had made it possible for her to try finding her future on her own.
After she left Miami, she didn't go back home to Minnesota right away. When she thought about having to explain why she'd disappeared, she envisioned either the stark horror of the actual truth, or the inadequacy of a lie. Neither was a story she was willing to tell.
She was on her way through Nashville when she decided she liked the look of it, and got a job there working as a waitress. She figured it would help her ease back into living independently, and waitressing didn't require the kinds of references or employment history that would force her to confront her past. Lumen liked the job well enough, and the shabbiness of the residence motel where she lived didn't bother her. After what she'd already been through, those kinds of unimportant details never would.
Gradually, she learned a few things:
She could be noticed by a stranger—even spoken to—and not die. It wasn't necessary for her to hide from the world every second she was in it. Granted, she wasn't ready to date yet (or even to be alone with a man). That would take much, much longer. She hoped it might eventually be possible.
She could offer kindness to others without losing her sense of self-preservation. Those things didn't have to be related; they never had been, in the life she'd known before.
But Lumen was surprised to find that she was afraid to sleep alone again. She'd thought she'd gotten over that with Dexter, but of course, she hadn't been alone. Even when he was absent, she'd had the sense that he was watching over her somehow, always aware of any potential threat. The danger was over now (she and Dexter had seen to that), but some deep part of her wouldn't let go of the fear.
The door to the cage was open, but she was still caught inside that prison.
When will I be myself again? she wondered.
In leaving Dexter, she thought she was leaving the darkness too, that she was done with it forever.
But maybe the darkness didn't come from Dexter, or from the rituals he used to dispense his own cruel brand of justice.
Maybe the darkness came from what had happened during those terrifying days—weeks?—before Dexter rescued her.
Maybe it was inside of her now, bone-deep and branded, destined to remain a part of her forever.
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