Prompt: #24, Skinner Box
Warnings: None besides the fandom.
Summary: Welcome to Dexter's dreams.
Spoilers: Spoilers for S1.
Word Count: About two hundred.
Every night, his heart rate rises to a barely sustainable level. Every night, stress markers in his bloodstream shoot into ranges not unfamiliar to field doctors in war zones. Every night, his body suffers the tension of a fight-or-flight reaction so tightly controlled every muscle is sore the next morning. Every night, he dreams it as he lived it. In silence.
For the first five weeks he sees things through his own eyes. His back against a corner of the big container, seeing everything and refusing to understand. Shacking with every scream. Puking when the blood first touches his shoes.
Then he dreams as his mother saw it. This particular nightmare only lasts a week before his mind rebels, threatening to break under the strain of the chainsaw and the now-faceless man.
There comes a week of dreaming he is another boy. Somebody else in the container that sees everything, too, including Dexter's face. But there was no other boy, and he misses him too much to remember him.
So he settles for dreaming he is the man with the chainsaw. It's not a deliberate choice: it's the only one.
His body knows peace for the first time in months.
With time, he stops dreaming. Even forgets he used to dream.
The first time he holds a knife, the feeling is thoroughly comforting. He knows what happens next.