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When I Tell The Punch Line Wrong

Guest Jen

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Story Title: When I Tell The Punch Line Wrong

Type of Story: One shot

Main Characters: Dex, Sid, April

BTTB rating: T

Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Angst

Does the story include spoilers: No (AU from episode 5581)

Any warnings: None

Summary: It feels wrong, though, for Sid to be thinking about those days as the best days, and everything after a constant battle.

A/N: Let's be honest, I don't know what this is or if it makes sense, really. Mostly written for some Dex/Sid bonding and title taken from 'Teenage Dream'.


when i tell the punch line wrong

Sid knew he didn't always make the best decisions - cheating on his wife would be number one with a bullet, but he always tried to do the right thing by his kids. Sure, he never understood why Indi always claimed she had nothing to wear, and yet had a closet full of dresses and shoes; and Sid is still uncomfortable thinking about the time he walked in on Dex dressed like a women and filming himself for the Internet. But Sid loves them both. Of that, he is certain.

He got through medical school on persistence and coffee and natural talent, and from the age of 6, Sid saw the same inquisitive nature appearing in Dex. Or rather, all over the kitchen table, where Dex thought it was appropriate to try the 'will it sink or will it float' experiment. Somehow - Sid still doesn't know how - Dex had managed to lug a bucket of water from the laundry and hoist it up onto the table. Sid still sees the image as clear as day - Dex, kneeling on his knees on a dining chair, jumper pushed up past his elbows, water sloshing over the rim as he dangles Sid's work pager above the bucket.

Sid reaches him just in time; reaching out a hand and wrapping it around the pager and snatching it from Dex's grasp.

"No, Dexter!" Sid snaps, and Dex blinks up at him, and Sid can see the tears welling up in his eyes. He hates making Dex cry, and these days he seems to cry so easily.

Sid pockets the pager quickly, the hospital would kill him if anything happened to it, nevermind how he would explain that it got so wet. "Dex, what are you doing?" Sid asks, trying to keep his voice even as he peers over the rim of the full laundry bucket and sees a set of car keys, some coins and one of Dex's small, green army men sitting on the bottom. An apple and a large leaf bob on the surface.

Even though Sid is still slightly traumatized by the thought of his pager at the bottom of that well, he had to admire Dex's resourcefulness.

"I was just ... We were doing op-opposites at school and I was seeing what stuff floats and what d-doesn't," Dex replies, an obvious tremor in his voice, like he's still on the verge of tears and could cry at the drop of a hat.

Sid sighs, places a hand on Dex's shoulder and looks into the bucket again. "And what did we find out?"

Dex wipes at his watery eyes with his little fist and points to the apple. "I thought it would sink but it doesn't, and now I'm hungry."

"Okay then," Sid says, reaching into the bucket and pulling out the apple. He inspects it carefully, putting on a bit of a show for Dex. He umm's and ahh's a bit, turning the apple over in his hand. "If only we had something you could eat, but I can't think of anything."

"Da-ad," Dex whines, "The apple."

"Oh!" Sid says, mocked surprise at the fruit in his hand. "Great idea!" Dex beams, but Sid adds. "But first we need to clean up. Your mum won't be happy if she comes home to find her kitchen flooded."

Sid used to think he was his son's hero. There was nothing he couldn't do or solve or fix. He got the mop and cleaned the floor while Dex sat on the floor with a towel, carefully drying off the keys and coins and figurines. He patched up Dex's first scabby knee when he was learning to ride a bike, checked for monsters under the bed, and was the one who had to explain why sometimes parents argue and it's not your fault.

Sid used to wish he could go back to that time. When nothing was impossible, and 'Dad-logic' was a good enough reason for anything. And when Dex hadn't outgrown him, or his need for him to fix every single tiny problem.

Now, Sid is praying for it to end. For Dex to go back to the grown up man he was; moving out of home, studying to become a nurse, and not needing Sid to cut up his vegetables at dinner or mop up spilt milk when he put it in the bowl before the cereal and everything overflowed.

He sometimes has flashes to that moment in the kitchen, when it had taken them half an hour to clean everything up and tip the water down the drain and make sure the keys still worked in the lock, but Sid couldn't be angry, because Dex had just looked so proud about what he had found out, and Sid couldn't be anything other than his biggest fan.

It feels wrong, though, for Sid to be thinking about those days as the best days, and everything after a constant battle.

He overhears Dex and April talking when he comes in from collecting dinner from Angelo's, and he knows he should let them talk, just keep walking down the hall, it's none of his busy, really. But something makes him stop, hover just outside the room, listening to every word. Maybe it's Dex's tone, the conviction with which he's speaking,

"-d-don't want you to look back and resent me."

"Dex," April says, voice quivering, on the verge of tears, "I could never resent you."

"Really? I could be like this for-forever."

"It doesn't matter. I love you, Dex, for better or worse ..."

"You didn't sign up for this."

And he sounds so defeated that it breaks Sid's heart.

"So," Dex says, cautious, careful, even, and even Sid is hanging on every word. "I'm giving you an out. You can go and I won't try and stop you."

Sid hears April's breath hitch, and she must be crying now, and he can picture her sitting on the lounge, opposite Dex, wiping at her cheeks to stem the tears.

Sid knows Dex loves April, and that's why it hurts so much. Because he loves her, he's letting her go. After his failed married, his many ended relationships, Sid didn't think he believed in soul mates - that there was one person who you were meant to be with - but Dex and April, they were as close to that as you were ever going to get.

And for a while Sid actually believed that they would make it.


Dex is yelling, thrashing his arms about and April is holding her body, arms wrapped around herself, eyes wide in fear and hurt.

"Don't treat me like a kid!"

"Dex, I wasn't-"

"Then, what? I'm just a forgetful idiot who has the short-term memory of a goldfish!" Dex demands.

April flinches, and Sid has to step in. He crowds up into Dex's space, forcing him to back away slightly, just putting a bit more of a gap between his son and his son's girlfriend who is now on the verge of tears.

"Dex, you need to calm down," Sid tells him sternly, and he really hates using that tone, particularly in front of April.

"Don't tell me what to do!" Dex shouts back.

"Dexter!" Sid snaps, but Dex's is so far gone - so angry, hurt, lost - that he can't reign himself back in now.

"I was just trying to help," April says, voice soft, wavering, from where she's still huddled in the corner of the kitchen.

"Help? How was this supposed to help? D'you think leaving these stupid little post-it notes is going to bring my memory back? Did you think giving me colour-coded charts was going to magically make everything better? Because there is n-nothing you can do to fix me. I'm broken, okay?"

He gestures wildly, his clumsy fingertips catching on the rim of the glass perched at the edge of the table. It goes flying, falls to the floor and smashes to pieces, and Sid sees April jump at the noise. It’s completely shattered, flecks of glass catching the light and shining like glitter on the linoleum floor.

Both Sid and April are stunned by Dex's outburst, but Sid knows his son. He knows that when he's upset there is nothing he can do to reason with him, not when he's like this.

Dex squats down, almost over-balances from the sudden shift in his weight, and with his bare hands begins collecting up the small pieces of glass.

April is reaching out too, pleading, "Dex, don't-"

"Go!" Dex's yells. April stops, and Dex looks up from his place on the floor, on hands and knees and his gaze locks with hers. When Dex speaks again its calm, "I don't want your help. There is nothing you or anyone can do, so I want you to leave, and d-don't come back."

April is now openly crying, and Sid wishes he could comfort her, but he's got eyes for Dex only. Sid sees the twitch in his hand as he's holding a piece of glass, a tic he's developed after the crash, but Dex is panting heavily, fisting his hand and wiping at his own tear-streaked cheeks as April backs away slowly.

Sid hears her footsteps, the soft click of the front door closing on its hinges, and the room falls into an uneasy calm, save for the tiny clicks of glass being picked up and held.

Sid crouches down beside Dex, wraps his fingers around his son's wrist, halting his movement. He feels the rigidity of Dex's muscles underneath his fingertips, sees the small cuts on the palm of his hand where the tiny shards have nicked at his skin, and hears his ragged breaths.

"Deep breaths, that's it," Sid soothes, a hand rubbing at Dex's back and slowly, Dex calms. Muscle by muscle he uncurls, unfolds, loosens his grasp on the jagged edges of the remains of the glass, and then he just collapses.

Sid pulls Dex in tight, forgetting about the broken pieces that are scattered all around them, and tugs Dex into his chest and holds him there as Dex cries. Sid can practically feel Dex's bones knocking together with each full-body sob, and Dex just buries himself deeper into Sid's shirt.

Sid doesn't know how long they stay like that, doesn't particularly care, but as Dex sniffs and coughs and tries to dry his eyes, the only thing Sid wants is to be able to fix it. He wants to take back the accident, and the car, and the fight with April that signalled the end. He wants to find all the missing pieces and put his son back together, make him whole again, allow him to be the boy he used to be.

Later, Dex is on the couch, a blanket tucked up to his armpits, pillows propping up his head, and Sid holds out the steaming mug of hot chocolate. Dex eyes it wearily, not really trusting himself to hold the porcelain, and Sid sets it down on the coffee table.

"Sorry," begins Dex and Sid holds out a hand.

"I will only accept that apology if it’s for yelling in the house, not for the broken glass," Sid says.

Dex mouth gapes a little, and Sid knows that it sometimes takes him a little longer to catch up when Sid cuts him off. He recovers quickly, jerks his head in a nod, and sighs.

"I didn't mean to get so angry," Dex says, "It's just --" and this is where Dex normally stops, censors what he actually wants to say for fear of it coming out wrong or him sounding like he's just complaining for complaining's sake. But this time, he continues, "I see the way April looks - no, looked - at me. She didn't see me as me anymore. I couldn't handle the, the-"

Dex furrows his brow, searching for the word and Sid thinks about offering up some help, but stops himself. Now is not the time. So he lets Dex struggle, nut it out for himself until he whispers, "pity," and Sid gets it.

In all of Dex's anger and frustration for what he's going through, adjusting to his new self, he wasn't doing this to April, but for her. He knows how much time she spends researching brain injury and asking Sid if its okay for her to trial some memory techniques or exercises to work on Dex's fine motor skills. So much so, that he forgets that she's eighteen, not even an adult, and still has the rest of her life ahead of her to be caught up in all of this.

And no boy, of the same age, needs to be thinking about being an affliction.

"Don't you dare do the same for me," Sid tells him. "Because I'm your father and it’s my job to be here to clean up your messes. Spilt milk, grazed knees, broken glasses, all of it."

"Sometimes I think about what it would have been like if I hadn't-"

"Don't," Sid says fiercely. "Don't even think about that. You are here and we are all better off because of it."

"I see how tired you are, how hard you work doing everything for me, things that I should be able to do for myself, and it isn't fair. I feel like I'm a burden."

"You're not," Sid refutes, and then he adds, "And I know why you did that. For April."

Dex looks shocked, puzzled, and blinks slowly at his dad while recognition dawns on him. He nods minutely in acknowledgement, but doesn't elaborate. There isn't really much more to say.

April is gone, and now Sid is there picking up the pieces, and he's not complaining.

Sometimes he catches glimpses of that kid; when Dex makes a particularly sarcastic comment during the movie Indi has elected they watch on a Friday night, or when he's retelling the story of how he had to do battle with the giant cockroach he found in the bottom of his wardrobe, all animated facial expressions and quirked fingers, pointing directly at Sasha when she questions just how big the insect was, and Sid tries to make himself forget.

There's still reminders, of course; the fact that April doesn't come over anymore, or the constant doctors appointments and stuttered words when Dex is particularly tired, but they are doing okay, for the most part.



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