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Fatal Attraction

Chapter Text

Alex Romero is on his way home. It's a late summer night, the temperatures during the day still warm but the nights chilly already. Wafts of mist are hanging deep between the trees; the air is humid. It will be fall soon.

The scenery the headlights of his car capture is surreal, an apparition deriving from a nightmare. A woman is walking down the road barefoot, blood all over her clothes, a knife in her hand. Her movements are strangely automatic as if she was following instructions from within. She doesn't acknowledge that his car is coming her way, just keeps on walking.

Alex pulls over and gets out. Only when he is standing right in front of her, she stops although she doesn't look at him but rather through him at a place only she is able to see. He takes her appearance in. She is wearing a floral skirt and a blue blouse, clothes and hair in disarray as if she got into a fight. Her pupils are fully dilated. This doesn't diminish the fact, however, that she has mesmerizing blue eyes. The eyes, the way she is dressed, the long, blonde hair. Alex has a pretty good idea who this is even if he has never seen her before. But he heard people talk about her. It's a small town; changes don't go unnoticed.

The dilated pupils as well as her odd behavior could indicate drug abuse. Even if he outmuscles this small-boned woman easily, dealing with people who are under the influence of drugs is no fun, especially when they carry a knife or other weapon with them. They usually are unpredictable and violent. Drug business flourishes in White Pine Bay; he knows all about the fallout.

Alex raises his hand in a defensive gesture that is meant to soothe her. "Are you hurt?" Someone is judging by the amount of blood on her clothes, in particular on her blouse.

She doesn't react. He needs to take the knife. Preferably without his blood on the blade in case she lashes out with it. Whatever happened, it's evidence. And if it's her blood on her clothes, he needs to take her to a hospital. If not… Well, then he has to take her into custody and can only hope that whoever's blood it is will manage to stay alive until they will have found him or her.

Alex draws even closer to her while she remains standing in front of him, completely immobile, staring right through him.

"I can help you," he tries again. If she is drugged, she might feel no pain even though she is suffering from blood loss or internal bleeding. But like before, she doesn't react, as if he wasn't there at all.

Another careful step, slowly getting the evidence bag out of his jacket pocket so as not to startle her. Just when Alex reaches out to take the knife from her, though, she comes alive for whatever reason, taking a deep breath as if she has been under water for too long and almost drowned. She looks around, studying her surroundings. Then her eyes rest on him, wide open, deeply worried.

"Where am I? What happened? Norman?" She looks around again, becoming increasingly agitated. "Norman?" Louder this time, her voice fading away unheard in the night. She looks at him as if he had all the answers. "Where is he? Norman?" The last word a desperate scream.

Alex's hand hovers over his gun. The last thing he wants to do is shoot her, but the situation is incalculable. The moment she turns her head away from him, he jumps at his chance to whip the knife out of her hand.

Only now she seems to realize that she even had it, staring at him as he puts it in the evidence bag. "Oh my God," she whispers, and then repeats it, "Oh my God." Hand against her chest, her delicate features distorted by confusion and fear as her breathing is becoming fitful.

She is about to snap. Alex has no time to place the bag in the car, just drops it on the ground. It doesn't matter as long as the evidence inside is secured.

"Calm down." He grabs her arms. She fights back, as expected, trying to escape from his firm grip. "Who's Norman?"

"My son." She has composed herself a little, accepted his physical dominance.

"You're Norma Bates, right?" She bought the motel and moved to White Pine Bay recently.

"Yes." She darts a suspicious glance at him. "How did you know?" Considering she was in some kind of trance only moments ago, she is recovering fast.

"You bought the Seafairer Motel. It's a small town. People talk." Alex shrugs, loosening his grip since she doesn't struggle to get free anymore.

"It's the Bates Motel now." She raises her chin, challenging him even in the middle of a situation that can only be described as peculiar in the best case.

"Where did you see your son last?"

Now that she mentioned a son, Alex remembers people talking about that, too. That she looks way too young to have a teenage son already. He agrees although nothing could be less relevant at the moment. Norma and Norman. That's funny and weird although boys are named after their fathers all the time, so why not after their mother?

She opens her mouth to answer but can't. He watches her trying to remember and failing.

"I don't know," she whines. "God! What happened? And why would I have a knife?" She points at the item in question that is lying on the ground wrapped in the evidence bag as if she felt insulted by its sheer presence. If the situation was different, her behavior would be quite amusing. She definitely has a temper. When she rubs her forehead puzzled, the touch makes her flinch. "Ouch!"

"Something happened to your head?"

"I don't know." Reproachful. As if it was presumptuous of him to ask her that.

There is blood splatter on her face; however Alex doesn't see a laceration or a sufficient amount of blood in her hair that would indicate a head wound. Maybe she has a concussion.

But she already seems to have forgotten about her aching head, taking a step back to look him over. "You're the sheriff," she states. Then she raises an eyebrow, if appreciative or irritated he can't tell. "Are you going to arrest me?"

"I..." Alex has never met someone like her before, doesn't know what to respond because her behavior is so skittish. He can't tell what will happen next. Shouldn't she be more concerned? Here she is in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of the night, blood-smeared. And yet, she is almost… flirting with him. Let alone that he maybe will have to arrest her. "We will find your son," he says eventually. "I just have to make sure first that you're not seriously injured. Otherwise I have to take you to a hospital or call an ambulance."

She glares at him as if he had lost his mind. "Are you crazy? You can't take me to a hospital. I have to go look for my son. I'm fine. Let's go." It's not even a request. She just assumes he will drive her wherever she wants.

"Don't..." Alex stretches out his arm to block her way when she tries to walk past him towards the car.

The way she behaves attests that she is not drugged. Despite her volatile mood, she is much too focused. She was in some kind of trance or shock, though, earlier. Therefore her perception of pain could still be off. Alex witnessed a man die after an accident once because he didn't realize he was injured. It was horrifying. Therefore he won't do anything before he knows that her physical condition allows it.

She sighs and looks at him for a moment before she steps back, takes a deep breath and starts to unbutton her blouse.

"What are you...?"

But she is quick, has already finished unbuttoning her blouse and pulls it open, revealing soft curves and pale skin covered with goosebumps due to the cold night air.

"See? No injuries." She didn't even take a look. Nevertheless she is right. Aside from the one or other bloody stain that has soaked through her clothes, there is no serious injury, only some nasty bruises. "Can we go now?"

She is about to button her blouse up again when he raises his hand to stop her, reaching out with it. After the incident with the man who died right in front of his eyes, Alex let a doctor show him the main critical spots on the human body that will hurt when you press them in order to find out whether there is internal bleeding.

There is a brief flicker of something in her eyes he can't quite place when his hand touches her skin. It's not fear but almost, anger for now because she obviously thinks he is taking advantage of the situation and her. However she lets him because he won't help her find her son otherwise.

"I just have to check whether you have internal injuries," he explains and albeit it is the truth, he is all too well aware that it sounds like a lame excuse to touch her.

It doesn't help that his eyes are drawn to the modest bra she is wearing. Blue cotton, matching the color of her blouse, at least the parts of it that are not soaked with blood. The bra covers well-formed breasts, the fabric thin so that it does a poor job of hiding her erect nipples. Alex tears his eyes away, however not before she caught him gazing.

She snorts. "So you're a doctor, too?"

He doesn't respond, his hands working quickly, pressing here and there without a visible reaction from her until he has convinced himself that she is fine. At least as much as the situation allows her to be. His relief is immediate, its intensity inappropriate given that he doesn't actually know her.

The moment he steps back and lowers his arm, she walks past him, brushing his body with hers in the process. It was deliberate and sends a shiver through him that she for sure noticed, probably was aiming for.

She is the one with blood on her clothes. However Alex is the one who has to regain his composure as he picks the evidence bag up while she is already sitting in his car, tugging disgusted at her blood-stained clothes as she buttons her blouse up. By now Alex believes that she has no idea what happened, attributes the dreamlike behavior he found her in and her memory lapse to a state of shock after a traumatic incident. No matter what an enigma this woman is, he has recognized no signs that this is an act. Norma Bates simply is an irresistibly beautiful and curious woman who might or might not have committed a crime and ran in front of his car afterwards.

He starts the engine.

"Where could your son be?" Provided he is not dead and this is his blood on her blouse.

"Well, I hope he's at the motel. He is not supposed to be out that late." Her tone of voice makes clear that this kid is in trouble if he disobeyed her order.

They set off. From the corner of his eye, Alex sees her smoothing down her skirt, suddenly freezing when her hands move over her hips as if she noticed something.

"Everything ok?" he asks.

"Yeah, sure." That was her first lie tonight. "Can I use your phone to call my son?"


He is not exactly following protocol here. Granted, he still doesn't know whether a crime happened or not so that the decision is up to him to call for back up or investigate on his own. Alex should report the incident, though, let his deputies know he is on his way to a possible crime scene. He doesn't bother about straying from the path of duty. He does it all the time. It's his town; he makes the rules and he breaks them as it pleases him. However he can't let her make that call. Not before he found out what role her son has in all of this – accessory, witness, innocent bystander or victim.

To his surprise she accepts the refusal. Maybe it was his firm voice. Maybe she is one of those women who know exactly when to push their boundaries and when to give in.

"Why don't you call me Norma?" Obviously switching tactics, as if she wanted them to become friends when her tense posture discloses the opposite to be true. "What's your name?" She tries to get a glimpse at his name plate. "Romero? What's your first name? I can't see it from here."

Seriously? She's flirting with him.

"Alexander. Alex." And he goes along with it before he can stop himself.

What is it about this woman that captures his imagination although he doesn't even know her? Let alone that she is a possible suspect. Something in her eyes. That's what it is. Something that tells him she knows all about hard times and survival, almost as if he saw himself reflected in her. Nevertheless he has to stop this. He can't let her get under his skin.

Just as she plasters a fake smile on her face, most likely to continue the conversation and try to charm the pants off him some more as if they were on a date and she wasn't bathed in blood, they arrive at the motel and her entire behavior changes. She has her hand on the lever before he has even stopped the car because a teenage boy is running across the courtyard of the motel. He freezes when he sees the squad car, his body language as well as his expression telling Alex that he has something to hide. The boy is about to run away into the woods when he recognizes his mother in the passenger seat and stays put.

"Norman!" She is out of the car in a flash. They run into each other, ending up in a tight hug that makes them tumble and almost fall down.

"I've been looking for you. I didn't know where you were." Just as his mother, this kid is sending mixed signals. His concern for his mother is genuine although something about him is off. He must be around the age of 17, Alex estimates. No apparent injuries, no blood on his clothes. Much more important, though, he doesn't seem to be surprised or worried that his mother has blood all over her.

Alex looks up to the house that seems to hover over the motel. It is creepy and gorgeous at the same time. The windows on the first floor are illuminated from within. Whatever happened tonight, happened in that house. He studies mother and son. She is touching his face over and over, smiling at him happily.

"I'm so glad you're all right." The relief in her voice is sincere. Nothing else matters to her right now whereas Norman keeps looking back and forth between her and him, highly aware that things are far from being all right.

"Yes, I am, mother. Why wouldn't I be?" Norman responds a tad too smug. Mother instead of mom. This is weird, and yet, somehow weirdly fitting for this odd boy.

"Let's go up to the house," Alex says, watching Norman's reaction as he tries to hide his unease while she turns around to look at him as if she had already forgotten he was even there.

They are a strange procession as they walk up the countless stairs to the house. Norman first, followed by his mother, him at the end, making sure no one decides to go elsewhere.

When they have reached the front door, Norman hesitates briefly but then gives in, entering the house. There is a body on the kitchen floor in a pool of blood. She gasps when she sees it whereas her son makes no sound. Alex knows that man well, grew up with him but never liked him. Keith Summers. The previous owner of the motel. His body is perforated by various stab wounds. Lots of them, actually. Whoever stabbed him did it in an uncontrollable rage. Alex checks his pulse solely for formal reasons since it's obvious that he is dead as mother and son stand idly by.

Then he takes the crime scene in. Keith Summers' pants are pulled down, a pair of handcuffs fastened to the kitchen table, a woman's panties lying on the floor. Torn as if someone ripped them off. Alex can't help but turn around and look at Norma. It's the first time he addresses her by her name even if only in his mind. When she told him to call her Norma in the car, he liked and resented it at the same time. It was only a ploy on her part to get him to do what she wanted. She must have sensed what effect she has on him. Or maybe she just assumed it because this is the way every man reacts to her.

However, now that he sees what she's been through, how the bruises and the blood got on her, Alex can't keep his distance any longer. He has been fighting a losing battle, anyway. The moment she touched her hips when she smoothed down her skirt must have been the moment she noticed that she isn't wearing panties, still unaware what happened because she doesn't remember but deeply worried because there are only so many plausible explanations. It's fatal to draw premature conclusions during an investigation, but Alex is quite sure what happened here. And when he sees the faint, yet distinct, red imprint around her right wrist, physical proof that Keith Summers handcuffed her to the table, probably right before he ripped off her panties to rape her, makes him sick. That bully was twice her weight at least. He can't imagine the amount of violence she had to endure because she would have put up a fight; that much Alex is sure of.

He looks at Norma. She is trembling, staring alternately at the dead body, the kitchen table and the torn panties on the floor.

"He raped her," Norman says, his lower lip quivering, crushing every hope that it was only an attempt. "When I came home, he had her on the kitchen table and he… raped her..." The boy has tears in his eyes. No wonder he behaved so bizarrely.

"What happened then?" Alex asks gently. He doesn't intend to cause Norma and her son more pain, but he has to know.

"I knocked him out and got the first aid kit and when I came back he was… she was..." Norman starts to cry. The boy must have come back to find his mother stabbing her rapist. "I wanted to call the police, but then she ran away and I didn't know what to do and couldn't find her."

"Oh, Norman." Norma embraces her son.

"Don't do that." Alex touches her elbow, softly pulling her away from her son. "I'm sorry, but this is a crime scene. You… your clothes are evidence. You shouldn't touch anyone right now." He also should have stopped her from embracing and touching her son when they were down at the motel, but he wasn't sure then that a crime actually had happened and she was so relieved to find her son unharmed. Just another time he disregarded protocol for her. This woman literally walked into his life not an hour ago and it already has become a habit.

She looks at him and it's all in her eyes. The pain, the anger, the resentment to have to endure violence and its fallout another time. For some reason Alex knows this wasn't the first time Norma became a victim of violence and abuse. Some people just give off that vibe and he has a good instinct.

"You touched me," she dares him, proving once more that Norma Bates is a force of nature that should never be underestimated. She might be the victim here. That doesn't mean, though, that she's weak or perceives herself that way.

"Norma..." It is the first time Alex says her name out loud and it does something to her. Maybe she heard the genuine concern. Her expression softens and she eventually lets go of her son.

"Ok, here's what we're going to do," Alex states. "I'm going to call this in and then I'll take you..." He nods at Norma. "…to the hospital. You might have a concussion and you, um, need to do a rape kit." Whatever happened during her fight with Keith Summers is probably the reason for her aching head and the rape kit is needed as part of the chain of evidence.

Norma holds his gaze as she reaches out for her son's hand, then lets go of it again when she remembers what Alex said. "Can he come with me?"

"Of course." They will have to be interrogated separately, but it would be downright cruel to not let Norman support his mother in such a situation.

Norma gives him a hint of a smile. Then her countenance changes and she doubles up.

"Oh," she whispers, "I think... I don't feel well."

Her breathing quickens and becomes fitful before she collapses. Norman reaches out to her, but Alex is faster. He catches Norma, scooping her limp body up in his arms.

Chapter Text

Sometimes Alex thinks he can still smell her. They say scent is one of the strongest triggers to make you remember something, but in this particular case it's vice versa. He remembers her, and as soon as he does, her scent surrounds him, that mix of fresh oranges, lavender and something else, something sensual, like a summer day right before it's going to rain. She always finds a way into his thoughts, interrupts his daily schedule, whatever he is doing, because Norma Bates isn't someone you think of in passing. She demands his full attention even if she's not there. Like now.

Alex remembers how Norma felt in his arms when he carried her to his car after she had collapsed, how his body registered her soft curves pressed tightly against him, one of his hands touching bare skin where he held her legs, his other hand brushing the side of her breast. He is not a ladies' man, but Alex has had his fair share of women. Affairs mostly because he has a hard time trusting someone, let alone opening up about himself and that usually doesn't go down well with whoever he is sleeping with. This however. She. She's different in a way that annoys and excites him at the same time. He shouldn't have thought about her that way while he was carrying her, taking her to a hospital because she had been raped for God's sake. But he did, couldn't help it, didn't want to if he was honest.

Seems as if Norma Bates brings out the worst in him. Or best. In the end it doesn't matter since Alex has never been someone who thinks in black and white, has been living in a gray area all his life and that doesn't even refer to the legal limbo he practices as a sheriff but to who he is. Someone who lives in between, never getting attached to someone for the simple reason that so far it has never felt right. His world is different, dark and complicated, shadows of his past – the suicide of his mother, his father being in prison – constantly reaching for him, trying to pull him back into that abyss he wants to leave behind but knows he never will. And then this strange, beautiful woman appears out of nowhere and even if he had never seen her before, has no idea who she really is, he is drawn to her for reasons that go way beyond her looks.

He breached protocol for her. Alex should have stayed at the crime scene, should have made sure no one was able to enter it without authorization. Instead he took Norma to a hospital and pushed everything else to the back of his mind. She was unconscious but still breathing. It was an emergency but not a life-threatening situation. His free pass to not call an ambulance but take matters into his hands. He almost forgot to inform headquarters about what happened so that they could send forensics over.

Norma regained consciousness on their way to the hospital and kept telling him she was fine. He cringed at her words. When he had put her down on the back seat, Alex had seen the bruises on the inside of her thighs where Keith Summer must have pushed her legs apart forcibly. She wasn't fine. Not even close. And it moved him in a way he couldn't explain. He didn't breach protocol when he waited at the hospital until she was released albeit it was something the sheriff just didn't do. Usually he would send one of his deputies. Not this time. It didn't even occur to him.

"I did your rape kit," Norma hissed when she went past him as if she had done him a personal favor and it hadn't been an official procedure to gather evidence.

He didn't say anything in response, his instinct telling Alex that she had just released herself against medical advice. It was the way she stamped outside in a hurry, almost expecting someone to hold her back. He followed her, along with her son who hadn't left her side ever since she had lost consciousness. It was endearing and a tad creepy.

When they stood outside, in front of the hospital, Alex knew what would happen next. By now he had learned that Norma Bates acts on impulse, adjusting her actions to whatever is necessary. For example when she is standing on the street at night without her phone, her wallet or any money. She wasn't even wearing her own clothes. The hospital had taken them as evidence and given her a sweat suit from their stock. It was at least two clothing sizes too big; she looked like a little girl wearing the clothes of her older brother. The sight made him smile. Alex was pretty sure Norma Bates would never ever wear a sweat suit voluntarily.

She turned around, finding him right behind her and rolled her eyes, sighing. Then she shrugged and he understood. He was allowed to help her again and walked to his car, Norma and her son trotting along. It was late, they were tired, let alone that two horrible crimes had happened. And yet, Alex felt as good as he hadn't in a long time.

He takes a deep breath, trying to hold on to the memory as he catches the last whiff of a scent that isn't really there, thinking of a woman who invaded his life and has gotten under his skin. Alex saw Norma several times after that night in the context of the ongoing investigation. Actually he used every opportunity to go and see her. She was polite but distant. Probably being polite was already an accommodation on her part, acknowledging his role in all this. However it became clear rather quickly that she wasn't interested in him. Something that didn't diminish his interest in her in the least. Quite the opposite. Alex inhales again. He can still smell her.

"Morning, honey," Norma greets her son as she enters the kitchen. She is in her robe, has just woken up. "What do you want for breakfast?" She stops when she sees the dishes in the sink, the breadcrumbs next to the toaster. "Did you already have breakfast?"

Norman watches her with a thoughtful expression in his eyes. "It's noon," he eventually says.

"What?" She looks at the clock, realizing he is right. "How could I sleep that long?"

Norman averts his gaze. "I think… I think you had another blackout last night."

Norma tries to remember. They had dinner. Turkey pot pie. Then they watched a movie. And then… Nothing until she woke up only moments ago.

"Again?" she whispers. "It just happened two days ago and before that last week and before that…," her voice trails off. Before that it happened the night Keith Summers died. The night she killed him and still doesn't remember. Norma sits down at the kitchen table, her legs wobbly all of a sudden because her worst fear has come true. The blackouts are getting worse. She can't be sick. She has to take care of her son, has to start a new business. Then she realizes something. "Why are you not at school?"

"Because I couldn't leave you alone. I called and told them I wasn't feeling well. You just need to write me an apology."

"God!" Norma buries her face in her hands. "You can't skip school because of me."

Norman sits down next to her, taking her hand. "I had to. It's you and me, mother. It's always been you and me. I will take care of you."

He is right. It has always been the two of them. When she hid with him in the closet so that her drunk husband couldn't take it out on them or when she darned his clothes in a way so that his schoolfellows wouldn't see it and tease him because his father had spent all their money on gambling once again. But this… This is not her son's fight. Something has to change.

Norma squeezes Norman's hand. "Bring me a piece of paper and a pen so that I can write your apology, will you?"

She doesn't know how, but she will find a way.

Sometime later that day, Norma takes a deep breath and enters the book store. After the horrifying awareness that her blackouts are getting worse, she gave her situation some thought and came to the conclusion that she doesn't have many options if she wants to do something before the situation gets out of control. In fact, she has barely none. To begin with, she has no health insurance. Therefore going to a doctor under a pretense to get thoroughly examined in order to find or exclude physical reasons for her blackouts is not possible. And aside from costs, there is no way she can go to a psychiatrist. At least not now. Norman is still a minor and she can't risk to have them take him away from her in case they'd diagnose her with whatever mental disorder might cause memory gaps. Norma pushes the image of her mentally ill mother to the back of her mind who spent her life more or less in a vegetative state – unresponsive, unapproachable for her children who needed her so much. Maybe she had blackouts, too.

The shelves are filled with all kinds of books dealing with memory loss, brain damage, mental illness and such like. Who would have thought that there are so many books dwelling on such topics? Norma picks six of them intuitively. She will probably only understand half of their content, but this is all she can do. Help herself. That's what she's always done because no one else has helped her. Ever.

Deep in thought she pays, the situation weighing heavily on her. What if she finds nothing in these books that will make things better? What if the blackouts keep getting worse and she can do nothing about it?

She almost runs into Alex when she leaves the book store.

"Norma, how are you? Found something?" He points at her bag and she hopes he didn't catch a glimpse of the book on top about neurological disorders before she pushed it deeper into the bag. But he is so focused on her face and just her in general that he obviously didn't pay attention.

"Yeah." She smiles at him and watches him react, almost smiling back at her before he stops himself because he never smiles. "I needed a present." Norma tilts her head and he gets lost in her eyes. Everyone does. It's her secret weapon. God, men are so easy to handle.

Norma is aware that the sheriff is interested in her that way. He came by five times during the week after the incident as Norman and she call it. No cop does that unless he wants to arrest you or has something else in mind. Frankly, she expected him to offer her a deal, something like he would drop the investigation if she slept with him. It didn't happen, but he keeps coming over, just not that often anymore as if he realized she doesn't reciprocate his interest. It's not even that she is not interested. There is something about him that attracts and repulses her at the same time. Maybe the fact that he is dangerous. She doesn't know him; however she knows that, learned to recognize danger in its various forms the hard way at a very young age. His kind of danger is confusing though. He never smiles, is not even friendly when he talks to other people whereas he's different when he's with her and Norma doesn't know what to make of it. And as long as she doesn't know, it's safer to stay away. She was never lucky with men.

Alex looks over her shoulder, noticing something.

"What?" Norma turns around, following his gaze that is directed at the window of the book store.

"That guy seems to be a little too interested in you."

Norma squints through the window, making out the man behind the register that served her. As soon as he notices she is watching him, he looks away. A guy looked at her. So what? Most men do. She shrugs.

"Did he bother you?"

"No, I just bought some books."

"Buy them in another store in the future."

"What?" He has to be kidding. "Only because you helped me that night doesn't give you the right to..."

"He has a record," Alex interrupts her. "It was a long time ago, but… he's a sexual offender. Reintegrated into society. However there's no need to take a risk."

Norma studies Alex. There were other women in that book store, children even. That man wouldn't be allowed to work there if he was a danger to others. And yet, here he is, telling her to take no risk as if the rules were different when it came to her. It's almost as if he cares about her. Norma feels an ache in her chest, a longing. No one has ever cared about her aside from her son.

"Err… I need to go." Alex points at something down the street, apparently realized that he said too much.


He swallows before he practically has to tear his eyes away from her face and turns around. Norma watches him as he walks down the street, wondering what the hell just happened.

"How are you feeling, mother?" Norman sticks his head in at the door of her bedroom.

It's late, but of course Norma needed to take a look at the books she had bought as soon as she came home. And now, hours later, she feels dizzy due to the technical terms and an overdose of information. She snaps the book shut she was reading.

"I don't know," she sighs. "I'm trying to find out what's wrong with me, but obviously that's not easy." Norma reaches out her hand and Norman comes over, sitting down on her bed and taking her in his arms. "What am I going to do?"

He rocks her softly. "It's all gonna be good."

Despite her sad mood, Norma gives a laugh. She always said that to him when he was little because things were rarely good in the Bates household. And now she doubts that they will ever be. This was supposed to be their new beginning, but the shadow of her dead husband followed them here. Norma had her first blackout the night Sam died approximately six months ago. She only knows what happened from Norman. That a heavy shelf fell on Sam and that he hit his head so badly as a result that he died on the spot. She starts to cry silently. Ever since Keith Summers died, she fears that Norman sugarcoated the truth. That Sam didn't die because of an accident but that it was her who killed him. He used to hit her all the time. Maybe she had snapped, just like it happened with Keith Summers. But she is too afraid to ask. It's too much. Sometimes not knowing can be a blessing. So for now Norma exhales and concentrates on her son.

"Shhhh," Norman soothes her, repeating their mantra, "it's all gonna be good."

A few days later the final DNA results come in.

"Everything as we assumed," his deputy informs Alex. "It was Keith Summers' blood on Norma Bates' clothes and his DNA all over her as well as," he clears his throat, "inside her. There were also traces of your DNA and her son's on her, but that was to be expected since you both touched her." He hands the file to Alex. "It's your call. We can continue to investigate, but the evidence points at a rape / self-defense scenario. Even the number of stab wounds is comprehensible given what happened."

More than 30. Their angle and depth corresponding with someone of Norma's height and weight inflicting them. Norman told them that he found his mother straddling Keith Summers while stabbing him again and again when he came back into the kitchen. Stabbing someone that many times either points at rage or trauma and Norma for sure was traumatized. There is no need to investigate any further.

"Close the case and inform the DA," Alex decides, already reflecting when his schedule will allow him to drive over to the motel and tell Norma the good news.

Just when he is about to leave the office later, a call comes in though.

"Sheriff Romero? We need you over here."

"What happened?"

"We found a body in the lake. It's Matt Weary, the guy who works at the book store."

Therefore Alex drives to another crime scene and not to the motel. He is aware that it is ridiculous to be mad at a dead man; however he is. When he sees the dark clouds and hears the thunder, a late summer storm approaching, he can't help but think that the weather fits his mood perfectly.

Norma startles when she hears thunder outside. Another late summer storm.

"Norman! Make sure all the windows are closed," she yells, hearing her son run through the house in order to do so.

She was just doing the laundry when the thunder startled her, staring at a dress she doesn't remember wearing although it is dirty, smeared with mud. Why would there be mud on her dress? Norma rubs her eyes. She is always so tired these days. Let alone that she had another blackout yesterday. She didn't tell Norman about it since he was at school when it happened and she doesn't want him to worry even more. Maybe that's when she wore the dress. But what did she do? Norma throws the dress into the washing machine angrily. Reading all of these books didn't help one bit. Then she straightens herself and takes a deep breath to calm down. Inhale, exhale. In and out. She will get through this.

In his room Norman is listening to music, the headphones blocking out the sound of thunder and rain. He closed all the windows in the house as his mother told him to and it will take a while until dinner is ready. Therefore he has some time for himself and needs a distraction. His mother thinks he doesn't know, but he does and it's getting him down. She had another blackout yesterday. It is becoming increasingly difficult to protect her. However there is nothing more important in his entire life.

Chapter Text

The gravel scrunches under the wheels of his car when Alex Romero parks in front of the Bates motel. There are only a few other cars of guests. The motel flourished for a few weeks after its opening, but fall is almost here and soon the motel rooms will be predominantly empty as winter approaches.

Norma is in the office behind the reception. She hasn't noticed him yet and he watches her for a moment. She is sorting some paperwork, furrowing her brow concentrated, some loose strands of hair letting her delicate features appear even softer. He has never met a woman as beautiful as she. Alex feels anticipation creep up on him like every time he sees her.

She startles when he knocks and opens the door, her face blank for a split second before she smiles at him. She is good at fake smiling, he has to give her that, aware that she is smiling at the sheriff and not the man.

"Hey, Alex," she greets him.

In moments like these he wishes he wouldn't have let himself get carried away by the events of that night when he told her to call him by his first name. It felt natural back then because the happenings created a closeness between them. A closeness that doesn't exist. He is here as the sheriff. She is not a suspect, but his original intention to bring good news about closing the case regarding Keith Summers' death was marred by the discovery of Matt Weary's body. Another man Norma Bates' knew. Another man who died from violence.

"Hey, Norma." That's the good part about letting her call him by his first name. He gets to do the same. And every time he does, it feels like the implication of something between them, something waiting to happen.

When she looks at him expectantly, Alex decides to start with the good news.

"I came over to tell you that we officially closed the investigation of Keith Summers' death."

It takes a moment to sink in. Then Norma's eyes light up.

"Oh. That's great! Thank you, Alex. Thank you for coming over to tell me that."

She is so relieved, so happy. He hates to taint her good mood. Let alone that making Norma Bates smile feels electrifying. However there is no way around it.

"How well did you know Matt Weary?"

"Who?" She has no idea who he is talking about. Alex knows when people are lying to him, has an infallible instinct.

"The man who worked at the bookstore. The one who was checking you out when we were standing in front of it."

"Worked?" Norma has a good instinct, too. The sheriff doesn't ask about someone if that person is alive and kicking.

"We found his body in the lake yesterday. In his car."

"His car was in the lake?" Again, she is confused but nothing hints at her involvement in Matt Weary's death.

The fact that the man obviously was interested in her doesn't make Norma a suspect. It just seems to be a weird coincidence that two men crossed Norma Bates' path and both are dead. There are rarely coincidences when it comes to murder.

"Were you here at the motel the day before yesterday?"

Norma narrows her eyes in suspicion. "Am I suspect?" She snorts. "You've got some nerve. Coming here to tell me that one case is closed only to suspect me in another one." Even though the desk is a physical barrier between them, she leans back as if she couldn't stand to be close to him.

Alex sighs. "You're not a suspect, Norma. I'm only..."

"Well, you just asked me..."

"I'm doing my job here, ok?" he interrupts her, the tone of his voice scowling her into silence or at least silencing her; Alex can't tell.

"All right, all right. Calm down, sheriff." A brief look, bordering on flirtatious before she gets serious again. A shadow flits across her face. "Why did you ask me where I was the day before yesterday when you found the body yesterday?"

The way Norma pays attention to details, she should join his team.

"Because that's the estimated time of death even if we found the body only yesterday. Hard to tell with floaters though." Water and its inhabitants do a lot of damage to a body. Let alone that it washes evidence away.


Something has changed albeit Alex can't say what it is. If she didn't know Matt Weary, then what does it matter?

"So you never met Matt Weary aside from the one time in the book store?"

"That's right." Voice flat, body tense. She wants to get this over with.

"And you were here the whole day before yesterday?"

"Yes. She was with me," a voice behind him states.

Alex turns around to find Norma's son standing in the doorframe.

"Hi, Norman."

"Sheriff." Norman nods to him. He seemed to appreciate what he did for him and his mother during the night Keith Summers died, but aside from that Alex can tell that Norman Bates doesn't like him. For whatever reason. Maybe only because Norman is a 17 year old kid and he an official Norman feels he should be aware of.

"Weren't you in school?"

"Of course, I was. I mean afterwards. Me and my mother were together after I was back from school for the rest of the day." Not the hint of a smile as Norman tells him that. Almost smug. Alex wonders whether he has already made friends at his new school.

They don't know at what time exactly Matt Weary died. Perhaps they will never know; it depends on the result of the forensic examination.

"Ok." Alex turns around again to look at Norma. She stares at her son with an unreadable expression on her face, pulling herself together when she notices that he has focused his attention on her. "And you were here the entire day? Even when Norman was at school?"

Norma takes a breath. "I..."

"Yes, she was," Norman says behind him, his voice sounding angry so that Alex has a quick look to check on the boy. It gives Norma enough time to compose herself. He didn't catch her immediate reaction to his question, can't tell whether she would have lied to him or not.

"So, I guess this is it?"

He can tell, though, that she clearly wants to end their talk and his visit.

"For now."

Alex is not sure what was going on during the last minutes. Norma obviously had nothing to do with Matt Weary, didn't know him, and yet, she hides something that might or might not be related to his death. Strangely enough, she seems to believe that. However Alex knows from experience that it doesn't make sense to continue their talk now. Let alone that it gives him an opportunity to come back another time.

"See you!" Norma's smile is timid and Norman barely makes way for him when Alex walks out of the office. Norma and her son are a weird pair. The situation is unusual already most of the time when he is alone with her but whenever her son shows up, Alex is very well aware that he is not welcome.

Norma watches Alex get in his car and drive away.

"Why did you say that?" she hisses at Norman as soon as Alex is out of earshot. "It made me look suspicious. There is no reason to make him suspicious. I'm not a suspect. He just asked me because that man..."

"...checked you out. You told me about it."

She did? Norma doesn't remember. Then again, she tells her son almost everything. Except about her recent blackouts.

Norman approaches her and puts an arm around her shoulder.

"It's all gonna be good," he assures her.

It makes her smile as always whenever he uses their mantra lately. Her little boy is growing up and it's comforting to have him around. Norma leans into him and hopes he's right.

Alex is used to it. The silence of his house, the loneliness, his thoughts that won't let him sleep. The only thing that's new is that it's her face in his thoughts most of the time. He saw her last when he asked her about Matt Weary's death. They have made zero progress regarding that case since then. The DNA traces are useless due to the fact that the body was contaminated by various influencing factors during the time it was in the water. They have no idea who could have killed Matt Weary and he should question her about it once more for that reason alone. But he hasn't, his instinct telling him that Norma Bates has something to hide but that it's not related to Matt Weary's demise. Let alone that every time he sees her, it feels like another rejection because it is so obvious that he wants something she is not interested in in the least. Therefore he decided to leave her out of account as far as the ongoing investigation is concerned. Until he found out something else today that is. Keith Summers, Matt Weary. There is already a blood trail lining Norma Bates' path since she moved to White Pine Bay and today he learned there is possibly another one.

He takes a sip of Scotch. It's usually only one glass per evening; he doesn't intend to end up an imprisoned drunk like his father. And he should forget about her. But the moment he comes to that conclusion, all he can see is her smile, the way her eyes lit up when he told her the good news. His hand rests on his belt, merely thinking about her has that well-known effect on him he welcomes and curses at the same time. Maybe he should postpone his decision to forget about her until tomorrow. Maybe he should give in and seek pleasure thinking of her. Wouldn't be the first time. Just as he is about to pull down the zipper of his pants, though, there is a knock on his door.

Ok then. Perhaps another distraction is a good idea as well. Alex takes his gun because there were distractions waiting at his front door for him in the past that would have cost his life if he hadn't been prepared. A glimpse through the window shades tells him, however, that he doesn't have to fear for his life tonight. Maybe for his soul.

"What's the problem?" he asks when he opens the door.

Norma snorts. "What's the problem? What happened to hello?" She notices the gun in his hand. "Are you going to shoot me? That will be the day." Norma tilts her head back. "Aren't you going to ask me in?"

Alex steps out of the way and puts his gun down. Only when she walks past him, the familiar scent of her perfume surrounding her, he observes that she looks a bit overdressed for a spontaneous late night visit. Her makeup, her hair. He wonders what she is wearing underneath that dark red coat and how long her scent will linger in his house.

As Norma strolls through his living room, Alex can tell she is not impressed by his spare furnishings. Probably what she expected from a typical bachelor. Then she stops right in the middle of the room, seeming to contemplate something briefly before she takes off her coat and holds it out to him. She looks stunning, her vintage dress clinging to her body just in the right places, the mix of dark and light blue of the fabric accentuating the color of her eyes.

He puts her coat away and clears his throat. "Why don't you sit down?" And why is he nervous all of a sudden? Because something is going on here, something beyond his control.

She sits down on his couch and seems to be disappointed when he sits back down in his armchair where he sat before. Norma expected him to sit right next to her on the couch. Only then Alex realizes that he hasn't offered her a drink. Where are his manners?

"What's your poison?" It feels weird to ask her that, as if this was a date and not… whatever it is.

But she stops him with a wave of her hand. "Nothing for me, thank you." She leans forward. "I came here to talk to you about something." She pauses, expecting him to ask her what it is, looking askance at him when he doesn't before she continues. "There are these, um, boys, well, not really boys anymore, teenagers who come over to the motel on a regular basis to harass the guests."

She is lying through her teeth.

"How many?" Alex asks.

Norma pretends to think about it. "Um… Three." Darting a quick glance at him before she corrects herself. "No, um, five I guess. Yes, five." She nods emphatically. Five definitely sounds more of a threat so that the sheriff has to do something about it.

"And you came here because…?"

"Because you're the sheriff. You are supposed to do something about these things, aren't you?" Eyes wide open, an endless blue pleading with him to help her. Alex hates that every fiber of his body responds to it even if he knows that the threat is not real, that she made it up.

"Why didn't you come to my office to complain to the police?"

She frowns as if the idea was preposterous in itself. "Why would I do that? We know each other. We… help each other."

Something in the back of Alex's mind starts to tingle. She is here because she wants his help. Of course. But not about some made-up teenagers harassing her guests. She needs his help because…

"I'm a single mother, living out of town alone with my son. I need someone to protect me," she ups the ante.

It can't be a coincidence. The information he received today about her possible involvement in a third murder. The fact that she is here, right after, basically coming on to him because he is the one who can influence the investigation. The only thing he doesn't know is how she got wind of it so fast, but in the end it doesn't matter.

"And what gives you the idea that I'm the right one to protect you?" He should stop this, should tell her to leave, but Alex is too well aware that she wants something from him and that she has something to offer to get it.

"Because you are the sheriff. Because this is your town and you make the rules."

He could be wrong, but it sounds as if this turns her on. Alex downs his drink with one gulp and gets up under the pretext to refill his glass even though he doesn't intend to have another one.

"Still don't want a drink?" Alex asks Norma, bottle in his hand. His tone of voice has changed. There is something aggressive and dangerous beneath that is difficult to restrain. He hears it and she notices it, too, a brief flicker of uncertainty in her eyes before her pokerface is back.

"No, thank you."

When Alex sits back down, he chooses the spot next to her on the couch, much closer than he would have dared if he wasn't in that strange mood. Norma gasps but composes herself immediately. He expected to catch some hint that it would be uncomfortable for her to be that close to him, but the way her body tenses up is not discomfort. It's anticipation.

"So, these teenagers..." Her dress ends just above her knee and Alex reaches out his hand to brush her smooth skin there, hearing her breath hitch. "How often do they come over to your motel?" His fingers draw lazy circles on her thigh, Norma's eyes jumping back and forth between his hand and his face. It's such a power rush to witness her reaction. Alex believed she wasn't interested in him in the least, but her body language tells a completely different story.

Norma has a hard time concentrating. She thought Alex would be easy prey. The way he always looks at her. She knows when a man has fallen for her and he definitely has. But she underestimated the effect he has on her. This is not the way it was supposed to happen. She intended to seduce him, preferably without actually doing something, the prospect of more sufficient to make him do whatever will be necessary. This however…

She startles when his other hand grasps her lower jaw, gently caressing her face. He stops when he senses her reaction and it confuses her. He obviously is about to take advantage of her. So why would he stop just because something irritates her? Men don't do that. At least not the men she has been with. Let alone that his touch doesn't irritate her. It surprised her, the gentleness even more than the touch itself. But truth be told, she likes it, feels her body respond in a weird mix of comfort and arousal. Norma realizes she has been leaning into his touch.

"What are you doing?" she whispers, the words tumbling out before she can bottle them up.

Alex holds her gaze, his hands continuing to stroke her before his words bring her back into the harsh reality, "There are no teenagers."

Norma freezes and then leans back, her skin getting cold where his hands touched it only seconds ago. "What's that supposed to mean?" Offense is the best defense.

"Don't lie to me. You want something from me? Tell me what it is."

Funny how emotions distort perception. Right now, Alex doesn't care whether Norma is a murderer. The only thing he cares about is that she stops hiding her secrets. Secrets are what got his mother killed. And Norma triggers feelings he never has had for any other woman before. His need to protect her, to ensure her safety overshadows everything else, the irony not lost on him that this is exactly what she came here for. She doesn't need to try and seduce him; he will protect her anyway.

The inner struggle is reflected on her face – confusion, determination, a hint of shame – before she takes a deep breath and straightens herself.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Norma pretends. "I came here because of these teenagers..."

And just like that the moment of closeness between them is over, her walls up again. It makes him furious. Who does she think she is? Playing with him like that.

"Stop that," he growls.

"I think I should go." Norma is about to get up and leave.

"No." She has already half stood up when Alex pulls her back on the couch. His move surprises her, both of them actually. Norma flops on the couch and more or less into him rather awkwardly. They are even closer than before; he can feel her fitful breath on his face, but neither of them moves. "How far were you willing to go to make me protect you?" It bothers him. How easily she was willing to offer herself in exchange for his help. Would she have done it if he was someone else? Probably. The thought stings, images of her with another man tantalizing him.

"Not far enough apparently."

She won't back down; he should have known that. Even now that he has forced her into a corner, Norma is determined to get what she wants. Her eyes have the usual effect on him. He sees everything in them he can't know and yet is convinced is true. A horrible childhood, a life filled with a constant fight for survival, possible abuse from family members or other men. It pains him to see it, but it also draws him even more to her. This is wrong. So wrong. But when Norma licks her lips in anticipation, there is no holding back.

Alex kisses her, the physical impact alone almost making her topple over backwards. He squeezes her against his body to uphold her, one hand at the back of her neck, one around her waist, the pressure pulling her half onto his lap as she bites his lower lip and their tongues fight for control. Even kissing her feels like an argument. But Norma is kissing him back and he doesn't give a fuck whether she does it to manipulate him or is actually attracted to him. She probably doesn't know herself.

They pause to gasp for air and Norma takes the chance to plead with him again. "You have to help me, Alex, please." This time she lets him see it all. Her fear, her vulnerability. Maybe it's because their kiss lowered her defense mechanisms, maybe this is just another attempt to manipulate him although it doesn't feel like it. Either way, they both know that the times of pretending are over.

"What do you need me to help you with?"

"You know what."

The request from the Arizona PD came in today. They re-opened an old case and are looking for the people involved. It's about an event that was covered by the insurance of a Sam Bates. His death was classified as an accident back then; his widow got the money. Save that there are doubts now whether it was an accident or not. And since Norma Bates moved to White Pine Bay, they want to know if anything out of the ordinary has happened after her relocation. Out of the ordinary. Alex wouldn't even know where to start.

"Then tell me what happened."

She swallows. "A heavy shelf fell on my husband and he died." It's interesting. Alex can't tell whether this is the truth or not because somehow… she doesn't seem to know, but that's not possible. The original report says she was present when it happened and found her husband in the garage.

"There is more," he insists, watching her facial features slip.

"Alex, please. You've got to believe me. There is nothing else I can tell you. You have to help me. If I lose the money, I will lose the motel. How am I supposed to take care of Norman then?"

Let alone that she might end up in prison because this is what it's about, isn't it? If the death of her husband was no accident, then someone must have killed him. Shemight have killed him.

"I can only help you when you tell me everything." He didn't say if and she noticed.

Alex watches her struggle with what to tell him and what not. But he is a stranger after all. And she can't trust a stranger. He recognizes the exact moment Norma makes that decision. And in a way, Alex understands. He doesn't trust anyone either, but he wants her to trust him.

"This is all I can tell you," Norma whispers, leaning forward to kiss him again in an effort to convince him with her body where her words didn't succeed.

"Don't… don't do that." Alex pushes her away from him. "I need to know the truth." This stubborn, beautiful woman is going to ruin her life if he doesn't prevent it.

"Alex, please," she whines. "Just tell them everything's fine. And don't tell them about Keith Summers or Matt Weary. Please help me, will you?"

"Then stop lying to me."

"I'm not lying to you." She sounds desperate, honest, at least to some degree, and yet, Alex knows there is more.

"How did your husband die?"

"A heavy shelf..."

"That's what you told the police and the insurance company, but what did really happen?"

"Alex..." Norma shakes her head, slouching her shoulders.

He grabs her arms, would like to squeeze the truth out of her. Everybody lies. In one way or the other, his entire life was a lie. Until he met her. She is mysterious, obstinate and perhaps also dangerous, but even so, Alex feels a clarity when he is with Norma that his life has been lacking so far. Every aspect of his past is tainted – his upbringing, his involvement in drug business. It has never bothered him before, but now it does. She came into his life and turned everything upside down. And he knows she won't make things better, considering the burdens she brings along most likely even worse. However it doesn't matter because it's real; at least it feels real, this connection between them, whatever it is. Therefore she has to confide in him, has to trust him, the idea that she will never let him close choking Alex, his anger boiling over.

"Stop lying to me," he yells at Norma, feeling her flinch, his fingers digging into her soft skin.

As soon as he becomes aware of it, Alex loosens his grip and she relaxes but is still wary as to what will happen next.

"I'm not lying to you," Norma repeats, eerily calm despite his blowup, confirming his assumption that she has experienced violence before. "You want me to trust you? Then trust me."

She never does what he expects her to. Knowing her temper, Alex expected Norma to yell back at him, but instead her response was calm and composed. Just like her behavior when she leans forward again, not to kiss him this time though. She embraces him, burying her face in the crook of his neck in an intimate way as if they had done this countless times before.

"Trust me," she murmurs, her breath on his neck making Alex shiver as his arms find their way around her body of their own accord.

Then she pulls out of his embrace, brushes the side of his face with her lips and is gone.

It's past midnight when Norma parks her car and is about to walk up the stairs to the house, a figure emerging from the shadows scaring her for a moment until she recognizes who it is.

"What are you still doing here?" She doesn't even try to hide the contempt in her voice. He has never brought her anything but trouble.

"I have nowhere to go," Dylan states. "I wouldn't still be here otherwise."

Norma snorts. "You really think I'll let you stay after what you did?"

They had a major falling-out earlier that same day. Dylan has no job, ran out of money and eventually found his mother and brother. Norma left without telling him her new address. It was deliberate, within the realm of her usual behavior when it comes to rejecting her firstborn. She expected him to search and find her sometime, anyway, wasn't actually surprised when he showed up on her doorstep. He's a thorn in her side, but she knows she will never get rid of him. You can't get rid of your own flesh and blood. Things went horribly awry, though, when Norma got the call from her bank informing her that the insurance company froze the rest of the insurance money she hadn't already spent. There is a pending investigation regarding Sam's death and obviously Dylan caused it. Not that there is much money left; plus she always has some savings in cash. But this is a disaster that threatens their entire existence and Dylan set it off to get back at her.

"What did you expect, Norma?" Dylan yelled at her when she confronted him. "You left without a word. Took all the money. Some of it could've been mine."

"He wasn't your father."

Sam left her all the money. Dylan isn't his biological son and Norman a minor. Dylan was beyond reason though. She had all the arguments and he had all the anger. Deep down, Norma knows that he is right at least in a way. What did you expect? She will never love him the way she loves Norman, never did. It's not Dylan's fault. It's how he was conceived.

Norma studies her son. Dylan comes after her much more than Norman regarding appearance as well as behavior. Blond hair, blue eyes. It's as if she is looking in a mirror. And Dylan is a survivor as she is while Norman needs her to survive.

"Just for one night. It's freezing out here." Dylan sniffles and she notices the worn fabric of his jacket that is much too thin for this time of the year.

He is her son after all.

"One night," Norma agrees.

Dylan nods, only now becoming aware of the way she is dressed. "Where have you been?"

"Don't do this, Dylan," Norma warns him. "I've had enough fights for one day."

Aside from accusing her to have taken his money, that is his second favorite topic. That she sleeps around. Not that she ever did. But he will never forgive her for leaving his father. Or rather the man Dylan believes to be his father. Either way, he prefers to hold on to the delusion that their life would have been better if she had stayed with her first husband. She has the scars to prove him wrong; Dylan was too little to remember. However what good would it do to confront him with another ugly truth? Perhaps this is her redemption. Despite the fact that Dylan pretends not to care about her, Norma knows that he longs for her love. Something she can't give him, not the way he wants it. So she lets him blame her instead.

"Okay." Dylan shrugs as if none of this matters. This is what they do. Provoke. Fight. Reconcile, at least in a way. And then it starts all over again.

Norma walks up the rest of the stairs in silence, almost tripping at some point, his hand supporting her, preventing her fall. She doesn't say thank you but neither did he when she told him he could stay.

Chapter Text

When Dylan enters the kitchen in the morning, he finds Norman making tea. There is a tablet with a cup, a buttered toast on a plate and one single flower in a vase standing on the table. Norma is nowhere to be seen. It's day four after Dylan knocked on Norma's door. After their fight, the premise was that he would stay only for one night, but so far she hasn't asked him to leave and therefore he is still there. He has nowhere else to go, and despite their falling-out, this is his family.

"Morning. Where's Norma?" Dylan asks. He and Norman are not on friendly terms, but the open hostility Norman displayed in the beginning seems to have made way for some kind of acceptance that he is living with them as long as it's temporarily.

"She's still asleep. Mother doesn't feel so good lately," Norman replies.

There it is. Mother. Dylan used to ridicule him for calling her that. The truth is, though, that it's just another reminder that Norman and Norma have a special bond whereas he will always be the fifth wheel.

"Is she sick?" Dylan senses that Norman would like to ignore him, but here he is, right in the space Norma and his brother had claimed for themselves before he arrived.

Norman seems to consider something. "She is… kind of beside herself sometimes," he then states.

"What do you mean?" Norma being beside herself is not new information. If you applied normal standards, Dylan would say his mother is beside herself half of the time. At least.

"She… Sometimes she loses time, doesn't remember what she did while she was… out." The subject is clearly bothering Norman. He seems to be equally reluctant and relieved to share this with him since there is for sure no one else he could share it with. They are family after all, now matter how estranged.

"What do you mean losing time? Like blackouts?"

Norman shrugs. "Something like that. Yeah."

"Did she see a doctor?"

This upsets Norman. "No, she didn't. How could she see a doctor if we have no medical insurance? Do you have any idea how expensive that is? You seem to think we have a lot of money because we got..." He gulps. "...the money from my father's insurance, but it's almost used up since we bought the motel and payed for the renovation. And thanks to you, we might lose it all now." Norman has talked himself into a rage, raising his voice more and more, the muscles of his neck emerging.

"Norman, calm down," Dylan tries to appease him. "I already told Norma I'm sorry. I didn't know they would review the case only because I said that Norma needed the money to get away from Sam." Norma's former husband, Sam Bates. Needless to say that Dylan's apology didn't impress Norma, let alone caused her to forgive him. They both knew he was whitewashing the facts. He was angry and didn't give a shit about what would happen to his mother and brother when he told the insurance company that. And now there is an official investigation. So Norma merely listened to his words and then continued whatever she had been doing before as if he hadn't said anything at all.

"Yeah. You thought they'd just give you some money. That was stupid." Norman does that thing where he starts to twitch and fidget because he is so upset. It has always annoyed Dylan, but he doesn't want to add fuel to the fire by pointing it out to him.

Dylan sniffles. "It was," he gives in instead.

He could knock Norman down easily. It's that knowledge that allows him to be generous once in a while even though Norman's words sting because they suggest Norman is the cleverer one of them. Well, maybe he is. Norman always had the better grades while Dylan won more fights in the schoolyard and everywhere else. He fought a lot as a kid actually. All the anger had to go somewhere and it was better not to be at home, anyway, where his mother tried to build a fake paradise for her and his brother while her new husband alternated between spending his money for gambling and whores or drinking himself into oblivion, both inciting him to brutally batter whoever passed by.

Norman seems to be surprised by his rather reasonable reaction and calms down a bit.

"So what is she doing to get better? Just wait it out?" Dylan asks. Reasonable only goes so far.

In an instant, Norman is back to twitching and fidgeting. "I think so. What else is she supposed to do? And I'm doing whatever I can to help her. It's only the two of us. No one has ever helped us." Norman is close to tears, but Dylan is far from feeling any compassion. He hates when either Norma or Norman rub his nose in the fact that he never has played an important role in his mother's life. In anyone's life really.

"So what are you going to do if the blackouts get worse? Lock her up so that she can't run around and do some stupid shit she won't remember afterwards?"

Norman hesitates for a moment. "Maybe."

Dylan can't believe it. That kid is just as crazy as their mother. "Norman, you can't be serious." Then another idea crosses his mind. "Wait! Did something already happen?"

Norman's entire posture tenses. "I have no time for this." He pours tea in the cup and grabs the tablet. "I have to bring mother her breakfast and then go to school."

"Norman, wait!" Dylan tries to hold him back, but his brother is already out of the door, walking up the stairs to their mother's room.

Alex stares at the piece of paper.

Did the person in question commit a crime in your precinct?

Is the person in question subject of preliminary proceedings in your precinct?

Have there been any kind of incidents since the person in question moved to your precinct that imply that he or she could be violent or a risk to society in any way?

Norma killed Keith Summers, but it was self-defense. Matt Weary was interested in Norma, but she apparently didn't know him or had any contact to him other than when she bought the books.

Alex's eyes wander over to the pile of paperwork on his desk. Somewhere in there is the result of the pathological examination. Matt Weary drowned. Someone had slit his throat shortly before though. When his car rolled into the lake and slowly sank to its bottom, he was already bleeding to death. In the end it was only a question of seconds what would have killed him first. Whoever made the clean cut was right-handed and had most likely been in the car with him before someone released the brakes so that it rolled into the lake. The car was parked at the shore; you had a beautiful view from there. The fact that Matt Weary obviously didn't suspect anything would happen to him as well as the place the car was parked suggested that it could have been a date. They traced back that he must have been there during his lunch break. Matt Weary was straight. Therefore he might have been with a woman. Norma is right-handed, but there is no DNA evidence. Either the perpetrator took care of it or the water washed it away. They didn't detect the murder weapon at the crime scene either, a large knife to carve meat or fillet fish you could find in many households, as probably in Norma Bates'. He didn't check. Since there is no DNA evidence and Norma has no motive; it simply made no sense.

He remembers her reaction. Norma is worried about something in the context of Matt Weary's death, but Alex caught no vibe from her that would have made him suspect she had been involved in killing him. And Norma is worried that the insurance company reviews her husband's death and that there is even an official investigation now but only because she fears she could lose the money and won't be able to take care of her son anymore.

Despite his observations and his instinct, there is the chance, though, that he is wrong. Totally, utterly wrong. Blinded by Norma Bates' beauty and remarkable personality. She could be a cold-blooded serial killer. Alex rubs his eyes. He is tired. And biased. It is probably a bad idea to let the same person fill out the form who kissed the person in question only four days ago.

He ticks off no three times, signs the form, stands up and opens the door of his office.

"Clark!" he addresses the young deputy who has only been with them for two weeks now.

"Yes, Sir!" The young man jumps up immediately.

"Fax this to the Arizona PD. They're waiting for it. And if they have any questions, put the call through to me, ok?"

"Yes, Sir!" Overeager as he almost whips the form out of Alex's hand.

Trust me. Suddenly Norma's voice is in his head, but no matter what he just did for her and for whatever reasons, he realizes that he doesn't.

Pain in her lower abdomen, sudden and intense. Her head being smashed on a flat, cold surface. More pain. A heavy body pressing her down. And then, the roles reversed. A sweaty, smelly body below her. Blood, lots of blood.

Change of location. Screaming in another room. Two voices. A thump. Then silence. She wants to get there, needs to get there, but she can't, an exhaustion beyond anything she has ever experienced weighing her down.

Another change of location. She is trapped, can't move, a hand forcing hers. To do what? She wants to get away, but the moment she becomes aware of this, the thought is gone, every coherent reaction impossible, her motor abilities non-existent.

Norma wakes up with a gasp. It's the same nightmare, over and over. The only difference are the details. She suspects those are memories of her blackouts, at least partly. Her imagination might try to fill in the blanks, lead her to believe something took place that didn't in actual fact. As dreams are, however, they never make enough sense so as to allow her to understand what happened. She startles when there is a knock on the door.

"Mother? I've got your tea." Norman comes in, putting the tablet down on her nightstand. "How are you feeling?"

She sighs. "I had another bad dream."

"I'm so sorry, mother." Norman bends over to kiss her on the forehead. "I've got to go to school, but..." He hesitates. "...I can stay if you need me."

"No." Norma shakes her head while she intertwines their fingers, sending contradictory messages as always. "Go to school. I'm fine."

They both know she's not, but this is how it works. She keeps pretending and he plays along. Norman holds his mother's hand on his way out until she can't reach him anymore with her outstretched arm and has to let go.

Norma drinks some tea, lies back and listens to Norman leaving the house, the familiar, domestic sounds soothing her. She is so tired, the overall situation draining her. The blackouts, the investigation, the fact that Dylan is living with them. They moved to start over and now it feels as if everything is falling apart once more. She closes her eyes and drifts off into sleep again.

When she wakes up, she feels queasy. Norma almost doesn't make it to the bathroom before she gets sick. Afterwards she remains kneeling in front of the toilet because she can't get up by her own efforts, her body weakened, her hands slipping off the cold porcelain until someone pulls her in an upright posture.

"I've got you."

Two strong hands holding her upright. Dylan. She forgot that he was there, left the bathroom door open. He must have heard her or seen her when he went by.

The moment she is standing, Norma feels dizzy again. It would be easier if this was Norman; she would have no trouble leaning into him. But this is Dylan and she doesn't want to. So she reaches out, blindly fumbling around in order to find something else to hold on to, grasping air until she gives in and slumps against her son's chest. It's awkward. They haven't hugged in years, Norma can't even remember the last time, and now this.

She hears water running and then he wipes last traces of her nausea off her mouth with a towel. It feels secure and embarrassing and so much more that Norma can't even begin to cope with it.

"Think you can walk?" he asks, and despite the buzzing in her ears and her blurry vision, she nods.

Dylan puts one of her arms around his shoulders and clasps her waist to support her. Somewhere at the back of her mind Norma realizes she didn't even put on a robe, is only wearing one of her flimsy chemises, his hand warm through the thin fabric. It makes the situation and their close proximity even more awkward. The few steps to her bedroom seem to take them forever as she struggles along. When Norma half plonks herself down on her bed and he half drops her, there is a clanking sound.

"Oh shit," Dylan says. "I knocked over the rest of your tea." She drank not all of it. Norman always makes sure she gets an extra large cup.

She doesn't care about the tea. All Norma wants is to get warm again, but even covering herself with a blanket is a task she is not up to. Again Dylan steps in, his hands replacing hers as he pulls the blanket over her, a worried expression reflected on his face he hides the moment he notices she is looking at him. Dylan straightens himself.

"I'll wipe up the tea and I'll... You need sugar. Energy. I'll get you something., you're way too thin, Norma. I could feel your ribs when…" Even through the haze of her dizziness Norma is aware that Dylan is talking way too fast, trying to cover up that he doesn't know how to cope with the situation and their sudden closeness either. "I'll get you something."

And with this he is gone, leaving Norma to drift off into sleep once more. No nightmares this time, and when she wakes up, the nausea is not as bad anymore. There is a bottle of lemonade on her nightstand. It's not her taste; the idea, however, that Dylan must have bought it for her leads Norma to take a sip. Whatever unhealthy, sugary content is in it, it actually makes her feel better. Maybe she should switch to lemonade and give up tea.

And she does save that she doesn't tell Norman about it because it would make him feel as if she preferred Dylan all of a sudden. It's weird. Norma knows that both of her sons consider their living conditions a temporary arrangement and so did she. But ever since Dylan helped her when she was sick, it feels different to have him around, like something she could get used to even though she is still mad at him for causing the investigation regarding Sam's death and endangering their basis of existence in the process.

So Norma pours away the tea and drinks the lemonade instead that keeps magically appearing on her nightstand, a symbol of the new relationship between her and her firstborn, wherever it will take them.

Some days pass by without nausea or blackouts. Norma feels much better, healthy even, as if everything that happened was just a bad dream. She is just folding laundry, humming happily along to an old song playing in the background when she hears Dylan and Norman come down the stairs. It sounds as if they are arguing, an assumption that is confirmed as soon as they are in the hallway and she is able to hear them more clearly.

How could you do that? She recognizes Norman's angry voice. You know she's not well. She has to…

Come on, Norman, Dylan interrupts him. You don't have the exclusive rights to take care of our mother.

There is a pause. Then she hears Norman's voice again, much angrier than before, but he tries to keep it in check. You might be living here, Dylan. Norman spits his brother's name as if he swallowed poison. But stay out of our business.

Jesus, Norman, calm down! It's just lemonade.

What? They are fighting about the lemonade? Norman must have found out that Dylan buys it for her. It was to be expected sooner or later. Yet, this is ridiculous and has to stop. Norma steps into the hallway. They both turn around to face her when they become aware of her presence. At least Dylan has the decency to look a little embarrassed whereas Norman is still too angry to get rid of his smug expression.

"What's going on here?" Norma asks, pretending she doesn't already know.

"Nothing," Dylan is quick to assure her.

Norman takes a deep breath. "Mother! You shouldn't deviate from our schedule. It's not good for you."

Dylan snorts. "Deviate from our schedule? Who are you, Norman? A college professor?"

For once Norma has to agree. Even though she appreciates that Norman worries about her, sometimes he overdoes it.

Norman trembles as if he was about to attack Dylan any moment. Dylan looks at Norma, a silent understanding between them that Norman's reaction is way out of line and that they somehow have to resolve the situation before it escalates even further. As sweet as Norman usually is, he gets like this at times.

"Ok, I heard what you were talking about," Norma admits, stepping closer. "And it's stupid. I love drinking your tea, honey. I'm just drinking Dylan's lemonade once in a while." She shrugs. "No big deal." Norma ruffles through Norman's hair tenderly, feeling how their physical closeness calms him.

"Yeah." She hears Dylan's voice behind her. "There's nothing to worry about." Norman's eyes flicker over Norma's shoulder to his brother's face. Encouraged by the fact that he is for once the good guy in this scenario, Dylan adds, "And it's not as if lemonade could cause blackouts."

Norma freezes, feeling Dylan tense behind her when he notices her reaction, Norman's eyes jumping back and forth between the face of his mother and his brother.

"What?" Norma asks, turning around slowly.

"Nothing," Dylan stutters, realizing his mistake. "I just..."

Norma ignores him, turning around again to face Norman. "You told him? How could you…? How could you do that?" How could he betray her trust like that? The last days felt so good, almost unburdened. Of course, that couldn't last.

Norman's anger is gone, replaced by sorrow. "He's family, mother. I needed someone to share this with."

She takes a step back. "I see. So you chose to confide in the one person that decided to ruin our lives? Giving him even more information to do so?"

"You let him stay."

"I would never use this against you, Norma."

The voices of her sons overlap as Dylan reaches out to touch her, aware that one of Norma's tantrums is impending. It's a futile effort to keep her close, literally as well as figuratively when he knows she is about to snap. It felt as if they were getting along well. He should have known, though, that Norma would turn against him the moment she found out Norman told him about her blackouts because for whatever reason he will never be worthy of her trust, always the outsider.

Norma tears her arm away from Dylan. Why can't she ever get a break? On some days it feels as if everyone is out to get her, including her own sons.

"I'm sorry, mother." Norman is close to tears now while Dylan obviously has come to the conclusion that it's better to remain silent.

It doesn't matter though. Both of her son's strategies are bound to fail. Right now, all Norma wants is…not this.

"Out!" she says menacingly calm, but neither of her sons move. They just keep staring at her. "I don't want you here," she repeats, louder this time. "Not today. So… Get. Out."

Norman looks at Dylan, presuming his mother's anger is directed solely at him. However it's not.

"BOTH OF YOU," Norma screams.

That sets them in motion. Norman is devastated while Dylan has to bite back a grim smile as they leave the house, dark clouds approaching overhead. A fall storm is coming.

The storm is about to hit White Pine Bay. Norma can't believe this is happening on the same day she threw her sons out of the house. She doesn't worry about Dylan, he's a survivor, but Norman… What if they are still outside somewhere? They took Dylan's car, but who knows where they went.

Her anger is gone. She is still hurt; however she also understands. Norman is a teenager; there is a lot he has to come to terms with. The death of his father, everything that happened in that night Keith Summers raped her, her blackouts. No wonder he reached out to the only person that is his family aside from her.

Norma controls the last window, making sure that it is closed like all the others, securing the back door so that the wind won't rip it open. It's not raining yet, but she can hear thunder in the distance already. If she wants to go and search for her sons, she has to do it now. There is not much time left before the streets will be impassable and there is no other way to find out where they are. Norman didn't take his phone along and Dylan doesn't answer his.

As Norma leaves the house, the gusts of wind almost push her back inside. She braces herself against the front door, trying to lock it, when she realizes someone is standing right behind her.

"Jesus, Alex, you scared me!" she has to yell to make him hear her amidst the howling storm. "What are you doing here?"

Leafs and branches are twirling across the street. It's much more dangerous to be outside than she expected. There are no guests in the motel at the moment, Alex's squad car the only car parked in the courtyard next to hers. For some reason she likes the image of their cars standing there side by side. A random thought interrupted by a piece of wood crashing into the wall right next to her. If Alex hadn't pulled her away, it might have hit her.

The key is still in the lock. Alex opens the front door and pushes her back inside.

"No!" Norma tries to get past him, but his body is like a firm wall, blocking the exit. "My sons are not here. They are out there somewhere. I have to find them."

He studies her for a moment and she realizes he always does that. Watching her every move, studying her face as if he was trying to find something beneath, something she doesn't want to show him voluntarily. His undivided attention is as flattering as unsettling. Either way, now is not the time.

"Did you hear what I said? We have to go and look for them." She knows he won't let her go on her own. Alex Romero, sheriff and protector, her protector in particular.

"That's why I'm here," he says.

Norma doesn't understand. How does he know about her falling-out with Dylan and Norman? But it doesn't matter. "Fine, then let's go."

Alex raises one hand to hold her back. "No. I came here to check on you and tell you that Norman and Dylan are safe."

That makes her stop dead in her tracks. "You saw them?"

"Yes. They're in town, staying with Emma. A girl from Norman's class," he explains when he realizes Norma has never heard that name before. "She's a nice girl. I know her father. Dylan... he told me you had some kind of a fight and that you wanted them gone for today. They will be back tomorrow. When the storm is over."

Norma makes a face at his allusion. When the storm is over. Yeah, she got that. Alex experienced her temper first hand. She knows that he considers her to be responsible for any sudden changes of the weather in the Bates' household so to speak. It stings, though, that her sons apparently were willing to leave her alone despite the advancing storm.

"I told them I would look after you," Alex adds, reading her thoughts. He leaves out that Norman insisted to come with him to be with his mother and that it took all of Dylan's powers of persuasion to talk Norman into staying.

"Huh." Norma is not sure what to make out of this. She doesn't like it. However there is not much she can do about it, essentially nothing. Not with that storm outside. So… "Thank you for telling me."

There is an awkward moment when Alex realizes she expects him to leave. He had no plan when he met her sons and promised them to drive over but now that he's here, he has no intention to leave any time soon.

Norma narrows her eyes and tilts her head back. She knows what's going on. He certainly is not the first man stalling to spend more time with her.

"You could have just called me to tell me that," she states.

"The landlines are dead." It's true. The cell phones are still working though. So she's right. He could have called. But here he is.

To Alex's surprise, Norma lets it pass, turning around and taking off her coat.

"So, are you hungry?"

By now the rain has turned into a waterfall, the sky an angry black although it is only early evening. Alex has no idea how he is supposed to get back to town and he likes the imagination that he is stuck here with her. There are a lot of emergency calls during a storm, but he knows his team has it covered and will contact him if anything critical occurs.

"Some more?" Norma asks for what must be the forth time. She really wants to make sure he gets enough to eat.

"No, thank you. I'm full. That was delicious."

Her eyes light up and she gives him a full-blown smile. Obviously Norma loves to feed people. And she should. Her cooking skills are amazing. Alex can't help but smile back at her. Norma raises one eyebrow.

"Oh my God, you smiled! I thought your face was paralyzed."

Alex chuckles, shaking his head. "I do smile. My job just won't let me most of the time." It's more than just the job. She probably knows.

"Good thing you're taking a break then," Norma says, her expression getting serious again all of a sudden.

It reminds him of the evening she came to visit him. Norma Bates is unpredictable in any situation. It's one of the reasons why he is drawn to her. She keeps him on edge and he loves living on the edge. Maybe he eventually found his equal counterpart.

Norma clears her throat and stands up to clear the table, Alex helping her despite her efforts to stop him. It is a weird domestic moment he likes much more than he should.

"I faxed the form back to the Arizona PD," he says to break the silence that is starting to get uncomfortable. He probably shouldn't tell her that considering there is an ongoing investigation, but it feels as if they are way beyond that point.

"What did they want from you?" Norma is aware that it's about Sam's death. However she doesn't know about the details.

"Basically they want to find out whether you have been involved in any criminal activities since you moved here."

"So what did you tell them?" Norma is wary now, her posture tense. This is no longer a friendly dinner conversation.

Alex holds her gaze. "That there was nothing."


He can practically see her thoughts racing. What happened to Keith Summers. The fact that he questioned her regarding Matt Weary's death. That's not nothing. Norma is trying to understand why he did it, probably casting her mind back to the evening when she came to him, attempting to seduce him in order to help her. Just what he did now.

They have sat down at the kitchen table again, her fingers clenching and unclenching as she tries to figure out what to do next, what he expects.

"So… um… why did you do it?"

It hits him then. That she thinks he did it because she offered herself to him and that he is here now so that she can keep her end of the bargain. It's the perfect situation. Her sons gone. The storm trapping them together. The fact that he came over even though he could have just called.

Her chest rises and falls as she is waiting for him to make the next move. It's not fear in her eyes but some kind of acceptance that Alex can't bear to see, not when she associates it with him.

"Norma, no, I'm not here for that." Alex only realizes he reached out and took her hand when she flinches, trying to pull it away until his words sink in and she relaxes.


He hates how her voice sounds. Timid. Almost afraid. She is sitting at a table with a man who carries handcuffs and a gun after all. All of a sudden Alex becomes aware of where exactly they are sitting. Right at the table where Keith Summers raped her, cuffed her to it. He knows she is short of cash but this…

"Get up," he orders and the relaxed expression on Norma's face gives way to tension. "Why do you still have that table?" He shouldn't sound so reproachful; it's not her fault, however the realization that she kind of threw him into the same pot with Keith Summers, might have been as afraid of him as she was of that scumbag if only for a moment outrages him.

Norma doesn't understand what's going on, but she stands up and watches Alex lift the table, open the front door and throw it out right into the roaring storm.

"I'll buy you a new one," he states when he comes back into the kitchen. Norma hasn't said a word the entire time, has been watching him. "I'm not Keith Summers, Norma," Alex says. "If I help you, I do it because I want to and not because I expect you to offer me something in return."

For a split second he thinks she is going to cry or embrace him, but then she simply shrugs.

"I guess we should sit on the couch then."

"So, when you say that you can tell when somebody is lying, how do you do it?"

Alex has no idea how late it is. Or early for that matter. The bottle of wine standing on the floor next to the couch is half empty; he stopped pretending that he has plans to leave and Norma stopped pretending that she expects him to.

"I don't know. I just can."

Who would've thought that it is so interesting to talk to her? They have covered so many different topics during the last hours that he stopped counting. Something changed between them after he had thrown out the table, as if she decided that she for once doesn't have to be guarded in the presence of a man because she has nothing to fear.

"Ok." Norma's smirk is mischievous; she bites her lower lip in anticipation. "I have an older sister."

At first Alex thinks she is going to tell him about her family until he realizes she is testing him, his expression obviously so baffled that she starts to laugh.

"I don't have an older sister. That was a bad one. Let's try something else." She thinks about it, her eyes darkening. "I lost my virginity when I was 13."

"True." He doesn't hesitate and she is surprised, perhaps even a bit intimidated but attempts not to let it show.

"You're good. You should become sheriff or something," Norma jokes instead.

"You don't say." Alex is aware that Norma is not coming on to him, their banter more friendly than flirtatious. He tries to keep it that way since she seems to be comfortable with it, and attraction aside, he also feels comfortable in her presence, more than with any other woman he has met before actually.

"My favorite color is red."

And then she says things like that and his mind immediately provides him with images of her wearing something red, something she wouldn't even like to wear, at least not the color as he knows now because...

"False." This is fun. Alex can't read people, just has a good instinct, but he has almost convinced her that he can.

Norma's eyes rest on his face reflecting a mix of disbelief and amazement. Albeit she licks her lips in anticipation, he knows she is not flirting with him, just enjoying the moment. And yet, ever since he kissed her, knows what she tastes like, there is no going back. He wants more. Alex takes another sip of wine, wondering what it tastes like on her tongue.

"I love to watch old movies," Norma lowers her voice as she continues the game, whatever it is that happens between them right now.

Perhaps the storm sucked them into a parallel space-time-continuum so that they can find out what they are to each other undisturbed by anything or anyone from the real world. As far as Alex is concerned, he would like to stay forever.

"True," he says, expecting her to retort with another witty reply, but she just keeps looking at him.

"Why did you do it?"

"That's a statement not a question." The way she is looking at him, Alex knows what she is talking about immediately though. That he could have given the Arizona PD another information, but he didn't. He considers making something up along the lines of that it was the right decision given the circumstances when all of a sudden honesty feels like the easiest of all options, as if the storm cleared the air and washed all the lies and pretenses away. "Because I might not know everything about you, but I know enough to be sure that you didn't do anything wrong and I don't want you to get in trouble. Because there is something about you I can't resist. Something that brought me here tonight."

Once more Norma doesn't reply, just keeps staring at him, and for a moment, Alex fears he revealed too much.

"Do you ever have the feeling that you've had the same nightmare over and over again but that you can't remember it? You just remember the feeling of it."

He has no idea what she is talking about.

"I have blackouts," Norma clarifies.

The game is over. This is no test. This is a confession.


She breaks eye contact. "Forget it. It was just..."

"No, it was not." Alex takes hold of her under her chin to make her look at him again. "Tell me. Tell me everything."

Norma didn't expect it to be such a relief. She feels as if a burden has been lifted from her shoulders. Literally. Perhaps it is a mistake to confide in Alex, but what happened between her and her sons today showed her once more that in the end we are all alone. She has to help herself or find someone who helps her. And who better than the sheriff who has fallen for her? So what if she has fallen for him too? Luck and happiness can't be something only other people experience, right? He helped her during that awful night, protected her from the Arizona PD, hell he will buy her a new table just because he can't stand to be reminded of what happened to her. And she knows he will. Alex Romero may be a lot of things, but he is a man of his word. Therefore this can't be completely wrong.

"You really should go and see a doctor about this," Alex says concerned afterwards, his fingers brushing hers. Sometime while she was telling him everything, he reached out and touched her hand. She held on to it and neither of them have let go since then.

Norma shrugs. "I can't. I have no insurance, no money and what if there is something wrong with me and they take Norman away?"

"I'll give you the money. Or I'll give you a loan and you can pay me back," Alex corrects himself when he sees the refusal on her face. Norma is too proud to just take money from him.

"I'll never be able to pay you back," she states.

"Then we'll find another way."


"Norma, you have to..."

"Stop." She puts one finger against his lips. "You need to stop talking about money."


"Because I don't want you to think I'm doing this to get your money." Norma leans forward to kiss him.

Alex enjoyed her company, restrained himself to make this an evening between friends and nothing more, but now that she crossed the line, there is no reason to hold himself back any longer. He is aware that he is kissing her too hard, pulls her towards him too roughly, but she is a willing participant until…

Norma breaks their kiss and leans away from him. If she tells him to leave now, he will run out into the storm and scream his head off in frustration.

"I want this," she breathes. "But I need it to be gentle. Please. Can you be gentle?"

It breaks his heart to hear her ask for it. Here she is, this beautiful, broken woman that is still standing despite everything life has thrown in her way and she trusts him enough to hand herself over to him.

"Of course, Norma. Anything you want."

He kisses her again, softer this time, and feels her visibly relax in his arms, her tongue caressing his with relish. It's not as passionate as their kiss before although Alex can tell she is a passionate woman, but tonight, right in this moment she needs something else and he will give it to her.

As if on cue the lights go out, the power gone. Alex can't help but let out a frustrated growl when she stands up to get some candles.

"Don't complain," Norma murmurs after she lighted them and has come back to remain standing right in front of him. "The candle light will make this even better."

Alex highly doubts that she would have looked less beautiful with the regular lights on, but she is right, there is no reason to complain as she unbuttons her blouse and takes it off, joining him on the couch in nothing but her bra and skirt.

"Touch me," she whispers, putting his hand on her breast when she senses he wants her to set the pace. And Alex is eager to comply, exploring how this makes her writhe and that makes her moan.

They are beyond words when his lips caress her skin, starting out at her collar bone, kissing his way over her breasts while pushing the cups of her bra down in the process, savoring the taste of her nipples, before moving downwards across her lower abdomen. Alex pushes her skirt up, feeling the tension creep into her body. It's something he doesn't usually do when he is with a woman for a first time, but with Norma he wants it all.

"Alex, you don't have to..."

"Just let me for a moment, ok? I'll be gentle, I promise."

A shiver floods through her body and he can't tell whether it's plain arousal or something else, something deeper felt.

Norma is wearing cotton panties that are entirely unsexy since she didn't dress for the occasion but very sweet and very soaked. Alex doesn't push them out of the way, just kisses her through the fabric, his lips tenderly teasing her sensitive flesh. When his tongue prods her center still through the fabric, she arches up almost violently so that he has to press her hips down. He could get used to gentle.

Her hands pull him up, arousal and impatience defeating his sensual journey.

"Take it off," Norma breathes, tugging at his shirt before her hands drop to his belt.

And then it's skin on skin. Alex is trying to move at a slow pace to make it last as their hips meet in an unsteady rhythm first before their bodies become more acquainted with each other. The storm outside. The candle light. Norma moaning and writhing under him. This feels like a dream. When she turns her face away, desire taking her to another place, Alex gently touches her cheek to make her look at him as a reminder that this is real. He never cared before. Sex was an urge that needed to be satisfied, but this is different.

"I want to see you," he mutters, feeling her inner muscles contract around him as a forerunner of her release when she hears his words because of everything they imply.

Norma holds his gaze as Alex slides one hand between their bodies and caresses her, more brushing than actually touching as he tries to prolong her pleasure, keeping both of them on the edge while he pushes into her agonizingly slow yet deeper with every stroke. He would like to stay there, right in this moment of utter perfection, getting lost in her eyes, the feel of her lips, her breath on his face. But he knows it will be over much too soon, senses the pull in his groin as her breathing gets more and more erratic and her moans louder. Then Norma closes her eyes, her body going rigid for a moment before she arches up and comes so hard, tightening around him, that he follows her immediately afterwards.

They are not aware of the shadow watching them, a dark outline silently slipping out of the house.

Chapter Text

Alex expected it to be odd. The morning after always is. But not with her.

Not when she comes down the stairs and her smile lights up the entire room.

"Good morning."

Is it okay if you sleep down here? she whispered in his ear the previous evening when they were about to fall asleep on the couch. I don't want you to leave. We drank too much and it's still dangerous outside, but you sleeping in my bed… it would be too much. And the couch is way too small for both of us to sleep on it.

Of course he was okay with it. He would have slept on the floor if it meant she let him stay.

Not when she makes him breakfast and he steals the one or other kiss in between.

"I'm not sorry about what happened."

"Okay. I'm not either."

And not after he took a quick shower and she suddenly appears in the doorframe, watching him.

"You're awfully pretty."

He frowns, towel in hand, water drops dripping off his body on the floor. No woman has ever said that to him. Not with these words.

"I'm… I'm not sure what to say."

She steps closer. "Do you have to leave already? The street looks as if it is not passable yet." Meaning her sons won't be here any time soon. She leans into him.

"Norma, you're going to get wet."

She slowly pulls away the towel, eyeing his naked body up. Her pupils are dilated, her smile predatory.

"I don't mind," she whispers.

When she kisses him, it is not gentle like the night before. Not gentle at all.

Norma sighs. Her sons are moody. Both of them. They came back in the early afternoon, not long after Alex had left. Dylan at least said hello to her, but Norman basically ignored her, walked past her with a curt nod. They disappeared in their respective rooms, leaving the house silent, the atmosphere just as tense as it was when she threw them out. Norma looked forward to having them back despite their argument. Not like this though. It doesn't feel good; she has to do something about it.

She knocks on Dylan's door first. For some reason, Norma is more inclined to talk and re-bond with him than with Norman. Ever since Dylan helped her when she got sick, it feels as if she could rely on him if she only allowed herself to do so. Maybe the time has come.

"Are you hungry?" She sticks her head in at the door. "I could make us dinner but since no one seems to be interested in talking to me anymore..." Norma shrugs as though the situation didn't affect her, aware that her words sounded like an accusation. That wasn't her intention; however she can't help it. It just comes out whenever she talks to her firstborn.

Dylan was lying on the bed, reading, and sat up when she opened the door.

"Norma, I'm sorry," he blurts out, not even sure what he is apologizing for. It was Norman who betrayed her confidence by telling him about her blackouts. And it was Norma who preferred to drink the lemonade he brought her instead of Norman's tea. He was just caught in the middle, as always. And yet, it feels as if what happened was his fault. As always again.

These are their roles. She blames him and he defends himself or blames her too, depending on his mood. Something has changed between them. That doesn't mean, though, that they are able to break this cycle at a moment's notice. Norma sits down on the bed next to him. It hurts when he imperceptibly flinches because they are not used to being close to each other in every respect albeit she knows it's essentially her fault due to the way she raised him.

"You didn't do anything, Dylan," she assures him. "Norman, is just… He is different. A very sweet boy but very sensible. He feels too much. Sometimes it gets to him and he overreacts."

"Okay." Dylan nods. What else is he supposed to say? His mother is sitting right next to him, talking to him as in really talking to him, not yelling at him, not blaming him for something. Just talking in that soft voice that usually is reserved for his brother. It makes him say the strangest things, something he never would have thought he'd hear himself say to her. "I'm going to help you. You just have to tell me what to do."

Norma smiles and leans forward to kiss him on the cheek. "Just give him time. He'll come around. I'll make you a sandwich, okay? I guess none of us is in the mood to have dinner today. Let's give each other some space. Tomorrow is a new day and everything will be better."

"Yes, sure," Dylan pretends to agree although he would have liked to have dinner with his mother and his brother for once. He puts emphasis on his cool appearance, but the times they had a nice family dinner together can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and aside from everything that is going on, the idea of having a family is comforting.

"Norma?" She is about to leave and stops, turning around to look at him. "What about these blackouts?" He had a lot of time thinking about it when they spent the night at the place of Norman's classmate. The howling storm wouldn't let them sleep, anyway, and the possibility that Norma might be seriously ill worries him much more than he would admit to anyone.

A shadow flits across her face before Norma slaps her smile back on. "It's nothing. I haven't had them for a while now. It probably just was a depressed phase or something." She shrugs it off like she does it with everything that doesn't fit into her plan of a perfect life. Norma is so good at lying that Dylan catches himself smiling back at her, reassured by her pretense.

After she left, Dylan remains sitting on his bed, staring at the closed door, his cheek burning where she kissed him. Something is always about to go wrong in Norma's life sooner or later. The only question is whether he will be there when it happens or will have got lost before like he always does.

"Hi, honey. How are you feeling? Are you hungry?"

Norman didn't react when she knocked on his door; therefore Norma entered the room without further ado. He was sitting at his desk, doing… nothing as far as she could tell. Just sitting there and staring into space.

"Don't be mad that I threw you out. I was angry because you told Dylan about my blackouts, but he's your brother and you needed to talk to someone. I understand that. And I'm not angry anymore."

Only now Norman seems to notice her presence or acknowledge it, the mood of a teenage boy volatile, so who can tell. When he looks at Norma, the distance and cold in his eyes catch her off guard. Then he composes himself and the Norman she knows and loves is back, smiling at her.

"I'm not mad at you anymore either, mother. I'm sorry for the trouble Dylan and I caused. It was stupid." Their fight about who is allowed to cater for her, whether she prefers tea or lemonade.

Norma snorts relieved. "Yes, it was."

Their eyes meet and they both chuckle. This is her son, her everything. They can never be angry with each other for long.

"I'm going to make Dylan a sandwich. Do you want one too? We'll skip dinner today, but you have to eat something. You can come over to my room and we'll watch a movie together."

Norman starts to nod before his smile disappears, his expression thoughtful all of a sudden. "I think I'll rather stay in my room tonight."

"Norman… You don't need to punish yourself because of what happened. It's over. Done."

"I know, mother. It's just that I'm really tired. I didn't sleep well last night. The storm…" Something feels off about his words and him in general. However Norma can't pinpoint what it is. Maybe he really didn't get enough sleep, maybe there is still something wrong between him and Dylan. She'll find out tomorrow. For today she has calmed the waves sufficiently.

Norma kisses her youngest son on the corner of his mouth as she always does. "Okay. I'll get your sandwich and then you can go to sleep early." She will probably do the same since she didn't get much sleep last night either. Norma blushes when she remembers the reason why, turning away from Norman so that he doesn't notice.

She has almost left the room when she hears her son's voice behind her. "Oh, I meant to ask you. Was someone else here last night?"

Norma freezes. "Why?"

"Because there were two used towels in the bathroom on the floor."

Crap! She forgot to put them in the laundry. After her encounter in the morning with Alex, she needed another shower too.

Norma turns around, trying to act casually. "Of course not. One of the windows leaked and some rain came in. I needed the towels to wipe up and forgot to put them away."

She walks out and rushes to the bathroom, picking the towels up from the floor. One of them still faintly smells like Alex. Norma can't help but smile wistfully, getting lost in memories for a moment before she scolds herself. How could she forget to put them away before her sons came home? And when will she see Alex again? She stares at her reflection in the mirror. Don't make a big thing out of it, she reminds herself. Despite their closeness, last night probably only was about sex. She can't even say what it meant to her. So why would it have meant something to him? He's just a man and men are all the same; she knows that. Norma buries her face in the towel Alex used and inhales deeply. Then she puts it in the laundry basket.

Just when Norma is downstairs a couple of minutes later, preparing the sandwiches for her sons, there is a knock on the front door. She walks across the kitchen, realizing that neither Dylan nor Norman has said something about the missing kitchen table. Perhaps they haven't even noticed it yet. And when they do, perhaps they will believe she got rid of the table because she was fed up with it since she likes to rearrange things. Preoccupied with her thoughts Norma opens the door to find Alex standing outside.

"You should check who it is before you open the door," he states.

"It's you," she retorts. Norma is surprised and happy. Very happy. She feels her facial muscles twitch as her smile gets more and more beaming and she has to suppress the urge to throw herself in his arms, her body aching to be close to his. However she doesn't do it because his expression is noncommittal at best, his posture tense. Her smile fades. "What is it?" There is only one reason why he would come over looking at her like that. Norma pulls herself together. "Look. If this is about last night, then you don't have to worry. I don't expect anything from you. I..."

"Norma..." Alex raises a hand to stop her and takes a step forward, making her step back thereby so that they are both standing in the vestibule. Then he reaches past her to close the door that connects the vestibule with the house before he closes the front door behind him.

She didn't turn on the lights. It feels strangely intimate to be so close to him in the dark, trapped in such a tight space.

"That's not why I'm here," Alex says. "I mean, I'm here because of what happened last night, but not because I want to end it."

"Then why are you here?"

He hesitates briefly. "Because I couldn't stop thinking of you all day. Because I wanted to call you and then realized it wouldn't be enough." Alex has begun to touch her, one hand at her waist, one at her neck. "Because I need to..."

Norma kisses him before he is able to finish the sentence. They stumble against the wall when he kisses her back, pulling her in his arms, his lips moving down to her neck, then back to her mouth, his hands pushing the hem of her blouse up to touch bare skin.

"Alex, wait. We can't..." She gently puts her hands against his chest to stop him. "My sons are here."

"We'll be quick and quiet."

Later Alex won't believe that he actually said that to her, but in that moment his desire outweighs anything else. All he can think about is that every fiber of his body longs to recreate what he felt the previous night and in the morning. Although to be fair, what happens next will feel even more surreal in hindsight.

In the dark, he is not able to make out the details of Norma's face, only the outline, but oh how he wishes he could see the look in her eyes right when her hands tug at his belt and unzip his pants before she changes their positions so that he is the one with his back against the wall.

"Norma, what are you..."

But she already got on her knees, and before Alex is able to process what is going on, he feels her lips and tongue on him and has to push his fist against his mouth to suppress the moan that is building in his throat. Quick – probably. Quiet – not so much. With the pleasure comes the guilt though. He didn't stop by to make her satisfy his needs.

"Norma," Alex pants just as her hands and lips find the perfect rhythm. "You… don't… have… to..." It takes tremendous effort to remember the words and get them out while she is squeezing and stroking and licking.

She pauses and he hears a mumbled, "Shut up," the arousal unmistakeable even in her whisper before he gives up and gives in. If she wants this as much as he does, he might as well enjoy the hell out of it.

Alex's fingers gently caress Norma's face and she turns her head a little, letting her tongue slide over them, the sensuality of this simple act sending new waves of arousal through his entire body. It is becoming difficult to remain standing, his thighs trembling with the effort to refrain from pushing into her mouth. This is heaven and hell equally, Norma's quiet sighs adding to the sensation. Alex fumbles around for something to hold on to and steady himself, but there is nothing. Therefore he ends up half turned around, pressing the side of his face into the wall. She is either going to kill him or give him the best release of his life. Norma's tongue alternately teases his shaft and circles around its top before she reaches around him, grabbing his ass with both hands and taking him all in.

This is it. "I'm going to…," Alex tries to warn her, but it's too late and she obviously doesn't mind, his fingers in her hair, his hips gently rocking because not moving has become an impossible task.

It takes him a moment to come back to himself. When he does, Alex realizes that Norma has already stood up. He fixes his clothes, suddenly embarrassed as she casually wipes her mouth with the back of her hand before she leans forward to kiss him fleetingly.

"You have to go now." Before Alex is able to process what she said, let alone respond, Norma disappears inside the house, closing the door behind her.

The situation is weird to say the least. He doesn't want to leave like that, but he also doesn't want to follow her inside when she made clear that she doesn't want that.

Only when Alex is sitting in his car, asking himself what the hell just happened, he becomes aware that he can't tell whether Norma did it simply because she was overwhelmed by the moment and her desire like he was or because she wanted to convince him and herself that their relationship actually is only about sex as she had implied earlier. He stares at the illuminated windows of the house, envying her sons that are allowed to spend time with her. He takes his time until he starts the engine and drives away.

"Your sandwich, honey."

Norman comes to the door and takes the plate.

"Thank you, mother." He studies her, and for a brief moment, Norma fears he can see what she did, has to stop herself from smoothing down her blouse and skirt. Then the moment is over and Norman turns around, walking back into his room.

"Sleep well, hon…," she starts, but his words interrupt her.

"Which window was it?" Norman doesn't turn back around, continues to walk towards his bed and puts the plate down on his nightstand.

Norma doesn't understand.

"The window that leaked," he explains, eventually looking at her. "The one you needed the towels for. Which one was it?"

She hesitates and then distorts her mouth to cover her insecurity. "One of those." Norma gestures towards the windows in the upper hallway. "Don't worry about it. It's all good now. Enjoy your meal. Goodnight, honey!"

Norma knows her voice sounded unimpressed. She has perfected the art to function in difficult situations. Her heart is racing though when she turns away abruptly and goes to her room. Why can't she tell Norman what happened with Alex? Because. Because of that one thing they never talk about but both are constantly aware of. She is his mother but for him, she is so much more and Norman has never liked to share.

Just when Norma has closed the door of her room behind her and Norman is about to close his, he spots Dylan standing in the doorframe.

"Were you gone in between last night?" he asks. "I woke up and you weren't there."

Norman shrugs. "I was outside for a bit, couldn't sleep."

"Out in the storm?"

They stare at each other. Dylan expects his younger brother to give in and look away, but Norman holds his gaze.

"Goodnight, Dylan."

But Dylan is not finished yet. "You went here to check on her," his voice is an angry whisper so as to not draw Norma's attention to her sons having another argument.

He might be wrong; Norman only might have been outside for a while as he told him. Deep down Dylan knows, though, that it's the truth. He watched Norman grow up, saw the bond between him and Norma build and become stronger every day. But now Norman is older and his and Norma's bond has turned into something dark, an unhealthy obsession. His brother didn't walk through a storm to simply make sure their mother was okay. That was one reason; however the other was that they had met the sheriff who had assured them he would look after Norma and let her know they were all right. The idea of Norma alone with another man tormented Norman enough to risk his life.

It's time to take the gloves off. "I see how you look at her," Dylan dares his brother.

This finally gets him a reaction. Norman's eyes darken, his mouth a thin, enraged line. Yet, he doesn't say anything.

"I saw you lingering right there when she changed her clothes." Dylan points at the door to Norma's room. "That's not normal." He contorts his face. "She might be crazy, but you need to stop that."

More rage reflected on Norman's face until it goes blank.

"Mind your own business," he says, his constrained voice the only implication that the situation is getting to him. "You will never understand the cord between me and her."

"The cord? What are you talking about?"

But Norman has already closed his door and Dylan knows he can't take this any further without Norma overhearing their fight.

He looks at the half eaten sandwich in his hand. Suddenly he is not hungry anymore. Maybe he should just pack his stuff and leave.


Chapter Text

Norma knows Alex will contact her after what happened between them, especially after their encounter on the previous evening. His text messages start around noon.

Can we talk?

They should, but she wouldn't know what to say. Her feelings confuse her. Would it be advantageous to be in a relationship with the sheriff since he is one of the most powerful men of White Pine Bay, if not the most powerful? Yes, it would, for sure. Astonishingly enough this is not the first thing that comes to Norma's mind when she thinks of Alex though. He is different than any other man she has been with before and that makes her feel different about him. She wants… him, the fact that he is the sheriff only of secondary importance, but whenever she tries to imagine a scenario of Alex, her and her sons, Norman in particular, her mind comes up blank as if it was preposterous of her to believe it could work. Norma rubs her temple, trying to figure out her conflicting emotions as her phone buzzes again.

I feel terrible about what happened. That's not why I came over.

Confirming her suspicion that Alex wants more than to hook up with her occasionally. In a way it would make things a lot easier if he wanted just that. Norma sighs and puts her phone away.

"Hey, there you are."

Norma went grocery shopping to distract herself after Alex's messages. When she comes back, she finds Dylan and Norman in the kitchen. They fall silent the moment she enters the room as though she interrupted them in the middle of an argument.

"What is it?" Norma asks.

"Nothing," Dylan replies as Norman mumbles something that probably is supposed to mean the same.

Norma looks back and forth between her sons. "Ok then, feel free to tell me what's going on..." She starts putting the groceries away, adding, "...or not," when they don't react.

"Was someone here last night?" Norman asks out of the blue.

"Why would you ask that?" Norma answers his question with a question, unpacking the groceries without interruption, her tone of voice casual. "No," she eventually says when Norman doesn't respond. "There was no one here. What do you want for dinner? Turkey pot pie or something else?"

Norma turns around, only now noticing the way Norman is looking at her, the coldness in his eyes so unfamiliar that he doesn't even resemble the son she knows and loves. Then Norman smiles at her and steps closer, helping her unpack.

"I just thought I heard something, but I must have been mistaken."

Over Norman's shoulder, Norma looks at Dylan who raises his eyebrows in a don't ask me what's going on kind of way.

"So… turkey pot pie it is?" she asks when they have put the groceries away. It's one of Norman's favorite meals.

"I'm not hungry, mother," Norman states to her surprise though. "I'll go to my room." He kisses her on the cheek and leaves. Friendly but too polite, a distant version of himself.

Norma can't tell whether it angers or scares her. Either way, she shrugs it off. There is too much going on. She can't let every little mood swing of her sons get to her.

"What about you?" she addresses Dylan.

"I'm about to go to town and meet some guys. I'll eat something there, don't bother." It's obvious that the idea of having dinner alone with Norma makes him uncomfortable.

"Fine." Norma closes the door of the refrigerator too forcefully.

"Norma..." Dylan takes a step towards her, reaching out to soothe her before he changes his mind and lowers his arm. "Look… I won't be here for much longer. These guys, I'm going to meet? They offered me a job. It will be good money and as soon as I will have saved up a bit, I'll leave."

"What kind of job did they offer you?"

He only shakes his head. Don't ask.

"I don't like that, Dylan."

But he has already walked past her on his way out.


Her answer is the front door that closes behind him.

This is just great. Both of her sons apparently decided to shut her out. Arms akimbo, Norma tilts her head back and takes a deep breath, the house feeling much too big and much too silent all of a sudden.

When Norma goes to bed later, she checks her phone. Another message from Alex.

I need to talk to you. Please.

For a brief moment, the urge to call him and hear is voice is overwhelming. He would talk to her, comfort her; Norma feels certain about that. Her finger hovers over the call button before she puts the phone down on her nightstand. Not now. This has to wait. She has to handle the weird atmosphere between her and her sons first.

The next day, Norma wants to talk to Norman after school, but he doesn't come home until four hours later. On any other day she would have called the police. Considering the way he has been behaving lately, she knew, though, that it was just another thing he did to hurt her although she doesn't understand why he would feel the need to do so.

"Norman?" Her voice stops him on his way upstairs after he sneaked in. She is sitting in the living room, has been reading the same page of her book for the last two hours, the letters a blur because all she could focus on was hoping to hear his steps outside.

He approaches her slowly, hesitating before he sits down next to her.

Norma feels the almost magnetic pull; they are close but not close enough. Usually they are hugging or touching in some way when they are on the couch together, watching an old movie or just talking, the space between them odd like a foreign object that doesn't belong in the room.

Then Norman reaches out to touch her arm, tugging at her sleeve like a child to make her look at him.

"I'm sorry, mother." He tears up. "I didn't mean to hurt you or make you worry about me. It's just that..." He falls silent.

"It's just what, Norman?"

"It's just that so much has happened lately. The man you killed in self-defense and your blackouts. I'm always worried about you." He almost starts to cry, leaning into her so that Norma can finally take her son in her arms.

"Shhhh…" She rocks him gently. "It's all gonna be good." He's still a teenager and very sensitive. In the middle of recent events, Dylan's sudden appearance, her health problems and this thing between her and Alex, whatever it is, she almost forgot that.

They hug some more, talk some more and it feels good, like old times.

Alex gave Norma a 24 hours break, obviously accepting the unspoken or rather unsent but nevertheless clear message from her that she needs time to think about things. She didn't believe he would forget about it, just hoped he would give her more than only one day. So when her phone rings and his name comes up on the display, Norma doesn't answer, the beep afterwards informing her that he left a voicemail. What else did she expect? That a man like Alex Romero would simply give up?

It's me. Alex. As if she wouldn't recognize his voice. Please give me a call.

And a couple of hours later...

Norma, it's me. If we are not… If you don't want it to be… He starts and stops, eventually pausing for a longer moment and she can only guess where his thoughts might have wandered. To the moment in her vestibule? To the night before? The morning after? Because her thoughts wander there all the time. I just want to understand. And then the line goes dead.

It hurts when she listens to his message, to the sadness in his voice. Why do relationships have to be so complicated? Again, Norma considers calling Alex, and again, she doesn't do it, her talk with Norman from the day before still on her mind. Norman is so confused already. He wouldn't handle a new man in her life well, not that soon after his father died and they moved. It's too much. She has to give him more time.

Count on Alex to up the ante though. When she lets his next call go to voicemail once more, he is barely able to suppress his anger.

If you don't call me back, I'll come over after work. And I won't leave until we talked, no matter who is there with you and no matter who you don't want to know about us.

Not only she has a temper; Alex Romero has one too. She knew it, heard rumors in town about him save that he didn't reveal it in her presence until now. Norma knows a threat she has to take seriously when she hears one. She dials his number, rather flattered than upset. Maybe she just wanted to see how far he would go to make her listen to him.

"Can we talk?" she asks instead of a greeting when he answers after the first ring.

"I don't know, Norma, can we?"

She deserves his anger. "I'm sorry, Alex," Norma hears herself say. Now where did that come from? But then she realizes that her apology was sincere. She is sorry. She does want to talk to him.

Her words encounter his silence at the other end of the line.

"We shouldn't do this on the phone," he then says.

"Yes, we should," she disagrees.

"Why?" Still angry.

She knows why, but the words are stuck in her throat.

"Why, Norma?"

"Because if you were here, we wouldn't talk," she whispers. Alex has that effect on her. Merely hearing his voice makes her remember everything that happened between them in vivid detail, her body reacting.

It takes him a moment to understand.

"I need to see you, Norma," his voice is raw with need. Apparently she has the same effect on him.

She clears her throat. "Give me a few days, Alex. The situation with my sons… It's complicated. I need to figure some things out first, ok?"

There is a pause while he probably is trying to assess whether she is stalling for time or not.

"I'm not putting you off, Alex." It's true. The longer she talks to him, the harder it gets to deny the obvious. To be honest, she would prefer to deny it if it was possible, but they are beyond that point; the realization has been sinking in since he answered her call. Norma swallows. "I want this, Alex. Us," she admits, lowering her voice to a whisper again, the words holding a meaning so deep that it scares her. "Just give me a little more time."

Another pause.

"Can I text you?"

She giggles. "If you don't expect me to answer every time. You're quite chatty, Sheriff."

Norma isn't sure, but it sounded as if he chuckled. "Ok. Bye, Norma."

"Bye, Alex." She misses his voice already.

Norma is upstairs folding laundry when she hears the front door and recognizes Dylan's steps in the kitchen. He is rarely home anymore. Ever since he went to meet those dubious guys in town, she hasn't seen him. Sometimes his bed looks as if he slept in it, but she never hears him come home at night or leave in the morning. This is her chance to talk to him to clear the air, just like she talked to Norman.

"Dylan?" she shouts. "Come up here."

Dylan's clothes are stained with dirt, his shoes muddy. Due to his new job; Norma is sure of that, but she bites back the need to ask what it is that he actually does.

"Can we talk?"

"Sure." Dylan is playing it cool, as always. He looks around. "Where's Norman?"

"Down at the motel. Dylan, I wanted to talk to you about what you said. That you want to leave."

"Yeah?" His tone indifferent while his eyes are searching her face.

Norma puts the laundry down. "Maybe you shouldn't." She realized that after she had talked to Alex. There used to be a time when she barely could stand to be in a room with her firstborn. He was a difficult child, a rebellious teenager, but things have changed. These days, the awareness of him being somewhere out of her reach, most likely mingling with the wrong people would weigh heavily on her.

Dylan stares at her as if he can't believe she said what she just said. "No?" he then grates, trying to hide how much this affects him to no avail.

"No." Norma smiles at him. "We have enough space; it's a big house. And there is still so much work to do at the motel and here. Plus I think it's good for Norman. You know, so that he's not the only man living here." She twists her mouth in a half smile, half grimace while hunching her shoulders, the mix of facial expression and posture her trademark when she is trying to sell something important in passing.

Dylan stares at her until it makes her uncomfortable. "What about you?" he then asks.

"What about me?"

"Do you want me to stay?"

"As I said, there's still a lot of work to do at the motel..."

"...and here in the house, yeah yeah, and it's good for Norman, but what about you?"

Norma's smile turns wistful. "You helped me when I was sick. We haven't been on good terms, Dylan. Maybe not ever, but it has been feeling different lately. So yeah, I want you to stay. That's why I asked."

Dylan clenches his teeth, and for a moment, Norma thinks he will tear up or hug her. Instead he announces, "I'll pay you rent."

"Ok." The motel doesn't make any money yet. She needs every dollar for the renovation.

They look at each other for another moment before he turns around to go to his room.

"And take off these dirty shoes, Dylan. For God's sake. You're ruining my carpet," her tone is condescending. Norma loves this bedraggled, vintage house as if it was a castle. Dylan stops with his back turned on her so that she can't see he is smiling fondly when he does as told. "And put your dirty clothes in the laundry. I'll wash them later," Norma huffs as if she didn't enjoy this. No matter how old her sons are; she will always boss them around.

She starts to hum when she walks down the stairs. Tonight she will make her sons her famous turkey pot pie, come what may.

Things seem to be fine between Norma and her sons, at least more or less. Despite her hope that it would be good for Norman to have another man in the house, there is tension between her sons. For now, Norma is happy, though, that she is on good terms with them. The rest will work itself out over time; she is confident of that.

The one thing marring her mood is that she has been feeling nauseated again lately. Thankfully there have been no blackouts, but there is this voice in her head reminding her that they only haven't happened yet since it always was the same in the past. First the sickness, then the blackouts.

Aside from that, Norma misses Alex all the time. When they have dinner, she imagines him sitting at the table with them, raising his glass to her. When she wakes up, she imagines him lying in bed with her, giving her a good morning kiss. And when she goes to sleep she imagines things that make her wish she wasn't alone with her fantasies.

When will be the right time to let her sons know about him? Well, Norman. Dylan won't really care. One more week? Two? Norman has been acting quite ordinary lately; so maybe he has recovered enough to process the information. If it was up to her, she would tell them right now.

It's been a week that Norma hasn't seen Alex. Eight days to be exact, not that she's counting. His text messages have gone from sweet Good morning. I hope you slept well. over funny I arrested two really bad guys. So how was your day? to contemplative Thinking of you. I miss you. and finally to… Just took a shower. Would've been more fun if you had been with me. His absence is like the fourth person in the house. Someone that is supposed to live with them and just left for a while. Norma has never felt something like that for a man before. Quite the contrary. She always was relieved when her former husbands were not at home. With Alex everything is different. It's scary and exciting and makes her constantly wonder whether it's a delusion or real. After a couple of more days, Norma can't stand it any longer. She needs to know what this is between Alex and her.

Norma is sitting in her car in front of Alex's house, waiting for him. By now, she knows his daily schedule. If there was no emergency, he will be home soon. She bites her lower lip. Every minute that passes without him showing up, makes her more insecure. What if he doesn't come home? What if he is with another woman right now and all that texting was just to make sure she would remain available to him? Or even worse, what if he came home, bringing another woman with him? It would be so embarrassing if they saw her.

Just when Norma is about to leave, Alex's squad car approaches. As soon as she has made out that he is alone, Norma walks up to the car, hopping in the moment he turns off the engine.

"Hey. What a nice surprise." Alex looks at her, grinning broadly.

"Hey." She felt the urge to come and see him but now that she's there, Norma doesn't know what to say.

He senses something is going on and takes her hand. How does he always know what she needs? Anything else would have been too much. So he does this and it feels just right.

"Why do you have this magical ability to make me feel calm?"

"I'm not magical."

But it feels as if he is, his fingers gently caressing the back of her hand. Norma can't stop looking at his lips. He is such a good kisser. She wonders whether some woman told him that before, probably yes. His lips can do other wonderful things too.

Norma leans forward and Alex meets her halfway. Kissing him is like coming home, a moan or rather relieved sigh building in her throat. The kiss remains soft though, not turning into the passionate encounter she expected it to be, his lips breaking away from hers much too soon.

"How are you?" Alex asks, one of his hands gently encompassing the side of her face as she snuggles into it. These hands feel like they were able to protect her against the rest of the world. "What about your blackouts? Did you have another one?"

So that's why he was holding himself back. Because he needs to know that first.

"I'm fine."

The fact that she averts her eyes and even leans away from him telling him that she's not.


She sighs exasperated. She didn't come here to talk about her blackouts or her health in general. "Just feeling a little nauseated now and then," she admits reluctantly. "But no more blackouts. I'm fine." Emphasizing the last word doesn't make it more believable.

"I could give you the address of a doctor I know."

Norma is on the brink of jumping out of his car and driving home. She wants protective, but she doesn't want to be treated condescendingly. Albeit she knows it's not his intention, it feels like it.

"We've been there, Alex. I don't have the money and I have no insurance."

"And I told you that I would give you the money. Or lend you," he adds when she darts an angry glance at him.

Norma opens the door to get out just as Alex reaches out his hand and slams the door shut again, a tense silence following his action.

"You can't ignore what's going on with you," Alex states calmly.

Norma still seethes. "I'm not. I just need to do it my way." Which means ignoring it; they both know that, but either he accepts it, at least for now, or she will leave.

"Okay," Alex gives in after a long pause. "Just know that I'm here for you and that my offer stands."

He stares out of the windshield. Looking at her would be too painful, the fear that she could be seriously ill, that this could be over before it even began eating away at him. Then he feels her hand touching his in an almost timid way.

"Okay. Thank you."

This is Norma Bates, an endless cycle of push and pull, and when he finally looks at her again, Alex knows that no matter how often she will push him away, he will be there whenever she needs him, one look into her mesmerizing eyes enough to make him forget everything else. Like now.

"Do you want to come inside?" he asks.

Norma's glance darts back and forth between his front door and his face.

"I don't know," she eventually says, the idea of being in his house with him feeling like a decision too far-reaching to make it right away.

Alex nods. To her surprise he doesn't seem to be offended.

"Then what do we do now?" he wants to know.

He didn't need to ask, the atmosphere despite their argument charged with their longing for each other. Whether they are inside or not, this is what is going to happen next, Alex's house fortunately secluded, no curious neighbors able to watch them.

Alex reaches out to touch her knee. Norma is wearing a dress underneath her burgundy coat and no pantyhose since it's still warm enough, or maybe it's not, but it felt like the right choice considering where she was going. His fingers draw lazy circles on her skin, now and then taking a detour to the inside of her thigh. It makes her feel everything she has been missing since she saw him for the last time. Norma closes her eyes, writhing like a lazy cat in the sun when he moves his hand just a bit higher.

Then he stops.

Norma opens her eyes. "What?"

"You didn't do it to make it all about sex and push me away. You did it because you wanted it." It's a statement not a question, it referring to the evening he came to see her and they ended up in her vestibule.

"Yes." Norma confirms his words. It was about sex, but for the right reasons. She did it because she wanted him so much that she couldn't resist. She touches his face, her finger brushing the corner of his mouth. Then and now, always the same. Despite her twisted past, Norma has always liked sex. It just never was the right man until Alex unleashed something inside her.

Alex looks away for a moment as if he was contemplating whether to get on with whatever is on his mind or leave it be. Then he looks back at her. "What did you do afterwards?"


"After I left. If you did… what you did because you wanted it, then..."

Norma raises her eyebrows, holding his gaze for another moment before she blushes as she remembers how she prepared the sandwiches for her sons in a hurry, eager to deliver them and lock herself in her room to…

"Show me," Alex demands in a whisper, raw lust written all over his face, the bulge in his pants obvious.

With any other man, Norma would have said no, but this is not some kind of twisted foreplay. She actually wants to show him, resting her right hand on her leg before she hesitatingly moves it upwards, pulling her dress up in the process. Alex's hand that is still on her other leg twitches as he tries to keep it perfectly still, watching her. She covers it with her left hand, and for a moment, they remain like this as her chest rises and falls, her fitful breathing the only sound in the car. Then Norma pulls her hand even more upwards towards her center, slowly pushing it into her panties.

"Oh," she breathes, surprised at how wet she is already. Well, she shouldn't be, surprised that is, considering the vivid memories the situation brings along as well as the fact that Alex is watching her. Nevertheless she refrains from touching herself at first because she has never done this before in someone else's presence.

But then Norma's fingers start to move of their own accord. She closes her eyes, letting the moment and her feelings take over when she feels his lips against hers, initially soft before he pushes his tongue inside her mouth almost impatiently. Norma lets go of Alex's hand that she was pinning down on her thigh, and as if he had been waiting for it, the knuckles of his hand press against the fabric of her panties from the outside, the anticipation that his fingers could join hers any moment sending Norma in a sensual frenzy. It was almost embarrassing how aroused she was that night, how fast she made herself come, but today might be a close second.

"You are beautiful."

Even Alex's voice feels like a gentle touch. For some reason it reminds Norma that by now he must have seen her scar on her leg, the one she never talks about. Of course he doesn't mention it, though, saves the question for later.

Then his fingers finally slip under the fabric of her panties and inside her in one smooth move as his thumb encircles her right where she needs it, the contact making Norma arch her back before she continues to rock her hips, adjusting to his rhythm. Her thighs start to tremble; she is so close.

"Come for me."

Did he really say that? By now Norma can't tell anymore whether this is real or a dream. Alex is alternately kissing her mouth and neck; she can hear his breathing getting quicker next to her ear. She is floating and wants to stay in this place forever, pushing her hips into his touch. Once, twice, she wants to make it last but can't, clenching around his fingers again and again.

"Oh my God." Norma grasps Alex's wrist to keep his hand still since she is oversensitive at the moment.

She expects him to stir and sit back on the driver's seat now that it's over, but he doesn't. Instead he keeps holding her while she comes back down.

"I think we're even now," he announces when Norma finally opens her eyes to look at him. His grin can only be described as smug. Well, he did a pretty good job; she has to give him that. And yet...

"Not even close," she counters, her glance briefly riveting on his lap. "I think I want to go inside now."

Chapter Text

Norma looks around. Her dress lies on the armchair, joined by Alex's shirt. His jacket and pants are on the floor next to their shoes. Her coat is… somewhere and her underwear is nowhere to be seen. Well, they made it to the couch at least.

"Your bedroom is upstairs?" She rests her chin on Alex's chest, smiling at him.

"Yeah. Wanna see it?" Norma didn't know Alex was able to grin so broadly.

She sits up. "Next time. Right now you'd have to carry me upstairs because I'm not sure my legs are functioning properly anymore. Where is my bra?"

He chuckles, fumbling around with the pillow he is lying on, pulling out black lace. "Here. And here..." He picks something up from the floor. "...are your panties. Do you have to put that on? I would prefer to carry you upstairs."

Norma bites her lower lip, his open display of desire reflected on her face for a split second before she pulls herself together. "I have to go." She takes bra and panties, leaning forward to kiss Alex. "It's dinner time. My boys will wonder where I am."

His hand rests between her shoulder blades, gently pushing her back down on his chest. "Don't go yet."

"Alex..." Norma giggles as she continues to kiss him and at the same time manages to wriggle herself out of his grip. "I have to, okay? I'm a mother." She gets up to get dressed.

"Will you tell your sons about us?"

Norma freezes in the middle of pulling her dress over her head before she turns around to look at Alex. "Yes. Yes, I will. Tonight. No more secrets. I don't..." She takes a deep breath. "There have always been secrets in my life and I don't want that anymore. I want this to be a new start."

Alex reaches out to take her hand. "You're aware we're going to be the talk of the town for a while?"

But Norma only shrugs and raises her eyebrows. "So what? Your ex girlfriends will bitch about me?" She intertwines their fingers, brushing his knuckles with her lips. "Let them." Her coat has been lying behind the couch. She takes it as well as her bag, leaning in for another kiss. "I'll call you."

He holds on to her hand. "Will you promise me something?"

Norma's expression becomes wary and Alex realizes what a balancing act this is despite the levity of the moment. Her willingness to reveal their relationship to her sons and everyone else proves that Norma is ready for a serious commitment. However, anything constricting her freedom, at least from her perspective, crosses an invisible line that's still there.

"Will you tell me when you're feeling worse or if you experience another blackout?" Alex asks, anyway, preparing for rejection.

She hesitates but nods. "Yeah, I will."

And then Norma is gone, leaving a whiff of cold air behind that came in when she opened the front door. Alex rests his head on the pillow that still smells like her. His bed is way more comfortable, but he will sleep on the couch tonight.

To her surprise, Dylan's car is parked next to hers when Norma arrives. Both of her sons are home. That is convenient.

"Where have you been?" Norman holds her a little too tight before she even can take off her coat. For a moment, she fears he is able to smell Alex on her since she can't smell anything else than his aftershave and this scent that is essentially him.

"Out, running some errands."

He looks around. "What did you buy? I don't see any bags."

Norma takes off her coat, putting on her apron. "I didn't buy anything."

"But what did you..."

"Norman!" she stops him. "I was out. There was something I had to do. Just leave it be, okay?" Norma saw the three missed calls when she checked her phone on her way home, all three from Norman during the last hour. She had switched her phone to silent when she had been waiting for Alex, aware what would happen next.

This isn't going to be easy. Then again, she didn't expect it to be.

"Would you lay the table, please?" Norma says in a soothing voice. "And tell Dylan that dinner will be ready soon."

Throughout preparing supper Norma considers not telling her sons about Alex, no matter what she told him she would do. But it feels so good when she's with him, so right, how can it be wrong? She has been putting her needs on the back burner for too long. It's her turn now; she is allowed to have a life.

After she served Dylan and Norman dessert, Norma sits down, folding her hands in her lap. It's one of her favorite desserts, chocolate pudding, but she isn't hungry, didn't eat much, anyway.

"I need to tell you something."

They both look at her in anticipation since an announcement from Norma Bates can mean anything. Their scrutinizing gaze makes Norma uncomfortable. Why does it feel like a confession? She hasn't done anything wrong.

"I, um, Alex and I, um, the sheriff." God, she needs to stop rambling. Norma straightens herself. "We're together." Short and sweet. Maybe that's the best way to tell them.

Dylan looks at her for a moment and then continues to eat whereas Norman keeps staring at her for what feels like forever before he pushes his spoon through the wobbly surface of the pudding with full force, his lower jaw grinding when he chews the pudding as if the act meant destroying his worst enemy. Norma watches him in silence for a while before she gives in.



"Is there something you want to say?"


"Are you sure?"

Dylan puts his spoon down and stands up. He doesn't want to be there when the fight between his mother and brother will erupt.

"I'll be in my room," he states, pointing upstairs although they ignore him. He didn't expect anything else.

"This is a mistake, mother." Norman says just as Dylan leaves the room.

"Oh and you are so sure about that because…?" Norma won't back off. Not this time. Dylan can hear it in her voice. Norman is her everything, but now there is another man. Everyone could see it coming.

"Because he is the sheriff and investigates you." Matt Weary. The investigation is still ongoing.

"Oh please. He's not investigating me. He actually helped me."

That shuts Norman up for a moment before he speaks again, his voice ice-cold, "Oh, yeah? And what's he going to make you do so that he doesn't investigate you? Is that where you were? Why you were late?"

Dylan closes the door of his room so that the yelling downstairs turns into muffled words he can't understand anymore. The screaming goes on for quite a while until Norman runs up the stairs, slams the door behind him and locks himself in. Norma follows not until later. Her steps are slow, exhausted almost, stopping at Norman's door, however not knocking before she walks on to her room, also closing the door behind her. Dylan always sleeps with his door closed, as opposed to Norma and Norman who always keep theirs open. It feels weird that they are so isolated. Dylan briefly considers to check on Norma, but then he simply stands up and opens his door before he goes back to bed and falls asleep immediately.

Norma's phone rings when she is in the bathroom, putting on her make-up. It's Alex.

"Hi, hon." She is so happy to hear his voice. The fight with Norman was awful; she didn't sleep well. Then she realizes the line is silent and she called him honey. Maybe that was…

"Hi," he responds softly, definitely not sounding as if he minded. "I just wanted to check on you."

"It's all good." But Norma knows why he called. "I told them yesterday." She pauses.


"It, um… Dylan is okay with it."

"And Norman?"

She sighs. "He wasn't excited, but he'll come around and accept it. It's not as if he has a choice."

"I'm sorry that this is so difficult."

"It's not your fault," Norma assures him.

"Let me know if I can do anything."

"Yeah. I will."

Even though the call brought up the memories of her fight with Norman, Norma smiles at her reflection in the mirror after they hung up. It felt like an ordinary call, like a thing couples do. She could get used to that. Norma opens the bathroom door and bumps into Norman.

"Why are you still wearing your pajamas? You have to go to school." She wonders if he sneaked around and listened to her talking to Alex on the phone.

Norman is still angry at her, the tension in his body finding its way in his voice when he replies, "I forgot to tell you. I don't have to go to school today. We're supposed to write an essay about the work of one of our parents or a friend and I thought..." He looks at her, obviously insecure. "I wanted to write something about the motel and how this is our chance to start over."

"Norman..." He probably didn't forget to tell her but didn't do it out of anger because of her absence and their fight. All of this, however, is forgotten. This is such a sweet idea. Norma embraces her son. "That is so great!"

"Will you help me?" Still restrained but slowly getting excited.

"Of course I will. Get dressed. We'll have breakfast and then we will get started."

He smiles back at her. Then his glance briefly drifts to her cleavage before Norman slightly turns his head so that Norma's lips that were aiming for the corner of his mouth, as always, are pressed against his. She doesn't seem to notice or care.

"Hurry. Get dressed," Norma urges her son on. "It's going to be a beautiful day."

They spend half of the day down at the motel. Norman knows a lot about checking guests in or out as well as about renovation since they did most of it themselves to save money. There is a lot he doesn't know much about though. Room service, accounting, handling complaints. He is at the motel office occasionally, but his mother does most of it. So she tells him and he takes notes, and all of a sudden, it's noon already.

It was fun to show Norman how it all works; she plans to make him motel manager in a couple of months, anyway, but at some point the nausea came back, worse than the day before. It bothers Norma more than she lets on and she is glad when Norman announces that he has gathered enough information and will go to his room to write the essay.

"Yes, of course, honey."

He embraces her and holds her tight for a moment too long. Norma staggers when he lets go.

"Are you not feeling good, mother?"

"Oh, you know, just a little dizzy," she tries to play it down, but he keeps staring at her. Norman has more in common with Alex than he is aware of, especially when it comes to worrying about her and seeing through her fake cheerfulness.

"Geez, Norman, stop looking at me like that."

Only when he tears up and starts to tremble, Norma realizes that this is about more than her dizziness.

"I need to tell you something," Norman whines. "I don't want to, but I don't know what to do and you are feeling sick and maybe you'll have another blackout and..."

"What is it? Norman!" She grabs his upper arms. "What? Tell me!"

He swallows, his Adam's apple bobbing when he presses out the words he doesn't want to say, "The night my father died. It wasn't an accident."

Norma lets go of his arms. "What do you mean?"

"I'm so sorry, mother." Norman is crying now.

"Tell me, Norman," she raises her voice. "What does it mean: not an accident?" It feels as if ice is running through her veins, anxiety making it hard to breathe because deep down Norma knows what her son is going to say, her worst fear coming true.

He averts his eyes from her face, can't look at her. "You were fighting and he was hitting you, holding you down and then you took the iron and..." This is the last thing she remembers before her blackout, that she was ironing. And when she woke up, Norman told her that Sam had died.

Norma shakes her head. No. "It happened in the garage. A heavy shelf fell on him," she whispers, repeating what Norman told her back then.

"I made that up," Norman cries. "You hit him with the iron and he slumped and he… he was dead and I dragged him into the garage to make it look like an accident."

Norman keeps on talking; Norma sees his mouth move. She doesn't hear the words anymore though. You hit him with the iron. It can't be true. But Norman wouldn't lie to her.

"Oh my God!" Norma doesn't realize she is breathing the same words over and over, pressing her hands against her mouth as if she wanted to prevent the truth from coming out, the truth she knows now. She is a murderer.

Norman pulls her in his arms albeit she resists. She doesn't deserve his love. She killed his father. He is not a boy anymore, taller than her, her head safely resting on his chest as she eventually allows herself to break down and cry too.

"That's why I'm so worried about you," Norman murmurs. "And that's why I'm worried you're with the sheriff. He can't know."

Oh God, Alex. It's too much, nausea and dizziness making Norma stagger again. "I have to lie down."

Norman ushers her out of the motel office and up to the house. "Don't worry. I'll take care of you. I will always be there for you."

It's late in the afternoon. Even though Alex talked to Norma this morning, he can't wait to see her again. Maybe they can meet tonight. He consults his watch. Another hour. Then he will call her on his way home and talk her into coming over to his house where they are undisturbed. She still hasn't seen his bedroom.

There is a knock on his door.

"Sheriff?" One of his deputies sticks his head in. "I think you should see this. It could be our breakthrough in the Matt Weary case." He is holding a file in his hand. "I just took the statement of one of Matt Weary's colleagues. He was on vacation and only came back now. He told us that Weary wanted to meet someone the day he died. Do you remember how we always had that theory he might have met someone at the lake? A woman because it was the perfect place for a date? Matt Weary's colleague, um..." The deputy checks the file. "...Mr. Kinney, said that Weary told him he was going to meet Norma Bates. Isn't she the one who killed Keith Summers?"

There is a sound from far away. Some kind of faint ringing that gets louder and louder. Norma groans as she wakes up. She has a bad headache. Why is she in bed when it's only dusk? Norma sits up, a wave of nausea flooding through her. Then she remembers. Why she felt the need to lie down in the middle of the day, what Norman told her.

The sound is her phone on the nightstand that keeps on ringing. It makes her head hurt even more. She reaches out to make it stop.

"Norma?" A voice comes out of the speakers. She must have answered the call accidentally.

"Alex?" Despite her dizziness, she recognizes his voice and notices that it sounds different, distressed. Something is wrong. Well, aside from everything.

"Can you meet me down at the motel? I'm on my way. We need to talk."

"Alex, what's…?"

But he has already hung up.

Alex is already there when Norma comes down to the motel office. She had to take a headache pill first and also tried to compose herself albeit to no avail. She is highly strung, barely able to pull herself together. When he catches sight of her, Alex walks into the back room. An invitation to follow him so that they have more privacy. He is tense, clenching and unclenching his fingers, looking at her as if she was a stranger. It eerily reminds her of her encounter with Norman. Please no. Not two bad messages on one day. She won't be able to handle it.

"Alex..." Norma approaches him to kiss him. He lets her, however it's only a little peck, not the kiss she was hoping for, and when he grabs her upper arms, it's not to pull her even closer but to push her away. Gently but still.

Her first thought is that he found out about Sam. Only when she notices he is keeping a wary eye on her as if he expects her to say something, Norma realizes that Alex asked her a question.

"Sorry, I'm not feeling well. What did you say?"

It is confirmation that something is, indeed, terribly wrong when Alex ignores her comment that she doesn't feel well and simply repeats his question, "Did you meet up with Matt Weary on the day he died?"

It takes Norma a moment to remember. The guy from the book store that died on the same day she had a blackout, that died at the lake where it's muddy and she found her muddy dress in the laundry that she didn't remember wearing. The world starts to spin. Her mouth is dry. None of this can be real.

"I had a blackout on that day." She told him about her blackouts but not about that chronological coincidence.

Alex clenches his teeth. "Your son said that you were at the motel with him the whole time that day," he reminds her of Norman's statement back then when Norman intervened while he was questioning Norma about Weary's death. "Is that true? Because we have a witness who claims that Weary told him he was going to meet up with you right before he died."

He shouldn't tell her this. Never give a suspect the information you have. Let him come up with his version of the truth to contradict himself. Or herself. Let alone that he shouldn't be here at all, questioning a suspect he is involved with. That is cause for a mistrial if it will ever get to that point. Will it? And is this one of the reasons why he is here? To make sure Norma won't ever be convicted? If only because he screwed up during the investigation? Alex doesn't know what to believe anymore. He was convinced Norma had nothing to do with Weary's death, but he knows the guy who made the statement. Kinney is one of the most upright citizens White Pine Bay has and there are certainly not many.

"How am I supposed to know that when I had a blackout?" Norma tackles him, offense is the best defense and all that, her words bringing him back to the here and now.

Her outburst of rage is gone as fast as it surfaced. Norma puts a hand on her chest. She can feel it closing in, whatever it is that is waiting for her on the other side of the happiness she experienced with Alex. Something that good has never happened to her before. Of course it couldn't last. There have always been secrets in my life and I don't want that anymore. I want this to be a new start. It's not going to be a new start. How could it be given the circumstances? But she is tired of hiding from the truth, tired of running away from the mess her life is. Norman is almost of age and Dylan lives with them. He can take care of his brother if she will be sentenced. Norma holds Alex's gaze.

"I killed my husband," she says.


This is how life-changing events take place more often than not. There is no bang. The world doesn't end. It just tilts a little, causing things to shift so that nothing is the same anymore and then everything starts to fall apart slowly but surely. Alex made sure that Norma was cleared of suspicion when the Arizona PD was about to inquire into Sam Bates' demise. And now she confirmed that she is responsible for his death.

"I had a blackout. I didn't remember until now," Norma lies, not wanting to bring Norman into play.

"So you had a blackout the day your husband died and the day Matt Weary was killed," Alex recounts, mainly talking to himself.

It's a blood trail. Her husband. Matt Weary. The woman he loves is a murderer. Alex loves Norma; he realized that when he called her in the morning, something that feels like a happy memory from another world. It was so natural when she called him hon. He heard the happiness in her voice and let himself imagine for a moment that she loved him too. Save that now he should rather wonder whether he will be her next victim.

"What happened to Keith Summers. Was that really self-defense?" Alex's thoughts are all over the place. He should call Arizona PD, tell them to re-open the investigation about Sam Bates' death. He should read Norma her rights, take her to the police station for an official interrogation. But all he wants is to clutch at straws and find proof that she is innocent, that at least one thing he believed about her is true.

Norma flinches as if he hit her. "He raped me!"

"But you don't remember that because you had another blackout."

"HE RAPED ME AND I DEFENDED MYSELF," Norma yells. Yes, she doesn't remember the rape, but she remembers the pain afterwards, the ache between her legs that lasted for days, the feeling of humiliation whenever she looked at her skinned wrist where Summers had chained her to the table.

"Norma...," Alex has a hard time keeping his voice down. "Don't you see the pattern? Whenever you have a blackout, someone is dead afterwards. A man you were involved with." He doesn't want her to be guilty, but the acceptance that she might be has begun to sink in.

"Involved?" Memories of her ex-husband flash in Norma's mind's eye. Keith Summers wasn't the first man who raped her. She has a history of abuse, and even if Alex doesn't know that, it still hurts how willingly he seems to insinuate that at least part of what happened could have been her fault. He is no different than any other man.

"Norma, no, I didn't mean that," Alex apologizes. Or maybe he is different, despite everything.

"I wasn't involved with…," she is barely able to say his name, "...Keith Summers. And I had more blackouts where nothing happened."

Alex stares at her. "You can't know that." His voice is low. "Maybe we just haven't found the bodies yet."

She can see the agony in his eyes. Alex Romero is a good man, and yet, he suspects her. Rightfully so. It's surreal, the contrast between what they could have been and what they are now unbearable.

"Are you going to arrest me?" Norma whispers.

It takes him a while to answer. When he does, his voice is firm, "No."

"Then what are you…?"

"I DON'T KNOW, NORMA," Alex yells, his blowup surprising both of them. "Destroy Kinney's statement, threaten him so that he takes it back." He pauses. "Get rid of him." Alex holds Norma's gaze for a moment before he starts to pace across the room. "Run away with you. Do nothing and see what happens." He runs his fingers through his hair. "I don't know. I just don't know." Then he walks out without looking at her again.

"Alex..." Norma reaches out to him, tries to hold him back, but he ignores her although she feels the twitch of his muscles as if he has to hold himself back forcibly when her fingers brush his arm.

She waits for the sound of his car, speeding off but hears angry chopping instead. Obviously Alex found the ax Dylan had used earlier that day to cut some branches up and had forgotten to put away afterwards. Alex is hitting the shed behind the motel again and again, wood splintering due to the crude violence of his strokes. After a while, he stops abruptly, panting hard as he puts the ax down. Only now he notices that she is standing there, watching him.

Please don't leave. It's the only thought in Norma's head. She can't get through this without him even though they are on different sides of the law. Sheriff and suspect. He walks up to her so resolutely that her heart skips a beat because she hopes he will take her in his arms. It's all gonna be good. For a split second she allows herself to believe it, the relief making her unsteady on her feet. Alex stops right in front of her, Norma's body being drawn to his, her natural reaction whenever he is close to her. Then he grasps her neck, his thumb caressing the side of her face, brushing the corner of her mouth while his eyes are searching for something in hers before he lets go and turns around.

The taillights of Alex's squad car disappear in the darkness. Norma doesn't feel anything, a familiar numbness setting in. She knows how to protect herself against the intricacies of life. They are all doomed in the end. It has always been just a matter of time.


Chapter Text

It's all about functioning. Don't think, just act. Norma walks up the steps to the house, takes her make-up off, undresses, and goes to bed. She has done this a million times before. After Caleb raped her, after Sam beat her up, after every time life threw another obstacle in her way and she had to get back on her feet. That's what she does. Why would this time be any different?

The next morning there is a knock on her bedroom door. Norma is already awake. That she is able to function under any given circumstances doesn't mean that her demons allow her to have a good night's sleep. It's Dylan, wearing a jacket and carrying a bag he drops on the floor when he comes in. For a moment Norma thinks he changed his mind and will move out.

"No, that's not what this is," Dylan calms her, having caught the thought in her eyes that on any other day would have expressed anger but not today, not with Alex gone and the weight of the world on her shoulders. Today her eyes search for something in his face she can hold on to.

"Then what is it?" Norma asks.

"I'll be gone for a couple of days. These guys I work for… I need to handle something for them." He pauses and waits for her to criticize him or freak out, however she just looks at him, pulling the sheets up under her chin.

"Fine." Norma shrugs.

Dylan keeps a wary eye on her. "Are you ok?" Clearly, she's not. This passive, reluctant version of her is not the way Norma usually reacts.

"Yeah, sure." A smile so fake that even Norma can't pull it off, her face twisted so that it looks as if she was about to cry before she clears her throat and pushes herself up in a sitting position. "Sure," she repeats, her insistence not making the statement truer.

Dylan sits down on the edge of her bed. It feels weird. This is Norman's place, not his.

"I can stay if you want. I don't have to go." He is not certain if this is actually an option. It probably isn't. He already received an advance payment and can't imagine the guys he works for being all sweet and understanding when he tells them he can't do the job because he has to take care of his mother.

It doesn't matter, though, since Norma refuses his offer as he expected her to for several reasons, the two of them being to each other what they are only one of them, "You don't have to stay." She covers one of his hands with hers, squeezing it before she pulls her hand away again, the intimacy too much. Funny how it never seems to be too much with Norman. "I don't feel too well, but your brother is here and can help me." She pauses. "Thank you for offering though."

Dylan fumbles around in his jacket pocket, producing a slip of paper and a pen. He writes something down and puts the slip of paper on the nightstand.

"This is my number where you can reach me. If anything happens, call me."

She has his number; this must be a burner phone, one no one knows about. Norma doesn't question it, simply nods.

"Thank you, Dylan."

He leans over to kiss her on the forehead, the tenderness of the gesture making her tear up. They have come a long way.

Then Dylan is gone, leaving behind the scent of his leather jacket. It reminds Norma of Alex, and suddenly, the pain is overwhelming, flooding through her entire body. She takes a deep breath and gets up. It's all about functioning.

Alex had a hell of a night. He didn't sleep at all. Norma murdered Matt Weary. It hasn't been proven yet, but there are more signs pointing towards it than exonerating her. And she straightaway admitted killing her husband. He shouldn't have run away afterwards because that's what he did. Given what she told him, he should have arrested her, at least brought her in for questioning. However that was the one thing he couldn't do. Can't. He also hasn't informed the Arizona PD or the insurance company. Alex pushes the button of the intercom on his desk, addressing one of his deputies.

"Dave, could you come to my office, please."

In the course of the investigation, they checked Matt Weary's phone records. Unfortunately Weary's provider is one of those discounters that don't store any history of calls or text messages if you have a flat rate. It's not even legal, however these discounters rather pay a penalty charge than make the technical effort. They're like weed, going bankrupt and incorporating new companies all the time. But now they have another number they can check. Alex gives his deputy the number of Norma's cell phone and landline. He can't say what he will do with the results; he just has to know.

"Check if there were any calls or text messages to Weary's number on the day he died or on the days before."

Alex feels sick even saying these words. Maybe he will have proof soon. And then what?

Around noon Norma has almost convinced herself that she can do this. The sun is shining although it is fall, something that so rarely happens in White Pine Bay that it has to mean something. She checks out some guests – they are getting fewer and fewer now that winter is approaching fast – cleans the rooms and feels hungry for the first time during the last 24 hours. Part of her has been waiting for a police car to arrive, for a deputy she doesn't know to get out and arrest her since something tells her Alex wouldn't be able to do this himself. It didn't happen though. So maybe she'll get away with it. Why not? Some people get away with worse all their lives.

But when she walks in the back room behind the motel reception a little later, it's last night all over again, Alex looking at her so disappointed and reproachful that she can't breathe. Norma supports herself against the wall, trying to calm down. It isn't working and she hasn't seen it coming at all, the memories of Alex and her squirming and writhing inside of her like a phantom pain. She has been playing this game all her life, pretended something isn't there, and voilà, it's all gonna be good. Save that nothing is good right now, no matter how hard she tries to pretend.

Norma rushes towards the door of the motel office, locking it and flipping the sign over so that it says closed although the opening hours are not over yet. Her legs turn to jelly; she sinks down on the floor, her back against the door, a desperate sound coming out of her throat that doesn't sound like her voice. Norma sobs convulsively, only the wind and rain outside her witness that have replaced the sun. Deep down she knew all the time that the weather had only been playing a trick on her.

It's a silent dinner with Dylan gone and Norma not in the mood to make conversation. She tried to cover her red eyes that are swollen from crying with fresh makeup, but Norman probably noticed, anyway. He knows her too well. The few words they exchange are dull, hollow.

"Where is the kitchen table?" Norman asks, changing the topic all of a sudden.

"Huh?" Norma is inattentive, tired, the nausea coming and going. Her bad health condition on top of the already strained situation makes things even more complicated.

"The kitchen table," Norman repeats, staring at her.

After Alex had thrown it out, she pulled the table from the dining room over into the kitchen. Alex said he'd buy her a new kitchen table. Well, that probably won't happen anytime soon.

"I threw it out. I didn't like it anymore," Norma half-lies. The storm must have blown it away and torn it to pieces. It feels good to know that the reminder of what Keith Summers did to her has been irrevocably destroyed.

"I'm sorry about what I had to tell you," Norman changes the subject again, his voice softer now.

Sam's death. He had been protecting her all the time. She should be grateful, but all Norma is able to feel since her breakdown at the office is the sense of a profound loss, the intensity of it scaring her. It's all about Alex when she wants to be there for her son. For some reason, though, his concern rather throws her off balance instead of soothing her like it usually does.

"I know, honey," she assures him. It's the least she can do after everything he has done for her.

They eat in silence for a while. Norma senses her son fixating his eyes on her in between. It's a mutual habit. She does this too when she is not as distracted as today. However something about it is different.

"Did something happen yesterday?" Norman inquires. "I saw the sheriff's car when you were down at the office and then you went straight to bed afterwards."

Always watching, always looking out for her. Norman used to be her protective shield against the world. Right now it feels as if he is suffocating her.

"Nothing happened. I was just tired and went to bed early. And if something had happened..." She sniffles. "Maybe it would have been none of your business."

Norma sees the change in her son's eyes, the affection gone, replaced by a coldness that makes her shudder. Why did she say that? It's not like her to treat him like this.

"None of my business? It's you and me. It's always been you and me," he quotes what she uses to tell him whenever times get rough. That it's the two of them against the world. "The cord between..."

"Stop saying that!" Norma strikes on the table, his words enraging her albeit he's right. This is another thing she keeps telling him. That there is a cord between their hearts, making them inseparable. "You can't say that and at the same time tell me all these things about Sam and then Alex comes and questions me about Matt Weary and..."

"Wait!" Norman interrupts her. "Mother… MOTHER!" She has started to breathe fitfully, even more distracted than before. "What about Matt Weary?"

"He told someone he was meeting up with me on the day he died," Norma whispers. "Why would he do that?" She buries her face in her hands, her next words a muffled murmur, "I didn't tell you because I didn't want you to worry, but I had a blackout that day." Norma lowers her hands to look at her son. "And obviously I met him and don't remember although I have no idea why I would have done that. And so I told him. I didn't know what else to do." Her voice has spiraled up to a higher pitch that matches her desperation.

"Told who? Told what?" Norman is getting more and more agitated. "Mother, you are making no sense and this is scaring me."

"That I killed Sam," Norma breathes, calmer now, her voice firmer as she is trying to accept the unacceptable. "I told Alex yesterday that I killed Sam."

Norman stares at her in disbelief and then becomes so angry that his entire body starts to shake. "You did what? How could you do that? Don't you know what is going to happen? He will arrest you, put you in prison. You will be taken away from me."

"Well, so far he hasn't arrested me," Norma snaps at her son. Life is about consequences, but she lives in the moment, always has. Act first, think later. Destroy what's in your way and figure out how to rebuild the ruins afterwards.

Norman has pushed himself in a standing position and so has she. They poise like that, holding each other's gaze. Then Norman breaks their standoff and bolts out of the room.

"Where are you going?"

"I need to think."

"Think about what?"

Her answer are his angry steps that are heading upstairs, away from her.

When Norma wakes up the next morning, she feels strangely calm, perhaps because everything has come out in the open. Whatever will happen, will happen. Maybe things will even fall into place.

There is still no deputy knocking on her door as she is preparing breakfast that Norman ignores because of his persistent anger. He goes straight to school instead, also ignoring her offer to drive him although he will be late if he walks.

Norma's tentative optimism only lasts about an hour or two though. It's not Norman's behavior that eventually gets to her; it's her stomach again. She throws up several times, neither tea nor the rest of Dylan's lemonade he left for her helping, the premonition of an upcoming blackout overshadowing everything else. Nothing will fall into place in her life. Ever.

Alex studies the history of calls and text messages from Norma's phone. It's proof that she had something to do with Matt Weary's death and it isn't at the same time. She didn't call him, at least not from her cell or landline, but she texted him once on the day he died. The man in him reacts angry and jealous. The sheriff reminds himself that all that it means is that someone texted Weary from her phone. It doesn't necessarily mean it was her. Then he remembers that Norma confessed to killing her husband during a blackout and to having another blackout the day Matt Weary died. How much proof does he need?

He walks into the outer office, addressing the deputy who gave the results to him, "Make another appointment with Matt Weary's colleague, Mr. Kinney. I want to question him again."

The deputy hesitates and Alex expects him to ask the obvious, namely why he doesn't want him to bring Norma Bates in for questioning, but then he nods. "Yes, Sheriff."

He is stalling for time. Part of him took into account that Norma would run, but he drove by the motel yesterday and her car was still there, the windows of the house illuminated. He could even make out her silhouette in one window, a sight that made his stomach convulse with worry and longing. Moreover, her son is at school right now, he knows that from a source that is keeping him updated, and she would never leave without him. Norma keeps living her life as if nothing happened. Somehow it doesn't surprise him.

Norma spends the rest of the day in bed until Norman comes home late in the afternoon. He seems to have calmed down a bit, not that much that he is back to being the kind and sweet son he usually is but at least enough so that his mood is somewhere between the rage of last night and who she needs him to be.

He brings her tea, and at some point while she is snoozing, she thinks she feels him pull the sheets over her to keep her warm. The next time she wakes up, it's dark outside already. Norma had no lunch or dinner, but there is a sandwich on her nightstand. Norman must have made it. Just when Norma has taken the last bite, she senses something behind her, turning around to find Norman standing on the threshold of the door connecting their rooms. She startles.

"God, Norman. You scared me."

But there is nothing in his face or posture she would have to be scared of. He looks at her with such love and devotion that it almost breaks her heart.

"Are you feeling better?" he asks.

"Not really. A little maybe. Thanks for the sandwich."

"Do you want to do something? We could watch a movie together. This way you don't have to get up."

"I would love that." She smiles at him.

Norman brings his laptop and they choose an old black and white movie they watched many times together before. It's still fun though. They share a proclivity for all things vintage. Norma rests her head on her son's shoulder as she enjoys the peaceful moment. Maybe this is all she needs to get better and in general, some time for herself and her son taking care of her.

After the movie is over, Norman flips the laptop shut, lingering.

"Can I talk to you about something, mother?"


They are lying side by side in her bed, Norma under the sheets, Norman on top of them, their heads propped against the bedhead. Norman takes her hand.

"I think maybe we should move somewhere else. So much has happened here. I found this beautiful little cottage for us in Oahu."

She has no idea what he is talking about.

"Oahu is one of the top 10 safest places to live. It's especially safe because it's an island. You would love it. We could sell the motel, move there and..."

"What? Norman, stop! What are you talking about? We're not moving. We came here to start over."

He looks at her as if she had lost her mind.

"We can't start over here. Not with the sheriff knowing everything. We have to leave."

"Norman..." She cups his face with both of her hands. "It's sweet of you to make these plans, but I'm your mother and I decide whether we move or not. And..." Norma shrugs. "...we're not." Discussion over.

"Is it because of him?"

The sheriff. Alex.

"No." Although she doesn't know. Maybe it is. There is so much going on.

"So you'd rather stay here with him and risk ending up in jail than move away with me to a safe place?" Norman sits up. She reaches out to touch his shoulder, but he pulls it away from her grasp, his mood getting worse by the minute. Norman turns his head to look at her. There are tears in his eyes. "We're broken. We've tried. We don't belong here anymore. Can't you see that? It's over."

"What do you mean over?"

But he jumps up and walks out on her, something that has become a habit lately. She does not like it one bit.

Feeling better, if only a little, was an illusion; Norma feels worse than she has ever before when she wakes up the next day to Norman talking to someone in the hallway.

"No, no. We're ok; she's ok." He makes a pause, obviously listening to someone she can't hear. A phone call. "No, as I already said, you don't have to come, Dylan. Everything's fine. I'll tell her you called. Bye."

Norma expects her son to come into her room but hears his footsteps going away instead. She considers calling for him, however the mere effort of speaking louder than in a whisper seems to be too much and she dozes off again before she has finished contemplating what to do.

The next time she wakes up, the sun is about to set. Is it still the same day? Norma thinks she remembers hearing the front door close at some point, a key being turned in a lock. The lock of her bedroom door? She can't say for sure, her mind a mess, her mouth dry, and her limbs weak as she fumbles around for something to drink on her nightstand. When she tries to sit up, the room starts to spin.

"Mother?" She didn't hear him come in. God, she feels so bad.

"I'm not feeling well, Norman." She even has trouble breathing. That has never happened before. "I think I need a doctor."

Norma never goes to see a doctor. Doctors are strangers who are not allowed to get a glimpse of her life since it could raise too many questions. The bruise on her arm because someone abused her, the empty pages in her children's shot record because her husband would spend their money on anything but health insurance. But this, this is different. Something is very wrong with her, so wrong that she doesn't even care about having another blackout. Or maybe she already had another and just doesn't remember. Either way, she has to get better, and for once, she isn't able to handle the situation by herself.

Norman has sat down on the edge of her bed like Dylan did a couple of days ago save that he is sitting much closer to her, caressing her hair. She feels filthy, isn't even strong enough to get up and take a shower. Her sheets need to be changed. The house needs to be cleaned. She can't be sick. Then Norma notices that she is wearing a different nightgown, the white one she doesn't like and therefore never wears unless all of her other sleepwear is in the laundry. She pulls at the fabric as if she could take it off by sheer will.

"When did I...? I can't remember..." Talking is so exhausting.

"I changed your clothes," Norman explains. "They were sweat-soaked after last night. Perhaps you had a bad dream." It's what parents do for their children when they are sick and vice versa, and yet, it doesn't feel right. Norman keeps caressing her hair so tenderly, though, and it feels so comforting that Norma's thoughts slip away. All she wants is to go back to sleep. No. She pulls herself together.

"I really don't feel well." A thought comes to her mind. "Call Alex, I mean the sheriff. He said he knows a doctor who might be able to help me." She will figure out how to pay the bill later.

His hand stops caressing her. "The sheriff? Are you still..."

Norma groans. "Not now, Norman. Please. Just call him, ok?"

"Ok, mother." He leans over and kisses her before he stands up.

She expects to hear more talking in the hallway, but there is none. Maybe Norman has gone downstairs to call the sheriff's office from their landline. He's a sweet boy, but this is all a bit much for him. He should have told Dylan to come home. Dylan. Did Norman really talk to him earlier today or did she imagine that? Norma can't say. Norman didn't tell her about Dylan's call as he said he would in her memory or dream, whatever it was. Maybe she should call Dylan herself. Norma looks around carefully so that she doesn't move too fast and gets nauseous. Her cell phone was on her nightstand as well as Dylan's note with the number of his burner phone. However there is nothing on her nightstand right now other than a cup of tea Norman must have left there for her. Did she dream that too? Did Dylan not come to her room when he was about to leave? These are her last coherent thoughts before she drifts off to oblivion.

Cars driving by, the wind freshening, rattling at her bedroom window. Norma slowly comes to herself. It doesn't feel like waking up, rather like recovering consciousness. She stretches. Her limbs don't feel that weak anymore although her mouth is even drier. As far as she remembers, she neither ate nor drank something yesterday. Norma sits up, cautiously turning her head. The dizziness is still there but considerably less than before. Perhaps she doesn't need a doctor after all. She reaches out to take a sip of tea out of the cup that is standing on her nightstand, long cooled down by now, and then hesitates.

If it hadn't been for the fact that she should feel worse after a day without food or beverages but actually feels much better, she never would have paid attention. As it is, though, Norma tries to connect the dots although it is still difficult for her to focus. She had felt quite good the day before yesterday until she drank a lot of tea during breakfast and more of it afterwards. Only then she began to feel sick, drinking even more tea and some lemonade in the process which only made her feel sicker.

Norma thinks about it some more and it seems that whenever she drank tea, she felt bad afterwards, only the demands of her challenging life preventing her from noticing it earlier. Especially since she has been drinking this certain brand of tea for a while now. There was no reason for her to suspect she wouldn't tolerate it. Maybe they changed the composition. Didn't she also feel sick after drinking lemonade? At least sometimes? She can't remember. Maybe it's not the tea or the lemonade but she has developed a food allergy. Either way, there is a pattern. Norma is excited that she found out about it. She needs to tell Norman.



"We have a new witness in the Weary case."

Alex has to suppress a snort. What is it about this case that witness after witness starts popping up weeks after the murder? Considering the way his deputy looks at him, something has come up though, something equally important as the records of Norma's phone or even more.

Questioning Kinney yesterday brought no new insights, of course. The only thing it did, as intended, was buy him more time. Alex keeps up appearances, pretends everything is business as usual while he is sitting at his desk, contemplating what to do. There is a packed bag along with some supplies in the trunk of his car in case this whole thing will blow up in his face and someone superior in the chain of command from the DA's office will tell him to arrest Norma. He knows by now that he will neither turn her in nor stand idly by and watch someone else put her in jail. His grandfather has an old cabin in the woods no one knows about, not even his father. They could go there and from there...he has no idea.

Alex nods and stands up, following his deputy to the back room as he thinks of Norma and the bag in his trunk. Maybe today is the day.

Norma drinks some faucet water in the bathroom and then goes downstairs, her naked feet making no sound on the carpet. She screws up her nose as she reaches the hallway. The house smells as if the rooms haven't been aired out for days. Then she enters the kitchen and gasps. The room is a mess, plates and food everywhere. Where the hell is Norman?

Faint music comes out of the basement. Norma sighs. Norman has to be down there again. Among all the craziness that has been taking place, Norman developed his new hobby. Taxidermy. The father of his classmate that let them stay over during the night of the storm is skilled at taxidermy and Norman decided that this and only this would be his new passion. As if he wasn't the weirdest boy in town already.

Norma opens her mouth to call for her son in order to tell him about her discovery and reprimand him for leaving the kitchen in such a mess. But then she stops. There is something she has to do first.

"So, you saw someone at the lake in the car with Matt Weary on the day he died?" Alex asks. He is so tense that he has to force the words out through clenched teeth. What if that man tells them he saw Norma?

"Yes." The man is about his age but other than that there are no similarities in appearance or personality.

"And you haven't come forward with this information until now because you were fishing illegally there?"

"Yes." He shifts around on his chair as Alex and his deputy exchange a look.

"Did it ever occur to you that an information in a murder case could outweigh your concern to have to pay a fine for unauthorized fishing?" For one moment Alex forgets that this is about a dead man and possibly about Norma. He is just angry in light of some people's selfishness and stupidity.

"Do you know in what town you live?" his deputy inquires before Alex's look silences him.

"Tell us what you saw," Alex demands instead. The moment of truth.

"I saw a man, no, a kid, with him in the car. It looked as if they were arguing."

"So either it wasn't a date or Weary was gay," the deputy states as Alex doesn't know whether he is relieved or confused. "What did the kid look like?"

"I didn't see much. White, rather pale in fact with short, brown hair. Lanky. He wore a sweater. Brown, I guess, or dark blue."

It will be usual procedure from here. Alex raises his eyebrows and his deputy grasps the sign.

"Follow me," he tells the man. "I'll show you some photographs and you'll tell me if you recognize him."

For now, Alex's bag can stay in the trunk.

The phone rings and rings before it goes to voicemail. "You have reached Alexander Romero, Sheriff of White Pine Bay. Leave a message and I'll call you back."

Norma has to smile at that. Alexander. The Big Daddy of White Pine Bay. She needs to tease him with that nickname she secretly has for him. Then her smile fades. She won't have the chance. Of course he wouldn't talk to her considering what happened and what she told him. What was she thinking? That just because she feels better, this feeling somehow magically would solve all of her problems?

"Hi Alex, it's Norma," she starts, anyway. "I've been sick for the last couple of days. So that's why I didn't call you in case you were wondering." He wasn't. Otherwise he would have called her. Or maybe he did and she was asleep. But Norman would have told her, wouldn't he? Suddenly she is not so sure. "Um, I wanted to tell you that…"

She looks around in the kitchen, uncertain what to say next. There is her tea on the countertop and right next to it an unlabeled jar. The rest of the kitchen is messy, but tea and jar are neatly standing there side by side, a measuring cup next to them. It reminds her of chemistry where they had to mix things. They always joked that quantity made the poison and that you could poison people over a long period of time since they would only feel a little sick and not realize what was going on. Her hand that is holding the handset starts to shake.

"Alex…," she is whispering now. Why is she whispering? This is her house. She can make phone calls whenever she wants. Everything's fine. "I just wanted to say that I'm incredibly grateful for what you've done for me and for what you've been to me. And maybe..." Her hand is shaking so badly that she barely can hold the phone anymore. "...maybe you could come over later today because..." Because I think my son is poisoning me and this can't be real and could you please come and help me.But she doesn't have the chance to say any of it.

"Mother?" Norma whips round to find her son standing right behind her and slowly hangs up the phone. "What are you doing?"



"I've got something for you."

This seems to be a pattern today. Whenever he is in his office, trying to find some time for himself to think about things, for example if the statement of the recent eye witness really exonerates Norma for good, one of his deputies interrupts him. Well, he is the sheriff after all. Alex puts his phone down. He left it in his office when they went to talk to the witness, its beep reminding him that he received a voicemail in the meantime, probably from the coroner that had promised to inform him about the results in another murder case. People in White Pine Bay die of unnatural causes on a regular basis.

"Let me just check my phone."

"Trust me you want to know this right away."

Alex snorts. "Is there another witness?"

"No." The deputy glowers. "It's not about the Weary case. It's about Keith Summers. They messed up the DNA results. The lab wrote a long letter to cover their asses so they won't get sued. And they also sent the results of the lost sample."

Alex takes the file and reads, then reads it again. It feels as if someone was dipping his insides in acid. When he is able to look at his deputy, the man raises his eyebrows. "Couldn't believe it either."

"So the first result was correct and they just overlooked the additional sample?" Alex tries to compose himself and understand although this is something he will never be able to understand.

"Yes. They explain it in their letter, affirming the chain of evidence wasn't tampered with despite the delay. Someone just forgot the additional sample in the fridge, for whatever reason, so that it only could be examined now. So the DNA result regarding Summers remains unaffected. It proves that he raped Norma Bates. But the new DNA sample proves that he was not the only one, provided this wasn't consensual which I highly doubt considering the events of that night and Norma Bates' condition."

Alex's head is buzzing. They found traces of Norman's DNA between Norma's legs but not inside her, concluding that it got on her body after Summers had attacked her but while she still had a blackout. Norman tried to rape his mother but didn't go through with it.

"Maybe he tried to, I don't know, help her clean herself or something and that's how his DNA got on her... there," Alex grasps at straws. There has to be a harmless explanation, anything but this.

His deputy stares at him. Alex read the report. It's not like him to miss something like this or deliberately ignore it because the truth is too harsh.

"No," he points at the passage in the file. "They say here that the DNA sample was taken from, um, pre-ejaculate although they also say that it looks as if he tried to wipe it. So maybe that's why he thought no one would find out, including his mother."

A realization in the back of Alex's mind begins to tingle that goes beyond this horrible revelation. Someone sent a message from Norma's phone. A lanky kid with short, brown hair had an argument with Matt Weary. Moreover, Norma never remembered anything about her blackouts. So why would she suddenly remember that she killed her husband? The pieces of the puzzle were all there. He just didn't see them because he was so focused on Norma, blinded by his passion for her, and later on, by his concern. The way Norman looks at her, the way he touches her all the time. Not like a son touches his mother but like a man touches his wife or girlfriend. An obsession that very well might have gotten out of control. Motive.

The result of the DNA sample raises questions as to what really happened the night Keith Summers died, the fact that Norma had blackouts coinciding with the deaths of Keith Summers, Matt Weary and her husband raising more questions that now point to her son rather than to her. It's only a theory, but it looks as if Norman is getting rid of every man he considers an obstacle between him and his mother, most likely trying to convince her to be guilty of deeds she didn't commit to make her even more dependent on him. It makes Alex wonder why he is still alive.

"Do you want me to bring Norman Bates in?"

"No." Alex hands the file back over to his deputy. "I'll handle it myself."

"What are you doing?" Norman repeats.

"Oh, I wanted to make a call, but I changed my mind," Norma tries to play it down although she knows he won't buy it. She's such a bad liar.

"I heard you talking. Whispering," he confronts her.

Norma pretends to think about it. "No, you must have misheard. You know me. I'm talking to myself all the time." She tries to smile but ends up contorting her face.

"No, you're not."

"Norman." This is how they usually play this game. She lies, he knows it and sometimes calls her out on it but always gives in as soon as she gets angry. "As I said, I changed my mind. I didn't call anyone. Let it go at that."

She goes over to the fridge, ignoring the mess in the kitchen and the tea on the countertop although her eyes are inevitably drawn there. Norma can only hope that Norman doesn't notice. Act normal. It's impossible, though, every step feeling as if she is walking underwater. None of this is really happening.

"I'm hungry. I was looking for something to eat." Norma opens the door of the fridge, but Norman pushes it shut again. It's not an aggressive move, rather a slow, deliberate gesture to intimidate her.

"Go back to bed, mother. I'll make you a sandwich."

"I can't live on sandwiches all the time. I'll cook us something."

But when she reaches out her hand to open the door of the fridge again, Norman grabs her wrist to stop her. His grasp never has been so firm before.

"Go back to bed."

He is lanky but taller than her. For a moment, Norman's face overlaps with the faces of other men that threatened or abused Norma. Her father, her brother, her husband. Norman has always been the exception. Norman and then, recently Alex.

"Did you call Alex? Did he give you the doctor's address?" The words are out before Norma has a chance to think it over.

"Yes, I did. You have an appointment on Monday." He is as bad a liar as as she is. Norma knows her son, knows every twitch in his face or of his body that gives it away.

It's as if she is living in two worlds. There is the world in which she came downstairs to make something to eat and is annoyed about her son's new hobby. They will bicker and banter a bit and then have lunch or dinner together and everything will be fine. And then there is this world where the house is a mess, a premonition of impending doom, her son secretly mixing beverages that are slowly poisoning her, perhaps even causing her blackouts.

Albeit Norma is feeling better, she is still weak. It's too much. All of it. She doesn't want to fight anymore. Her urge always has been to create a better life for Norman. What is left fighting for if he has turned against her?

"Ok," she shrugs, uncertain whether she plays along or simply doesn't care anymore. "Thanks." Then she turns around, gesturing upstairs. "You're right. I'll go back to bed." Maybe Alex will listen to her message and come over, maybe he'll delete it unheard. She will let fate decide.

Norman's next words stop her, though, cutting through the haze of her numbing thoughts and feelings, "Did you drink your tea?"

She tears up. How can he do this to her? "Yes, I did," Norma lies, keeping up the charade as long as possible before she gives in and screws up her face, beginning to cry silently. "Norman," she whispers, touching his face because this is her son, the sweetest boy that has ever lived, the person she loves the most in the world, and yet… "What have you done?"

Alex steps on the gas. It takes around 15 minutes to drive from the police station to the motel, but he will make it in half the time today, at a max. His hands grab the wheel even firmer. This is surreal, one nightmare exchanged for the other. He was on the verge of accepting that Norma is a murderer, and now, everything points to her son.

He calls Norma's cell for what must be the 10th time and her voicemail answers immediately like the times before. She must have turned her phone off. Then he remembers the voicemail he received and that he still hasn't listened to. It's not important right now, but when he checks the number, Alex sees that the call came from Norma's landline. Damn. How could he miss that?

It's so good to hear Norma's voice when he presses play that he smiles despite the precarious situation. Hi Alex, it's Norma. I've been sick for the last couple of days. So that's why I didn't call you in case you were wondering. It makes his stomach turn. She was sick and he wasn't there for her. She talks some more, but suddenly the tone of her voice changes and she lowers it to a whisper. I'm incredibly grateful for what you've done for me and for what you've been to me. Her words give him the creeps. They sound like a goodbye. Alex turns the emergency lights on and accelerates even more although he is way beyond the speed limit already. Maybe you could come over later today because… Then there is another voice in the background, possibly Norman even if he can't say for sure, and she hangs up.

It was about a kid possibly murdering men that he sees as a threat to his mother or their relationship. Now it's about a son possibly also threatening his mother. Alex checks the mileage, almost there. He took his eyes off the road only for a split second. When he focuses on the street again, the deer is right in front of his car, the impact inevitable. It must have jumped out of the woods. The car veers off course, turns over and lands on its roof by the roadside.

Norma and her son stare at each other as he slowly opens the drawer closest to him and takes out a knife, the movement so casual that it gives her a chill. He turns the knife in his hand, its sharp tip scratching the fabric of his trousers right above his knee again and again until it cuts through it and through his skin in the process, the tip of the knife stained red now.

"Stop that, Norman, please," Norma whimpers. He doesn't seem to feel any pain, but she feels it for both of them.

"I wanted us to go away together," he says, his voice trembling. "But you didn't want to."

Is he talking about that silly idea that they should move to Oahu?

"I never wanted to hurt you, mother. I told you we needed to get away from here. I told you the sheriff was bad for you, but you wouldn't listen. YOU NEVER LISTEN."

So this is it, the moment of truth?

"Did you try to poison me?" Norma's voice is barely audible. Part of her still hopes there is an explanation that puts it all into perspective.

"What?" Norman looks at the tea and the jar next to it, then back at her. "No! I was trying to make you feel better. You always have so much to endure. First with my father and then with this horrible guy who attacked you. Sometimes it's better to not be aware what's going on, to sleep it off."

Everything Norma thought she knew is called into question. What Norman told her about the way Sam died, perhaps even what he told her about Keith Summers' death. She doesn't know.

"I love you. Everything I have ever done, I have done it for you," Norman continues his rant. "You are my mother. You are my priority. I had to protect you."

What about Matt Weary? Another name, another dead body. What did her son do?

"I love you, too, Norman. You just have to trust me. Can you do that? We need to get you help."

He lowers his head as if he was studying the floor. When he lifts it again, nothing is the same. The son she knows is gone, his eyes cold, his hand raising the knife.

Norma's body reacts before her mind is able to process the situation, an age-old survival instinct kicking in. She criss-crosses the living room, knocking objects over to slow him down. The element of surprise works to her advantage, but Norman is the faster runner of the two of them and her body still weakened. It's only a matter of seconds until he will have caught up with her.

She bolts towards the door of the vestibule to find it locked and changes direction, running up the stairs, almost making it to the upper hallway when she feels Norman gripping her ankle. Norma trips and sprawls, Norman dragging her down towards him. She clings to the handrail, kicking him in order to fend him off. That's when the sharp pain sets in. Norma gasps and almost lets go of the handrail. Norman is clutching at her and at the same time stabbing at her legs, the lower half of her nightgown slowly turning red due to various cuts.

"Stop it, Norman, oh my God, stop it, please," Norma screams, but he doesn't seem to notice. She has to get through to him and forces herself to stop kicking and hold still instead. He doesn't react at first, continuing to cut her several more times. Norma whimpers. The cuts hurt, but they are only superficial. It hurts so much more that it is her son who is doing this to her. Finally Norman realizes that she has stopped fighting with him and looks at her. "Please stop, Norman. You're hurting me."

He crawls upstairs, knife still in his hand, his breath stale when he is so close that she can feel it on her face.

Alex comes around. He has no idea how long he was unconscious, but when he remembers what happened and why he was driving to the Bates Motel, his entire body gives a jerk. He has to get out of here. His cell phone and radio didn't survive the crash, but he is rather unharmed as far as he can tell. Several bruises and perhaps a concussion but no broken bones. He crawls out of the car, groans with pain as he stands up and starts to run.

Norman is practically lying on top of her, his head on her chest, the knife next to her throat although Norma can't say whether he is still threatening her or has forgotten about it. When her hand comes near it, he stirs though, lifting his head to look at her.

"Don't do that," he mumbles.

"Norman, I would never hurt you."

"I would never hurt you either." His words don't make sense, but nothing of this makes any sense.

Norma strokes the back of her son soothingly as if it was an ordinary day and this one of their usual hugs.

"It's ok, Norman. Relax."

His words are a warm wheeze against her neck, "We want peace and happiness, but the world just won't allow it. So let's take ourselves out of the equation."

There is no anger or desperation in his words. It's what makes them even worse. He has come to a decision and it is final. Norma doesn't want to die, but there is no way she will make it past Norman and the knife.

"We can have peace and we can be happy," she pleads with him. "Norman, don't do this."

There is someone at the front door, pounding against it, followed by a rumble. Obviously Norman didn't only lock the doors but also built some barricades. Norma almost starts to cry with relief. It has to be Alex.

Norman hears it too, though, and raises the knife so fast that she almost has no time to react, his face distorted to an ugly version of himself. He is aiming for her heart, but Norma manages to shift her body last-minute so that he only hits her shoulder. The pain is so much worse than anything she has ever felt before in her entire life that she screams, nevertheless trying to push Norman away. It's a lost fight; he is raising the knife again already. What did he say to her a couple of days ago? It's over.She didn't know he meant it literally.

Then, suddenly, a shadow behind Norman, holding some kind of object and knocking him out with it so that he collapses on top of her.

"Norma are you ok? Shit, Norma, that's a lot of blood!"

This is not Alex's voice.

"Dylan? Is that you?" she murmurs as she feels Norman getting pulled away from her.

She tries to sit up but can't control her limbs, her shoulder hurting whenever she moves.

"I'm sorry I didn't come back earlier. I knew something was wrong," Dylan is rambling as he checks her legs and then presses something against her shoulder that makes her scream again. "I'm sorry, Norma, so sorry. I've got to stop the bleeding." He fumbles around with his phone with his other hand. "Yes, this is Dylan Masset. I'm calling from the Bates Motel, Highway 88, please send an ambulance. My mother is badly injured. Stab wound to the shoulder and several other minor injuries."

Norma drifts in and out of consciousness. Dylan's there. Everything is going to be good. Except…

"Norman…," she whispers.

Alex arrives at the motel just as the ambulance drives past him. He wasn't far away when he had the car crash, but he underestimated the distance on foot and is out of breath. For a moment, he thinks he is too late, that Norman ran amok and Norma is dead. Then he sees Dylan up at the house, waving at the paramedics.

"Up here. My mother needs help."

He follows the paramedics inside. They know he's the sheriff and believe he has been officially called to the crime scene. Alex has seen a lot of bad things in his life. He is no stranger to violence, blood, and murder. It's different when it's someone close to you though. When Alex sees Norma lying on the stairs, her nightgown blood-soaked, he stops dead in his tracks. This is different than the night he met her. This time he knows it's her blood.

"She will be ok," Dylan says.

It takes Alex a second to understand that he is talking to him. He doesn't ask why Dylan knows enough about stab wounds to come up with that judgement, grateful for the reassurance.

"What happened?"

"Norman was attacking her when I came in. Stabbing her."

They both watch as the paramedics carry Norma out on a gurney. She is unconscious.

"Where is he now?"

Dylan points at a body lying in the corner of the hallway. "He's not dead. I just had to knock him out. There is something else..." He walks into the kitchen, Alex following him. "My mother told me something about Norman trying to poison her before she passed out and I found this." Dylan raises his chin towards a jar of tea and another jar with an unknown substance standing right next to it.

Alex takes a smell at it and wrinkles his nose. It smells unpleasant, an infallible sign, designed by nature as an instinctual warning that the substance shouldn't be consumed. With enough sugar in her tea, Norma wouldn't have smelled or tasted it though. Alex looks at Norman's body and then back at Dylan.

"Go to the hospital with her."

"What about…?"

"Just go."

The first thing Norman sees when he regains consciousness are shoes, then pants, a belt with a gun and a badge. The sheriff is sitting on the stairs, watching him.

Norman groans and sits up. His head hurts like hell. Then he remembers – his mother who tried to defy his control, his plan that he couldn't execute. Rage builds inside him like a living animal, trying to claw its way out, but he tries to pull himself together. It's all about appearances.

"Are you going to arrest me?"


That's a surprise.

"Was it you who knocked me out?"

"No. That was your brother."

Even more surprising.

"Where's my mother?"

"At the hospital."

For a moment, Norman's rage is replaced by pain. He loves his mother. He wanted the perfect life for them, but she ruined it. He looks around.

"If you're not going to arrest me, then why are you here?"

Alex takes his gun and slides it over to Norman, pulling another gun out of his ankle holder. "Pick it up."

It's the first time Alex spots fear in Norman's eyes instead of his usual, smug expression, even in a situation like this. Norman doesn't touch the gun, doesn't move.

"I know what you did to your mother," Alex states. "All of it. That you tried to poison her, kill her. That you made her believe she did horrible things when it was you committing all those crimes. But most of all, I know what happened the night Keith Summers died."

Norman pales. "I saved her," he stutters. "That's all I ever wanted, to keep her safe."

"Oh, yeah? And after you saved her, after you knocked Keith Summers out? What did you do then, you sick fuck?" Alex stands up. "What did you do to Matt Weary, and while we're on it, to your father?" Alex pauses. "So you have two options. Either I arrest you or you pick up the gun."

"You said you're not here to arrest me."

"And you said all you ever wanted was to keep your mother safe."

There is a dead calm outside when two shots are fired inside the house. Although Norman aimed for his head, it was easy for Alex to literally dodge the bullet, even at such a short distance. It was obvious that Norman never had fired a gun before. His shot, however, was fatal.

Alex can't allow this kind of shit to happen. Not in his town.

Chapter Text

The chaos theory says that a butterfly flapping its wings somewhere can lead to unpredictable events. Cause and effect without any connection, so random that no one could have foreseen it. Alex has come to believe that Norma is the butterfly that entered his life that night, walking down the road blood-smeared and in a state of trance. The chaos that is swirling around her led to horrible occurrences, but ultimately, it has led her to him although some days are more difficult than others.

"You can't come," Norma says to Alex, stating the obvious as if they hadn't already cleared that issue up.

They talked about it again and again. It's Norman's funeral and Alex wants to be there for her, but he is the one who killed Norman. Despite everything her son had done to her, it's a miracle Norma didn't end their relationship. Therefore Alex eventually accepted her decision. It's better not to tempt fate.

Dylan is waiting for her outside. After Norma had been released from the hospital, she refused to go back to the house and she also refused to move in with him. So she is temporarily staying at The Kings Motel. It's her direct competitor in White Pine Bay, however the motel owner didn't say anything aside from expressing his sincere condolences when she booked a room. That's the only good thing about everything. White Pine Bay loves gossip; people would have gossiped viciously about the sheriff and the cute but nutty lady being a couple. Given the circumstances, though, no one dares.

Alex walks Norma out, resting his hand on the small of her back. He feels how she straightens herself the moment she sees Dylan, a tense bundle of muscles and bones, trying to be strong for her son who has to bury his brother today. Alex hates to let her go.

"Take care of her," he says to Dylan. Norma's shoulder is still healing and she doesn't nearly take as much care of herself as she should.

Dylan nods. After Norman's death and the realization that his brother almost succeeded with poisoning their mother, he has become almost as protective as Alex. Forensics not only found traces of poison in Norma's tea cup; they also found it in the bottles of lemonade Dylan had brought her. Norman's plan really was perfidious, and although Dylan had nothing to do with it, part of how he behaves around Norma feels like redemption. He couldn't protect her then, but he can now and he will make sure that she is safe. The times, they are changing.

When Alex leans over to kiss Norma before she heads off with Dylan, she turns away from him subtly but effectively so that he can't reach her, his affection not welcome right now. He is the reason her son is lying in a coffin after all.

It's an inappropriately sunny day for a funeral as if the weather was in a good mood. Alex has dozed off in the only armchair of the stuffy motel room, the sun shining in through the window, warming him despite the cold outside. There is no funeral feast, just a simple procedure at the graveyard; therefore Alex decided to wait for Norma. He hates the small motel room, is used to the space of his house, but Norma stays here and so does he, at least most of the time.

He startles when the door opens, Norma a black spot against the bright light. She just stands there for a moment and watches him. Then she turns around again.

"Let's go."

Alex has no idea where, but this is not the day to ask questions.

Norma is driving. He has never driven with her in her car before, Alex realizes. The sheriff in him would like to tell her to slow down because she is constantly breaking the speed limit, her driving style a bit too reckless for his taste although it suits her. But again, this is not the day to tell her this.

She eventually parks the car in a spot out-of-town from where they can overlook the city as well as the sea. The view is stunning.

"How was the…?" Alex starts when Norma remains silent, uncertain whether she wants to talk about the funeral or not. It feels like dangerous ground to mention it but also dangerous to pretend it didn't take place.

"Alex, don't." She raises her hand to stop him. So that's not why she has brought him here. No reflections in the aftermath. Norma falls silent again and he lets her take her time. "Norman and I, we parked here, too, on the day we moved to White Pine Bay," she eventually tells him, her voice soft and wistful. "We were so full of hope. Everything was supposed to be better. And now..." She takes a deep breath to control herself so that the tears don't overwhelm her. "Now there is a gravestone with the name of my son on it."

Norman Bates – beloved brother and son, the gravestone reads. Dylan fought with her over it, wanted to leave the gravestone blank because of what Norman had done, but in the end Norma got her way. He did these terrible things, Alex remembers Norma explaining herself the day she had that fight with Dylan over the epitaph. But he will always be my son. He was always by my side. I wouldn't have survived without him. Alex had nothing to add to that. His mother turned into someone else when she wasn't taking her medication. Someone mean and frightening, but he loved her still. It was like in that poem: When is a monster not a monster? - Oh, when you love it. Norma has experienced just as much darkness in her life as he has, maybe even more. He gets it. It's part of the attraction.

Alex takes Norma's hand, still uncertain how much closeness she wants or needs, physically as well as emotionally. She cried a lot when she was in hospital. Cried and yelled and accused him, even hit him once with the hand that wasn't fixed to her chest so that her movements were limited and her shoulder could heal. Alex can't undo killing Norman and he doesn't regret it, whatever that makes him. But it pains him to see Norma suffer.

She sniffles, squeezing his fingers. "I have that dream of killing Keith Summers," Norma whispers. "But this time Norman is behind me, holding my hand and forcing me to stab him." It's a possibility Alex actually thought through albeit he hasn't told her about it. Norma is right-handed and was cuffed with her right wrist to the table. Norman could have very well grabbed her wrist and forced her to stab Summers later, even against her will since she had a blackout and was in a trance. Her injuries due to the handcuffs would have covered up any additional bruises her son might have inflicted on her that way. Let alone that Norman would have had enough time to change his clothes that would have had traces of Summers' blood on it after Norma had run away and before he brought her back to the motel. "I will never know the truth, Alex." Norma's words interrupt his chain of thought. "I will never know whether I killed that man and Sam."

This is not what bothers her, though, at least not only. Those men were assholes and now they're dead. End of story. It bothers Norma the most that she will never know whether her son was a serial killer or only killed Matt Weary as an isolated incident, the fact that he also tried to kill her a mere sideshow in Norma's world.

Alex has an opinion. Call it the instinct of a cop but despite possible alternate scenarios, he is quite certain that Norma killed Keith Summers but also that Norman is responsible for the death of her ex-husband in addition to murdering Matt Weary. It fits both of their profiles. Norma is the kind of woman who would snap while defending herself and kill Summers in the process. And Norman was everything but a victim of circumstance. His actions were planned and deliberate although he made mistakes like sending the text message to Weary from Norma's cell phone. Maybe he wanted to get caught subconsciously, but he also wanted his mother for himself, and therefore, needed to get rid of every rival, beginning with his father. Norma told Alex that she found one of her dresses smeared with mud in the laundry after Weary's death. Something Norman must have done to manipulate her and convince her of her guilt. It was only a matter of time until he would have tried to get rid of him, too. Norman probably would have gone through with it if he wasn't the sheriff and no easy victim like the others.

Norma sniffles again, pulling Alex's hand up to her face so that she can snuggle into the back of it. Alex doesn't know what to say. He has no answers either and it's not going to be good, no matter what he tells her.

"So, what do you want to do?" Alex asks instead. "Sell the motel?" It feels the obvious thing to ask since she is avoiding motel and house like the pest, but she tenses up immediately.

"Why would I do that? It's my motel. I bought it."

"I know. I know, Norma. I just thought since you're not living there anymore…," Alex tries to soothe her.

She sighs. "You're right. I'm sorry. Yeah, maybe I'll sell it. I don't know. So much has happened there."

Although Alex has been waiting for it, Norma has never asked him about the exact way Norman died, accepted the version of the official report, that Norman took his gun and he had to shoot him in self-defense, without batting an eyelash. But now, after Norman's funeral, he can't keep it from her any longer. Norma deserves the unadorned truth even if it might be the one thing that will make her break up with him.

"The night Norman died…," Alex begins slowly.

"Alex, no!" Norma puts one finger against his lips as if to keep the words inside. She seems to be much more worried about learning the truth than never knowing what really happened. "Don't tell me, I'm..."

"You're what?"

She holds his gaze. "I love you, Alex," she breathes. "And I want to keep loving you and I don't know if I can if you tell me this right now. Some day, but not now."

Alex heard everything Norma said but is still stuck at I love you. Somehow it's a given that they love each other. You don't stay together after such a traumatic experience when you don't, but they never said it before, not with words.

"I love you, too." He gently grasps the back of her neck and pulls her towards him to kiss her.

A lot of things remain unspoken. Alex hasn't told Norma about what Norman did to her the night Keith Summers died, doesn't want to add even more agony to her memories regarding the son she lost. Norma hasn't told Alex about her past and Dylan's father, the reason why her relationship with Dylan is so strained or at least used to be. Some day. It's a promise or a threat. Either way, they have to take one thing at a time.

A couple of days later, they are at the motel for the first time after that fateful day Norman died and almost took Norma with him. There are no guests, all 12 keys neatly hanging at the wall. Dylan checked the last guests out while Norma was in hospital.

Norma looks around for something to do or put away. This is the pretense why they are here after all, that there is actually something to do. But Dylan did a good job. Desk and office are tidy, ready for winter season until new guests will arrive in spring next year. Norma touches the desk, uncertain what to do, sensing Alex's presence. He is hovering over her, insisted on accompanying her. They are both aware that being here is progress, an important step for her to cope with what happened.

Alex wraps his arms around Norma's waist from behind, pulling her towards him. "See? Everything's fine. Dylan handled it."

Norma leans back. It feels good to be in his arms and just let him hold her. Aside from Dylan, Alex has been the constant in her life recently. Something she didn't expect. Their relationship had been so fresh, and yet, he has never made a move to leave or insinuate it is too much for him. A dead son. A broken mother. But he has stayed. Alex even spends most of the nights at the motel with her although she knows he hates that place. Let alone that nothing more than cuddling has happened between them since she was released from the hospital. Norma misses the passion. There is this resistance deep down inside her, though, that doesn't allow her to feel the way with him she wants. How can she enjoy life when her son is dead?

More than a month. That's how long they haven't slept together. Alex's body reacts when she shifts against him; Norma can feel his arousal.

"I'm sorry," he says, pulling his lower body away from her just as she reaches backwards to keep their bodies close.

"Don't be," she whispers.

Norma wants this, but every time she closes her eyes, she sees Norman raising his hand to stab her. When she turns her head to kiss Alex, a sob escapes her throat instead.

"Norma, we don't have to do this." Alex practically tries to shove her away from him.

"I want to." Again, she keeps him close and they struggle awkwardly until they stumble forward towards the desk, Alex's weight pressing Norma's upper body down on it. She pushes her hips back into him involuntarily as she loses balance and Alex groans in response. Then she finds something to hold on to and does it again, deliberately this time, and again. "I want to," she repeats, grabbing one of his hands and putting it on her breast, his fingers flexing of their own accord. "I need to feel alive again. I need to forget." Norma half-unbuttons her blouse to give him better access, his fingers slipping inside.

Alex seems to have given up to try and resist her. There is no one here, not even cars driving by since a new bypass was opened two weeks ago. Norma feels his lips on the back of her neck as one of his hands continues to tease her breast and the other pushes the hem of her skirt up.

"Just pull them down," she mumbles, referring to her pantyhose. One of the disadvantages of the season. Too many layers of clothing. The knee-high boots are an advantage though. Norma knows Alex appreciates them.

Their bodies are rocking back and forth together gently. It's nice and sexy and Alex is clearly getting more and more in the mood. Despite her words and efforts, however, Norma is not and she hates it.

"Damnit, do it already," she hisses, fumbling around with his belt and zipper. Alex freezes behind her. This is not how they have sex.

Norma is half lying on the desk, half has she pushed herself up to support herself on her elbows. Alex puts one of his hands on her lower back. He is not actually holding her down; it's rather an instinctive gesture to calm her and at the same time make sure she doesn't freak out as he contemplates what to do next. Then Norma feels him slowly backing away from her. He is aware something is wrong and she should have known that a man like Alex would never go through with this. His understanding and gentleness make her even angrier at herself. She tries to shake his hand off. That's when it happens.

Alex pulled Norma's panties down along with her pantyhose, and when she makes a sudden move, the solid, wooden edge of the desk hits her naked flesh right between her legs. It hurts, making her gasp, but then Norma feels something she hasn't felt in a while. Arousal. For some reason the pain overrode her inability to enjoy this. She doesn't question the why; in fact she doesn't think at all because weeks of suppressed desire are about to be set free. Norma pushes herself against the desk again hard and it feels even better, so good that she throws her head back and moans. For once, she doesn't care about Alex or his needs. It's enough that he is there with her. She wants him and this, please more of this.

When she repeats the move over and over, Norma senses Alex leaning forward. He covers her with his upper body, his hand slipping back into her blouse that gapes wide open to touch her, his kisses on her neck making her shiver with excitement.

Aside from the one rather surprised moan at the beginning, Norma remains silent. It's not like her, Alex knows as much by now, but everything about this is different. It's just her erratic breathing and her hips bumping against the desk, something that sounds as if it has to hurt, and yet, seems to be what she needs right now.

"Let go," Alex whispers, and this time, there is no sob when Norma turns her head to kiss him.

It's an inconvenient angle, the kiss sloppy but passionate until she breaks it, her entire body trembling underneath him. Then she whimpers, an almost relieved tone before her body goes limp. Norma murmurs something he doesn't understand because she is breathing so heavily.

"I want to feel you," she repeats.

He gently pushes some strands of hair aside so that he can see her face. "Are you sure?"

"Am I sure? My naked ass is right in front of you. So yes, Alex, I'm sure," Norma states impatiently.

She is still in a strange mood, but it feels as if a burden has been lifted from her. Not to mention that his arousal is beginning to feel uncomfortable. Therefore Alex doesn't need to be told twice. Norma is more than ready for him. Nevertheless, and despite what he just witnessed her do, Alex sets a gentle pace. She, however, won't have it, pushing her hips back against him hard and eventually straightening herself into a half-standing position to change the angle. She gasps when he pushes inside her again.

"Does it hurt?" Alex slows down.

"No. Yes. No, it… Just don't stop."

It has to hurt, but she doesn't change position. He feels her body tense up with every stroke as Alex holds her against him because she sways and has trouble keeping her balance.

"You have to help me out here, Norma. Tell me what to do." He usually senses it by instinct even if they are still getting used to each other's bodies. But this is different. Alex needs to know what she wants.

"Touch me," she whispers, pushing his hand down between her legs.

Norma's head falls back on his shoulder when he complies, her mouth half-open. She still doesn't moan, but this way Alex is able to hear her aroused breathing. Even though Norma continues to tense up every time he pushes inside her, his touch seems to even it out, pain and desire deliciously flooding through her body in equal measure.

He watches their reflection in the glass of the window. It's an incredibly sexy sight. Nothing is more thrilling than Norma's unpredictability, her behavior irritating and exciting him at the same time. Alex wants to wait for her, but the way Norma writhes in his arms makes it impossible.

"Norma, I can't..."

"Just don't stop, don't stop, don't..."

Alex doesn't stop when he comes, intensifying speed and pressure instead until Norma follows him with a stifled moan that is replaced by a whimper when he makes an incautious move and hurts her shoulder in the process. Shit! Alex completely forgot about it, lost in the moment.

"I'm so sorry, Norma."

"It's ok, it's ok," she assures him breathlessly, "worth it." She gives a laugh, more the Norma he knows again, her body still resting against his when she raises her hand to touch his neck like she loves to do. "That was nice," Norma murmurs. Nice is definitely not the word Alex would use, rather unique albeit wonderful.

The silence is a little awkward but not tense anymore when they get dressed.

"So, um, do you want to go up to the house as well?" Alex asks.

Norma considers it. "No. Let's go...," she meant to say home until she realized they don't have a home at the moment. She gave hers up voluntarily what made him abandon his all the same. "Let's drive back."

It's getting dark already when Alex starts the car. Norma has been there but not there during the last weeks, strong but a shadow of herself, the way people are who are dealing with grief and tragic events. Now she is holding his hand while he is driving, at least as far as practicable, her presence like a gentle caress clasping him. It doesn't mean that the grieving process is over. Things like that take years. But she is here, right here with him. And that's all that matters.

Chapter Text

No one knows she's here. Well, no one being Alex or Dylan. At the end of the day, there are very few people in our lives that matter, and to Norma, these two matter and no one else. At least as far as the living are concerned.

She needed to come here alone. The house is silent. Norma was afraid she would either become sentimental or scared the moment she opened the door, but so far none of it has happened. It's just a house full of memories that oddly enough don't seem to be connected to her anymore.

Norma walks up the stairs. Whoever cleaned up, did a good job. There is the one or other black stain that can't be removed, left by forensics whilst they were perpetuating evidence, but there is not one blood splatter. Alex must have taken care of it; it wasn't his first crime scene. On her way upstairs Norma stops right at the spot where Norman attempted to kill her. Still no blood. She reaches out to touch the handrail she held on to desperately when he dragged her down the stairs, hesitating at first before she grabs it more firmly. Nothing. No additional flash of memory aside from the pictures that will always weigh heavily on her mind, just a deep sadness that things had to end the way they did. Then again, this sadness is always there these days, accompanying her wherever she goes and whatever she does. Grief leaves an imprint on your soul that remains forever, only pales with time but never vanishes.

She takes a deep breath, walks up the last couple of steps and heads to Norman's room. When Norma opens the door, something changes. The impact she has been waiting for. Suddenly it's difficult to breathe. She enters anyway. Her son always kept the room tidy. The instinct of a mother tells Norma, though, that someone tidied up even more, probably expecting this day to happen and not wanting her to find a room that looked as if Norman had just left and would be back any moment. A scenario that would have made this difficult moment even more heartbreaking. It must have been Dylan, not Alex, considering he was the one who pulled the trigger. If anything, Alex would have wanted to clear out the room but knew he couldn't do that to her.

Norman's scent still lingers in his clothes, even after almost three months. Norma strokes some of his sweaters and his jacket as if he was able to feel her touch. The tears are there now, waiting to be shed. She searches the drawers until she finds what she came here for. A teddy bear Norman had ever since he was a baby. The moment her fingers touch the plush toy, the memories come back. She knew they would. Norma hugs and squeezes the teddy bear, burying her nose in its soft, artificial fur as she sits down on the bed.

Will he find us? Norman was five years old; they were hiding in the closet from her husband, his father when he asked her that.

No, honey. She held him tight back then, turned his face towards her so that he wouldn't see his father trashing the room through the blinds, the destructive frenzy a distraction since he'd rather hit human flesh, break skin and bones.

I don't want him to hurt you. I don't want anyone to hurt you. Ever, Norman whispered. Sooner or later Sam would hurt her again, but right then, in that moment, it felt as if Norman's love could protect her against anything.

Norma lies down on Norman's bed and curls up, her body shielding the toy like she used to shield Norman. Then she allows herself to let go and cry. This is the final goodbye.

Norma inhales deeply. Although it's freezing outside, there is nothing better than the fresh air of the sea.

"This is beautiful, Dylan," she says, turning around to look at her son even if the view is as amazing as the fresh air.

Dylan stands inside, watching her through the open door. His patio is almost as big or rather small as his living room but clearly the best thing of the house. It makes him proud that Norma obviously agrees. Proud and a little embarrassed. Dylan blushes and looks away.

"Yeah, um..." He scratches his head. "It's not a big house, only two rooms, but I thought it would be nice to have a house at the beach. I love the water."

"Me too." Norma turns around to savor the view once more.

Dylan has been living here and there during the last months. After Norma hadn't returned, there was no reason for him to stay at the house even if there was plenty of space. Although Dylan told no one, it scared him to be there alone. Too many ghosts, too many awful memories. He slept there one night and then packed his stuff the next morning, tidied Norman's room as a last farewell and never has set foot in it again ever since.

"You earn enough money so that you can afford this place?"

He should be offended because she sounds as if that is hard to believe, but Dylan is too happy right now. "Yes, I do." Even if Norma doesn't approve of what he does and the sheriff will probably arrest him one day, it feels great to be financially independent. For the first time in his life, Dylan has been able to keep a job longer than three weeks. In a way, he has made it. "You should come by and visit sometime. I have an office."

"You have an office?"

"Yeah." Casual as if it didn't mean anything. She is in for a surprise though. His office is huge.

Norma smiles at him, something that happens all the time these days. It's weird not to be the bad son anymore. Dylan hasn't replaced Norman, would never want that, especially considering the much too close relationship his brother and mother had. However it feels as if his old self doesn't exist anymore either, as if there suddenly is a third son that has been found only now.

"So, what about you and the sheriff?" Dylan deflects, stepping out to join his mother on the patio.

"What about us?" But the way Norma beams the moment Dylan mentions Alex says it all.

"Well, is it serious?"

Dylan knows Alex is dead serious. A man doesn't do for a woman what Alex did for Norma and still does every day if he is not deeply in love. Dylan is not sure about Norma though. The fact that she and Alex are still together after Alex killed Norman speaks volumes. Then again, this is Norma and her perception of what she wants and needs can change on a daily basis. Any second actually.

Right now she is looking at the sea, can't seem to get enough of it, her beautiful profile a perfect subject for a photograph. Despite the almost magical scenario, Norma looks thoughtful, her mind elsewhere while she is contemplating his question.

"Don't be," Dylan says.

"Don't be what?" Norma shoots a glance at him.


A shadow flits across her face. His remark hit home.

"You've had nothing but bad breaks, but that doesn't mean something good won't last. Things will be better from now on. You deserve it."

This time she holds his gaze. "You think so? You think it's all gonna be okay?"

"Kind of. Yeah, I do. Life is not perfect, Norma, but it can be better than it was in the past."

She raises her eyebrows. "Doesn't take much, does it?" And yet, the mere idea of being happy with Alex scares her to death because what if life takes that happiness away again like it always did in the past? She won't survive, not with Norman gone, no matter how much her relationship with Dylan has improved. Norma's facial expression softens. "I'm sorry, Dylan. I'm so sorry, for everything. How I shut you out; it was horrible of me and I'm so sorry."

Dylan doesn't move, just keeps standing next to her as she rests her head on his shoulder and they watch the sunset together. For a moment, he can't say where his body ends and hers begins. Maybe this is how you feel when you are family and close. It feels good although almost too close. There is always that aura around Norma that is a tad too intense. He stirs.

"Hang on a sec." Dylan walks inside and returns with two bottles of beer, handing one over to Norma. "I, err, I have no glasses yet, but I think this is something we should drink to." They clink bottles. "To my new house, to a better future." He pauses. "To you and the sheriff."

Norma takes a deep breath and then smiles. "To all that." After she has taken the first sip, she screws up her face. "Can I get wine the next time?"

"Sure, Norma, anything you want."

But she continues to drink the beer and seems to be perfectly happy. Maybe the world can be a better place, even for people like them.

"Don't be mad."

"Norma, is that you?"

"Of course, it's me. Don't you recognize my number or my voice?"

Sometimes her comebacks are so quick that Alex doesn't know how to respond. Just when he is about to, he hears some rumbling in the background.

"Where are you?"

"I'm..." More rumbling, a bump, a groan and the sound of something falling down and breaking to pieces. "It's late already," Norma says, completely ignoring whatever is going on around her, "and I thought maybe you'd want to...come home."

This is starting to get really cryptic. Alex has come to terms with staying at the motel, but she has never referred to it as their home before.

"Alex," Norma's voice becomes impatient when he doesn't reply immediately as if her request was obvious and he of all people should understand what she means. There is something else in her voice though. Unease. "Come to your house," she adds before she hangs up, leaving him speechless.

It takes Alex only 10 minutes to drive over to his house, the movers just leaving when he arrives. The men nod to him politely in passing; he vaguely recognizes one or two. One of them stops to talk to him; he's obviously in charge.

"She, err, Mrs. Bates told us it was ok with you and since everyone knows the two of you are, err, together, we accepted the order."

"Yes, sure." Alex peeks inside. There are curtains in front of one window where he pulled the roller blinds up only this morning. He makes out Norma's outline, twirling through the rooms. Part of him feels slightly angry because she didn't discuss the decision with him in advance. Then again, it wouldn't have been the surprise she apparently was going for. And even from where he is standing and after just a brief look, his house appears to be so much cozier, as if Norma's sheer presence has made it warmer. Alex gets his wallet out to give the movers a tip, but the man refuses to take it.

"No, thanks, Mrs. Bates already gave us more than enough. And she made us lunch. Doesn't get much better than that. Have a nice evening."

The man catches up with his colleagues, car doors open and close while Alex remains standing outside, trying to process what is happening. He is coming home. Not to his house after a long workday to have a drink and crash on the couch, not to a motel room because the woman he loves is living there. Home.

Norma pretends not to hear him when he comes in although Alex knows she has been listening for each and every of his footsteps, tensely waiting for this moment.

"There you are." She badly fakes surprise, finally acknowledging his presence. "So, what do you think?" Norma wrings her hands nervously. There is more furniture in his living room than before, but it doesn't feel crowded at all, rather more comfortable. "I only brought along a few things and, um, my clothes. We need to talk about where I can put them and then we can decide together what furniture from my house we might want to bring here in addition. I paid the movers in advance. They are prepared to do more heavy lifting." She is rambling.

"Norma..." Alex walks up to her, taking her in his arms, but she wriggles out of his grasp.

"If you don't want any of my furniture here, that's fine. We can throw it out. I just thought since I have some really beautiful vintage things that you might like them too. But, um, the only thing I need to keep is this."

Norma has went over to the opposite wall where her piano is standing. He loves that she plays the piano, would never tell her to get rid of it. Only when Norma becomes even more nervous, he realizes it's not solely about the piano. It's about the photo she has put on top of it right next to the photo of himself and his mother when he was a little boy. A photo of her and Norman. It must be recent; Norman doesn't look much younger than when he died. They both smile into the camera, hugging each other happily and free from worry.

Alex doesn't know what to say or do. Logically, this was a moment bound to happen. Even so, he never thought about the possibility that moving in together would entail having a photograph of the kid he killed in his own house. He allowed himself to indulge in the illusion that he could forget about what happened like he had forgotten about other things he had done in his life. Norma swallows, worried by his silence, and Alex realizes he has frozen and is staring at the photo. If she lives with him, the memory of her son will live here too.

"You want to live here with me?" On the other side Norma has come to stay with the man who killed her son. Between the two of them, she is the one who has to offer the much bigger sacrifice.

"Yes. I sold the motel and my house today." And she definitely is the one who never ceases to amaze him.

Alex takes her hand and leads her out.

"What are you doing?"

He almost regrets his spontaneous decision when he hears how scared Norma's voice sounds, but this is how it has to start. Alex stops the moment they are standing outside, turning them around so that they are facing his front door. Then he scoops Norma up and carries her inside, putting her down right next to the piano.

"Welcome to my house. And thank you for making it our home."

Norma snuggles into Alex lazily. He eventually convinced her to delay hanging the rest of the curtains until tomorrow since they needed to celebrate her moving in with him appropriately. In the bedroom. Then in the kitchen where she prepared a light meal for them. And then in the bedroom again. It's a great feeling to be exhausted and delighted at the same time. It reduces the world to the here and now, to Norma in his arms, her breath a soft caress against his neck.

Sometime between number one and three she announced that she hates his bed and that it will be either hers or a new one, something that seems to be a given in her book especially after her I don't like that I have no idea who slept with you in here statement. Alex could give her a list, but that's not the point. Let alone that he kind of likes jealous Norma. That version of her is new and really cute.

"Can you leave the light on?" she murmurs.

"Are you afraid of the dark?" He didn't know that about her.

"No." She yawns. "I want to see you."

"Norma… You're supposed to sleep, not watch me sleeping. That's creepy." Although Alex has to laugh. Who would've thought that a relaxed Norma is so sweet? He has come to know and love her strength, unpredictability, and sensuality, but witnessing her like this once in a while makes for a nice balance.

"Just for a bit." Norma is so sleepy that she won't last long, her words already barely audible. Alex only understands what she is saying because she is essentially murmuring into his ear. "I can't believe I'm here. That we're together. That after everything, we've made it."

So Alex leaves the lamp on his chest of drawers on. Save that it's not her watching him but vice versa. Norma has fallen asleep and he takes the opportunity to study her peaceful face for a while before he gets up to turn off the lights.

He is tired and bumps with his hip against the top drawer that is half open. Alex groans, pushing the drawer shut when he is suddenly reminded of something he hasn't thought of in years. There is a lot of stuff in the drawer. He fumbles around carefully to make no noise until his fingers feel the familiar little box and get it out. Alex looks at the bed before he opens the box to make sure Norma is sound asleep. The ring of his mother, safely tucked away in the box, is as beautiful as always. A classic that calls for a certain type of woman. Someone who can wear such a classic on her finger as if it was made for her. Alex looks at Norma again, smiling as he puts the little black box back into the drawer, hiding it under some stuff so that Norma won't find it accidentally. Everything is falling into place.

Norma stirs in her sleep but doesn't wake up when Alex eases into bed again. He can't resist to stroke her cheek before he puts one arm around her protectively. "Goodnight, Mrs. Sheriff."

They will bring over more of her furniture tomorrow; he will make room for it. And in the evening, he will take her to the yearly Winter Lights Festival. She will look ethereally beautiful, carrying one of the illuminated umbrellas. They will have funnel cake, a hot toddy, and she will probably talk him into dancing. Either way, he will bring the little black box because he has to ask her something that can't wait.