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Before she put on a show for him at the window, Norma always had been in the motel office when he went to work. These days Alex could as well report her as a missing person. It's Norman or Emma behind the desk every morning.

About a week after their particular encounter, Alex finishes work early and arrives at the motel in the afternoon already. Norma is on the porch watering flowers. The moment she notices him, her entire body tenses up.

Their habit of ignoring things worked for a while but not anymore. Norma knows he is attracted to her; yet she thought he hated her. Then, the moment she heard he doesn't, she began to tease him, put her hand on his thigh when they were in the car together, undressed while he was watching. Well, not completely. Alex had seen enough before she turned off the lights, though, to turn his attraction into a blind passion that needs to be fed. He met up with Carol several times after it had become clear Norma would avoid him at all cost. Albeit it helps to release the tension, it's still a compensation, not what he really wants.

"Hi, Norma."

"Hi, Alex."

Norma saw him coming, is already rolling up the hose, about to leave, her body language unmistakeably indicating that she is in a hurry and has no time for whatever it is he has in mind.

"Can I talk to you about something?"

"I have to go up to the house to make dinner."

"It's 4 PM, Norma. Dinner can wait a bit. It won't take long."

She slouches her shoulders like a child that was scolded by its teacher. Then she shrugs, playing it cool, as if she had no idea what in the world this could be about.

"So, what is it?"

Alex gives her a long look that makes her fidget uncomfortably although she covers it by checking some flowers in a pot.

"Why did you do it?" he asks.

"Do what?" Hands still in the flower pot, pretending to be distracted.

"You know what, Norma. The little show you put on for me only to disappear afterwards."

"I didn't disappear. And I don't know what you're talking about."

She is such a bad liar.

"Norma." Alex sighs. "Don't do that, okay? I was there. I saw you, you saw me and you… did what you did."

Her eyes are blue steel as she keeps staring at him hard. "I didn't put on a show for you. You have the audacity to watch me and then come here to..." Norma flinches, breaking off mid-sentence when Alex takes a step forward. She sways, stopping herself from backing away from him last-minute.

"I like your bra. I liked it even more when you took it off." Alex's voice is low; people tell him he sounds dangerous when he talks like that.

Judging from her wary posture, Norma seems to agree although there is this sparkle in her eyes again she had when he told her about her see-through curtains for the first time. She opens her mouth to respond but closes it again, can't decide on which words are the right ones, her face an open book. Norma is turned on by what he said and equally repelled by it. She wants to play the game but not if he makes the rules.

"Yes, Norma, I watched you. Because you were undressing right at your window and it looked as if you were doing it for me. And I need to know what the hell that means."

Her eyes search his face as if she was able to find the answer there before they come to rest on his lips. Norma swallows. Then she purses her lips and Alex knows whatever she is going to say won't be what he has been hoping for. He will never know for sure, though, because at this very moment two motel guests come back from their hiking trip, their footsteps loud on the wooden porch.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Bates."

"Good afternoon." All of a sudden Norma is as keen to her guests as one would expect a motel owner to be, something that is an exception rather than the rule. She also takes the chance to practically run away. "Have a nice evening, everyone." She smiles, nods, turns around and is gone in the blink of an eye.

"Norma, wait..." But Alex is talking to her back and he will be damned if he runs after her.

Their game will need some extra time.

It's late in the evening on the same day when Alex takes out his trash. He doesn't have to do it; it's part of the room service, but he uses it as an excuse for his daily check on the Bates mansion to see if everything is peaceful and quiet. Only then he goes to sleep.

The night is warm, crickets chirping in the background. Some of the windows of the house are open; he can hear Norma and Norman fighting although he can't make out the words. Alex notices that Norma's car is parked at the end of the steps leading up to the house. He saw her leave earlier tonight. Not that he is paying close attention to what she does. It was impossible to overlook the way she was dressed though, her white-blue, vintage dress matching the light color of her eyes perfectly. She was dressed up for a date. George Heldens, Alex assumes, provided Norma didn't meet someone new during the last few days. You never know.

Alex didn't notice that Norma came back. Even though it's late, it's too early to be back from a date. He has to suppress a smirk. Whatever happened, that date didn't go well. And Norma's evening hasn't gotten better judging from the yelling that continues. It sounds as if they are running up or down the stairs, followed by some loud knocking on a door. The wind has changed direction, carrying over some words. Norma screaming her son's name. Then. I won't stay out here! You want to be alone? Fine... She stops screaming and lowers her voice so that Alex can't make out the rest.

Seconds later, Norma comes running down the stairs. She is still wearing the white-blue dress, didn't bother to put on her coat she is carrying along. As she comes closer, Alex catches sight of black lace at the neckline. It gives the rather innocent dress a subtle meaning. This dress is meant to be taken off.

He expects her to jump in her car and speed off, but Norma stops right in front of it, keys in her hand, fiddling around with them as if she was uncertain what to do next.

Watching her makes him uncomfortable. He wants to talk to her; however this is not the right time. Watching her at the window when she obviously wanted it was different than watching her now when she is not aware of it. It feels like an intrusion into her privacy. Alex shifts from one foot to the other, causing the gravel to scrunch under his shoes, the sound making Norma look in his direction. She spots him, narrowing her eyes to make something out in the dark.


"Yeah, it's me."

He didn't mean to scare her and steps forward into the light of the street lamp so that she can see him, realizing she doesn't look scared. Not at all. In fact Norma looks as if she just found the prey she had been looking for. Coat and bag are dropped on the gravel recklessly as she lunges at him, the impact prompting Alex to stumble against the back wall of the motel office that is not occupied at this late hour.

There is no time to understand or process what is happening. There is not even time to breathe when Norma presses her lips on his and shoves her tongue into his mouth. For a surreal moment Alex wonders whether he is already back in his motel room, dreaming. Only when Norma starts to roll her lower body, her hipbone bumping against his, the brief flare of pain tells him he is awake. What the hell is going on? And does he even want to know? Because by now he is kissing her back and his hands have found their way down to her well-formed backside.

She turns them around to change their positions so that it's her with her back against the wall now, and when she wraps her leg around his, Alex realizes it's preparation for what's to come. Something starts to tingle in the back of his head because as volatile as Norma's mood may be, this is a little over the top even by her standards.

"Norma…," he takes the chance to speak when they have to gasp for air. She kisses so damn good. "What is this?"

Instead of an answer, she deepens their kiss even more. Alex reacts by instinct. His hand that was on her neck slips down to her collar bone. He stops when he feels black lace tickling his palm. Does she really want this? But Norma arches into his touch, a sound escaping her that is a mix between a sigh and a moan and that makes him put more pressure on his hand so that he can feel the perfect curve of her breast, the images of the night he got the briefest of glimpses at her naked skin making the experience even more intense.

Norma rubs herself against him, the quiet noises coming from her throat driving him crazy. She pulls his shirt out of his pants, her fingertips exploring his chest and lower abdomen. It makes his muscles twitch in the best possible way. Alex has forgotten whatever reason there might have been to stop this, abandons logical thinking, abandons thinking at all since all he wants to do is feel. Feel her. Feel this.

He grabs her ass, using the weight of his body to push her hard against the wall as a premonition of what she can expect. Norma seems to like it, her breath coming in short, erratic breaths, her hand reaching for his wrist to push his hand between her legs. He fumbles around with the hem of her dress before his fingers feel soft skin first and then the silken fabric of her panties. There is no hesitation on his part as Alex slides two of his fingers underneath. Norma moves, opening herself up to him so that he is met with smooth, slippery warmth. Just when he is about to thrust his fingers into her, she turns her head and looks him straight in the eye.

There is arousal all over her face, her physical reaction proof that she is enjoying this, and yet, there is only one thing in her eyes – pain. Alex can't know that this is what Norma does – heal pain with sex, the only kind of closeness between people she has ever experienced. What he sees makes him pull away.

"Why are you doing this?" Alex is painfully hard, but there is no way in hell he will go through with this if he doesn't know what is going on. "Tell me," he urges her when Norma doesn't react, only looks up at the house over his shoulder.

"I need this, Alex," she pleads with him, kissing him again.

Norma's words seem to have a direct connection to his groin. He almost caves in. Why should it matter to him why she is doing this when it obviously doesn't matter to her? But she said it herself. She needs this. Not him. This. Alex wonders whether she would have lunged at any man standing there. He grabs her arms and slowly pulls her away from him.

"If you're not going to answer me, then this is where it ends."

She looks exasperated and angry rather than hurt.

"You might need this, Norma, but I need to know what this means to you. I told you."

Her movements are controlled now, deliberate, as she smoothes down her dress, not the frantic haze from before. Then she nods.

"Okay," Norma says rather to herself.

But when she wants to leave, he blocks her way. "It's not okay. I can see it."

"Let me go." Norma looks down, then up at him. "If you don't want this, then let me go."

"I don't want you to go." She is not in a good place. This will not end well.

Norma straightens herself, the fighter standing her ground. "Let. Me. Go." Holding his gaze as if he was the enemy and this combat when they were just about to make love or whatever aberration it might have been.

"You have to stop doing this, Norma. I'm here, talk to me, but I won't be your punching bag." A last effort to make her talk or stay but not at any price. This is what it boils down to. She thinks she can have him, or probably any man, when she wants and push him away the moment she doesn't anymore. But that's not how it works. Not with him.

Norma slips away, picking up her coat, graceful even in a moment like this. Alex only turns around when he hears the engine start, watching the taillights of her car disappear in the dark. He is dead certain that she is on her way to George Heldens. Norma will get what she needs tonight.

He hits the wall once, twice, punching it again and again until his knuckles start to bleed in an effort to let the physical pain numb his hurt and arousal but when he finally stops, leaning against the wall, he can still smell her on his fingers.

As Alex is waiting for his breathing to calm down, he comes to a decision. Norma won't stop whatever it is she is doing. Therefore he has to. She is taking over his life and he can't allow that to happen. From now on, it will be business as usual. He's the sheriff, she's the motel owner, and once his house will be rebuilt, he will move out.

Until then, no more games.

Norma sighs when the doorbell rings. Can't she have one hour for herself? Emma and Norman are down at the motel office. For once she wanted to just sit in the living room, enjoy a cup of tea and a good book or perhaps do nothing at all but relish the silence. Too much has been going on recently or ever. Norman's kidnapping, the entire Nick Ford disaster that was followed by Norman's suicide attempt and lie detector test. Merely thinking about all these things makes her dizzy. It's all good now. Norman's alive, he passed the lie detector test and Nick Ford won't bother her anymore. Okay, yes, he's dead. Another body, and again, one of her sons was involved, but sometimes there is no choice. There is only survival and an hour or two with a cup of tea and a good book in between.

The doorbell rings again. Norma puts her book down to get up and tear open the door.

The woman standing outside is an extraordinary beauty. She is contemporarily dressed but has an aura around her as if she stepped right out of a movie from the 50s.

"Oh, I thought you weren't there. Is this an inconvenient time? I don't want to disturb you."

Her cultivated manners steal Norma's thunder. "I'm… No… Do we know each other?" She doubts this is a motel guest, would remember her if she was and doesn't. Let alone that a woman like her wouldn't put up at a motel.

"Sorry." Norma senses an underlying nervousness. Yet the woman is unfazed, the kind of person that never loses her countenance. "I'm Carol Buret."

"Norma Bates. What can I do for you? Are you a motel guest? I don't think I've seen you around."

"Um..." The woman looks down at the motel as if she was contemplating something before she turns back around. "Would it be okay if I came in for a moment?"

She doesn't look like an ax murderer although you never know in White Pine Bay. A thought crosses Norma's mind.

"Are you related to Nick Ford?" Carol Buret looks like a woman who belongs on his boat that is actually a yacht, drinking wine that is so expensive that it makes your tongue prickle like water. She could be here to take revenge.

"Nick Ford? No. Who is that?" She seems to be genuinely surprised.

"Never mind." Norma stops her with a wave of her hand. "Come in."

Norma has always been proud of the house and what she has made of it so far although she has so many more plans once she will have enough money to realize them. When she leads the woman, Carol, whoever she is, into the kitchen, it embarrasses her, though, how shabby everything looks compared to Carol Buret's flawless elegance.

"Please take a seat," Norma says, trying to push these thoughts to the back of her mind. "Do you want some tea? Or coffee?"

"Don't inconvenience yourself."

Is the woman really that nice and doesn't want to be a bother? Or does she think whatever she has to offer is not good enough for her?

"I know this sounds weird, but I wanted to see you."


"We have a mutual friend," Carol explains after a moment's hesitation. "Or I should rather say had since he is not my… friend anymore. Alexander Romero," she adds when Norma stares at her confused.

Oh... Oh. The earring at his house.

"You and Alex are..."

"Were. It was nothing serious, anyway, but that's not the point or why I'm here." Carol tilts her head back, eyeing Norma up. "You are aware that you are very special to him, aren't you?"

Ever since they almost had sex behind the motel office, Alex seems to have decided that there is nothing going on between them. Norma had been irritated at first but considering what was going on, it was for the best. Especially since he still has been around to help her. None of this she intends to share with a stranger though.

"I don't know what you're talking about. He is the sheriff and lives in my motel. That's it."

Carol gives Norma a wistful, knowing smile.

"I didn't know for sure. That's why I wanted to see you. There was always something different about him when he was talking about you or when he explicitly wasn't."

"What did he say?"

"That you're the motel owner and that he lives in your motel and that this was it." Carol pauses. "You really don't see it," she then states.

"See what?"

"The resemblance." Carol leans forward. "The reason Alexander picked me up at a bar."

This is a lot of information at once. First of all, in a bar? Wow, Norma never would have thought that. This woman is full of surprises. She raises an eyebrow appreciatively. Second of all, it drives her crazy that Carol keeps calling him Alexander. Yes, it's his name, but it makes it sound as if Alex wouldn't be good enough. Norma pictures him wearing a suit and a tie, having dinner in an expensive restaurant with Carol. She doesn't like the image although Alex does look good in a suit; Norma knows that from personal experience.

"What resemblance?" Norma is losing her patience. Did that woman really come over only to rub her nose in the fact that she is having an affair with Alexander or was having an affair with him or whatever.

"You and me. We look quite alike."

The blonde hair. The light blue eyes. Even the retro aura Carol radiates. Norma was so impressed by her beauty and manners that she didn't notice it. Alex sleeping with another woman that looks like her. Picking her up at a bar. The moment the meaning sinks in, Norma blushes, her pulse speeding up as a wave of excitement floods through her. All this while he was acting as if what had happened between them didn't matter to him.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because there are a lot of sad and lonely people in this world. Alexander and I are not meant to be, but maybe you and he are."

There is something in Carol's eyes that tells Norma she had someone who was meant for her once and lost him, perhaps was looking for him in Alex just as he was looking for someone else in her, the fact that she is here giving her this information as a gift without expecting anything in return a random act of kindness in a world that both women know is cruel and indifferent otherwise.

"I thought you should know that. As I said..." Carol stands up. "I don't want to disturb you. Have a nice day."

She is on her way out, Norma still trying to process what happened as she catches up with her at the front door. Norma doesn't know what to say. Thank you? Have a nice day, too? In the end, these are the words that slip out.

"His name is Alex, not Alexander."

Norma raises her hand to knock on the door for what must be the third or forth time but ends up not doing it like the times before when the door suddenly opens as if by magic.

"What is it?" Alex asks, not unfriendly however in this tone of voice that is a mix of concern and annoyance and seems to be reserved solely for her. "I saw you through the window," he explains when he notices her surprised facial expression.

Norma looks past him into the room. The sheets of the bed are in disarray as if he was lying on it, maybe watching TV. Or maybe he was reading a book although she sees none. Does he read at all? And did Carol use to meet him here? Her thoughts are jumping here and there, then back to the room and his bed. The sheets must be still warm from his body. Norma wonders what it would feel like to make herself comfortable there, surrounded by his scent.

"Norma?" Patient but urging her at the same time.

"I… um… Can I come in?"

He steps aside to let her enter into the room. The TV screen is black, perhaps Alex turned it off when he saw her approach.

"I wanted to..." This is actually a good question. What did she want when she decided to come over? "I wanted to thank you for saving Norman." It's the first thing that comes to her mind and it's true, just as it is a deja vu. She came to his house to thank him for saving her and her sons and now she came here. A pattern.

Anyone else probably would have smiled in appreciation of her words, but Alex's blank face remains the same. He nods. "You're welcome. I'm glad that nothing worse happened to him."

What now? They are standing in the middle of the room, the silence starting to get awkward.

"Okay." Norma says. "I… um... I just wanted you to know that. I'm not good at… this. Thanking people. But I should have said something sooner because you were there for me. Always. I mean, not at the beginning when you suspected and arrested me but after that." She takes a deep breath, making a face. "Yeah, um… I should go." Norma turns around, heading for the door.

Alex doesn't move, doesn't reach out for her, but his voice does. "Stay."

She turns back around slowly. His facial expression hasn't changed, but his eyes are even darker than usual. It feels like he is able to see through her, the idea causing a relentless flutter deep inside that scares and excites Norma in equal measures, a magnetic pull that makes her approach Alex until she is standing right in front of him.

His hands encompass her face as if he was afraid she would pull away otherwise before he kisses her. It's a gentle kiss, not demanding but exploring, a question that doesn't expect an answer immediately. It sets something in motion inside Norma that goes way beyond kissing him back.

Alex stops to look at her. This time his facial expression has changed as if he unleashed something he had been holding back for a long time. It makes her skin burn with anticipation.

"Take off your dress."

This is the point of no return. Slap him and leave or do what he wants because it's what she wants too?

The fabric slides down her shoulders and over her hips before it lands on the floor with a quiet rustle, the sound of her pulse in her ears so loud that he has to hear it when Alex's fingers brush Norma's lips before his hand comes to rest at her throat, not threatening her, but it doesn't feel innocuous either.

"If you want me to stop, tell me now."

Norma steps back until she feels the edge of the bed right behind her, slipping off her shoes and lying down. This is his answer.

She expects him to throw himself on top of her, but instead Alex takes off his clothes first. All of them. Alexander Romero is an impressive man by all accounts, an unexpected flicker of jealousy flooding through Norma as she thinks of Carol.

His movements are determined, yet slow, as his body covers her, his hand reaching for her bra, opening the front clasp so that the cups slip away. Alex allows himself to stare for a moment before his lips seem to remember that there is more about her that's worth kissing than her mouth. Norma arches into his touch and his tongue, expecting him to take off her panties next when he positions himself between her legs, searching for permission in her eyes. He merely pushes the fabric aside, though, twisting it a bit so that it creates even more friction between her legs, stretching when it has to make room for him as he slips inside her. It's almost painful but when Alex starts to push into her, it makes for just the right amount of torturous pleasure.

Norma likes sex. In her past, however, it often was a necessary act either to get what she wanted or to avoid being on the receiving end of even more violence. Either way, most of the men she has been with didn't care about her pleasure. Alex does, and as good as it is, perfect actually, it makes Norma feel as if she is going to fall apart right in front of his eyes. This is too much. She buries her face in her hands.

Alex stops. "What is it?"

He is so worried about her. Has it always been there? Hidden under what she assumed was hate or indifference?

"I can't…," she mumbles.

"Do you want me to stop?"

Norma takes her hands away from her face to look at him. "No, but I..." How could she ever possibly explain this to him? But for whatever reason, Alex seems to understand or maybe it's just a lucky guess.

"Turn around," he says, already pulling out of her. "If you want."

She does. Despite some horrible experiences she blocks out, Norma has always liked this position because it allows an even deeper feeling. This time, Alex pulls her panties off before he is back inside her. It's better this way, easier when he is not able to watch her even if she misses watching him. It's almost as good to listen to his erratic pants right next to her ear though.

"You don't have to look at me," Alex whispers as she feels his hand sneak between her legs. "But come for me." She was close already, her thighs trembling. His words combined with the stimulation push her over the edge. Norma buries her face in the pillow to suppress a loud moan as Alex collapses on top of her shortly after.

It should feel weird when he rolls off her to lie on his back, his hand stretched out, resting on her backside, but it doesn't. If she is honest with herself, Norma has known for a while that they would end up like this at some point. She just didn't know what it would make her feel. Considering Alex's personality, she expected it to be intense. Turns out it was his gentleness that almost broke her, his thoughtfulness even beneath his passion.

She wants nothing more than to close her eyes and sleep in the knowledge that she is safe here, right next to him. Instead Norma gets up to get dressed.

"What are you doing?" Alex watches her but makes no move to also put his clothes on.

When she has finished dressing, Norma walks around the bed to sit down on his side.

"I really liked this, Alex. But I don't know what it makes us." She frowns as he takes her hand, intertwining their fingers. "I screw things up."

"What if I just hang around some more? It's not as if I'm going anywhere. You know, since they burnt down my house."

It makes her smile.

"That would be nice."

It's getting colder outside; fall is almost there. Norma freezes as she walks across the parking lot. She doesn't know that Alex keeps staring at the door she closed behind her, doesn't know that he is relieved he found the right words so as not to scare her off. But what he really wanted to say was something entirely different.

I love you.