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Norma can't stop smiling. She smiled when she went to bed, smiled when she woke up and probably had that silly grin on her face all night while she was sleeping.

There is the sword of Damocles hanging over her head, the occurrences of the night she ran away, but she doesn't want to think about that now. It's so cozy in bed, her duties and the weight of the world can wait a bit longer. All she wants to think about is Alex. What he said to her, how he made her feel.

Their kissing got more and more intense the previous night. Albeit Caleb, Dylan and Emma had left, they weren't alone, Norman up in his room. The way he had behaved, Norma presumed he wouldn't come back down again. Could they risk taking it further in the kitchen or living room? But when she slipped her hands under Alex's shirt, touched bare skin and felt him shiver in response, he gently grabbed her wrists to stop her.

"Why don't we take it slow this time?"

That was a first. No man had resisted her before. It apparently showed on her face because Alex laughed.

"Don't look at me like that. As if I took away your favorite toy."

Norma raised her eyebrow and he became serious.

"I mean it, Norma. We rushed it the first time and it was good. Fantastic," Alex corrects himself when she raises her eyebrow even higher. "But it also led to misunderstandings and I don't want to make the same mistakes again. We can't keep going from zero to hundred and back because of that. That's not what I want. I want us to build something solid together."

"Okay," she agreed, her voice timid. What was it exactly she was agreeing to? One minute they were kissing, the next minute it sounded as if Alex planned to spend a lifetime with her. Then again… I love you. Maybe that was what he had in mind. Norma felt dizzy all of a sudden.

"Let's say we wait until I get rid of this." Alex raised his arm sling. "So that we can do that..." He gestured back and forth between their bodies. "...properly. And in the meantime, we get to know each other better."

"You mean like dating?"

"Yeah." He looked a little offended. "Or some such thing."

Norma tilted her head back, narrowing her eyes. "I didn't know you dated. Like, in general. That this is something you do," she became aware that she was rambling. And still felt a little dizzy.

"I don't, actually," Alex admitted. "But I'm willing to give it a try. If you are." No wink, no smile. He was completely serious about it. Alex leaned forward to kiss her once more. A gentle peck on the lips. It was over much too soon. "I'll call you tomorrow."

Tomorrow is today. Alex will call her and they will… do whatever will happen next.

There is a knock on her bedroom door. It's Dylan. Everyday life has her back, and yet, everything is different.

His deputy looks at him confused. Alex doesn't understand what is going on until he realizes it has to be his smile that confuses him. Somehow he can't stop smiling ever since Norma and he are… Well, what are they exactly? Together? On their way there? It doesn't matter. He doesn't need a name for what they are or what they're doing, the circumstances so particular that their relationship can't be pigeonholed, anyway. As if anyone could classify Norma. Alex forces his facial muscles back into the stern expression that was his trademark before Norma. His deputy relaxes. This is the sheriff he knows.

As soon as his deputy has left his office, Alex reaches for his phone. Today was supposed to be the day. He wanted to ask Norma out. They met a few times, either at the motel or somewhere in town. Spontaneous, casual encounters between friends in broad daylight, people all around. It felt good because there was no pressure and no temptation. At least no more temptation than the usual pull Norma exerts on him even if it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep his distance from her physically. It's worth it though. Getting to know each other is so much more difficult than having sex and Norma has begun to open up to him, seems to be relaxed in his presence.

So dinner is the next logical step. He still has his arm sling. Hence there will be no dessert other than whatever chocolaty thing Norma might choose from the menu. That's the deal. The prospect of Norma all dressed up, wearing something sexy that will test his willpower conjures a smile on Alex's face again. Thank God there is no deputy around.

There is something he has to do first though. He needs to talk to Bob Paris. Paris behaves as if it was his town, digging a damn hole at the motel. Alex saw Bob's work when he brought Norma's car back. That is a fucking pit, for whatever reason Norma believes it's a pool. A pit as deep and dark as only men like Bob Paris dig it to bury their enemies in it.

White Pine Bay is his town, but Paris is one of the men who call the shots, whether Alex likes it or not, and can cause a lot of trouble, like shooting him or doing other things, perhaps not to him but to Norma. There has been too much going on recently so that he had to postpone talking to his nemesis again and again, however today is the day. Dinner is postponed until Alex will have made sure that Bob Paris is no threat to Norma. After that he will ask her out and maybe she will wear that tight, black dress.

He dials Norma's number.


Alex loves how Norma's voice sounds when she answers the call. She is always happy to hear or see him.

"Hey. How is your day?"

"Oh, you know," Norma sighs. "I checked out some more guests. The motel is getting emptier. It's the season, but I'm worried they won't come back next year because of the new bypass. I mean, Bob Paris will put up a sign so that should help." She doesn't seem to be convinced though. Even if Norma might prefer to live in a delusional world on some days, she is not stupid. As much as she wants to believe in it, deep down she knows her deal with Bob Paris is bound to fail. "So, how's yours?"

"The usual. Two drunks from last night in a cell, sleeping it off. An exhibitionist still running around in the park because that elderly lady can't describe his face only his manly parts as she calls them and there's a dead man lying in the morgue we haven't been able to identify so far. He's missing one foot. So if you find one by accident, let me know."

Norma giggles. "You're a good sheriff, Alex Romero. The town can consider itself lucky to have you." She makes a pause, lowering her voice, "I consider myself lucky to have you even though you act as coyly as a school girl." Norma is referring to his insistence to take it slow when the truth is that she likes it. She loves to tease him, to make abundantly clear what he is missing out on.

Her good mood makes Alex laugh. Of all the things he imagined, being able to laugh with her so easily wasn't one of them. It's unexpected and a windfall.

"Listen, I just wanted to know whether you received any plans from Bob Paris regarding the, err, pool."

Norma hesitates, aware that her answer is an admission that her deal with Paris has backfired. "No. Why?"

"I will see him later and just wanted to know," Alex plays it down.

"Come by afterwards if you want. You won't get a proper dinner otherwise."

What he is or is not eating is a recurring subject between them, especially since Norma feels the need to feed the entire world, preferably with turkey pot pie.

"I will."

He will talk to Bob Paris and then drive over to the motel. Seeing Norma before the day ends will put everything into perspective. It always does.

His unannounced visit to Bob Paris starts out just the way Alex imagined it.

"What the hell's going on with that giant hole outside Norma Bates' house? Don't screw with her. Don't do it."

He has the upper hand, towering over Bob as he is standing in front of his desk. Unfortunately Paris is prepared to retaliate, his grin smug for good reason.

"You think you know her, Alex, but you don't."

Within a minute their roles are reversed. It's Alex sitting and Bob standing in front of him, letting the facts rain down on him relentlessly. He could get up and leave, but it's about Norma; so he is glued to his seat. There is nothing he can do but try to keep his anger and humiliation in check because Bob Paris knows. That scumbag has a sixth sense for human weaknesses and knows what Norma Bates means to him. It's his own fault. The moment he showed up with her, it was clear.

The times they have changed. Drug business no longer supports White Pine Bay. Alex erased it, doesn't turn a blind eye to the illegal things that are going on anymore although he still allows some gray areas. Bob Paris wants him back on his side and for some reason seems to believe that putting him at odds with Norma will achieve that. Well, every word feels like a blow. Insofar Bob Paris' mission is a success.

Norma screwed her therapist, that's what Bob tells him. He calls her a kinky bitch, says she bought new clothes, sexy stuff to pick up men in bars. Alex wants to defend her, but there's a lump in his throat; he can't speak. Bob is a lot of things but no liar. He must refer to the night Norma ran away. She only told him that she'd had a falling-out with her sons and had needed some time for herself. And some other men as it turns out. All the time he has been spending with her, the feeling that she was opening up to him. Lies.

"She's using you to protect herself and her family."

When Bob Paris ends his tirade with the revelation that Norman killed his father, implying that this is the main reason Norma keeps him close, it's only a side note considering what else he told him. Alex can't stop imagining what might have happened that night. What did she wear? Norma at a bar, picking up men. It's so unlike her; he can't visualize it, the pictures won't come. Let alone sleeping with her therapist. He didn't even know she was seeing a therapist, didn't know anything about her, obviously.

What he knows now, though, changes everything.

The first thing he sees after Alex knocked is Norma's captivating smile when her face appears behind the window of her front door. She is happy to see him. Unsuspecting, Alex thinks. It's difficult to not grab her, push her against the doorframe and accuse her. She used him, lied to him, cheated on him. That's what it feels like at least. Strictly speaking, they weren't together the night it happened, but she had slept with him shortly before. If she acts like that when she thinks no one is watching, conveniently forgot to mention it when they got back together, what is there to expect from a relationship with her? It's all gone, every dream he has ever had about their future. Imagine that, Alex Romero daydreaming. It was ridiculous, anyway.

So fuck her leftovers, fuck coming in and playing happy family. He needs the truth, wants to hear it from her, wants a reason if he's honest with himself. Anything to soften the blow.

Alex is aware, though, that the moment he will address it, the ugly beast will rip his insides apart and lash out, flashes of another man's hands touching Norma's soft skin as she throws her head back, moaning with pleasure, tormenting him. The words are there, but they are waiting to be yelled not spoken and he wants to keep his composure. It's the only thing he has left.

Therefore he asks her about her husband's death. Another lie. Another chance for her to tell the truth. For once. Norma frowns when he says this as if she didn't understand. That's the problem about telling lies. At some point it becomes difficult to distinguish them from the truth. It makes Alex wonder what lie he is in her life. Does he mean anything to her? He always attributed the fact that she didn't tell him she loved him to her complicated back-story, thought she only needed more time. Maybe she simply didn't say it back because she doesn't feel that way for him at all. Why bother if he's doing anything for her either way?

And of course she doesn't tell the truth, merely repeats the same lie.

"You have a last chance, Norma."

By now she knows something is wrong, something that goes beyond the death of her husband, her insistence that she has been telling him the truth preposterous when it's so obvious that he knows or at least highly suspects what happened. Alex remembers how she lied to him about the flash drive until she used it to make him protect her from Bob Paris. No, it's not preposterous. It's what Norma does because it usually works.

But not this time.

"Goodbye, Norma."

She calls his name when he walks away. Three times. Demanding first, then questioning. The last time it's disbelief. Norma doesn't comprehend why the man she had so tightly wrapped round her finger is ignoring her. For a moment it feels good to hear the irritation in her voice. Then Alex closes the door of his car and his thoughts explode in the silence.

He speeds off in a futile effort to outdrive himself, doesn't slow down when the wheels are skidding and he almost veers off the road several times, a tinge of regret flooding through him when he manages to get the car back under control. Why is he so damn good at holding his messed up life together? There is nowhere to go. The only place he wants to be is with her.

Alex drives on until the sun rises and he can't hide in the darkness anymore.

The wooden door frame feels abrasive as Alex is leaning his forehead against it. Norma made him look like a fool. Again. And the funny thing is, he doesn't even care. Snapping at him at the police station in front of everyone, accusing him of not returning her calls, demanding the flash drive back. His staff probably thinks he has nude pictures of her on that flash drive or a private porn movie. All things considered, it was only another humiliation though. A flicker compared to the pain he is feeling right now.

He beat people up, broke bones, burned their property to the ground. Hell, he even killed more than once and doesn't regret any of it. But a whispered don't touch mewas enough to make him let go of Norma immediately, let her soft skin escape his rough hands, cool air replacing the heat of her body he had been pressing against the door frame.

She didn't reply to his confession that he loves her in the past but answered to his I hate you without batting an eyelash. Well, I hate you too, so what? Still Alex couldn't bring himself to confront her with sleeping with another man. So they argued about the death of her husband again. Different lie, same root. Norma doesn't trust him enough to confide in him, doesn't care about him enough to suppress her impulses even if it means she will hurt him.

A scratching sound catches Alex's attention. Norma has come back, his front door wide open after she walked out on him. For a moment she just stands there while they are looking at each other. If they were animals, they would circle each other in order to assess who will survive the ultimate fight.

"Who told you about the death of my husband?" Norma eventually asks. "Bob Paris"?

"What does it matter?"

"Did he tell you anything else? Something I might have done the night I left?"

Does he even want to do this anymore? But the mere way Norma is standing there – modest clothes, tousled hair, barely made up – her sizzling radiance lights up the entire room and triggers something inside him. She must be as exhausted as he is from their earlier fight that got more than a little physical. And yet, she never falters, is as vibrant and beautiful as always. He will never be done with her. And suddenly the words are there. Cutting and unfiltered.

"The night you left? You mean like fucking your therapist?"

Norma doesn't even flinch. "Yeah, something like that."

Strangely enough, she doesn't seem to be intimidated, let alone conscious of guilt.

"You know, Alex. I thought we had something, probably were even heading somewhere together. So I don't get it. How can you hold what I did against me when it was your choice?"

Norma is eerily calm. Her words make no sense though.

"I don't know what you're talking about, Norma."

"Come on, you must at least have guessed that I might call someone else after I called you that night and if that someone else was a little more cooperative than you..." She shrugs. There you go.

"What do you mean, you called me? You didn't call me that night, Norma."

"Oh, I did, Alex. I was drunk, but I remember exactly what I did, how difficult it was to find a pay phone when all I wanted was to call you." Barely restrained anger, mixing with something else. Disappointment.

Alex hasn't the slightest idea what is going on. He raises his hands.

"Norma… You didn't call me."

"Stop saying that! I did. And you picked up the phone and then I told you that I…," her voice trails off as Norma swallows, trying to pull herself together. "...that I needed you." Norma holds his gaze. "And you insulted me, told me to leave you alone." She shrugs again. "So you really want to hold it against me that I called someone else?"

Alex is relieved and devastated at the same time. She called him; he was her first choice. Save that… she didn't. That still holds true.

"Norma..." Alex approaches her. "I don't know who you called that night, but it wasn't me. You must have dialed the wrong number. It wasn't my voice you heard. I can show you my incoming calls if you don't believe me," he adds when she eyes him suspiciously.

Disbelief turns into realization as Norma screws up her face. "The connection was bad. I… I thought it was your voice." She covers her mouth with her hand. "Oh my God, Alex. It wasn't you. All the time I've been wondering why you would treat me like that. But we were making such good progress recently and it was something that had happened in the past. So I decided to forget about it and move on."

Norma is used to men treating her like that. Therefore she didn't question his behavior. Even in hindsight, the idea hurts.

She walks up to Alex, meeting him half way. When she looks at him, there are tears in her eyes, her voice thick with emotion, "I'm so sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to sleep with him, but I was so lost and I needed someone to hold on to and he was there and… I'm so sorry."

Alex forgave her the moment he realized Norma thought she had called him first. Another stupid misunderstanding with painful consequences.

She is standing right in front of him. Norma sniffles when Alex wipes away her tears, the situation and their closeness resembling the moment when they almost kissed during their earlier fight. Even if Alex understands now why she did it, the imagination of Norma sleeping with another man tears him apart.

"I'm only going to ask this once, but I need to know. How?" he asks and she knows in an instant what he is talking about.

Norma straightens herself. She doesn't like this, but she accepts his need to be told. "The usual. He was on top."

Alex clenches his teeth. "Did you come?"

She considers lying; Alex notices the shadow flit across her face before she decides against it. "Yes." A whisper.

"More than once?"

"No." Norma shakes her head. "Forgive me. I don't want us to be over. You can do anything you want. Just forgive me."

Her words release a physical longing unlike anything Alex has experienced before. They can talk about what happened, but the point is what it makes him feel. He wants to claim her as his territory. It's wrong and archaic and he would never say it out loud, but when he reaches out to pull her towards him, it's clear what is going to happen.

"You are not wearing your arm sling anymore," Norma murmurs.

"No, I don't." Alex caresses her lower jaw. It's so good to touch her right where he took his hands away minutes ago, had to because she told him to. "Anything I want?" he makes sure.

Norma's eyes darken. "Yes."

Alex takes off his jacket and his belt with the gun, noticing from the corner of his eye that Norma pushes her coat down her shoulders, dropping it on the floor right where she is standing. He touches her face tenderly, watches her chest rise and fall in anticipation. Then he seizes the front of her shirt and rips it open, hoping it wasn't one of her favorites, and if it was, well, anything he wants, right?

He kisses her hard, his hands roaming over her breasts, following the indentation of her waist to her hips before he undoes her belt and zipper, shoving her pants down along with her panties. Why did she have to choose this of all days to wear pants? Norma takes the hint and pulls off the clothes in question as he grabs her bare ass and scoops her up, carrying her over a few steps to set her down on the closed piano lid.

Alex doesn't know how to play, the piano a memento of his mother. It was one of the many intricacies of life when he found out that Norma loves to play the piano albeit he has rather imagined her playing his than screwing her on it.

There is nothing graceful or tender about his actions when he shoves his pants and underwear down as far as required, fixated on one goal, namely being inside her as fast as possible. There is a quick flash of conscience when he positions himself. He should make sure she is ready and he would but not today, the force of his stroke pushing Norma against the corpus of the piano. She makes a sound deep in her throat between pleasure and pain and he stops for a second only to repeat the motion. In. And out. Claiming. What is his. Anything he wants is nothing special. Just this.

Alex didn't pay attention whether it's the right angle for her. All the more he is surprised when he feels Norma's inner muscles flutter as a premonition, her look focused on his face, on the way he is devouring her with his eyes. One more stroke and she arches her back so hard that she would have fallen off the piano if he hadn't held her in place, tightening around him so often and so heavily that it almost hurts. Turns out it was the right angle after all.

His arousal is building up fast, no other sound in the room than their mingled breaths, a whiff of cold air on his naked ass and back where Norma has pulled his shirt up in order to feel his skin. The front door is still wide open. Alex doesn't care, doesn't feel the cold. All he feels is her, breathing her in, holding her close. He is fucking away his pain; nothing in his entire life has ever felt that good.

Norma's moans meet every stroke, her thighs clinging to his hips. She concentrates on him or at least tries to until her movements become erratic due to his hand between her legs.

It's no competition. Alex doesn't think of what she told him earlier about her and the other man, doesn't want to excel that. There is just nothing better than to witness her lose control. He slows down, wants Norma to catch up with him as he kisses her, more gentle now that her climax has taken the edge off the urgency he was feeling before, lightly touching her without adding too much pressure, a tinge more than anything else.

"I can't," Norma mumbles. "Too soon. Too sensitive." And yet, she makes a guttural sound that spreads out through his body like wildfire when he pinches her briefly before he continues his tender approach. It's addictive, seeing her like that. He does it again.


Is that a please no or a please don't stop?

"It drives me crazy to see you like this," he admits in a whisper. "You drive me crazy."

Norma closes her eyes and lets her head fall back against the piano, her moans getting louder as he touches her, thrusts into her, takes her to another place.

Alex wants to wait for her but can't; it's too much, his thighs trembling as he buries his face in the hollow of her neck, her scent all around him. He keeps rocking his hips, feeling her follow him right after, not as intense as before but strong enough that her nails dig deep into his skin.

He leans back to look at her, her blonde locks a sweaty mess as she opens her eyes, smiling at him.

"Hi," Norma breathes. "I suppose this means I'm forgiven."

In this moment Alex swears to a God he doesn't believe in anymore that he will let nothing and no one take her away from him.

This is forever.