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She should have come with a warning. Toxic. Dangerous. But instead she has the face of an angel, her long, blond locks and light-blue eyes giving an innocence to her she probably lost decades ago.

He drinks his second Scotch in one go, putting the glass down too hard. The bartender raises the bottle questioningly and Alex nods his approval, pushing his glass towards him.

“Hit me.”

Alex drove to the nearby town to have a drink after work undisturbed. Not that he ever really is off duty. But even though his squad car is parked outside, no one knows him here. He changed into jeans, black shirt and a leather jacket, his clothes letting him blend in. Just another man sitting at a bar, having a drink. Here and now, he is not the Sheriff of White Pine Bay. He is a man trying to forget.

Downing the next drink, Alex scoffs at no one in particular, essentially at himself. It won’t work. Getting drunk that is. The alcohol burns in his throat, a welcome feeling. He is too used to it, though, too many lonely nights on his couch or in bars like this. It will take many more drinks to make him forget, too many considering he has to drive back later. To hell with it! He’ll just sleep it off in his car. Who cares, anyway?

He registers a motion to his left at the end of the bar, and for a brief, irritating but even more intoxicating moment, he believes she followed him, is not only a constant presence in his thoughts and dreams but actually there. When Alex steals a glance, however, he sees a woman he has never seen before save that her blond hair as well as her figure resemble the one of the woman he is desperately trying to forget.

Come on, you don’t even dare to think her name? he scolds himself. Coward. What do you fear will happen? 

Alex swallows the last sip of his Scotch. How is the glass empty again already?

Norma Bates. Shit! He didn’t only think that; he murmured it. People will think he is crazy. But when he looks around, no one seems to have noticed except the woman who smiles at him understandingly. She raises her glass to him, and this time, he looks a little longer at her. The hair is a tad too short, her dress too contemporary, let alone that her eyes although blue do not compare. And yet, when Alex orders another Scotch for himself, he also orders another drink for her.

It's wrong. When the woman stands up and approaches him, though, he can’t help but feel a tinge of anticipation. Perhaps he has found something else than alcohol to distract himself.

“Thank you for the drink. Is this seat taken?” She’s well-spoken, her jewelry expensive as he notices only now. Not the type of woman you would expect to meet in a bar like this. They are probably both here for the same unfortunate reason.

Her red lips remind Alex that Norma usually wears lipstick, too, but was marginally made up the first time he saw her. In jeans and an old shirt, she was pulling carpet out in the middle of the night, even with tousled hair and casual clothing effortlessly more beautiful than any other woman he had met up to that point. She was stunning, the color of her eyes mesmerizing. Still, that was not the first thing he noticed when he saw her. Alex’s warning bells went off the moment he laid eyes on Norma Bates. He just knew she meant trouble.

“Carol,” the woman introduces herself as Alex offers her the seat next to him and tells her his name in return.

Contrary to popular belief, Alex is not so bad at small talk. It’s just a matter of whether he wants to make the effort or not, and right now, the way she strokes the stern of her glass not so subtly seems to be worth it. Carol, whoever she is and wherever she will be tomorrow, has something to offer he wants. Needs. Because he can’t have it otherwise, an illusion with a stand-in as close to a truth he is attempting to block out in vain as he will allow himself to get at this point. He has fallen for Norma Bates. Plain and simple. How is that possible? He just met her. Let alone that she’s a nuisance. However, if he can’t run from her, why not have her? Even if it’s not really her.

They talk about anything as long as it’s meaningless. There is a funfair this weekend. Does he intend to come? Maybe (although there is no way in hell Alex would participate in something like that). Does she prefer white or red wine? White (although the way she downs the liquor tells Alex she is used to it and doesn’t care about its color). All the while, Alex’s thoughts are elsewhere.

Did Norma kill Keith Summers? For God’s sake yes, she did, self defense or not. It should be about that, about convicting her, but instead Alex couldn’t decide whether he wanted to strangle her or press her against the door to feel her curves that were deliciously apparent underneath her robe when he questioned Norma on her front porch. He gives a shit about Keith Summers. That guy was a scumbag and the world is better off without him. Norma, however… When he questioned her again in his office, hoping that the location would intimidate her, the opposite occurred. Norma Bates in defense mode is a dangerous thing. She was so damn smug, the realization that whatever he would try to make her acknowledge his ascendancy was bound to fail making him furious. He is not used to not be the one in control. So why was all he could think about then was how it would feel to kiss her? And why can’t he stop thinking about her now? Norma is always there, wherever he goes, whoever he is with. She always barges in between.

It’s the other woman’s hand he feels on his thigh though. Alex hesitates; she notices it in his face, the intensity of her touch easing off before he covers her hand with his and holds her gaze. Carol smells nice; the resemblance is there. So why not go for it? It’s him who’s in control, right? She smiles and stands up first to go to the restroom. Alex stretches the muscles of his back. It’s been a while that he has done this.

He waits a moment and then follows her. The bar is empty enough that they most likely and with some luck won’t be interrupted; nevertheless there are enough other people present so that the coincidence of their simultaneous absence won’t attract attention. They will be gone only a couple of minutes, anyway. Five probably, maybe less.

Carol appears to be nervous when Alex enters the bathroom stall but then smirks and pulls him towards her. Her lips are soft and eager, her hands wasting no time when she goes for his fly and belt. Alex doesn’t mind. That’s what he is here for.

Clothes are pushed out of the way as far as required; they pause only for the always awkward, however necessary moment when Alex slips the condom on before he lifts her up. Their bodies are not used to each other. Nevertheless, they find the right position and rhythm surprisingly fast.

You better work with me, okay? I’m the last guy you want on your bad side. Threatening people is not what Alex usually thinks of while having sex. He can’t help but remember what he told Norma when he was questioning her for the first time though. His anger back then hasn’t decreased at all, making his strokes harder. Norma was so unapproachable, and yet within reach, standing so close to him that he caught a whiff of her perfume and glimpse of the chemise she was wearing underneath her robe every time she moved. The illusion is perfect, their close proximity blurring the other woman’s features. It’s Norma’s hair tickling his face, her breath next to his ear, her quiet moans making him speed up. Five minutes? Make that three at a max because the images keep coming.

Okay, we’re done now. He was so frustrated after he had questioned Norma for the second time. When she walked out of his office without so much as a casual glance at him, he wanted to grab her, hold her back, make her admit whatever she had done but moreover what she was doing to him, throw her on his desk, rip her clothes off and… The images are too much, pushing him over the edge. Alex comes with a stifled groan.

It takes him a moment to find back to reality and realize that the pleasure was solely his although Carol obviously enjoyed the hard and fast pace of their encounter. He slides his hand between their bodies, gently continuing to push into her, but she shakes her head, indicating that she wants him to ease her down. The moment is gone, the absurdity of two strangers using their bodies to feel close to other people a truth too uncomfortable in the harsh neon light to maintain the arousal.

“I’m sorry,” Alex says.

“God no,” Carol appeases. “It was good. It was… enough.”

Even though they just had sex, it’s her words that make him feel close to her. Alex’s smile is genuine. In another world, they might have had a chance. She’s sexy, intelligent and nice, a rare combination. In this world, Carol smoothes down her dress, leans forward to brush his lips with hers and leaves. When Alex goes back to the bar shortly after, she is gone.

He considers going through with his plan to get even more drunk and sleep it off in the car, but the Scotch tastes stale when he orders another one. Alex detects a long, blond hair on his leather jacket and stares at it before he wipes it off. He pays the drinks, grabs his keys and walks out.

It’s time to get rid of the fucking spell Norma Bates has put on him.


Chapter Text

It feels like being in control when the cold steel of the handcuffs snaps shut around her wrists, feels like it when he says the words Norma Louise Bates, you're under arrest for the murder of Keith Summers and when she looks at him with contempt as she is led off.

It's what Alex needs after all those weeks of living under her spell that culminated in his one-night stand with a stranger. He should have left it at that, the arrest, enjoyed the victory, but of course he has to take it too far. What is it about Norma Bates that makes him act without rhyme or reason?

One of his deputies takes her personal data and fingerprints before he brings Norma to her cell where Alex is already waiting for them, nodding to his deputy as an indication that he is supposed to leave. Alex wants to be the one who unlocks Norma's handcuffs so that it's clear she's at his mercy, that it's his decision whether she has to keep them on or not.

She continues to treat him with contempt, barely acknowledging his presence. Then again, he hasn't expected anything else. In a way it adds to the feeling of superiority.

"Turn around," he orders.

For a brief moment he thinks she will refuse. Then Norma scoffs and does as told.

Alex steps closer, too close. There is not enough space between their bodies to unlock the handcuffs. It would be the logical thing to simply back up, but this is not an option. Not when the air between them is thick with repulsion and every move will be interpreted as caving in. So he puts his hand between Norma's shoulder blades and applies pressure to make her bend over. Alex feels the tension in her body the moment his hand touches her back, Norma's instinctive attempt to get away from him combined with the push of his hand causing her to stumble. He reaches out to steady her, for some reason that manifested itself in blowing off his steam with her lookalike not grabbing her arm but clasping her waist, pulling her even closer in the process.

The moment Alex realizes what he is doing, he scolds himself for being that stupid. There are cameras everywhere. If Norma intends to sue him for harassment, he just gave her a reason to do so and even upped it to sexual harassment. And yet, he doesn't release her immediately, his hand sliding to her hip first, brushing her innominate bone before he eventually and reluctantly lets go of her. There is no way she didn't notice his reluctance. At least that's what Alex worries until he registers that she is trembling. Norma is trying to suppress it, but he sees it. A shiver of her body here, a twitch of her muscles there. She didn't classify his behavior as misled attraction. Norma believes something is going to happen to her and that neither cameras nor the fact that he is the sheriff will prevent that.

Alex has always assumed that Keith Summers was not innocent when it came to his demise. He thought threats though, nothing worse, that Keith verbally abused Norma and shoved her around a bit to scare her, something you have to expect when you buy the property of a violent-tempered man on a foreclosure. Perhaps he has to revise his assumption. There were rumors that Keith had his way with women. As it is, Norma might be able to attest that those rumors are not only that but true.

She practically jumps away from him the moment he unlocks the handcuffs, turning around to face him, for once not to provoke him but to be able to assess the danger he means to her. When Alex raises a hand to soothe Norma's nerves, she flinches and keeps staring at him as if her fierce look was sufficient to keep him at distance.

"No one is going to hurt you," Alex assures her. This is not what being in control was supposed to feel like.

For a split second she looks like a frightened child before she gets her emotions under control, her face blank. "I know. You don't scare me," Norma hisses, using the same words she said to him in his office when he questioned her. It wasn't true then and it isn't true now. Norma is clearly scared but would never admit it, her eyes burning like fire, a window to a past that shaped her into the fighter she is today. "And if you hurt me, you'd regret it," she adds, straightening herself as if she was about to take a swing at him. She'd probably do it without batting an eye if necessary.

"Like Keith Summers regretted it?"

If looks could kill, he'd drop dead right here and now.

"I told you I didn't do it." But for the first time Alex can see in her face that she wants him and everyone else to know the truth that she doesn't regret killing that sleazebag to make sure he wouldn't do more harm, and legal parameters aside, you could actually argue about this from a moral point of view. Nevertheless, Norma doesn't want him to prove her guilt, let alone to be send to prison.

She still looks at him, her expression thoughtful now. Then Norma turns her back on him, a sign that she has come to the conclusion that he is no danger to her. Alex is not sure whether this is a good or bad thing.

"Try to get some sleep." His voice always sounds a bit hoarser than usual when he is talking to her.

It doesn't matter. She is back to ignoring him. So be it. There is a thin blanket on the cot; her night will be anything but comfortable.

When Alex closes the door behind him, the superior feeling he had when he was waiting for her in the cell is gone. Yes, she's the one behind bars while he's the one holding the key. In the end, who's in control is nothing but a question of semantics though, the awareness beginning to sink in that, handcuffs or not, Norma Bates will always win, whatever damn game it is that they're playing.

The next morning, Alex arrives just when Zack Shelby comes out of Norma's cell. Shelby has a shady conception of the law as far as himself is concerned but aside from that, he is one of his best deputies. Considering the time of day he must have brought her breakfast. Alex catches a glimpse of Norma's small frame behind Shelby before the closed door blocks his view, suddenly remembering something. A memory that eerily fits the fact that Shelby is the last person who cares about whether someone they arrested gets enough food or not.

"A moment." Alex beckons him over, his realization filling him with blazing anger. How could he have been so blind?

Alex has his eyes and ears everywhere. This is his town; he has to know. One of his sources told him not long ago that he saw Shelby meet up with a woman. They were making out in his car in an alley. Alex didn't pay much attention at the time. It's none of his business what Shelby does in his spare time as long as it doesn't interfere with his job. He remembers the details now though. Apparently his source had a good time spying on Shelby and the unknown woman. He described her as blonde, hot said that Shelby couldn't keep his hands off her, actually had his hands between her legs the entire time before they drove off, most likely to take things further at a more private place. Alex would like to claim he knows every blonde, hot woman in White Pine Bay but although he had his fair share of this type, he doesn't. So that's what it was when he heard the story. Some nameless, faceless woman that his deputy had fun with. It didn't even remotely occur to Alex that it could have been Norma Bates who somehow had managed to hook up with his deputy just around the time he had started to investigate her. How convenient, how her.

"Stay away from her," Alex states, barely able to suppress his rage.

"From whom?" Shelby feigns ignorance.

"Don't… don't do that," Alex doesn't even pretend that this is not a threat, images of Shelby and Norma making out, her head thrown back in ecstasy as Shelby's hands tease her much too vivid in his mind. It's about professional behavior, Alex tells himself. And it could be save that it's a lie. He knew Shelby was doing some kind of illegal business with Keith Summers and still let him stay on the team that has been investigating Summers' disappearance and alleged murder. He gives a shit about professional behavior as long as what happens serves his agenda. Alex simply can't stand the thought of Norma Bates being touched by someone that is not him. He has no idea what this is between them but until he does, everyone else is supposed to back the fuck off. "She's a suspect. So you and her? It has to stop," he growls. "Right now."

Shelby knows when it's time to give in. "Okay," he agrees without further ado.

Considering the effect Norma has on men, Alex doubts this will be an easy promise to keep. Let alone that it's probably a lie, anyway.

"Don't mess with me."

"I won't."

Alex nods in approval, indicating that their talk is over. As he watches Shelby walk away, he is well aware, though, that this most likely wasn't their last face-off regarding this delicate subject.

A good two hours later, Alex is sitting in his office, spotting Norma outside. Apparently she has gotten released on bail. She ignores her younger son who has been waiting for her with a bunch of flowers. What was his name again? Norman. Norman Bates whereas her firstborn has another last name. Two different last names, two sons who couldn't be more different, two fathers. There is a lot of testosterone swirling around Norma. Is there ever not a man waiting for her, wanting to do something for her?

Absentmindedly Alex pulls the upper drawer of his desk open, his subconsciousness having a heyday because there it is – a calling card, classic off-white with an elegant font. Carol Buret. Consultant. Only a phone number. The woman he met at the bar wouldn't be so reckless to give her address to her one-night stand. She left the card under his glass at the bar. Alex considered throwing it away. He didn't intend to call her. So why keep it? But for some reason it ended up in his drawer. The one at work as a precaution since he doesn't want her card within reach in his house when he is alone at night, drinking.

Alex looks out again. Norma Bates is gone. She had an argument with her son. He couldn't make out the words, only heard her raised voice before she stomped off. Alex rubs his eyes. Norma is sleeping with his deputy. Was, he corrects himself. Either way, it's clear that she prefers another type of man, not the dark, brooding kind he is. Not that it mattered, his attraction to her nothing but a crazy aberration. He just has to accept that. Why can't he fucking accept it? Maybe he should call Carol tonight. He is in sore need of a distraction again.

Alex groans. He is stuck, literally. Well, his car, to be exact. It takes him several attempts until he is able to drive off, the wheels stuck in the mud, the symbolism so obvious that it almost makes him laugh. If Alex Romero laughed, that is.

What happened in the last couple of weeks would last for a lifetime in another town but not in White Pine Bay, not when Norma Bates, center of unleashed chaos is living here. Alex has this mental list that he keeps adding things to, sometimes feeling like an innocent bystander until he remembers that this is his life, the train wreck it has become ever since he met her gathering speed, the wall already within sight. All he is waiting for is the impact.

He covered up the death of Keith Summers (long story) and the death of his deputy (even longer story) who had tried to erase the entire Bates family (didn't he warn Shelby and tell him he shouldn't mess with him?), threatened Norma when she came to his office afterwards obviously believing that this was the perfect basis for a lifelong friendship and mutual complaisances (but damn didn't she look nice in her tight, black dress?), was harassed by her incessant calls and appearances for such absurd reasons as someone sending her flowers (by now two of his assistants have quit because of Norma intimidating them when all they did was conduct his order to not let her through to see him), stood in her bedroom, watching Zack Shelby's bloated, dead body being carried away another time (well, maybe the one or other threat had been serious even if it included flowers). Oh, and lest he forget, he just killed a man. Technically not for her but to restore the balance of power in his town but if the man was still alive, Norma Bates probably would be dead so… semantics again.

This is madness and has to stop.

But just after Alex arrived home and is about to make himself comfortable to have a nightcap, there is a knock on his door. It's funny, he has never heard her knock before; however he knows in an instant that this is Norma, the knock impatient, blaming him for every second he makes her wait. How does he dare to answer his door so slowly when it's her standing outside?

It was a mistake to accept her offer and call her by her first name. It suggests a closeness that doesn't exist between them, something he is reminded of when he opens the door and is confronted with her face, delicate features he sees in his dreams but has never expected to see here. This is his home, the last refuge where he was safe from her.

"How do you know where I live?"

Norma gives him a piercing look that says please, you're the sheriff, everyone knows where you live. And albeit she's right, it feels like an intrusion of his privacy. Most residents of White Pine Bay might know where he lives, but only very few had the guts to show up on his doorstep in the past since he is not exactly known to be hospitable. There can't be another emergency in Norma Bates' life that caused her to come over only minutes after he shot a man at the docks and told her to go home since she had come there for the same reason or can it?

"Are you gonna invite me in or what?"

Patience is definitely not one of Norma's virtues although Alex can relate to that, something they have in common aside from killing people. God, he has to focus, his mind providing him with silly, random information. He is tired, needs to go to sleep, and yet, he makes way for her to walk in.

Norma is still wearing that dramatic, black scarf that is wrapped around her head as if she was a movie star trying to get rid of the paparazzi. She makes no move to take it off even when she is inside. Just when Alex is wondering whether to offer her a seat and a drink or continue his rather hostile approach, her words catch him off-guard.

"I wanted to thank you."

Alex is taken aback. Hence the silence that follows her statement. She said something nice. To him.

"For… you know, doing what you did and keeping your promise," Norma continues. "I didn't believe you when you told me you would make sure no harm would come to me or my sons, but that's what you did."

He still doesn't react. There used to be that thick wall between them, mainly due to her repulsion and his anger, and now that it's gone all of a sudden, Alex doesn't know what to do.

"God," Norma sighs. "Why do you have to make everything so difficult? Fine. I came here to tell you that and I did." She turns around to leave, his body that has been frozen in disbelief coming alive.

Alex grabs her arm.


Nothing between them ever goes right. She came here to thank him, but he wasn't prepared for the emotions it would stir. He has no idea how to respond save that he doesn't want her to leave.

Aside from their encounter in the cell, they haven't touched before, the momentum of her body letting her end up much closer to him than he intended when he grabbed her. Their physical closeness and her eyes do the usual magic. Alex gets lost in the moment, raising his hand to pull down her scarf, maybe grasp her neck next and lean forward to kiss her. Would she have let him? Even kissed him back? Or slapped him in the face? He'll never know because Norma's eyes focus on something to his left and her entire demeanor changes. She steps back.

"I have to go. My son will be home soon from the dance."

Norma is out the door so fast, for a split second Alex doubts she was even there. Then he turns around to find out what could have caused her sudden departure, spotting an earring on his chest of drawers. It's a beautiful piece – a white pearl, classic, elegant, belonging to a classic, elegant woman.


Chapter Text

Alex takes a deep breath. The cold, fresh night air is a blessing after the fire and smoke. They burnt down his house. He has a pretty good idea who it was and they will pay for it. But instead of planning his revenge, he came here. He has to stay somewhere; so he might just as well stay with her.

The motel office is closed. Alex didn't expect anything else; it's the middle of the night. He could wait until the next morning, check in like any other guest, but there is a light in the kitchen. So why not go up to the house and knock?

After Norma had come to his house to thank him for saving the day, they ran into each other a couple of times in town. Neither of them mentioned what had happened. No word about the earring and the way she hurried out. Alex felt the need to explain until he realized there was no actual explanation. It's too complicated. Let alone that they don't owe each other anything. Well, she owes him since he already saved her ass twice now, but it's not as if he intends to call in a chip in return like she did once. Or maybe he does, what does it matter? It's late, he is tired, left the ashes of his house behind and ended up here. Whatever reason brought him over; he won't try to get to the bottom of it tonight.

Despite the illuminated kitchen, Alex is surprised when Norma opens the door and taken aback regarding her appearance. Tight, black cocktail dress, tousled hair, barefoot, her makeup smudgy. It obviously fell victim to the tears that have dried on her cheeks by now. He smells vodka even before he notices her swaying. She's drunk, not tipsy but rather tanked.

"Oh," Norma announces when she sees him. "I thought you were someone else."

There is a brief moment of indecisiveness before she turns around and walks back into the kitchen, leaving the front door wide open. Given her state, it's hard to tell whether it's obliviousness or purpose. It's all the same to Alex, though, as he follows her inside, realizing that it is the third time he is here. The first time he had a warrant and the second time the half-decayed corpse of his deputy lay in Norma's bed. Both times, there were several other people around. This time, there is not a sound in the house. Wherever her sons are, they are not here.

Norma slumps down on a chair, sipping at her glass as Alex stands there, watching her. After a while, she notices his presence, frowning as if she didn't open the door and let him in a moment ago.

"What are you doing here?"

Just when he is about to tell her, she jumps up.

"You need a drink."

"I'm good, thanks. Norma, I don't need..."

But she doesn't register his words, staggering over to the wall cupboard to take another glass out, her movements embodying a clumsy grace. Very cute and very sexy. All of a sudden Alex is highly aware that it's only the two of them in the house.

As soon as Norma has taken out the glass, she turns around as if it was a trophy she had received and she was about to give her acceptance speech. Then she pouts for no apparent reason and staggers back to the table. Or at least she tries to since Alex is standing midway between table and wall cupboard. Somehow she managed to walk around him before whereas now she bumps right into him and stops, her body leaning against his as though she needed a rest.

Alex feels Norma's chest rise and fall with every breath she takes and wonders whether she knows what she is doing or has gotten lost in a drunken haze. Then she gives him a mischievous smile. Without high heels, Norma has to tilt her head back to look at him at this close range. Alex likes it. All of it. The way she smells, the way her lips appear to be very kissable, the way her body is pressed against his. Her smile turns into a smirk, the glint in Norma's eyes implying that she has figured out each and every desire he was trying to hide from her. Or that's what it feels like. She knows exactly what she is doing. Norma might be drunk, however she is dangerous, perhaps even more so given her intoxicated state, holding his gaze some more before she abruptly turns away from him to put the glass down on the table and pour vodka into it. Alex is not a big fan of vodka, but this is neither the time nor the place to argue with her.

"What happened?" he asks instead, hoping it comes across as the genuine concern of a lawman and not jealousy regarding the idea that she got all dressed up for another man who must have done something terrible to have caused her emotional turmoil. "Are you okay?"

She scoffs. "Am I okay? Why? Because you think I might've killed someone else? Do you want to arrest me again? Here..." She stretches out her arms. "Handcuff me. That's what you like, isn't it? To handcuff women, to make them feel weak and vulnerable because then you can..."

"Stop it." Alex's attempt to avoid an argument hasn't gone well so far, the mix of her appeal and the images her allusion creates misleading his thoughts or whatever you want to call it as he pictures Norma handcuffed to her bed, writhing underneath him with pleasure.

"So you deny it? You want to tell me you didn't enjoy that little power game you were playing with me in the cell? Turn around," she mimics his words. "Pushing me so that I would have to bend over." Norma is shaking with rage or something else; he can't say. Either way, it was a mistake to come here tonight.

"I should go," Alex states.

That enrages her even more.

"Oh, right! Who am I to tell the sheriff that he did something wrong? I'm new in town, just another woman the men living here feel free to push around and make her do whatever they want. Well, surprise! That's not how it is going to work any longer! What happened was not my fault. And I won't be the only one who takes the blame for it. Do you hear me?" Her words fit her current situation, but it feels as if Norma is continuing an argument Alex wasn't part of, addresses an anger at him that is meant for someone else.

"Okay," he responds, mainly to say anything because falling silent would for sure provoke her even more. "You don't have to do anything you don't want. It's fine."

She flinches as if he hit her.

"Nothing's fine," Norma spits, merely saying the word apparently sickening her. "Nothing was or is or ever will be. You have no idea what my life is like. You are the sheriff. Someone gets in your way, what do you do? Oh, wait! Kill 'em. But what..." She takes a deep breath to suppress new tears that are right beneath her anger, waiting to be shed. "...what if you can't do that? What if there's no one to protect you and you fight and fight, but you're not strong enough?" Whatever this is about, it didn't happen tonight. That kind of pain takes decades to grow and darken your soul.

"Whoever hurt you, it won't happen again. You're safe here, Norma."

Because he is here, because whoever hurt her would have to get past him to get to her and that won't happen, not in a million years.

Her eyes search his face, trying to understand why he would say that. Then Norma distorts her face and shrugs.

"Dylan left," she changes the subject or perhaps it's all connected; how is he supposed to know? "I don't think he will come back. And Norman…" She shrugs again, her voice flat now, "He likes that girl and she's not good for him. I know something bad is going to happen. I just know."

Norma is crying now, but the tears are silent. No dramatic sobbing. She is accepting pain as a part of her life that is as normal as breathing, almost embracing it. It's better to hold on to sadness than to grasp at nothing.

"Let me help you." It's hard to see her broken like this and Alex knows all about life's burdens. He got a glimpse of her distress before, however this goes way deeper. It's the alcohol talking, lowering her defense mechanism. She will regret tomorrow that she confided in him, provided she remembers anything at all.

When he reaches out to touch and comfort her, Norma turns away from him, burying her face in her hands.

"Just go."

Because he still is the man who arrested her, who handcuffed and scared her.


He tries again, but she tears her arm away from him this time, her erratic movement making one of the glasses on the table topple over. It lands on the floor, breaking into pieces.

"Don't move," Alex warns her since she is wearing no shoes.

"I want you to leave."

Of course Norma couldn't care less about the shards of glass on the floor and the fact that she's barefoot.

"Let me pick that up."

Albeit Alex bends down immediately, it's already too late. Norma moved and hurt herself, blood gushing out from under her foot. Her reaction is delayed. Only when she sees the blood, Norma seems to feel the cut.

"Ouch," she says more surprised than in pain.

It's the third time he reaches out to try and help her; he should know better by now. Norma has pulled the shard of glass out of her foot and is hopping around on one leg. Still she somehow manages to slap his hand away. Right. Why would she need help? Especially since she complained just minutes ago that there is no one to help and protect her.

"I said I want you to leave," she repeats instead.

"I will leave. Just let me pick the damn shards up."

She is so stubborn and irresponsible. Alex had almost forgotten how much it infuriates him.

"I'm serious. I'll call 911."

Alex sighs. "I am the police. You know that, right?"

But she is already looking around to find her phone, stepping into another shard of glass.


This time it must have hurt. Let alone that there is even more blood mixing with the spilled vodka on the floor, the liquor serving as an automatic disinfection of her wounds. Considering how reckless she is, this is a good thing although it has to burn like hell judging from her face.

"All right, that's enough."

Alex scoops her up and orients himself. The living room. There has to be a couch in there. He carries her over, expecting Norma to start a fight. And not a verbal one. He is prepared for her hits, for her to twist in his arms to make him put her down. Instead he feels her snuggle up against him.

"You smell strange," Norma murmurs.

The fire. His clothes and skin must reek as if he spent the night at a campfire.

When Alex lays her down on the couch, Norma keeps her arms around his neck so that he has to bend down low, his face only a few inches away from hers.

"You're strong," she slurs.

Her fingers caress the back of his neck and Alex feels his entire body react. Whatever she will do next, he won't stop her. Probably. Most likely. Yes, she is drunk, but he is a weak, weak man when it comes to her.

But all of a sudden she lets go of him and curls up into a ball, shutting out the world.

Alex goes back into the kitchen to clean up the mess, the feel of it strangely domestic. When he enters the living room afterwards, Norma is sound asleep, not noticing that he covers her with a blanket he found in an armchair nearby. He brought a towel to tape her lacerations since he found nothing better for this purpose within reach and didn't want to search her cabinets. It will suffice; the wounds have stopped bleeding by now. Alex brushes a strand of hair away so that he can see Norma's face. The sharp edges of pain made way for the blissful oblivion of sleep. She looks peaceful.

"See you tomorrow," he whispers and she stirs as if she heard him.

He will sleep in his office and come back tomorrow to check in. Either she will have forgotten what happened or they will both pretend to not remember anything. Alex wonders how long they can keep doing this.

It's no longer only about attraction. Tonight he felt a need to protect her that was so strong that it scared him. It's not good when another person has such a hold over you, especially if that person is as incalculable as Norma.

Alex walks out, closing the front door behind him reluctantly. He wishes he could have stayed. Only weeks ago, he arrested Norma right here on her front porch and now it feels as if this is where he belongs.

Chapter Text

The world is silent when Alex wakes up save for a few cars passing by in the distance and some twittering of birds. He feels calm inside, at peace with the world and himself. This is new, not a feeling Alex is used to, miles from waking up with a stiff neck because he fell asleep on his couch again, an occurrence that usually was accompanied by a stale taste in his mouth from too many drinks the night before. Ever since his house was burnt down and he moved into the Bates Motel, he just goes to bed and drops off. No insomnia, no nightmares, only the shade of one certain woman roaming around in his dreams.

As awkward as it was to move in, Norma making fun of him being the Big Daddy of White Pine Bay and all that, as good does it feel to actually be here although he would never admit it. Sometimes it even feels as if Norma is glad that he is here. It's just a hunch though, something that only seems to exist when he's not looking because whenever he does – looking at her, that is – she shows no visible reaction.

They have been continuing their habit to not talk about anything that takes place and could fall into the category of too dangerous to address because of the possible implications. Norma practically forcing him into her house to treat his wound after he had gotten into a fight? Never happened, just like that intense moment between them when their eyes met and neither of them was able to look away must have been a figment of his imagination. The fact that her curtains are completely see-through at night when the light is on in her bedroom? Someone else must have told her that. Or perhaps no one at all since she hasn't changed her habit to undress in a fully illuminated room. Let alone that both of them never mention that night when she was drunk.

Turns out you can live quite well if you turn a blind eye to half of the things that are going on in your life, including the way she makes him feel. Norma is driving him crazy and Alex can't say which part of it is intent and which ignorance. He is attracted to her, insanely so, and in any other situation he would act upon it. But Norma can't be measured by normal standards. This is not a decision between wanting a relationship or an affair. This is a decision between staying sane and diving head first into something that is so far beyond his control that he will never be able to get out again. Provided she lets him dive into it. God, he has to stop with the metaphors, has to stop thinking about her first thing in the morning after he woke up. Time to take a shower. He should probably make that a cold one.

Just when he gets up, Alex hears the familiar sounds outside. Norma puts a tablet down in front of his door every morning. There is a cup of coffee on it, along with toast and bacon and eggs. It's what he prefers for breakfast, not that she asked him about it. When he thanked her for it, Norma shrugged and told him that it was necessary for him to have a substantial breakfast since he was the sheriff, needed to be strong to do his job and all she was doing was making sure he was. Alex liked the strong part of her description and rebuked himself inwardly at the same time when he realized that he was drawing himself up, showing off.

On some days, there is also a vase with a single flower on the tablet. Alex hasn't figured out why it happens. Knowing Norma and her erratic behavior, there is probably no reasonable pattern, anyway. But he likes it. It feels like affection, as if she smiled at him through that flower. Flower days are the best.

He takes a shower, gets dressed and eats his breakfast (it's the good coffee from her house, not the black poison the coffee machine in the motel office produces that is free for the guests). No flower day today. On the way to his car, Alex catches a glimpse of Norma's reflection in the window of the motel office. She doesn't notice him.

Alex comes back ten hours later, longing for a hot shower and the quiet of his motel room. It's raining heavily, a horrible case came up, all things considered it was one of those days you just want to leave behind.

When he turns off the engine of his car, the door opens and Norma hops in. She is wearing no coat and her clothes are soaked, her shirt clinging to her skin. There is nothing left to the imagination. She is wearing a light-blue bra underneath. Is this a pattern of white blossoms on it or a trick of the light because of the wet fabric?

His glance went astray only for a split second. All the same Norma raises an eyebrow that unambiguously states thank you for noticing that I have a face when Alex eventually looks into her eyes. He clears his throat, embarrassed and equally angry at himself as well as at her. Somehow she always manages to throw him off balance. Effortlessly.

"You have to help me find Norman. He ran away," Norma announces without preamble.

On any other day this would have been a perfect pretense to spend some time with her. Not today. Life is exhausting and he needs a break.

"Can't you take your car?" It's parked right next to his.

Norma's head snaps around; her eyes pierce right through him. "It's broken and they can only send someone to fix it tomorrow." As if it was his fault. Some of it, all of it. Who knows.

"What about Dylan's car?"

Another reproachful stare.

"Dylan does no longer live here," she stresses each word as if he was a little dull.

Can't have it all, Alex thinks. Can't pretend your drunk talk never happened and expect me to remember every detail. Who is he trying to fool though? He will help her even if there is lots of potential regarding her way of asking for a favor.

Alex starts the engine and drives down the road. Norma didn't tell him where she wants to search for Norman; therefore every direction seems to be as good as the other one. She keeps staring out of the window. It fascinates him how focused Norma is when it comes to her sons, well, one son at least, how the world around her practically disappears because the only thing that matters is finding Norman.

"What happened?" It has become a recurring question. He asked her the same that night at her house. Sometimes it feels as if that's what Norma is made of – chaos and secrets swirling around her in equal measures and heaven help the man who will get lost in there.

A glance sideways is the only sign that Norma remembers his presence.

"It didn't help that you arrested him," she hisses.

Norman killed the father of his girlfriend. Technically Alex didn't arrest him, only questioned Norman to find out if it was a suspicious death that had to be investigated and came up with the conclusion that it wasn't. What happened was in a bit of a grey area, similar to what had happened when Norma had killed Keith Summers despite the different circumstances. This family has a way of getting rid of people that is strangely convenient.

Alex knows that this event set something off between Norman and his mother. They keep fighting; sometimes he can hear them all the way down to his motel room.

"I didn't arrest him." Alex regrets he took the bait the moment the words are out of his mouth.

"You interrogated my son for hours."


It's their usual potato – potahto. Did she infer or he imply?

Alex feels Norma's eyes on him; for once she is not scanning the woods to find her son.

"I know you hate me," she says. "Believe me, I wouldn't have asked you for help if I had known who else to ask."

"I don't hate you."

"That would be news to me."

"Why would you think that?" Yes, they had some not so nice encounters in the past, but Alex thought they'd left that behind.

"Because..." She sighs exasperated as if it was obvious to anyone but him. "Because of the way you look at me, like you couldn't be bothered with me or my life."

"That's… That's the way my face looks. Picking you up at town hall to inform you about what happened to Norman and his girlfriend. Coming to your house to tell you there will be no investigation. Do you think those are things I do for anyone?"

If she rolled her eyes any harder, they would pop out of her head. "That doesn't mean you don't hate me." A brief pause as she shirks from his look. "That means you're attracted to me."

Her words leave Alex speechless. And there it is again. What happened? Because something must have happened to make Norma accept that it's perfectly normal for men to dislike her as a person and still want her.

"What about George Heldens?" he changes the subject instead.

Alex saw Norma with him at the police station. That poor guy is so in love with her, he would have defended Norman for free if he had actually arrested him. Alex is pretty sure that tight, black dress was for Heldens. He is also pretty sure Heldens is no competition. Too nice, too normal. He wouldn't survive being with Norma for a week although the imagination what might happen between them or already did stings.

"What about him?"

"You could've asked him to help you search for Norman. You're dating him."

"I'm not." Enraged, although poor George would like to differ.

Relief floods through Alex. Lawyer or not, that guy doesn't impress Norma at all. He grabs the steering wheel too hard, the car sliding a bit on the slippery road before he gets it under control again. Only then Alex realizes that Norma has fallen silent.

"What about the woman the earring at your house belongs to? Do you look at her like you hate her too?" she eventually asks.

Something has changed. It's the way she said these words, her voice a pitch deeper, the fact that Norma acknowledges she saw the earring in the first place. Her body language has changed too. Norma is not turned away from him anymore, rather leans into him a little, the fabric of her shirt stretching over her breasts. She smells so good. It must be her shampoo, the smell even more intense now that her hair is wet. Alex remembers it from the night at her house when he carried her over to the couch and her head rested on his shoulder.

As if on cue his phone rings. They have been seeing each other on and off during the last weeks. Less since his house went up in smoke and fire because he doesn't want to meet her at the motel. For several reasons. They are close enough by now, though, that her number is stored in his phone that is lying in plain sight, her name coming up on the display. Carol.

Alex reaches for his phone whether to take the call or not, he doesn't know, the unexpected touch of Norma's hand on his upper thigh almost making him jump.

"Don't take the call."

Is it about the competition? Because he brought up George Heldens? Where other women would giggle or hum and haw, Norma simply reinforces her sensuality, that God-given, infatuating attribute that makes every man turn his head when she walks by on the street and some women too. Is she waiting for him to fall into her honey trap so that she can devour him as a whole just to make a point? Right now it feels like it since she does nothing except looking at him, her hand on his thigh, her fingers clenching now and then, sending shivers of desire straight to his groin.

Norma leans into him even more as Alex rejects the call, opening her mouth, perhaps to say something although the most torturing thought in hindsight will be whether she wanted to kiss him. None of it happens because at that very moment Norman steps out of the woods. Either she saw him from the corner of her eye or it was the sixth sense only mothers have when it comes to their children.

"Oh my God! Stop the car. STOP THE CAR!" Norma jumps out while the wheels are still turning. It's a miracle she doesn't get hurt.

Alex watches her and Norman as they talk first, then yell at each other, then hug extremely long and tight, the way they always do and that makes him uncomfortable and envious at the same time.

When they finally get in the car, Norman ignores him whereas Norma radiates happiness.

"Could you take us back to the motel, please?"

Of course. It's not as if they were in the middle of a conversation or whatever it was.

Neither of them says anything on their drive back. Weirdly enough it doesn't feel awkward once Alex manages to remember that pretending something didn't happen is what they do. It's still raining heavily, but they found Norman, no one got hurt and Norma and her son are with him, safe and sound.

As the motel comes in sight, it feels as if he is bringing his family back home. Whatever trap Norma put down for him, he stepped right into it.

They had a quick dinner and Norman went to bed right after. Their fight is not over; it only makes a pause. Norma's clothes have dried by now, but she can't wait to take them off. When she enters her bedroom and spots herself in the mirror, she frowns. She looks a mess, her hair tousled and curly from the rain, her clothes rumpled.

She starts to unbutton her shirt impatiently, the headlights of a car passing by outside reminding her of what Alex told her. He had clearly watched her; otherwise he never would have noticed that her curtains are see-through. Norma liked how unapologetic he was about it, merely stating it as a fact, the question burning in her throat what exactly he had seen. She didn't change the curtains nor did she turn off the lights whenever she undressed herself afterwards albeit she tried to stay away from the window so that even if Alex was still watching her, he wouldn't be able to see anything, only a glimpse here and there to tease him.

It's a game although Norma hadn't admitted to herself that she likes to play it until now. It was different when she assumed Alex hated her despite allowing her to call him by his first name. Now that she knows he doesn't… Norma stops unbuttoning her shirt, one of her hands resting on her chest. Her skin is warm, soft. She puts on some lotion every time after she took a bath or shower. It has a soothing effect on her and she loves the compliments she gets for her flawless skin. Or at least used to get. It's been a while since a man touched her. It would be nice to be with a man again, with someone who worships her body and doesn't take it for granted or abuses it. The way it was at the beginning of both of her marriages and also with her first love, the one that is forbidden territory and that she never allows herself to think of.

So she can't read Alex's face, obviously. But what does it mean that he doesn't hate her? And how does it change the way she thinks of him? Norma doesn't know. Sometimes she does things she doesn't understand herself, like putting her hand on Alex's thigh only to see how he would react or telling him not to answer his phone only to test whether he would comply.

Norma sighs, walking over to the window to shut the curtains, see-through or not, when she makes out a dark figure next to Alex's car. At first she thinks someone is trying to steal his car before she recognizes the familiar frame, his bulky sheriff's jacket and the belt with the gun. It's kind of sexy, having the sheriff live so close by.

It seems as if Alex got something out of his car and was about to walk back to his motel room when he took notice of her movement. He looks up to the window and Norma freezes, suddenly very aware that her shirt is already half-unbuttoned and that the light of the lamp illuminates her body as if she was standing in a spotlight. This is not just a glimpse. Nevertheless she lets go of the curtain without pulling it closed. Neither of them moves; they just stand there swept up in the moment, looking at each other. Then Norma continues to unbutton her blouse ever so slowly while Alex stays put, watching her.

It's not his hand revealing her skin, brushing against her breasts and abdomen in the process. So why does her pulse speed up and her breathing become erratic? For a moment Norma wishes she could make Alex come up into her bedroom by sheer will before she remembers that her son is sleeping next door. She puts her hand on her chest again, this time to calm her wildly beating heart, her fingers slipping under the fabric of her bra on their own accord. Norma closes her eyes, suppressing a moan as her fingertips brush her nipple. The contact causes the familiar tingle between her legs, her other hand crumpling her skirt up. Only when she starts to roll her hips, her hand moving closer to her center, Norma realizes what she is doing or rather was about to do. God, what was she thinking? She stops, opening her eyes.

Alex is still there. She should shut the curtains, turn out the lights and go to bed. But instead Norma lets the unbuttoned shirt slide down her shoulders and reaches for the clasp of her bra that is in front. She opens it, one strap slipping off her shoulder, the cups only loosely covering her breasts anymore. One incautious move and the fabric will be pushed aside. Or she could make that a deliberate one.

The switch of the lamp is close, yet not close enough. Norma feels the cold air on her bare skin for a brief moment when her bra finally gapes wide open before she catches hold of the switch and cloaks the room in utter darkness.


Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

There are many different kinds of pain. The sharp sting of an unexpected loss, the gnawing doubts of uncertainty or the dull ache of someone's absence to name only a few. Alex Romero knows them all, but he has never experienced them at once before.

He told Norma he would hang around some more, hoping it would buy him the time he needs to find a way not only into her bed but into her heart. Norma, however, is back to being noncommittal as if their passionate encounter never happened or doesn't matter to her. She is friendly, genuinely seems to like him. That's what makes it so much worse. How is she able to treat him like that when he has to fight his feelings every second in order to act normal around her?

It's not even one-step-forward-two-steps-back. It's a gridlock and he has no idea how to get out. When Alex tries to address it, Norma dismisses him. Let's not do this now, Alex, okay? We have all the time in the world. But they don't. Once his house is re-built, he moves out. What else is there to do? He can't hang around forever, waiting for her to change her mind when there is no indication that she ever will.

It feels awkward to pay Norma for his stay. In light of the fact that the new bypass will be finished soon, she needs the money though. It is even more awkward when they embrace as goodbye. Yet there is no way Alex could have left without holding her one more time. And when Norma runs after him as he is about to drive away, he thinks this is it, that she will tell him she wants this too, ask him to stay. But instead... I always felt safe when you were here. The way she looks at him, saying these words makes him want to turn off the engine, unpack his stuff and never leave. If it wasn't too little, too late. Alex has no idea what Norma wants or what he is to her except a random moment of weakness and a convenient ally when it comes to the various challenges in her life.

When he drives away, watching her figure get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, Alex is convinced that it was just an illusion. They were never meant to be. There is a lump in his throat. It doesn't go away when he arrives at home, puts his things away and has a drink.

His new house has some improvements; the worker did a good job. He hates it.

Of course it doesn't take long until the Bates' household is the center of another drama. A call girl dying outside of the motel in Norma's arms is not even extraordinary, considering what other, horrible things already happened there.

They are sitting in the kitchen. Norma radiates this strange energy that always makes him wonder what is beneath the visible layers. She looks beautiful despite her blood-stained clothes, but all he can think about is what she is hiding. Because she is hiding something; that much is for sure. By now Alex can read Norma's body language.

He has to investigate, but Norma, being Norma, makes it clear that she has better things to do than to give him the information he needs, the death as well as his questions nothing but a nuisance.

"You don't get to do this. Not after everything."

Her words are a distraction. One of her coping strategies, attack as defense. It angers him how casually she uses what happened between them as a shield to get rid of him.

"Chaos seems to swirl around you and I'm not sure why."

It's the understatement of the century. Chaos is not only swirling around her. It is swirling inside him too, getting worse every minute he is spending with her. Anger, frustration, pain. It's unfair to blame it all on her since he should be able to handle his emotions but in moments like these when they are in the same room, her sheer presence taunting his inability to break away from her, Norma seems to be the appropriate target for his bottled-up rage of a lifetime.

There were moments in between when Alex thought he saw a flicker of what he is feeling for her reflected in Norma's eyes. Like that surreal moment when they met at the Arcanum Club and she asked him why he was there. I'm not here for that. There was relief in her face before she hid it. Or at least that's what he thought he had seen, reliving the scene in his head over and over to find out if he was right.

Here and now Alex realizes that Norma doesn't care about anything than herself and her sons. Well, Norman essentially.

"You can show yourself out."

Out the door. Out of her life.

Norma stands up and leaves the room as Alex gets up too, his limps heavy. Every time he believes he is over her, she proves him wrong.

He hears voices upstairs when he walks in the hallway. They come from Norman's room. He can't make out the words save that Norma is talking to her sons. Perhaps it's only his imagination, but Norma's voice sounds soothing, a stark contrast to the way she talked to him only minutes ago. It triggers an agonizing longing to be part of this family, as dysfunctional as it might be, to be allowed to be in there with them and not down here alone.

Alex remains standing in the hallway, one hand on the handrail as if he was about to go upstairs when Norma comes out of her son's room, unbuttoning her bloody shirt. The scene is a grotesque reminder of the moment in the parking lot when he watched her at the window weeks ago. There is nothing even remotely sensual about it now, the blood of a dead woman on Norma's clothes. She stops when she sees him and he expects her to yell at him, but she holds his gaze and then contorts her face as if she was just as sorry about the way things are as he is before she moves along.

He shouldn't do it, shouldn't allow a moment like this to raise his hopes. He can't help it though. Alex lingers at the end of the stairs a while longer, imagining he was in Norma's bedroom with her, helping her take off her blood-stained clothes, an act of affection not desire to show her what she means to him.

Then he remembers her behavior when he was questioning her in the kitchen and what he spotted right now or at least thinks he did. He should confront her about it if it wasn't futile. Norma is a master in terms of hiding. Things, emotions. He is in love with a figment of his imagination. Norma is not an innocent victim. When will he learn to accept that?

As often as Alex imagined Norma visiting him at home once more, he didn't expect it to happen like this. Showing up unexpectedly, making a proposal so surreal it leaves him speechless, almost kicking in his door when he doesn't agree with her plan fast enough. In hindsight he should have seen it coming. Classic Norma. Blackmailing Bob Paris. That's not a plan. That's a suicide mission. But of course he will help her. He hears himself make that promise before his mind has had enough time to process things, her relieved moan triggering memories that are too dangerous to delve into while she is that close.

Her breath caresses his neck, her body equally swaying towards and away from him as he is holding her in an effort to calm her down or whatever he is telling himself are his reasons until she gives in and rests her head on his shoulder, the tension eventually leaving her limbs. It's probably mere exhaustion, but it feels like trust and is enough to make Alex cave in. Whatever he has been trying to convince himself of – that Norma is not good for him, only using him – is forgotten. He would follow her to the end of the world if she asked him right now.

"The flash drive. Is it the one you hid in your bra?"

Norma lifts her head to look at Alex. "How do you know?"

"I saw the bump when you were starting to take off your blood-stained shirt." He shrugs. "What would a call girl steal as leverage these days? Data."

"You knew I had it all the time?"

"I assumed it. I wasn't a hundred percent certain, but I was hoping you'd eventually give it to me if you had it."

She looks at him thoughtfully and then embraces him. A real embrace, arms around his neck and shoulders, pulling him close.

"Thank you for helping me."

It's a recurring theme. Whenever he helps her, Norma allows him a moment of closeness. Alex wonders whether she has already conditioned him to behave that way. Like Pawlow's dog. She asks for help and he comes running because he can't resist the reward.

In the end it doesn't matter. She is here; he agreed to blackmail Bob Paris with her. So what? Life is short. Who wants to live forever, anyway? Alex only wishes Norma wouldn't wear a coat. There are too many layers of fabric between him and her skin.

She is still holding him tight, allows his hands to wander from her waist over her hip to her backside.

"Don't you miss it?" Alex asks. "Us?"

When Norma tenses in his arms, he could kick himself for asking or her for being so obstinate. Same old, same old. She threw him a bone but as soon as he dares to cross the line, he's out. Wherever that damn line is. One day she sleeps with him, the next day a wrong word is too much.

Norma lets go of him and steps back. "Can we…?" she starts.

"Talk about this later? Or never? Sure. Your deal with Bob Paris is way more important." Alex doesn't even try to hide his anger.

"Alex… Please understand."

"It's okay. I do."

He doesn't, but he couldn't care less. They missed the moment to talk about things. Again. Tonight there will be no answers.

This time Norma doesn't have to kick in his door. Alex opens it for her so that she can leave.

The call was short. Alex had made an appointment with Bob Paris and told Norma when and where to show up.

They are sitting in Bob Paris' office anteroom since he, like any business man, likes to make his guests wait as a demonstration of who's in charge.

Norma is distanced, practically ignoring him as if he wasn't her protector but a sidekick she had to drag along. Alex boils inside, torn between pulling her outside to make a scene and the awareness that Bob Paris would hold that forever against him. He can't show any weakness. Not here on enemy turf.

She said something he didn't understand because his thoughts were elsewhere.

"What?" Alex looks at her.

"I do."

"Do what?"

"Miss it. Us."

Really? She's answering his question now and here of all places? It makes Alex even angrier. Is she doing this on purpose because she knows he won't be able to respond since they are not alone? Or perhaps Norma's mind works like that. Providing her with random thoughts and feelings she lives out no matter what. The idea is as fascinating as frightening.

Alex turns away from her, his body stiffening in order to bottle up his rage. It doesn't take long until he notices a movement out of the corner of his eye. Norma is bobbing her foot up and down nervously. It's a reflex, his hand reaching out to stop her, feeling the smooth fabric of her pantyhose when he grabs her ankle, holding it tight for a moment, exerting more pressure than necessary before he lets go of it.

Norma goes quiet next to him, her posture as stiff as his. Here they are, partners in crime, lovers by choice or accident. Who knows. Alex wishes he could take Norma's hand and lead her out. They shouldn't be here; nothing good will come out of this.

But as if on cue the door of Bob Paris' office opens. He is ready to see them and Norma can't wait.

"Bye, Dylan. Bye, Emma." Norma hugs and kisses them goodbye.

Caleb already left and Norman couldn't wait to go to his room. He had been in a bad mood the entire evening. It didn't damp her spirits though. They had a wonderful evening. It felt so good to have the family together for dinner, her childhood dream coming true. Now it's only Alex and her. He insisted on helping her clear the table although he's doing more harm than good considering his arm sling. Alex was right after all. She underestimated how dangerous Bob Paris is; the pit outside as well as Alex's gunshot wound can attest to that.

"You don't have to do that. Careful." Norma laughs, catching a glass that almost tipped over. "God, you're clumsy, sheriff." She smiles at him, the good vibes of the evening reverberating inside her. "Go down to the motel and stay there for the night. I have to change the sheets, anyway. You might as well use the bed again." The bed where Alex slept if off this afternoon after she had picked him up at the bar. Norma had never seen him drunk before. He makes a quite cute drunk.

Alex's facial expression becomes serious. "No, I won't stay. I should drive home."

Her smile fades. "Yes, sure."

Norma can try as hard as she wants, she will never understand him. They slept together and it felt as if he wanted more. Nevertheless he behaved as if they were friends and nothing else. Yes, she refused to talk to him, but she wasn't in the mood and since when do men take into account what she wants?

"Norma… I know you don't want to talk about this, but..." Alex shrugs. "I don't know what to do. I meant what I said when we were down at the motel earlier." When he wanted to kiss her so bad and she escaped his advances. "You are beautiful. You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen and I can't act as if what happened between us meant nothing to me."

Men are so confusing. "Then don't."


"Don't act as if it means nothing to you."

His face is like an open book. Norma Bates. A living and breathing contradiction. That's what he is thinking. She heard it often enough from other men although she doesn't consider herself complicated. At all. Action, reaction. Attack, defense. That is what life is about. Simple as that.

"Norma, I wanted to talk to you and you refused."

"I had a bad day."

"A bad day? I tried it more than once."

"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. It was my fault."

But there is more.

"So if you wanted to talk about us in general but not on the days I asked you…" The way Alex sums it up makes it sound as if she was unpredictable and moody. Norma frowns. "…then why did you react the way you did when I was shot? Do you realize I was shot because I helped you with Bob Paris? That I almost died..." for you. Albeit Alex doesn't say it, she hears it loud and clear.

Norma fiddles around with the kitchen towel. How can she possibly explain to him why she behaved liked that? Men are trouble, she remembers the slurred voice of her mother, whether from alcohol or medication she didn't know. That's what Francine Calhoun told her daughter every day. Back then before she stopped talking to her children, before she forgot she even had children. And she was right. If Norma knows one thing about men, then it is that behind every friendly face, there is a fist and behind every tender caress, there are strong arms holding her down against her will. It's better to stay away, to not get attached.

"You moved out." That's what it all boils down to. Because then she knew Alex was just like the others. He had gotten what he wanted and left.

So why does he look at her as if he was at a loss for words? "The rebuilding of my house was finished."


"What do you mean?"

"You left me. You think it hurt when you got shot? It hurt much more when I stood there watching you drive away as if I meant nothing to you."

"Norma, that's not true."

"You left me."

Did she scream that last part? Alex is very close all of a sudden, grabbing her arm the way he did when she came to his house to persuade him to help her with Bob Paris.

"I didn't leave you. Norma, if I had known that you see it that way." He swallows. "I would have stayed."

Men are trouble. But she can't find the lie, not in his face, not in his words. Maybe Alex is different.

"You would have?"


"Why?" The moment Norma asks this, she sees the answer in his face. No. This is too much.

"Because I love you."

Norma freezes. Yell at him and send him away or throw herself in his arms? Then she realizes that her body is already responding to his declaration. She has leaned forward, brushing his lips with hers, feeling her way to how it might be if she really kissed him, knowing what she knows now.

Alex is done waiting. His hand at the back of her neck pulls her towards him, his kiss hungry but tender. There is a pleasant ache in Norma's chest when she realizes he is restraining himself for her sake. She kisses him back, lets herself go when the images come crashing in. The night she ran away, where she ended up and what she did.

"Don't be afraid. I will take good care of you," Alex murmurs when Norma shivers in his arms.

He has no idea. The moment he finds out, he will leave her.

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

She can't breathe.

Norma coughs. Everything hurts, her chest, her entire body. She groans and tries to lift her head or open her eyes, but it's impossible as if tons of stone are weighing her down. When she finally manages to blink, she sees carpet, a white nightgown, bare feet. Why would she be lying on the floor dressed like that? What is going on? The dizziness is getting worse. The world around her starts to spin and she is falling...

I now pronounce you husband and wife.

Come on, Mrs. Sheriff.

You're going off to work and kissing me. It's like I'm watching a movie, but it's not a movie.

Voices. Far away. Fighting.

Will you please just stop talking to me like I'm insane.

- Calm down.

Just stop patronizing me! You're awful!

- I am not letting you leave this house!

Her hands grasping at air as she loses balance, toppling over, falling again.

I'm not here to apologize. I did what I felt was the right thing.

- Maybe fate wins here. We're all doomed in the end, right?

Norma sits up with a jerk, hand on her chest, breathing hard. She is in her bed, covered with a blanket but wearing street clothes. The dizziness was not a dream as wasn't the pain. She feels sick to her stomach, every fiber of her body hurting, especially her head. She touches her forehead.


There is a lump and some dried blood. What happened? She is trying to remember as she makes out faint voices downstairs.

Norma crawls out of bed. The dizziness forces her to sit down again, but after a moment she is able to stand up and remain standing. Someone took off her shoes and placed them next to her bed. Norma slips them on and is about to go downstairs when she spots Dylan and Alex at the foot of the stairs, looking at her as if she raised from the dead.

None of this makes sense. Norma tries to concentrate on her current surroundings, but her thoughts keep slipping away.

"Here, drink this, mom." Dylan gently thrusts a glass of water into her hand.

A crystal clear thought among the haze. Mom? Now she knows something is seriously wrong.

"And take these," Dylan adds, placing two pills on the table. "They will ease your headache."

They are in the kitchen. Dylan is sitting with her at the table while Alex is leaning against the countertop, observing the situation. A situation that feels surreal to say the least. Maybe she is still dreaming.

"Are you sure you don't feel sick?" Alex asks for what must be the third time, his look scrutinizing. "Because if you do, you could have a concussion and we should take you to the hospital."

"No, I don't," Norma lies.

Going to a hospital because of a headache and nausea? She for sure had concussions earlier in life that remained untreated considering how often someone slammed her head against a wall or another hard surface. It's much more important that she understands what is going on, and right now, she is far from it.

The light is greyish outside; it must be early morning.

"How long did I sleep?" Norma asks.

"You were out for a couple of hours, but your pulse was normal so I thought it would be okay to just let you recover here," Dylan says, darting a glance at Alex who clearly begs to differ.

Norma feels like a truck hit her. She buries her face in her hands. "Tell me again what happened," she mumbles. Dylan already did, but she needs to hear it again to believe it as the pills ease the pain and slowly dispel the haze in the process so that she perceives her surroundings more distinctly. This is not a dream.

"I found you passed out in the hallway. As if you had fallen down the stairs or something. Norman wasn't there and it looked as if he had been packing. I checked your pulse, put you in bed, and since I didn't want to leave you alone, I called the sheriff to search for Norman."

Norma looks back and forth between the two men. She knows they are not on good terms due to Dylan's former career in drug business. The fact that Dylan called Alex in spite of that makes her proud.

"Thank you, Dylan. For being so considerate." Norma squeezes her son's hand.

For a moment Dylan grows confused. Then he pulls himself together. "A couple of hours later, I got the call from Willamette County that Norman was there. Well, you got the call, but I was here and answered the phone. They found him on a field, talking to himself." His clothes filthy and blood-stained. Dylan skips that part though. It will be difficult enough for his mother to process what happened as it is. "We were just discussing what to do next when you woke up."

Norman is in the psychiatric unit of Willamette County hospital. That's the hardest part to wrap her mind around, her injuries only a minor nuisance in comparison. It's ironic too. The day after she visited an institution to get used to the idea that she can't give Norman the help he needs but that it only can be found there, he got admitted.

Norma remembers now. Their fight. Norman wanting to leave with Bradley Martin. The dead girl that isn't dead as Dylan explained to her. It's too much. The idea that Norman is alone in that hospital breaks her heart. Then again, the Norman she knows and loves would never have left her after she had fallen down the stairs. Because of him no less. So much has changed between them recently. What if she'd had internal injuries? Dylan finding her was a lucky coincidence. She could have died and Norman just left.

"Is it a good facility? Willamette County?" It surprises herself how calm she is. The old Norma would have already driven over, knocking on doors and demanding to see her son. The Norma that was connected to Norman by that invisible cord that seems to be severed all of a sudden. She feels lost as if she was floating without anything or anyone to ground her.

Dylan and Alex exchange a look.

"I'm right here," Norma hisses. "Talk to me." She needs the truth from them. Everything is so messed up. They are the only ones left in her life to hold on to.

"There are better facilities," Alex concedes. "But Norman is 18 and on medical hold for 48 hours. There is nothing we can do about it."

Norma lets the information sink in. "48 hours… You're the sheriff. Can't you do something?"

"I've got nothing to do with Willamette."

"Then why are you here?" She didn't mean to say it like that. "I'm sorry. I'm glad you're here. I'm just..."

Alex nods, accepting her apology, but it's obvious that she offended him.

"What happened?" he asks. "Here. Between you and Norman before he left."

Norma shrugs. "We had a fight. I didn't want him to leave. And when I tried to hold him back, I fell down the stairs."

Her statement is met with silence.


"Are you sure that's what happened?" Alex has stepped closer to the table. Not asking her as a friend but rather questioning her as the sheriff.

"Am I sure? Yes, why wouldn't I be?"

"Because you hit your head and feel dizzy, no matter what you told us. Because you could be dead by now and lied before to protect your son."

Norma remembers her dream, taking a look at her left hand. No ring. She felt safe in that dream, protected. The way she always feels when she is with him. Well, when they are not fighting, that is. Or maybe even then. This, however, is reality and they are not husband and wife. Alex has every reason to doubt her.

"It's the truth," she assures him.

"How I am supposed to know that?"

He is right and wrong. You could call what happened between them on his piano reconciliation; he came by to apologize for handing the flash drive over to the DEA although he insisted on the fact that it wasn't an apology. Their relationship is intense but strained and it's her fault. They have no solid base, their mutual trust fragile, too many lies of the past standing between them. Alex can't know that she swore to herself she would never lie to him again.

"It's the truth," Norma repeats quietly, tearing up. "Isn't the fact that Norman left although he knew I was hurt and unconscious bad enough for you?"

Dylan reaches out and takes her hand. "Norma..."

She stands up. "I need to get out of these clothes and take a shower. And I'll probably lie down after that since there's nothing we can do at the moment, anyway. Thank you, both of you, for helping me."

Norma walks out, avoiding Alex's glance.

When she wakes up, it's dark outside. Norma has lost track of time, a glance at the clock telling her that it's 6 PM. She slept all day. No weird dreams this time and her headache is only a dull throbbing. That part was no weird dream as the lump on her forehead confirms. She fell down the stairs and Norman is on medical hold in a psych ward.

Norma gets dressed. It's silent downstairs, dim, just a lamp here and there illuminating the rooms. She finds Alex asleep on the couch in the living room. For a moment Norma stands there and watches him, the man who watches over her.

"Alex?" He startles when she touches his shoulder. "Where's Dylan?"

He sits up, groaning. The couch is too small for him to sleep on it comfortably. "He's, err, he's home. We took turns."

"You took turns? So that someone always would be here with me?"


Norma runs her fingers through his hair tenderly. "You are a very kind man, Alex Romero."

Alex remembers what he did last night. He had just killed a man when Dylan's call came. Instead of hiding a body, he spent all night searching for Norman until Dylan's next call informed him that Norman had been found. At first light he went back to bury Bob Paris' body in the sea so that no one would ever find him. Therefore kind is not exactly a character trait he would attribute to himself.

Norma follows her own train of thoughts as she sits down next to him.

"What am I going to do, Alex?"

"Norman will probably be released tomorrow and then you can take him home."

She has to smile. Men. Listing facts as if they were the solution. What bothers her is what is supposed to happen after she will have taken Norman home. Her smile fades.

When she was little, Norma's mother told her stories about her grandmother's premonitions that had become real. Most of the time, her mother was drunk or drugged when she told her those stories. Norma doesn't believe in premonitions, provided what her mother told her was true in the first place, but the part of her dream where she was lying on the floor still lingers in her memory. Even if Norman was not part of that dream, she felt his presence in it that caused an unsettling insecurity because she was afraid of him. No, not afraid, scared to death. What made the dream so real and what makes it linger is the harsh truth that this is the way she was feeling whenever she was around Norman lately. She just hasn't been ready to admit it until now.

Norma looks down at her hands in her lap. "What if I don't want to take him home?" She stands up, fetching the documents from Pineview. "This is a lovely place. I think they could help Norman there."

Alex checks the brochure. "Norma… I never would have thought that you..."

"That I what? Want the best for my son? Want him to get better?"

He soothingly touches her lower arm. "You know what I mean."

Norma takes a deep breath. "All my life, all I ever wanted was to keep Norman safe. I always thought he was just oversensitive, but now..." She swallows, her voice breathy when she continues to speak, "Now I'm not so sure anymore. So yes, I'm prepared to do the one thing that scares me the most in the world. I will let him go if it means he will get the help he needs somewhere else."

Alex intertwines their fingers, glancing at the cover of the Pineview brochure again.

"This place looks expensive. It's none of my business, Norma, but do you have the money to pay for Norman's stay there?"

Norma grabs the brochure and gets up to put it away.

"You need insurance or money to get in which I both do not have. They also have a stupid waiting list." She snorts. "Can you believe that? But I'll think of something."

Despite the seemingly insurmountable obstacles, she sounds unimpressed and serious. For Norma it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that she will find a way to get Norman into Pineview at short notice.

Alex watches her. Delicate, yet strong hands that put the brochure away and close the drawer. Norma is a fighter, but he wonders how many more blows she can take before she breaks. She senses his eyes on her and turns around, catching his thoughtful expression.

"Stop worrying about me, Alex," she sighs. "It's not your problem. It's mine. Are you hungry?" she changes the subject as only Norma does when it comes to food.

Only now he realizes he is. Starving, actually, since he hasn't eaten anything all day. He nods. "Yes."

Norma heads to the kitchen, Alex following her, slowing down when a thought that crossed his mind earlier manifests itself.

"I'll be back in a bit, okay? I have to check something."

"Yes, sure." Norma is already getting vegetables and meat out of the refrigerator.

Alex turns around to look at her before he leaves, her slender frame twirling across the kitchen despite the fact that she fell down the stairs and almost broke her neck only 24 hours ago. Creating a home for herself and her loved ones has always been Norma's purpose in life, and now, she is doing it for him. The realization erases whatever last doubts Alex might have had. It's the right thing to do.

Less than an hour later he is back.

"Is that you, Alex? Dinner is ready. I called Dylan. He is still tired and will come over only tomorrow morning since you are here. Did you tell him about us? It sounded as if he knows. Whatever, sit down and..." Norma stops dead in her tracks when he enters the kitchen, carrying a huge bag. "What is this?"

Alex puts the bag on the countertop, his gesture telling Norma that she is supposed to take a look.

Norma approaches the bag warily, looking at him again before she opens it and is confronted with money, lots of it. She stares at it in disbelief. Then at him.

"Where does all this money come from?"

"Pineview is expensive."

"I can't take your money. I would never be able to pay you back."

Alex holds her gaze. "You don't have to pay it back. No one will miss it."

"What are you talking about?" Norma narrows her eyes in suspicion. "What does that mean no one will miss it?"

"Just take the money, Norma. Consider it righting a wrong."

She is many things but not naive, remembering Alex's words when he came over after their encounter in his house. I am sorry that I couldn't protect you. If I could change that I would. He was referring to Bob Paris. What if he did change it?

"Whose money is this, Alex?"

He keeps staring at her, his teeth clenched. "I'm not a kind man, Norma, but I will always protect you. So take the damn money. I don't know what else to do with it."

No name was mentioned, no confession made, and yet, Norma knows the money has Bob Paris' blood on it. She shakes her head. "I'm not sure I can do that."

Alex watches the emotional uproar on her face. He expected Norma to take the money without further ado, underestimated her moral compass. There is another way to get Norman into Pineview. Insurance. Actually it's the one thing he has been thinking about incessantly ever since she said it but would never have dared to go there unless it was the last resort. Which it seems to be now. Somehow Alex can't believe Norma hasn't come up with the idea herself.

"If you don't want to take the money, there is another way," he says, keeping it casual although his heart is pounding. Alex can't remember the last time he was that nervous, and considering he killed a few people recently, that says something.

Norma is still dwelling on her thoughts. "What?"

"Another way. To get Norman into Pineview. Well, provided he signs the papers since he is of age."


"You said it yourself. Insurance."

She slouches her shoulders, then straightens herself. "Yes, you're right. I should apply for insurance. I looked it up. It takes six weeks until the insurance will cover any costs, but it's the only way to get him in, I think." Norma eyes the money in the bag wistfully and takes a deep breath. "Come on, let's eat. Dinner is ready."

Alex grabs her arm to hold her back. "Norma, wait! Are you sure you don't want the money?"

She shrugs and touches her forehead, reminding him that she still is in pain and confused by the current events. "I don't know. Maybe I should sleep on it. Six weeks is a long time if someone needs help right now."

Whatever she is feeling, it's clear that Norma is afraid to have her son back home even if she would never say that out loud. He won't let that happen.

"I have insurance, Norma," Alex states since she didn't get the hint before. "So if your son needs insurance..." He waits for the realization to set in.

Norma's eyes widen. "Oh," she breathes.

"If I marry you, you and your son will have insurance immediately." Concentrate on the facts, anything else would be too much although it sounds as if he is offering her a marriage of convenience when it's anything but, the mere idea that she could say yes and be his wife raising a row inside him. Alex can't even say whether that's a good or bad thing. All things considered, he probably shouldn't do this. But all he knows is that he is willing to turn his life upside down for this woman. Essentially it's what he has been doing for a while now. So why not be consistent and admit that it is…

"It's not forever." He hears Norma say. "Just until Norman will be better. Alex… I can't believe you would do this for me. Thank you. Thank you so much."

Norma remembers her dream. The ring on her finger that she only felt but never saw clearly, a blurry shadow of another life. She doesn't understand what is going on - the occurrences in real life as well as her dream, how these things are supposed to fit together, if at all. All she is feeling is relief. Alex is about to save her once again, will protect her and her son. Gratefulness suffuses her.

Unfortunately that's all Alex sees. Gratefulness. Norma seems to accept his offer as what she believes it to be - a marriage of convenience to get insurance for her son. And it obviously seems to be enough for her, more than enough judging by the look on her face.

The anger is sudden and blinding. He killed for her, offered her a bag full of money and essentially himself. What did he expect in return? Love? He should have known better.

Try again, Alexander, the voice of his father resonates in his head. Whenever they were playing together outside – or what counted as playing in the Romero household, rare occasions either way – his father would push him down on the hard concrete when he missed a ball. His father's appreciation, his mother's affection, getting neither and filling the void with his own sense of duty, subduing the city and its population until Norma came along and made him feel the void again.

"Can I still have the money?" Norma is joking or maybe not.

Alex closes the bag up and puts it down in a corner before they sit down to eat. She senses his mood swing but doesn't address it. They don't talk much during dinner and he realizes Norma contains herself because of his offer. Does she really think he would withdraw it if she said something wrong? Does she actually believe he could? The idea triggers something. It's dark and wrong but tastes like an exquisite wine on his tongue, alleviating his anger.

Norma Bates is at his mercy.

Chapter Text

Norma sizes herself up in the mirror. Her navy blue lady's suit is elegant, but the woman looking back at her is not herself. Too formal, too uptight. She exhales, rolling her shoulders in order to loosen up, but eventually shakes her head in acceptance of the inevitable. There is no way she can be light-hearted, not with her body and soul aching. No matter how much makeup she will put on, the pain beneath will shimmer through, her son's empty room as well as the lump on her forehead testament to everything that is wrong in her life at the moment.

At least she can change her clothes though. After she has done that, Norma sizes herself up in the mirror again. Better, although she still feels uneasy in her own skin. But that's not due to her clothes and there is no time left to change again, anyway. She straightens herself. Okay then. Let's do this. It doesn't matter what she is wearing; this is about getting insurance for Norman. Then why does it feel like so much more? Norma grabs her coat and heads out.

It will be her third marriage and the third time is the charm. Isn't that how the saying goes?

Alex consults his watch. Norma wouldn't be late to her own wedding, would she? There is a queasy feeling in his stomach, taunting him that she might have changed her mind until he reminds himself she wouldn't do that because it's about her son. The awareness calms him but is accompanied by the familiar sting that this doesn't even remotely mean as much to her as it does to him.

And there she is, rushing in, her cheeks reddened due to the cold outside, beautiful as always. His bride is wearing black underneath her purple coat. Alex has never seen the dress before. It looks like something she would wear for dinner otherwise, black lace with a pink-colored petticoat, the lace see-through so that it allows a glimpse at the half-hidden, brighter color here and there.

He remembers the way Norma used to dress. Floral designs, hair bands, almost girlish, but it became her. The woman right in front of him has changed. Still stunning, maybe even more so, but the weight of the world is holding her down. It's in every breath, every move. Norma never just exists; she constantly has to fight the occurrences in her life so that she can. Alex hates the idea that living in White Pine Bay has put more pressure on Norma's already strained life. It's his town, his responsibility although he is well-aware that a huge part of her problems are caused by her family. Either way, she moved here to start over and it almost broke her. He should have done a better job protecting her.

Norma approaches him, her smile reluctant.

"You look beautiful."

No more reluctance. His words make her radiant with joy. Alex would give anything to let Norma have more unburdened moments like these. He can only imagine how difficult this has to be for her. Her heavy fall, the uncertainty what the future will bring for her son. And in the middle of all this, they are getting married.

Just when she is about to say something in response, there is a voice, announcing that they are next.

"Sheriff Romero? Norma Bates? We're ready for you."

Not even 24 hours ago Alex didn't have the slightest idea he would get married today, but when Norma reaches out and takes his hand, it feels as if things were exactly how they are supposed to be.

Norma is holding his hand the entire time as they are listening to the marriage registrar. Her I do is clear whereas his is a bit husky. She has no ring for him, of course, however there is a deep gratefulness in her eyes when he puts his mother's ring on her finger, and for the first time, it feels as if this gratefulness goes beyond getting insurance for her son. Norma keeps staring at the ring and him alternately, and when they are eventually announced husband and wife and he kisses her, she kisses him back.

If that's what fake marriage feels like, he's all in.

They are standing outside of the city hall in front of their cars that are neatly parked next to each other. Reality has caught up with them. Who comes to their wedding in separate cars? And what will they do next?

"I, err, I have to go back to work," Alex states. He didn't tell anyone he would get married today. Hence he has to show up although he has no doubt that word will spread like wildfire soon.

"Okay," Norma nods.

She still has her fingers intertwined with his, holding on to him as if she is slowly getting used to the idea of their new relationship status. And seems to like it. Alex raises the back of her hand to his lips and kisses it.

"I'll come by afterwards," he says.

"Yes, sure." Norma is clearly looking forward to it, watching him with these light-blue eyes that always draw him into her world.

He is about to get in his car when her voice holds him back.

"Alex..." She raises an eyebrow, her usual, vibrant energy showing. "You really look good in a suit."

As if it hadn't been difficult enough already to leave her in order to fulfill his duties.

It's impossible to concentrate on his work. Therefore it's almost a relief when people start congratulating him, most of them barely able to hide their surprise. Norma and he will be the talk of the town for a while. The truth is, though, that every time Alex confirms that, yes, he actually married Norma Bates this morning, it makes him incredibly proud, let alone happy.

Norma is like an addiction. He can't stay away from her, tried and it didn't work, their relationship a constant emotional turmoil, their shared moments of bliss rare and a feeble construction, and yet, being with her feels better than anything he has ever experienced in his whole life. The moment Alex realized Norma would need to become his wife in order to get insurance for her son, it felt like a surreal stroke of fate fulfilling his wildest dreams although marriage hadn't been on that list, not until it was a possibility that is, the ultimate chance to have her.

The idea made him dizzy with excitement, even more now that it has become real. An irresistible scenario, the options endless without a backdoor that allows Norma to escape like she did in the past. It's soothing and strangely arousing, this hold he has over her. Or at least it was until a memory kept him awake last night, one question emerging: Had he become his father? Alex can't seem to shake off Bob Paris' words that are slowly poisoning him.

I guess none of us can change who we are. You are more like your dad than you ever have been. This is about you and what you want. How does that feel? To have spent your whole life trying to get away from someone you hate, only to turn into them.

Bitter words of a man who knew he was about to die. It doesn't make them any less true.

Alex didn't put one bullet into Bob Paris but four, didn't only kick against the nearest wall after he had learned about Norma and that fucking therapist but threw everything off his desk in a streak of rage. He pushed Norma against the door frame during their fight, was more than a little rough with her during their reconciliation although she seemed to like it. Violence is in his genes. Like his father, he does whatever he deems necessary to get what he wants. And what he wants most in the world is Norma. Money or marriage, whatever her decision would have been, the plan had been to tie her to him all along.

He loves her. So much. But she deserves a better man. Someone who didn't sell his soul years ago and lost count of how many times he has broken the law albeit he should represent it, someone without genetic burdens that threaten to take over. Alex started packing last night because he assumed he would move in with Norma but then stopped half-way. What if she doesn't want that? Would he insist? Although he is repulsed by the mere idea, it's so tempting to use his position of power to force her to let him move in if necessary, compel a closeness she might not be willing to allow yet, only because it's what he wants. It's what his father would do. Would he?

His phone rings. He knows something is wrong when he hears her voice.

"Alex..." Norma sniffles; she must have been crying. "Could you come over? Like, right now. Please?"

He had planned to take her out to dinner. One of Alex's friends has a restaurant and offered him their best table and menu for free. Well, not exactly for free since this friend is also a smart business man and for sure hopes it will be beneficial to him sometime in the future that he gave the sheriff a generous wedding gift.

Either way it's clear that they won't go out tonight. When Norma opened the door, her eyes were red and swollen from crying and she basically fell in his arms. It took him several attempts to find out what had happened. Willamette County hospital had called. The blood on Norman's clothes isn't his. Therefore he won't be released, not until Bradley Martin will have been found alive and unharmed. An investigation will make sure of that or prove the horrible allegation.

They had a rough plan regarding Norman. He would have been released the very next day and Norma wanted to talk him into committing himself to Pineview voluntarily. Alex didn't think it would work, but in typical Norma fashion she was convinced it would, mostly because it had to. There was no other plan. They both knew what would happen if Norman came home to find out his mother had married the sheriff. That kid is wired differently when it comes to his mother, the new situation a recipe for disaster.

All of this has become redundant by now. Alex spent the afternoon and early evening talking to Willamette County, Pineview and his insurance company to schedule Norman's transfer while Norma was sitting next to him, sobbing quietly. There are some documents left to sign, but he will do that tomorrow. Enough has happened today.

They are sitting on the couch in the living room. Half-lying, actually. Norma has curled up into a ball, snuggling into him. She is still sobbing now and then but much calmer overall. Alex is pretty sure it's not because she is feeling better but simply due to exhaustion.

"Thank you for coming over and taking care of all that," she mumbles.

"No problem." Alex gently strokes her back. "I wanted to take you out to dinner, but it's probably better if we delay that."

"Dinner? Really?" Norma lifts her head, the hint of a smile flitting across her tear-stained face. "That's nice."

She doesn't talk about her former relationships, but every time he finds out something, it makes Alex wonder how bad her life really has been. It would have been just dinner, on their wedding day no less, and yet, it seems to be something special for her. A vision of Norma sipping at a glass of wine appears in his mind's eye. Relaxed, flirting with him. A happy Norma. He loves the idea. That dinner has to happen soon.

Her head rests against his chest, her fingers drawing lazy circles on his shirt. She is getting sleepy while he is getting more and more alert. Alex has to concentrate on the messy situation and Norma's agitated state so that his thoughts don't stray to other places where her touch is the beginning of something, her body not next to him but writhing underneath his.

"You're right. Not tonight," Norma agrees, and for a moment, Alex doesn't know what she is talking about. Oh yeah, dinner. "You are doing all these nice things. For me, for us." She huffs. "All I do is screw things up. I wasn't able to help Norman. I'm not good at being married." Just when Alex is about to contradict her, Norma changes the subject, her mind, as always, following its own rules. "Have you been married before?"


"Hm." Norma nods, at least as far as her lying posture allows her to. He apparently confirmed her assumption. "This is my third marriage. Did you know that?"

"Well, I kind of thought it was since Dylan and Norman have different last names and don't look anything alike."

Norma pushes herself up in a sitting position, watching him thoughtfully, her voice so quiet that he has to lean in to understand the words when she speaks, "I will never lie to you again, Alex. I don't want anything to come between us."

He doesn't know what to make out of this. All of it. Yesterday it was clear that Norma wanted the marriage to get insurance for her son, that this was the only reason she wanted it. Today, even during the wedding ceremony, her behavior has been implying that this does mean more to her than a convenient way to get the best possible treatment for Norman. Whatever it is she is feeling. Maybe she doesn't know herself. Coming from anyone else, the promise to not lie would be laughable since it should be a given; coming from Norma and considering their history, it's a precious and unexpected gift.

"Norma, that's..."

She looks over his shoulder into the hallway, interrupting him. "Where is your stuff?"

"What stuff?"

Norma hesitates. "Aren't you going to move in with me? I mean, you don't have to, but I just thought..."

"I came right over from work, remember? I'll get my stuff tomorrow." Alex can barely hide his excitement.

Can being married to her be that easy? Can it feel so right?

She leans forward to brush his lips with hers. "I'm tired, Alex. There are some leftovers in the fridge. Do you want some? I know it's not an appropriate wedding dinner but better than nothing."

"I'm not hungry." He is but not for food.

"Okay. Then, um, I'd like to go to bed. I'm really tired." There is a flicker of something in her eyes he can't read as she stands up.

Alex has never stayed overnight here, let alone in her bed. He doesn't know what to do. This is no regular wedding night, was no regular wedding. He isn't sure what to expect once they are upstairs. Does she even want him to sleep in her bed?

"I'll turn off the lights and make sure all windows and doors are locked," he stalls for time as if Norma wasn't able to do that herself or hadn't done it in the past every night.

She seems to appreciate it though or is too weary to care. There is no sound as she quietly heads upstairs, leaving Alex to rattle at windows and doors to make sure they are safe.

Alex is standing in the doorframe, his body half-hidden in the dark as he watches Norma undress. She seems to be lost in thought, her movements casual as if her mind was somewhere else. Without make-up, her facial features are even more delicate, the translucent color of her light-blue eyes enhancing her ethereal appearance. Shoes and pantyhose are gone; she is about to hang up her dress, a sheer, skin-colored chemise clinging to her curves. Their encounters were so quick and passionate, Alex never had the chance to have a long close look at her. She is breathtakingly beautiful. Not that he didn't know that already.

Only when he moves, Norma notices him and startles. She doesn't stir, though, when he approaches her, reaches out and gently pulls one strap of her chemise down, then the other, the satin sliding down her shoulders so that the naked skin of her upper body is revealed. So, so beautiful. Alex's fingers caress her neck before they move downwards, brushing the outside of her breast. Norma's nipples stiffen in anticipation; her eyes, however, darken. She backs up, crossing her arms in front of her breasts.

"I know it's our wedding night, but can we not do that?" Norma doesn't look at him when she says that, posture and voice tense as she pulls the straps up again.

What has he done? Alex didn't give this a moment's thought, the sight of her enough to spark his actions. In his imagination they were on the bed already, making love. But Norma told him she was tired. He should have known she wouldn't want this tonight given the circumstances, the implication obvious when she went upstairs without him.

"I'm sorry, Norma. I didn't… Do you want me to leave or sleep in the other room?" He is embarrassed that she turned him down, could kick himself for putting both of them in this awkward position. Everything is different now; previous rules don't apply anymore, if there ever were any.

"No." She touches his cheek. "I want you to stay here with me. Just not like that, okay?"

"Of course."

As tense as Norma was before, as relaxed she is now. Relieved. The thought of her former husbands crosses Alex's mind, the idea unbearable that her relief might stem from the fact that they didn't respect her wishes like he does.

She turns around and slips under the sheets, waiting for him to join her. It feels weird to undress in front of her even if he did it before and is keeping on his briefs. They are not about to have sex, though, simply go to bed together as husband and wife. A wife that eyes him appreciatively despite her weariness. He could get used to that. Save that he doesn't know where to put his damn clothes, eventually settling for the bench in front of her vanity.

"You, um..." Alex clears his throat. "We will need a chair or something in here for my clothes."

The moment he gets to bed, Norma clings to him. "You will get your chair if you insist," she sighs. Then, in an almost happy tone of voice, "I like it. You. Here. In my bed."

He likes it too. A bit too much, actually. There is no way Norma doesn't feel his arousal.

"I'm sorry." Alex tries to shift his lower body so that it's not pressed against her.

"Don't be. It's okay," she whispers before she turns off the light.

Alex can tell Norma is trying to fall asleep, but it doesn't work, just as he is miles away from sleeping considering her closeness and his state of arousal. He is waiting for her to drift off so that he can take care of the situation in the bathroom unobtrusively. Norma doesn't fall asleep though. Her breathing slowly changes instead. Alex knows these slightly erratic breaths too well. Then she adjusts her lower body and begins to move her hips in circles.

"I always feel safe when I'm with you," she whispers.

The images come quick and incoherent. Norma on top of him, his hands on her ass as she rides him to a land of bliss. Norma under him, his hands holding her wrists over her head as he plunges into her forcefully. Maybe she is not as safe with him as she believes. Especially not when she pulls one leg up, placing it on his hip in order to create more friction in the right place. More images. Bob Paris lying in his own blood, his mouth moving. There is no sound, but Alex knows the words, a dying man accusing him of being like his father. A man without moral. A violent man who only cares about what he wants.

"Alex?" Norma's touch brings him back to the here and now. She is embracing his face with both of her hands. "Everything okay? Your breathing was really… odd for a moment."

He sees her, nothing but her, and it immediately calms him, the images disappearing. Yes, he is a violent man, did terrible things and will continue to do so in the future if need be. He would never hurt Norma though. She might believe that he is the one protecting her, saving her, but the truth is that it's the other way round. Norma has saved him from being the man he would have become without her.

Alex's smile is genuine, dispelling Norma's concern as she smiles back at him. "Everything is more than okay, Mrs. Sheriff. It seems as if you changed your mind. How did that happen?"

He pulls her even closer, making her gasp when she feels him between her legs, growing even harder if possible.

"That's a very convincing argument you have there," Norma breathes.

It's not what he has in mind though. This is about her. His wedding gift.

Alex rolls them over. This time Norma doesn't stop him, moans in anticipation instead when he worships her breasts, touches and kisses them, shoving the satin out of the way. But only when he kisses his way downwards across her stomach, she realizes what he is up to.

"Alex, I..."

"Shhh..." He pushes her chemise up and gets rid of her panties. "Relax."

She is in heaven. Alex takes his time, kissing and licking and nibbling at her inner thighs and lower stomach until she writhes and begs. This is not where she needs his lips and tongue. She wants more. Now.

Finally he positions one of her legs over his shoulder. When his tongue hits her right there, Norma arches up, panting. Yes, please. This is it.

Alex knows what he is doing though, taking his time again as she presses her head into the pillow, every effort to keep a last ounce of composure gone. Norma is embarrassed by the sounds she makes but can't stop them. Every tickle of his tongue triggers a different gasp, a louder moan and she can't help but think that Alex does it to catalogue them in his mind and use them as future reference. Oh God, there will be more of this in the future. Marrying him was the best decision of her life.

When he takes a little detour across her trembling thighs simply for the purpose to make her wait and drive her even more crazy, Norma runs her fingers through Alex's hair. He looks up at her, smiling as she slips a finger in his mouth, the skin of his face partly glistening from her arousal. Everything about this is so sexy. No man before him has made her feel that way.

Norma clings to the sheets as Alex continues his sweet, torturous game. If it's up to her, this can take all night. She's a woman. They can play more than once.

Chapter Text

Alex doesn't believe in the concept of heaven and hell. People are alive or they are not. That's it. Save that living with Norma, being married to her feels like so much more than simply being alive. There are no words to describe it since he has never felt this way before.

Every day after he has woken up, there is this horrible split second when he wonders whether it all was just a dream. But then Norma stirs next to him or he inhales her scent and knows it was not. It's all real. So maybe this is his version of heaven.

As volatile as her moods are, Norma seems to be one of the people whose default setting in the morning is happiness. She always wakes up with a smile. It's the best thing in the world. Plus she really likes to snuggle. Sometimes she sneaks in his arms while he is still half asleep, burying her nose at his neck or simply laying her head on his chest. It makes him choke with love and gratefulness. I always feel safe when I'm with you, she told him during their wedding night. Similar words like the ones she had used when he had moved out of the motel and it was so hard for her to watch him leave, a thought that tugs at his heartstrings. He never would have left if he had known. But he's here now. Norma can very well take care of herself, but the idea to protect her has always been part of the attraction. She will be safe from now on. Always.

There is no huge flat-screen TV in his version of heaven though. That's kind of a problem. The lack of modern technology in the Bates mansion might be an authentic touch when it comes to the vintage style, but there are limits as to style authenticity for a football fan like Alex. He didn't expect that extent of resistance from Norma when he addresses the subject.

"A flat-screen TV?" Arms akimbo, a frown on her face. Hell, her entire body is a question mark, leaning away from him, not-so-subtly accusing him how he can dare to suggest bringing such a terrible, terrible thing into her lovely, lovely house.

"How am I supposed to watch the Super Bowl?"

She points at the tube TV.

Alex wouldn't touch that thing. It probably will explode if someone turns it on. "You're not serious."

Norma's face and posture say she is.

Alex throws his hands up in the air, sighing. "Okay, you win. I will watch it in the sports bar although I would rather be here with you."

Her look is piercing before she shrugs and turns around.

The next day Alex hears strange sounds when he comes home. It sounds like… But it can't be. He follows the sounds into the dining room to find a brand-new, huge flat-screen TV hanging at the wall.

He is so fascinated by his discovery that he doesn't hear Norma approach him and startles when she puts her arms around him from behind.

"Do you like it?"

Alex turns around. "Do I like it? It's perfect."

Norma smiles happily. "We can bring an armchair in so that you can watch your games." She makes a gesture that implies she has no idea what hideous rituals modern men indulge in. "And whenever you don't watch, I will put some cloth over it or whatever so that this thing doesn't ruin the entire room." She pouts, but it's faked. Norma is happy that he is happy.

"What changed your mind?"

She places her lips next to his ear. "I don't want you in a sports bar. I want you here with me."

Her words send shivers of excitement down Alex's spine that have nothing to do with football.

He watches the first games in an armchair while Norma is reading in the living room or keeping herself busy in another way only to find a redecorated dining room not much later when he comes home one day. The dinner table is still in it, but Norma found a way to fit in a small couch in addition. Actually she is sitting on it, pretending to read the newspaper when he walks in.

"Norma… What's this?"

"What? Oh… that..." She makes a dismissive hand movement. "There is this antique shop downtown that had this beautiful piece for sale." Her face lights up as she tells him. The couch is, indeed, beautiful. Dark green velvet that makes for a nice contrast with the red walls.

Alex sits down on it next to her. "So this has nothing to do with the fact that you might have missed me when you were sitting all alone in the living room?"

"Pffft… no, of course not." Turning the page, but he sees the hint of a smile before Norma hides it.

"That's too bad." He puts his hand on her knee, pushing the hem of her dress up her thigh ever so slowly. "Because I missed you very much whenever I was sitting in here on my own."

Norma drops the newspaper on the floor. "Don't even think about it. This is as far as it gets," she whispers, and for a moment, Alex is irritated and almost stops touching her. "That thing will never ever make it into our living room," Norma states before she leans forward to kiss him.

Alex couldn't care less. She bought him a big, beautiful TV and will watch football with him on their new couch. Not much more he could ask for.

Or maybe there is.

Despite the banter and the happiness and the sex they have in nearly every room of the house (it's fascinating how a simple challenge You won't be able to distract me so that I stop doing the laundry. – Oh, you think so? can get out of hand although it wasn't a real challenge since they both knew Alex was able to distract her easily and would go all the way to do it), anyway, despite all of this, there are two things that overshadow their lives: Norman's future and the fact that Norma never tells him that she loves him.

They can't do much about Norman's future. The investigation is ongoing, the trial upcoming. Norma has visited her son several times by now, mainly ignoring these facts. She can't ignore that his condition is getting gradually worse though. When she comes back from her latest visit, she doesn't even try to hide that she cried on her way back home, starting to cry again the moment she sees Alex.

"Nothing Norman says makes sense anymore," Norma sobs as Alex is holding her. "He told me he understands now. What game it is we're playing. And that he..." She cries harder, her words almost unintelligible, "That he is sorry he had to leave me alone underground before he brought me back." Norma pushes herself away from Alex so that she can look in his eyes. The pain and desperation on her face cut right through him. This is the one thing he will never be able to protect her from – her love for her son. It's a fire that burns inside her and will never die down. Norma takes a deep breath. "Norman believes he is still living with me, talking to me every day, that... this version of me plays the piano for him." She leans into him again. "I can play the piano for him." Norma sniffles. "I'm his mother. Not this… imaginative version of me. Can't you do something, Alex?" Her head rests on his chest, her words muffled by his shirt.

But for once he can't, no matter how much he wants to. No convincing arguments, no threats, no anything will change what Norman, and by extension Norma, are going through. Either his doctors will be able to help him or Norman's soul will be lost in the depths of his insanity soon.

"The next time you will visit him, I'll go with you."

In the past Norma fought his offer to accompany her. Repeatedly. All the same it's the only thing he can do to help her.

She neither says yes nor contradicts him, the latter being a first. Albeit Alex is aware this is something they have to wait out together, he wishes he could do something right here and now to make her feel better. Norman's health condition as well as the general situation he is in don't influence Norma's mood every moment of the day, or perhaps they do, but it's not that obvious, mainly in between the lines. Either way, it makes their genuinely happy moments rare and even more precious. He wishes he could give her more of that.

Alex remembers the last time he took Norma out for dinner. They had some wine and then some more or rather Norma had some more since he was the driver. She was already half-asleep on their way home, tipsy and plain happy. Sometimes alcohol does make things better, as he prefers to say (although it's a bitter pseudo-truth; he is aware of that). In this special case, though, it was nice to feel nothing but light-heartedness surround her.

When they arrived at the motel and he helped her out of the car, Norma giggled and leaned way more into him than necessary.

"You have caramel-colored eyes, Alex," she cooed. "Do you know that? You may think they are brown, but they are not. When the light is reflected in your pupils, they're like caramel." She touched his face, serious now. "You are so beautiful and you take such good care of me. I love you."

The moment she said it, something changed, her hand leaving his face abruptly. Norma turned around and walked up to the house much too fast considering her intoxicated state, practically running away from him. Even their light-hearted moments are never just that, light-hearted, the darkness always waiting to seep in.

Alex had been waiting for so long to hear her say those words to him and then that. It doesn't change what he is feeling for her though, never will.

"I love you," he murmurs.

Norma stirs, clearly remembering the same situation not long ago, tension creeping into her body as he is holding her even tighter. She won't outrun him or his love.

When Alex wakes up the next morning, Norma is already up. He can hear her making breakfast downstairs. They didn't talk much after his love confession the day before and went to bed in silence. Until then, Norma could pretend the fact that she had run away after she had told him she loves him never happened because she had been drunk. He actually couldn't tell how much she remembers until yesterday. Now he knows and she knows he knows. No more running away.

When Alex enters the kitchen and finds Norma swirling across it, it's obvious that this is going to be awkward. She is slipping away on purpose whenever his hands try to catch her. After a while he has had enough.

"Come here," he mutters, boxing her in between his body and the countertop.

She is exuding anxiety, barely able to keep still, avoiding his look.

"It's okay, Norma," Alex assures her in an effort to soothe her nerves. "No need to worry about anything, okay?" Her obvious inability to tell him she loves him hurts him. It doesn't change the fact, though, that they will work it out together, whatever it is that makes her behave this way. Provided she lets them.

She takes a deep breath, looking in his eyes. What she sees there makes her tear up. Norma looks down again, gently pushing him away. Alex steps back to give her some room.

Norma wrings her hands, her fingers playing with her wedding ring. "Can I…," she starts and stops, walking over to the other side of the kitchen table so that there is more space between them. And a physical barrier. "Can I not buy you a wedding ring?" Her voice is firm now. Her words, however, are not what Alex expected to hear. Not even close, save that he should have known that considering Norma's unpredictability.


She straightens herself. "Would you mind not wearing a wedding ring?" Norma raises her hand to interrupt him in advance when Alex opens his mouth to respond although he has no idea what he would have said. "I know, I know, this is weird, but hear me out. You know this is my third marriage. I screw things up and I don't want to screw this up. Wedding rings are tradition and the one you gave me..." She admires the ring on her finger. " beautiful. But a ring also leaves wounds when the hand that is wearing it hits you. I know, I know..." Norma raises her hand another time. "You would never do that, but it happened and a man wearing a wedding ring is not a good memory for me. So maybe we can wait a bit before we get yours? Make this different so that it all will be good? I don't need you to wear a ring to know that you love me and to know that I love you." She whispered the last words. "I'm just so afraid to say it out loud. I don't want to jinx it. Nothing good that ever happened to me lasted. I want us to last."

Norma told Alex bits and pieces about her life and marriages, especially one story imprinted on his memory how she tried to leave her second husband and he forced her back into the house and their bedroom at gunpoint. She was crying so hard when she told him about it that he could only make out single words. It was enough to connect the dots though. Her husband raped her while Norman was in the room. Alex can't even begin to imagine how horrible that must have been for Norma as a woman as well as a mother and how equally horrible for Norman as a child who couldn't possibly understand what was going on except that his father who was supposed to protect them was hurting his mother. No wonder the bond between Norma and her son is so strong, considering what they went through together.

So her reluctance to accept that finally something good is happening to her makes sense, the realization devastating that all this time Norma has been afraid to do or say something wrong so that she could lose it again.

Alex approaches her. This time she doesn't shy away from him and lets him take her left hand.

"Norma Bates, I'm perfectly happy to be married to you without wearing a wedding ring, whether you will get me one at some point in the future or not. But I need you to tell me that you love me now and then. I just need to hear it. And I can promise you it won't jinx anything. Quite the opposite."

She is half-laughing, half-crying when he takes her in his arms, breathing the words right into his ear, "I love you. I love you, Alex. So much."

It's Saturday. They had planned to go to a potters market in a town nearby but eventually decided to stay home due to the cold and rainy weather. Alex has just finished repairing the lock of the backdoor so that the stormy winds of White Pine Bay won't push it open anymore when he notices Norma watching him.

"What is it?" He can't help it. His first reaction when something unusual happens, be it his wife watching him with this strange expression on her face, is worry.

But she smiles and he relaxes. No need to worry then.

"You have this little frown on your forehead when you concentrate," Norma says. "You always check the people around us when we are out having dinner or wherever we are in order to make sure that nothing bad happens to us. To me. You hold me after I had a nightmare until I fall asleep again even though the position we sleep in sometimes makes your back hurt judging from the way you move when you get up in the morning." She swallows. "I see you, Alex. And I see everything you do for me. I always have."

He abandons the tool box and is about to scoop her up when he realizes that his hands are covered in lubricating oil.

Norma giggles, shoving him towards the sink. She puts liquid soap on his hands before she begins to clean them, paying a lot of attention to his palms. It sets his nerves on fire. Alex moans quietly, kissing her despite the awkward angle since they are standing side by side.

He barely manages to turn the water off when Norma grabs him, deepening their kiss. Her hands are still wet and so are his when he eventually scoops her up, carrying her over to the couch, the bedroom too far away suddenly.

Perhaps heaven and hell aren't something from an afterlife, perhaps we all carry it around in ourselves and sometimes this has the upper hand and sometimes that.

When Alex wakes up later in the middle of the night, he is not sure what woke him, listening to any unusual noises. There is nothing though. The house is silent and Norma is sleeping safe and sound next to him. Then the display of his cell that is lying on the nightstand lights up briefly. He received a message. Not the first one tonight as he finds out when he checks. Apparently the light from the display disturbed his sleep. It's the same message again and again from an unknown number.

I know what you did.

Chapter Text

Alex tries to listen to what his deputy is telling him, but his thoughts are elsewhere.

I know what you did.

He received that text message ten times the previous night, always from an unknown number, the last time at exactly 5:59 AM as if the person that sent it knows he always gets up at 6 AM, timing the messages accordingly in order to disturb his sleep. At some point he muted his phone so that he didn't hear the incoming messages anymore but didn't sleep well, anyway.

For a man in Alex's position, it's rather easy to trace back anonymous phone calls. It is not the first time he received anonymous threats although most people around here know by now that it's better not to mess with him. Text messages from an anonymous number is a different matter though. Nearly impossible to trace back, at least not without an IT specialist. Too many options in these days of illegal applications and internet hacks.

Alex is not sure whether it's worth the effort. The message refers to something he did, provided it is an actual reference and not just a bluff to unsettle him. Things would be different if Norma was the center of the threat; in that case he would already have moved heaven and earth to find out what is going on. As it is, he ignores the situation for now and focuses on his job.

He will figure out what to do later.

She is smoking her third cigarette in as many minutes, inhaling deeply, fiddling around with it constantly. This woman is a nervous wreck, even more so than when they accidentally met in that bar and she told him her story and how much she was longing for revenge.

Revenge. Everybody seems to be at each other's throat these days. In the end, he is one of the people looking for revenge, too. That's the beauty of meeting a drunk, unstable woman who talks too much. Sometimes life finds a way to bring people together, even those who better should not have met.

He would have gone for revenge, anyway, but getting her on board is the icing on the cake. Money never was his focus, but it's always good to have a fallback plan. He might need money to exert his plan or disappear afterwards. Who knows. Combining their hatred feels like turning two ugly manifestations into meticulously composed poetic justice. He has always had a thing for the exceptional.

She hasn't seen him yet, doesn't even look in his direction when he gets out of the car and shuts the door. It's a good thing he is the one pulling the strings. She is much too distracted and irrational. He hopes that he won't regret his decision to collaborate with her.

"Hey," he greets her with his distinctive, deep voice.

The wind blows long, red strands of hair in her face when she turns her head. Before the alcohol and the hatred she must have been an attractive woman. Now he is not even sure she put on new clothes this morning, considering how rumpled they look. Well, there used to be a time in his life when he had short hair and wore suits every day. Interesting how seemingly random events can change everything.

"Hey." She throws the cigarette on the ground, grinding it under her heel, her smile forced as she sniffles.

Maybe she also does drugs. He doesn't care. A few more days, and then, this will be over.

"I know, Dylan. I know," Norma tries to calm her son over the phone. She swallows. It's hard to think of it, let alone talk about it. "Norman is living in his own world. I wish we could do something about it, but I don't know what."

Dylan just came back from visiting his brother. Like Norma he had expected his condition to get better and not worse.

"He told me he is dating some girl," Dylan elaborates. "A girl! How would he be able to do that in there? But he was all Madeleine here, Madeleine there so that I almost believed him. He even told me about her abusive husband, Sam, until I found out he was referring to another patient, a woman who is catatonic, sitting in the corner all day long, and that Sam is a nurse. He made it all up."

Norma lets Dylan talk; he needs to let it all out like she did when she told Alex about it. Dylan called her on her cell so that she can move about freely, going downstairs into the basement. That's what she was about to do when her phone rang. The subject of their conversation unsettles her; she needs to do something to distract herself.

Alex and she began to clear up the basement. They intend to make a fruit cellar out of it although she insisted on keeping some space for Norman. As much as she hates taxidermy, it is what her son loves to do and she wants him to still feel at home when he will come back. If. Norma is aware this day might never take place considering the ongoing murder investigation and his mental condition. But just as Norman is pretending he has a girlfriend, she is pretending he will come home one day, back to her.

"Join us for dinner sometime this week," Norma suggests. Food cures everything in her world.

Dylan agrees and becomes calmer afterwards. They change the subject, talking about meaningless stuff that happened so as not to end the call with the burdensome topic of Norman's deteriorating mental health. In the meantime Norma is searching for the key to an unused chamber in the basement, eventually finding it in a drawer, hidden underneath some tools Norman uses for taxidermy. Norma can't help shuddering when her fingers brush the tools as she grasps the key. She can't remember putting it there. Then again, so much has been going on lately and she didn't need the extra space before.

Norma approaches the door, hoping Norman didn't use the room to store dead animals there. As she puts the key in the lock, a strange feeling floods through her. It takes her a moment to realize it's not a premonition but actual cold. Norma presses one hand against the door, the surface freezing as if the temperature in the chamber was much lower than in the rest of the basement.

Dylan's voice fades out when Norma turns the key.


She has to push against the door to open it with a squeaking sound. Everything is old in this house. This door probably hasn't been opened in months or years even. At least that is what Norma is telling herself as her hand fumbles around, searching for the light switch. The light is bright, blindingly so; she narrows her eyes to a slit. This is a new bulb, not one of the old ones she keeps exchanging one after the other because they only lit the rooms dimly. Once her eyes have adjusted to the brightness, she wishes she wouldn't be able to see everything that clearly.

Dylan is still talking to her, his voice different. "Norma? Everything okay?"

Only now the realization is sinking in that the gasp came out of her throat and that she has stopped responding to him.

No. Nothing is okay. She stares and stares and still doesn't understand what she is seeing, the freezing cold in the room seeping in her clothes and body.

"I have to call you back." Norma hangs up and dials Alex's number with shaking hands.

"Why do we have to wait an entire day before we can send him the next message?" the woman whines. "I just want the money. I loved him once. I don't want him to suffer."

That sounded different when she told him her story at the bar, and considering her intention to ruin the sheriff financially and his marriage on top of it, it is also hypocritical. Revenge and its reasons behind it, however, have their own logic. When she told him how she had fallen in love with Alex Romero and how he had dumped her after a while, clearly when she had revealed her true face, he learned way too many details for his taste. Then again, Alex Romero is married to Norma Bates and Norma Bates is Caleb Calhoun's sister. They've come full circle.

She didn't even pay attention who was standing next to her at the bar when she started to ramble on about her sad life. Only later she introduced herself to him when he announced that he had information about Norma Bates' family that could seriously damage her relationship with the sheriff. Rebecca. A beautiful name. She doesn't need him to blackmail her ex-lover. It was the prospect of not only ruining him financially but also destroying his marriage that made her collaborate with him even though he didn't tell her what it is that will for sure ruin Norma Bates' and Alex Romero's marriage one way or the other. You're a huge guy, Chick, she giggled when they downed another drink together to settle their agreement.

So he might or might not have woken up in her bed the next morning with a terrible hangover. That part doesn't matter in light of the big picture. The only thing that matters is that they are going to get their revenge. Both of them.

What Alex Romero believed to be a reasonable decision back then, namely breaking up with an unstable woman, has proven to be catastrophic in the long run. And what Caleb Calhoun hopes no one outside the Bates family will ever know, namely that Dylan Massett is his and Norma's son, will tear not only what little is left of his and his son's reputation apart but also drive a wedge between Norma Bates and her husband as soon as the sheriff will hear about his wife's history of incest.

He wouldn't give a shit about any of this if Caleb hadn't driven his wife and daughter away from him. Caleb will pay for this, but first he will destroy the remnants of his family. It was almost too easy to put the pieces together since Caleb and Dylan kept introducing themselves as uncle and nephew to some people and father and son to others. A stupid mistake.

Only now Chick realizes Rebecca is still talking. "I'm doing nothing wrong. I lost my job because of him."

Rumor has it that she lost her job because she appeared at work drunk. Well, everything depends on perspective and if she started drinking because Alex Romero had left her, it might be rational from her standpoint to blame him.

"I'm in arrears with two month's rent. I need the money. Otherwise I will be thrown out of my apartment." She lights another cigarette, darting a glance at him. "I know you're judging me." Rebecca lowers her voice, "But he killed a man. I know that. Bob Paris used to check his assets every day." Another glance. "Especially the ones in a locker no one knows about but me because I created them for him when I was still working at the bank. He was obsessed with it until he stopped all of a sudden. Everyone knows Bob was messing around with Norma Bates. So Alex must have killed him and must have his getaway money as well as the keys to the locker." He is aware of all that. She already told him. The sheriff killed Bob Paris. Alex Romero is the worst person on earth. Yet she still loves him. Yadda yadda yadda.

Rebecca sniffles again. By now Chick is certain she is not only using alcohol to numb herself. Hence the urgency to get more money. It's not only about having to pay her rent.

"Are you sure your plan will break up their marriage?" she asks for the umpteenth time.

He nods. That's why she has to wait with her next message to the sheriff. There is a timeline, a composure, so to speak, to let the music swell gradually to a crescendo. It started with Alex Romero and Norma Bates will be next.

"Tonight," Chick promises Rebecca.

Happiness is so fragile, the abyss lingering underneath every step you take. The past has a tendency to catch up with us when we expect it the least.

The phone in Norma's hand buzzes for the third or forth time, but she ignores it, is unable to move, to do anything but stare at the scenario right in front of her.

"Norma?" Alex runs down the stairs when he finds the door to the basement open. She sounded shocked when she called him, her words incoherent. Part of him fears that she fell down the stairs again; visions of her, injured and bleeding, tortured him on his way home. Therefore his first reaction is relief when he sees her standing there, seemingly unharmed until he realizes she is frozen, trapped in a moment that won't let her out of its claws. "Norma?" He is calmer, now that he is with her, his voice soothing. Alex touches her carefully, doesn't want to startle her.

"What is this?" she acknowledges his presence with a whisper as if she had been waiting for him to join her before she allowed herself to pose this question out loud.

Only now Alex realizes that Norma is standing on the threshold of a room he has never been in before. He steps closer, moving past her into the chamber. What he sees is bizarre to say the least. An abundance of flowers and candles everywhere with some stuffed animals in between, all of it surrounding a big armchair that looks like a thrown and seems to be the center of the room. There are pieces of clothing lying on it. A dress, a fur stole and a tiara. At first glance he believes these are Norma's clothes, but they are not. She would never wear something like this. Most of all, though, it's cold. Freezing cold. Someone went to great lengths to ensure that whatever is put in here won't rot. Not the flowers and not whatever is supposed to wear these clothes.

Alex turns around to look at Norma. She still hasn't moved, her face ghostly pale, her lips almost blue due to the low temperature, her hair dull in the artificial light. She mumbles something he doesn't understand.


"He said he was sorry he had to leave me underground before he brought me back," she repeats, her gaze fixated on the chair with the clothes.

Alex remembers that she told him something like that after she had come back from visiting Norman. Something that sounded like the irrational gibberish of a madman then but appears in an entirely different light now. He studies her appearance. Norma is as pale as a corpse. He looks back at the chair with the clothes. Clothes for a woman. It can't be. He feels sick all of a sudden. The only person who had regular access to this room aside from them was Norman. He couldn't possibly have planned to kill his own mother and then put her corpse in here like a trophy or could he? It is as if they stepped into a parallel world. A world full of would have beens if… if not…

Norma tumbles, Alex rushing to her side to uphold her.

"Let's get out of here." He will clear the chamber later; first he has to take care of his wife.

Alex gently leads Norma upstairs in the kitchen so that she can sit down. When he gives her a glass of water, he hears a buzzing sound and notices that she still is holding her phone in her hand. As he takes it to put it away, his eyes make out familiar words on the illuminated display.

I know what you did.

For a split second he wonders why she has his phone. Then it suddenly feels as cold in the kitchen as in that horrible chamber in the basement, his worst fear coming true. The threats are not only meant for him. Someone is threatening Norma, too. He takes a closer look. Like him, she received several messages, but unlike his, hers are different, escalating as if whoever sent them is following his or her sophisticated agenda.

You were awfully close to your brother when you were younger. Too close.

How would you like it if the word was spread around?

Kind of humiliating for your husband, don't you think? Having a wife with an inbred son.

Whoever is sending Norma these messages, assumes he doesn't know. Well, surprise, he does.

One evening Norma told him everything about this part of her past. He had always suspected some kind of abuse in her childhood to be the reason for her often inconsistent, volatile behavior. To be honest, though, he hadn't expected her to tell him, maybe not ever. So when she started her confession with the admission that she felt obligated to do so because of her love for him, it was like a gift he hadn't presumed to receive even if she told him in typical Norma fashion. You think you love me? Wait until you will have heard this. You won't be able to pack your bags fast enough then. She truly expected him to leave her, something that made her gift even more precious. But she had no idea. As if he was able to not be with her anymore, especially now that he knows what it's like. Alex held her, and only then, Norma allowed herself to let go, crying in his arms.

So this? Threatening her with the one thing that almost broke her? Alex is barely able to suppress his rage. He sits down next to Norma, his movements slow as he is trying to pull himself together.

Norma is still in shock. Albeit they don't talk about their findings in the basement, they both know what it means. Norman's mental problems are far worse than they thought and he most likely won't ever come back home.

Alex watches Norma take a sip of water as his thoughts drift off to another time and place.

Coward. Loser. He remembers the spiteful voice of his mother when she found out that his father was corrupt, the only occasion he ever heard her raise her voice and talk to him like that.

Alex was a teenager back then. His father only smirked, bumping with his fist against Alex's shoulder in passing as if they were pals even though they barely talked to each other on a good day, completely ignoring his wife on his way out, probably to his favorite bar.

The reason for Alex's mother's outburst of fury were some smearings on her car. It was common knowledge in town that her husband was corrupt. Unfortunately she had been the last to find out that way. The moment his father was gone, Alex's mother slumped down. Then she turned around wordlessly and fetched a bucket full of water and a sponge to rub away the smearings, shooing him away when he wanted to help her so that he only could watch her from a distance.

Of all the unpleasant moments of his childhood, this is one that has stuck with him in agonizing detail. His father ignoring his mother, his mother rejecting his help, leaving him as a helpless bystander who could do nothing to prevent his family from falling apart – his father serving a prison sentence, his mother taking her own life.

Norma's hand that is holding the glass of water is shaking. Alex gets up so that he can stand next to his wife. He puts an arm around her shoulders, pressing her face against his chest

"It's all gonna be good," he mumbles, brushing her hair with his lips, feeling her body tremble first but beginning to calm down after a while.

Her son planning to kill Norma and steal her body afterwards to do despicable things with it. Someone threatening both of them. Alex will make sure that the past doesn't repeat itself. He won't let the family he has now be destroyed like the family he was born into. An inner calm sets in. He used violence before, killed before. Alex won't let anyone take away their happiness. Neither Norman nor whoever is behind the threats.

Whatever it takes.

Chapter Text

It's raining. Chick sighs exasperated when he gets out of the car and steps into a puddle, mud spilling on his shoes. These are his favorite boots and it will take him forever to clean them.

People judge him because of his appearance. They think his hair is filthy and his clothes dirty when both is not the case; he is a cleanly person. His appearance is supposed to send a message. I'm different. Don't mess with me. This and his height are enough to scare most people off and he likes it that way.

Chick walks over to the tin shack at the back of the junkyard. It's such a cliché. He, looking like he does. Here. This is one of the places where he feels at home, indeed, but not because of the seemingly obvious but because of the guy who owns it. He was a professor once, teaching literature until his wife dumped him and he decided to quit his old life. Now he's here, an educated man, just like him, treated badly by people close to him as well as in general. Someone who had been looking for a refuge and found it. They have a lot in common.

"You have to eat something," Alex states.

He doesn't know how long they have been in the kitchen by now, only that it has gotten dark outside in the meantime. After it had become clear that Norma wouldn't rely on her usual coping mechanism and prepare some food, he made them sandwiches. Despite the situation, his stomach started to rumble at some point since he hasn't eaten all day.

Norma has remained more or less unresponsive. She is sitting at the kitchen table, staring vacantly into space. Only when he puts the plate with the sandwich down right in front of her, she looks at it, smiling sadly.

"It looks delicious, Alex, but I'm not hungry."

Norman planned to kill her and keep her frozen corpse in the basement. For whatever purposes. Alex looks at the plate and then takes it away again, the smell of food suddenly making him feel sick. She is right. How is any of them supposed to eat something when they just found out about that?

He sits down next to her, grasping Norma's hand. "Try not to think too much about it. Give yourself time to process things."

Norma darts a glance at him that says, Really? This is your advice? Then she jumps up, heading for the basement.

He always forgets how fast she is. Norma is already half way down the stairs when he catches up with her.


Alex tries to grab her arm in order to hold her back. He doesn't want her to see the horrible scenario again. But she throws him off, tearing open the door of the chamber, running inside without hesitation to snatch the first thing within sight which happens to be a stuffed beaver.

She throws it out the door forcefully. Alex has to duck so that it doesn't hit him, hearing it crash against the wall behind him. He doesn't intervene. If this is what she needs, then she can have it. The stuffed beaver is followed by some candles and flowers until Norma rushes over to the armchair, pulling at it. It is much too heavy. She can't move it on her own, giving up after several attempts with an agonized scream. Norma is panting for breath.

"How could he do this to me?" she yells at the top of her voice, the single words melting into one another. Then she goes silent, her chest rising and falling. "How?" Norma whispers, her question directed at Alex as if he had all the answers.

She comes from a violent, incestuous family that could easily have destroyed her before she was old enough to live her own life. But Norma has tried her best. Always. Sure, she made mistakes. But Alex has never met someone whose heart is so pure as Norma's. So to everyone who judges her because of her volatile, seemingly irrational behavior, and he knows there are many of them, he has only one answer: Try to live her life and come out of it unharmed. Endure what she did and try to make it better. Until then – shut the fuck up.

Norma doesn't know that Alex had some of these talks, people usually not addressing their issues with her and the fact that the sheriff married a woman like her right out in the open but between the lines. Either way, he won't have it. It hurts Alex. Not the idea that his reputation could be tainted but that people think badly of her. And now her youngest son, the person she used to love most in the world, wanted to stop that pure heart from beating so that he could keep her for himself forever. On some level Norman must have sensed that his mother had made room in her heart for another man.

So Alex wishes he had all the answers, wishes he could make all of this go away so that his wife wouldn't have to endure even more pain, but...

"I don't know," he admits, taking Norma in his arms. It's the only thing that helps when there are no words.

She doesn't cry, just clings to him, her anguish too deep for tears. Norma sniffles, talking into his shoulder.

"Could you…?"

"...clear out the chamber? Yes, of course. First thing tomorrow."

He feels her nod, holding on to him even tighter.

"Thank you."

The discovery in the basement is so beyond anything one could imagine that the subject of the text messages has taken a backseat. Norma doesn't even know she received them and Alex hasn't told her about it yet, called a befriended IT expert instead who will meet him tomorrow.

For now, this, what is happening right here, is his priority. Tomorrow he will deal with the rest.

Chick slides 50 bucks across the table. In return his friend hands him a gun. Wearing glasses and an accurately ironed shirt, he still looks as if he belonged in a library and not in a junkyard, selling illegal weapons no less.

White Pine Bay is not as lawless as it used to be anymore. It's astonishingly difficult to get an unregistered gun. Chick thought a lot about whether the endgame was meant to be death or not and eventually came to the conclusion that it was.

"So… now that the business part is over, would you like to have some Merlot and talk about Kant?" His friend gives him a sympathetic smile. Another thing they share is their love for red wine and philosophers.

"Yeah, I would."

Death can wait a bit.

Norma has finally fallen asleep. Alex tried to sleep too, but his thoughts kept him awake. He is so angry with Norman. At the same time he is relieved, though, albeit he would never say it out loud. What they found in the basement would not be sufficient proof in a trial regarding Norman's perfidious plans. Therefore Alex does not have to waste much thought on destroying evidence when he will clear out the chamber. It is undeniable proof for Norma, however, what her son had in mind, more than even an overly loving mother like her can bear. The cord between Norman and her that she kept talking about has become frail. It's only a matter of time until it will break.

Alex feels guilty that he sees something good in such a terrible finding, his inner unrest driving him out of bed. He gets up quietly so as not to wake Norma. Although he didn't plan to clear out the chamber until tomorrow, he might as well make use of his insomnia and start tonight, if only to silence his conscience.

The weather hasn't changed. It's still raining, gusts of wind lashing the drops against the windshield relentlessly. Yet Chick is in a good mood after what was a pleasant evening with his mate. The wine was delicious, he got some new philosophical insights, even forgot about his muddy boots. Life can be so easy.

For a moment, he considers to leave town, abandon his revenge plans. Why make a world that is spinning out of control already even worse? Then he remembers the gun in his bag. It's all about closure and if killing someone will bring him peace of mind, it's what he has to do.

There is more stuff in that chamber than Alex expected. He piled most of it at the bottom of the stairs, can't do more without risking to wake Norma up and that is the last thing he wants. Now he only has to find a way to carry the stuff upstairs and throw it away tomorrow without her being around to see it.

Alex turns off the light, fatigue gripping him to the marrow. He has no idea how late or rather early it is, but he is certain that he will fall asleep the moment his head will hit the pillow, longs to huddle up against Norma, close his eyes and forget about everything that is going on for a couple of hours.

As he is going upstairs, there is a creaking sound over his head as if someone was in the kitchen. Alex freezes. Norma would have called for him if she had woken up and had come down looking for him. There it is again. Someone is sneaking around on the first floor.

He left the door to the basement open. It allows Alex to slip into the hallway without a sound, pausing to listen again. Silence, only the howling wind outside and the familiar snap of wood now and then. It's an old house. Just when he is about to believe he was mistaken, Alex hears a quiet shuffle from the kitchen. He scolds himself for not having put new, better locks on the doors. How could he have been so presumptuous to think it wouldn't be necessary because he is living here with Norma?

Alex reaches the entry to the kitchen. His eyes have adjusted to the darkness, the moonlight shining in through the window, illuminating the room sufficiently so that he is able to spot a silhouette. He tenses his muscles, preparing for a fight.

Chick hits the steering wheel several times. Stupid. That is so stupid. And he should have known. Everything was prepared, his meticulous plan polished, and now it's all haywire.

The junkyard is in an area with no reception. Therefore his cell only beeped just now, informing him that he received a new voice mail from Rebecca while he was having wine and philosophical discussions about the injustice of life. Kind of ironic.

She was not supposed to call him, only in an emergency. Well, she had apparently considered it one. That drunk-slash-drugged bitch is going to ruin their lives instead of making them rich and letting him have his revenge.

Her speech was slurred; she obviously was drunk or high, probably both. I'm driving over now, she announced. I know we said no contact and you have this plan with the text messages and… She lost her train of thought. Whatever. The line went dead and when he called her back, she didn't pick up.

He hits the steering wheel again and steps on the gas. Maybe he will be there in time to stop her.

Alex clenches his fist. His gun is upstairs, but it looks as if this is only one person. So he will take his chances. The silhouette moves, height and outline telling him this is not a man. Alex unclenches his fist the same moment the shadow turns around, spotting him.

"Alex," a female voice says and something starts to tingle at the back of his mind. Recognition. "I'm so glad to see you." The words are slurred, but it's obviously the truth even though she appears to be in some kind of trance-like state. Drugs? Alcohol? Either way, he knows now who this is.

"Rebecca. How the hell did you get into my house?" Alex keeps his voice down. No need to wake Norma. He will handle this and then go back to bed.

"You remember me. That's so sweet. I didn't mean it to happen like that, but I really needed to see you." Like that probably being a lock she picked or a window she smashed in and he didn't hear it because of the wind.

It has to be some sick joke, anyway. He broke up with her more than a year ago. They haven't talked to each other, never even seen each other on the street ever since. So, what is she doing here?

Alex's mind is used to do police work, to connect the dots. Rebecca worked at a bank. He heard through the grapevine that she had lost her job but didn't pay attention back then. Wasn't Bob Paris one of her clients? Could it be so easy? I know what you did. Judging from her state, she might be in financial trouble. Maybe that was where the text messages were going. Maybe she assumes he has something to do with Bob Paris' death and therefore also has all his money. Everyone knows about Bob Paris' disappearance and she might try to benefit from that. Rebecca always had a sixth sense when it came to the things that were going on in White Pine Bay beneath the surface. Then Alex remembers the text messages Norma received. How would Rebecca know about Norma's past?

"Did you send me these text messages?"

He can't see her face, but she turns her head away as if she was embarrassed.

"Yeah," Rebecca admits reluctantly. "Don't be mad at me, okay? But this guy had that plan and..."

"What guy?" Alex instinctively looks around, tensing up when he spots the headlights of a car outside. The car passes by though. There's no one here except the two of them.

"Chick or whatever. I don't know his real name." She sighs, slightly tumbling.

"Did you also send text messages to my wife?"

She snorts. "Your wife. No, Alex, I didn't send anything to your precious wife. You know, some people have to make a living. They can't just go and marry the sheriff to save their sorry ass." Rebecca's voice is getting louder.

He has to get her out of the house. Now that she handed it over to him on a silver platter that she and a guy named Chick are behind the text messages, it will be a walk in the park to deal with the rest in the morning. No one got hurt. It doesn't even feel like a threat anymore. Just two low lives trying to get their share of the cake.

"No one understands why you married that woman, anyway," Rebecca continues her rant. "Do you know with how many men she has slept since she moved here?"

"All right, Rebecca. Just leave, okay? I'm not going to call the trespass in. We'll handle the rest tomorrow." He just wants her gone.

She shrugs, her voice flat all of a sudden. "I knew you'd choose her. It doesn't matter. All that matters is that we're here."

Alex is about to approach Rebecca to drag her out of the house when he smells it. Gas. Rebecca is standing in front of the old gas stove. She must have manipulated it so that gas has been streaming out while they were talking. Now he hears it, too. A hissing sound.

He had almost been relaxed before. It seemed so absurd. One of his old flames breaking in, trying to blackmail him. But what appeared to be a misguided, harmless act has turned into a life threatening situation in a split second. Ice-cold fear is flooding through Alex. One spark will be enough to blow up the kitchen and the bedroom is right above it, Norma sleeping there peacefully. Just when he is pondering on whether he can risk calling for Norma, he sees the lighter in Rebecca's hand.

"I loved you, but you destroyed it all."

In hindsight he should have known that something was off about Rebecca right from the beginning. But she had been pretty and funny, an independent, strong woman, their affair a nice distraction until he found out that was only the cover and someone else was living inside the perfect disguise. Alex never loved her, but she also never loved him. It's a story her delusional mind has made up, alcohol and possibly drugs worsening her already emotionally instable state of mind, whatever the final straw was that led her here.

"Rebecca… put that down," Alex tries to reason with her.

Her fingernail scrapes over the small wheel of the lighter.

Scratch... scratch….

"You know what? Let's sit down in the living room and talk." He has to get her away from the stove, open the window, find the leak and turn off the gas.

Alex is not sure whether she even hears him anymore though. Rebecca keeps staring at him but seems to have retreated to a place somewhere inside her mind. Well, it doesn't matter as long as he will somehow manage to take the lighter away from her because she won't stop playing around with it.

Scratch... scratch….

The sound is straining his nerves, getting louder and louder until Alex hears nothing but Rebecca's fingernail scraping over the small wheel and his own breathing.

"Alex?" Norma's sleepy voice from upstairs. "Who are you talking to?"

No, no, no.

By now Alex has made it to the middle of the kitchen. Move forward and attack Rebecca or run into the hallway and hope he and Norma will make it outside?

Norma's light steps on the stairs behind him, coming down. "Alex?"

Perhaps he would have made it to Rebecca to take the lighter away from her in time. He will never know because the awareness that Norma is on her way right into the kitchen leaves him no choice.

"Don't come into the kitchen, Norma! Get out of the house. NOW!"

Rebecca doesn't say anything, doesn't move, but this time there is no scratching sound. There is only a blinding light as the lighter ignites the gas.

If it wasn't so horrible, it would look beautiful. The spark reaches out, finds the gas, a bright blue and white connecting to a cloud. A few steps closer and the explosion probably would have killed him on the spot. As it is, Alex sees the fireball and the ceiling coming down, burying Rebecca, right before the blast whiplashes him into the hallway.

Alex's ears are ringing. He coughs, fire and smoke making it hard to breathe.

"Norma?" He pushes some debris that landed on him away, groaning with pain. Even though his entire body hurts, he gets up in no time due to adrenaline and fear. "NORMA?" Where is she? If she made it outside, she would answer, wouldn't she?

The stairs are half gone, the first floor destroyed. It takes Alex a moment to orient himself. They have to get out. Either they will die from suffocation or during the next explosion, once the fire will reach the gas tank.

Alex stumbles up the stairs, the wooden steps splintering underneath his feet when he makes out a body lying on it. The blast must have pushed her against the wall and knocked her unconscious.

"Norma! Talk to me, baby!"

The fire is already licking at what is left of the handrail, the thick smoke making it impossible to see the hand in front of his eyes. Alex picks Norma up, checking her pulse that is faint but steady. The front exit is the closest. He can only hope the vestibule is still there, that there still is a way out. It's a matter of seconds now.

Alex holds his breath, heading into the black, hot cloud where the front door is supposed to be.

Does the motel have a new neon sign that is much brighter? Chick squints as he approaches in his car. Then he realizes that the bright light doesn't come from a new neon sign. The house is burning. The entire fucking house.

He stops the car, pushing his glasses up his nose so that he can have a better look. That stupid bitch. This has to be Rebecca's work. Anything else would be too much of a coincidence.

"Huh," he states out loud.

Only now he notices a man carrying a woman down the steps in front of the house. He is barefoot, in pajama pants and a shirt, the woman wearing a nightgown or what is left of it. They both look quite bruised and battered. Chick raises his eyebrows. He will be damned if this is not the sheriff carrying his wife into safety. No trace of Rebecca. Well, so be it.

Chick starts his car again, dialing 911. Wait. Is the motel burning, too? It looks as if the wind blew the flames over.

"There's a fire at the Bates Motel."

He ends the call, watching the scenery in the rearview mirror as he drives away. The two figures are getting smaller and smaller, a man, holding his wife in his arms while their world is burning down to the ground behind them.

Actually it looks quite romantic.

Chapter Text

The Arizona sun is an angry, yellow circle in the sky as Chick gets out of his car at the gas station. He tugs at his clothes that are perfect for the weather in White Pine Bay but not for this area; he is dressed way too warmly.

Chick waits for the gas to fill the tank. After he had called 911 and reported the fire at the Bates Motel, he kept on driving, stopped only briefly to fetch his getaway bag that is always ready and his bird that has been his companion ever since his wife left. The original plan had been to extend his revenge to Norma and Dylan as Caleb's family but now that Rebecca ruined that, it will be a simple action, no more detours. Chick found out about Caleb's whereabouts a while ago. He lives in a town nearby. So he will drive there, shoot Caleb and drive on. Whereto he has no idea as yet, maybe he will let his bird decide.

He pays the bill and gets in his car, welcoming the pleasant temperature cooling his heated skin. His hand reaches out to touch the gun that is hidden under the bag on the passenger seat. Chick smiles. It's not a happy smile, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. Then he starts the engine and steers the car back on the road.

Norman swallows. This is it. Things will come to an end here and now.

"We need to get you help," Dylan says.

"That's what you want for me? To be shut up in some prison for the criminally insane and drugged out of my mind?"

Everything aside from Dylan's face is a blur although Norman is aware that he is in the house where he and his mother live together. They moved to White Pine Bay to start over and that's what they are doing.

Dylan and he are fighting, screaming at each other because Dylan wants to put him in an institution. What a silly idea. He is outraged. Out of the corner of his eye Norman sees his mother sitting in the living room, strangely still, her head slightly tilted. She is wearing the red dress he loves so much. Why doesn't she come to his defense?

"I just want to be with her, Dylan."

Their fight continues, turning into a physical struggle. He doesn't remember grabbing the knife, but suddenly it is in his hand. Then there is a gun shot, Dylan pressing the cold metal of the muzzle against his chest even though Norman doesn't feel any pain as his brother holds him in his arms and his mother continues to sit at the table right next to them eerily still.

It's like falling asleep save that his surroundings get sharper and sharper as the images of his brother and mother fade away, giving place to beige-colored walls and a table with some flowers on it. He is sitting on a couch, looking right into the friendly, yet concerned eyes of Dr. Edwards.

"Norman? Do you know where you are?"

Norman looks around. "At Pineview. You're Dr. Edwards, my doctor." Why the questions? He is not stupid.

Dr. Edwards visibly relaxes and nods. "That's good, Norman. Very good."

"Where are Dylan and my mother?" Even though Norman knows where he is, things don't make sense. He just was with them and something must have happened.

"You saw them in here?" Dr. Edwards asks.

"Yes. No. I was in our house with them. Dylan and I got into a fight and he..." Norman touches his chest right where the bullet hit him, but he doesn't feel any pain or scar underneath his shirt. How is that possible? He looks back at Dr. Edwards. "It didn't happen, right? I was having hallucinations."

"Yes, Norman. But you will be better from now on."

Doctors told him before that everything will be better if he only takes his medication or does this or that, but this is different. Norman can't explain it, but Dr. Edwards' words cling to something inside of him as if they only needed to find a basis to grow from there and... heal him.

"Thank you, Dr. Edwards," Norma ends the call.

"So?" Alex urges her gently when she just keeps standing there, staring into space.

They have been waiting for Dr. Edwards to call them. Four weeks ago he approached them, well, Norma to be exact, to ask for permission to include Norman in a clinical study for a new psychotropic drug. She was hesitant at first, but Dr. Edwards convinced her that this was no trial in the early stages of developing a new medication. The drug had already been tested extensively and now it was about refining the results with a few, specifically selected patients.

Norma is Norman's legal guardian. After Bradley Martin's body had been pulled out of the lake, his conviction was quick and unambiguous: Norman was found not criminally liable due to his mental illness and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in an institution unless his condition would improve drastically. There had been no medication or therapy that had worked in the past. But right now Dr. Edwards told Norma that Norman was back to life, so to speak, able to distinct hallucination from reality and therefore no longer a danger to himself or others anymore.

"Norma?" Alex touches her arm, reminding her of his presence.

She startles. "Alex. Yes, um..." Norma straightens herself, her eyes burning with unshed tears and a fierce hope. "It worked," she whispers, taking a deep breath, her legs turning to jelly, anyway, so that she has to sit down as the meaning of what she said out loud sinks in. "Oh my God! It worked. Norman knows where he is. He asked about me. Not this..." She makes a dismissive gesture. "...crude version of me he imagined living with. Me." A tear runs down her cheek. "Dr. Edwards thinks he will be fine. Not today or tomorrow, maybe not even in a year since there will be setbacks, but eventually."

Alex sits down next to Norma, taking her hand. "That is great news." He winces, hearing the doubt in his voice. Norma hears it too, judging from the way she darts a glance at him and twists her mouth, but she doesn't call him out on it. Alex squeezes her hand. It is great news for her; so it also has to be for him, no matter what he is thinking albeit it will take a long time before he will be able to not consider Norman a danger anymore, especially to his mother.

Then again, it's the last piece of the puzzle. They are happily married and survived the attack on their lives with only minor injuries which was a miracle as the paramedics that treated them on site kept pointing out. Dylan moved to Seattle and found a good job there. He did it for Emma although they are not together anymore. But Dylan and Emma have remained close friends and both come to visit them on a regular basis, sometimes even together. So it's all good save for the one empty chair at their dinner table. Alex is aware that Norma's happiness will only be complete once her youngest son's presence will fill that void.

Alex pulls Norma close, pressing a kiss into her hair tenderly.

"So, you want to stay in or go out for dinner?"

Norma is still wearing her bathing suit and the scarf she loosely wrapped around her hips. They had just come back from the beach when her cell rang.

She shrugs. "I don't know. I'm not that hungry. What do you want?"

Alex's fingers follow the strap of her bathing suit to her collarbone. What does he want? He is hungry but not for food.

"We could stay in. Order a bottle of wine and some snacks."

Norma snorts. "Snacks? That's no decent food for a man." But when his lips brush over her shoulder before they come to rest on her neck, she hums pleased. "Maybe just… order some more snacks so that you can eat your fill."

Their relationship has always been sensual. Ever since they decided to go on vacation, the way they enjoy this sensuality has peaked though.

Alex didn't share Norma's excitement when she told him about her plans to go on vacation together. Quite the opposite, actually. Alex Romero doesn't do vacations, let alone ones where swimwear is required. But Norma insisted, he caved, and as it turned out, wearing swim trunks comes in handy when your wife appreciates it as much as Norma does.

Among all the terrible things that happened to them, it was a surprise as unexpected as marvelous to find out that house and motel still had an old insurance from the Summers family that Norma had acquired as part of the foreclosure agreement without being aware of it. No one had known, not even her realtor. Well, that guy isn't the best in his field, anyway. Not long after house and motel had burned to ashes, there was a warm shower of money.

Norma was furious. If I had known this, I would have burned this crappy motel down years ago, she yelled and Alex knew her well enough to not argue that they wouldn't be married then. Once she had calmed down, however, they reflected on what do to with the money. In the end, the decision was easy. They considered leaving White Pine Bay but despite everything that had happened, living there had brought them together, their fate inextricably linked with this city. Let alone that the landscapes were beautiful and the rainy weather good for the complexion.

Alex's family owns land from where you can look out on the entire city and even spot the sea in the distance. Their new house is almost built there and they decided to spend the rest of the money on a vacation in the Caribbean. Well, Norma did, but here they are, relaxed and tanned.

"So let's stay in if you want." Norma stands up, eying Alex, pretending she was doing him a favor.

Her voice sounds as sweet as sugar; it's crystal clear what she is up to. Alex's eyes don't leave her body as she peels off the bathing suit gracefully and lies down on the bed naked, looking at him with this mesmerizing expression that has always been his fate. Her beauty takes his breath away, his swim trunks suddenly feeling too tight.

Norma raises an eyebrow appreciatively. But when he strips and joins her on the bed, she doesn't pull him on top of her as he expected. She flips them over instead so that she is straddling him and then slowly begins to roll her hips, causing friction in all the right places for him and herself.

The sun shines in through the open balcony door, bathing Norma's body in a warm light. Her hands rest on his chest and Alex grasps one of it, kissing her fingers, taking one in his mouth to suck at it. Norma tastes like the summer day they spent outside – heat, salt and a tinge of sweat.

They set a casual rhythm that fits the hot temperatures as well as their mood. They've come so far; there is no need to be in a rush. Not with their lives, not with this.

After a while, Norma raises her hips, taking him in torturously slow. Alex groans with pleasure, pressing his head back into the pillow as his hands reach out for her slender waist on their own accord and then drop down to her hips.

"God, you're killing me, Norma," he mumbles although he sounds like a man who appreciates to die this way.

Her soft giggle turns into a moan as he pushes up into her, one of Alex's hands cupping her breast now. Norma leans back to change the angle and they both moan in unison. How can something they have done so often by now still feel so unique and good?

The tension is building fast. It turns Alex on even more than usual to see Norma this way, to watch her set the pace and enjoy her own desire.

"Come here!" He grabs the back of her neck, pulling her down to kiss her.

Norma doesn't change the rhythm, simply lowers her upper body until her breasts are pressed against Alex's chest, their altered position increasing the friction between her legs right where she needs it. Her breathing changes as her movements get faster before she pulls herself up in a sitting position again, arching her back.

A trickle of sweat runs down between Norma's breasts as she closes her eyes and lets her head fall back, lost in the moment.

Their back and forth is exquisite, but Alex knows how to make it even better and lets one hand slip between Norma's thighs, applying the softest pressure. Her eyes are closed as Norma bites her lower lip, a little frown appearing on her face Alex only knows too well, accompanied by a quiet sigh.

He feels her inner walls twitch as a premonition, making it incredibly difficult to stave off his own release. There is nothing better than watching Norma's slow build-up, though, because he knows she will come even harder then.

She briefly opens her eyes to look at him, smiling dreamily as her moans are getting louder. Soon.

"Let go," Alex murmurs.

Norma doesn't scream or scratch him. She just lets out a whimper that pervades every fiber of his body and then goes rigid for a moment before she collapses on his chest, her inner muscles contracting wildly. Still her hips continue their rhythm, taking him with her.

Her lips find his, her tongue lazily saying thank you as they both come back down, listening to the surge of waves outside.

This. Them. It was always meant to be.