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(I'm Beginning to See the Light)

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Norman's legs dangle less than gracefully off the back of the couch. Sitting upside down maybe isn't the best way to stop nausea from overtaking him, but his back was starting to hurt sitting normally and there are still two boxes to go through.

Good lord, how had he managed to stick that much stuff in his desk, anyways? Especially when he was barely at his desk, and usually in places like Philadelphia before he quit.

And why had it taken him almost a month after he'd quit to actually sit down and go through it?

He wasn't the sort to put things off like this, but the first week or so he hadn't really wanted to admit that he'd thrown away his entire FBI career after the Origami Killer case, and then the week after that he'd barely been able to open his eyes, having been going through what he hoped was the worst part of his triptocaine withdrawal.

It was getting done now at least, and even if going through boxes wasn't the most exciting thing in the world, he had an audio book going over the DVD player, which was making it bearable.

He picks up something out of the box at random. Ah, stessball. 

Where was that when he needed it? Norman gently rolls it to the accumulating 'Donate' pile, and moves to grab something else out of the box, and it's slightly less irregular feeling than the stessball was.

Oh, oh that's not good. He shouldn't have that. A copy of the Origami Killer case file, that had names and pictures and phone numbers and all sorts of things he definitely shouldn't still have a copy it.

He had to have shoved it into a drawer after they gave it to him back in DC, because he didn't need a physical copy with ARI around.

Maybe he can give it back? Well, there's really no other option, he sort of has to. He gives it a cursory once-over, flipping through the whole thing and stops in the page detailing the Mars family, and his heart sort of stops for a second before resuming a haphazard beat.

Ethan Mars. What a man. Norman's an only child and doesn't have any kids himself, so he can't possibly imagine being  put into that same situation. How do you come out of that okay?

Sure, Shaun's okay, you're okay, but can you get past everything you had to do to get to that point? He doesn't even know, and his job is-was, he gently reminds himself-was figuring people out.

And even disregarding all that, Ethan's still fascinating to him and since this entire thing started Norman can't for the life of him understand why. Even laying there in the floor in the investigation room, when Norman hadn't even been able to stop what Blake had did to him, he still just had sparked something in Norman.

He didn't hate Norman, and maybe it was because he was tired and hurt, and just wanted his son back, but he couldn't help but appreciate it either way.

Maybe he should call Ethan. His number's right here, after all-

No, that's stupid. He's probably changed his number since this first report was written anyways, with the reports and the cops and God knows who else.

He could try, though. Just text him, even. And if it worked, he could check up on him and make sure they were doing alright, and if he didn't answer, an no harm done. Right?

And then he could get rid of the report, either way.

That was a good justification, he even almost had himself convinced that it would be as simple as that.

Besides, it's a distraction from these boxes that can't seem to hold his attention for more than two minutes. Just putting it off a little longer seems worth the risk.

Norman shifts so he's sitting upright and gives himself a moment to readjust to sitting normally before pulling out his phone, and carefully typing in the number.

And trying to figure out what to say which is...Harder than it should be, by any means.

(YOU) (4:34): Hello, Ethan! This is Agent Jayden who worked with you and Shaun. I just wanted to check up on you two.

Was that weird? Can you delete texts after you send them? He's such a recluse he doesn't even know. Norman decides the best course of action after that mistake is to close the program and never, ever think about that particular lapse of judgement again.

He sighs, reaching into the box again, and picking an item out at random. A card from his mother, he sets it on the table beside the couch and chooses again. And then he sees it.

And then he closes his eyes and tries to remember how miserable it had been before he quit Tripto. And how he'd flushed it all down the toilet after he'd started seeing things.

And how much easier it was to just take it and not feel constantly nauseous and weak.

He doesn't remember putting that in the boxes, either but he'd mostly just been trying to get out. It would be better to just throw it away, but every time he gets another look at it, it doesn't get easier, and he can't even say why. 

It's just a little tube. Not even enough for a a month.

You're a bona fide addict. He almost starts laughing at himself. Of course, just when things had started to get a little better, at least physically. He hasn't seen anything since that second week of retirement.

His phone buzzes, and to get it he has to set the little vial of Tripto down, and he can conveniently forget it's fallen into a couch cushion or something later.

(. . .2747)(4:41): I hope I don't sound rude but this isn't the first message I've got that claimed to be Agent Jayden.

Oh, so it was still Ethan's number. And he guessed that made sense. The story was national news, at least for the first little while that Norman still kept up with it. 

He shifts so he's turned away from the box still sitting on the couch, runs a hand through his probably awful looking hair and uses his phone to snap a self-portrait. And then without wanting to inspect it too closely and get nit-pickey he sends it, along with a message.

(YOU)(4:45): You should probably change phone numbers.

(. . .2747)(4:45): yeah, probably but I can't ever remember new numbers

(. . .2747)(4:46): Its really nice to hear from you though agent. I didnt really get to tell you thank you or anything. Shaun and I are good. His mother let me have joint custody again and we moved.

He finds himself smiling. How good is that?

Ethan's still typing, though. So who knows. Norman takes the time to add the number as a contact, in the slim, silly hope that maybe conversation between them could become regular.

(Ethan)(4:47): I dont know how to ask this, but do you have any details on what happened to madison paige? I know she was a journalist and died looking for the killer but thats all I could find out

(Ethan)(4:47): she was a friend, and I just want to know what happened

(YOU)(4:47): I don't have details, I'm sorry.

(YOU)(4:48): Oh, that sounds awful, let me try again: I quit, so I don't have access to any of the final case reports, and I didn't read any of them before I quit.

(YOU)(4:48): I probably should have led this whole conversation with that, I'm sorry.

Madison Paige...the name sounded familiar but not a single thing about her came to mind.

(Ethan)(4:49): its ok. I guess I didnt expect anything I just felt awful about her feeling like she had to help me and then she just...disappeared. Whyd you quit your job? You were obviously good at it and it seemed like you liked it

He had. He did like it. But between ARI, and tripto, and Shaun, and everything else...he couldn't go through any of that again.

(YOU)(4:53) There were a lot of reasons. You were one of them, I guess. I think if we'd gotten through that and you weren't okay, or Shaun wasn't okay, it would've completely destroyed me.

Ethan doesn't answer, so Norman stands and looks into the box on the couch and tells it, "Fine, you win, you stupid box."

He's not looking at anything else tonight, or maybe ever, we'll see how it goes. He leans over behind the couch to shut off the audio book that's playing (he's long since lost the plot anyways) and double checks the time.

Dinner time. That's one thing he has always been able to handle throughout this entire thing. Cooking is therapeutic in its own way. He leaves his phone on the couch, and doesn't miss the glint of blue rolling closer to the dip it makes in the cushion.

Norman Jayden takes a deep breath as he pulls things out of his cupboards and wonders if normal is really all it's cracked up to be.