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Bates Motel (2013)
Norma Bates/Alex Romero
Alex Romero, Norma Bates
Additional Tags:
Love, Hurt/Comfort, Drama, Birthday
Published: 2016-03-02 Words: 3489

Cannon Beach



Alex Romero is a man of gestures. When an unexpected gift leads to an even more unexpected discovery, Norma Bates will make it her mission to repay the sheriff for his kindness. [A Normero one-shot. Takes place shortly after the events of 3x10. For AP423, with special thanks to Ali.]

It's a miracle the rain doesn't destroy the envelope.

Either left sitting on the steps just beneath my porch, or perhaps blown off the doorstep by the wind (ever-present and a beautiful, albeit vaguely irksome, accompaniment to the rain), it's half-soaked by the time I pick it up, but remains sturdy enough to not fold and tear in my hands.

The door slams behind me; my coat is stripped off, shaken off, tossed in a corner to be hung on a hook in the near future; shoes are kicked off with glee; I hook a finger under the delicate flap and carefully open the envelope. And then I freeze.

The numbers hit first, the length of zeros surprising though not what I'd call unwelcome.


Made out to one Norma Louise Bates. And the signature beneath a haphazard, messy, barely legible scrawl. But I've seen it enough to make out the A and the R and the telltale way he crosses his O's as if they were zeros:

Alexander Romero.

For a long moment nothing makes sense. Three minutes previous I was cognizant of birds singing, despite the storm, and the gusts howling through the rafters and my ancient roof, that damned taxidermied owl in my living room rocking with the force of the elements outside. But now there's nothing. Just the sound of blood in my veins, the breath I'm only semi-aware of holding an almost pleasant burn in my lungs.

By the time I reach the phone—I'd managed to forget my mobile on the kitchen counter this morning, dashing out the door minutes after rolling out of bed because I was not, for the love of God, making my own breakfast today. Not when a lovely little Italian cafe had just opened downtown, and had the audacity (or brilliance) to serve affogatos at eight a.m.—I'm out of breath and missing as many digits as I'm successfully dialing, and it's nearly five minutes of dial, screw up number, hang up, dial again, and so on before the call goes through.


He answers on the third ring. Sounds exhausted though it's not yet noon. It hit me low and hard in the gut, every nerve suddenly hot, weak.

I haven't seen him in nearly three weeks. Not since that night in front of the motel office. Not since I watched his face twist into the closest expression of pain I'd witnessed from him when I whispered, "If they take him away, it'll kill me." And all the things we'd left unsaid—everything that lay behind his presence and his eyes and how I knew he wanted to reach for me but kept his hands at his side—remained silent and still between us.

He'd called nearly every day since then to check in on me. Informed me Bob Paris had been registered as a missing person. Did his best to reassure me everything was alright. But then he'd disappeared in the chaos of it, either too busy or too afraid (afraid of what, though? I had no idea, not really. Just the memory of that night, of his face, of the way he stood so utterly, completely still) to stop by.

And then the check. Without a note, or an explanation, or a phone call. Didn't even have the decency to wait until I returned home. Just a drop and dash; another of his many gestures, yes, but without him standing in front of me with a bashful smile or a concerned hand on my arm.

Just his voice on the phone, and an irritated "…Hello? This is Sheriff Romero," when I don't respond to his greeting in a timely fashion.

"What the Hell is this check for?" I ask.


"Of course it's Norma! Do you frequently leave large, unattended checks on doorsteps?"

"Ah, you got it. Good. I wanted to stay to make sure but I was called in early today."

A little stab of guilt when he says it. Okay, so I owe him an apology for the assumption. But that sure as Hell doesn't excuse the fact that he couldn't be bothered to leave a note.

"What the Hell is this for?" I ask again. There's a hardness to my voice, and I don't bother trying to keep it in check.

"You know what it's for, Norma," he says. Quietly, like he's trying to keep his voice down so that other people won't hear. But underneath he sounds frustrated, like he can't fathom why I'd be angry. "Take care of your son."

"But how the Hell do you know—"

"Dylan told me."


"Two weeks ago. Ran into him at the diner. He was worried about Norman, said you were trying to get him into a hospital but couldn't afford it."

"So you write me a check for fifty grand? Are you insane? Where'd you even get that kind of money?"

"Look," he says, and I hear him muffle the phone in his shoulder, say something a tad terse to someone in the background, and then return to me. "Now you can afford the hospital, right? At the very least it'll buy you some time. So, just try to put Bob Paris out of your head—" One of his usual reassurances, considering I'd ranted about the man nearly every time Alex called to check in, "—and do what you need to do to help Norman."

"Alex, that doesn't answer my question. Where did you get—"

"Stop asking me that," he says. Or, rather, snaps. His tone is cold and hard and angry, and it's the first time he's spoken to me like that in … well, longer than I can remember. It hurts, truth be told, and I want to say something obnoxious back, something that will sting and irritate and possibly fester, but nothing comes to mind, and before I can muster anything up, I hear him sigh and when he speaks again it's softer, nigh apologetic. "Just take the money, Norma. Please. And don't bring it up again."

I don't respond for a long time. He makes no move to fill the silence. We just let it hang there, undisturbed, until, finally, I open my mouth and start to say, "Thank you," but am interrupted by a loud and unexpected voice from the background (it makes me jump, in fact, and I hear a gruff curse; pretty sure it made Alex jump too, and the idea makes me smile despite the tension): "Happy Birthday, Sheriff!"

The phone is muffled again but I can clearly hear Alex say, "Can it, Walker."

The second I hear him readjust the receiver back to his ear, I ask, "Wait, it's your birthday?" and the long, drawn out exhale the follows is as much confirmation as I'll ever need.

"Norma," he says. Doesn't follow it up with anything. Doesn't need to; it's a warning, and the intention is clear.

Not that I really care.

"Why didn't you say something?"

"Because it's not a big deal."

"Of course it's a big deal! You should've said something, I would've done—"

"That's why I didn't say anything."

"That's ridiculous. Birthdays should be celebrated. Why don't you come over after work?"

"I have to work late."

"So? Take a break."

"I can't."

"You're the sheriff. Of course you can."

"For Christ's sake," he snaps, "just cash the goddamned check, take care of Norman, and don't call me again today unless it's an emergency."

The line goes dead less than a full second later.

 The blonde behind the glass partition cringes the second she seems me. I don't know if it's an insult or a victory, but it seems like an advantage either way, and I rush forward and knock on the glass even though she can see me perfectly well, and when she rolls her eyes, I snap, "I can see you, you know!"

"Yes, ma'am, I know. Is there something I can help you with?"

"I need to see Sheriff Romero."


"You know my name," I say, because I know for a fact she does. All of the station's various assistants know me on sight, especially the ones who hover around Alex's office, and when she rolls her eyes again I knock on the glass in response, louder this time, purely to vex her.

"Okay, fine, Mrs. Bates. If you'll just have a seat, I'll—"

"But it's a matter of life and death!"

"Sheriff Romero is busy at the moment, and I can't just—"

"It's an emergency," I say. And, yes, I stomp my foot a little, and pout, or maybe glare, because clearly this poor girl is dense and doesn't understand the severity of my situation.

She stares at me, silent, eyes narrowed, as if trying to gauge how serious I am. And I don't blink, or look away, because Daddy always said that was the fastest way to lose an argument, and that man may have been a violent psychotic but now and again he had something useful to offer, even if not in the vein of typical paternal wisdom.

Eventually she hits a button on the wall by her desk, buzzing me in, and she waves me in with a sigh and a clipped, "I assume you know the way to his office?"

I nod, and bustle back towards Alex's door, and just as I have my handle on the knob I hear a deputy ask, "Why'd you let her in?" and Humorless Blonde reply, "Honestly? It's just fucking easier that way."

But it doesn't matter. Alex turns the second I throw open his door, and though his face is set into a hard frown initially, his eyes go wide the moment he realizes it's me. "Norma?" On his feet that very second, ushering me in and shutting the door behind me. "What's wrong?"

His concern is touchingly instant and heartbreakingly evident. Sheriff Bulldog turned wide-eyed puppy, his gaze lingering over every inch of my face, trying to read my expression. When I feel his hand on my elbow—gentle, tentative, pulling me into him just slightly, more a gesture of comfort than anything else—I feel a stab of guilt for bursting in like this.

"Nothing's wrong," I say, because I can't bear the desperation painted on him. A unique sort of need, one I have yet to encounter in another man; one that thrives on problems and chaos, though he strives for simplicity and peace in his days.

An aching need to protect, I think. Like he's woven it into the fabric of his identity.

"Then why are you here? Christ, Norma, I told you not three hours ago that if it wasn't an emergency—"

"We're going out."

He blinks, mouth twisting into a little frown of confusion.

"Going out?"

"To Cannon Beach."

"Cannon Beach," he repeats, flatly.

"Yeah, it's this really gorgeous beach about two hours from here."

"I know where it is, Norma. What I don't understand is why you're here when I've already told you I don't have time for this."

"Yeah, no, I don't care. It's your birthday, and we're going to Cannon Beach."

"No, we're not." He says it sharply, a certain heat to it; the first traces of true anger rising. But then he softens, brushes his fingers over my shoulder, as if lost in thought. "Look, I appreciate the offer. I do. But I can't. Not today."

"Wasn't an offer. I'm telling you, Sheriff Alex Romero, that you and I are getting in my car and driving to Cannon Beach."


"Actually, you're right. The SUV would be preferable. Not that it's too long a drive, but the extra leg room would be nice."


"Alex," I say, miming his tone, and even his glare. "I'm not asking."

He leans in close to me, face mere inches from mine, and I take a step back though I don't really want to. But I don't break eye contact. We stare at one another, faces pinched into various expressions of distaste, and when he speaks it's low, and hard, and vastly unpleasant compared to the warmth that's become his norm.

"I don't know what you think you're doing—or who you think you are—but you can't just show up here and demand I leave with you. That's not how this shit works."

I want to say: "Go to Hell, Romero." Or maybe something like "Pretty sure I just did." Or, better yet, smack his stupid, smug, pissy little face, call him a dick, and storm out while his bewildered secretary fusses over him like a mother hen.

Instead, I say, "Fine."

"What?" He's visibly thrown, though makes no move to take a step back.

"I said, fine. If you don't want to come with me I'll just sit in the waiting room. Talk to your secretary until you get off work."

"I told you, I'm working late. It'll be hours."

"Dylan took Norman to see Emma. Nobody in the motel this week. I've got nothing but time."

"I'm not going anywhere with you."

"I said that's fine. Your secretary and I can have some girl time. She loves me."

"She loathes you."

"Are you kidding? We're practically best friends."

"Christ, she'll quit."

"And I'm sure some of your deputies will be happy to keep me company for a while. Hear all sorts of stories about what their boss is like when he's off-duty."

"Christ," he says again, but this time he takes a step back. Swipes a palm over his face. He looks so exhausted I almost feel guilty. Want to wrap him up and take him home, let him sleep through the next week and cook for him when he finally wakes up. "Why are you so determined to be difficult about this? We're understaffed and overworked right now. I can't just abandon the station."

"You can take one afternoon off, for God's sake. Why are you so determined to resist having fun? God forbid you run the risk of cracking a smile."

His eyes narrow again. Taking me in; my face, my posture, the hands on my hips. He reaches up, rubs his temple. Pinches the bridge of his nose. Sighs. "You'll never let this go, will you?"

"I wouldn't hold my breath."

 He changes out of his uniform shortly before we hit the road. Slides into a pair of jeans and a blue flannel shirt, leather jacket folded and slung over one arm. I can see the hint of a black t-shirt beneath the flannel, and though I'd never say a word I enjoy the way the fabric pulls tight over the expanse of his shoulders.

He doesn't say a word on the drive. Merely glowers, arms crossed and face turned away from me, while he stares out the window. Doesn't want the radio. Doesn't respond to my chattering or goading. Eventually I give up, letting myself enjoy the road, not overly concerned with this mood.

Two hours and twelve minutes after we leave the station, tree-lined roads give way to open space, salt-air and tide-smoothed rocks. I see the shift in him once we're close enough to hear the gulls cry. It's like he lets out a breath he's been holding for hours, maybe even days. His shoulders relax and the back of his head hits the seat, and by the time I pull off into a graveled parking space, the beach only yards away, he turns to me and smiles slightly, a single corner of his mouth crooking up into the barest hint of a smile.

We settle on the sand. I've brought a blanket and a picnic basket, and though he doesn't ask what's inside he looks pleased when I pull out a bottle of good whiskey and pass it to him. Three large shots in a paper cup, and suddenly he's calm. The blood slows, the heart eases; he take a deep breath like he hasn't felt fresh air in years, stretches out on his back on the blanket, arm bent beneath his head.

People farther down the shore, what looks like a family. A shriek, followed by a peal of high-pitched laughter; children romping and rolling on the sand, chasing one another. From the corner of my eye I see Alex smile. A sad, soft sort of smile, and when he sees me watching him it widens. Genuine, and warm. Maybe even relaxed.

"You ever think about having a family?"

"All the time," he says, and though his smile doesn't fade his face fills with an open regret that almost makes me want to look away.

"So why not settle down?"

"Ah, you know."

"No, I don't. Tell me?"

"I guess … I don't know. Not sure I'd make a good parent. Or husband, for that matter."

"Are you joking?" I ask. I nudge him in the shoulder, perhaps a bit too hard, but he just grins wider, a low chuckle in the back of his throat. "I think you would've made for a great husband and father."


"Sure," I say. "Sure, of course." And it was true. Alex was loyal, and kind, and protective. You just had to dig beneath forty layers of gruff and grumble to get to that point.

His fingers ghost over the back of my hand, and he breaks eye contact to look down, as if inspecting the patterns he traces over my skin.

After a long moment I slip my hand into his—his palm large and warm and just right over mine—and then he looks up, and smiles again, and pulls me gently towards him so that I lay next to him and nestle in against his side.

I worry that his arm, which is trapped beneath me, will go numb, but he just wraps it tightly around my waist and pulls me tighter against him. His free hand tangles in my hair, plays with curls. I watch his eyes travel over my face, my lips, my collarbone.

"I guess I just never met the right person," he whispers, and there's something in the way he says it—something sweet and warm and intimate—that makes my throat tighten and my face feel hot, and I'm staring at his mouth in spite of my better judgment.

I want him to make the first move. I want him to lean in, brush his lips over mine. To tell me I'm beautiful, and wanted, and maybe even needed.

But today's not about me, I realize, and for a moment that awareness wars with a slight tinge of disappointment. At least until I look back up and meet his eyes, and he inches his face towards mine. Not going in for a kiss, no, just drawing closer, sharing space and breath, and in that moment I know there's nowhere else he'd rather be. That, despite his earlier protests and our nigh constant bickering, there's very little I'd ask of him that he wouldn't immediately jump to, if for no other reason than to make me happy.

"I have something for you," I whisper. I sit up and he lets me go, his hand sliding over my waist as I move.

Relaxed in the ocean air, alcohol in his veins, he doesn't move. Just watches me, lazy and content, eyes following my activity.

I rustle around in the picnic basket for a minute, sorting napkins and plastic utensils and paper plates, until I find what I'm looking for.

A single cupcake, extensively decorated and carefully wrapped.

"I don't have a candle, I'm afraid," I say, and when I turn around to present it to him his eyes goes wide, lips parting in something that almost sounds like a gasp. He says my name so softly I barely hear it, and his jaw tightens; he's struggling for composure. Fighting something back, though I'm not entirely sure what.

"I never celebrate my birthday," he says. His voice is so quiet I have to learn forward, strain to make out each word. "I haven't had a birthday cake since—"

He doesn't finish his sentence. He doesn't need to. The obvious hangs between us, heavy and honest and painful in a way I'd never expected:

Not since my mother died.

His eyes water but no tears form. I doubt he'd let them. Hell, I'm not even sure he's capable of crying. He just blinks them back and swallows hard, avoids my gaze until, finally, he takes a shaky breath and looks up at me.

"Happy birthday, Alexander Romero," I whisper.

And he's soft, maybe a little sullen, and visibly touched all at once. I hand him the cupcake, and he whispers his thanks, and because the sun is still out and the birds are above us and he is, in this moment, undoubtedly, the most beautiful man I've ever seen, I lean over and kiss the pulse in his neck, and whisper once again:

"Happy birthday, Alexander."

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