Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://download.archiveofourown.org/works/6186589.

Rating:
Mature
Archive Warning:
Choose Not To Use Archive Warnings
Category:
F/M
Fandom:
Bates Motel (2013)
Relationship:
Norma Bates/Alex Romero
Character:
Alex Romero, Norma Bates, Norman Bates
Additional Tags:
Love, Sex, Romance, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Stats:
Published: 2016-03-07 Words: 5249

Rise With the Sun

by

Summary

For Sheriff Alex Romero, all roads lead to Norma Bates. [A Normero one-shot request. My take on the events leading up to the kiss in the Season 4 promo. For Krenee and Seriesaddict1. Rated M for sexual content.]

Tragedy strikes with the sunrise.

You learn that shit in the desert, or the jungle, or wherever the Hell it is you're shipped out to. Cities fear the dark but war zones thrive in moonlight, everything calm, made of quiet, made of rest. It's the cheerful birdsong you learn to be wary of; light begets gunfire begets explosions in the distance begets the screams and the blood you don't forget until someone puts you in the ground, though after a certain point how you get there doesn't much matter.

War happens on foot, my father once said. It happens in the dust and the dirt; it exists between men; and men hunt with the dawn.

Jarhead wisdom. And if you think it's not applicable to civilians, to small towns or big cities where the greatest concern is so often where to score some decent takeout and just who the Hell defaced City Hall with spray paint, think again.

The wife-beater's hangover peaks at six a.m., and with the coffee and the aspirin and the sun comes the rage and the resentment and the frantic calls placed by seven-year-olds when their mother's locked in the bathroom in fear. Schizophrenics frequently spin out in the morning: medication and the conversion of melatonin to serotonin mingling to create a buzzing cocktail of chaotic hormonal response and brain chemistry. Martial spats occur most frequently in the stressed, mad-dash rush to work and school and various familial activities. We hold our funerals in the early hours. We drive to a court house first thing in the morning to file for divorce.

Child abduction, muggings, acts of arson: each occur with at least 37% more frequency between six and ten a.m. than at any other time of day.

We mark the beginning of our days with death and sorrow and heartbreak, yet take the well-lit routes at night, double-check the locks only when the sun sets. We fear strangers in the dark yet we smile at our kidnappers over espresso at Starbucks.

And so it's not particularly a surprise when my phone rings shortly before five, jarring me out of a semi-sound sleep. Norma's face—she ripped my phone from my hand one day, mid-sentence, purely for the sake of snapping a picture and assigning her contact photo—casts a ghostly blue halo across the walls of my bedroom.

The entirety of my world dark save for Norma Bates, I think, and I don't know if it makes me laugh or makes me cringe, but I don't question it either way. It merely is.

"Hello."

"Alex?" Her voice wavers even though she whispers, and I don't need to see her face to know she's been crying. "Did I wake you up? You sound like a bear."

"Yeah," I say, and I try to clear my throat because she's right, every word is thick with sleep and my throat aches, although that's probably more the after-effect of too much bourbon the night before. "Yeah, but it's fine. What's going on?"

"It's Norman," she says, and knee-jerk reaction is, 'Of course it's Norman,' but I don't say that, despite the initial urge. I just nod, more to myself than anyone else, and make a sound low in my throat which is meant as encouragement, and she takes it as such, and continues. "Today's the day. We're—I mean, I … I'm supposed to take him to Pineview today."

"Supposed to?" I'm on my back, one arm slung across my eyes in a half-assed stretch, but her tones agitates me. Makes me want to get up, move around, maybe pace the room. Something in her hesitancy, I think. Something in her palpable doubt. "What do you mean you're supposed to, Norma? You're not thinking of backing out, are you?"

"No. I mean, I don't think so. I don't know." Pause. "Maybe."

"Norma," I say, slowly, and bring myself up to sit on the side of the bed, even though all I want to do is catch another precious couple hours of sleep. "For two weeks you've done nothing but tell me how important this is for him."

"I know that. I know it is. I just—I don't know, Alex." Tears slur her words, and I have to strain to make them each out. "He doesn't want to go. Maybe it's not right to force him."

"Nobody ever wants to go, Norma." My mother didn't. Not even when the pills mixed with the cocktails and she spent more nights than not sobbing on her bedroom floor. Not even when I hid all the knives in the house, and locked up my father's gun cabinet, and begged him, over and over, to have her see someone. 'She doesn't want to go, Alex,' he told me. And three days later she was— "Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions for the people we love. Especially when they're not capable of doing it themselves."

"He'll hate me."

"He's ill." I say it as gently as I can, but she hisses in a breath and I know it stings all the same. "He doesn't know how he feels."

"What if it doesn't help?"

I know this routine. We all play it. The families of the mentally ill, the wounded, the addicted and, sometimes, even the dangerous. We want the best for them, of course we do, but we twist and turn and try to find a million ways to avoid the one inevitable thing that has the greatest chance of doing the most good. Maybe because hospitals seem so ominous, a sort of emotional roach motel: once our loved ones go in, they never come out. Not the same, anyway.

But it's bullshit, like so many of the desperate narratives we weave. Time and my mother's death and two decades of informing too many grieving parents of their children's death had taught me that.

So I say the only thing I can: "You won't know until you try, Norma."

"I want him to get the help he needs." A cough, or a hiccup, her voice hitching as the tears come faster. I hear her choke, and I wish I could touch her, reach out and fold her against me until she's calm and and still and not so afraid. "I'm not a bad mother, Alex."

"I've never thought you were."

"But I don't know if I can do it."

"You have to, Norma. But you already know that."

"I don't have the heart."

"You do."

She's so quiet for a moment I've wonder if she's hung up. But then I hear her sniffle, and when the silence descends again I don't worry so much as I simply wait. Part of me wants to press her, or reassure her, or ask if I need to call Pineview myself and have them send a shuttle.

Instead, I take a deep breath and relax back onto the bed. Rub my temple, let my eyes drift shut. I don't know how long it takes for her to speak again, and I don't care. This isn't about me; I've known that from the moment I first picked up the phone, and I have no intention of trying to push her beyond her already trembling reach.

This is about Norma being Norma. About her constant war, not with the world but herself, and how we all sometimes need a spectator in our private battles. I'm just the closest person she can call. Or maybe the only one.

Or maybe I'm neither of those things. Maybe I'm something else all together. Although what, precisely, that is, we haven't begun to discern. Not yet.

"Alex?" she asks eventually. Timidly.

"Hm?"

"Will you go with me?"

"I'll be there in thirty minutes."


 

It takes twenty-seven minutes from the time I hang up to the phone to throw on some clothes, ensure I've got my wallet, keys, sidearm (registered but not police-issued, and tucked securely into a shoulder holster), lock up the house, and navigate the dark, winding side roads to the Bates Motel.

She's already dressed when she throws open the door and, seconds later, throws herself into my arms. Her lips are on my neck—I can feel the moist trail her lipstick leaves on my skin—and her hair is beautifully done and she smells lovely, like some expensive perfume I'd never be able to name, and though to a passerby this all might look very romantic, there's nothing touching about it:

She sobs so hard she chokes when she tries to breathe, and her lips are on my neck because she'd buried her face into my shoulder, hands locking around my shoulders, nailing digging into flesh because she needs something to keep her stationary, keep her tethered to what needs to be done, and I'm the most convenient or the most stable or both.

I try to stroke her hair in as soothing a manner as possible. I whisper the soft, nonsensical bullshit my mother whispered to me when I was a child, the pretty-sounding sing-song chatter of comfort, utterly meaningless but somehow effective.

It takes some time but eventually she's still. Her breath is hot against me and she sags in my arms so that I'm essentially holding her upright, but she's no longer crying when she turns her face in against my jaw and whispers, "I can't do this."

"I'm right here," I whisper in response, and I don't know if it helps, really, but at the very least it seems to bolster her courage enough to prepare for the inevitable.

She pushes away from me and stands a little straighter and says, quietly, "Let's go get Norman."


 

Norman goes easily but not quickly.

At first, we decide I should wait while Norma talks to him. I stand, hands in my pockets, at the foot of her stairs, trying both to listen and yet offer privacy in this crucial, private moment.

But soon voices are raised; Norman's angry and Norma's high-pitched and upset, and as soon as I hear something break—something glass and easily shattered; could be a window or a vase or something else entirely, I don't know and I definitely don't care—I take the steps two at a time until I get to his room and find both mother and son red-faced. One enraged, one shrinking in fear and misery and heartbreak.

Norman, seemingly unaware of my presence until I appear behind his mother in the doorway, softs at the sight of me.

Well, not softens, exactly, but relaxes. Closes his mouth, takes a deep breath. Doesn't react when Norma, still backing away from him, bumps into my chest and turns around on instinct, her hand slipping into mine and squeezing. Her message is clear: help me.

"We'll take my SUV," I say to Norma, though I don't break gaze with Norman. "More leg room in the back."

Slowly, Norman nods. The color's begun to drain from his face, and his breathing is more even. He seems relaxed in the presence of authority. Or, perhaps, in the presence of a man. Makes me wonder, briefly, what would've happened had I not been here.

"Norman hasn't eaten breakfast yet," Norma whispers.

"It's fine. I'm going to have to get used to cafeteria food, anyway." It's the first thing he says in my presence, and his tone is clipped and hard, and though he's looking at me I'm more than aware the comment's not meant for me.

It strikes its intended audience; I feel Norma flinch, as if struck, and she moves in closer to me.

"We'll stop somewhere on the way," I say, "and get something to eat."

"I'm not hungry, Sheriff."

"You will be by the time we arrive." It's not a question, or an offer, and though Norman narrows his eyes he ultimately nods.

Norma squeezes my hand, and when I glance down she looks up at me, eyes red from crying, and mouths 'thank you.'


 

Breakfast comes courtesy a McDonald's drive through. I order a single black coffee; Norma asks for coffee with four packets of sugar, eggs and pancakes; Norman, begrudgingly, asks for a sausage biscuit and a soda.

He doesn't say much in the car, content to stare out the window and pick at his food. Probably angry—just as his mother is suitably annoyed with me, I'm fairly sure—over the fact that I insisted on frisking him before he got into my SUV.

I want to cuff him, truth be told. Turn the idea over in my mind, again and again. The red-faced aggression towards Norma in his bedroom, coupled with the fact that he's sitting behind her through the entire drive while my hands are on the wheel, thus limiting my inability to properly handle any situation that might arise, makes me nervous.

But I swallow it down. Keep an eye on him in the rear view mirror, try not to make it obvious.

No one speaks on the drive, each of us trapped by nerves or annoyance or the ever-alluring escape of daydreams. I think about turning the radio on, briefly, wonder if that might make it easier for Norma (she likes music, after all, and I often see her buzzing around the motel humming a song to herself) but ultimately I decide against it.

My only goal is to get both of them to Pineview in one piece. Get Norman settled, make sure he's in good hands. Get Norma home, make sure she eats, crawls into bed at a reasonable hour. Doesn't feel alone or afraid.

Try to do all of that in as unobtrusive way as possible. For Norma's sake more than her son's.

And it occurs to me that I ought to feel a twinge of guilt about that. A stab of something, certainly, reminding me of my place and my responsibilities.

But I don't.

Not even slightly.


 

We stand in front of Pineview's entrance for nigh twenty-five minutes before I convince Norma to go in. Norman, on the other hand, gave up within the first two minutes and stalked inside without a word.

By the time I wrap an arm around Norma's waist and propel her through the front door, Norman's situated on a couch, reading a magazine, glancing up only briefly to take us both in. He narrows in on my arm around her; frowns. But then, slowly, a smile spreads across his face. It's far from warm. Not so much as an ounce of kindness in it, and it makes me glad I came along.

Makes me wonder, again, what could've happened if she'd never called me.

Norma slips from my grasp, walks over to the front desk. I watch her go just long enough to see the receptionist hand her a stack of paperwork. And, once she's busy and distracted, I sit next to Norman.

"Nice place," I say.

"I suppose that makes it easier."

"For you?"

"For the people dumping their family members here."

"Norman," I begin, and I lean forward, trying to be quiet, trying to be respectful and careful of this whole situation, as I'm not eager to upset him or his mother. Or any of the nurses and patients milling about in the other rooms, for that matter. "I've worked a lot of cases where people require long-term care."

"Hospitalization, you mean." He spits each word out like it leaves a foul taste in his mouth.

"Usually, yes. And, son, it's not usually in a place like this."

"Meaning what, Sheriff?"

"Meaning that your mother loves you, Norman. She loves you enough to scrimp and save and try to find you the best care she can in a place she can't remotely afford."

"How nice of her."

"Believe me when I say it could be much, much worse."

"Is that what you'll tell her tonight?" he asks, and for the first time I feel the slap of it; direct hostility, subtle words absolutely meant to infer insult.

I keep my face still, eyes trained on his though he has yet to look up from his magazine.

"What do you mean, Norman?"

"Tonight. When you're with Mother. Will you congratulate her on her loving, maternal choices after you sleep with her? I'm sure that will make this so much easier for her."

"What makes you think we'll sleep together?" I ask.

And then, finally, he meets my gaze.

"Why else would I be in here?"

"Norman?" Norma appears to the side, looking bright-eyed despite the half-dried tears on her cheeks. A woman—the receptionist, I think—stands beside her, along with two orderlies. "Norman, it's time to go see your room," she says, timidity threaded through each word. "And then it's time for you to meet the doctor."

"Is that right, Mother? Is it time for the Crazy to be locked away?"

"Norman, please. I love you. It's not like that. This a nice place, and these people are going to—-"

"Take care of the people no one wants anymore, right?" Norman asks. He stands so suddenly that I'm on my feet in an instant and the two orderlies step forward on instinct. The three of us share a glance; acknowledgment that we each expect a confrontation, and are prepared to quell the rising tension as needed. "That is what you people do here, isn't it?" Norman turns his attention to the reception. "Lock away the inconvenient and embarrassing sons their mothers grew tired of?"

"Norman! That's horrible," Norma says, and she keeps a brave face but I can see the tears begin to work themselves to the surface again.

"That's enough, son," I whisper.

"Isn't it, Sheriff? Yes, I think we've all had quite enough of one another."

"Don't talk to him like that, Norman," Norma says. She moves towards him, her beautiful face open and hopeful and painted with something resembling desperation. And though Norman doesn't so much as twitch when she cups his neck and leans in to kiss his cheek, I step in closer to both of them. Just in case. "Sheriff Romero's only here to help."

"Oh, yes, Mother. I'm sure he is."

"Norman—"

"You don't need mean now that you have him, is that it?" he whispers. And before she can respond—the shock and confusion painfully evident on her face—he wrenches away from her touch and hisses, "you're dead to me."

"That's enough, Norman," I say. I step in-between he and Norma, put my hand on his shoulder. Squeeze just hard enough to let him know that I won't be so easily swayed, or stunned. "Time for you to go with these men. Get settled in."

Norman casts a glance over my shoulder, perhaps waiting to see if his mother will protest, but Norma doesn't say anything. I watch his face harden, mouth set tight, and then he nods. Pulls away from my grip, though it's not hostile, not exactly.

It's only when Norman turns his back without another word and heads down a hallway with the two orderlies that I hear Norma's voice break though.

"…Norman?" Quiet. Delicate. Terrified.

"Norma," I say, softly. "It's alright."

"Norman…?" she says again, louder this time, and when I turn to look at her she's staring after her son, wide-eyed, mouth-agape, trembling. "Norman, look at me!"

But he doesn't. Maybe because he can't hear her. Maybe because he doesn't want to. Whatever it is, he keeps walking until he disappears around a corner, the only sound that of a door shutting behind him.

"Norman!" She tries to run. I hear the scrape of her heels on the tile just before I see her move, though I manage to catch her by slinging an arm around her waist, pulling her off balance and back into me.

She struggles in my arms, elbows me in the chest and the side, squirms and whines and demands I let her go and tells me she hates me when I refuse to do so.

I tuck my face against her hair and try to soothe her, shush her, tell her it'll all be okay. And it takes a while—five minutes, ten or fifteen or maybe even twenty—but eventually her "let me go" and "I hate you" fades into tears. Body-racking sobs that leave her trembling and raw and clawing at me, but she lets me hold her. Turns into me, nuzzling her face into the crook of my shoulder, and in the spare moments that she can speak between hitching breaths, she whispers an agonized string of "Oh, God. Oh, my God. Ohmygod," again and again.

I try to think of something to say. Something comforting. Something true.

But I can't, and I don't, and so I simply hook my arm under her knees and pick her up. Carry her out to my car. Lay her down in the backseat, cover her with my coat, and let her cry.

And I loathe my own helplessness.


 

She cries through most of the drive home, settling into silence a few minutes before I pull into the driveway. Boneless and exhausted when I pull her out of the backseat, I carry her up the stairs because I'm not sure she has the energy to walk.

I lay her on the couch, still wrapped in my jacket. Her eyes are devastatingly blue when she looks up at me, all the sadness and the fight drained from her, and I lean down to kiss her forehead.

"I'm tired, Alex," she whispers.

"I'll get your bed ready, okay? You stay here. I'll come get you in a minute."

"I'll just sleep here."

"No. You'll be more comfortable in your bed." And, I think, though I don't vocalize it, you'll be relatively far away from taxidermied birds of pray and the endless array of family photos.

I take the stairs two at time to get to her room, and the second I throw open the door I walk to her dresser and turn her pictures of Norman face-down. She can adjust them later. When she's safer, or stronger, or more secure in the path that's finally being traversed. But not now.

I pull her sheets tight over the mattress. Fluff pillows, straighten quilts. Turn on bedside lamps but draw the curtains closed. I scan other corners for photos or mementos; things that might need to be hidden away from another day.

When I don't find anything, I go back to making sure the bed's turned down properly. There's lavender spray next to her bed, and while normally I couldn't give two shits about luxury or home decor I make it a point to scent her pillows in the vain hope it will, somehow, help her sleep peacefully. Without dreams or regret.

The creak of a floorboard startles me (though it shouldn't, considering I know only the two of us are in the house), and I whip around to find Norma in the doorway, staring at me.

"Norma?"

Silence.

"Are you alright?"

Silence.

"Norma," I say again, lowering my voice to a whisper, "Christ, you're exhausted. Come lie down." I gesture to the bed, lean down to pull back one side of the covers.

"I don't want you to go."

"That's fine. I won't go anywhere. I'll just be downstairs. You can call me if you need anything."

"No." She shakes her head, walks across the room to the bed, her fingers idly playing with the quilt, lost in thought. "That's not what I mean."

"What?"

"It couldn't have been anyone but you," she whispers.

"Norma, I don't understand." I move behind her, and when I put my hand on her shoulder she turns around to face me. Tears in her eyes for what must be the millionth time—the waterline red, irritated, probably sore—but her face is sweet. Almost affectionate, despite what must've been an absolute horror for her not yet two hours previous.

"I couldn't have taken him without you. I never would've made it on my own. Wouldn't have the heart."

"It's no problem, Norma."

"But I never could've asked anyone else, either. On the way back I kept trying to think of who else I could've called, but there's no one."

"You could've called Dylan."

"No." A shake of her head. "It's not the same."

I'm aware of a tightness in my chest, something that felt like it was winding it's way through my ribcage, slithering in around my heart. Like it might stop beating suddenly, without explanation, though I can feel my pulse hammering in the artery in my neck.

"Well," I say, my voice barely a whisper, tongue thick with the difficulty of speech, though I'm not yet sure why, "like I said. It's not a problem. I'm happy to do it."

"I know you are," she says. "You always have been. That's why it could only ever be you."

She puts her hand on my chest, fingers slipping in under my jacket, and even though two layers of fabric it's electric. I have to swallow hard before I open my mouth to speak, and even then all I manage is her name.

"Norma, I don't—" My voice sounds hesitant and confused to my own ears, and the room feels close. The walls closing in so that it's just her; her perfume and her touch and the lavender sheets and the curious heart-piercing way she keeps looking at me.

"I spent so long trying to create something out of nothing. I ran from my family and my brother, I ran from husband to husband, and maybe even child to child. I bought this motel," and for a moment she breaks off, the threat of tears all too real again, but her tone is wistful and maybe even a little amused, and when she begins again it's not sorrow in her voice but affection. "And I met you, even though I hated you at first. And then I didn't hate you so much. And then I—" She trails off, eyes flitting back and forth across my face. Bites her lip.

"You what?" I prompt.

"And then I didn't hate you at all. I didn't see it coming and I didn't understand it, but you somehow became this person that I … that, maybe, I don't know." She steps in closer to me so that I can feel a gust of her breath on my skin, and when she tilts her chin I think she might kiss me. But, instead, she simply says, "You became the only person I trust enough to call at five in the morning."

It's simultaneously so vague and yet so specific that I laugh; not a harsh sound, not malicious or cruel, but confused and joyous and relieved, and though for a moment I worry she'll be offended she just smiles at me.

"I think you're something I never let myself dream of having," she whispers, and the smile leaves her face, replaced by something tender and also maybe a little sad, and I can't bear it.

I press my mouth to hers because the idea of doing anything else is utterly intolerable. I capture her bottom lip between my teeth, never biting, not even nipping, just claiming, and she offers up a small, soliciting whimper. It's only when I lean away that she moves forward, flicking her tongue against my teeth so that I open my mouth just slightly, and when I do her hands slide around my neck and I slip an arm around her waist, draw her tight to me.

I kiss her a little too hard, I think. She bends backward with the force of it, though doesn't protest. In fact, she presses herself to me further when I pull her hips to mine because no matter what I do she doesn't feel close enough.

Her mouth is warm and yielding under mine, and the tips of her nails trace patterns of my skin, every nerve on fire. And I'm trying to breathe, and think, and piece together some semblance of sanity or rationality but every ounce of my attention is focused on the way she tastes and the heat of her breasts against my chest.

I place my hand over her heart, and it's beating just as hard and just as frantically as mine. And she whispers my name when she breaks our kiss, looks up at me through half-lidded eyes. Tosses her head back with a low moan when I bend down to kiss the hollow of her throat.

Fingers hook under my collar, tugging at me to follow her as she backs towards the bed, though I don't let my mouth stray from her skin. It's only when the backs of her knees hit the bed that I let up, and push her down. Lightly, playfully, but enough that she trills a delighted little laugh when her back hits the mattress.

We should take our time, I think, as I kneel on the bed, slowly lowering my weight atop her. I should undress her piece-by-piece. I should kiss ever curve and vein and scar and indent of bone. I should worship at her altar; I should tease and taste and play, until she clings to me and begs and whimpers and understands precisely what this means to me.

What she means to me.

But she's still tugging at me. At my collar and my sleeves and my belt, whispering, "Come on, Alex. Please." Staring at me, face flushed with lust. And I'm already hard when her fingers locate my zipper, and we make quick work of her stockings and panties, finding one another in the half-crazed way of teenagers and forbidden lovers.

I remind myself to take her gently later on. Slowly, sweetly. Later in the evening, maybe, or tomorrow morning.

But for now it's just us; it's heat colliding with need and exhaustion and all the stress of the day. It's her nails clawing across my back, and I can feel my shirt go wet with the first traces of blood, though I don't think she does it on purpose and I have no intention of complaining either way.

It's losing myself to the way she moans my name, to the way her body tightens around me, squeezing rhythmically, so that I thrust into her harder than I'd initially intended. Briefly, I worry that I've hurt her, that she'll cry out or pull away, but she just leans up and kisses me hard on the mouth, hooking one hand over the back of my thigh and pulling me against her again, and so rock together, tremble together, until I feel the first wave of it hit me, a twist low in the gut, and she cries out beneath me as I groan helplessly against her ear.


 

I don't know when we find sleep.

I don't even know what day it is when I wake up.

I only know that she's still curled in my arms when I do, her little mouth pursed, heavy with exhaustion. And I stroke her hair, winding a blond curl around my finger, and press my mouth to her temple.

"Everything will be all right, Norma. I promise you." I ghost my mouth from temple to cheekbone and back up to her forehead.

The sun is up, and in the distance I hear birdsong. And, for perhaps the first time, it seems like nothing more than the harbinger of peace.

"You're safe," I whisper. "I'm here now."

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