Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://download.archiveofourown.org/works/5130566.

Rating:
Mature
Archive Warning:
No Archive Warnings Apply
Category:
F/M
Fandom:
Bates Motel (2013)
Relationship:
Norma Bates/Alex Romero
Character:
Alex Romero, Norma Bates
Additional Tags:
Sex, Love, Romance, Drama, Angst, Comfort
Stats:
Published: 2015-11-02 Words: 4122

Things We Don't Say

by

Summary

Haunted by his need to protect Norma Bates, Sheriff Alex Romero finds himself lost in choices he never imagined he'd make. [A Normero one-shot request. For Ali. Rated M for sexual content and child-death. May be upsetting for some readers; please read with caution.]

“The dead whisper secrets from the secret places inside the walls. And when they don’t, one of us must crawl inside the wall to fill in. It is terrible to think that always one of us is filling in, and that the dead have left us to whisper to ourselves.
The Family Arcana: A Story-in-Cards by Jedidiah Berry


We hunted like wolves with a scent on the wind. Procedure and paperwork forgotten the moment we found his body. We fanned out through the woods, five of us in total, no sound but our boots on the wet, compact earth, and the telltale rustle of guns pulled free of their holsters.

Thomas Wright was left handed. He wore glasses, and carried an Iron Man backpack. His hand was cold in mine when I checked him for a pulse; the blood long settled in his tiny, eleven-year-old body. Two weeks earlier his father, Roland, invited me out for a round of golf, though I'd declined. Now, in a matter of hours I’d lead him to the county morgue and present his son’s body.

Thomas wasn’t the first. And if we failed in our pursuit—an unseen figure ahead of us, cloaked in darkness and given away only by the crunch of leaves as he ran—he certainly wouldn’t be the last.

Maxine Williams was blond, and delicate. A mere six weeks prior, when the coroner pulled the sheet back and revealed her sweet little face, Norma instantly sprung to mind. The child Norma Bates, I thought. What she once was. Almost identical, really. Only this version, this carbon-copy, was eight years old and lying on a metal slab, never to illuminate the world with her trill of a laugh again.

I didn’t reach out and tuck an errant curl behind her tiny ear.

I didn’t lock myself in my SUV, some unnameable fear struck by the resemblance of slaughtered child to Norma, and repeatedly dial her number until she answered and I was assured of her well-being.

I didn’t beg a God whose presence I’d never felt to protect the innocents I couldn’t.

I didn’t acknowledge that, in the darkest moments, I would’ve traded a thousand innocent lives to ensure the safety of one Norma Bates.

Cops didn’t do that shit.

The rain poured down on us, unrelenting and without remorse, blurring vision and shoe prints. But we didn’t require a trail. We had instinct, and fury, and six faces—gray from lack of circulation—spinning through our heads. Not that we talked about it; we didn’t. Names never mentioned aloud, memories seldom shared. It was an unspoken understanding, forged in glances and micro-expressions, the shared language of those who felt the need to protect.

“Over here!” I yelled. Despite the gloom and the growing dark I could still faintly see the suspect’s outline several yards ahead of me. My deputies had spread out through the woods, far enough to cover needed ground but close enough that I could see the bob of their flashlights in the distance, the lights quickly converging into one streamlined mass as they fell in step behind me.

My lungs ached. A ten minute chase felt like an hour when your boots sank into the mud and it took every ounce of strength in your legs to keep the pace strong, to not give a goddamned inch of leeway. Tomorrow my ribs would ache, I knew, and for a brief moment I thought of Norma’s fingers tracing the ripple of bone, her lips on my skin, kissing bruises I’d no doubt have by morning.

But, no, enough of that. She’d been filtering in and out of my head more and more lately, and I loathed it. Constantly chasing her out of my thoughts, directing them back to the faces that needed me:

Duncan Campos. Nine. Black hair, black eyes, striking bone structure despite the softness of youth; in six years he would’ve left a string of broken hearts in every High School hallway. His grandmother, a frail woman with delicately-formed hands, slapped me hard across the face when I delivered the news. Once, twice, three times. A wall against the truth; I let her slap me until her arm grew tired and she dissolved into tears.

It wasn’t right to have Norma here, in my head at every turn. Wasn’t fair to the people depending on me, their memories or their families. And, truth be told, I didn’t like the idea of introducing her to the violence I witnessed day in and day out. It felt like a violation of the pact I had never sworn to but felt compelled to honor nonetheless: absolute and unquestioning protection.

But there she was:

Thomas, Maxine, Duncan.

The sound of my own breath as I ran.

A man ahead of me, one I needed to bring in or bring down and leave to rot in the water.

A branch I didn’t see obstructing my path caught me across the face, sliced into the skin of my cheek.

And Norma Bates, an apparition of a desire I tried to ignore, twisting her way into me. Distracting me; shaming me.

“Get out,” I whispered, but only to the air. Only to myself.

Sarah McShane. At age five, she was the youngest of the six victims we’d recovered. Braids. Tiny gold studs in her earlobes. Deputy Lin carried her to the coroner’s van, held her hand while they zipped up the body bag. Parents were junkies, frequently in and out of our holding cells; we still hadn’t located them.

She, too, reminded me of Norma. Not like Maxine, no, she possessed no physical resemblance. But her eyes had been open when we found her: frozen not in terror but sadness, the same sort of pleading timidity I’d witnessed in the fleeting moments it occurred to Norma that she might not have total control over a particular situation.

And that, that precise connection, was the problem.

I was afraid, I realized. A tight fluttering in my stomach, something amorphous and unwelcome, twisting into a painful knot. Not for myself. Not for future victims. For Norma. In each little upturned face I’d seen in the morgue and the stack of paperwork on my desk I saw her: the threats I couldn’t ward off; the seemingly benign but ultimately dangerous moments I couldn’t be available to her, either due to sleep or occupation; the monster I suspected had been lurking in her house for some years now; all the monsters she refused to alert me to.

The man stumbled, foot caught by a warped root, and it was just enough of a delay to give me the advantage I needed. My chest collided with his back, my weight and the speed of impact sending us both flailing to the ground, and by the time he decided to reach for the knife tucked into his jeans, I’d turned him over and landed the first blow.

I heard rather than saw my deputies arrive beside me, voices chanting out miranda rights, the metallic click of handcuffs. Someone’s hand on my shoulder as I raised my fist, punched the suspect in the face a second time.

And then once more.

Frederick Leon. Thirteen. The eldest. Found in a drainage ditch.

Another hit. Deputy Lin was shouting at me; I couldn’t make out the words.

Henry Woods. Seven. Orphan. No one came to identify his body.

The skin on my knuckles split; despite the rain I could see blood on my fist, and the man’s face. I wasn’t sure how many times I’d hit him. Didn't care. I kept hitting him, again and again, until his face was nothing more than raw flesh.

Norma Bates. Forty-two. Blond and blue-eyed and forever staring at me with a cocky grin but sad eyes and a head full of monsters and things she either couldn’t tell me or refused to. A little lamb sent for a slaughter I couldn’t protect her from. And yet, somehow, she was the only thing that ever made me feel remotely similar to the man I’d wanted to be in youth.

Bone snapped; not mine. Deputy Walker grabbed my arms, hands around my biceps, pulled me back with such force we both crashed onto the ground. Deputy Lin swooped in, hovered over the body. Yelled something about an ambulance.

I couldn’t see through the rain, the blood, the dirt. I could only hear my pulse and some internal drive urging me to reach for a gun.

“Sheriff, stop!”

Walker got to the gun before I did.

The man on the ground groaned; alive. It didn’t seem like a victory.

“One, two, three, four, five, six, seven,” I whispered.

“What?” Walked asked.

“All good children go to Heaven.”


 

There came a certain stillness after a suspect was brought in. Not the minor perps; no one much cared about the easy-going junkies, the disruptive drunks or the shoplifters. It was the violent individuals who held the most impact: the rapists, the wife-beaters, the murderers. Weeks were so often spent attempting to track down a single offender that once we had them safely (or relatively so) behind bars it was cause for celebration.

But cops didn’t celebrate like civilians. No parties, no rowdy nights at a bar, though there were plenty of joints in town that would’ve been happy to host a gaggle of drunken deputies for the slightest hope of our turning a blind eye to some of the goings-on in backrooms. Rather, we embraced the silent nod and the nigh haunting quiet of the station.

Of course, we hadn’t really collared a criminal. A collar required the man to be here, in the station, locked in a holding cell and waiting to be booked.

Instead, we had a man barely clinging to life in a hospital bed, one wrist handcuffed to the bed railing.

“Not that we needed to bother,” Deputy Walker said. He’d spent the past ten minutes filling me in on our current situation. “We’re lucky he’s alive, Sheriff. You nearly killed him.” I watched his eyes widen as he realized how loudly spoke, and then quickly corrected himself, leaning in towards me to whisper. “I mean, with all due respect, sir, this is not good.”

“File your report, Deputy,” I said.

“Sheriff,” he said slowly, squinting intently at my face, “I think we should discuss this before—”

“It’s fine.” I’d been leaning against the coffee machine outside of my office, but I shoved myself up to stand straight, waved him off as I did so. “Do your job. That's all I've ever asked of you, and all I ever will."

"But, sir---"

"We brought him down, Walker." I clapped a hand on his shoulder, the closest thing to reassurance I could muster.

He stared at me for a long moment, unmoving. But then he nodded, something resembling understanding dawning across his face.

"Yes, sir," he said. "At least there's that."

At least, I thought.


 

"They say he might not survive. Is that true?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"And if he does?"

"Then he'll go to prison for the rest of his life," I said.

"How likely is it that he'll pull through?"

"Let's just say the odds aren't in his favor."

"Well then," Roland Wright said, and he reached out to shake my hand, his face a mask of calm neutrality, "I owe you a debt of gratitude."


 

Truth be told I needed the walk. The stillness of the station followed by the chaos of informing family after family left me with a dull headache needling the back of my skull and an aching desire to move, stretch out my limbs and work out whatever bullshit lingered in the back of my mind.

The rain still poured down over White Pine Bay, a storm front no doubt moving in; I could see the wind shaking the tops of the trees, though it was too early to feel the chill.

Must've been two a.m., I thought. Maybe even three. I hadn't bothered to check the clock in my office before leaving. Left my SUV in the parking lot, didn't bother changing into a fresh uniform. I always kept a spare in my desk's bottom drawer, but it didn't seem right. Not today.

Today the blood on my shirt and my hand was essential. Good company, in point of fact, something almost comforting about it. Aware that I was limping, probably twisted an ankle during the chase. Or, more likely, during the struggle that ensued.

Skin on my face burned; a deep cut across the blade of my cheekbone. The responding EMTs had wanted to check me out, said I might need stitches, but I'd ignored them. I'd had worse in the past. I'd have worse in the future. Part of me hoped it would scar--I'd often found something soothing in physical reminders of pain.

Headlights illuminated the road ahead of me, and had it not been for the squeal of tires as a vintage Mercedes came to a screeching halt seconds after passing me, I would've continued on without a thought.

"Christ," I whispered, purely for my own benefit.

She was out of the car before I could decide how to handle the situation. Heels clicking on the pavement, fading when she reached the soft dirt on the side of the road, she marched right up to me, index finger pressing into my chest.

"The station said you walked home," she said. Visibly annoyed, as if I'd inconvenienced her. Her hair was mussed, plastered against her forehead, though I wasn't sure if it was the product of rain or sweat. "So I went to your house and all the lights were off, and you didn't answer the door." Tone rising with anger; I was vaguely aware of a small tear on her blouse's shoulder, and the odd angle of her skirt, like it had been pulled on hastily. "So I decided to drive the main road until I found you, and here you are."

"Here I am."

"Do you have any idea how many times I called you? Both the station and your cell---"

"Left my cell in the office."

"Why the Hell would you do that? What if I needed something?"

"What time is it?"

"I do need something, and you---"

"Norma," I said, cutting her off, "what time is it?"

She stared at me, hands on hips, angry and bewildered. I found it, God help me, adorable. Had I been in a different sort of mood I might've even told her so, and the thought made me smile just slightly, in spite of everything.

My smile seemed to annoy her further. But she checked her watch nonetheless, made quite the dramatic show of pushing up her sleeve.

"Just after four."

Four already. I'd lost more time that I'd thought; how long had I spent in the station's parking lot leaning against my SUV? I'd needed some quiet. A different sort of quiet than the office offered me; the air in the parking lot had been cold, and I'd never much minded the rain. But I must've been out there longer than I'd assumed before heading for the road.

"I killed a man today." Walker had stood just outside my office door, solemn of face and grave in tone, and repeated what the doctor told him minutes earlier. "They don't think he'll last the night. Doctor said it'd be a miracle if he made it to the morning shift change." Shift change occurred at four.

"Alex," Norma said slowly, her eyes traveling over my face, widening as she took me in. Whatever annoyance had been brewing, it had been quickly replaced with alarm. Even concern. "My God," she whispered. She reached up to touch my face, the pads of her fingers tracing the skin beneath the cut on my cheek. "What happened to you?"

"I just told you."

"You're not even wearing a coat." She frowned, leaned down and took a hold of my hand, bringing it up to inspect my knuckles. "Where's your jacket?  What the Hell is going on?"

She was right, I realized, for the first time. I'd left my jacket in the office, too. Hadn't much noticed until she'd said something, but now I was becoming rapidly aware of the rain soaking through my shirt.

Her hair was already dripping wet, matted down against her head, and I brushed it out of her eyes, tried to wick the water off her face. She stilled, startled, but didn't let go of my hand. When I cupped her cheek, ran my thumb over the delicate curve of her chin, she smiled. But it was fleeting, quickly replaced by worry.

"Alex, what's going on?"

I killed a man, I thought. For you. A man who didn't even pose a threat to you. You weren't his type, after all. And I can't even pretend I did it for them, it was all for---

"You."

"What?"

I kissed her before she could react. One moment we were standing in the rain, both trapped in our private worlds, trying to feel out a way to bridge the gap, ensure communication, and the next I oh-so-gently nipped her bottom lip and cradled the back of her head. Her hands fluttered nervously for a few seconds before carefully coming to rest against the crooks of my elbows, and she made a soft sound in the back of her throat when I moved to pull away.

"Alex," she whispered, her mouth mere inches from mine, "I don't understand."

"It doesn't matter." Her skin was so soft under my hands; my palms were calloused, and I couldn't bear the idea of hurting her; used the backs of my knuckles to map the contours of her face.

This time she kissed me; her eyes drifting shut before she closed the distance between us, and though I strove to be gentle she was rough, demanding, her kisses quick and insistent. Her sudden moan a soft staccato, her hands roaming from my face to my shoulders to my biceps, and whatever it was that caused her to seek me out had been momentarily forgotten.

All the things we didn't say. The secrets she kept and the violence I shielded her from; was this love? Was this some grand dance where we protected one another from the worst parts of the world? Of ourselves?

She bit my lip until my blood mingled with the taste of her, and I groaned against the press of her mouth, dimly aware of a clap of thunder above us. Not to mention that we were standing on the side of the road, her car parked hastily and at an angle, the dawn slowly preparing to crest above the trees. Visible for all to see should any early morning commuters happen to pass us by.

I leaned down to wrap my arms around her waist and she immediately took the hint, her hands snaking behind the back of my neck, legs locking around my hips the moment I hoisted her up. I walked us back several feet, unsure of my footing against the slick earth and the slight decline that led into the woods. But determined not to drop her, and held accountable by her lips refusing to detach from mine, I managed to locate a reasonably hidden spot several paces from the main road.

She fussed with the buttons on my uniform the moment her feet hit the ground again. Nimble fingers freeing me of my shirt faster than I thought possible. My skin prickled with the cold and rain, but she was too warm, too sweet for me to notice any discomfort. She didn't like me pulling away from the kiss, pressed insistently towards me whenever I did, until finally I wrapped a hand in her hair and forcefully pulled her head back. Neck exposed, she offered a nothing but a shaky moan when I leaned down to trace the length of it with my tongue.

Maybe, I thought, as I felt her fingers carefully slide down the zipper on my pants, we were protecting ourselves. I killed a man tonight for you, Norma Bates. I killed a man so that you would never look at me with disappointment or fear. I nipped her neck and she hissed in a breath, her face titled back, pelted with rain she didn't seem overly aware of. My hand slid up her thigh, under her skirt, until I found the edge of her panties and slipped them down over her hip. And I'll do it again.

In seconds I was stretched out on my back, wanting to spare her the mud and discomfort, and she perched atop me, let me strip her of her blouse and her bra, though the skirt and her mauve heels stayed on; an image I'd had in my head far too long to deprive myself of.

She grinned at me when she caught me staring, a flash of white teeth in the dark. Took my hands in hers, placed them over the curve of each breast. Her nipples were tiny, hard against my palm, and she tossed back her head and laughed when I sucked in a breath; drinking in her power over me; rejoicing in my skyrocketing pulse and the rapid rise and fall of my chest.

But then I let my hands slide down to her hips, held just tightly enough that I could lift her up. She positioned herself just above me without protest, and when I slowly dropped her weight and I felt her envelope me, her bravado was quickly replaced with a soft, soliciting mewl, a sweetness that hooked into me more than any game or trick or barely-there piece of lingerie ever could.

Rain on my chest and the warmth of her around me; I rolled my hips against her and she was all too eager to rock above me, to set a hurried pace. Messy, unselfconscious moans flowing out of her, and though she stared down at me her eyes were unfocused, hazy with need, and only when I thrust hard up into her, an instinct I'd lost control of, did she lean down and bite savagely into my collarbone.

It would end too quickly, I could already tell. Too many lonely nights thinking of her in the solitude of my bed, my hand wrapped around my cock until I shuddered under the blankets. A day too full of the need to protect her, to possess her. And now this moment; this cold, wet, rainy morning on the side of the road, with her beautiful body writhing above me, tight around me like a little glove, so wet and hot against my skin that I bit down on my tongue hard, used the pain to keep myself steady until I couldn't hold out any longer.

I couldn't get enough air, couldn't take a deep breath, but I was determined to hear her moan my name before I let myself finish inside her.

I slid my hands up her thighs, gently skimming over the skin so as not to interrupt her glorious rhythm above me, pushing her skirt up as I went along. It was only when my thumb hit the jagged flesh of a scar that I paused; enough of a surprise that it delayed my inevitable release, and I could focus more completely on her.

I'd never seen this scar before, and she'd never made mention of it. I traced it with my thumb, while my other hand moved to tease her center, my index finger gently working a pattern around and over her clit, eliciting a series of shaky moans and something resembling my name sobbed out in pleasure.

I kept my thumb on her scar, something I was sure had a story, and the awareness of that, the unflinching reminder of my need to protect her, to save her, coupled with the glorious sounds of her pleasure and the rippling muscles squeezing around me sent me spiraling over the edge faster than I'd wanted. My back arched against my will, throat constricting against the sound of her name, heart pounding against my rib cage as wave after wave of ecstasy washed over me.

Only when I heard her strangled cry, when she collapsed against my chest in a heaving, whimpering mess did I stop teasing her clit, and wrapped my arms around her, cradling her tightly against me.

I love you, you divine, beautiful fucking mess.

All the things we didn't say.

You keep your secrets from me, I thought, so that I never look at you with disgust.

I wished I could've explained that I never would.

Please drop by the archive and comment to let the author know if you enjoyed their work!