*hyperventilates*

Okay. Not gonna lie. I'm freaking terrified to post this. I thought a trailer for this fic would be a good idea. Ha ha, NO. It means people have expectations. Expectations = pressure = panicked little authoress.

At the same time, I felt obligated to put this up. I realize some may be OOC, unrealistic, cheesy, etc., but I also worked kind of hard on this, so I'm praying you like it. I hope I balanced out the ridiculously fluffy with the heartbreaking alright. I'm a hopeless romantic, and some of that might have shown through… (sheepish grin)

The whole thing is 91ish pages long (yeah, it kind of ran away from me…), and so I split it up into 8 chapters. I'll be posting one every day, in an attempt to make up for taking FOR-EV-ER to post this fic. In my defense, my beloved laptop had a run in with a dog and a can of tomato sauce and needed to be repaired, and the entire WEEK it was gone I had no story. Sad face. But whatever.

On with the show.

-

DAY 1; 15:07

"Trudy Chacon."

"Huh? Oh, ah, Dr. Norm Spellman." Norm held out his hand.

The woman in front of him didn't so much as look at it. "Mask on," she said simply, turning to lead him out into the open hangar.

Since he had arrived on Pandora only hours ago, Norm's eyes had been wide open. Sure, he had studied for years. He had seen pictures and videos, read diaries and blueprints, stayed up late cramming for finals and recording himself speaking Na'vi, and forgone all hopes of a social or family life in preparation for his arrival here. But nothing could have prepared him for the real thing.

He had expected to be blown away by the wild planet herself, and his few glimpses of the dense jungle surrounding the base lived up to his every expectation. He'd never seen so much green in his life. However, he had not been prepared to be so blown away by how incredible RDA HQ itself was. He felt as though he was walking in a dream. It was a scientific paradise. The technology was incredible – large robotic suits you could actually put on and walk around in, comprehensive three dimensional maps of the entire planetary surface, DNA decoders, computers the size of his former apartment. One of his favorite discoveries was the massive fridge-like storage unit that housed several hundred samples of the indigenous plant life. He had not yet had time to explore it, but was sure it would keep him entertained for hours in the years to come. He could hardly wait to break the codes of life, find out what made this alien world tick. Ever since he was little he had wanted to learn how things worked. He'd taken apart his parent's microwave when he was six, and had only moved on to bigger and better things from there.

Now he hurriedly pulled the mask on over his face and followed Judy – or was it Trudy? Rudy? Moody? He hadn't really listened – through a door into the hanger. It took every ounce of self control he could muster to keep his jaw from literally dropping.

Gunships, shuttles, one man fighter planes – the place was bursting at the seams with all of them. There were at least two hundred of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the universe in the hangar, and all were right in front of Norm. He walked around, head on a swivel trying to drink it all in at once. He jumped slightly when Trudy's (he was fairly certain it was Trudy) voice brought him back to reality.

"What the hell are you doing!?"

She was yelling at a burly looking mechanic at least two feet taller than her who was adjusting something beneath a raised ship. He paused when he heard her, and upon seeing who was yelling at him grimaced in a "why me?" sort of way. "Fixing your Samson," he replied gruffly. "The one you decided to fly into a cliff last week."

Norm smiled slightly to himself, but Trudy (it had to be Trudy) Chacon was not amused. She stepped forward and swiped the oversize wrench out of the guy's hand. "You idiot!" she said, jabbing him in the stomach with it. "How many times do I have to tell you – you've got to be gentle! Take it slow, moron, especially when you're poking around under my baby! I swear, you're going to get yourself killed, jabbing things all over the engine of a dangerous vehicle like that. Do you want to blow yourself up, moron? Because if it's a death wish you have I'd be happy to-"

Trudy's words began to slur together as she went on and on, in a sort of perpetual shrieking, and Norm couldn't help but notice the irony in the fact that she was screeching at him to be "gentle".

"Okay?" she asked, suddenly turning to face Norm.

Norm's eyes widened. He opened his mouth to ask her to repeat the question, saw just how pissed off she looked, and instead replied. "Yes, absolutely."

Trudy's expression softened and she smiled at him. "Good boy," she said. "At least someone around here listens to me," she continued, raising her voice and glancing back over her shoulder.

"Yeah, yeah," the man (who had regained possession of the wrench) muttered.

Trudy grinned. "See ya around, slick," she said cavalierly as she turned to walk further into the hangar, probably to yell at another couple people before calling it a day.

Norm looked up at wrench man, confused. "Uh, what was it she said to me?" he asked.

Wrench man shrugged and didn't take his eyes off of whatever he was adjusting. "Who the hell knows what she says to anyone? She just says it."

-

DAY 1; 18:10

Norm sat at the nearest empty table in the cafeteria. This wasn't exactly what one might call fine dining, but what the food lacked in quality he made up for with quantity. After all, it would be his first real meal in five years. He'd gotten some of everything. Mostly it was recognizable – mashed potatoes, vegetables, a sandwich – but he'd also been daring enough to try a cup of diced purple fruit he'd never seen before. He had just started digging in – and realizing exactly how starving he really was – when he heard a tray clatter on the table behind him. He looked up to see Trudy Chacon looking back at him. "Hey, slick," she said casually, pulling up a chair across from him and sitting.

Norm took a bit longer than usual to swallow the extraordinary amount of food he'd just shoveled into his mouth before replying. "Hey," he said lamely.

She smiled again, the left corner of her mouth rising up higher than her right, and looked down at his three trays. "Hungry much?"

He nodded. "Yes."

"Here," she said, sliding a large cup across the table. Norm eyed it and hesitated. "Oh, please," she said. "I don't have cooties. Besides, you'll need something to wash that all down with." He paused, then nodded in thanks as he reached for it, and drained the whole thing in a few swallows. Apparently he was thirsty too.

She smiled. "So you just got here today?" she asked.

He nodded. "Yep. Fresh off the home planet."

"What do you think so far?"

He shrugged. "I haven't been here long enough to form much of an opinion," he lied.

She chuckled. "Kid, I know the look – bright eyed and bushy tailed. This has been the best day of your life, hasn't it?" Norm paused, and then nodded again, smiling in return. "So tell me about it," Trudy prompted.

Norm was not entirely sure what to make of the woman sitting in front of him. However, he wasn't really sure what to make of anything that had happened to him in the last 24 hours, and proceeded to tell her everything. At first he was quiet, hesitant, but soon he found himself talking animatedly about collecting samples in what was left of the Amazon back on Earth, and about the program he'd designed to more quickly decode DNA/RNA samples, and about his first time seeing the avatar designed specifically for him. In turn Trudy told him all she knew about the avatar program, and gave him a detailed description of the love of her life – her Aerospatiale SA-2 Samson. She told him about her time in the air force, and he told her about his schooling at Harvard. Different worlds, same passion. Norm grinned as the conversation progressed, realizing that Trudy was more bark than bite. In fact, she was interesting, and…maybe not gentle, but certainly not as dangerous as he'd first imagined her.

And then, without warning, she stood. "Well, good talking to you slick," she said with a smile.

"Wait, you're going so soon?"

"Three hours is soon?" Norm glanced around the cafeteria and realized they were its last two occupants.

"Oh," he said. "I guess not."

-

DAY 3; 07:00

"Well, you're definitely taller," Trudy said, looking over avatar Norm the next day. "And bluer." She looked up to meet his eyes. "Other than that, you're pretty much the same."

"Are you joking?" asked Norm incredulously. He held up his tail. "Look at this!" He dropped the tail and struck a body builder pose. Max had been right in complementing the Avatar's muscle tone. Strong, sleek, and gorgeous, Norm smiled. "I'm a living God."

Trudy rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah. Hurry up and get in, or I'm leaving you." She had already buckled herself into the pilot seat of her Samson, and Grace's and Jake's avatars were waiting as well. Norm hopped into the cramped aircraft and waited for her to take off.

It was interesting to see Trudy in her element. On the ground she was intimidating enough, almost like a wild animal always about to pounce. He couldn't decide if he liked her more or less in the air. She was strangely at ease here, and it both reassured him and terrified him. This was her domain. She was calm, confident, and almost inhumanly adept navigating the crowded Pandorian skies. Soon, however, Trudy faded towards the back of his mind, and he was lost in the sights of Pandora in all her splendor.

Trudy glanced over her shoulder as Norm ooo'd and ahhh'd at everything that passed by. "So is it everything you imagined?"

Norm grinned. "And more."

-

DAY 3; 19:25

"We can't run night ops, doc," Trudy finally said. "Colonel's orders." She turned the Samson around and began heading back toward RDA headquarters. "He'll just have to wait till morning."

"He won't make it till morning," replied Grace unhappily, putting down her binoculars.

The ride back to base was silent.

A couple hours later, when the avatars had been put safely away and Norm was walking around in his own body again, he saw Trudy, sitting alone in the cafeteria. Half smiling, he walked his tray over to sit by her. "Hey, how are-"

"Shut up," snapped Trudy, standing. Norm shut his mouth in surprise. "I left a man behind today," she said angrily. "Don't act like everything's just fine." She turned and stormed out of the room, leaving him in the company of a half empty plate and a guilty conscious.

He stopped by Jake – the human Jake – on his way back to his room. Or, more specifically, he stopped by the pod and looked at Jake's face on the monitor. "You're going to make it," he told him, simply because he didn't know what else to say. "I mean, if you're anything like you're brother, you've probably hit it off with the chief already." He smiled halfheartedly. "After all, you're a marine. You'll be fine and I'll see you soon, right?" He realized he was talking to an empty room, and walked away. Grace would be here to wake him up soon enough anyway.

-

DAY 3; 20:00

Talking to Jake that night, they found he was in perfect condition. In fact, he kept insisting he'd never been better. "When can I go back?" he asked. "I've got to get back in there."

Norm watched Jake describe all he had seen and learned, both fascinated and…jealous. He had trained for years. He had spent his life saying, "No, I can't, I have to study." He had already fallen in love with Pandora and her people – how was this fair in any way? Why was Jake accepted with open arms while he, Norm, couldn't even look at a damn plant without having an armed bodyguard to protect him from the natives?

Norm listened to all he could, and then turned to walk away, quietly fuming. Jake didn't even notice him leaving.

He rounded a few corners, walked through a few doors, and found himself in the biology lab. He smiled to himself. It was nice here. Quiet, usually, at this time of day too. The lab was almost completely empty. He walked over to the newest station and began reviewing all the plants he had seen thus far, and studying the ones he had yet to have a proper look at. He suddenly understood why Grace Augustine preferred plants to humans.

-

DAY 5; 12:36

"Norm?"

Norm jumped when he heard his name. It was lunch break – he'd had the lab to himself. He swiveled around in his chair and came face to face with Dr. Max Patel. He smiled at the doctor. "What's up?"

Max looked uncomfortably, around, and then pulled up a chair to sit by Norm. "It's Jake," he said quietly. "I saw him today with Quaritch and Selfridge, talking about Hometree."

Norm nodded when Max didn't continue. "And?" he prompted.

"He's telling them how they're going to be able to destroy it."

"What?" Norm raised his eyebrows. "No, that's impossible. I mean, he can be an idiot, but he's not a bad guy, Max-"

"I know. I'm just telling it like I saw it." He sighed. "Look, I don't think Jake hates the Na'vi at all, the way that the Colonel does. But I think he does still consider himself a marine, and as a marine, he's going to report to the highest ranking military official – Quaritch. He's going to follow orders blindly and to the letter."

"So you don't think we can just tell him to stop."

"No. That's why Dr. Augustine wants to relocate. There's another base she wants to move to, but she needs a volunteer to go with them. There have to be at least three of you to make it acceptable to activate another base."

Norm nodded. "Alright. I'll go."

Max raised his eyebrows. "Really? Just like that?"

He shrugged. "It's not like I have anything to stay here for."

Max smiled. "Well then, good." He held out his hand. "They'll be glad to have you."

Norm shook it. "When do we leave?"

"Dr. Augustine wants you out of here as quickly as possible."

"Alright then. Away I go."

"Oh, and Norm?"

Norm turned around. "Yeah?"

"Any chance you could find a pilot?"

Norm paused, thought, and nodded again. "Yes," he said with a grin. "I know just the one."

-

DAY 5; 14:32

"Hey, Trudy, wait up!"

Trudy turned to see Norm jogging down the hallway to catch up with her. A smile tugged at the corner of her lips, but she held it back. She hadn't talked to him much since she snapped at him the night they lost Jake. But Jake was safe and sound now, wasn't he? Was there really any point in being mad? She allowed the smile to spread across her face. After all, it was hard to hold a grudge against someone like Norm. His good intentions and sincere smile were a lethal combination. "Hey, slick. What's up?"

"We need a pilot," he replied, slowing and stopping in front of her. "Grace is moving us to the Hallelujah Mountains" – he couldn't stop from grinning ear to ear when he mentioned the legendary floating mountains of Pandora – "and we need a way to get there."

Trudy frowned "Why're you moving?"

Norm glanced around them quickly. No one was around, but he still lowered his voice. "Officially it's to be closer to a new area we're hoping to study. Avoiding Quaritch's micromanaging will just be an added benefit."

Trudy smirked. "Well why didn't you say so in the first place? I'd love a chance to screw with Quaritch. When are you going to be ready to go?"

"One hour, give or take."

"Alright. I'll meet you in the hangar." She turned to walk away.

"Oh, wait – Trudy?"

"Yeah?"

"Um. Thanks. A lot," said Norm, awkward but sincere.

"Anytime babe. See you there."

-

DAY 5; 15:17

"No no no, this one is the suction gage," said Trudy, tapping the dial on the dashboard. "That one's the altimeter."

Norm nodded, and tapped five dials in succession. "Altimeter, airspeed indicator, ADF, directional gyro, suction gage," he said as he hit each one.

"Right. Nice job, slick." She tapped the stick between her knees. "This is basically the equivalent of a steering wheel," she explained. "But more sensitive. It only takes tiny inputs. Here, let me show you." She reached for his hand and placed it on the stick, her hand on top. Norm hesitantly curled his fingers around the rod, and she shifted it slightly, veering the Samson to their right. "Feel how small the moves are?" asked Trudy. "You barely have to think it, and the aircraft reacts. It's awesome, really. You basically fly with your mind."

Norm nodded and gulped. Had it suddenly gotten hotter in here? Ugh, of course not, he was just in the presence of a gorgeous woman for the first time in a decade. Pull it together, Norm, he told himself.

He felt her move the control the centimeter back to center, and the Samson leveled out. "Good," she said. For a minute she steered with her hand on top of his, and then she slowly pulled her hand away, leaving Norm to fly the thing himself. "Good," she repeated, nodding. She snapped her gum and leaned back in her chair.

"You really think so-?" Norm began to ask, breaking his concentration and accidently tilting them into a swan dive. Trudy's hand was back on his in an instant, leveling out the Samson, turning to avoid a tree.

"Yeah, we'll work on that one a little more," she mused as Grace swore in the backseat. Norm sheepishly pulled his hand away and folded his arms across his chest. He looked up just as the floating mountains came into sight. His eyes widened.

Sure, he knew all about the magnetic forces that kept these large chunks of rock adrift. He knew the mechanics of it, the physics, the ways to calculate how time of day and the mass of the rock affected how high it was. But that didn't stop the mountains ahead of him from looking magical. Tall and magnificent, they dwarfed the plane. Waterfalls spilled over the edge, large pterodactyl-like creatures swooped through the air in packs above them.

Trudy laughed. "You should see your faces," she said over her shoulder to Jake and Norm. "Your jaws are scraping up my floor."

"And you come here almost every day," said Norm, awed. "Do you know how many people would kill to be you?"

"Of course I do, slick, I met them all in high school." She turned and gestured toward a metal structure up ahead. "There it is, boys. Home sweet home." She maneuvered the Samson to duck beneath one mountain and over another, landing in front of the new base. She reached up to flip off various switches. "You are now free to move about the cabin. Thank you for flying Air Pandora, and have a nice day."

The base that they would now stay in was small, made up of what appeared to be two glorified metal trailers. In the first were the three avatar interface pods and all the lab equipment Grace and Norm would need. Down a short and narrow hallway there was a tiny kitchen area, two small bunks (Grace and Trudy later both claimed the top ones), and a bathroom. "I hope you aren't claustrophobic," said Grace as she began to unload her belongings.

Trudy had already made a beeline for the refrigerator, and the expression on her face clearly conveyed her dissatisfaction with what she had found. "This stuff is nasty," she commented, nonetheless reaching for a small container that claimed to be pudding. She opened it, made a face, and threw it over her shoulder into the trash can.

"Nice shot," Jake commented.

"Thanks. You should see me with a gun."

-

DAY 6; 08:50

"Why do you call me slick?"

Norm and Trudy were sitting opposite one another at the small table in the lab. He had been examining various slides through a microscope, and she had been painstakingly cleaning the individual pieces of a complex firearm that attached to her Samson.

Trudy didn't look up from her work (which at that moment involved cleaning a gear-like part with a bottle of alcohol and a Q-tip) as she replied. "Would you honestly rather have me call you Norm?"

Norm allowed himself to smile, and looked back into his microscope, refocusing on the cellular structure of the sample before him. "No. It's the ugliest name I've ever heard."

"Then why do you go by it?"

"Because it's my father's," he replied with a shrug. "And I feel like I ought to keep something of his." He paused. "Do you like Tru-"

"Hell no," she interrupted. "It's hideous. But I found it's kind of a turn off for guys, so it helps a little with keeping testosterone-driven army morons out of my hair."

"You're joking."

"Nope. Apparently a pretty name really gets you places." She set the piece she had finished polishing back on the table and picked up a new one, examining it carefully. "Besides," she continued, "it fits me. It's not really ugly, just a little…rough around the edges, yeah?"

"I don't think you're rough around the edges."

Trudy paused wiping grime off the metal and looked up at Norm, who had ducked back down, becoming suddenly absorbed in the plant he was observing. "Well, thanks," she said. "Not sure if I can back you up on that one, but to each his own." She flicked the Q-tip in the garbage can and reached for a clean one. The two worked in silence for the next few minutes.

"So should I call you Trudy?"

"What?"

"I mean, if you don't like your name, shouldn't I call you something else?"

She flashed him a lopsided smile. "Sure, slick."

"What, then?"

"Hmm... "Goddess divine" is always an option," she mused. "Though if you want to lean in a more "Supreme Overlord" direction, that is also acceptable, so long as you keep it sincere."

Norm rolled his eyes.

-

DAY 6; 12:04

Jake and Norm were sitting opposite one another at a small table, eating the grayish lumps not even Grace had been able to call "lunch". They looked disgusting and tasted like dirt, but both men were a little too tired and a little too distracted to care. Norm glanced up at the marine in front of him, wondering how to best break the silence. Who knew awkwardness could be tangible.

Sure, Jake had been a moron, but Norm had been just as immature. It was stupid, really. Jake was good at his job, and Norm was good at his. They were different, but both were just as necessary. Jake was going to need his help. Norm likewise could use some of Jake's help if he was ever going to be allowed into the tribe. It was better he nip this stupid jealousy complex in the bud, and call a truce.

"Hey, Jake?" Norm asked hesitantly, speaking directly to him for the first time in a few days.

"Yeah?"

Norm hesitated, and swallowed. "What do you think of Trudy Chacon?"

Jake paused, then smirked, and the tension evaporated. "I think you're biting off more than you can chew."

"You're one to talk."

"Hey, what's the worst Neytiri can do? Push blue mind-controlled me off a cliff?" Norm decided not to ask what the worst Trudy could do was. Jake raised his water bottle. "To women," he offered. "Can't live without em, and definitely can't live with em."

"I'll drink to that." Norm tapped his bottle against Jake's.

"To what?" asked Grace, entering the room, looking exhausted and a little worse for wear. Her hair was disheveled, her clothes looked as though they had been put on backwards, and there were dark circles under her eyes. Something long and sticky was caught in her hair, and her red eyes told them exactly how much sleep she'd gotten in the past few days.

"Why, to you, gorgeous," replied Jake in a teasing voice. Grace smacked him on the head as she walked by.

-

DAY 7; 08:30

"Ow!" Norm jumped as Trudy banged her head on the ceiling for the umpteenth time, cursing like a sailor as she rubbed her latest bruise. A moment later her feet swung into view in front of him, and she carefully dropped from the top bunk, glaring up at the ceiling. She looked at where Norm was sitting on his own bed, the expression on her face angry and disapproving.

"Friggin low ceiling. Makes me almost miss headquarters." He raised his eyebrows, but she continued before he could say anything. "You know what we need? A couch. I mean, look at this. Avatar interface pods, microscopes, touch screen computers, a copy of the human freaking genome lying around, and not a couch to be seen. It's criminal." She shook her head. "No, it's primitive, that's what it is. What are we, barbarians?"

"Something like that…" Jake muttered from the other end of the room. He looked over his shoulder at Norm and Trudy. "Have you seen this?" he asked, jabbing a thumb toward the computer screen in front of him. The two stood and walked to watch.

Colonel Quaritch was making a speech to a massive assembly of soldiers. Mounted on the stand in front of him was a bloodied head of a banshee. "The people call them ikran," Jake commented softly. "Neytiri showed me hers today. They use them when they hunt."

"Killed three men today," Quaritch was saying. "Three people torn to shreds. And you know what it took to stop it?" He held up his gun. "Two little bullets." He lowered it. The crowd was silent.

"And this is a small one. I hate to think what the full grown one could do to you bunch of half ass pansies." He scanned the crowd. "Listen up," he said, although every individual in the audience was obviously drinking in his every word. "This is not a place for fun and games. This is a place for war. These aren't the only things out there. You keep your heads on a swivel, ladies and gentlemen. If it moves, shoot it. If you're not sure if it's moving, shoot it. If it looks like a bunch of flowers you want to take home to your pretty little girlfriend, shoot it. What are you going to do?"

An overwhelming chorus of, "Shoot it, sir!" replied, animated but apprehensive.

Quaritch nodded. "Good." He grinned, and the crowd broke into wild applause. He threw the rotting head into the audience, and bloodthirsty soldiers leapt for it almost desperately, like sharks drawn to blood in the water.

Norm leaned forward and pressed a button. The screen darkened. And still all three of them stared up at the black, suddenly silent.

-

DAYS 8-13

The next few days were lighter, and the event was pushed to the back of everyone's mind. Jake was becoming more and more absorbed into the Na'vi and their culture. When he had the energy to, he raved (often complaining, but still undoubtedly awed) about what new thing he had learned from Neytiri. His relationship with Norm had further improved as well, and the two would often sit for hours, going over the complexities of the Na'vi language and talking about their discoveries. It was funny, sometimes, how they could talk about the same thing and sound like they were speaking in different languages. Jake would mention the spirit, or aura, of a certain plant or animal, and Norm would suddenly launch into a detailed anatomical and chemical description, each man trying to outdo the other, and neither ever really winning or losing.

Grace seemed more relaxed too. She was falling into the welcome, familiar rhythm of field work. It was obvious why she had invested so much time on this "alien" planet – she loved it. She knew her stuff, too, and when those two pieces – heart and craft – came together, something almost magical happened.

Trudy, meanwhile, had decided this was the best nerd batch yet. She had immediately gained respect for Jake, a fellow marine who she assumed had been hurt in the field. Obviously he wasn't just talk – he really did give a thousand percent, no matter the situation, no matter the consequences. And she'd gotten to really see Grace happy. She'd only met the doctor a couple years ago, right after the catastrophe at the school. Grace, rejected by the Na'vi and recently shot by Quaritch's men when they put bullet holes in the classroom walls, had not exactly been a little ray of sunshine. But now, the pain of that experience seemed to be fading. Grace was changing, remembering why she was still here, and Trudy was glad to see it.

And that Norm was quite a character.

Funny but shy. Intelligent but bumbling. It was interesting to see what version of himself he was each day. At first glance, he seemed like a pretty simple guy. Laid back science geek turned occasional blue man. But that only scratched the surface. There was a lot more to this guy. He was really something, completely different from the trigger-happy morons Trudy was used to. And he was kind of darling. His new nickname for her – "Ace" – felt familiar and just right, and he seemed endearingly flustered and tongue-tied whenever they were alone together.

So she more or less took him in. He was polite, at least, but not in an annoyingly pretentious way. He actually listened to her when she spoke, and she couldn't help but wonder if her nerd had a little crush. Furthermore, he didn't snore, something Trudy loved him for. Best bunk mate she'd ever had.

When he wasn't out collecting samples or madly recording data in the lab, she sat across from him on his cramped cot and taught him poker. She hadn't been surprised when he didn't notice, but had been when, after only a few rounds, he managed to get good enough to beat her, not once, not twice, but four times consecutively. She hadn't talked to him for the rest of the day after that, though secretly, she couldn't help but be a little proud.

She found out he'd been born in Idaho, and had travelled all over the country, studying at several prestigious schools and living in all the major cities of the USA. He was allergic to cats, and had wanted to come to Pandora since he first saw the forest on National Geographic. His mother had raised him herself, as his father died in an accident at his lab when Norm was only eight. Somehow, this only made him more determined to follow in his dad's footsteps, and be a scientist. He was a coffee addict. His favorite season was winter, his favorite color was emerald green (like his eyes), and he had a mean curveball, despite not working on it in the past few years.

He in return found out Trudy had been born and raised in Harlem, New York. She never had much, but she never went without either. Her English teacher father had been – and still was – her hero. She'd met colonel Quaritch as an eighteen year old at boot camp, and he'd worked her hard for a few weeks before shipping off to Pandora. Her favorite music was ancient. She belted out U2 songs from the shower, much to the amusement of her three roommates. When Norm asked her what her "favorite thing" was, her reply was simple. "Nutella."

"You're joking. You're a pilot on an alien planet, and your real passion is chocolate hazelnut spread?"

She nodded gravely. "You try living on the crap they feed you here for ten years. Then we'll talk."

-

DAY 14; 11:45

"Hey, Spellman!"

Norm sat up too quickly upon hearing his name being called, smacking his head against the overhead light. "Ow!" Cringing, he ducked back down away for it, and hit his nose on the microscope. "Owww…" He groaned. This was ridiculous. He hadn't expected his height of all things to be a problem on Pandora, but a cramped metal shack was not exactly comfortable when you're six foot four living with a ceiling that was six foot nothing. He rubbed his nose, and then turned around to face the window. Trudy was standing on the other side of the glass, mask on and hands on her hips.

"Nice," she commented, and he could feel his ears burning as he realized she had been witness to his little…adventure in standing. "C'mere!" she shouted, her voice muted by the layers of glass between them. "I've got something for you!"

Norm complied, securing his own mask before stepping out into the bright daylight. He blinked a couple times, adjusting his vision, and saw Trudy was waving him over toward her Samson. Some shapeless black blob seemed to be sticking out of it. Quizzical, he wandered over as she began to cut through the rope securing the blob to the Samson. He laughed when he realized what it was. "You got us a couch."

"Gorgeous, isn't it?" she asked half-seriously.

Norm looked it up and down. It was black, and way too wide to be practical, no matter how comfortable it looked. It was a little worse for wear, and a long tear ran along the bottom edge, but the duct tape had really done wonders for it, and at the very least, it was clean. "Where did you get this?"

She flashed him a lopsided smile. "I'm really good at poker," she replied mysteriously. "So, you gonna help me move this inside or what?"

Thousands of questions were fighting for Norm's interest, tugging at the back of his mind, begging him to come back to the lab. Decode this organism, track this signal, water this specimen… He paused for a moment, numberless passions vying for his attention.

And then Trudy won out over all of them. "Yeah, sure."

Easier said than done was an understatement.

Furniture. There was a reason it wasn't common on Pandora. It's heavy, awkward, takes up space, doesn't fit through the airlock, and does not yield to relentless coaxing, pushing, and swearing. But by some miracle, they got it inside. Not sure where else to put it, they propped it up against the wall opposite their bunk (about a foot of floor space separated the two) and stood back, looking at the thing admiringly. "I like it," said Trudy with a grin. She sat on it, swinging her legs up beside her, nodding approvingly. "Very nice. C'mere, try it out." She pulled her knees up to her chest and Norm sat beside her.

"Hm. I approve." As absurd and out of place as it was, the sofa was nonetheless kind of nice to have around. There was something distinctly human about it. Something distinctly normal.

"Good," said Trudy happily. She rocked forward suddenly, and kissed him on the cheek. "Thanks for your help."

To his chagrin, Norm's ears had turned bright red. "A-anytime," he stuttered. Trudy chuckled.

"I'd take that back before it's too late if I were you," she replied. Norm shrugged, and she stood to walk back outside toward her Samson. He smiled to himself, stretching his long legs out onto the bed in front of him and leaning back against the plushy couch.

Life was good.

And there you have it. Love it? Hate it? Need a hug? Drop me a line.

By the way, if you've come a bit late in the game, when this story is complete, I'll have you know I wouldn't be averse to getting a different review for each chapter….

Fine, I won't press my luck. Happy trails! New chapter on Monday.