Welcome to my first side story for Brotherhood! I decided that although this scene was fun, it wasn't necessary in the main story and would have made Chapter 20 too long, so it became a little omake or extra of its own. This is just a one-shot, but I think it's both fun and really speaks to some of the things that are going to eventually become important in Norm and Trudy's relationship.

Anyway, enjoy!

Night in the Forest House - a Brotherhood side story

Norm shivered slightly at the sensation that passed through his neck and shoulders and down his back. She was doing something with her hands. He had to admit it didn't really bother him per se; it felt kinda nice, actually, but he really wanted to know what she was doing.

He'd carried Trudy back to the house after she'd tripped far too many times in her inebriated state, and at first she'd been pretty quiet, just kindof snuggling into his chest - which he didn't mind one little bit. Hey, a guy had to take advantage of his avatar's larger size and exponentially greater strength now and then, and carrying around his girlfriend like she weighed nothing at all was so one of those advantages.

But now she was doing something with her hands on his neck, and he really wanted to know what it was, because it was about to turn his knees to jelly. He bit back a moan as her hands moved up into his hair.

"What're you doing?" he asked, just a little shaky as he walked them through the main room and into the bedroom where he usually left his avatar at night.

"Exploring," she smirked, "what can I say, I'm a curious little girl, and I haven't had this good an opportunity before."

"Um, okay," he nodded. Norm understood curiosity. What scientist of any stripe didn't, after all. "In the name of satisfying your curiosity then, what did you want to know?" If he'd been closer to the sober end of things he might not have put forward such a broad invitation, but Norm had not, in fact, made any effort to limit his intake of the wicked brew the Na'vi kept putting in front of him (or had it been Trudy putting all those bowls by his hand? He wasn't entirely sure) It would have been impolite to refuse any food or drink, and he was never impolite!

"Oh, I wanna know lots of stuff," she grinned, "I've never had a chance to really look at a Na'vi or an avatar close like this, plus..." she scratched her fingernails gently down his scalp, making him shiver and his tail twitch, "I figure if I wanna know alllll about you, I gotta know this side of you too."

"Oh," he said, sitting down on the bed almost reflexively, before his knees gave out.

She grinned, and he knew he was in big, big trouble. "So why don't you just relax and let me work the kinks out of your shoulders from carrying me?" she suggested.

"You...don't need to," he protested as she moved around behind him.

"Naw, it's okay, I want to," she said, running her fingers down the back of his neck. "But you're gonna have to get that vest off, and preferably the tee-shirt too."

Between the alcohol he'd imbibed and the way her fingers were making him feel, all the reasons he shouldn't be doing this just kindof faded away. Before he knew it, he was naked from the waist up, and she was tracing her fingers along his stripes.

"Gotta love inborn camo," she grinned, "and all the little dots, too. Damn I wish I didn't have to wear this stupid mask," she sighed then, "it really gets in the way. Oh well, gotta do what you gotta do."

He was fine with her hands on his back and sides and whatever, but when she started stroking his hair and running her fingers along his scalp, well, that was a different story. It felt surprisingly better than he'd expected, and he couldn't suppress the moans that were almost involuntary. Especially when she got to the base of his queue. He knew he should say something to her about being careful with it; after all, it wasn't something most humans were used to even thinking about, let alone dealing with, but she obviously caught on fast, because even though her fingers were probing the braided hair that protected it, she was being very gentle.

"Sensitive, hmm?" she asked, and he could hear the mischievous smirk in her voice.

"Very," he gulped, holding his head as still as he could and resisting the urge to nod.

"Want me to stop?" She was massaging the spot where his queue met his scalp now, and the feeling was pretty close to utter, relaxing bliss

"Nooo..." he admitted, "just stay right there..."

She laughed a little. "You really are just like a cat getting a good head scratch," she teased.

"Not a cat," he protested.

"Sure you are," she stroked one hand over his head and down, very carefully along his queue as she sat down behind him, "you're my great big kitty-cat if I say you are."

He heard her mutter something along the lines of "stupid fuckin' mask" before taking a deep breath, and then he felt what must be her nuzzling against his side, and placing a couple of small kisses against the top of his hipbone before putting the mask back on.

"Hey now, careful," he said, "I'm too tipsy to fly you out of here if you breathe in the wrong air." He looked over his shoulder to see that she'd flopped down on the bed and was lying on her stomach, playing with the tip of his tail.

"C'mon Norm, I'm not that drunk," she protested, making a face at him, and he laughed again.

"Did I tell you how pretty you look?" he asked, letting his tail flick side to side, bringing it just within her reach before twitching it away just as she tried to grab for it.

"You might've said something," she shrugged (a somewhat awkward proposition given she was holding herself up on her elbows) and leaned against his side.

"Well in case you forgot the other five times I said it...you look really good." Feeling a bit more bold, he let his tail trace along her shoulder, pushing down one sleeve of her blouse just a little.

"Ooo, naughty," she laughed, rolling onto her back to look up at him. "It must be so weird having a tail."

"It took a little getting used to, sure," he nodded, grinning slightly as he let his tail work its way inside her blouse now, "but it has its benefits. Now I'm so used to it I sometimes swear I can feel it twitching even when I'm back in my other body if I get irritated or something."

"That'd drive me nuts," she laughed, "all the time feeling like I had this tail when it wasn't even there." She squirmed slightly as his tail-tuft tickled her stomach, "Hey! Cut that out!" she protested.

He shifted around so that he could watch her better and grinned at her, the combination of inebriation and the beginnings of arousal a heady mix that was making him do things he never normally would have, at least, not in this body. "You sure you want me to stop?" he asked, slowing from tickling to a soft caress along her stomach and up over the side of one breast.

"Ohh...yeah maybe you can keep doing that," she shifted slightly against him, letting the fingers of one hand walk their way along the length of his tail until she reached the base, where she stroked slowly in a very obvious imitation of something else she might stroke. Then her hand wrapped around the base of his tail and squeezed affectionately, and Norm groaned as he felt a sudden and extremely strong rush of arousal.

"Holy shit," he panted, trying to bring himself back under control.

"Oops," Trudy grinned wickedly, sitting up and squeezing again experimentally, "looks like I found a hot spot, mmm?"

He just stared at her, wide-eyed, and his tail wrapped fully around her waist to pull her closer against his side.

"I'd say that's a "yes", wouldn't you?" she squeezed one more time before having at least a little pity on him and letting her hand slide up his spine.

"Goddamn," he groaned, "that's...never happened before."

"Good," she nodded as her fingers reached the back of his neck, as high as they could go without her shifting her position, and she smoothed her hand back down along his queue, lifting it up to examine it more closely. "Nobody else better get you excited like that 'cept me." She was clearly intrigued by the neural tendrils waving at her from the end of his queue, and before he could stop her, she brushed a finger along them.

Now that felt decidedly weird. Norm felt a shudder go through his whole body. She slid her finger back again and the neural tendrils tried to wrap around it, and Norm's eyes went wide. It felt incredibly wrong. Something in the Na'vi part of his mind was telling him he ought to be linked to another consciousness, but there was nothing there...a blank, empty wall.

"Please don't" he whispered, shaking her head, "that's...please just don't."

"Norm?" she blinked at his sudden change in demeanour and carefully pulled her finger away, letting the neural tendrils disengage on their own.

"Sorry," he said, pulling her into his lap, "it's not your fault, that was just...it felt like trying to connect to something dead," he admitted with a shudder.

"Oh," she said quietly, leaning against his chest, "I'm sorry babe, I didn't think..."

"Not your fault," he reiterated, "how would you know, I didn't know that's what it would feel like, I mean, I guess I never really thought about it, but I didn't know it would feel bad like that."

She was silent for a long while, although he knew she hadn't fallen asleep, because her fingers were tracing the stripes along his chest and abdomen where she could reach them. "Do you wish you could? Feel something, I mean?" she asked finally.

"No point wishing for what I'm not going to get," he shook his head, "I love you just the way you are, and the fact that I can't make tsaheylu with you in this body doesn't change that."

"But you won't get a chance to know what it's like," Trudy sighed, "I mean, look at Jake or Tom, both of them have Na'vi girlfriends, and eventually they'll probably get to do the nasty while all linked up and stuff, and Cathy already does... That just really sucks, and I'm sorry."

"Hey, like I said, not your fault," Norm hugged her tighter, "I'll live. It's not like that's something I grew up expecting to be able to do. Besides, having you in my life is way more important than having braidsex."

That made her laugh again, and he knew the topic was dropped, at least for now.

"Hey," she said, pushing away from his chest a little so she could look up at him, "I still haven't finished satisfying my curiosity, and you did ask me what I was curious about."

"Okay, what else are you curious about?" he asked, a little wary at the look in her eyes.

"I've only seen half of you," she grinned, letting her hands move down and start undoing his pants, "and I want to see the other half too, since we have the opportunity and I'm blitzed enough to actually want to know."

"Trudy..." he hesitated.

"Uh uh uh, no weaseling out of this" she shook her head, getting off his lap entirely and poking him in the hip, "you said you'd satisfy my curiosity, now strip!"

Norm groaned, but secretly he enjoyed her ordering him around just a little bit too much to say no to her request. He'd draw the line at anything...physical, though. Their size difference being what it was, and all. He stood up off the bed, kicked his shoes off into a corner and turned away slightly before letting his pants drop to the ground. "There," he said, "happy now?"

"Happy," she grinned, hopping down off the bed as well, walking over to him and stroking her hand along his hip as she walked around him. "Damn you're tall though," she laughed, "come sit back down."

He let her direct him back to the bed, and although she certainly kept her hands busy moving over his skin, she didn't try anything really risque, for which he was eternally grateful.

"You gotta get out of this habit of doing everything I tell you to," she grinned up at him as she settled herself on his lap. Damn, and there he'd been thinking he was safe.

"You haven't told me to do anything that I object to yet," he shrugged, wrapping his arms around her, mostly in a bid to keep her from squirming too much.

She smiled at that and leaned against him, then frowned and grumbled as her mask got in the way again. She took a deep breath and lifted it off, nuzzling into his chest for a moment as she held her breath, then lifting herself up until she was kneeling on his thighs and close enough to kiss him.

It was a brief kiss, given the fact that it was very hard to kiss while holding your breath, and he breathed a sigh of relief as she pulled her mask back down again. He pulled her close to his chest and nuzzled into her hair, memorizing the scent of her, tequila-tinged though it was at this particular moment. She let out a deep sigh and relaxed fully against him, and he realized that she had fallen asleep. Or passed out, more properly. He laid her carefully down on the bed, then got up and grabbed a pair of pajama bottoms, pulling them on before he laid down and curled himself up around her. He was very reluctant to unlink, not looking forward to the prospect of waking up to an empty bed. Well, Jake and Grace would be there, of course, but Trudy would still be here, with his unconscious avatar. He'd just have to grab only a couple hours of sleep and go back into link. He wanted to be here when she woke. He didn't want to miss any more of this than he had to.