ashmusing: (on that hightop wire)
Ash ([personal profile] ashmusing) wrote2011-05-08 02:53 pm

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TITLE: Speak, Friend, and Enter: Chapter Four: Liberty
FANDOM: James Cameron's Avatar
CHARACTERS: Norm Spellman, Trudy Chacon, OC
WORDS: 4890
A/N: Massive thanks to ceitfianna and lordoflorien for beta-ing.
STORY SUMMARY: Information Technician Norm Spellman first met Lance Corporal Trudy Chacon in on a ship in 2134. Twenty years later, Doctor Spellman and Captain Chacon (long-time friends and sometime lovers) are reunited on Pandora. This follows the time between, and what happens after.
CHAPTER EXTRACT: “Well,” she says, and she smirks, her smile crooked and pleased all at once. “I've got a few ideas of what we could do.”

He eyes her, sensing the laughter behind her expression. “Something nefarious?” he asks, a smile tugging at his own mouth.

“Scandalous even,” Chacon says. “Definitely means we have to be on first-name basis.”

“Well, gee, I don't know,” he says, and she grins at him. “Norm,” he says then, grinning back and offering her his hand.



October, 2134,
San Diego County, California, USA

It takes until the night before the Providence pulls into the Naval Base at San Diego for the fact that she's coming up to port to sink in. The finally runs around the ship, unsaid in front of officers and not mentioned in front of the enlisted ranks, but felt and said by just about everyone. The Providence is a big ship, but she certainly doesn't feel that way carrying an entire extra battalion. (Well. Most of an extra battalion.) Normally, he'd be nothing relieved that the current journey is nearly at an end, that the human cargo are going to remove themselves and march somewhere else.

But this time round, that will mean that Chacon – Trudy, Trudy Chacon – is marching somewhere else, too.

In retrospect, the fact that she didn't turn up at their normal place the night before she disembarks gives him enough time to think and find his resolve to ask her what her plans were after leaving the ship. Ask if her they could, possibly, continue this hanging out and geeking during his shore-leave; and, hell, if anything else came from that he so had no objections, but it'd been long enough since he'd had a girlfriend that while his imagination was fairly explicit, the rest of his mind and reasoning were cautiously vague.

If she says yes, then excellent. If no, well, he probably won't see her again anyway. And if he doesn't ask, then he certainly won't ever see her again.

He really wants to see her again.

There is also the knowledge that if he doesn't ask, Chang will use this to rib on him for the rest of their deployment. Norm possesses just enough self-awareness to file this away as an example of a subtle form of peer pressure, even as he ruefully admit that it works.

Which is how, before his next shift starts, he finds himself trying to find Chacon on a ship full of thousands of people, all wearing uniforms. Navy in grey fatigues (...mostly), Marines in urban desert, all moving in differing directions-


Norm turns, steps to the side to get out of the way, and Chacon darts through the crowd to meet him.

“Hi,” she says, grinning at him. “Good thing you're so damn lanky.”

“You were looking for me?”

Chacon bites her bottom lip, flashes another grin. “Yeah-huh. I was, um-”

“Good, I was actually, I was wondering,” he starts at the same time, and they stop.

She huffs a laugh, stepping in closer and raising her face. “Okay, you go first. But quick, I gotta run soon.”

“Yeah, so do I. I was wondering, um, I've got.” He stops, takes a deep breath, and then leans in slightly so she can hear better. “When I've got liberty, would you be up for, uh, would you still want to, uh. Hang out?”

Chacon's eyes widen, her eyebrows going up. “You askin' me on a date?”

“It doesn't have to be,” he says, quickly. “If. You don't want it to?”

“Oh. Okay,” she says, slowly, and just smiles at him. She grabs his hand and hurriedly scrawls a number on it. “You,” she says, very precisely “call me. And it'll be a date. Okay?”

He's grinning now, and can't seem to stop. “Okay.”

She beams at him, delighted. “Good.” And then Chacon stands on her tip-toes, pulls him down by the shoulder and kisses him, quick and fierce and in front of everyone. He's too startled to really react, and it's only when she's meters away, about to turn a corner into a different p-way, that he's even aware of the rest of the people in this area of the ship being terribly entertained on his account. Catcalls, wolf-whistles, shouted bits of advice.

“Go Spellman!” Someone calls out.

“She'll eat you!” Someone else yells and, Norm gives them the one-fingered salute before continuing his way to his lab, walking to the sound of laughter.

He's not going to hear the end of this for months.

For some reason, he doesn't really mind.

– –

Two days later, Norm makes his way to San Clemente It's not that far from San Diego by train, and while he has to travel south, she has to travel north from Camp Pendleton. The other advantage of San Clemente – like San Diego – is that his uniform gets barely a second glance from the civilians.

Civilians. Thousands and thousands and thousands of them, dressed in all the colours and styles under the sky, moving through the streets and on and off trains. There a cluster of Muslim schoolgirls with multi-hued scarves over their hair and intricately decorated masks over their faces; there a man in a dark green suit; there a woman in a grey suit and don't-fuck-with-me heels; there a pair of fathers sitting with their daughter, the blond one trying to convince the little girl to keep her filter-mask on (she's not buying it).

And the swirl and colour of life on land, in the civilian world, continues when he looks out the window. It's a popular conceit nowdays to talk of the urban sprawl as grey, dying, soulless, and, yes, he can still see that. But there is a colour and noise and life that maybe he had to go away in order to come back and see. Half of him feels that he is being overly romantic about it all, that it's different when in two weeks time, he's back on a mostly grey ship with pipes and wires open against the metal walls and he doesn't have to live with the constant advertising against the sky, but the other half is enjoying watching it all too much to care.

He nearly misses his stop, too, which he hasn't done since he was eleven. He is, he feels, quite out of practice at being a civilian. Still, a city is no more confusing than a ship, and he manages to make it to the plaza that he and Chacon agreed to. It's a nice place, with some graceful pillars that change colour as one moves about them and a wide area in the middle, down some steps (and four ramps, set in the corner). The plaza probably isn't that busy by a civilian's standards, but it's busy enough; by now, Norm's used to the chaos of crowds actually being ordered, not a true chaos like this.

Stopping at one pillar, he scans the area in search of Chacon. Unconsciously, he's looking for the androgynous girl he knew on the ship; the Marine as he first saw her all those weeks ago, in her loose uniform and short, sharply cropped hair. And so at first, he can't see Chacon anywhere.

Then he catches sight of a black-haired girl sitting on the steps, her back against a pillar, an old-fashioned paper sketchbook balanced on her bare knees. Short hair slightly longer and wavier on top, a Marine's crew-cut growing out now that the tour is over. Military-issue, half-face filter-mask like his own. She's still wearing her combat boots, but instead of her desert fatigues, she has on a pair of (short) dark red shorts and a sleeveless black top with the collar flipped up. In the sunlight that filters through the perpetual clouds, her skin is far more brown than it seemed on the ship, and she's abruptly feminine in a way that makes him stare, just a little too long. And he doesn't flatter himself that the smooth skin on her legs has anything much to do with him; more likely, it's an act of reaffirming to herself that she can be a civilian, that she's not in a war. Still, he can appreciate the view.

Chacon's hand movements pause and she glances up, biting down on her bottom lip as she frowns in a familiar way. It's enough to break his startlement and he makes his way over.


“Jesus,” she says, jumping and then grinning up at him. “Hey.”

“Sorry, I didn't mean-”

“Nah, it's cool. I was off in my own world.” Her brightness is a little bit forced, as if her not having heard him come up struck something deeper than mere surprise.

But he doesn't know how to ask, or even if he should, so he just says, “You were drawing the crowd?”

“Hah! Hardly.” She holds up her sketchbook and he squats down to look. The picture is a rough sketch of the plaza, details entered in seeming at random, just enough to get the idea of the place. But instead of humans, what peoples the plaza is a host of fantastic beings both surreal and cartoony.

“This is...really good,” he says, mostly because it's true. Right down to the small figure in fatigues, sitting on the steps drawing it all.

“I am a woman of many talents,” Chacon says, her glance over his face a combination of assessing and speculative. He can feel the tips of his ears heat, and tries to ignore it.

“And by night, do you fight crime?” he asks, sitting down next to her. She smirks at him.

“That'd be tellin'.”

“Masked avenger with a ca-”

“No capes.”

“Ah, so it's more of the ninja approach, then,” Norm says, and she laughs, presses her finger to her filter-mask covered lips.

Anyway,” she says, “how's your liberty leave treating you?”

“Fine, so far.” Even if he's still wearing his uniform, he's not on the ship. And he's with her. “Got a few days off.”

“A few?”


“Well,” she says, and she smirks, her smile crooked and pleased all at once. “I've got a few ideas of what we could do.”

He eyes her, sensing the laughter behind her expression. “Something nefarious?” he asks, a smile tugging at his own mouth.

“Scandalous even,” Chacon says. “Definitely means we have to be on first-name basis.”

“Well, gee, I don't know,” he says, and she grins at him. “Norm,” he says then, grinning back and offering her his hand.


– –

There is something, Norm decides, about finding someone else who does the same things as you. Things that other people deem annoying. Like staying in the movie theatre until the end of the credits. That kind of thing.

“Damn,” says Chacon – Trudy – leaning back in her chair and pouting slightly at the screen. “I was hoping for something at the end.”

“It's kinda like a law of the universe, isn't it?” he observes. “You wait, there is nothing – you go, and then everyone raves about seeing something.”

“Yeah, it's not...quite Murphy's Law, but I'm sure there has to be something...”

“There is, kind of. In Russian, uh.” He rubs the back of his head. “Not sure how to translate it. Law of Fucked Up? Yes. No.”

She glances over at him. “Huh. No, I think I get it,” she adds, getting to her feet and linking her hands together before stretching her arms up. “And we'd better run before we get attacked by brooms.”

He glances over at the ushers at the doorway, and winces. “That'd be a shame. Lunch?”

“God, yes, I'm starving. And we've got an hour and a bit before The Two Towers, and I really need to geek at you about Fellowship.” She jumps down the last couple of stairs, pirouettes and beams up at him. “That was a fun movie. And this is fun. And I really, really kinda want to be a dwarf now and live in Moira.”

He laughs, following her out of the theatre. “You mean, before the Balrog woke up and killed everyone?”

Chacon sticks her tongue out at him. “Yes. Before that. They had mechanical things. And gadgets. And axes. And it makes me happy.”

“See, I just want to go and live with the elves now.”

“Yeah, I can kinda see that...but nah. Mechs and badass short people with axes for me. Although, is it just me, or were the elves rocking a kinda tribal look?”

“, now that you mention it.”

“Na'vi,” Chacon says, looking resigned. “That's what they reminded me of. Na'vi, with all those braids and armbands.”

“Well, cultural influence. After all, there are some similarities there -”

“What, tall, pointed ears, everyone goes 'ooh, pretty'?” she retorts, and then winces. “Okay, that was...bitchy of me. And, you're right – I can see the logic there. Those kinds of braids have been common for a while. And, I mean, a lot of Moira seemed inspired by Martian architecture. So, it's probably deliberately done.”

Norm watches Chacon (Trudy. Trudy, Trudy, Trudy) for a moment. “See, now you're making me think that there is going to be another planet or moon out there that is going to be like Mordor,” he says, skipping geeky and serious for geeky and ridiculous. From her cackle, the distraction works.

“Great, we could have an intergalactic quest to destroy the One Ring.”

“I have no idea why you are being so sarcastic, it would be brilliant.”


He smiles. “Takes one to know one.” Then he pauses. “Intergalactic or intragalactic?”

Trudy (yes, Trudy now) slants him an amused look, a grin chasing itself around her mouth. “Probably intra. Don't wanna get greedy now, do we? Plenty of stars in the galaxy. And, speakin' of greedy-” as they turn the corner she flings out her arm in a dramatic gesture at the food court, “-what you want for lunch?”

– –

It's not late when they finally emerge from the theatre, but after marathoning three movies, it feels like it. Still, early enough that they when they stroll into San Clemente's Little India, all the restaurants and food-stalls are still wide open.

“Also, it's a Friday,” Trudy points out when Norm comments on this.

“ is?”

She glances at him and huffs a laugh. “Yeah, yeah it is.”

“I. Wow, my sense of time is messed up,” he says, and this time her laugh is more full-bodied.

“Military thing, ain't it? You're on a ship, I'm out in the field, doesn't really matter what the day is, it's all same old.”

“I know the date,” he protests, and then just shakes his head. Truth be told, he's feeling a little off balance – it's a little thing, but it still feels odd to have himself referred to as 'military'. He just happens to work on a ship, wear a uniform, have a rank and have to salute his superiors. That's all. He shakes his head again, banishing the thoughts so he can concentrate. Given Trudy's just grabbed his hand to pull him somewhere, concentrating on her and now is not that hard.

She leads him to some little corner place he wouldn't have given a second glance to, aside from to study the paintwork and carving in the door. That is fascinating. As are the people; the other customers, the two waitresses in black, the owner or manager in a sari with gold rings on her thin hands that flash as she calls Trudy 'darling' and leads them over to a window table.

“'Darling'?” Norm asks, glancing at Trudy over the menu. She rolls her eyes in response.

“There are significant parts of the population to whom that is a common form of conversational endearment,” Trudy says, her prim tone combining with her Texan drawl to make her sound like a southern belle.

“I know, I know, I just haven't run across it in a while.”

“You need to get out more,” she replies after a pause, her mouth curving reassuringly.

He smiles wryly making. “True enough. One downside to the Prov, I really don't get out a lot. But I have caught up on my reading.”

“Oh, please,” she scoffs. “No one ever catches up with their reading. It's one of the Laws of the Universe.”

“...point. Always something else to read.”

“And then you go back and reread stuff, and in the meantime, you are runnin' out of both physical and electronic shelf space...”

“Which is another Law of the Universe...”

Trudy grins at him. “Exactly.”

“Speaking of rereading, you've read Lord of the Rings more recently than I they have actual, real meat here?”

“Mmhmm. Costs a lot, but yeah. And the rest of the food is pretty fantastic. Kinda like just being near the real stuff makes the rest of it taste kinda real.”

“And. You could just walk in and get a seat. Somewhere where there is real meat and spices.”

“Mmhmm,” she says, but this time she looks more impish. “Went through boot with the owner's kid.”

“And pulled him out of that burning truck,” the owner – another older woman in a sari, not the one who greeted them - scolds, causing Norm to jump slightly. Restaurants always make him nervous, the people who work in them all seemingly gifted with the ability of teleportation.

“Yes, ma'am,” Trudy is saying, promptly enough that he guesses she doesn't really want to remember the burning truck. “How's Krish doin'?”

“Got into college, doing English. And he's getting used to his new arm.”

“Huh, the VA actually did some good, there?”

The owner snorts. “Hardly, bunch of bastards. We paid for it ourselves.”

“Yeah,” Trudy says with a look of deep contempt. “That's the damn VA for ya.”

“Bastards,” the owner repeats. “What would you like, Trudy?”

Trudy glances at Norm; he spreads his fingers. “It....all looks wonderful. You choose,” he says.

“Alrighty,” Trudy grins, and rattles off a number of dishes. Using the Indian names, he notes.

“You've had dealings with the VA?” he asks once the owner has gone. She nods.

“Yeah. Um. Not me, personally, mom was a Marine. Mechanic. There was an explosion, and...she ended up losin' one leg, and having the other fucked up. So, kinda grew up with battles with the VA. They're getting worse, too, with all the pressure to stop spendin' so much on the military.”

“Cost-cutting and publicity,” Norm says quietly, and watches as her mouth twists.

“Yeah. Send us off to war, and then just throw us away. You were saying about Lord of the Rings?”

It's not the most graceful subject change he's ever heard, but he takes it.

– –

“Come back with me,” Trudy says, later. A few hours later, actually; they're back at the plaza where they started, filter-masks off because she's nursing a small whiskey while he's got a bottle of soda. There'd been a peach, too, shared between them. A rare, expensive, actual peach grown in an actual farm tower. Her choice, because he'd never think of it. “Mom used to get one for me on my birthday,” she had said when he'd looked startled. “And I signed up on my eighteenth, and spent my nineteenth and twentieth birthdays bein' shot at. So you know what, I think I deserve a damn peach.”

After that, he didn't argue when she'd offered half. Her peach, she could do what she wanted with it. He can understand that.

Except now she is saying, “Come back with me,” and it takes him longer than perhaps it should to work out what she means.

“...where? What, to...your base?”

“Cheaper than a hotel,” Trudy says, her smile impish. “Unless...there is a reason I shouldn't offer?”

“No! Um, I mean. I can't think of anything. And I want-” Norm stops, tries to arrange his thoughts to be sensible. Not easy, in the face of her bright, hopeful smile. “Rules on, uh, overnight guests?”

“Fine on Fridays and Saturdays.” Her smile is still impish.


“Yes, seriously. God.” She rolls her eyes. “Not gonna blemish your shiny record.”

“I was thinking more about you.” Well, also him; there is the whole 'being invited back to a camp full of Marines' issue. But rules are rules, and the Marines seem to be half a cult and-

“Flattering,” Trudy says. “Or patronisin', I haven't decided. Don't worry, I'm not gonna get busted over this.”


Trudy is eerily still for a moment. “She won't be a problem,” she says, voice clipped and face expressionless. He wants to ask, but-

“Okay,” he says, and is rewarded by a grateful smile.

– –

Walking into Camp Pendleton has to be one of the more nerve-racking experiences of his life. Sort of like when Keyna pulled him back to her family's apartment and promised no one was there, only this time there'd be thousands of other people, with guns, and he's Navy, and once Trudy shoves him into her room and shuts the door, he starts to laugh.

Navy boy,” Trudy says, making a face at him.

“Well, yeah.” There are two beds in the neat room, one made and one stripped. Given Trudy's expression before, he's not going to ask about where her room-mate is, and so he just sits on the bed with the blankets. “Actually, kinda a bit like Gimli in the Mines. You know, when all the orcs start swarming.”

She pauses in the middle of pulling off one of her boots. “Like Gimli. How?


Trudy blinks, and then she just laughs, sitting heavily on the bed next to him. “Fine,” she says, suppressing her laughter into a smirk, “But y'know, I'd rather think you're closer to Legolas in that situation. You're Team Elf, remember. I'm Team Dwarf.

Norm regards her with all the solemnity that the situation merits. “Does this mean we have to start a millennia long feud?”

She crinkles her nose. “I'd prefer to skip to the make-outs myself.”

He swallows. “I, uh. Wouldn't say no.”

Trudy's smirk widens into a hopeful grin. “This mean you'd say yes?”

“Hell yeah,” Norm breathes out, and then flushes. “I mean, yes.”

That gets a quiet laugh. “Outstanding,” she says, and crawls over. He sits very still, not entirely sure what to do – meet her half way? And what to do with his hands, and Jesus Christ it's been so long since he's done anything like this that he can't really remember, and then she kisses him.

She'd kissed him on the Providence, but that was quick, and in public, and he'd been too stunned to note anything more than just the fact that her lips were hot and smooth. Here there is a door which is closed and a bed and he can take his time, actually note things. Trudy tastes a bit like whiskey, a bit like peaches: expensive, out of his league. Mostly, she just tastes of her own distracting self.

He kisses her back, bringing one hand up to her shoulder. The movement is tentative, but Trudy doesn't move away so he slowly ghosts his hand down the side of her torso to her waist. The other hand he brings up to her neck, thumb against her jaw. Her skin is hot under his fingers, as if all her drive and energy actually converts to physical heat. The way he is sitting has him off-balance, but to fix that would mean shifting away, stop touching her, and that is something Norm really doesn't want to do.

Trudy presses in closer, puts her hand against his chest and pushes against him. The instruction is clear enough, but their combined weight makes Norm fall back against the bed much more suddenly than they expected. She ends up sprawled over him, the kiss broken thanks to both fall and her breathy laughter.

“Okay,” she says, trying to muffle her giggles, “that totally worked out in my head a lot better.”

He raises his eyebrows at her and contemplates their position for a moment. They're on the bed, she's on him, one of her legs between his so when she shifts, just like that, it's just oh, wow as he tries not to groan. Or whimper. “I think it worked just fine,” he says, managing to get his voice even as he can feel his ears burning red.

Trudy pauses, and smirks at him. “That so?”


She puts one hand on her bed and slowly slides a few inches up his body. His breath catches at the sensations this causes, and remains caught as she kisses him again. This time, his hand slides to the back of her head, fingers running over the silky stubble that is masquerading as her hair, just like he's wanted to for weeks. His other hand settles at her waist, thumb experimentally brushing back and forth along her spine. Trudy makes a soft noise, something crossed between a whimper and sigh, and she moves against him, as if trying to get closer (yes, please). One of her hands is on his chest and the other has snaked around to the back of his neck, but if her hands are being tame and G-rated, her mouth is definitely hitting Mature Audiences Only. Fine, yeah, sure, they are just kissing, and with their clothes still noticeably on, but he feels drunk on it anyway. Drunk and feverish, skin prickling and aching all at once. Her hands are still against him, and he wants them to stay still so he can catch his breath, and he wants her hands all over him; touching, gliding, teasing, claiming.

Her hand drops to the bottom of his shirt and snakes under the hem. He doesn't notice, not at first, but then there is the feeling of her fingers against his skin, her short nails lightly dragging across his hip. It feels good, damn good, but the twist in his chest is as much nerves as lust. It's somehow unpleasant, like walking into a test he suddenly realises he knows barely anything about. So he grabs her wrist. It's enough to break the kiss, if not exactly the spell.

“Can we-”

With her free hand braced against the bed, she pushes herself up and looks down at him. He can't read the look on her face, but she's frowning, slightly.

“-slow down? A bit?” he asks, and she bites her bottom lip, nods.

“Sorry,” Trudy says, sitting up. He drops his hands to her bare knees, a silent request that she stay where she is. She's flushed, breathing a little too deliberately even. “Sorry,” she repeats, running a hand through her hair. “I swear, I don't normally go jumping people's bones on the first date. I, uh ...have no idea what is normal speed anymore.”

“Hey, it's okay,” Norm says, a little taken back by how fast her words are. For the first time, it strikes him that she might actually be nervous. Perhaps oddly, that makes him feel better – at least he's not the only one. “It's, uh, not exactly like I've um, got a lot of experience here, either.”

“My main ex was a chick, anyway,” Trudy says with a quick grin.

“-Right, I didn't of think of that.”

She laughs. “Went with a guy, though. Before. I'm not a complete novice when it comes to straight sex.”

He really doesn't think she had to do that...thing with her hips and pelvis that she just did, a shifting and a slight grinding of weight against him, right there...but hell if he is complaining. “I wasn't thinking, I didn't, uh.”

Her expression is more serious now, and she leans forward, hands either side of his shoulders so she can look him straight in the eye. “Do you want me to stop-stop, as in, get off and-”

“No.” God no. “Just...” Norm lifts a hand, runs the back of it down her arm. “Slow.”

“Okay,” Trudy says, and her smile is slow and sweet and somehow so very, very wicked. “Not in a war. I can do slow.”

He doesn't have time to ask what she means by the comment about war because she's kissing him again. Slow, like he'd asked. Slow and sweet and M-rated, R-rated, and he really doesn't get why there is this thing about guys always being in charge, in control. Trudy's more confident in this, and frankly it's more than just a pleasure to submit, surrender; it's a desire. It doesn't matter that his hands are starting to wander while hers are still, supporting her weight; he asks and she says 'yes'; he asks, and it's all in her hands.

For now, at least, he's entirely hers.