Neelix roused to a soft repetitive beeping. It was the following day and he was happy that after Heather had rested the previous afternoon, that he was able to prepare her an evening meal which she not only enjoyed, but was able to keep down.
It wasn't that Heather wasn't able to consume any alien foods, she already had, so this was obviously not the case. It's just that some of them are a risk to anyone if that individual hadn't built up an immunity to the alien bacteria that can sometimes still be present in certain foods.
Neelix sat up, seeing Heather beside him. She rolled from her side to her stomach, seemingly annoyed, and shoved her face against the pillow. It was obvious she was still tired and didn't appreciate the annoying sound. He smiled and stood, moving to the back of his quarters towards his console. He knew exactly what the sound represented; a message. He pressed a button to play it, expecting it to be Veeno, but was surprised when Ala's face appeared on the screen.
"Neelix, I spoke with my boss last evening about your situation," Her voice began. Neelix's brows rose in surprise. He hadn't expected her to be so quick, but he appreciated her concerned haste. "He'd like to discuss it, in person with you. Since this concerns Veeno, as well.. to a point, I included an invitation to him, too. He brought it up after all." She said with a smile.
Curious about what she could barely overhear, Heather had gotten out of bed and was peaking from behind the wall division of his quarters so she could hear the message, too.
"Please come tonight to the club. My boss is a very busy individual and he has made time specially for you under my request. I'll see you then. Take care." Her message finished and her face faded away from the screen.
As Heather slowly approached, Neelix's ears twitched at her foot steps, "You.. have to meet her boss?" She asked him as she fiddled her fingers, wanting to confirm what she had heard. Neelix nodded and turned his head to look down at her. She seemed kind of worried but he could tell why... he felt uneasy and it must have been showing. "Are you alright, Neelix?" She asked and he breathed deeply, "I guess... I'm not exactly thrilled about meeting a crime lord.. or.. well I don't know what he is.. Veeno said he had a kind heart.. and he must if he was willing to change his schedule just because Ala asked him to. Slave owners aren't always nice people... So I guess I can focus on that to ease my mind and hesitation."
Heather swallowed hard, being reminded how she, too was a slave... but the idea that Neelix was her master made the idea a lot easier to swallow, if it had to be anyone, she was glad it was him.
"Can I come...?" She asked and Neelix's eyes widened a little, "Well, of course you can come. I don't want you to be here all alone. I'm sure you wouldn't want to be alone, either? Besides... after what Ala said yesterday... I don't want to let you out of my sight..." He said, "But as for going into the meeting... I would prefer not... for obvious reasons..." He finished and Heather nodded her head in response, "I understand."
"It's not that I don't want you to be with me... I just don't like the idea of bringing you into a place like that..." He said and Heather nodded in response, again. She understood, she just didn't want to be left here alone for who knew how long and it scared her that if something were to go wrong, he wouldn't be there.. or worse.. if something bad happened to him... Neelix was all she had...
"Well," Neelix began, smiling down at her, "What would you like to do this morning? Would you like to get cleaned up or eat first.. or..?" He asked her, leaving that or open so she knew she could suggest something different if she'd like.
"Umm... well, maybe shower first? I feel kind of dirty..." She replied and Neelix nodded and held out his hand to her. She carefully took it and he led her to the wash room.
"Will you be alright by yourself? You're comfortable with everything?" He asked her and she nodded, "I still remember what you showed me." She said with a smile and he leaned down to kiss the top of her head. She felt a warm chill run through her at his kiss... but he nodded, leaving her be to her shower.
Neelix had begun preparing them both a meal when barely five minutes later, he heard a loud scream come from the wash room...
He dropped the utensil instantly and ran to the room, not even giving it a second thought as he entered and hastily moved to the shower. Heather was still screaming as she rubbed fiercely at her eyes, her head tilted up so that the water hit her face and ran down it to wash away the thick cleansing foam that she was completely covered in.
He gasped in shock, "Heather.. !" He shouted over her screaming and the running water and extended his arm out to hit the button to stop the foam from squirting out. He then reached up and disconnected the shower head from the wall and pulled it, revealing a long hose attached to it and brought it down to her. He placed his hand on her shoulder as he spoke out to her to let her know he was right there. "Heather, keep your eyes tight!" "I am! I am!" She cried out. "It's ok, calm down!" He shouted back to her, pulling her hands from her eyes and carefully rinsing over them with the sprayer. He moved his hand from her shoulder to her face and carefully pressed his thumb against her cheek, pulling a little to make sure he got it all. "Is that better...?" He asked her.. but instead of an answer, she began to cry.
"Oh Heather... it's ok.. it was just an accident.." He spoke softly to her and brought her close to him, holding onto her tightly, but she couldn't stop herself from crying. This just felt like the icing on the giant shit cake that had been the last few days... why couldn't something just go right... She thought to herself.
She moved a hand up and wiped at her red eyes, irritated from the foam. "I'm sorry... I don't mean to cry..." She replied but he just smiled, "It's ok, Heather, it's good to cry and it will help rinse your eyes." He said to her and she nodded her head slowly and carefully moved from him, his shirt was now damp from holding her, but to his surprise, she gasped, moving her arms down to cover herself.
His brows lifted in surprise, "Heather... I've already seen you naked..." He said, trying to convince her that her actions were silly but she just made an uncomfortable face as she lowered her head. He leaned close to her and lifted the sprayer up, carefully rinsing the remaining patchy sections of foam from her body, washing away any cover of privacy she still had left. He then stood and reattached the sprayer to wall and moved back to get her a towel, unfolding it and bringing it around her wet body.
"I hope you wont always be this shy around me..." He said to her as he helped her dry off. She just lowered her head, feeling ashamed, "I'm sorry.. it's just.. I'm not use to being naked around anyone.. it's kind of.. intimate, I guess..." She told him, still feeling too embarrassed to look him in the eye. He bit his lower lip slightly, finding her choice of words interesting... intimate... He smiled a little and helped her get dressed.
Neelix walked with Heather to the table and she sat down while he finished preparing the meal. A few minutes later, he set the plate down for her and leaned his head down and to the side of her so she could see him, "I'm going to go get cleaned up, myself. If you need me, for anything, please don't hesitate to come get me, ok?" He said to her and she nodded softly, taking a bite of the meal and he smiled and gave her a soft kiss on the cheek. He saw her eyes widen slightly as she nervously tried to ignore his caring gesture, which only made him smile more at her actions.
She watched him walk off and turn the corner towards the bed, out of sight. She swallowed and pursed her lips feeling anxious. She still felt a bit uncomfortable from before and feeling his kiss only furthered her nervous feelings... but as Neelix reappeared into view, he began to lift his shirt over his head and tossed it to the floor.. and then moved his hands to his front. She couldn't see, for his back was facing her, but she guessed what he was doing... and her utensil slipped from her hand as Neelix's pants fell from his hips and dropped to the floor around his ankles.
Neelix quickly turned his head to the clanging sound and saw Heather fumbling for her utensil, she looked uncomfortable and flustered with embarrassment. Neelix cocked his head, puzzled, "Heather, are you alright..?" He asked her and she nodded quickly, swallowing hard as she grasped firmly onto her utensil, not daring to make eye contact, especially since he had turned around...
It didn't matter that she had seen him naked before, too.. She thought, this was different. She had been half out of it, barely able to remember that first night. She had felt so weak and tired and everything was a blur. But she was fully aware of what was going on now and... she was getting to know him. Talk with him, learn about him... suspect he wanted more from her than just... trust. This was extremely awkward for her...
As Neelix walked out of view, she exhaled deeply with relief and tried to calm herself as she attempted to finished her meal.
When Neelix had finished and dressed, he walked out to find Heather sitting crossed legged on the bed and messing with her device. He glanced at the table seeing that her plate was empty and smiled as he approached her.
Heather could see his approach out of the corner of her eye, not taking her eyes off the screen. She felt herself tense slightly, his presence reminding her of before... but she tried not to think about it.
"I think.. someone called." She said, looking up at him as he turned his head to the monitor, squinting to see. "Oh..yeah, it looks like it's from work..." He replied and sat down beside her, peeking down to see what she had displayed on her screen.
"You're not gonna answer it..?" She asked curiously and he shook his head, "I doubt it's urgent.. besides, I want to spend my time with you." He replied with a smile. She felt herself become warm again from his words and swallowed... "Oh but... they wont be mad at you?" She asked. "Mad at me? For what?" "For not going to work for so long? You wont lose your job...?" She asked, concerned and he laughed lightly, "No, no... I'm the head mechanic around here. No one is above me other than the station's overseer and believe me, so long as nothing is critically wrong with the station, he could care less how often I go into work.. but everyone knows I've pretty much made my job my life.. so, they aren't worried about me being a slacker and not doing my job. They may worry about me not coming in for a few days, but not worried I'm skipping intentionally. I'll answer it in a bit, I'm sure it's just one of my co-workers requesting I check something over to make sure everything is alright." He finished and Heather nodded her head slowly.
"What do you have there?" Neelix asked curiously, nodding in the direction of her device. She turned her attention back down to the screen and unpaused the still image, moving her hands to the side for him so he had a better view.
Neelixed looked down with interest. The image displayed two alien individuals that looked to be of Heather's species. "These are your people?" He asked her and she nodded slowly. "It's a movie.. I had downloaded it but never got around to watching it.." She replied and Neelix nodded softly, he didn't entirely understand but that didn't matter, because what was interesting was he was able to get a glimpse into Heather's life. Her people, her planet, her world. He stared down at the small screen with curiosity watching the aliens speak to one another, glad he could actually understand them. But as he watched, for some reason his focus went to the one that appeared to be male.
He stared at the alien male for awhile... as he watched it, he squinted his eyes as he studied its features and felt a slight unwelcoming ping of something in his stomach... He cocked his head with suspicion, wondering if it may be possible Heather found this male attractive.
A strange feeling overcame him. Something he couldn't quite place. A sudden, possible feeling of inadequacy... The thought of what she might find attractive had never crossed his mind before now, or even how important it was to her. If she found this male attractive, could she, too find him attractive? And if not... would that stop any chance he may have with her...? Perhaps the idea of an interspecies relationship would not appeal to her, or worse, disgust her... He swallowed hard, feeling his breathing increase... the thought was hurtful and made him feel insecure.
Heather could hear his breathing and turned her head to look up at him, "Neelix...? Are you ok?" She asked but he didn't answer right away, lost in thought. He shook his head and blinked hard before looking down to her. "Huh?.. oh, yeah.. yeah I'm ok..." He said but Heather didn't seem convinced, having an even more concerned expression appear across her face. She turned herself a bit so she could look at him without having to turn her neck awkwardly, before pressing the issue with him, "Neelix... you don't seem ok.."
He lowered his head, not sure what to say, how to answer her. He felt it still too early to admit these growing feelings he had. He needed her trust first before he could even think, even consider mentioning anything to her... he had to find a way to change the subject and kill any suspicion she might have. She was too precious to him to take any chances...
"I...uh.. was just feeling bad about how.. you'll never see your home again..."
He wanted to bang his head up against a wall. That was possibly just as stupid to bring up... and he felt his stupidity turn to guilt as he saw her lower her head. He winced... when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging... On top of feeling possibly jealous of that male human, he had almost slipped up, lied to her, and brought up a very touchy subject for her.. I'm such an idiot...
"Oh.. yeah.. umm..." She didn't know what to say to that. Tell him how much it hurt? How much she regretted being so stupid to run out in the middle of the night in the woods? That would just make him feel bad and it wasn't his fault all this had happened to her, the last thing she wanted to do was make him feel guilty... But the thing was, she still felt odd about before with the shower and seeing him... naked. She couldn't shake the thoughts and feelings that kept racing through her and finding no point to continue the current subject when all it would do was make her sad, she randomly brought up something she too would regret..
"Neelix.. do you think I could have my own bed?" She asked and Neelix's brows rose, dumbfounded by her quick, but welcoming dismissal of the prior subject.. but also by the question itself. "You.. don't want to sleep with me anymore?" He asked.
She felt her stomach tighten up at his words... Sleep with me... she repeated it in her mind. Sleep with him.. she shook her head, tightening her eyes. She had to choose her words carefully...
"No.. I.. umm.. I dunno...it's kind of... intimate?" She face palmed. Crap... She said to herself, feeling incredibly stupid. Here he was, showing affection, wanting to be near to her, and she had just suggested that she wanted to move away from him...
There was that word again... the second time she had used it... Neelix felt a warmth flicker inside himself from her choice of words... Intimate... He wanted to be intimate with her...
"Neelix..." She said and swallowed hard, looking up at him, breaking his attention away from his thoughts of intimacy. "Lets start over..." She had a serious expression across her face. Neelix perked up, showing her he was curious of what she had to say.
"I'm sorry... I dunno what I'm doing.. or how I feel." She began, her words and tone catching Neelix by surprise. "I know you want my trust and I don't want you to think I'm pushing away from you. You're so very kind and sweet and nice to me and have just done so much and I know I'm afraid... and I know everything is new and scary but in a way, this is kind of an amazing thing for me. I really like.. well... this. All of this." She gestured to... everything.
Neelix seemed confused but relieved at the same time. So long as she wasn't pushing away from him, he was happy, but he needed to know what she meant.
"What do you mean?" He asked her, wanting her to continue. "I've always wanted to go into space and see the stars... maybe meet another race of people out there... but I never imagined it would be like this, though.." Her voice trailed off and Neelix smiled, amazed by this. It made him feel a lot better about everything that had happened, if in a way, it was something that she kind of wanted, though, her last words seemed to contradict that.. "Like this.. I guess what reality is, isn't appealing.." He lowered his head. "Well, if getting abducted and never seeing your home again is appealing.." She tried to laugh but the truth was... the truth hurt, a lot... she missed home so much...
But she was so glad he was there and she reached out to his hands and gently held onto his fingers. "Neelix.. I just want you to know you make me feel not so afraid. I'm still nervous... and uncomfortable, but knowing you're here.. for me like you are and have been and everything you've done... for me..." She lowered her head, "It really means a lot... I'm lucky that, if this had to happen to me... that it was you that I ended up with.."
Knowing this. Hearing her words... made Neelix swell with happiness, almost to the point of just confessing his feelings to her right then and there... but he held his tongue...
"I just.. don't want all of our time together to be like this... so awkward so umm.. I dunno.. just every time we talk..." She said. "We don't have to talk anymore right now, Heather." He smiled, "I'd just like to spend my time with you in anyway that I can. It doesn't have to always be talking, though that is the best way to get to know one another better so things don't have to feel so awkward like this. Since you're living here with me, I want you to always be comfortable and consider this your home just as much as it is mine."
She tried to smile, "Thank you, Neelix.." He smiled back at her. "Maybe, if you'd like, you could restart your vid and we could watch it together?" He asked her and turned slightly so he could bunch up the blanket and pillows, using them to prop his back up while he laid back on the bed. He extended an arm out, gesturing to her that he'd like her company. For her to come and cuddle up beside him. She bit her lower lip, feeling shy but smiled slightly and moved to him. She carefully positioned herself beside him and rested her head down against his chest, feeling his arm move down and come around her shoulder and side to keep her snugly in place against him.
This was so crazy... She thought. Or maybe not... she didn't know. Everything felt like it was happening so fast. What could she even consider him? Her master... ick... she hated that thought... but maybe her friend? He was so... affectionate and... loving to be just a friend. She swallowed... not knowing how to feel. Was it wrong for her to allow him to be so caring with her? It felt awkward for her because she had never even had a friend she was this close to... physically. I mean she was laying here, cuddling with an alien!
I guess, it didn't really matter if it is wrong or right because it felt nice... Nice to know he was there and that he cared about her like this... That someone cared. She needed that more than anything right now. That kindness and support and for someone to just.. hold her and tell her it was going to be ok... a place where she should feel so alienated and alone, she didn't have to because he was there...
She breathed deep and nuzzled her cheek against his chest, feeling the back of her throat tense up as she held back her tears with all her strength, not wanting him to know she was feeling emotional again. She lifted her arm, resting it carefully across his tummy so that they could both view the screen of her MP3 player, watching as his other arm came up and he carefully held the other side of the player to help support it with her, and she started the movie over.
The atmosphere of the club was very different from the day before. Heather slowed her pace, this time more from intimidation than from curiosity. Neelix could feel her hesitation and gripped her hand firmly as he led them past two large bouncers and into the loud music, thick crowd, and flashing lights.
Ala was no where to be seen, and neither was Veeno which made Neelix uncomfortable. This was not his scene. Every club he had ever been to was because Veeno had dragged him there; and he didn't appreciate this one bit. But seeing Heather more uncomfortable than himself gave him the strength to be strong, for her, and do what needed to be done.
Startled, Neelix felt a hand touch his shoulder. He turned to see Ala who moved around the front of him and took his hand. She led the two of them to a quieter section of the club, a corner that appeared hollowed out from walls that separated it from the main area. The three of them were bathed in blue light as they stepped inside and Neelix saw Veeno sitting at one of the tables.
"VIP." Veeno said in a calm voice as they approached but Neelix could tell just by looking at him that he seemed nervous and Neelix couldn't blame him, he was nervous, too...
"He's not ready to see you just yet," Ala said as Heather scooted into the booth first and Neelix followed her in. "Don't worry you guys, it will be ok, try and relax, I'll get you something to drink." She told them as she softly rubbed Neelix's shoulder before walking off to let them be.
"What the hell have we gotten ourselves into..." Neelix whispered with a deep sigh but Heather only felt a ping of guilt from his words, knowing none of this would be happening had she never come into the picture...
Veeno didn't answer, he seemed lost in thought as he ran his finger tip over the glass of the table. "I did bring that shot.. for Heather." He finally said and moved his hand from the table and down into his pocket, taking out a small object and setting it on the table, he then slid it across to Neelix. "What's with you...?" Neelix said to him, grabbing the item and holding onto it firmly.
"Nothing.." Veeno replied but Neelix wasn't convinced in the slightest. He knew Veeno too well to just shrug this off. Something was on his mind.
"Don't lie to me, Veeno. Especially not about this..." "It has nothing to do with you, Heather, or the meeting.. so don't worry about it." Veeno replied, keeping his gaze down at the table which irritated Neelix. "Well that's great," Neelix began leaning back in the booth and crossing his arms, not appreciating how his friend was being. "What kind of a friendship is this if you can't even talk to me.." Veeno closed his eyes and sighed deeply, "Fine.. you're right.. "
Neelix turned only his eyes to look back at Veeno and, seeing that his friend seemed more down then when they first arrived, he uncrossed his arms and leaned back in to the table, "What is it, Veeno...? Things don't usually get to you like this.." "It's Ala..." Veeno finally replied... but then paused again, for a longer than Neelix was willing to wait, "Well.. what about her?" Neelix said, encouraging his friend to continue. "I've just been hearing rumors..." Veeno said and at first, Neelix didn't think much of that until a thought came to mind and a wave of panic overtook him. "Wh... is, is she untrustworthy?" Neelix said, obvious fear in his voice. "No.. no.. nothing like that. I did say it had nothing to do with you.." Veeno said, lifting his eyes to look up at Neelix. "Well then what is it..." Neelix asked, taking a deep breath and Veeno looked out into the crowd beyond the VIP section. Neelix followed his gaze out among the crowd. That DJ was back again... or maybe he never left. Neelix didn't know. Perhaps he played at this club exclusively every night.
Veeno turned back to Neelix, keeping his voice low, "I've just.. been hearing things about... well, Ala might be more to her boss than just his slave." Neelix squinted his eyes in thought, taking in this new information and considering it... "So... you're jealous..? I don't understand how that pertains to you, it isn't like you have any intentions of settling down right now and being loyal to a single mate..." "No..." Veeno said annoyed, still whispering, "It's ju--" "Neelix, Veeno." Ala seemingly came out of no where, startling the three of them. Veeno seemed to almost jump. "He'll see you now, this way..." She lowered her head in a slight bow and splayed her hand out before her to indicate the direction they were headed.
Neelix gulped, standing up from the booth but he looked back down to Heather who looked right back up to him, seeming nervous. "What about Heather...? I'd prefer her not to come into the meeting..." Neelix said. "Once I take you to my boss, I'll return to Heather and stay with her until you're finished." Ala replied with a soft smile. Neelix looked back to Heather and nodded his head slowly to her and she did the same, watching as the three of them walked off leaving her alone in the booth..
Ala led Neelix and Veeno to the back of the VIP section towards an automatic sliding door that opened when they approached. Unlike most of the doors on the station that were opened with the press of a button, this door obviously indicated just how wealthy the owner of this club was. Certain technologies were a luxury and this station was mostly borderline poverty. They got what they needed to get by, but most of the citizens here were not wealthy.
She led them down a large, but short hall before stopping in front of a second door.. however, this one did require Ala's interaction, though not to open it, but to instead enter a passcode for access. A wealthy crime lord needed protection, Neelix assumed.
As they entered, Neelix's eyes adjusted themselves to the dimness of the room. What he saw was not what he had expected.
Only a single white light illuminated the darkness, shining down from the ceiling to reveal a large, glass, oval table in the center of the room that hovered over an anti gravity generating base. Neelix could see a thick stream of smoke climbing upwards towards the light like a vine, its source was an instrument used to burn recreational drugs so they may simply be inhaled from the air. Neelix could already feel the sickening scent filling his nostrils.
Set around the table were three individuals, all of different shapes and sizes. The largest of them caught Neelix's attention first; A massive reptilian alien, who's species Neelix was not very familiar with. It had the common bipedal body of most species that occupied the station, only it was much taller and muscular than Neelix was accustomed to seeing. It had a long neck which hung horizontal from its body with bony plates that began from the top of its head and ran along, covering the crest of its neck like a helmet attached to segmented armor. He did not look vicious, but instead fierce and powerful.
To the left of this intimidating figure, in the center, sat a short, round alien. It's species was fairly common among the station which made Neelix wonder what was so special about this individual, could this be Ala's boss? Neelix's eyes continued to pan across the table and to his surprise, the figure on the far left was one he did recognize, not just species, but the individual himself.
"Your boss is here..?" Neelix asked Veeno in a whisper. Veeno merely shrugged and nodded his head, "Yeah, I told you before they knew each other.. guess it was just odd timing he'd be here at the same time as us.." Veeno replied.
Ala stepped forward and away from Neelix and Veeno, leaving them standing there awkwardly and alone, several feet away from the table. Neelix noticed that Veeno's boss and the short, stocky alien were playing some type of game, whereas the larger... intimating figure was quietly messing with an empty glass on the table in front of it. How it could ever so carefully grip that tiny glass in its large claws, Neelix had no idea...
They watched as Ala went around the broad table in a wide counterclockwise arch, carrying a tray full of drinks that were the occupant's obvious refills.
"Ala, my dear..." The large reptilian alien said, breaking the suspense as Ala passed behind him and set down the tray of refreshments for him and his guests. "These would be our two guests?" He asked, never taking his eyes off his glass. "Yes, my love." Ala replied.
Neelix swallowed hard, feeling even more nervous. It figured he had to be her boss, he thought to himself. This knowledge just made him swear up and down to himself this was the worst idea Veeno had ever had... but when he glanced over at Veeno, he noticed his friend looked even more uncomfortable. Realizing that Ala's response had confirmed Veeno's suspicions about the rumors... Ala was indeed more to her boss than simply a slave.. why else would she address him as my love..?
"He-Hello, sir." Veeno said, his voice struggling, "You... may not remember me... we met only once and it was bri-..." "Veeno, is it...?" He interrupted him, causing Veeno to flinch, "I remember you." Ala's boss spoke with no emotion in his voice, "Introduce me to your friend." "Uh... yes sir." Veeno said nervously. Neelix knew Veeno would have been more calm and confident if it hadn't been for those damn rumors.. and hearing Ala's words.. but Veeno just had to go messing around where he didn't belong... and if Veeno was afraid of this guy, Neelix knew this was no place he wanted to be, either...
"This is my friend, Neelix. He.. has come to request your assistance." "My assistance in what." He looked bored, as if at any moment he would have them tossed out on their asses... but to Neelix's surprise, Ala gently rubbed his shoulders, whispered something to him, and then began to walk back towards them. Neelix looked to her for some kind of help but she only gave him a quick glance before walking past and exiting the door with which they entered.
"I'll make this quick, Neelix." He began, no longer giving Veeno any attention, "I'm a very impatient and busy individual, you request my help in protection of yourself and your slave, I will give you my terms."
Neelix swallowed hard.. could he even afford his help? Something like this from someone like him would not come cheap... "How much." Neelix simply replied. He just wanted to get this over with... "Enough to make it worth my time..." "I figured as much... I'm sorry, lord...?" "Muora. And I am not a crime lord." "I-I apologize... Muora... but I can't afford you. I know this. It was a mistake to come here. I'm sorry, please forgive us for wasting your time. I'll let myself out... "
Ala sat down in the booth across from Heather. She was watching a video on her MP3 player but as Ala sat down, Heather tucked it away in surprise.
"It's alright, Heather.. what do you have there?" She asked with a smile. Heather swallowed and reluctantly pulled it back out. "It's... all I have left of home.." She said. Ala could sense the sadness in Heather, both from her voice and aura she gave off, "What does it do..?" She asked her. "A bunch of different things.. like play movies and music." Heather replied. "Music..?" Ala asked, in a interested tone, "Can you play a song for me?" "Umm.. sure." Heather said, turning the device so she could view the screen and ran her finger along it searching for a song she liked.
"Not all payments have to be made in credits, Neelix. There are... other means to make it worth my while." Muora said. Neelix stopped in his tracks, lowering his hand from the door. He really didn't like the way Muora had said that.. He turned and looked at him, hesitation written all over his face, "What could I possibly offer you that would be equal to a large amount of creds?" "There are... things, but first I wish to see your slave." "Wh- what.. for..?" Neelix said, his ears lowered showing how obviously uncomfortable he was with the idea... "It's a simple request, is it not?" Neelix gulped. He could feel something run through him that caused his hands to shake but he quickly clenched his fists to stop it. Muora didn't wait for a response from Neelix before he slid a hand under the table and pressed a small button on the underside of the glass.
"Wow, these are really great, Heather." Ala said and Heather smiled at her. "I have an idea... here, come with me." Ala said with excitement and reached across the table, carefully taking Heather's hand and moving quickly with her from the booth and out of the VIP section. Heather was both nervous and excited as they rushed passed several different aliens. She could hear the music of the club getting louder as they approached a clearing of the crowd and walked out in front of a strange alien DJ.
Its multiple hands were all occupied with different sections of a what appeared to be alien versions of turntables... Ala approached the DJ from the side, and showing its obvious talent, it listened to Ala whisper something to it, never stopping the music. Heather watched with interest, wondering how an alien with no obvious eyes, could even know that Ala was there.. it certainly couldn't hear her approach over the loud music.. but whatever Ala had whispered to it simply made its large grin of perfect white teeth, widen.
"Heather, come here." Ala said with a smile, motioning to her to come closer. She hesitantly stepped up to where the DJ was seated, gripping her MP3 player tightly in both hands. "It's ok, Heather, share with him the music that you shared with me." "Uh... umm, ok.." Heather replied. She selected one of the songs to play and then handed her MP3 player to the DJ. He listened carefully, picking up the beats and nodding his head to the tempo. His grin widened even more, "Ohh.... that's nice.." The DJ said and with a quick flick of his four wrists, he changed the music that was playing into the exact sound that he was listening to on her player. The club filled with Heather's music.
She gasped as her face lit up with delighted excitement. "Oh my God, Ala! This is amazing!" She shouted over the loud music and Ala smiled as wide as Heather had. Heather couldn't believe that this alien club was now filled with a song only she knew she had heard before. She looked out at the crowd, watching them dance to her music. It was such a rush. She couldn't help but feel an urge to dance, discreetly nodding her head to the familiar beat as she had that day Neelix had fixed her MP3 player for her. The music took her away.. back home... if only in her mind. She could forget everything and lose herself in the sounds.. all the worries and the fear, the pressure and nervousness felt like they just washed away, as if she could open her eyes whenever she wanted and see her bedroom all around her..
Something about this moment just made Heather feel like everything was going to be ok...
But she felt a tap on her shoulder. Her visions of home vanished as she opened her eyes and they flooded with the pulsating neon lights of the club. She looked over, startled, seeing Ala.
"They're calling for us, Heather.." Ala's soft voice said. Dazed, Heather squinted her eyes, not understanding, "Who...?" She asked and Ala gently took her hand, leading her back to the VIP section.
Neelix gulped hard as he heard the door open behind him and saw Ala enter, Heather following close behind. He watched as Heather's eyes darted around the room, taking in her surroundings before they came to rest on himself. She seemed nervous.. but, something else, too. Something didn't seem right. She looked like she wanted him to take her out of this place and he wished so much that he could... watching as Ala led her past him, she kept her head turned so she could continue to look at him before a voice caught their attention.
"Oh, how pretty..." Muora's short and round guest said aloud as Ala led Heather more into the light.
"Bring her here." Muora's voice rumbled lightly as he stood from his seat. Neelix watched the already huge alien tower over Ala and Heather as he stepped away from the table to meet them. Neelix could see Heather's little chest rising and falling as quickly as he could feel his own doing the same. Her long golden hair slipped from her shoulders and collected behind her as she tilted her head way back to look up at the massive figure. She took a step back in fear but Ala placed her hand behind Heather, pressing it against her back to stop her.
"It's alright, little one." Muora said, his voice had turned from bored, with no emotion... to soft and gently, caring of her obvious fear. It surprised Neelix but also made him more nervous. What was he going to do... with his Heather...
Muora leaned down, bring his neck low and level so that his face could meet with Heather's without her having to strain her neck to look up at him. Her eyes were wide and lips parted as she breathed quickly. Muora smiled, exposing the rows of pointed teeth hidden in his mouth. If the claws didn't tell you this creature was a pure predator, those teeth surely did.
As Muora raised his clawed hand up to Heather's face, she moved her head away, arching her back slightly but still feeling Ala's hand against her to keep her in place. Muora paused seeing her try to back away. It was obvious he wanted to touch her face and when his claws began the approach again, Heather tightened her eyes. His claws met her cheek, and he ran them down carefully until his large hand was cupping the side of her face.
Neelix felt his throat tighten, seeing Muora's fingers touching her face... Heather belonged to him. She was his, and he could feel a ping of adrenaline run through himself at the sight of this intrusive action towards something that he cared for and belonged to him.. not liking or knowing what Muora was going to do...
Heather parted her eyes slowly after a long pause of nothing... not knowing what he was doing or what was going on and found the courage within herself, to find out... When she parted her eyes and saw that nothing bad had happened.. yet, she slowly opened her eyes fully, looking into the fierce dark, glassy eyes of Muora as he stared right back into her's. He looked into her large green eyes for what felt like eternity for both Heather and Neelix before he finally moved.
Muora slid his thumb up and ran his claw over her lips before moving his hand away from her and back down to his side. He nodded his head towards Neelix, "Go on, back to Neelix."
Heather swallowed hard, feeling Ala's hand move from her, she slowly backed up from him.. her bare feet stepping slowly on the cold floor.. but she jumped, startled as she felt hands grasp her shoulders. Big, warm, familiar hands... she sighed deeply. Neelix had met her half way and she closed her eyes, feeling her knees shake with weakness as she leaned back against him, feeling like she was melting against his form. She breathed heavily...
Neelix gripped her shoulders firmly, stopping his hands from shaking from anxiety. He lowered his head and closed his eyes, bringing his snout down against the top of Heather's head and breathed in deep, taking in her scent, which brought him comfort...
"You should have her dance... as payment." The voice of the short alien filled Neelix's ears and he opened his eyes, lifting his head back up to listen. "Dancers bring in money on top of getting her known so that she may be feared." The alien continued. Neelix gulped hard as his stomach knotted and hoped Muora wouldn't consider that as an idea...
"I still don't see why you don't have Ala dance.. it's such a waste..." Veeno's boss added in. Muora himself glanced at his two guests before looking over at Neelix, seeing how uncomfortable he had become. "I will not have her dance. Can you not see what the girl means to him? And you should very damn well know what Ala means to me. No, neither will dance."
Neelix closed his eyes, trying not to make it appear so obvious that he was greatly relieved...
"I have a better idea.. and less personal at that. But now is not the time. Neelix, when the time does comes, you will" come when I call and you will do as I ask. No exceptions. Of course the choice is yours, you either agree to this or you get no protection."
Neelix nodded his head slowly, he didn't come here and deal with all of this.. for nothing.. and if he did refuse, Heather would be in danger and the last thing he ever wanted, was for anything bad to happen to her... But what would Muora ask of him..? What if it was something that he was not willing to do? Something that might get him in trouble.. or test his morals...
That was what bothered him most of all... it almost felt like he was locking himself into slavery. A slave of Muora. But could he break this agreement at any time...?
"I... I accept, if I know that this contract is not permanent... " Neelix said and Muora grinned, "No.. you accept, you are within my debt. A favor for a favor, Neelix. I accept this because your relationship with her reminds me of my own... and Ala certainly seems to think you're deserving of my help. So I'm doing this for her... and for her." Muora pointed to Heather as he sat back down in his seat, "But if you do decide you no longer want my help, you'll still owe me, regardless. You'll still be in my debt until I am satisfied that I got what was owed to me in return for your complete protection."
Neelix didn't know what to say. He stood there in silence until Muora spoke again, "I assume you accept my help then and it shall start immediately. If that is all, you may leave."
Neelix swallowed hard but felt Veeno's hand touch his wrist. He looked at his friend, forgetting that he was even there... He looked at Veeno for an answer, trying to make sense of all that had just happened and wanting answers on what Muora would have him do... but Veeno simply shook his head as Ala approached them to lead the three of them towards the exit.
"And Veeno.." Muora's voice rumbled once more, causing Veeno to stop dead in his tracks, "Do keep off my Ala.. I'm sure you wouldn't want poor Neelix to be minus one friend..."
can i just say that i think neelix's touchy-feely personality is super cute? i know it feels awkward to heather, but i think i'd be more comfortable than she is...maybe just because i would enjoy all the attention and affection...
I've been excited, hyped even, about Muora since I first saw his appearance in your art, and I will confess his introduction did not disappoint. I am such a big fan of those entirely in control but still intelligent and even caring types of characters! Not certain if the DJ alien has been given an official name yet, but in my head I've rather taken to calling him "DJ Teeth" given the descriptions thus far.
Finally got around to reading this! (Job hunting ate my time). Wonderfully done. You write 'awkward' very well. The whole comedy of errors between Heather and Neelix is just perfect. I also like how they're stumbling around the whole 'slave' issue. I can really empathize with Heather, especially the whole "I wanted to see the stars, but not like this" sentiment.
I have been reading this story for the past hour or so. I have to say, Your story is amazing! This is one story that stands out from everything. Its so unique,fresh and new. The way you put all the detail and emotion in words is just epic. I have read lots of story's here on but this one stands out the most. If this was ever published as a book/novel I would buy this in heartbeat. I really like the character Neelix. his design is so unique and original. I would love to do some fan art of him. May I have your permission? Of course all proper credit and copyright will be given to you.