Chapter 15: Tension
© Lady Owl
Heather wrapped a towel around herself before she pressed a button to shut off an opaque force field; it hummed softly as it dispersed and she stepped carefully out of Neelix's shower.
As she began to dry herself off, she noticed her reflection in a large mirror that was placed on the wall. She stared at herself for awhile in thought... and let out a deep sigh...
There was so much on her mind that left her feeling pressured and confused as to what to do. She missed home. Things use to be so simple... Now everything was a confused mess of emotions. She wondered what her parents were doing... what they thought. If they had been able to move on... That thought hurt. She didn't want to feel as though she had been forgotten.. but she knew her family loved her so she felt that she had no reason to think such things, but she also didn't want to think of how much pain they were in, either. Not knowing what had happened to their daughter...
She tightened her eyes and wished that she could at least find a way to tell them she was alright. They wouldn't have to believe what had happened to her but at least they wouldn't have to worry as much as she assumed they were now...
The smell of cooking food filled her nose and she lowered her head as she was reminded of Neelix. Of everything he had done for her.
It made her feel warm inside that a stranger could care so much about her... That he had become so much more than just a stranger, but someone that she had needed to learn to trust more than anyone else in her life... It was almost scary to think how much blind faith she had put in him. Even if it wasn't like she had much choice at that time, thinking back on it now, anything could have happened... She was just thankful it had all worked out and that she had made the right choice.
Neelix had become so much more to her than just an alien stranger. She repeated the thought in her mind.
Even more than that...
And that was what she couldn't figure out. What had her so confused and sick and excited all at the same time. What was he becoming to her...
She stepped forward and placed her hand on the mirror as she held the towel snugly up against her chest and stared at her face... What should I do... She thought. Should I tell him what I've been thinking? Feeling...? I don't even know how to tell him... And if I tell him... then what.. ? Where does it all go from there...? How deep would everything get, beyond even the feelings... but the physical, too..
The physical... She knew that was one of her biggest fears..
The thought of kissing him made her swell inside with so many emotions, most of which she had never even felt before. At least, not like this...
Would... she even be able to kiss him? Neelix..? An alien...? Did he even honestly want that... Yes... yes he did.. She thought. He had tried to kiss her that night.. he wanted to.. he wanted more with her, so much more. But could she do it? Or would it all feel too awkward and weird and then, what about more than just kissing...
She gulped and felt that nervous excited panic pass over her again. Things like this were hard enough without him being alien... She had never been in a relationship before. Had never felt like this before about anyone; an occasional crush on some cute boy at school or maybe an attractive actor in a movie... but she had never gained up the nerve to actually tell anyone what she thought of them, her feelings... She was just too shy.. and it wasn't exactly easy to get close to anyone when she put her hobbies before relationships. When she was staring into a telescope all the time...
The closet thing she had ever received in the form of romance was an anonymous pink carnation left on her desk at school on Valentine's Day. She smiled to her as she remembered how embarrassed, yet warm she had felt to find it laying there. She never found out who gave it to her... but she had kept it, even pressed it, and left it in her room all that time. But those simple feelings could not compare to the swirling mix of emotions she was now feeling towards Neelix...
She just didn't know how to feel... what was keeping her from even just admitting to herself how she felt. Was it really because he was alien? It certainly didn't help... It wasn't that she was against the idea, just that it made her a little nervous as to what to expect from the entire concept.
She stared into her own eyes and slowly pressed her forehead against the mirror as she stepped closer to it. She breathed out deep. Her warm breath fogged up the mirror and she moved her hand over to it to run her finger across it, forming a little heart that she then quickly rubbed away.
She wanted to tell him... at least something... but how could she work up the courage to tell an alien.. no.. a guy.. that she thought she felt something for him... That he was special to her and that she felt warm and happy when she was around him...
Heather swallowed hard and pushed herself away from the mirror. She then bent down to run the towel up along her still wet legs and slid her one hand over her smooth skin, following the towel upward, but as she did, she felt something odd. She cocked her head slightly and squinted her eyes in confusion as she moved her hand back down and ran it up her leg again. When she felt it again, she quickly did the same with her other leg and her eyes widened slightly in surprise. She continued the investigation and moved her hand up over her knee and along her thigh.
In a somewhat confused panic, she dropped the towel as she moved both her hands over her mons pubis. She glanced back and forth from the mirror and down at herself and ran her finger tips against the smooth naked skin. Still puzzled, she checked the final area of her suspicion and rotated herself so she was seen in profile in the mirror as she raised her arm up above her head and looked at her underarm.. and saw nothing... she quickly ran her hand over the bare, still perfectly hairless area...
Her brows were furrowed in confusion as she slowly faced forward and lowered her arm in defeat as she just stared at herself in the mirror. "Why is... everything still as if I just shaved...?" She said aloud to herself. She knew it had already been over a week, as she kept track of her own date via her ipod, so why had her hair not grown back yet?
She tried to remember what Veeno had said. About cryo preserving her almost perfectly... and she remembered that she had showered and shaven maybe an hour or so before she ran out into the woods. But how long would this last? And what else might be affected... She stood there with a blank expression for a moment before she quickly dressed herself so that she could go out and join Neelix.
Neelix was busy, laying on his bed as he looked over a checklist of all the supplies he had ordered the day before on a datapad. He looked up as he noticed Heather walk out from the washroom, rubbing a towel over her long damp hair. He smiled to himself as he watched her sit down on the end of the mattress and set the towel on the floor.
"Morning meal should be ready soon, Heather." He told her as he went back to reading.
"Ok." She replied and brought her hair over her shoulder and began to brush it. Neelix glanced over at her again and soon found himself staring. He watched her run the brush through her long golden hair until his eyes wandered to the back of her exposed neck. He felt an urge to want to reach out and carefully touch her... for her skin always felt so soft against his finger tips... His eyes continued to wander down along her back, admiring her gentle curves.
Even if he was unable to fully express to her the strong feelings he had for her, he was glad for moments like these. To just know he had her. That even if he didn't own her heart, she was here safe with him where he could care for her and protect her and that she allowed him to be so close to her. Even if he wanted so much more.. he was thankful for that at least..
"So... after work today, we can head back up here and into the hanger to begin work on the ship.. if.. you still want to, that is." Neelix said to her, breaking the silence. Heather twisted around so she could look at him as she began to tie her hair back into a messy, carefree ponytail.
"I do, very much." She replied with a smile. Neelix smiled back and nodded. He was so glad, even feeling slightly over excited at the idea that Heather had any interest at all in his work. Before her, that was all he had. It was his life. His passion. If he wasn't at work repairing ships or maintenance for the station, he was in his own personal hanger working on his ship or scavenging for parts in the marketplace. What he did and who he was meant everything to him... before her.
He cared so much for her that it would break his heart if she couldn't stand him for who he was... Even if Heather could never have a passion for it like he did, she not only seemed to tolerate it, but understood and wanted to be apart of it and involved. That meant an incredible lot to him...
Things were more normal today as Neelix and Heather entered the workshop. Everyone was busy at work, though, just like the previous days, it didn't take long for Gale to notice them after they entered. Heather felt herself tense up at the sight of him, feeling even more uneasy towards him than usual.. with every right to be. She breathed in deep and averted her eyes as she hurried her pace to keep close to Neelix and took his hand. Neelix lowered his gaze to glance down at her, finding her sudden reaction to be rather odd... but he continued to lead her through the tables to the back office.
As they entered, Neelix let go of Heather's hand and moved to the console to hover over it as he accessed it.
"Hey guys." Gale said as he entered the office, which caused Heather to stiffen. She turned in time to see him lower his headphones from his ears and slip his gloves from his hands.
"Any more shipments this morning?" Neelix asked him and he shook his head in response, "None yet."
"Alright good... maybe I can get some work done before the rest start coming in..." Neelix replied with a slight annoyed tone in his voice.
Heather just swallowed as she attempted to discretely move closer to Neelix.
"Hey, Neelix." A familiar female voice said which started both Heather and Gale as she seemed to come out of no where. "Boss says that since you're behind, we get to help you guys out." Tes said with a big grin as she poked her head in the door way. Heather noticed Gale's ears lower as he slipped his hands into his pockets and looked down to the floor; it reminded Heather of yesterday and how he had had a similar reaction towards Tes, which made Heather wonder why he seemed to be so uncomfortable around her.
"Oh, that's great. I was hoping the Overseer would grant my request." Neelix replied to her.
"It's certainly an honor then if you picked us out. Gives me hope that maybe you really will pick me to be on your team one day." She said and smiled at him. Neelix tried to return the smile as he looked back down at the console.
"Well.. you guys can begin right away with Harold and Sniffs on the ships. The sooner we can get those two out..." Neelix's voice trailed off as he became distracted reading over the screen.
"Of course, Neelix." Tes said and gestured to the group she had come in with to follow her out towards the large hanger.
Gale turned his head to make sure Tes had left before he relaxed himself, but he seemed a little surprised as he moved his hand inside his pocket.
"Oh... I almost forgot. Heather, I brought you one of those games I mentioned yesterday? I thought you might like it and it would give you something to do." He said with a warm smile as he pulled a device out of his pocket and handed it out to her.
"That's real nice of you, Gale." Neelix said, only half paying attention as he turned his head back to continue to look at the console. Heather bit her lip as she looked to Neelix, and then back to Gale and tried to smile.
"Umm, thank you." She said as she reluctantly took it from him.
"If you need any help or anything, just let me know. I know it might be tricky if you can't read the alien text, but it's pretty straight forward. This one is mostly just touch screen games." He explained to her.
"Oh, so it has more than one game in it?" She asked, trying not to make it so obvious that she was uncomfortable.
"Yup. It has over a hundred different ones, but these..." Gale began as he leaned down close to her to view the screen. Heather tensed slightly as she looked back and forth at him and the gaming device as he reached down to point his finger at it so he could show her, "Are my top ten favs.. but feel free to try out any one you like." He finished.
She nodded slowly as he smiled at her and stepped away. "Well, Neelix, if you don't need me for anything right now, I'll head back to work." He said. Neelix just nodded, still only barely paying attention. Gale nodded and then turned and walked off back into the workshop.
Heather felt her fingers fidgeting slightly as she held onto Gale's game device. After what had happened yesterday, she really didn't want to be around him and really considered telling Neelix about what had happened the day before.. but she was also worried she might get him in trouble. He already occasionally annoyed Neelix so she didn't want to give Neelix a reason to not trust Gale... and what if she was wrong? Gale was alien. Maybe his species was just very friendly... She could tell he was a nice person and she really didn't want to have to feel any kind of negative feelings towards him or feel awkward every time he was around her...
She took a deep breath and decided she'd play it by ear. If he did anything overly suspicious to her again, she'd tell Neelix. Or at least explain to him that her people consider that... personal.. and flirting.. and it makes her uncomfortable when Gale enters her personal space like that...
"Alright Heather, I'm gonna head out for now. Are you going to be ok?" Neelix asked her which shook her from her thoughts and she nodded slowly. Neelix just smiled and nodded back to her as he turned and quickly left the office; she could tell he was anxious to get to work.
She looked down at the screen of the device in her hands, and watched as little shapes animated around the list of alien text Gale had pointed out to be the individual games. She slowly walked over to the chair in front of the console Neelix had been looking at and sat down in it as she pressed her finger against one of the alien symbols. The screen brightened up before the device made a confirmation sound in the form of a tune and a game started. It took her a few minutes to figure out how to play it, but not before long, she had found something to keep her busy.
It had been a couple of hours already that Neelix had been working; as usual, he lost all track of time.
He lifted his head up as he noticed movement on the far end of the workshop and smiled to himself, as to his surprise, he saw Heather slowly walk about with her eyes intensely glued down to the screen of Gale's gaming device.
"Huh.. seems like you came up with a real good idea there, Gale." Neelix said as he nudged him to get his attention.
"Hmm...?" Gale said as he lifted his head up from his work and looked to Neelix, then out to what he was staring at. He smiled as he, too, saw Heather. "Oh... heh.. well she mentioned games yesterday and.. well, I noticed how she is pretty lonely and bored all day..." Gale replied as he rubbed the back of his neck. Tes, who was near by, discreetly looked up, also to see what they were talking about.
"Yeah... I feel horrible lugging her here every day like this but.. there really isn't any other place she can go... At least here, I know she's safe and I can keep an eye on her from time to time." Neelix said. Gale just lowered his head in thought.
"I mean my options are limited. I'm not gonna leave her by herself at home all day, and.. what, am I going to let Veeno watch her? He's working, too. She'd be just as alone and bored there..."
"Well.. yeah, plus, doesn't he work at the slave cells..? Ick.. not exactly a comforting place to be.." Gale replied.
"Yeah... that, too. The last place I want is for her to be back there..." Neelix said with a sigh.
"Back there?" Gale asked.
"Oh..." Neelix swallowed as a ping of shock ran through him. "No no.. nevermind." He said and immediately went back to work, ignoring the subject. Gale just let out a little sigh as he stared at Neelix for a moment longer before he, too, went back to work.
Tes had overheard everything and pursed her lips in thought. She looked out and watched Heather slowly walk between the long work tables as she headed out towards the hanger...
Heather had circled the perimeter of the hanger a good fifteen times before her feet carried her subconsciously back towards the main workshop; her eyes were fixed intensely on the screen of Gale's game and her thumbs circling rapidly as she played. But a loud commotion coming from the direction she was headed, caught her attention and she immediately looked up to find and identify the source: She saw Gale, Harold, and Sniffs together with some of the other co-workers, standing in a half circle around a short, pudgy alien that was waving its arms about as it screamed at them.
Curious, she slowly walked into the workshop, keeping her distance, so that she could listen in:
"I tell you, you not fix this right! You lousy mechanics waste my credits over and over and over!" A deep female sounding voice yelled out.
"And I'm telling you that there are no better mechanics this side of Concord space. We have fixed your daughter's ship... eleven times now, and each time with perfection, care, and consideration! It's not our fault your daughter keeps wrecking it!" Gale countered back at the woman.
"Lies! My daughter tells me you not fix it right! And proof! It is always broken. Always in your shop?!"
"Your daughter is the one who is lying." Neelix said calmly as he stepped up beside Gale, cleaning off his hands with his rag before tucking it back in the waist line of his pants.
"My daughter is not lying! She is the most honest, responsible, and careful young lady! How dare you put the blame on her! My daughter would NEVER lie!" The short alien woman yelled back as she stepped forward and poked her finger roughly against Neelix's stomach. "This is your fault. All your doing.You do not know how to do your job right!" She retaliated.
Gale's face scrunched up in anger at the woman as Neelix breathed in deep and puffed out his chest before he exhaled out at her insulting words, trying to keep his composure. Heather could see that what the woman had said had not only cut deep, but that Neelix did not appreciate her stepping out of line and touching him.
"My word is my reputation. When I say I will fix something, I do it. Do not dare insult my work or my team." Neelix said as he raised his goggles from his eyes, but the woman just ignored him and continued on her rant.
"I want a full refund. ALL of it back. I am tired of wasting my credits on shoddy work! I'll find a better mechanic!"
"We offer a service here that is supervised by the station's Overseer. You can take your shit up with him if you want your credits back. And I'd like to see you find a mechanic shop even half as decent as this one to fix your precious little spoiled rotten brat of a daughter's ship." Neelix told her off.
"Wha- how dare you!"
"Not only is your daughter a liar and an incompetent driver... but I can see where she gets her way of thinking from..." Neelix finished.
Heather's eyes went wide and she yelped out in shock as she saw the small pudgy alien lunge forward at Neelix. Harold immediately grabbed a hold of her and held her firmly in place. Heather stood there in disbelief with her hands over her mouth as the woman struggled and shouted out against Harold's grip.
"Get off of me!" The woman screamed.
"Lady, if you have a problem with the way we work, you can take your credits and shove them right up your ass." Neelix said and Heather's eyes went wide in surprise. The woman stood there with her mouth open, not even knowing what to say.
"Get her out of my workshop and out of my sight..." Neelix finished.
"You'll hear about this!" The woman continued to yell out as Harold dragged her towards the door. "I'll have you all fired! All out on your ass mining asteroids for the rest of your pity, pathetic little lives!" But the woman only became more angry as Neelix's co-workers began to laugh at her as Harold tossed her out of the shop and closed the door.
"Wow..." Heather said, startling the group as she slowly stepped towards Neelix. "What... what the hell was all that about?"
"This rich little brat owns the most horrendous, monstrosity, abomination of a ship I have ever laid eyes upon." Gale said, his words over exaggerated in anger, "She decked it out in so much shiny crap that I'm blinded every time I look at it!"
"Not to mention the horrible neon color combination of the interior... " Harold added in as he walked back up to them. "Some of those colors burn my retinas... "
"Yeah, that too. Well, she races it out in the damn asteroid field that follows behind Tesoid's orbit... I know this because of all the dents and debris I have to constantly pop out and clean before I can even begin working on the damn thing." Gale continued.
"Sniffs confirm. Many pieces stuck inside ship inner workings. Very annoying. Hard to navigate inside through rocks."
"And then that bitch of a mother..." Neelix said as he began to walk off. Heather's brows raised up in surprise. She had never seen Neelix so angry before.
"She can't even pilot the damn thing." Gale continued. "She hits practically every asteroid in the darn field. The clogged up engine is usually why she keeps bringing it in here... She secretly has someone tow it over to our shop's hanger entrance so her mother wont find out she was racing again... There were two occasions where the damage was pretty significant. She tore off one of the wings and the cockpit had caught on fire. She had to eject and that was the first time she ended up in here. Told her mother someone crashed right into her and took off before she could take down any names..." Gale finished with an eye roll.
"It's over now. She isn't our problem anymore. I refuse to do any work for her ever again." Neelix said. Heather pursed her lips and went over to him. She carefully wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
"It's ok, Neelix... why are you letting this get to you so badly? I know you're proud of your work, but she is just an idiot being played by her kid... She's not worth getting this upset over." Heather tried to explain to him as she nuzzled her face against his chest. Neelix let out a deep sigh and hugged her back tightly. "You're right... " He whispered to her and closed his eyes tight.
He felt his anger fade as it was replaced with an incredibly warm feeling that ran through him as he tightened his grip around her. He couldn't explain how much it meant to him that Heather was trying to make him feel better. It was reasons like this that he knew for sure why and how he felt about her. Why she truly meant so much to him even in his short time of knowing her...
He kissed the top of her head and carefully let her go. She pulled from him and smiled happily up at him before she turned and began to walk away from them, so that they could get back to their work.
Heather had gone back to the offices where she continued to play the games on the device Gale had given her. She was thankful, happy even, that it had provided her with so much entertainment to the point that most of the day had gone by without her even noticing.
"Hey, Heather. Is everything ok with the games?" Gale asked her as he poked his head into the door of the office to check in on her. Heather quickly leaned forward and paused the music on her ipod. "Sorry, it's hard to hear it over the machinery so I have it kinda loud..." She said.
"That's alright, though, the speakers don't seem to be very good quality.. are they broken..? I could try and fix it for you?" He asked her.
"Oh, no.. they were always this crap." She said with a smile.. "I use to have a pair of headphones for it but.. well, who knows where those ended up."
"What do you mean..?" Gale asked.
"Well when they abduct--" She stopped herself mid sentence, realizing maybe she was saying too much; especially since Neelix kept avoiding the subject of where she had come from to his co-workers. "Umm.. I mean.. before I lost them is all..." She quickly tried to recover. Gale gave her a suspicious look; Heather could tell she hadn't fooled him and had already screwed up and blurted out too much.
"You were going to say abducted...?" He asked her.
"No.. nevermind, Gale."
"Why is everyone making it such a big deal where you came from...?"
"I dunno... but Neelix doesn't seem comfortable so I'm respecting that. I think you should, too." She said as she looked up at him with serious eyes. Gale nodded slowly in response but he seemed disappointed.
"Alright... but I am curious. I mean.. a pretty girl I've never seen before starts coming into my workplace every day and I'm going to notice and be curious about it..." He said as he rubbed his fingers together nervously. Heather tensed up immediately and looked down at the floor.
"Yeah well... anyway.." She said, quickly dismissing what he had said. Gale slowly came over and sat up on the counter beside her. Heather swallowed, not making eye contact and looked back down at the game device in her hands.
"So you lost your headphones..." Gale said, continuing the conversation from before. "Ya know... if you'd like, I have a couple of old pairs of work headphones I don't use anymore. I could fix one up for you and make it compatible with your little music device there."
"Oh... you don't have to go through that kind of trouble for me." She said as she kept her head lowered.
"I'd like to." He told her.
Heather just let out an annoyed sigh and finally turned her head to look at him. "Gale... what are you playing at...?" She said abruptly, finally having enough of all this 'beat around the bush' talk.
"Huh?" He said in surprised confusion.
"Do you think I wouldn't notice you being so nice to me? Always seeming eager to speak with me? To help me?" She said. Gale leaned back a little and rubbed the back of his neck. He seemed rather uncomfortable as if caught in the act.
"I.. I'm just trying to be friendly is all. You seemed like you might need a friend... being real lonely all day and well... if you want me to back off, I will. I'm sorry.." He said.
"Is that really all this is...? You, just trying to be my friend?" She asked suspiciously, not really convinced at his words.
"Well.. yeah... why not?" He said nervously as he looked back at her. She just shrugged and lowered her eyes back down at the screen of his game device and watched the shapes flutter randomly about the screen. She really didn't believe him... but was kind of happy he was denying it. At the very least, if he was too shy to admit it, maybe he was too shy to do anything really serious, either... at least, she hoped anyway.
They sat together in awkward silence for a couple of minutes until Gale slipped off the counter and headed back to the door. "Well... I should get back to work then.." He said. He seemed real uneasy, sad even. She felt a little bad thinking maybe she had been too strong to him but... she was frustrated and uncomfortable and she had to say something. She let out a soft sigh and slipped off the counter too and followed him out into the workshop.
"So tell me the truth, Neelix... what is the real story going on with your ship.. with that girl...?" Tes said sternly to him. She had finally gotten him alone in a quiet corner, long enough to question him.
"It's nothing, Tes, really. Just... it's very complicated... I really don't want to get into it." Neelix said to her, trying to avoid the subject.
"She's a slave isn't she..." Tes finally blurted out her suspicions and glared up into his eyes. Neelix just stared back down at her. He didn't know what to say and felt a jolt of panic rush through him, but he held it back from being seen, focusing down on her intense, sharp blue eyes, but she knew the answer from his lack of a reply.
"A slave... Neelix, really? I can't believe that... I can't believe you... that you would stoop so low..." She said, shaking her head back and forth in disbelief. She sighed deeply and looked back at him, only her eyes had narrowed in disgust.
"No Tes... it isn't like that. You know me... You have for years." He said to her and kept his tone serious, but she just turned her head and began to move away from him.
"I thought I did..."
"Dammit Tes... " He grasped her wrist firmly to pull her back and hold her in place, forcing her attention. Force her to take him seriously and convince her that things were not how they seemed.
"You know me..." He said to her again. "I'm not like that..." If he were to be accused of anything, it would not be being compared to a disgusting slave owner. She just looked back into his eyes, still suspicious. He was right up in her face and she could see the detail within his large reddish orange eyes. She blinked with hesitation but then leaned forward and kissed him hard.
Neelix's eyes went wide and he immediately let go of Tes' wrist and pushed back from her, breaking the kiss.
"Neelix, I..." She said with an upset expression as Neelix slowly backed up from her.
"Forget it... just nevermind..." He said as he backed away and moved his hands up to make a swiping gesture before he turned and left her alone in the corner.
Neelix couldn't think straight as he walked back towards the main workshop. His heart was racing fast in his chest but he was more worked up over Tes finding out the truth about Heather (and judging him) than he was over her kiss.
He wasn't sure why it bothered him. Even if she told everyone, who cared what they thought... they knew him. They had respect for him. To judge him and lose respect for him now over this would be stupid. And if they did, they weren't worth his time and effort anyway.. And surely they'd listen to what he had to say for himself about why he had a slave...
He swallowed hard and shrugged his shoulders to shake off the thought... but it loomed over him and he tried to think of why this had happened in the first place. Why Tes felt the need to figure it out and confront him.
What did she care if he owned a slave? But he knew the answer... it was obvious to anyone who saw Heather that she was a prized item. An attractive young female that he had sold his life to own... And why would anyone do such a thing? Sex. Companionship. Lust. That's how anyone would see it. He couldn't blame Tes for that. But what he did blame Tes for was stepping out of line in desperation. In a last ditch effort that she actually had a chance...
It was easy now for him to suspect that with Heather in the picture and him showing her affection, Tes felt like she was losing her chance to get out whatever feelings it was she may have been hiding from him all this time. But she already had lost her chance as far as Neelix was concerned, now that Heather was in his life. He wanted no one else.
It was a long time coming, he figured. He should have nipped it in the bud before. Made it clear he had no interest in her a long time ago. Tes was a nice girl but he never looked at her in that way. It always felt more like a little crush and admiration because of how good he was, instead of sincere interest in him as a person. That's why he knew she'd be fine with how he reacted to her kiss. It was just a crush... not some long term relationship, so there were no serious feelings and she had to of expected the worse from her actions, anyway...
He felt his heart skip a beat as he saw Gale and Heather walk out from the back offices. She smiled warmly at him which only made him feel sick to his stomach after what had just happened.. and saw her smile fade when he realized he had not returned it and felt even more guilt.
He realized all this stemmed from bringing her here... She couldn't be here anymore. He had to find somewhere else for her to stay while he was at work that would be safe and keep her away from all these assumptions...
"Is everything ok?" She asked him as he walked towards her.
"Yeah.. yeah, everything is alright.." He said but Heather could easily see something was on his mind, but before she had the chance to ask him, her attention was directed elsewhere.
"Step aside, I got this." Tes said to Gale as she elbowed his upper arm to shove him out of her way.
"Dammit Tes.. why do you always have to be like this.." He said as he rubbed his arm...
"Because you always annoy the hell out of me, I'm just returning the favor. Now go work on something else."
"You always act like I'm incompetent.. Like I don't deserve to be here!" He said as he moved out of her way.
"Look, you stole this position from me. I'd be here if it weren't for you coming all up in here, following me around as usual.. and then having the nerve to surpass me in what I've worked my ass off for years to be able to do.. and you just come in with little effort and hardly any experience...? No.. just no... I am here for the next few days, deal with me like I've always had to deal with you..." She snapped back at him.
"Hey you two... stop the fighting, huh?! There has been enough shit going on today without you two adding to it!" Neelix snapped across the hanger at them. Tes just ignored Neelix as she knelt down and roughly grasped at one of the tools and began to work on the section Gale had just started on before she kicked him off.
"Fine.. whatever.. This is always like you, always like this. You embarrass me in front of the guys and just.. whatever. I'm tired of always fighting with you. Do what you want." Gale said as he let his tool drop from his hand and it clanged to the floor as he stormed off.
Heather wondered if everything Tes had said was true. It certainly would explain why Gale seemed so uncomfortable around her. She didn't blame Tes, though, for she had every right to be bitter towards him; Neelix had picked him over her, but it wasn't his fault if he really was better than her or a faster learner. Even still, her anger now couldn't have spawned from Gale as he had just been with Heather before all this happened, so what had upset Tes so much that she felt the need to take it out on him?
She looked towards Neelix for answers, but he had already gone back to work... She let out a sigh and turned her head back out towards the hanger; Tes, Harold, and Sniffs were all busy working on a ship, but where had Gale gone? She looked about the hanger until she saw him in the far corner, sitting on the floor with his back against some crates near the hanger's force field, his headphones over his ears.
With her snapping at him earlier.. and now this with Tes, she felt real bad and let out a deep sigh as she began to walk out towards him.
Gale noticed Heather approach and watched as she leaned against a crate and let herself slide down it into a sitting position beside him.
"Hey.." He said.
"Hey..." Heather replied.
"You caught all that.. didn't you.." He said and lowered his head. He seemed embarrassed.. ashamed even. Heather just shrugged. She could see it was a big deal to him even if no one else seemed to think so. Everyone was too busy to dwell on it.
"It's ok, Gale. Everyone has already forgotten about it so you should try and shrug it off, too." She told him.
"I just.. I try so hard to be accepted by them, ya know? And then she belittles me in front of them... It makes me feel like they lose all the respect I tried so hard to gain from them.."
"Well look, no one even cared about what happened. They're all too busy trying to keep up with being behind. You think pros like Neelix and the others are going to care about trivial bickering from rivals?"
"Psh.. rivals.. sometimes I wish that was all it was. It doesn't matter, though. They don't like me anyway... Neelix can't stand me. Harold.. Sniffs.. they don't trust me.. and Tes, sometimes she can be so damn cruel.. and did she have to do that in front of everyone? What the hell ticked her off.. she doesn't just blow up at me for no reason like that.." He said and closed his eyes.
"Don't worry about Tes. I mean once you guys get caught back up, she'll be gone, right? Just try and stay away from her until then." Heather suggested.
"Ha.. easier said than done. I mean I didn't even provoke her! She just came up to me and did that..." He said and shook his head in disbelief, "But, hey... thanks for.. well, coming over and talking to me. I'm not use to anyone doing that..." He said and looked over at her.
Heather just smiled and leaned her head back against the crate and closed her eyes before she stood back up and began to walk back to the main workshop. Gale stood too and caught up to her but Heather stopped suddenly as she looked back over towards Tes. Gale looked over to see what she was looking at and couldn't help but smirk.
"So... Tes. You busy tonight...?" Veeno asked her innocently as he slipped his hands into his pockets.
"This day just keeps getting better.." Tes mumbled under her breath, "Yeah right, Veeno. Go bother someone else." She said aloud, not even bothering to look up at him.
"Surely after such a long day of hard work, you'd wanna relax later on..." He continued to push.
"Not with you..." She said as she continued to pump the tool she was holding to loosen a part.
"Aww come on, what do you have against little o' me?"
"Your charms don't impress me..." She said as she stood and began to walk along the side of the ship and away from him but Veeno just grinned and followed.
"Really Veeno, get lost."
"Oh come on, babe, I can show you a really good time. You and I will have a lot of fun."
"I highly doubt that..."
"Yeah... really." Tes stood and turned to face him. He just smiled at her now that he was able to see her face and had her full attention, but to his surprise she leaned forward and roughly grabbed the tuff of fur that grew out of his chin.
"You couldn't handle me, Veeno." She said as she yanked down on his fur tuff. "Now go find one of your little hussy girlfriends to screw with and leave me alone." She snarled at him and then shoved him back from her as she turned and walked off.
Veeno stood there dumbfounded as he brought his hand up to his goatee to rub his chin and flex his jaw, but he only smiled with amusement at her reaction. "She's a fiery one.."
"Not a good day to be messing with her... Or screwing off in general..." Neelix said as he came to stand beside him, cleaning the dark stains from his hands with his rag, "Heather, we'll be leaving soon." He said to her as she walked with Gale towards Neelix and Veeno.
"Do you have everything ready?" Neelix asked Heather.
"Yeah.. well umm," She began and turned to face Gale. "I wasn't really too good at some of them, but I really liked that one with shooting the colored shapes. " She said as she handed the gaming device back to him. "Thank you for letting me play your games." She finished with a smile and Gale smiled back at her warmly.
"It was nothing.." He said rather timidly. Heather simply nodded and walked between Neelix and Veeno as they headed back into the main shop.
"Hmm... Lets see how well she did." Gale said as he messed with the device. Harold leaned over his shoulder to look down and see too.
"What the hell.. she beat all my high scores?!"
Harold chuckled, "She wasn't kidding when she said she was bored..."
Gale huffed and hunched over in defeat, "It took me forever to get that score... " He said.
Harold laughed as he pat Gale's back and then rubbed his shoulder firmly, rocking him from side to side and then walked off. Gale just continued to sulk as he stared down at the screen.