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Chapter 16: Awkward Moments

© Lady Owl

"I'm not staying long..." Veeno said in a bothered tone as he followed Neelix and Heather into Neelix's private hanger. "Wish I had known before coming along with you that these were your plans for today.."
"Well that's what happens when you come around unannounced all the time and just assume I'm free." Neelix replied with an eye roll as he led Heather closer to the ship. Veeno just slipped his hands into his pockets and sighed as he kept at a slow, bored pace behind them.

Neelix was still highly stressed from the events earlier that day and was not in the mood for Veeno's usual carefree and smart ass attitude. Despite that, he was very anxious to get started with Heather; excitement rushed through him at the thought of her helping while he worked on his ship. He felt it was the only saving grace to turn this day around into a better one.

"I'm really excited to help." Heather said as she smiled up at him and he happily returned the expression.
"I'll be working mostly inside the ship today. I want to take it easy with you and start small. Have you ever done anything like this before?" He asked her.
"Not really." She replied hesitantly.
"Ah, so a complete rookie." Veeno grinned.
"It's not like you know the first thing about repairing anything." Neelix countered smartly at him, "Who is the first one you call when something in your quarters isn't working? 'Oh Neelix, my cooking appliance is broken... I think my storage unit isn't keeping my food chilled... My garbage shoot is clogged...' The latter, by the way, is not something I fix... And, I do all these things free of charge for you..." Neelix finished in a snide tone.
"Well you're a handy friend to have, what can I say?" Veeno said with a smug smile as he used flattery to defend himself.
"It's ok. I'm willing to learn and help where I can." Heather replied with a giggle at their bickering. "What will you have me do?"
"Well, If you could hand me the smaller tools as I work, that would be a huge help. Just please don't try to pick up the heavy ones... I don't want you to hurt yourself." Neelix said, being over protective of her.
"What about actually doing something?" She asked with a smirk.
"We'll see." Neelix grinned and slipped his arm around her shoulder. She nodded softly as she was gently pulled against his side and walked with him closer to the ship.

They stopped near a large opening on the side of the hull and Heather could see it went deep in, almost to the other side. She stared at it in thought and wondered exactly why Neelix had wanted to start such a huge personal project in the first place.. but remembered when Veeno first told her about it: That Neelix didn't want to live on this station anymore and had decided he'd build his own ship to leave in.

"Where were you gonna go if... everything with me didn't happen?" She asked him reluctantly. Even though she had mostly pushed aside her guilt, it wasn't gone entirely and bringing up how she had altered his life, still made her feel horrible inside.

"Oh... I dunno. Maybe I wouldn't really leave. Once you've been stuck someplace for half your life, you just kind of learn to accept everything wrong with it. In a weird way.. it's become home to me now." Neelix replied.
"Plus, you'd be leaving me behind." Veeno added in smartly.
"If I did leave, I'd probably just.. wander until I found some place I liked." Neelix continued, ignoring Veeno. "That's sort of how I ended up here.. except by the time I got here, I was out of funds so I had to stay. I couldn't afford to live on the barge anymore." Neelix explained.
"What's the barge?" Heather inquired.
"It's a giant low class passenger ship that ferries people, who can't afford better, across Concord space. It sort of travels randomly from location to location with no real direction. So you never really know where you're headed." Veeno explained.
"There are several of them scattered about and they act like mobile space stations so the passengers can live there comfortably for the duration of the trip... or well, as comfortably as low class can be. I called it home for several months of my life but then ran out of credits, so I had to get off at whatever the next stop was... which was here." Neelix added.
"Why were you on it in the first place?" Heather asked, wanting him to continue. She knew she didn't know much about Neelix's life and was rather curious.. if he'd be willing to share.
"Family issues..." Neelix said hesitantly. "I left home as soon as I was able. Once I had enough credits saved up and had the courage to leave, I did, but I was rather young at the time and had not gone anywhere major on my own before, so I was afraid to at first."
"So you.. ran away from home all by yourself and went on some barge that wanders aimlessly through space?" Heather asked with widened eyes.
"It's ok if you think I'm stupid for doing so.."
"No. I.. I didn't mean to imply that. I am just.. surprised is all. I would have never been able to do that. Your family must have been pretty hard on you for you to do something so... drastic..." She replied with concern in her voice.
"Not.. really. I mean, it was tolerable but, I was getting sick of it. They just.. fought a lot is all.. mostly about me and I couldn't handle it anymore." Neelix said and sighed as he was reminded of his past.
"I'm sorry.. I didn't mean to bring up things that would upset you.."
"No, Heather, I'm ok with it. It was a long time ago and a choice I thought very hard about before I did it. I don't regret what I did."
"Besides, had he not made that choice, he wouldn't be here at this station today.. to be able to be here when you finally arrived." Veeno pointed out and smiled at the two of them.

Heather and Neelix both looked at one another for a moment before they smiled at each other and then looked away.

Maybe some things do happen for a reason, Neelix thought. All that time he had figured his life was just bound to be unpleasant, yet now the most happiest thing to ever happen to him had happened because of how things were in the past and the choices he had made. Suddenly, he felt a lot more confident about the way his life had been.

"Well... we should probably get started." Neelix said suddenly and Heather perked up with interest. Neelix just smiled at her reaction and nodded as he crouched down. Heather watched him as he reached down and flipped aside a latch on the floor that revealed a small hidden compartment. Inside were many strange objects that Heather assumed must be Neelix's tools. He motioned her closer and she crouched down beside him to get a better look as he took one of the items out from the compartment.

"Just ones like these." He said as he showed it to her. "Many of my tools have a couple of different functions to them so you wont have to worry about keeping track of too many." He moved his hand closer to her, offering her the tool and she moved both her hands together to cup the item so he could carefully set it down in her open palms. She cautiously moved her hands up and down to test the weight of the object which was a little heavier than she expected. "We wont be working with anything too much heavier than this one. As for parts, I'll just need you to hand me these..." His voice trailed off as he reached back down into this 'tool box' and scooped up a small handful of tiny rounded objects that reminded her of a typical nut that would fasten with a bolt, "...As I need them. Just small simple work." He finished.

"Seems easy enough." Heather replied with a smile as they both stood back up.
"Well it's a big help for me. It's a bit of a pain to crawl about the innards of the ship while lugging my tools and parts along with me, especially in the tinnier cramped areas. I'm not exactly small like Sniffs." Neelix said and smirked at her.. which was replaced with an annoyed expression as Veeno let out a deep bored yawn.
"Ya know, you can leave whenever you want." Neelix said passively to him.
"Yeah.. I know.."
"I'm sorry you have nothing better to do and were looking for us to entertain you tonight." Neelix said but Veeno just shrugged in response. "There has to be someone on this station who can keep you company..."
"Well of course.. but, it's still too early for that. Besides, I like to mix things up a little. I can't always be buried in puss- ..." He stopped himself and just grinned at Neelix before crossing his arms and looking off innocently.
"Anyways.." Neelix said with a roll of his eyes before he looked back down at Heather, "Think you can handle all that?" He asked her.
"Yup, I think so." She replied as she nipped at her lip, trying to ignore what Veeno had just said.
"Well alright, I'm gonna get up into the ship and get started. When I need something, I'll let you know." He said as he began to step away from her and moved his hands to the bottom of his shirt. He gripped a hold of it and lifted it up and over himself and set it down on one of the many crates around them. He then leaned over to pick up one of his larger tools and hooked it to his pants.

Heather was staring at him... at his now exposed, naked upper body...

She had seen him topless before, but only for a few seconds as he changed his shirt or got into bed beside her. In fact, she had had several quick glimpses of him entirely nude... (before she turned her head away in complete embarrassment) but now, it was more focused, and for the first time, she had a perfect view...

She could easily see that his arms were not the only toned area on his body... And soon found herself gazing down his long torso. From his bare chest, down over the gentle curves of his abs, to his naval that began a thin trail of seemingly soft hair that led her eyes down even further until it disappeared beyond the top of his pants...

She nipped at her lower lip as she continued to stare.. and not before long, caught herself doing so... She quickly blinked hard to snap herself back to reality as she felt her face become red hot with embarrassment and tilted her head forward so the lose strands of her hair that were not tied up in her ponytail, hid her cheeks from view. But she peeked between the strands as her curiosity got the best of her and watched Neelix as he moved to the opening in the ship and placed his hands up on the deck to lift himself up inside.

There it was again... Heather thought to herself as she felt a nervous panic run through her and gulped hard.

Was it really so strange for her to accept that she found Neelix attractive? It makes it easier.. at least, I guess. She knew she liked Neelix for who he was. He was a very sweet person with a patient and understanding personality and she found herself feeling more comfortable and closer to him every passing day, but the fact of him being alien always made her feel hesitant about these feelings.

Aside from her own personal shyness on top of never having been in a relationship before, his physical differences were just another added hurdle to it all. She knew she found him attractive, even if it didn't make much sense to her. That a completely different species could feel something for another like this... But he had such a sweet smile and kind eyes. Adorable long ears and.. a very attractive body... The latter of which she noticed was surprisingly human in shape. Maybe it really wasn't that hard to understand why she found him attractive after all... but just, telling herself to go for it was extremely scary to her..

What if him being alien, he didn't share those feelings? What if she was misinterpreting everything? What if she told him and he freaked. He was all she had out here to really be taking such chances... but all signs told her otherwise. He had tried to kiss her... there was no mistaking that. And they both knew very well what he was attempting, what it meant, what his intentions had been that night... no.. he did feel something similar about her, too but why did he not say anything? Was he just as afraid as she was?

But no matter how hard she thought about it or tried to tell herself it was ok the way she was feeling, she couldn't help becoming extremely embarrassed over it...

"Veeno?" Neelix called out from the ship which startled Heather, causing her to jump and she swallowed hard as she looked down to the floor to hide her face again.
"Hmm?" Veeno replied.
"Can you push a couple crates to the opening of the ship so she can get up?"
"Oh now you have me doing work..."
"Well you did say you were bored..." Neelix said with a chuckle as he turned away into the depths of the ship out of sight. Veeno just sighed, but noticed Heather staring awkwardly at the floor, seeming rather uncomfortable.

"You alright there, Heather?" He asked her and she flinched again in panic.
"Huh...? Oh.. yeah, yeah I am fine." She replied quickly, not making eye contact. She could feel that her face was even warmer and didn't want him to see. Veeno just grinned. Despite Heather's efforts to hide her actions, he had witnessed the entire thing. Watched as Heather checked out his best friend. It wasn't difficult for him to put two and two together.

"You sure..? You seem awfully tense there." He prodded in an innocent tone.
"I-I'm ok.." She stuttered. He just smirked for he was greatly amused by this entire little scenario and no longer found himself feeling bored, instead wondering if there was anything he could do to intervene and see how all of this would unfold.

"So... people don't have any issues with Muora and Ala being together?" Heather asked as she stood beside Veeno at the opening of the ship, both of them watching Neelix lie on his back as he worked. Heather's random questions had made it obvious that after staring at Neelix earlier, her uncomfortable feelings had lingered with her ever since.

Veeno chuckled. "And who's gonna question Muora..?"
"Good point..." Heather said as she tried to smile. "But, I mean, people are really open about interspecies relationships? They're ok with it?" She persisted. Neelix's ear twitched as what she said had caught his attention and he glanced at them, now curious of what might be said and where this conversation may lead...

"It depends, really." Veeno replied. "Some species actually prefer it while others are completely against the whole idea and even find it vile and sickening. There are also, for example, individuals who have a problem with it, while members of the same species are completely fine with it. I know some of my own people are really against messing around with other species but I certainly don't mind it as it gives me a ton of options and experiences with new... things." Veeno said with a grin. "I don't like to limit myself to all the possibilities."

Heather just gave him a face as she turned to look back at Neelix but Veeno caught her nipping at her lip while she gazed at him. He just smiled to himself as he watched her admiring his friend and was hopeful that she was finally becoming more comfortable with the idea of being with Neelix more.. intimately.. since she was staring at him in that way. At least he assumed... People weren't always easy to read and being alien only made it more difficult to be sure.

"How common is it though..." Heather said almost in a low dreamy whisper as she continued to gaze at Neelix. Veeno knew he had to be careful with how he handled this. She was extremely new and inexperienced to so much in this mixed bag of alien cultures, to the point of being fragile even. Anything he said could alter her opinion and feelings on the subject. He had to handle it with care.. especially for Neelix's sake.

But Neelix was having issues paying attention to their conversation. He desperately wanted to listen in but he didn't want to make it obvious so he slowed his pace down considerably as he tried his best to focus in on two things at once.

"Well... umm... you've experienced other species..." Heather gulped, "Is it really strange compared to being with your own..?" She felt really uncomfortable asking him about that topic along with bringing up something personal.. but figured it wasn't entirely inappropriate considering how open Veeno was about such things.
"Uh, yeah it can be quite different. Size, shape. It gets particularly complicated, but interesting if people don't have their parts in the same location, if you know what I mean.. heh.."
"Ow... shit..." Neelix said allowed, flustered as his tool slipped out of his hand and clanked down on the metal floor of the ship which caused both Heather and Veeno to jerk back in surprise.
"Are you ok Neelix...?!" Heather gasped.
"Yeah.. just.. pinched my finger..." He said as he winced.
"Damn man.. it's not like you to slip up like that." Veeno said smartly to him but he knew exactly why that had happened and grinned at Neelix, who just looked away, trying not to let it be so obvious that he and Veeno knew what was going on. This wasn't the first time Veeno had tried to encourage Heather's feelings on interspecies couples out of her and attempt to make her feel more comfortable about the entire concept.
"I'm alright.. don't mind me." Neelix said, hinting that he wanted Veeno to continue the conversation.
"So.. uh.. what were we saying? Oh yes, parts in different locat--." Veeno began but flinched suddenly as an odd beeping sound went off. Neelix sighed as Veeno reached down to his wristband and flipped open a hidden lid that exposed a tiny display screen.
"Aww... what does he want..." Veeno said, annoyed, as he hopped down from the crate and began to walk away from them. Heather looked over at Neelix for an answer to what was going on.
"Work call. That wristband is part of his uniform."
"But if that's his work uniform, why does he wear it outside of work?"
"It's comfortable, he's told me... and he seems to think a guy in uniform attracts the ladies..." He said mockingly, shaking his head as he went back to his work. Heather only snickered as Veeno's voice caught her attention and she turned to listen in and watch him pace about the hanger:

"I'm done for the day, what do you want? ... The shit you can't find the feed! It's where it's always kept... Yes I was the last one to use it, as far as I know... Aww fuck off, I don't want to have to come back down there toda-- Whatever.. you're lucky I wasn't in the middle of anything important, otherwise I'd not even consider this... I can't believe you're that incompetent."

Heather watched him as he flipped the little lid back down over the screen and sighed as he began to quickly walk back over to them.

"Neelix!" He yelled out as he lept up onto the crate back beside Heather. He leaned far into the ship which forced her to bend awkwardly out of his way as he pushed against her. "I gotta go. The new dipshit my boss hired is a complete moron and I have to go help him out."
"Seems your day is going just as shit as mine was." Neelix replied.
"Tell me about it later, I need to get out of here to get this done and over with." He said as he leaned back out from the ship. Heather gave him a dirty look as she leaned back now that he was out of her way but flinched as she felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to look up at Veeno. "Try and loosen up a little.. hmm?" He said with a smirk to her. She just stared up into his eyes suspiciously; the look he was giving her seemed odd, but he gave a quick glance back at Neelix before he looked at her again. His smirk broadened into a warm sly smile as Heather's eyes widened in shock once she caught on to what he was trying to say to her... He knew..

He rubbed her shoulder softly before he again hopped down from the crate and hastily took off to the large door that led to Neelix's quarters, and stepped out.

Heather looked down at the floor for several seconds before she glanced over at Neelix who, thankfully was still preoccupied with his work. She felt a sickening knot form in her stomach. He knew.. She thought again to herself as she gulped hard. He must have seen me staring... She was beginning to feel nauseous... No.. no.. don't get all worked up. It's not a big deal... and don't assume anything... She told herself and took a deep breath.

She knew it wasn't exactly a secret that something was going on between her and Neelix, even if no one was saying anything. At the very least, Veeno, of all people, had to of known something was up; he was around them almost every day and there were signs everywhere that he'd have to be thick not to notice them... Regardless, It didn't help the embarrassed feeling that was now taking over her.

Would he tell Neelix he had caught her staring? Or... what if Neelix already knew..? The latter made her feel even more sick and embarrassed. If he knew, he was acting as if he didn't... But why? for her to make the first move?? I can't do that! But if he honestly didn't know, What would he think? What if he took it the wrong way and acted on that knowledge and attempted to do something when she wasn't ready? Her mind was racing... with a million scenarios...

Her hands were trembling and she clenched them tight to stop it before she took a deep breath and calmed herself. I'm being silly... acting like some high school kid with a crush who just got caught staring at the boy she liked in class.. She thought, feeling ashamed of herself. She slowly moved her hand down and slipped it inside her pocket to pull out her ipod and turned it on, flipping mindlessly through her playlist to get her mind off of all these feelings. When she came upon a song of interest, she selected it to play, but kept the volume low so not to disturb Neelix.

"Heather? Could you hand me the tool there right beside you?" Neelix asked suddenly which caused her heart to skip a beat. He turned his head over to look at her and reached his arm out towards her. She didn't hesitate as she grasped the tool and reached out to give it to him. She trembled lightly as his finger tips brushed over her hand as he took it from her.

Neelix sat up and she sucked in her lower lip, flustered, as she watched his abs scrunch then stretch out as he reached up to a panel overhead and pushed several thick wires out of his way. She then heard the tool hum lightly as he turned it on and saw a few sparks rain down around him.

Heather leaned forward and let out a deep sigh as she watched him. The light from the sparks flickered inside the ship casting a warm glow down over Neelix's body. She folded her arms and rested her head on them and closed her eyes. She allowed the music to calm her mind and escape everything she was feeling. She just felt so stressed and afraid by it all...

The two of them hardly spoke to one another over the passing hour, only occasionally speaking when Neelix would ask her for her assistance. She realized how boring this was becoming and wished Neelix had asked her to do something a little more exciting...

To make matters worse, the long lapses of time only allowed her mind to wander which is why she had wished she could have done something more active to keep her mind off all these stressful thoughts.

She looked up at Neelix for a moment and then looked back down at the textured metal floor of the ship. She didn't want to stare at him too long to bring up those embarrassing feelings again and ran her finger across the metal deck. But her mind did think back to their earlier conversations about his family and wondered if he felt at all like she did.

"Do... you ever miss them.." She asked cautiously, breaking the silence between them and keeping her eyes on her finger as it ran across the metal, afraid she may be prying too much into his personal life.
"Miss who?" He asked. Heather couldn't see if he had looked at her at all, but still heard the soft hum of his tool so she knew he was multitasking.
"Your family.."
"Sometimes. Particularly my father. He was the reason I ended up becoming a mechanic. He taught me a lot of the basics growing up and let me work with him on occasion, much like how you are with me now. He saw how interested I was with tinkering with things and finally gave me the opportunity to spend some time with him in his shop. We got along pretty well for the most part." Neelix replied.
"Did you have any siblings?" She asked.
"Ha... oh no. My mother could hardly handle me let alone another..."
"Handle? Were you like.. a trouble maker or something?" She giggled as she looked up at him and he chuckled.
"Quite the opposite. I was rather quiet and shy growing up. Kept to myself mostly. My parents had me unplanned and unwanted so my mother in particular was a bit bitter towards me as our society highly frowns upon unbonded parents. I guess to her, my father wasn't mate material but because of me, she didn't have a choice. Her and I were never close because of that."
"I'm sorry... That's really horrible... Seems I'm always bringing up bad past events.." She said and closed her eyes but she heard his tool stop humming and opened her eyes as she felt his hand against her own. She looked up to see him looking right at her.
"No, Heather. I'm glad you ask me these things. I've never had a reason to talk about all of this before and it's nice to have someone I care about and trust to do so with."

Heather tried to smile but felt her cheeks warming again instead and nodded quickly as she lowered her eyes. Neelix softly rubbed against her hand before pulling away from her and she looked back up at him as he turned his tool back on. She smiled to herself, glad she could offer something to him that he not only was happy about, but had never had before. She also realized that despite their different circumstances, they had a bit more in common with their families than she thought: both being completely separated from them with no real possibilities of ever seeing them again... but.. they both had each other...

She rested her chin back on her hands, now feeling a lot better than she had just before and watched as Neelix pulled himself forward along the deck so he could reach into a tight spot amongst a mess of metal contraptions and wire tubing.. but as Heather's eyes moved back down, she caught glimpse of something that caused her to gasp and her eyes to widen.

When he had pulled himself forward along the floor, the rough metal texture of the deck had grasped at his already low pants and pulled them even lower down on his hips, exposing a little more of him than Heather was comfortable seeing... and now had a pretty good view of where that thin trail of hair led...

She immediately turned her head away as her cheeks became red hot and pretended as if she hadn't noticed, more fearful that Neelix may have realized what had happened and noticed that she saw, leaving them both in an extremely awkward situation... but after several seconds of nothing, she slowly turned her head back to peek... and to her relief, he was completely oblivious, still occupied with his work.

She breathed out deep and slowly turned her head back to him, trying to calm her nerves. How the hell was she supposed to ignore that?! She thought in flustered panic. She had to get out of there and fiddled with her hands until she found the courage to speak:

"Yes, Heather?" He asked as he continued to work.
"Umm... do you think it's getting late?"
"Oh.." He said and she heard his tool stop, "Are you getting tired?"
"A little, I guess.." She replied and heard a light beeping sound as Neelix messed with his goggles.
"Yeah, it is rather late, huh.. well if you'd like, you can go ahead and get ready for bed and I'll be in in just a few."
"O-ok." She replied, not daring to look at him and quickly sat down on the crate so she could slide off onto the floor carefully and began to walk to the door that led to Neelix's quarters.

She pushed the cracked heavy door open and quickly stepped into the tiny narrow hall that connected his hanger to his quarters. She leaned back against the wall as she tightened her eyes and let out a deep sigh of agitated discomfort. "Oh God.." She said allowed to herself before pushing from the wall and continued down the hall.

Heather had nodded off while waiting for Neelix... though her mind wouldn't let her fall asleep entirely. She blinked hard to wake herself, wondering what was taking him so long and sluggishly pulled the blankets from herself and got out of his bed. She shivered a little at the contrast of the warm blankets to the cooler temperature of the air within the room, as she was only in her nightgown, and crossed her arms over her chest to rub her shoulders for warmth.

As her bare feet stepped onto the cool stone floor of his hanger, she could hear the loud sound of one of his tools; just as she had suspected, he had lost all track of time, still deep in his work.

"Neelix...?" She called out as she approached the ship and when he didn't answer, she carefully climbed back up on the crates and peered inside. "Neelix..? Are you ok?" She called out again as she finally saw him, but the sound of his tool was overpowering her voice. She sighed and leaned an arm in against the deck to watch him, waiting for a pause to get his attention.. but as she did, she felt her eyes slowly move back down his torso, curious to see if he was still exposed. She gulped to find that he was...

All that time he hadn't noticed. He really does get involved in his work... She thought but for some odd reason, she found herself laughing lightly. "Poor Neelix.. no wonder your last girlfriend couldn't take it.." She said aloud and smiled to herself as she rested her chin on her palm and watched him. She was still smiling warmly as her eyes wandered again about his body. He really was very attractive.. She thought.. and figured it was her over tiredness that was making her feel silly and passive about the whole day instead of nervous and uncomfortable like she had been earlier.

For the first time, she just let go and allowed herself to be carefree about it all. She just let her eyes move where they wanted. Admired him as if he were just an image on the internet of a cute guy that would never know that she was gawking at him... and it felt good. If all these goofy awkward moments had to keep happening to her, she had to learn to just laugh it off and go with it, she guessed... but her tiredness was getting the best of her and she soon found her eyelids feeling incredibly heavy. She didn't even remember the last thought that crossed her mind before she slowly began to doze off...

"Well.. that should do it." Neelix said with a deep sigh of satisfaction and slipped his goggles up from his eyes. He yawned out, exhausted and set his tool down beside him and turned on his side. He immediately saw Heather in her nightgown with her hair down and around her shoulders, head resting in the crease of her elbow, asleep...
"Oh... Heather.." He sighed now feeling incredibly guilty. He carefully slid himself to edge of the deck to her and gently caressed her forehead. "I'm so sorry..." He whispered as he moved his legs out of the ship and slowly stood. He adjusted his pants before he leaned down to her and carefully slipped his arms around her. He then delicately lifted her up, being careful not to wake her.

He moved down from the crates, his left arm tucked under her and around her back to cradled her and slowly began to walk towards the door, but as he did, he lifted his right hand to caress along her cheek and slowed his pace until he came to a complete stop. He stared down at her for awhile, watching as she slept... She's so beautiful.. He thought to himself and his expression had turned sad as he reached to her lips and lightly ran his thumb along them. He leaned his head down to her, his lips inches from hers...

I could... He thought. He desperately wanted to... Just wanted to feel her soft lips against his own. To press them against hers and feel her, taste her... He moved down even further, his lips almost brazing her own... before he tightened his eyes and slipped them past to her cheek where he gently nuzzled against her.

He wanted to, so bad... but he couldn't, especially when she was asleep and unaware. He'd wait... patiently has he had been now for days.. for any sign from her that he could finally act upon his feelings. Until that day came, he would not give into his urges no matter how badly he wanted to...

‹‹ Chapter Fifteen | Chapter Sixteen | Chapter Seventeen »

:bulletblue: Chapter One

Note: Durp.. I hit "Ok" instead of preview while making my last run through for fixes so if you spot anything awkward, refresh the page and it's probably been fixed. My bad. OTL


Uh... so this took forever to complete. It was supposed to be a small part at the end of Ch15 but that Ch. was already way too long with way too much going on so I split it and turned this into Ch16 instead.. but then it was a confused mixed of crazy and took forever to sort out my thoughts BUT in the process, I made a longer, more in depth chapter so it all worked out.

Umm this one is mostly from Heather's point of view. Didn't actually intend for it to be that way but considering what happens, that's just how it goes.

I also found that writing "fan service" type material comes off extremely fake and try hard-ish so things have been toned down so they come off more realistic. I swear this Ch gave me hell in that regard.

Anyway, despite the wait, I do hope you enjoy. There will be a sexy picture to go along with the Ch, posted sometimes this month when I finish it. x_x

Story Hub: Click thumbnail to access and choose between all current chapters.

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Story © Lady Owl & H-Falcon, 2011 | Tumblr |
This shouldn't need to be said but, please do not redistribute, claim, copy, reproduce, edit, or use in any way without my permission. Thank you.
Add a Comment:
Elfdragon12 Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Saw a picture in the Couples-fan group, saw there was a story to go with the characters, and then I got addicted to the story. Good job. XD

I've really been enjoying the characters and their interactions. The touch of realism is excellent too. I look forward to reading the next chapter whenever you come out with it. (Your pencilwork is pretty lovely too, I'm kind of jealous. XD)
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011   General Artist
Ha ha wow that group is very large so I'm surprised you were able to find my work among all the submissions! D:

Heh, thank you so much. I do hope to get the next chapter up very soon. It's a short one though but pretty shocking. XD
Elfdragon12 Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Well, when you look around long enough. ^^

Exciting! I can't wait.
Bar-kus Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2011
Ah, I read this moments after you first posted it, but I was in a rush that morning that I didn't have time to leave a comment! I really enjoyed this chapter, and reading over it again just nailed it in for me how much enthusiasm I have for EUTS. I think the focus on Heathers inner diologue came off really well, and I really liked the down-to-earth (no pun intended) conversations, that further explained the fine details of the story, like the barge, Neelix's family, and Veeno's, er, sexual experience :3 This chapter really comes off to me as testing the waters, before taking a dive, if that makes sense. I cant wait for the next update. C:
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011   General Artist
Thank you so much and no need to explain yourself! XD I sometimes take forever to get back to my comments so I understand that not everyone can or wants to comment all the time but I do appreciate it very much when you do. n_n

Heh heh, it's funny you mentioned "down to Earth" since I plan on titling the drawing for this chapter something similar to that. When I get around to finishing it. ;_;

I love background info on characters so I'm trying to add it in naturally. I mean even when we meet new friends, chances are we learn about who they are and what life they've had over time. It would be rather impersonal to just read a bio like "Here, this is who I am and all you'll ever need to know, friends?" lol. XD

It's also interesting you pointing out testing the waters, too (which you couldn't be more right =p ). But also in another sense.

I'm trying to ease into the sexual stuff rather carefully so not to shock any one. Nothing in my gallery really indicates how far I'm actually willing to go with it so it's not like my watchers have any examples of what to expect from me. I'm noticing very different reactions though. Either some things seem to be ignored (or possibly I wrote/drew them so subtle they weren't noticed) or they're laughing or feeling a little uncomfortable about it. So it's interesting. I'm using Veeno mostly to test those sexual grounds but regardless of the reaction I get, I'm going to continue doing everything as I want to. Shocking or not. c:
Bar-kus Featured By Owner Sep 4, 2011
I think your fans, myself included, are definitely in for it. Cant wait for your next updates :)
bufflingdrog Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011
I loooooove this story! It´s totally awesome! want the next chapter *sitting like a dog*
sorry for my terrible english.....
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011   General Artist
Heh heh, thank you very much and your English was just fine! :heart:
bufflingdrog Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2011
happy------ :3 thank you <3
don´t stop writing X3
jadespike15 Featured By Owner Jun 19, 2011  Student General Artist
i want to hear....more.... *drools*
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Haha! Soon, very soon! :heart:
jadespike15 Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Student General Artist
Hopefully D: i wanna read about Heather and Neelix!!! Hurry! i wuvz youz :D
SiKKiN Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2011
Sexy Neelix picture? :D Haha
Anyway, great chapter once again. Yet another cliff hanger! Kinda. It's so crazy how they're both so caught up in their own emotions, and how Veeno is there to egg it on :) Can't wait for the next one, as always.
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Oh yeah. It might be late but it's coming! XD

Thank you so much and Lol, Veeno loves to take advantage of things like this. He loves to tease. =p
JaketimusPrime Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011  Student Digital Artist
*Dies on the spot* I think I have EUTS fever, like.. really badly because I almost just hyperventilated reading this. :D
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Aww! Heh heh. XD

Hopefully Ch 17 will be ready very soon! :heart:
JaketimusPrime Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011  Student Digital Artist
YAY! *does a happy dance*
My-Fairy-Lust Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011  Student General Artist
aww poor neelix he loves her soo much. They make such a good couple. ♥♥♥ This was totally worth the wait. :D
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Heh heh, he certainly does! n_n And thank you so much! I hope to have the next chapter ready very soon!
PurpleCupcakes Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011  Student General Artist
I read this when you first posted it but didn't have the time to reply. So sorry I'm a little late to the party. =)

First I want to say welcome back! Even though you didn't go anywhere, it kind of feels like you did with it being so long since your last update. I’ve been checking your Twitter daily for the last week just wanting for you say its done and ready. I couldn’t want for the next part and then I logged on and it was there! :excited:

You’ve got a lot happening in this chapter. Heather’s feelings are starting to come out, Veeno picking up on them, Neelix and his lack of a good belt. The title awkward moments fits perfectly here. =)

What I like best about this chapter is the end. Neelix wants to kiss her so bad, but he doesn’t. And for me that really drives home what a sweet and trustworthy person Neelix is.

I do feel the need to ask why Heather didn’t get an answer to her “How common is it” question? She asks that, Veeno goes into thinking about how he has to answer very carefully and then she just moves onto another question. And that was a bit disappointing because I really wanted to know how Veeno was going to answer that. I don’t really care so much about the answer, but how Veeno was going to handle it.

All in all though, another wonderful chapter! =D
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Haha well I'm late at replying back to you so, we're even? XD

Aww.. I'm always around even if I'm not posting. I've been working on too many projects all at once lately so the result is.. nothing gets done in a timely manner. :C But I thank you for thinking of me! :heart:

Lol if Neelix owned a good belt.. or, a pair of underwear for that matter, how would we enjoy the fan service? XD

I'm actually really glad you brought that up about Neelix wanting to kiss her, but not. It's really nice that you as the reader can pick up on the subtle parts of the character's personality through their actions. I'm not always sure what my readers pick up or enjoy unless they tell me, personally, so I really appreciate you doing so. :heart:

As for Heather's question not getting answered, that was both somewhat intentional and not. I wanted it to come off as more of a statement of her thinking out loud while day dreaming about Neelix, instead of a legit question she really wanted answered (kind of like muttering so Veeno would think she was still paying attention, when instead her mind was elsewhere). But between Veeno and Neelix's thoughts between her asking that question, it gets lost in favor of a new one that she actually did say loud enough and directly enough to want an answer.

I also picture that scene where, if it were a movie, the scene would zoom in on Neelix showing how he was frustrated at trying to pay attention to their conversation so Veeno and her could still be talking, but it would be lower like background sounds since it wasn't the main focus. So that would be my bad as I tend to play scenes out in my head like a movie instead of realizing it's in written form so the reader might not pick up on stuff like that. x_x

I'm glad you were interested to know how Veeno would handle it though. I love writing him since he's such a fun character to me and I'm not really sure how much people like Veeno. D:

But thank you so much for your comment! You know I appreciate them! n_n
PurpleCupcakes Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2011  Student General Artist
…You make a very good point about the fan service.

And I like Veeno. He, Neelix and Heather are my top three favorites. I not sure who places where, but I do know that Sniffs places right after them. =) Maybe put up a poll asking all your watchers who their favorite characters are? Asking everyone to comment again, of course. I think Veeno is more liked then you think he is.

Thank you for answering my question! =)
lonelynightmares Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Aw, the two of them are just so cute together!
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Heh heh, thank you! n_n
rollingpinkstone Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011
Love it dearly!!! I get really happy when i see your work posted. :D :iconiloveitplz:
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Aww, I'm really glad to know that! :heart:
asylumQueen666 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Thank you! XD
NunsNBagels Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Hobbyist Writer
Before reading :glomp:


After reading :blush:

This looks like it was a difficult chpater to write... all I can offer is a :hug:
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2011   General Artist
Haha! XD

Thank you so much. :heart:
MisterNobodyY99 Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
What happens when his pants fall and he's working with a welder, that can't be safe.
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011   General Artist
Lol this was just a special occasion. Neelix is totally professional. ;P
Draconian23 Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011
depending on the type of weld, the more sparks there are, the worse the final quality of the finished weld is. I'm guessing that Neelix takes extra special care welding on his ship, so as long as he doesn't mind getting a welding tan, I'm pretty sure he'd be okay without his shirt.
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011   General Artist
If Neelix could tan. He could just get a burn if his species is unable to tan. Never considered it before. It is something interesting though since I have thought that his coloration could have evolved to protect him from the sun on his planet.

But the sparks in this chapter are due to just cutting, not welding ( I know I didn't specify this). I think it would be rather dangerous to weld something above you while lying on your back. The UV is dangerous enough but the sparks seem to be an immediate concern, raining down on you. Of course, I am not sure if all welding types produce UV or why exactly it does, so it could be possible for a futuristic or alien weld to be a lot safer.
Draconian23 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011
Evolving to resist UV rays like that would be awesome. He must have had a really harsh sun on his homeworld. This suddenly reminds me of an evolutionary trait that I read about in a book called "Fantastic Voyage, Microcosm", about aliens developing organisms in their bodies that consume microscopic bits of metal. It would be really cool to learn more about Neelix's homeworld and how it's effected his species in an evolutionary aspect... though I'm a nerd who likes that kinda stuff :P

Welding or cutting anything above you sucks. period. it's called the 4G position, or 4f position if you're dealing with an L shaped joint; and, in neelix's case it's in a confined space. In the conditions that he's working in here on earth, he'd have to be wearing either a self-contained breathing apparatus, or a supplied-air respirator, or in cases where there isn't room for that, he'd have to have a special meter on his person that went off when oxygen levels dropped to an unsafe level. In addition to all that, he'd have to have a safe harness on, along with a buddy, just in case he passed out before he realized that his oxygen was running dangerously low, or he didn't hear the alarm go off, so his buddy could pull him out.

Welding is a really complicated and dangerous job here on our world. Hopefully it'll start moving in the direction that you have portrayed it here. It's still the best job in the world though. :D
H-Falcon Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011
Trying to show your knowledge like this is really pointless. Seriously. You just come off like a show off. No one really cares how much you know about this subject.
Draconian23 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011
*shrug* I'll just keep my comments to myself then.
H-Falcon Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2011
Or perhaps you could keep your comments about your enjoyment of the story or issue's pertaining to it and not issues pertaining to your vast knowledge of a subject IN the story based on what you know in your life. That is an idea.
H-Falcon Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2011
Also for the record. It was not stated he was welding at all. He wasn't. You all just assumed the sparks meant it.
Draconian23 Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011
Making assumptions is awesome. Everyone wants a little piece of the story that allows for creative interpretation. It's why books never really died off after television and movies came to be a major part of our culture.

heh... one could only hope that Neelix was welding... He's a badass in my book for even cutting in that position. I did that once and I got metal bits up my nose and all over my work clothes.

Cutting is one thing. I could deal with metal bits everywhere. but molten metal dripping down from the weld pool? the only person I know who pulled off a 4G SMAW weld without getting burned by dripping metal was my welding instructor back in college. That guy used to work for NASA. If neelix could pull of off some sick stuff like that, then he's someone to look up to in the welding universe.

...even if he's a fictional character.

however, this is just me geeking out. Honestly, not many SCI FI stories have recurring welding/metalworking involved in the plot. ESPECIALLY involving the main protagonist. Just another reason I like this series.
H-Falcon Featured By Owner Jun 7, 2011
Uh huh...
TameFaolchu Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011
loveeedd ittt, poor neelix didnt notice her admiring him xD but great work once again =3 ill be patient but excited to read the next chapter =D
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011   General Artist
Haha, yeah the irony of it all. Here he is just wishing she'd throw him a sign and every time she does, he's not paying attention. XD

But thank you very much. I think I'll be able to get the next one up very very soon. c:
TameFaolchu Featured By Owner Jun 8, 2011
Yay I can't wait ^_^ you just do such amazing jobs, i'm hooked! xD
QuillBoundtoMetalEye Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Student Digital Artist
this chapter was will worth the wait.Neelix with his shirt [link] . NEELIX TACK ME AWAY . He is so gentle soul even what he went throw .Heather is struggling with her mix feelings.

Heather I wouldn't mind admiring Neelix's hot bod .Seeing Neelix at work all day he might get sweaty. I love mechanic [link]

Veeno is such a dog LOL but who can hate him. [link]
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011   General Artist
Haha! XD

Aww, Neelix is use to tough times. He's not the type to take his angered attitude out on anyone.. cept maybe Veeno. =p

Ah yes, hot sweaty sexy mechanics. *Q*

And Veeno might be a dog but I love writing his pervyness. XD
QuillBoundtoMetalEye Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Student Digital Artist
WA ho (^Q^)

If Neelix wasn't so dam Sexy and a sweet gentleman:P (hitter pater).Veeno Will be my man LoL.His out going dirty characteristic hummer.As his smooth talk with Veeno body language he can get any girl he want well not any girl.LoL

Magnificent job. I can't wait for what Heather and Neelix will pass the shyness and show what they are feeling.

O...I might have something to show you when I am done.A tribute for this god dam sexy chapter!! "Melt"
Sejuay Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Did I read that right? Neelix fails to notice his own pants going south? :P Fangirl gold tho.
Lady-Owl Featured By Owner Jun 3, 2011   General Artist
Shh... this fan service thing is tricky to make realistic... you can't tell anyone about the failed logic..

But actually his pants didn't slip down that far. Just enough, though. XD
Sejuay Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Haha. :XD:
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