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The Date

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            “Okay, Rhys,” he knew he looked crazy trudging down the halls of Helios mumbling to himself, “today is... the day that you-” he exhaled anxiously, feeling a knot winding up in his stomach as he second-guessed himself. “You’re finally g-gonna do it... no more excuses!” Rhys psyched himself up trying to imagine how he’d finally ask her...

            It’d been about six weeks since the Vault of the Traveler was opened and the dust was only just beginning to settle as everyone got back into a schedule of surviving on Pandora. Everyone looking to work and help out in any way they could. Rhys was CEO of Atlas and, working with Cassius, began to rebuild the company from (almost literally) nothing and he fluctuated from staying at Old Haven, the Bio dome, and Helios. Fiona was finally getting her dream job of Vault hunting, she was an unstoppable force now: not even Sasha could get her to relax for a single day; and she was almost always roaming around Pandora with her new Sanctuary buddies. Vaughn was still the de facto leader of the Children of Helios, seeing as how the ex-workers could hardly clothe themselves without his guidance.

            And Sasha, Rhys’ second favorite person to be around, (scratch that, she was the first) was just trying to get out of her old conning habits and make herself useful around Helios, even helping Rhys test out new prototype guns he worked on. A Jill of all Trades, Rhys thought to himself, smiling at how amazing she was, and his luck to have even met her; especially by such a bizarre accident. In fact, her arm only just healed and Rhys thought it was his perfect time to ask her out on a real date, the closest they’d ever been was their flower moment in the bio dome, and that went down in metaphorical flames...

            When he first thought up the idea of a date with Sasha, he immediately hit a roadblock: he’d hardly been on Pandora, much less with time to spend on frivolous activities that were fun. So he had absolutely no idea where to take her, or if there even was such a civilized and peaceful place on this warzone of a planet.

            Rhys stopped dead in his tracks, only a few feet from an all too familiar door. Sasha’s room. He’d only just arrived back at Helios from the dome so he had the element of surprise, Wow that sounds ominously menacing, he thought. “O-kay, so I guess I’ll say, ‘Hey Sash, wanna... go out with me?’ No, no, no... That’s almost creepy and rushed...” The love struck company man whispered as he paced in a small circle in front of his crush’s room. The present that sat neatly in his palm suddenly weighed heavily on his wrist as he turned away from her door, praying to a higher power he wouldn’t make a complete fool of himself.

            Just as he built up enough courage to turn back around and open the mag-lock door to Sasha, he heard a metallic clank and a swishy/grinding noise behind him as more light flooded into the hall. Rhys whipped around, making sure to hide the gift behind his back in his cyber arm. He couldn’t help but have a shocked look as he found Sasha grinning at him, “Hey Rhys,” she beamed, obviously over joyed to see him again, “Thought I heard you out here, creeping around outside my room!” Sasha joked with an eyebrow raised and her hands placed on her hips. “Oh, hey S-Sash,” Rhys stuttered out, originally expecting he’d be talking to her on his own terms, “I- um... I just wanted to...” Great job idiot, already butchering your words, he mentally scolded himself.

            “It’s okay there, Mr. Suave, is there something you want to talk about?” She quickly salvaged his dignity for him, genuinely concerned about his weird behavior.

            “Umm,” he sharply cleared his throat, “Yeah, can I... come in for a second?” He asked sheepishly seeing as how this would be the first time he’d been in her room.

            “Yeah, sure thing Rhys,” she said casually turning to walk further into her room and toward the only seating, a makeshift bed. “Sorry for the mess, ya’ know, this place couldn’t run without my help if I always focused on tidying up!” she joked turning back to Rhys with one of those cute side-smiles that drove him crazy. Rhys mimicked her grin now that the awkwardness between them had dispersed, “I have no doubt that this place would blow up, again, without your constant support.”

            “I’m glad someone finally recognizes my great sacrifices and service to this run down space station.” Sasha patted the bedding next to her, signaling for Rhys to take a seat... right next to her; he suddenly felt his heart flutter at the thought of being so close to her.

            “First, I have something I want to give you...” Rhys hinted to the object he held directly behind him in his right arm, “But you have to guess!” He added, giving a flirtatious smile. “Hmm...” Sasha hummed pursing her lips as she did, “Well, I can only guess that it is... another prototype, maybe some other Atlas gear?” she hypothesized, her emerald eyes sparkling at the mention of another new toy to play with. “Is that it, or maybe it’s...? Oh, I don’t know Rhys, can I just see it, please? I’ll never ask for anything from you again!” she hopped up enthralled by the wonder of what he got for her.

            “Now Sasha, you don’t have to lie to me to get it, sadly, it’s none of those things,” Rhys teased as he turned the present behind him in his hand, “However, I know it’s something that you’ll love, maybe not as much as your Atlas Silver, but something pretty great.” Rhys rotated his stance with Sasha as she tried to peek behind him and just as she was about to open her mouth to protest, he pulled the mystery container from behind his back and held it directly in front of them.

            Sasha’s gasp was so audibly shocking that it made Rhys suddenly jolt into the air. “D-do you like it?” he mumbled nervously still wondering if her look indicated that she loved it or hated it.

            “Rhys this is,” she gawked at the beautiful and familiar fluorescent potted flower before her, “Amazing! How did you even get one of these, how do I even take care of one of these and how do I-...” Rhys puts up his left index finger to her mouth to silence her politely.

            “Told ya’ you’d love it, Sash! And you don’t need to worry about taking care of it: with Cassius’ help, I was able to genetically modify it to not only survive in minimalist conditions, but if you were to pluck it out of the pot, it wouldn’t spray orange goo on your face and wither instantly-...” He trailed off near the end, noticing that Sasha was completely ignoring him, still bewildered by the gorgeous bud she held in her palms. Then it hit him, this is the first time he’s seen the interior of her room and he began to swivel his head around, inspecting every inch just in case he never saw it again.

             The first things he noticed were the half-torn posters on the walls depicting every one of the major companies: Dahl, Vladof, Maliwan, Torgue, Tediore, and Jakobs. He even noticed an old Hyperion poster, slightly more torn up than the others and defaced with a painted “X” through the name and the words “Dickbags” sloppily sprayed below it, it made Rhys chuckle at the thought that he ever even worked for and was one of those “Dickbags”. The second thing he noticed was the floor, with guns of all type strewn across it and almost everyone in bad shape, he saw every conceivable type (even Hyperion), but none of the Atlas prototypes he gave to her. For a second, he felt a huge punch to his hubris and his heart sank, she couldn’t have just pawned them all away for extra cash. Could she?

            Then he looked to his left towards the wall directly across from Sasha’s bed. Rhys’ eyes widened at the revelation prompted by the display before him. Taped to the wall ever so carefully and almost perfectly preserved, was an Atlas poster he gave her permission to have and below that was a desk that had a silver weapon rack, holding every one of the Atlas prototypes Rhys gave to her. And based on her other weapon’s conditions, they must mean a lot to her: they had no scratches, the muzzles were sparkling clean, and even the tags Rhys had put on the guns with the message “From: Rhys <3” (which even he admitted it was a gutsy move to write out the heart) were still on most of them even though she clearly used them all before.

            Rhys furiously blushed three shades of red as his gaze returned to Sasha who was still staring at the glowing petals longingly and, upon feeling his eyes return, she looked back up into his eyes, “Rhys, thank you, this is just as good as a gun,” she giggled, “Almost...”

            “Uh, Sasha, about why I was here to begin with...” he nervously croaked out, still feeling his cheeks and ears burning.

            “Yeeessss, Rhys?” Sasha addressed him, carefully placing the plant on her nightstand to move in closer towards him as Rhys noticed that she too was blushing.

            “Well, now that the Vault business is over and done, I was wondering if you’d, you know, maybe want to- I don’t know... go... out with me? On a date?” he blurted out, grinning like a dork (so normal Rhys behavior).

            “That sounds...” his heart stopped as he waited to hear her finish her sentence, “Great! When and where to?” she excitedly questioned him, smiling even wider. “Well, how about tomorrow? At... say, seven? And as for where: you’ll just have to wait and see!” he snickered echoing her level of happiness.

            “Okay Rhys, see you then! Now could you leave? I gotta get my clothes picked out for then!” Sasha’s suspense for the date didn’t go unnoticed by Rhys and it made him almost radiate joy. He felt like maybe for once, he had a chance- a real chance with Sasha. He quickly gave a goodbye to Sasha, who to his surprise hugged him before he left, and he practically bolted down the hall as he hurried to make preparations. So much to do.

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            Rhys fiddled with his tie as he started towards Sasha’s room to take her on their date. Rhys was still in awe that she even considered it, much less agreed. “Damn... thing that I- can’t even...” he continued to get angrier and more physically flustered as he attempted to finish the knot in his tie fruitlessly. “Well, shit I can’t even tie a damn tie, errrrr...” he jeered at his own inability to complete such a simple task.

            “Rhys!” a threateningly familiar voice boomed at him from behind causing him to spin around and further entangle his tie. “What the he- Jeez, it’s just you Fiona, what’re you doing here? Shouldn’t you be off somewhere killing an entire bandi-...” Rhys began to jest, assuming she just came by to say hi to the gang and then be off, but she had other plans. “Shut up and listen to me now Hyp- Atlas,” Fiona snapped at him, grabbing him by the collar which still wasn’t fully buttoned, “Sasha called me yesterday and said a certain warmonger CEO asked her out on a date...” she fumed as she spit out the words.

            “Okay, I’ll bite, what the hell is your problem with me now? Yeah, I asked her out, we went over this, remember, like a month ago; you said-...” Rhys retaliated, already with a short fuse over his clothing faux pas. This only further enraged her though and she tugged harder on his new shirt, “I said ‘Shut up’! I was going to say: even though I gave you my ‘blessing’, if I get a call from her and she sounds even a little upset, I will hunt you down and-...” he finally got up the courage (or stupidity) to push her off with his cyber arm and look her in the eyes with determination.

            “No, you shut up! Look Fiona, I lo- like your sister a lot, I don’t care what you think of me and I plan on telling her how I feel tonight, regardless of how she relays it to you. Just because you want to protect her doesn’t mean you need to micromanage her whole life behind closed doors!” He spat out, glaring at Fiona, who obviously hadn’t expected him to talk back to her. Actually, it felt pretty freeing to scream it out at her, he felt like saying more but also enjoyed his bones in their natural, unbroken state.

            Fiona narrowed her eyes at him and whispered, “Okay Rhys, you’re right, I know how you feel about her. But she’s my sister, so be careful of what you say to her, and what you do to her,” upon hearing her implication Rhys rubbed the back of his head and broke eye contact with her nervously and his face flared up in temperature, “because I’m serious when I say treat her nice, or I’ll hurt you a thousand times more than you hurt her. Remember that...” she pointed at Rhys judgingly as she hissed out the last bit and then turned and began to walk away.

            Rhys scoffed at her threat, he was still deathly afraid of Fiona (because who isn’t), but he wouldn’t let it ruin his plans for him and Sasha. He knows how to treat her respectfully and he definitely hadn’t planned to do... do anything like what Fiona implied... hadn’t planned on it that is, he never said it hadn’t crossed her mind. He thought to himself as blood began to rush to his cheeks, forgetting entirely about his tie and the stressful confrontation that just took place. Shortly after that, he reached Sasha’s room and he checked his cyber arm’s holo display to see the time. 6:58. Well, better early than late, we have to walk a ways anyhow, he knocked on the door and waited.

            A few seconds after he knocked he heard a voice sing from inside the room, “Hold up a sec, almost ready!” He grinned, At least she sounded happy for the date. Rhys leaned up against the wall to the left of the doorway as he waited, thinking about what he was going to say to her, he wanted to choose his words carefully, Not because of Fiona! No. Because this is important to say, he pondered as he lowered his head in deep thought. He heard the clear sound of the door swishing open next to him and he looked up to face Sasha as she exited the room.

            “Hey there, Rhys.” she glowed as she addressed him, more beautiful than he’d ever seen her and that was before he even noticed what she was wearing. “Wow that- wow...” he cooed. She was wearing a stunning red satin dress that had beautiful gold trim and a cloth flower sewed onto the collar. Now it was Sasha’s turn to comment, “That’s a, uh, nice... tie there Rhys.” She chortled when she noticed the knotted mess that was his neck tie. “Oh, yeah, well... I was a bit distracted on the way here. Someon- something stopped me.” He quickly corrected himself, hoping he didn’t give anything away about what occurred on the way there.

            Sasha took a second to look at him perplexed, “Alright then, well let me help you with that,” she leaned in and pulled Rhys down closer to her and began to fix his tie carefully. She’s so close right now. “Um, sorry I need you to do this, my cyber arm is good for a lot of things and it’s really dexterous, but I couldn’t tie it myself...” he interjected into the silence hanging between them, while flexing his robotic fingers. She finished tying it and then tightened it, pulling him in closer, “I bet that arm is good for a lot of different things.” Sasha said with strongly flirtatious undertones.

            Rhys just stood there paralyzed by what he thought he just heard as Sasha slipped by him heading outdoors, Did she just- No, no she couldn’t have. I probably just misunderstood her, he quickly rationalized. “So ‘Rhysie’ where’s this surprise of yours?” Sasha said rhythmically, snapping Rhys out of his trance. Upon hearing her voice he quickly regained his composure and rushed down the hall to lead her to the date he so carefully planned out.

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            By the time they’d almost reached where they were headed, the sun was just beginning to set and it cast an orange glow across the Pandoran wastes. “Hmmm...” Sasha muttered, prompting Rhys to turn his attention to her, “I guess I’ve never really appreciated a Pandoran sunset, living in Hollow Point most of my life anyways.” By now both of them came to a standstill and were eyeing the horizon as the glowing half circle that was the sun was cut smaller and smaller with each minute. “Guess I haven’t either, at least not from the planet’s surface, being beaten, shot at, and kidnapped doesn’t leave much time for things like that...” He uttered in awe at not only the sunset, but Sasha’s beauty in the dusk light as he gazed ogling into her emerald-like eyes.

            Staying there, they just looked into each other’s eyes, both subconsciously moving towards the other until they met half way the only thing that snapped them out of their lover’s gaze was the far-off echo of a Skag’s mating scream. Rhys was the first to break contact, looking off into the direction of the blood curdling shriek, “Oh, the um... surprise is just over this bluff, Sash.” He chimed in, playing off his rampant (but not really irrational) fear of Skags. “O-okay then, well... let’s see what I’ve waited all day for!” Sasha too was trying to coolly play off an embarrassing moment, but not because she was afraid of Skags, but because her eyes had lingered a bit too long on Rhys even after he looked away.

            As they approached the crest of the bluff Rhys jumped up a steep edge and held his hand out, like a gentlemen. Sasha gladly accepted, especially because Rhys chose to use his real hand, meaning that they both felt the heat of the other’s hand and the feel of skin on skin, she even chose to overlook how sweaty his palm was because it was that nice of a moment. While Rhys immediately recognized how stupid it was holding out his sweaty palm, but it worked out.

            As soon as she stepped up onto the peak of the bluff, Sasha once again gasped loud enough to knock the unprepared person off guard, the only reason Rhys hadn’t fallen over was because he was prepared this time; he knew her reaction would be a large one because (not to pat himself on the back) this was quite the architectural achievement as well as his great dedication to her.  Just in front of them was a large skeleton of wooden supports, nailed together to form a dome of sorts with thin semi-opaque sheets draped over it. Around the inside of the circle was a large hydroponic display of hundreds of the bio luminescent flowers from the very same dome this one was modeled after. And a small path was cut through to the very center where a small wooden table sat fancily decorated, with two sets of china plates and wine glasses, even actual silver-ware, laid out across the table. Seeing it all executed before him Rhys admitted, although it had been a real pain to do, Sasha was worth it

            The two companions just stood there, Sasha completely awe-struck by the magical display someone had done for her; and Rhys simply admiring his work with a cocky grin, it looked even better in the twilight as the flowers opened up to increase their light output. Of course he couldn’t take all the credit for it... After Rhys allowed Sasha to finish having her fill of the big picture, the two trekked the last bit over to the great construct’s entrance only to be greeted by Rhys’ helpers in this endeavor: LB and Gortys.

            “Oh hi, Sasha! What do you think of your surprise? Me, Rhys, and Loader Bot worked reeeaaallly hard on it!” Gortys chirped excitedly. “Yes, Rhys was very helpful in his management of our construction.” Loader Bot droned out in his monotone factory-default voice. Sasha looked to Rhys with a smirk, not even needing to verbally jab him. His face blushed again out of embarrassment, “Well, I mean, yeah... but it took time to lay out a ground floor plan for this thing, and technically I was half-controlling LB during the work. Not really fair to compare me having to work to a robot built for such a task. No offense LB.”

            “None taken, righteous father,” he said autonomously giving him a thumbs up, “You just ‘owe me another one’. I have tallied up the ‘ones’ you owe me, would you like for me to disclose this information?”

            “No, no, no! Um, not right now LB. But later okay, I’m assuming it’s a lot...” he remarked, only just remembering how important LB was to the group. Gortys finished with “That’s actually an understatement,” and began to walk off with Loader Bot chattering to her into the distance.

            Ending that unpleasant conversation, Rhys refocused his sights on the point of the night. Clearing his throat with a cough, he dared to go slightly further with Sasha, “If you’ll follow me, my lady, this is merely scratching the surface of my plans!” He proposed, offering his hand to her, which she gladly took, and they continued into the small nature enclosure before them. “I’ll be honest Rhys, I thought you’d have some dumb plan to set up a lousy picnic on the sand or something like that,” she giggled, “I’m... pleasantly surprised. It’s really... Romantic.” She looked up at him with a new emotion glimmering in her eyes, maybe it was... he couldn’t say but whatever it was, he liked it. He simply beamed back and foreshadowed, “Well, the night’s still young, and most of my plans end up having something dumb in them.” Sasha just shook her head in response, secretly trying to contain her impatience to know what he meant.

            Rhys released her hand and went around to her chair and suavely pulled it out for her, like a gentlemen. As Sasha took her seat, having Rhys push her in, she whistled a long note and she joked saying, “Wow, Rhys, how are you still single?”

            “You know, I’m not sure, with my stunning good looks and enormous IQ, I think most girls are just intimidated.” He quickly retorted back with a satisfied grin.

            “Well, I know I have nothing to be intimidated of,” they both began to laugh, feeling their social inhibitions melt away in the absence of others, “I know you’re just a big soft teddy bear, with your cutesy flowers! Speaking of which, how did you get all of these so quickly?” She questioned him in bewilderment as she periscoped her head around to see the sheer numbers all around them. “Well, let’s just say: Atlas won’t just be a militarized super power under my control. Besides all of the lovely weapons you’ve hopefully been testing, we have been trying to perfect our biological hybrids and even something else, that you’ll see very soon...” Rhys said again letting his face show his overwhelming excitement for the rest of the night.

            This is the greatest idea, EVER! Rhys absolutely had to thank Cassius for his hand in all of this, maybe since he’s the only employee a gigantic pay raise is in order. That is once the company received an income. Things had never been this easy with Sasha, they’d always felt comfortable around each other, but going all out with this grand display? This was the type of devotion he would promise to Sasha his whole life.

            “So then. What’s next big guy? I see you’ve taken time to find these lovely plates, but fail to see any food.” Sasha was only regretting that Rhys hadn’t asked her out sooner.

            “I’ve got this, ‘this will blow your mind.’” The last time he said those words, shit got weird and painful, but he was sure this time he was using the phrase correctly.

            “Where have I heard that one before? You better not pass out drooling on yourself again, that would pretty much ruin this amazing night.” Sasha sassed. Rhys felt his insides heating up, It’s going great so far, I hope she’ll love this... he gave a little cocky side smile to her before aiming his eyes into his lap, activating his ECHO eye and cyber arm HUD and activating the next phase of the surprise. A sound accompanied by an all too well known visual played before their eyes on their plates and in their wine glasses, a plate of spaghetti and wine digi-structed into existence.

            Rhys looked up and gave an even cockier, shit eating grin; while Sasha was just bewildered at why he seemed so excited. “Um, Rhys, I’m hoping you know that digi-struction is great for a lot of things, but it usually makes food taste terrible.” She stated matter-of-factly as she used her silverware to spin a large fork of spaghetti with a face of disgust, just imagining the taste.

            “I’m offended Sash,” Rhys proclaimed putting his hand over his chest, faking an offended attitude, “it’s not like I’m trying to poison you, I’ll prove it...” he leaned over with his mouth open to hopefully receive her fork full of food. Sasha was just curious enough by his willingness to eat it that she complied and fed him with her fork. Rhys sat back into his chair and chewed the mouthful thoroughly and then swallowed it. “Hmmm, strange, not dead yet it seems. Try it, I think you’ll be intrigued.” He tempted her with his own fork hovering before her mouth. After a few seconds of waiting/hoping to see him puke it up, not wanting to believe it was true, she gave in and took the offering.

            For the first few chews, her face contorted into disgust until she actually tasted it and her expression melts into shocked pleasure. Sasha nearly choked as the questions flew from her lips and she began to spin another fork of pasta, “How did you do this? What makes it taste so good? Why is-...”

            “Ahp, ahp, ahp, let me explain while you eat,” Rhys remarked, expecting her shock... again, “Like I said, now that I control Atlas, I want it to be different, I want to help Pandora. What better way than to provide cheap, easy to make food to everyone! The reason food never worked before was because no one wanted it to, it was a simple matter of changing the schematics and, boom, instant food! Now I just gotta mass produce them to help this planet.” He exploded forth with information, wanting to tell Sasha much sooner, but he couldn’t have ruined this night.

            When she just about done scarfing down her food, she looked up at Rhys, amazed by what she saw before her, “Y-you’ve really changed Rhys,” she said feeling her chest flare up with admiration.

            “If you think that’s good, try the wine,” he encouraged holding up his glass and taking a sip.

            “I’m serious, Rhys, you could’ve used your power to level this place like Jack... but you chose to help us instead.”

            “I can thank you for that, you- and Fiona-,” Rhys mentioned her name quickly afraid she’d hear him across the world, “You showed me I was wrong my whole life, you showed me that Pandora is a planet full of good people, with a few psychos spoiling the image.”

            They met eyes as he spoke and were unable to look away even if they wanted to. “This night couldn’t get any better!” Sasha exclaimed, just knowing it would prompt Rhys to say, “Well actually...”

            “Well actually...” Told you, “I’d save that statement until you see the final piece of our date...” he mused over her as he clicked a small button on his cyber arm and calm dance music began to play smoothly out of hidden speakers surrounding them. Sasha’s heart fluttered and she bit her bottom lip lightly in anticipation for what was about to come.

            Rhys stood up from his chair and sauntered over to the woman that sat across from him, the woman he was sure in this moment that he wanted to be with his whole life, and he helped her out of her chair and they immediately fell into rhythm together ogling each other’s gaze, embracing slightly tighter than necessary for dancing. They danced for what felt like all night holding each other and just talking about their lives and just as they were about to finish their dance and leave, Rhys spoke up, “Sash,” he whispered, still holding her, “I want you to know that you mean a lot to me, I- I-...” he choked up afraid that he might be going too far.

            “It’s okay, I love you too Rhys...” Sasha purred, looking up to him as she put her arms around his neck and pulled him down to her and they kissed long and passionately, their tongues locked in an intense duel as they finally revealed their mutual affection for each other. They pulled apart only when they needed oxygen and then Sasha got an evil idea, pulling Rhys away from the beautifully made dome all the way back to her room at Helios.

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            Rhys was the first to awake next morning as he laid there just looking up at the ceiling, thanking the universe for everything aligning perfectly last night. He looked to his left to see Sasha, still fully asleep with a smile on her face, he couldn’t ruin this moment, so he just laid there with his eyes shut taking in everything that had happened for a second time.

            A short while later he heard the rustling of sheets and a cute little yawn emerge from the figure next to him. He opened his eyes and turned onto his side to see Sasha, wide awake and gazing at him seductively. “Morning, Rhysie...” she quietly sighed out. “Morning... babe.” Rhys confidently countered, trying on the nick name Sasha seemed to like so much.

            She responded by slightly widening her smile and humming out a happy tune while she stretched out in the bed. “So...” she yawned, “that was pretty suave there last night, Rhys.” Pulling him in closer she continued, “I had a really good time, lover boy!” she teased further. “I really meant it, Sash,” he whispered near her ear, “want me to prove it?” He chattered as he kissed her gently and she mirrored the action back to him.

            He sat up and searched for his clothes around the room. “Do you have to go so soon?” She begged him trying to guilt trip him with her heart-breaking look. “Sadly, yes I do, I’d much rather stay here all day, but Atlas can’t save Pandora without me,” Rhys swiftly added, “cuz’ then Cassius would be alone and I’m honestly afraid he’d do something crazy without me there.”

            “Okay then... but promise me something?”

            Rhys immediately perked up and looked at her at the word “promise”. “Anything for you, babe.” He vowed as he finished collecting his garments.

            “You have to come visit wayyy more often, if you want this to work,” Sasha lovingly nagged him, “No more of this, gone for a whole month at a time BS, I’d like to see my boyfriend a bit more often than that!” She drew special attention to “boyfriend” as she spoke.

            “Oh, I see how it is,” he cackled at how she knew just how to get his attention, “well in that case, I’d just love it if my girlfriend gave me a few notes on the prototypes I tirelessly worked on just for her!” Rhys motioned to the preserved Atlas armory just across from them.

            “It’s a promise.”

            “I’m sorry, a what?”

            “A pinky promise...” she rephrased her statement to mock Rhys’ first flirting attempts with her.

            “That’s what I was waiting for...” he chortled as they interlocked pinkies and he pulled her in for a goodbye kiss, put his clothes haphazardly on, and set off for the bio dome.

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            “As I was saying sir,” Cassius croaked out, “the botanical terraformation efforts have so far gone smoothly.”

            “Cassius, please,” Rhys stopped him, physically holding up his hand, “You saved my best friend, twice, and have been an Atlas employee for longer than I was at Hyperion, as far as I’m concerned, you can just call me Rhys.”

            “Um, oh well- thank you, s- Rhys,” he sputtered out as he readjusted his spectacles, shocked that his superior would give him such respect, “You’ll do great at running Atlas, by the way, you’ve already taken the first steps in the right direction.”

            “No, thank you... oh, and thank you again for the digi-structed food and glowing flowers,” Rhys began pointing to him giving a thumbs up, “As soon as Atlas gets paid, you’re getting a raise for sure. Not only for that, that would be biased, but because of your continued work even during Atlas’ ‘down period.’”

            Cassius quickly thanked and bid him farewell to return to his research and Rhys continued off farther into the dome’s forest. He began to hear his ECHO going off so he stopped and turned on the audio only. “Rhyssss...” he heard a grim voice hissing his name. He muted his mic for half a second to complain under his breath “Shit! What does she want from me?” then flipped it back on to greet her with a “Hey, Fi, so how ya’ been? To what do I-...”

            “God, you’re so dumb,” she cut him off, a hint of amusement in her voice (albeit more pissed than anything), “You didn’t even really turn your ECHO off!”

            “Oh, well um...” he stuttered, “Well... I’m... not sorry, what could you possibly want now?”

            He thought this might not have been the best choice because he heard a large grunt of frustration, “I want... some answers! Sasha told me this morning you had a really great time last night, you were polite, courteous, and a real gentlemen,” Fiona spit venom in her words. “So I want to know, what really happened last night?”

            “Hmmm, well as far as I recollect that’s a pretty good synopsis of last night,” Rhys smugly assured her.

            “I know something happened last night, you pig!” she harshly chastised him, “What did you do to her?! I have you in my sniper crosshair right now, jackass... so speak lightly...” Rhys stopped dead in his tracks, narrowing his eyes not in fear, but in wonder of if it was true.

            He slowly sighed out his frustration, “Look, Fiona, I don’t know why you suddenly hate me, you said it was okay for me to go out with her at the Vault, remember? What your sister shares with you is up to her. She is an adult. She can make her own choices, she makes me happy and I’m... pretty sure I make her happy. I did nothing wrong last night, so: Shoot me for it.” After his lecture he waited a good minute in pained silence, hoping she’d have some trigger discipline, and then spoke back up, “Right, that’s what I thought... I won’t hurt your sister. I swear: my word and Atlas is all I have left in this world. I hope we can still be friends, Fi.”

            Rhys stood there for another minute hoping to hear anything, even a quip at his masculinity. Just as he was losing hope and was about to check if the call was even still open, he heard Fiona respond in a wavering voice, “Yeah, Rhys... I- I’m sorry...” she quickly stated, ending the call before he could say anymore.

            Not satisfied with the strange goodbye though, he stood for another minute, waiting, listening, looking... he still hadn’t known if Fiona was bluffing about the sniper thing and he was genuinely afraid for his life even though he held an air of bravado in his voice. When he was satisfied that she would be gone if she had been there he exhaled loudly and bent over putting his palms on his knees. Ohmygawd, what is wrong with her? What did I do?, Rhys mulled over in his head as he recovered from the tense conversation (more like a hostage negotiation) he just held with Fiona.

            When he was sure he wasn’t going to stress-puke all over, and had finally calmed down, he began to walk along his intended path towards the chemical research lab. He just wanted to finish his work and hightail it out of there home to Sasha. And he was praying that Fiona would sit down and talk with him face to face, and not face to sniper rifle, so he could explain his intentions and hopefully end the unjustified sense of hatred towards him.

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            A few dates later, and a relatively long hiatus from any threats from Fiona on Rhys’ life:

            Rhys was sitting beside Sasha in her room, they were both wearing casual, “lounge around the house all day” clothes, and they were sitting at the Atlas workbench in her room looking over Sasha’s “detailed notes” and trying to improve the weapon designs.

            “Ummm,” Rhys was trying to decipher Sasha’s chicken-scratch notes, “Well, some of these notes are... pretty... okay? I mean the majority of them are only as detailed as ‘<3 this gun’ and ‘needs more bullets’, but I suppose it is the thought that counts.”

            “Yup, you’re just lucky that I’ve decided to take time out of my busy schedule to test these,” Sasha intoned, still poking around the firing mechanism of her Atlas Silver. “Oh, you’re so right! Well, since you find it such a chore to take time out of your day to fire cool ass guns, I guess I’ll just take them back...” the Atlas warmonger sighed out as he reached for the gun that the ex con artist was toying with. She quickly gave him a tap on the wrist and smiled, facing her eyes to his, “Nope, no take-backs now, Rhysie!”

            Rhys’ heart suddenly skipped a beat, he realized how lucky he really must have been to have such an amazing girlfriend, and he had to tell her even if he did it jokingly. He grabbed her swivel chair and brought her closer to him, “How did I get so lucky to get you, when people on this planet are starving? Well less people now, thanks to me.” Rhys marveled again at Sasha’s sparkling eyes.

            “Now, now, I thought you came here to work on these guns,” she pointed out, placing down the small tools she was just using.

            “That’s where I deceived you with my cunning,” he boasted pointing to his head, “I came here and said that’s why so that I could write this visit off as business!” Rhys was quite proud of his trickery, this way he could hang out with Sasha guilt free.

            “Lying to me, Rhys, I’m hurt,” she remarked as she pushed out her lower lip and looked up at him with a puppy dog’s sad face, “Maybe I’ll get my frustrations out by calling Fi and complaining to her...” now she was screwing with him, but that didn’t stop him from putting his foot in his mouth and stumbling over every word.

            “I mean- I, well see... y-you don’t have to do that...” Rhys quickly crossed his arms in front of his chest as a defensive instinct; he’d meant to save some of his pride with the nonchalant movement.

            “Calm down there,” Sasha scoffed at his discomfort, “Only kidding, which reminds me...” she reached into her bag next to her, rummaging around until she plucked out her ECHO. “Says here that Fiona wants to talk to you.”

            “Oh I bet she does...” he murmured rolling his eyes. Rhys was actually somewhat relieved, he’d finally get to end the silly little grudge she held against him, face to face with Fiona.

            “Well she says she wants to meet you in Sanctuary, tomorrow at noon.”

            Rhys cleared his throat and sat up, “Um, I’m sorry. I thought you said that she wanted to meet me in the huge ass floating city! Ha, classic Sash...” He fully well knew she wasn’t kidding, but he could only hope.

            “Very good! You heard me correctly, it’s safe Rhys, and it’s not going to randomly crash out of the sky. I swe- pinky promise to you?” she knew Rhys couldn’t deny her if she pulled out the pinky promise.

            Rhys groaned languidly for as long as he could. “Fiiiiiiiiinnnnee; but I’m doing this for you, not for her... and if I don’t come back, it’s most likely because she murdered me and dumped my body off the edge of the city.”

            “Come on, I know she’s pretty defensive of me, but she wouldn’t do that,” Sasha guaranteed as she went back to poking around in the gun, “at least I hope she wouldn’t, now that I think...”

            Rhys gulped hard, “Yeah, please don’t joke, I honestly wouldn’t put it past her at all, now moving past that... How about we end work and watch some ECHO net, a movie maybe?” He began to pull her away from the desk again.

            She sighed, “Just can’t make you happy can I? You tell me to work: you want me to play.” Sasha finally gave in as Rhys began to beg her and kiss her gently as she retaliated by moving her head when he’d try. “Okay, okay! You got me, I can always do this while my sister’s killing you tomorrow... as a side note, who’d you leave Atlas to again?” She giggled as Rhys pulled her with him to her bed as they laid down and set up the ECHO net device at the foot of the bed.

            They quickly began to doze in each other’s arms and soon were fast asleep, embracing tightly, smiling at their dreams, comforted by the other’s warmth.

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            Rhys again checked the time on his cyber HUD: 11:53 a.m.

            He groaned, continuing to walk towards Helios’ only intact fast travel station. Sure he was nervous, but in the back of his mind he knew he wouldn’t die today, Fiona wouldn’t really kill him and the floating city hadn’t fallen yet, what were the odds o- never mind; he hated that question.

            Rhys input the coordinates to Sanctuary, triple checking them, noticing how high the Y point was... it wasn’t only high, it was very high. He pressed the travel button and was instantaneously teleported hundreds of miles in a blur of digi-kinetic energy causing him to stumble to the floor as he arrived. His nausea was insane, he could feel the ground humming from where he laid. At least the ground is... solid?, he tried to think positively. Keyword: “tried”.

            Rhys stayed there, completely still, on all fours for the next few minutes adjusting to the feeling of the engines burning hot beneath him. Mustering up every nerve he had, he stood up to his full height and got a feel for how walking felt by taking a few steps forward. Not... too bad... Rhys pulled up his map of Sanctuary that Fiona had sent him and mapped out where he had to head. He began to slowly and carefully shuffle to the marked out location, still constantly aware he was miles above Pandora’s surface.

            After an eternity of slowly shuffling and having a million residents pass him up, already used to the hovering of the city, he made it to the Crimson Raider HQ. He took a single step in before the smell hit him, Bacon? Rhys didn’t pay too much attention to that, besides noting how weird it was, he just wanted to hurry up and get the hell out of there and assumed that Fiona was waiting upstairs. Rhys reached the bottom steps and used his cyber arm to put a death grip on the bar attached to the wall as he ascended. As he reached the top and rounded the corner he noticed in the second farthest room that only one person was here: It was a girl, but it wasn’t Fiona, she had orange-red hair tied up into two pigtails and wore goggles and a torn-up vest and skirt.

            Rhys didn’t know who she was, or for that matter who any of Fiona’s Vault hunter friends were, so he thought it best to approach slowly and give a courtesy cough. When he entered the first room he saw a large Bank Vault to his left and could only begin to imagine what kind of loot they had all locked up in there. He stopped about halfway through the room and looked back ahead, the girl seemed to be working intently and dancing around near some sort of giant... battle bot? Whatever it was, it was completely sprawled across the giant map display in the center of the room.

            Rhys wasn’t sure what he was in store for, but with no use in prolonging it, he sharply and loudly cleared his throat to alert her of his presence, “Ahem, um, e-excuse me?” he anxiously blurted out.

            The mysterious girl perked her head up as if she thought she heard something then unplugged an earbud from her left ear, with a cyber arm (Rhys noted), and she turned her head to face him. “Oh, hey! You must be Rhys!” she greeted him, positively bubbling at seeing him, for some reason. She then skipped over to greet him, “Sorry I didn’t mean to ignore you! I was just busy working on ‘DT’. Oh, I’m Gaige by the way.” The young girl, Rhys thought 16-18 years old, extended her cyber arm which he shook with is real arm, “Nice to, uh, meet you. Is Fiona here?” Rhys cut to the chase, still very aware of the constant, and quite imaginary, danger of crashing into the surface of Pandora.

            “Oh Fiona! She’s a-ma-zing, sorry she isn’t back yet. But...” Gaige paused noticing Rhys’ cyber arm and ECHO eye, “while you’re here, could you help me with my robot? I see you have cybernetics and Fiona says you’re the CEO of Atlas so I thought-...” Rhys quickly cut her off, “I’d be happy to help you, Gaige.” An ear to ear grin spread across her face as she squealed, “OMG this’ll be so good,” she began to hop back to the robot with Rhys on her heels, “With your help this should be so easy to fix!”

            “So what do you need help with exactly?” Rhys queried as he checked the time on his cyber arm: 12:15, Where is Fiona? She told me to be on time, “Well, I’m having some troubles with Death Trap’s energy claws. They’re just not cutting it, ha, made a joke, I need more raw damage output!” she gesticulated slashing motions wildly as she spoke. “Think you could help?”

            “Well, I won’t say it’s an easy fix, cuz’ it’s not. But, since Fiona obviously doesn’t care about our meeting... sure I think I can help you out.” Rhys speculated on how long it would take Fiona to get there while observing the many tools laid out near Death Trap’s static frame. “Aaannd, looks like you’ve got everything I need, so, let’s get started!” Rhys clapped his hands together and then took off his jacket to get a wider range of movement. He immediately began his work, noticing out of his peripherals how Gaige stared at his cyber arm while she inspected her own.

            “Penny for your thoughts,” he offered, attempting to break the silence, “I see you staring at my cyber arm.”

            Rhys shifted his eyes over to her, and saw her looking down at her arm with a small smile and blushing slightly, of course he thought nothing of it. “You caught me,” she giggled, “I just couldn’t help but notice... your arm is not only an Atlas model, but has a variety of uses and great dexterity.”

            “Yup, I’m assuming Fiona already spilled it on why I have this new arm?”

            “Well, kinda, she didn’t give any of the juicy details, she just said you tore it out with your bare hand,” she smirked with a hint of admiration, “That’s pretty metal, Rhys...”

            He paused for a second and processed what she just said, he hadn’t really thought about it that way, “Yeah I- I guess you’re right...”

            After a few moments of uninterrupted silence, Rhys could sense Gaige wanted to talk more but couldn’t think of any other topics. “So, you said Fiona told you a bit about me? I’m assuming she made me seem like a real tool...” he grimaced at his own wording, regretting choosing this topic. “No! No! Well yes- but she was obviously embellishing every bit of it,” How did Rhys guess it, at least Gaige knew better, “She talked about how you much she hated you for being Hyperion mainly.”

            “You say that like you don’t hate Hyperion.” He sharply pointed out to her.

            “Well, I hated Jack for sure,” Gaige hummed, “But your weapons were altogether pretty nice, they’re almost all I use.” She said, gesturing to a Hyperion pistol and shotgun, on her belt and back, respectively. “She also talked about all the times you barely escaped death,” she paused, artificially driving up Rhys’ anticipation of her next words, “Pretty badass actually...”

            “W-well, um, thanks...” Rhys replied, as he faced her then went back to work, once again noticing her blushing on her light skin.

            They continued working for a bit longer, making idle small talk and working together to open up DT’s claws and repair them. Just as Rhys was about to fix a loose wire that he surmised was causing the trouble he thought out loud, “I think I need the- uh...” Rhys decided not to finish his thought before reaching for the desired tool that Gaige was already going for.

            “I gotcha’, Rhys...” she informed him a second too late as they touched their human hands together. Rhys, oblivious to Gaige’s furious blushing at the contact, retracted his hand a bit and simply held it out for her to give it to him. “Thank you.” He said turning his head slightly, noticing her red face and holding her hand where he touched her.

            At this point even Rhys saw what was going on here, and had to correct it instantly to be sure nothing happened; he sutured the frayed wires back together and then put down the tools and faced his body towards her to address her, “Well that’s about it but, um, Gaige?” He wanted to be careful of his words, he needed to be stern about it and yet not so much so to hurt her feelings. “I just have to make this clear-...” Rhys was startled into silence by Gaige who grabbed his hands and was leaning into kiss him. Oh shit!

            Rhys thought quickly and twisted his hands free and put them on Gaige’s shoulders, “Gaige? I need you to listen,” he protested, “Look, you’re a really great girl: your pretty, talented with robots, and you’re a completely badass Vault hunter,” that part made Gaige forget her feeling of rejection, she blushed and smiled, if even for a second. “But I already have someone special to me, I’m sure Fiona’s given you an earful about how I don’t deserve her; I’m in love with her sister, Sasha...” Rhys trailed off, suddenly noticing the tears welling up in her eyes.

            “I-I know, I just... I just thought th-that... you were so c-cool and... ” she was clearly distraught and that just made Rhys feel even more like a dick. “I have to g-go now, bye Rhys...” Gaige whimpered as she released herself from Rhys’ grip and ran downstairs and out the door. “Damn it,” he cursed under his breath, “If Fiona was just on time once in her-...” he caught himself as he heard the faint sound of the Bank door opening in the next room. He silently stood up and brought out his stun baton while trying to hurriedly put his coat back on.

            Then his stomach dropped as he heard, “Rhys...” spoken in a familiar grim whisper. Sure enough, not five seconds later Fiona walked around the corner staring at him judgingly, “Good job there, Casanova.” She tested his patience by even talking to him in such a way, “Couldn’t even be on time, huh?” he stormed testily.

            Rhys then wondered what in God’s name she was doing hiding in the Bank... “Um, how much of that did you, h-hear?” Rhys inquired, looking down to fiddle with his stun baton.

            “Only every word.” Fiona smirked.

            “Every w-...?” Rhys didn’t even need to finish.

            “Every word.”

            He just stood there, staring at the woman he swore was going to pull a gun and kill him right there, wide-eyed and heart racing faster than a Skag chasing a technical. “Rhys...” she mumbled under her breath, taking steps closer to him. He followed suit and began to back up as she continued, “you’re really dense, and here I was afraid you’d find out too soon, it was a test smart guy!”

            What... “You’re kidding,” he huffed out, as he began to scan her face to be a 100% sure. “Do you really need that contraption to know that I’m fucking with you?” Rhys thought it a dumb question, “I wouldn’t put it past you...” he grumbled. Rhys doesn’t, and for that matter no one, like to be made a fool of. “So wait,” he said, beginning to lighten up to the idea of such a trial, “Gaige knew the whole time? Ha! I’ll admit it you got me good but you di-...”

            “Actually no, she didn’t, I knew she had a crush on you though. So, I just thought up this little idea. You proved me wrong, Rhys, you have my blessing... again.” Fiona said as if she just gave him the best gift in the universe (which she wasn’t technically wrong, Sasha is amazing). As soon as she said “no” Rhys’ face turned into a frown and his brow lowered to show his disapproval. “Just, what the hell, Fi? That girl was devastated because of me... You can mess with me all you want, but she was legitimately hurt...” he glanced over to the robot he’d spent the better part of an hour fixing with Gaige, then picking something up off the table and began walking towards Fiona.

            “Well, yeah bu-...” she tried to testify. “No, Fi, I’m going to go fix your mess before I leave, and you’d better leave me alone after this...” Rhys whispered as he forcefully pushed by her, not even noticing the genuine look of remorse on her face.

            It honestly didn’t take long to find Gaige, she hadn’t run that far, Rhys found her hugging her knees behind some boxes to the right of some sort of medical clinic (or a chop shop). He looked into his palm to see the small module he’d grabbed off of the table, then took a deep breath and slowly walked towards the depressed Mechromancer. “Gaige-...” Rhys sighed, squatting down next to her. She said nothing but quickly pulled her knees closer to her and sniffled quietly.

            “I, uh, got something for you... hold out your left arm!” He coaxed, twisting the module in his hand. Gaige was clearly thinking about it as she was tapping her robotic fingers against her knee. Just as Rhys was about to leave, she held out her arm to him in a choppy movement, still refusing to look up. That’s all Rhys needed, he took her hand, causing her to tense up as he did, and he put the module in the middle of her palm and began to go to work with a few of the tools he’d brought with him. As he worked, Gaige slowly began to lift her eyes above her knees, ever so slightly so as not to alert Rhys to her curiosity.

            “Alright, there... we... go!” Rhys boasted proudly moving her arm back and forth admiring his welding. Gaige quickly put her head back down to hide her eyes from him as he said, “Okay, Gaige... I need you to test it out, I can’t do it myself,” when he saw her disinterest to test it, Rhys divulged the secret, “It’s a little something that you’ll like... something to remember me by!”

            That did it, piquing her curiosity, she slowly raised her head and inspected her palm carefully. “Well? Test it out...” Rhys egged her on. She flattened her hand out with the palm facing upward and tested the new toy out herself, a 3D HUD display popped up with the message: “From: Rhys, To: My favorite Badass Vault Hunter friend - Gaige”. seeing this made her immediately light up and she practically pounced at Rhys to hug him. “Thanks, Rhys... sorry for being- ya’ know... weird.” Gaige apologized sheepishly, unsure of what else to say.

            “You have nothing to apologize for, I’m only sorry Fiona set you up like that...” he hinted. “Well then... I might have to, oh, I don’t know, get her back by getting her to make a fool of herself in front of Axton.” Gaige giggled wickedly at the thought. Rhys would have to take note of Fiona’s fondness of Axton, for insurance of course. They released from their hug and Rhys helped her up with his cyber arm, “Yeah, you make sure she really squirms over it. For me, k? I gotta go now. Goodbye Gaige.” She just nodded silently in response as he set off back home, back to Sasha, with whom he’d hopefully secured a future with for the time being...