Disclaimer: I do not, nor will I ever own Outlaw Star or anything affiliated with said show.
Time passed quickly and soon the couple found themselves surrounded by wealthy art lovers at the opening of the Zanzine Gallery. Mingling with the crowd, Reiko couldn't help but be amazed by the building as well as the pieces inside. She'd wanted to admire the exterior a little longer, but Fred had pulled her inside before she could get a really good look at the place. All she managed to catch was a fleeting glimpse of shimmering walls that looked like they were made of diamonds and a waterfall that fell over the entrance.
Inside was a whole other world. There were pieces of art from all around the galaxy, unique and rare, that filled glass cases around the main hall. Paintings from famous artists lined the hall walls and greeted guests in the lobby, and there were even several large statues placed throughout the building. Combined with the fancily dressed people milling about, it made for one very impressive sight.
As far as Reiko was concerned though, the best part of the evening, other than being with the man of her dreams that is, was being able to wear the gown that he'd bought for her. She wasn't usually one for dresses, finding them too constricting, but the light blue satin gown that tied around her neck and flowed out at her feet was absolutely stunning and she loved the way it felt against her skin.
Grabbing a glass of champagne from a passing waiter, she looked over at her fiancé and smiled softly. He was talking with the Mayor about, well, something, and was really getting into the conversation. His hands were moving back and forth as he attempted to explain whatever it was he was talking about and he looked completely in his element. Reiko was tempted to go join him, but changed her mind at the last second. She wasn't really his fiancé, and he'd made it clear that any and all contact was to only be initiated by him.
Shaking her head, she sighed. It had been way too easy to fall into this pretend life and she was finding it very difficult to keep herself from believing it was actually real. Every smile, every touch, no matter how fleeting, made her want to fall deeper into this lie she was living and she knew it was only going to get harder the longer they kept this up.
That was the moment she decided to end their little charade and go back to her old life. As much as she loved him, she couldn't bear to keep up the lie anymore. Her heart wouldn't allow it. Finishing her drink in one gulp, she set her glass down on a nearby table before walking over to stand next to Fred. Tonight was the last night; she was going to tell him as soon as they left the party.
Fred noticed Reiko's arrival and reached for her hand unconsciously. He saw the faraway look in her eyes and was about to ask what was going on when the Mayor introduced his wife and their two daughters. It would've been rude to walk away at that point so he grudgingly stayed rooted to his spot, but refused to release her hand before he could have a chance to talk to her.
Unfortunately, one conversation led to another and the gallery was closing by the time Fred was able to sneak away for a few minutes. Gently tugging Reiko along behind him, he made his way to the back room where the offices were and stepped inside. Turning to face her, he raised an eyebrow curiously. "So what has you so down this evening?" He asked. "You haven't been your usual lively self tonight at all."
Reiko glanced around the room, refusing to look him in the eyes and tugged at the material of her dress nervously. "N-nothing. I'm fine." She murmured.
"You're lying." Fred said bluntly. "Now tell me what's going on so I can fix it."
Biting her lip, she remained silent for several moments. "I can't do this anymore." She said finally. "I know I agreed to be you pretend fiancé for three more weeks, but I just can't. I'm very sorry." Pulling her hand out of his grasp, she spun on her heel and fled the room with tears forming in her eyes.
Stunned, it took Fred a couple of seconds to fully grasp what she'd just said, but when he did he took off after her. Spotting her rounding the corner, he bolted forward and grabbed her by the arm. One swift tug and she was right back in front of him only this time he refused to let her go, instead keeping his hands on her elbows. "Why? Have I done something to upset you? What's wrong?"
"It's not you." Reiko cried. "It's me. I thought I could keep on pretending, but I can't. It hurts too much. Now please let me go, I need to get away."
"No." Fred said firmly and Reiko's eyes snapped to his immediately. "You agreed to be my fiancé and that's exactly what you're going to do."
Narrowing her eyes, Reiko glared at him heatedly. "The hell I am. I already told you I won't lie anymore and you can't make me. Now let me go or I'll…"
Fred snorted. "You'll what, call security? They all work for me, as you well know. Besides, it really wouldn't do to have a scandal this early on in our engagement. You really should wait until at least our first year anniversary."
"Quit making fun of me!" Reiko snapped. "You know damn well that there won't be any anniversaries. You've made it abundantly clear you want nothing to do with me once this deal is over. Now why don't you do us both a favor and let me go. It's not like you want me here anyway."
"Ah, but that's where you're wrong." Fred said, wiping a tear from her cheek and smiling gently. "I've actually gotten use to you hanging around me all the time and I've grown rather fond of it to be honest. I was planning on asking you to stick around once your time was up, but it appears as though you've forced me to tell you about it much earlier than anticipated. Oh well, I suppose it can't be helped."
Blinking, Reiko's mouth fell open in shock and she pushed herself away from him. "W-wait, what?"
Fred shook his head exasperatedly. "Really now, and here I thought you had some brains in that pretty head of yours. I guess I was wrong if you can't even process a simple sentence." When she simply continued to stare at him in confusion, he couldn't help but laugh. "You just don't get it do you?" He asked more to himself than anyone else. "Alright, let me put this bluntly for you, so do try to pay attention. This past week has been very eye-opening for me, and I must admit I really never thought I'd say this, but I've come to enjoy spending time with you. In the beginning I loathed the idea, quite frankly I found you to be annoying and far too obsessed with me, but after spending some time with you my opinion has changed somewhat. I suppose you could say you've grown on me."
"So…um…what does that mean exactly?"
"It means, dear, that I would very much like it if you would stick around for awhile. And not because you're being paid to, but because you want to." Fred replied, holding out his hand and bowing slightly.
Taking the offered hand, Reiko grinned. "As your fiancé?" She joked.
"Don't push you luck." Fred said, returning the smile with one of his own. "But I don't think I'd say no to a date if you asked me."
"Now wait just a minute here, aren't you supposed to ask me out?" Reiko asked as the two began walking back out to join the crowd. "I mean that's how things usually go right, the man asks out the woman."
"Honey, we both know that I'm way more woman than you'll ever be." Fred said, placing his hands on his hips dramatically.
Reiko couldn't help it, she laughed, Fred joining in soon after. And for the next few minutes they leaned against the walls for support as they laughed until tears filled their eyes.
It took them nearly ten minutes to calm down enough that they were able to speak without breaking down again. Catching his breath, Fred looked over at Reiko and couldn't stop the smile that formed. He didn't love her, not really, but seeing her face flushed from laughter and a bright smile adorning her lips, there was no doubt in his mind that some day he just might. Until then, he was planning on enjoying every chance he got getting to know her better.