1RL04 2006 May 22
This is the fourth fic in my Eight Hours to Earth series.
An event horizon is a boundary in space-time ... which ... makes the observation of events within (or any other type of communication) ... impossible.
Disclaimer: The Futurama name, characters, and settings belong to their respective copyright owners. This is a work of fan fiction which has no commercial intent or value and was created soley for my own amusement and for that of other Futurama fans. The author would appreciate it if this work is not placed on websites or reproduced in any form without his express consent.
The PE ship settled into the hanger.
Bender was the first one down the steps. He made straight for the exit. His beer had got badly shaken up during the battle and every bottle he opened sprayed and foamed all over the place. But what was worse was that his emergency reserve bottle of whiskey had been broken. Leela and Amy had laughed when he'd found it, a crying robot was always funny. Even the torpedo juice that he and Fry were brewing in the engine room had been lost when parts from the exploding #3 converter smashed the crock. Consequently, he'd been on strict rations for the last 6 days and he was right on the edge of functionality.
Amy was the next one off. She hooked up the ground power and data connections to the ship, then stood back and looked at it. The hull was dented in several places, and there were blisters in the paint and dark streaks criss crossing here and there - signs of just how closely they'd avoided the laser blasts.
She turned to leave, hoping she could get away without seeing any one, but was stopped by Hermes who was coming from his office.
"Great Banana of Havana, what happened to da ship?".
"Oh, the usual. Someone decided they didn't like us. We'll be grounded for a few days - we have a blown converter again, some hull damage, and a lot of systems checks to do. You can bill the repairs and downtime to that last delivery.".
Hermes rubbed his hands together, happily anticipating lots of forms to fill out and reports to write. He turned back toward his office to get the necessary paperwork organized.
"Everyone is fine, thank you." Amy called to his back.
Hermes glanced back over his shoulder and said "Oh.".
Amy shook her head, turned, and headed toward the door.
Leela folded the last item of her clothing and laid it neatly in the suitcase, and then snapped the lid shut.
"Ok Fry, that's it. Let's go.".
Fry picked up Nibbler and the grocery bag that held his clothes and Holophoner, and they headed out.
They walked into Leela's apartment. Fry let Nibbler go and Leela set her suitcases down.
"So, you wanna go out somewhere tonight, or rent a movie or something?" Fry asked.
"No, not tonight. Fry, if you don't mind, I just want to take a shower and go to bed. I feel like I need some down time to myself.".
"That's OK. I guess I'll stop by the pub for a burger, and then go do the same thing.".
"Thanks for understanding, Fry. It's going to take several days of hard work to tear down that converter and fix it, and if I know our lovable old Hermes, give him about two days he's going to start getting antsy to get us flying again. I'm not looking forward to the next few days.".
They hugged and kissed, and Fry turned to go.
"See you tomorrow".
"Bender," Leela said, "your job is to work the chain fall. When I tell ..."
"Hey!" Bender interrupted, "Do I look like a hoistbot? I'm a bender. I bend things. That's it.".
"Bender, what is this chain made out of?".
"Metal, just like my shiny ass, which you can bite.".
"Notice how straight the chain is? Now just give a pull on this end here. Go ahead, pull it, it won't bite.".
Bender eyed her suspiciously. She was up to something again. He gave the chain a slight pull.
"Look." Leela said, pointing up at the chain fall, "see how the chain went in straight and when it got to that sprocket it bent around it. You bent it. This is just an alternative form of bending.".
"Yeah. I guess ..." Bender said. He wasn't any too certain that he wasn't being conned into something. He wasn't used to being on this end of a con job, so he didn't know if this is what is was supposed to feel like or not.
Leela had moved to one end of converter #3. Fry was at the other end. Most of the upper housing around the converter had been removed, and the wiring, plumbing, and small modules taken out. The chain fall had been rigged over it and the field magnet assembly was cradled in a sling.
"Ok, everyone, just a reminder. This thing is heavy. Amy is the director on this procedure, so listen to her and do exactly what she says. Take your time, and think before you act. We've got to be very careful as it comes out, there are a couple of tight spots.".
Leela looked around. Everyone looked ready.
"All right, Amy, let's go.".
Slowly, under Amy's expert direction, the 1,800 pound magnet assembly was extracted from the converter. They swung it out clear of the housing and lowered it onto a cradle specially made for it.
"Fry, Bender, push that thing over into the corner out of the way. Amy, start bleeding the vacuum off the reflex cavity. I'll get the tools for the next phase.".
It was shortly after 9 in the evening when Fry and Bender trudged into O'Zorgnax's Pub and dropped into a booth.
The wait-thing slithered over and asked "You have what?".
"Olde Fortran" Bender said.
"A bottle of Shiz and a swamp burger for me." Fry said.
"Right back be." the wait-thing said and slithered off.
"Man, the cyclops was really a slave driver today." Bender said. "I bet you wanted to go back to Osiris 4 for a vacation.".
"No doubt". Fry replied. "She's under a lot of pressure lately. She wants that converter fixed, and Hermes is after her to put it off and make deliveries. They've had a couple of pretty good shouting matches over it. He told her we had to be back in space by Monday, fixed or not, or else. She thinks that if we can put in a good day tomorrow, and if all goes well, half a day Saturday and we should be done. We'll at least get Saturday night and Sunday free.".
"Sucks to be you." Bender said. "I bet you're glad you ain't living with her. Could you imagine putting up with that 24/7?".
"Bender, there are sides to Leela you don't see. It might help if I was there. But, yeah, this week sucks. We've all been working so hard there hasn't been any time to relax.".
The wait-thing slithered back with a tray.
"You go here. Enjoy." it said as it set their order in front of them.
Fry picked up his bottle of beer, closed his eyes, and took a sip. There was nothing like that first swallow of beer after a hard day at work. He relaxed, feeling the tension evaporating from his body.
Bender watched the smile spreading across Fry's face.
"600 volts DC." he said.
"Huh? What did you say?" Fry asked, looking confused.
"I said 600 volts DC. You look like you just plugged in. AC will keep you alive, but for pure refreshment there's nothing like sweet, smooth DC. You look the same way I feel when I get a little third rail action in the subway.".
"I guess." Fry said. "For us meatbags though, it's lubricant, not a power source.".
"Lubricant? No wonder you skintubes are so inferior. Alcohol is a lousy lube. Oil is what you need to keep the old joints movin' free and stop the squeaks.".
"No, Bender. It's lubricant, for the mind and for the soul.".
They were back at it early the next morning. Leela pushed them hard all day. It was after 6 in the evening when Fry sat down on the deck and wiped the sweat from his brow.
"Fry, I want those beam forming plates back in tonight. I'm going to have to align them before we can put any more of this together and Amy's already bugged out early so she won't be here to help.".
"Come on, Leela. You've been pushing yourself too hard all week. Let's call it a night and go get something to eat.".
She stood there glaring at him, fists on her hips. "No, Fry. We're under a deadline here. Get those plates in and you can go. But just remember while you and your tinker toy pal there are out swilling beer that I'm still here working because having all 6 of these things functioning kept you alive last time out, and will again someday. Now get up and get moving.".
Leela turned and strode out of the compartment.
Fry sighed and started pushing himself up.
"Man, she sure is cranky." Bender said, "It must be that time of the month or somethin'.".
There was a sudden loud "clang" and the clatter of a wrench falling to the deck at Bender's feet.
"Owwww!" Bender said, feeling the dent that had suddenly appeared in the side of his head.
Leela was glaring at them from the hatch.
"Umm, Bender," Fry whispered when she'd gone, "she has really good hearing, and a very good aim.".
"Now you tell me.".
An hour later they had finally succeed in installing the plates in a manner that Leela grudgingly accepted.
"I am outta here," Bender said to Fry, "and you're on your own tonight because I've got other plans, and by other plans, I mean "other plans", if ya' know what I mean.".
Fry was to tired to care. He waved his hand in dismissal at Bender's departing back.
Leela came in carrying some tools. She bent over the converter and went to work without a word to Fry.
Fry decided to try one more time. He walked up beside Leela and laid his hand on her back.
"Leela, I ...".
She jumped, and something clattered inside the converter.
"Dammit, Fry, will you leave me alone? Can't you see I've got delicate work to do here?".
Fry felt crushed. He mumbled an apology and left. He trudged through the darkening streets of the city, oblivious to his surroundings. A while later, he didn't really know how long, he found himself in front of O'Zorgnax's Pub. It was a warm night and the door was propped open. From inside came the sounds of music and laughter and the clink of bottles. He looked in for a minute, then entered, climbed up on a stool at the bar and ordered a beer.
He didn't really taste it, and it didn't have the lubricating effect it usually had. Fry just felt dead. In his heart, he knew that Leela was just under a lot of pressure, most of it self-induced to be sure, but her words still hurt.
"What can't be cured must be endured." He thought. "We'll get this thing finished tomorrow. Then she can get a good night's sleep, and we can spend some time together Sunday. Things will be back to normal by then.".
He noticed that his bottle was empty. He pulled out his wallet and checked his cash supply, and ordered another beer.
There were 3 empty bottles in front of Fry, and his wallet was almost empty. With a sigh, he slid off the stool and left. He stood on the now dark sidewalk in front of the pub for a moment, breathing in the cool night air. Somehow that at least refreshed him a little.
A car came to an abrupt stop and backed up to the curb in front of Fry. The window zipped down.
"Hey, Fry. What'cha doing?".
Fry took a second to focus.
"Oh, Hi Amy. Nothing much. I just, uh, had dinner and I was going to go home.".
"Go home? That's silly, it's Friday night and it's way to early to go home. Where's Leela?".
"Still at work, I guess.".
"Oh." Amy said knowingly. "Fry, you look like you could use some partying. Get in, I'm on my way to pick up some friends and we're going places.".
"Uh, I don't know, Amy, I'm a little short on cash and we've got to be to work early tomorrow.".
"Spluuh. You don't need cash, you're with me. Come on, just a couple of places and then we'll go home.".
Fry shrugged. "Sure. Why not.".
Fry was sitting at a table with a couple of Amy's friends. The rest of the party was out on the dance floor somewhere. Fry had done some dancing earlier, but now he was sitting a few out, his ability to stand unaided was getting questionable.
"Sho, Gregh, Becheky, how long you guhys bhen married?" Fry asked.
"One year today." Becky giggled. "We don't usually go out much, but tonight we're celebrating.".
"Khhool, Congradulashhhuns." Fry said..
Someone had ordered another round of drinks, and a vile of purple liquid had appeared in front of him.
"Thish looksh like Leelahs hair ." Fry's fuzzy mind thought to nobody in particular.
Fry's arm picked up the vial and managed to pour most of it into his mouth.
"Thish tastshs phurpul, lhike Leelahs hair.".
"So, you ready to blow this joint and go finish the celebration in private?" Greg said to Becky.
"I was ready for that an hour ago." she replied.
Fry slumped forward, his head hitting the table with a "klunk".
"Whoa, Amy's friend there is really out of it. " Greg said.
"Yeah. What should we do with him?". Becky replied.
"We should probably get him out of here. If I help stand him up, can you get him out to Amy's car? I gotta pee so bad that my eyeballs are floating. I'll meet you out there in a couple of minutes and we can go flag a cab.".
"Yeah, he's little.".
They got Fry up. Becky took his arm and pulled it over her shoulder.
"Got him all right?".
"No problem, see you in a couple of minutes".
She dragged the stumbling Fry toward the exit, while Greg made a bee line for the bathroom.
"Lookie here tin can, you want Zubans or not?". The robot leaned forward, punctuating his words with awkward gestures. He moved as if his joints hadn't been properly oiled lately, the rattle of his bling not quite covering up the squeaks.
"Not at your price." Bender said. "I'll give you 10 each.".
"No way, bot, they're worth 20 at least.".
"No deal. Go get 20 for 'em if you think you can. You ain't getting it from me. But ...".
Bender leaned closer, looked around, and in a conspiratorial tone, said "Look, buddy, tell you what I'll do.". He opened the door to his compartment and extracted a can of Mom's Old Fashioned Robot Oil. "You let me have 'em at 12 each, and I'll throw in this can of oil. You better take it, that's my final offer.".
He held the can up, slowly rocking it back and forth. If robots could sweat and drool, the dealer would have been at that moment. Bender knew he had him hooked like a pike on a three hooked spinner.
"15." the robot said weakly.
"No way, Jose." Bender said, starting to put the can back.
"Ok! Ok! It's a deal.".
A few moments later Bender emerged from the alley where the transaction had been negotiated and strolled down the street. He was chuckling to himself.
"What a sucker. I could unload these things for 18 to 20 each in no time. And that was used oil to boot.".
Bender stopped on a corner to wait for a couple of cars to pass. He eyed the night club across the street. A beer would go down good right now, and it would be fun to smoke one of the Zubans - the effect of really good cigar smoke on drunks was always entertaining. But, he reflected sourly, that was one of those snooty places that didn't admit robots.
Suddenly his pattern recognition subroutine triggered a high priority interrupt. Benders eyes zoomed towards the entrance of the club. There was Fry stumbling out of the door, arms wrapped around a brown haired woman.
"Ho ho!" Bender said, going into record mode. "If the cyclops sees this she'll tear him to pieces. This ought to be worth Fry's next six or seven pay checks.".
Bender followed their unsteady progress across the parking lot. They stopped at a car, opened the back door, and disappeared into the back seat.
"That ought to be enough." Bender said as he saved the file. "Maybe I will show it to Leela. I'll make enough off the Zubans that I don't need Fry's pittance, and it would be hilariously cruel.".
Fry woke up. He felt ill. He sat up and looked around, seriously confused. It took him several attempts to focus so that there was only one of everything. He was in the back of Amy's car in a parking lot. They'd been to at least two places, maybe three, he couldn't really remember. He fumbled with the door controls, and finally succeeded in getting the car to let him out. He didn't know what time it was, all he wanted to do was get home and into bed. He set off unsteadily across the parking lot, looking for a tube station.
Leela let herself into her apartment. She took a quick shower and fixed a light meal. As she sat eating, there was some nagging doubt fluttering around the edge of her consciousness. She was forgetting something, something important, but she couldn't quite place what it was.
She glanced around the room. Her eye stopped on a framed photo on a table in the corner. It was a picture of herself and Fry, taken on their day out the day after The Flight. Fry had it framed and had given it to her as a present. She smiled, thinking about Fry.
Suddenly that thought from the edge of her mind shoved itself front and center. Her smile faded, replaced with a look of worry - she realized how she'd treated Fry and remembered the look on his face when he'd left work.
"Oh, No." she said to herself. "Oh, Leela, you idiot.".
She dialed Fry's number. It rang several times, there was a click, and she heard Fry's voice: "Hi, you've reached Bender and Fry's pad. We can't take your call right now because we're probably out partying with celebrities or flying through space, fighting monsters and teaching alien women to luuve. Leave your name and number and we'll call you back. Beep.".
"Hi, Fry. This is Leela. Umm, look, I'm sorry I was a little short with you earlier. Call me back, Ok? Bye.".
She sat by the telephone fidgeting.
"Maybe he's asleep." she told herself. "I'll just try him again.".
She called again, waited until the machine picked up, and hung up.
She fidgeted and paced around her apartment for several minutes.
She tried calling again, but there was still no answer.
"Maybe he's at that bar he and Bender like to go to.".
She pulled up the directory and finally found the number .
The phone clicked and an alien sounding voice made a noise.
"Um, Hi." Leela said, "I'm wondering if a friend of mine is there. His name is Fry. He has orange hair and is probably wearing a red jacket. Sometimes he's there with a gray bending unit.".
"Here now not." the voice replied.
"Was he there earlier?".
"Was here he. With woman left.".
"He left with a woman? Do you know who she was? What did she look like?".
"Serve drinks me. Babysit boyfriends no I." The phone clicked and went dead.
Leela looked at it for a moment, then hung it up. She sat down and buried her face in her hands.
Fry leaned up against the tube entrance. He wasn't looking forward to this - he'd already been sick once. He'd considered taking the bus - it would be easier on his stomach, but he didn't really know where he was and it might take him two hours or more to get home. Steeling himself for the ordeal, he stepped into the tube and announced the destination he knew best.
A few minutes later he dropped out of the tube exit. He staggered a couple of steps, unsure of his balance, then dropped to his knees, then flopped down flat on his face on the sidewalk. He laid there breathing for a few moments, trying not to be sick again. He slowly, painfully, pushed himself up and started off down the street.
A couple of blocks ahead, the Planet Express building loomed in the darkness, no light showing from any of it's windows. Fry thought about going there and sacking out on the couch in the lounge, but he didn't have access after hours. He trudged towards home.
Leela was awake again. She felt like she hadn't got any sleep at all. She was at once both worried about Fry and mad at him.
The rational part of her mind told her that aliens were often confused by human genders - hell, look at Zoidberg, half the time he couldn't distinguish between male and females in humans; Fry probably didn't leave the bar with a woman at all.
"Then why wasn't there any answer at his apartment?" another part of her mind wondered.
"There is a simple, rational explanation for this." she told herself. "I'll see him at work in the morning, I'll apologize for being so rude, we'll get it all sorted out, and we'll have a good laugh. We'll finish the converter tomorrow, we can both go home and get a good night's sleep, and we'll spend Sunday together. Things will be back to normal by then.".
She laid there, staring into the darkness.
Fry edged past Bender, being very careful not to wake him up, and stumbled into his bedroom. He stripped his clothes off and threw them on the pile in the corner. He climbed into the shower and stood there. He had run out of energy. He slumped down to his knees, fell back, and passed out.
The next morning, Bender awoke, his eye shield sliding open. He yawned, stretched, and scratched. The tip of his antenna was blinking red. Bender reached up and pressed it. In his head, he heard Leela's voice: "Hi, Fry. This is Leela. Umm, look, I'm sorry I was a little short with you earlier. Call me back, Ok? Bye.".".
"Short!" Bender harrumphed, "She has more shorts than the time Fry tried to store the Xmas tree tinsel in the electrical vault. Man, what a party that was.".
Bender went back to listening to the messages. Leela had called seven times, left messages only twice. He deleted them all.
Bender went to Fry's room.
"Hey, meatbag, time to get ... Fry? You here?".
Bender looked around the room. There was no sign of Fry. He did the robot equivalent of a shrug.
"That's weird. Oh well, it ain't my job to hold his leash.".
Leela arrived at Planet Express, her eye red from lack of sleep. She got herself a cup of coffee and sat down at the conference table. Hermes was already sitting there with a stack of files.
They acknowledged each other with a nod and a grunt. They weren't exactly on friendly terms this week.
Finally Hermes broke the silence.
"Leela, mon, how's da repairs comin'? We've got lots 'o work backin' up, and I'm negotaitin' a couple of big jobs. I got to have that ship back in da' air by Monday.".
Leela sighed. She had more important concerns and didn't really have the energy to go another round with Hermes right now.
"Don't worry. We're making good progress. We should be fine. We still need a replacement governor for #3 and it hasn't shown up yet. Are you sure you ordered it?".
"Take that, paper pusher." she thought. She knew the one sure way to get under Hermes' skin was to suggest that he hadn't filed paperwork properly.
"O' course I ordered it." Hermes said indignantly, his accent becoming more pronounced. "That's an older model, and none o' da' parts houses stock dem. I had to locate one in a junk yard out in da' Sirius system. Den it had to go to a rebuilder. With luck, it'll be here in a month or two.".
"A month or two!" Leela said, her turn to get indignant. "That means we'll still be flying with one flaky converter.".
"Leela, mon, how often do you need all a' dem anyway? It just burns more dark matter, and I gotta deal wi'd complaints of you hot roddin'.".
"Yeah? Well maybe you'd prefer to deal with the complaints you'll get when we're all dead.".
They sat there glaring at each other. The door hissed open and Bender clomped in.
Leela jumped up. She looked around, trying to see behind Bender. There was no sign of Fry.
"Bender, where's Fry?".
"How should I know? He didn't come home last night.".
Leela didn't answer. She dropped back into her seat, the look on her face was indecipherable.
At that moment, Amy trudged in, looking like she'd been run over by a truck.
"Hey, guys." she said.
"Amy, you look like a hooker the morning after a frat party." Bender said.
"Thanks Bender. When my brain gets here, tell it to think of a snappy comeback.".
She collapsed into a seat and her head dropped onto the table with a audible "clunk". She was snoring.
Fry realized he was awake.
He didn't feel very well.
In his head, every 20th century heavy metal band he'd ever listened to was dueling for last place in the battle of the bands, and from the sound of things the trombone section of his junior high school's marching band and a set of poorly played bagpipes were also competing.
He smacked his lips a couple of times, trying to get the taste of purple out of his mouth, which felt like the Sahara desert on a bad hair day.
His teeth felt furry.
His hair hurt.
If there was an Olympics for hangovers, they would have to gold plate the platinum and give it to him.
He eased his eyes open, hoping it wouldn't hurt too much, and carefully looked around.
"What am I doing in the tub?" He thought to himself.
He slowly pushed his protesting body to his feet, and stood leaning against the wall for support.
He rubbed his head and groaned.
"I've got to ask Amy ... was that Amy? I think it was Amy, what I was drinking so I know what to swear off for the rest of my life.".
Fry looked at his reflection in the mirror across the room. He looked like he had been shot at and missed, and pooped on and hit. During the night, he must have slept wrong; his nose looked like it was folded against his face reminiscent of a Picasso painting. But even Picasso couldnt have made the detailed road map his bloodshot eyes had become. He wanted to laugh at the ghoul that stared back at him from the mirror, but it was too painful.
Fry turned the water on, yelped when the first cold blast hit him, finally got it adjusted, and showered.
He dressed, and remembering that he had run out of cash the night before, dug into the secret hiding place where he hid his money from Bender and refilled his wallet.
A few minutes later he was walking slowly down the street on his way to work. He passed a small restaurant and stopped. He could smell coffee perking and bacon frying. Suddenly he realized how hungry he was. He went in.
"Amy!" Leela snapped, "pay attention. This isn't easy with 4 people, and we've only got three, and that's if you count that dysfunctional erector set.".
"Sorry, Leela. I was up too late last night. Hey, where is Fry?".
"I don't know. Bender said he didn't come home last night.".
"Uh Oh." Amy said.
Leela's instincts picked up on something.
"Do you know something?".
"Not really. I saw him last night in front of that pub he likes to go to. I talked him into going to a party with us.".
"So you were ... never mind." Leela said, feeling relieved. "What happened to him after that.".
"I, um, don't really remember. He disappeared somewhere along the way. Most of the group I started with did. I can't really remember when I saw him last.".
Leela's instincts kicked up another notch.
"There's something more you're not telling me, isn't there?".
"Well, I don't know. I wasn't really paying attention. But I ... think .... I saw him leave the Comet Club with ... uh ... a woman. But I don't really know, I can't remember very well, it could have been one of the other guys in my party.".
Leela's relief was short lived. The worry was back, only now it too was kicked up another notch.
Fry sat in a booth, the remains of bacon and eggs and toast and pancakes on the plate in front of him. He felt much better. He would have been really contented, except a woman in the next booth had been yammering on a cell phone most of the time he'd been there, and he found that really annoying.
Fortunately she had finally finished her conversation, so he could at least finish his coffee in peace.
Behind him, she slid out of the booth and turned around. Her purse swung around and smacked him in the face, spilling his coffee in his lap.
"Gahhh" Fry yelled.
"Oh, I'm so sorry." the woman said.
"Uh, it's ok, really, no harm done." Fry said. He just wanted her to go away.
She was looking at him.
"You look familiar, and I never forget a face. Hey, I know! You're that 20th century guy, from the Hip Joint. It's been years. Do you remember me? I would HOPE you'd remember me?" she said with a big smile.
"Um, Oh, yeah." Fry said. He couldn't remember her name. He couldn't remember if he'd ever known her name.
She slid into the booth opposite Fry.
"So how are you doing? What brings you to this dive?".
"I'm fine. It's on my way to work and I sometimes stop in here for breakfast.".
"Oh that's right, you fly a spaceship for some big transport company, don't you?".
"Um, yeah, something like that. Look, I'd love to stay and chat, but I'm kinda late for work.".
"Oh, well let me give you a ride, my car is right outside.".
"No, really, that's not necessary, it's not that far.".
"Don't be silly." she said, "It's a convertible and it's a lovely day and we can get reacquainted.".
Fry groaned. He didn't have the energy to argue.
Leela stood on the balcony of the PE building overlooking the river.
"Where the hell is Fry?" she fumed. It had been a hard morning. She was worried about Fry. Amy had stayed out too late partying and was next to useless, and Bender was always useless. They hadn't made half the progress she'd expected. Half the time she wanted to cry, and the other half she wanted to kill somebody or something. She had finally called a break and came up here for some air and to be alone.
Bender was standing inside near the door. His eyes zoomed out, spotting the car coming down the road with Fry in the passenger seat. He panned over for a look at the driver.
"Oh HO! So that's where the meat bag was last night ." he thought. "It's about time he got some action. That frumpy cyclops talks a good game but she don't deliver.".
The car pulled up to a stop outside and Fry got out.
"Thanks for the ride." Fry said.
"You're welcome. Are you sure you're busy tonight?".
"Look, I told you, I'm spoken for these days. A wonderful woman loves me and that's all I need or want.".
"Suit yourself. But if you ever need or want some extra company, call me. You have my number.". She smiled and drove off.
"Oh, I have your number all right." Fry said as he tore up the piece of paper she'd given him. He tossed the pieces in the air, letting the breeze scatter them toward the river.
He was feeling much better now. Smiling, he turned toward the building entrance, whistling "Walking on Sunshine".
"Hey Bender." Fry said as he walked in. "Where's Leela.".
"I think she's in the little girls room or somethin'.".
"Ok, well tell her that I'm here and that I'll be in the ship, ready to work.". Fry resumed whistling and strolled off toward the ship, hands in his pockets.
A few seconds after he disappeared up the steps of the ship, Leela came into the room.
"All right, let's get back to work."
"Hey Leela, Fry's here. I found out where he's been all night.".
"Some brown haired floozy in a sporty convertible just dropped him off. You couldn't wipe that smile off his face with a Mark 5 grinding unit.".
Leela's hands balled into fists and color rose in her face.
"Bender, is this straight or are you just feeding me one of your usual lines of crap?".
"Seeing is believing. Check it out." Bender said, moving over to the conference room view screen. He opened the door to his chest cavity, rummaged around inside, and pulled out a patch cable. He plugged one end into the jack on his head, and tried to plug the other into the A/V input on the view screen, but he discovered that the connectors were different.
He rummaged inside again, and came up with an adapter. He compared it to the input jack, but it still wasn't the right one.
Leela was standing there scowling, arms crossed, impatiently tapping her foot.
"Damn plugs. Why can't they just pick one and standardize on it. Gotta carry all of these stupid adapters ...." Bender grumbled and continued to rummage around. Finally he succeeded in making the connection.
"Ok, here we go.".
The screen lit up. Yesterdays episode of All My Circuits was playing.
"No, that's not it, wait...".
The image broke into slanted horizontal bars for a moment, then was replaced by a scene in a seedy parts warehouse where two robots were attempting to interface with a fembot. They appeared to be having socket adapter troubles too.
"Ooops." Bender said as the image quickly broke up again. "Don't know where that came from. Ah, this is it.".
Leela watched the images - Fry and the brown haired woman stumbling out of the bar, across the parking lot, and into the back seat of a car; the picture jumped, showing the approaching car with Fry in the passenger seat, the driver, Fry getting out, talking to the driver while holding a piece of paper in his hand. There was another jump in the image; Fry came through the door, smiling and whistling, talking with Bender for a moment, and wandered off toward the ship. There was no audio, since Bender hadn't bothered to plug in that cable.
The screen went dark and Bender unplugged.
"Well, what do you think ...". He stopped because Leela was gone.
Fry was in the converter room, looking at the pile of parts and trying to gage how much work was left. He heard the telltale sound of Leela's boots on the deck plates. Smiling, he turned as she came through the hatch.
"Hi, Leela. How ..."
"Fry!" she said.
Fry cringed at the hard tone of her voice. He'd heard it before, but not directed at him. Well, not in a long time anyway.
"That woman that dropped you off. Did you sleep with her?".
"Huh!?! What?!?" Fry stammered in surprise.
"You heard me. Did you sleep with her? Answer me.".
Fry was embarrassed and confused.
"Well, umm, yeah, I did, but ...".
He didn't get a chance to finish; Leela stepped forward and slapped him hard across the face, knocking him to the floor. He looked up at her, stunned, tears in his eyes.
"You two timing little rat." Leela said with more venom in her voice than he'd ever heard. "How could you? ".
She reached down, grabbed him by his jacket, and pulled him up. Her eye was narrowed to a slit.
"We're through, Fry. Get out of my sight. I never want to see you again, ever.".
She shoved him away toward the hatch.
Fry was so stunned he didn't know what to say. A moment ago, he'd been feeling fine, on top of the world; now all of a sudden, in a few horrible seconds, his worst nightmare was happening; his whole life was crumbling around him and he didn't even know why.
"Leela, what ..."
"Go, Fry. Get out.".
"But Leela, I don't ..."
"OUT!" she screamed.
Deep within Fry, primitive instincts took over from his suddenly overloaded and unresponsive conscious. His adrenal glands kicked into high gear. Fry turned and ran.
Amy was asleep with her head on the conference table again. Suddenly she sat up, instantly wide awake. She looked at Bender, who was sitting across the table with his feet propped up, smoking a cigar and looking at the fold out of a magazine.
"Did you just feel a disturbance in the force?" she asked.
When the echoes of Fry's fleeing footsteps had died out, Leela turned around, sat down on the deck, and leaned back against the bulkhead. The full import of what had just happened was beginning to dawn on her. She put her elbows on her knees, her face in her hands, and cried.
Fry fled the building. He ran for three blocks before the adrenaline rush began to fade and he ran out of breath. He turned down a side street that dead ended at the river, staggered up to the wall, and collapsed against it, panting. He paused only long enough to catch his breath, that set out for home, stumbling blindly down the street, barely able to see through the tears that streamed from his eyes.
He finally reached his apartment, staggered to his bed, and collapsed.
He laid there for hours. He was in shock. His mind was simply unable to grasp the horror of what had happened. It made no sense, no sense at all. There was pain in his chest.
Monday morning. Fry paused across the street from Planet Express. There was a cold pit of fear and dread in his gut. He had no idea what was waiting for him. There was only one way to find out.
He spent a minute getting his nerve up, then crossed the street and entered the building.
His first surprise was that the staff weren't gathering around the conference table for the morning staff meeting. Only Hermes was present.
"Fry, mon, I want to see you.".
Fry was fighting hard not to shake visibly. He couldn't remember ever being so afraid.
Hermes led Fry to his office and closed the door.
"I know dat you and Leela have had a fallin' out. Dat's gonna make t'ings a little awkward around here. I'm not gonna let you two and your petty squabble disrupt business. We got lots o' work to do, and if dis t'ing causes delays or problems, you're gonna be outa here faster 'n you can say ExLax.".
"Hermes, this isn't fair, I didn't ...".
"Fry, my old Grandmother, God rest her zombie soul, used to say "All's fair in love, war, and business", and dis is business. You been warned. Now get to work an' don't make any trouble.".
"Yes, sir." Fry mumbled as he got up and left.
He plodded out to the ship, shoulders sagging. He paused at the bottom of the steps, looking up. He sighed, and started mounting the steps.
Amy was waiting at the top.
"Hi, Amy. Are you still talking to me?".
"Hi, Fry." she said as she sealed the hatch. "Why wouldn't I be?".
Fry was about to answer that question when the ship lurched and they both grabbed hand rails and hung on. It was one of Leela's more spectacular takeoffs. Amy grumbled in Martian.
Hermes and the Professor stood on the balcony watching the ship disappear into the sky.
Hermes shook his head slowly.
"Der's gonna be big trouble before dis' ting is all over.".
"Oh my, yes." The Professor replied. "If hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned, one can only imagine the force multiplier that's in effect when that woman is Leela.".
Fry and Amy entered the bridge. Amy went over and sat down at the Engineering console, Fry stood at the rear by the door, unsure of what was in store.
"Bender." Leela said. "Would you please give the delivery boy todays schedule since he wasn't at the staff meeting.".
Fry felt his blood pressure rise as Bender handed him a clip board loaded with paperwork.
"Bender, would you please inform the Captain that I was on time for work and that there was no staff meeting.".
Bender turned to Leela.
"He says ...".
"Bender, would you please inform the delivery boy that he is not permitted on the bridge except when required by order of the Captain.".
Bender turned to Fry.
"She says ...".
"Bender, would you please inform the Captain that I acknowledge her order and respectfully ask permission to leave the bridge.
Bender turned to Leela.
"He says ...".
"Bender, would you please inform the delivery boy that permission is granted.".
Bender turned to Fry.
"She says ...".
He waited for the interruption, but Fry said nothing.
"... that you can leave.".
Fry turned and left.
The day settled into a pattern. Fry kept to his quarters, emerging only to go to the cargo hold to make deliveries. Leela stayed on the bridge.
When they landed on a planet, Fry would make the delivery. Once they'd taken off again, Fry would be called to the bridge, and Leela, using Bender as an intermediary, would reprimand him for some little thing he didn't do right. By lunch time, Fry had learned to tune her out. He'd stand there stoically until she finished, then go back to his quarters.
They had a lot of deliveries, and it was evening by the bridge chronometer when they finally finished the last one and started back towards Earth. Fry crawled into his hammock, looking forward to finally getting some sleep. He may have trained himself to take Leela's abuse physically, but it was taking it's toll on him mentally. He was dammed if he was going to show any emotion in front of her or the others, but he didn't know how long he'd be able to hold up. If he was asleep, he wouldn't feel, and he needed all of the relief he could get right now.
He was just drifting off when the intercom buzzed.
Leela's voice came through: "Delivery boy to the bridge.".
"Aye, aye, sir." Fry mumbled.
"Now what?" he thought as he climbed out of his hammock and starting pulling his clothes on. "She already reamed me for that last delivery. Jeeesh, my left shoe was untied. Safety violation. Looks unprofessional to the customer. The customers didn't even have feet - why would they care?".
Fry reported to the bridge.
"Bender," Leela said "please inform the delivery boy that when he is summoned to the bridge I expect his prompt obedience.".
Bender turned to Fry.
"She says ...".
"Bender, kindly inform the Captain that I was almost asleep and had to get dressed first. I didn't want to show up with an untied shoelace.".
Bender turned to Leela.
"He says ...".
"Bender, please inform the delivery boy that insolence will not be tolerated by this command, and that a written reprimand will be placed on his record upon our return."
Bender turned to Fry.
"She says ...".
He waited for the interruption, but Fry said nothing.
" ... you're boned.".
"Bender," Leela said. "Inform the delivery boy that he is to take over the helm temporarily while I assist Amy in the engine room. He is not to make any course changes or any other adjustments to our flight profile without orders. He is to call me immediately if anything develops requiring the attention of the qualified flight crew.".
Bender turned to Fry.
"She says ...".
"Bender, please inform the Captain that I am ready to carry out my orders.".
Leela got up from the pilot's seat and left the bridge without so much as a glance at Fry.
Fry sullenly moved over and sat down.
Amy motioned to Bender and the two of them left the bridge.
In the corridor on the way to the engine room, Bender said "What do they think I am, a translatorbot?".
"No Guhh." Amy replied. "Things are a little tense. I wonder what happened?".
"Who cares?" Bender said, "Remind me when we get back to Earth to go on-line and see if I can down load a language module for estranged lover speak.".
Leela and Amy were in the converter room, running tests on #3. They were slowly increasing the load on it, monitoring it's performance, and making adjustments. They'd been at it for an hour when Amy pointed to a meter.
"I think that's as good as we're going to get for now. The G2 current is still too high when we get it above 50% loading, so we still have an alignment problem.".
"Ok." Leela said. "I guess we're going to have to live with that for a few days. We aren't going to have time to tear into it until the weekend. Hermes has us booked solid all week.".
Amy nodded, and started collecting tools. She paused for a minute.
"Leela, you're being awfully hard on Fry - it borders on cruel. What's going on?".
Leela gave her a hard look.
"It's nothing he doesn't deserve. As for cruel, well, cruel is as cruel does. I want him out of my life permanently, so the sooner he caves in and quits, the better.".
"But what happened? You two were like this." Amy said, crossing her fingers.
"I don't want to talk about it. It's over, that's all I'm going to say. Go to the bridge and take over. I'll be in my quarters.". Leela beat a hasty departure.
By Thursday Fry had all he could take. The situation was intolerable and he had to end it.
A plan had been fermenting in his mind . At the end of the day he waited until everyone else was either gone or occupied, then he went to Dr. Zoidberg's office.
"So what is it, Fry? Something is bothering you it is?".
"Dr. Zoidberg, I need a pain killer. A good, strong one that will take effect quickly but won't space me out.".
"An unusual request this is. Where do you hurt?".
"I don't yet, but I'm expecting to get beat up pretty bad and I need to be able to function and think clearly for a little while afterward. So it should work for cuts, bruises, contusions, concussions, serious internal injuries, and maybe even broken bones.".
"Ahhh." Dr. Zoidberg said, the light of understanding dawning on him. "Going to one of Bender's parties this weekend you are?".
"Umm, yeah, that's it.".
Zoidberg turned to a cabinet and selected a bottle. His attempts to open it with his claws were unsuccessful and finally he just handed the bottle to Fry.
"Take one of those. You won't feel a thing you won't.".
"Thanks, Doc." Fry said as he got up and left.
Fry stood in the shadows of a stairway across the street from Leela's apartment building. He shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He'd been waiting for almost two hours. He didn't really think he was going to accomplish anything, but he had to try. He'd waited too long, worked too hard, suffered too much to just give up. There were some things in life that were worth fighting for, worth dieing for if need be. She was one of them.
A movement at the far end of the block caught his eye. A figure had just come around the corner. Fry recognized that profile in a heartbeat. She was coming at last.
Leela mounted the steps to her building, let herself in, and climbed the flight of stairs to her floor.
Fry waited a full minute. It was the longest minute of his life. He crossed the street and ascended the steps. He glanced both ways, there was no one nearby, no one taking an interest in him. If anyone looked, they'd just see another apartment house tenant fumbling for his access card.
Fry pulled a small device that he'd borrowed from the Professor's lab out of the inside pocket of his jacket. He placed it against the access card reader and pressed a button. Lights on the device started blinking. Seconds ticked by. Fry was starting to get nervous. Finally the door latch clicked. He pushed his way inside and stashed the device in a potted plant in the foyer.
He reached in his pocket and took out the pill Dr. Zoidberg had given him. He looked at it for a moment, preparing himself for the task that lay ahead. He took a deep breath, and swallowed the pill.
Leela was sitting on the stool at her kitchen counter, her head down on her folded arms. She was crying again, and mad at herself for it.
"Damn him! Damn him! Damn him! Damn him!" she said, pounding her fist on the counter. "How could he do that to me? I'll never trust another man as long as I live.".
There was a knock at the door.
She looked up, wondering who it could be at this time of night, and half inclined not to answer it. Reluctantly she slid off the stool, went to the door, and pushed the button that opened it.
Fry stood there looking at her.
Leela reached for the button to close the door, but in a move that caught her completely off guard Fry jumped forward, shoved her roughly back, and stepped through the door. He reached behind him and hit the button. The door closed.
Leela recovered quickly. She went into attack mode.
Fry avoided the first blow that he knew was coming by diving for the floor.
Leela jumped on him, straddling him, pinning him down, her hands tight around his throat. He laid there, completely inert. He didn't try to struggle. He was surprised at how at peace he suddenly felt. It would end here and now, one way or another. He looked into her eye, tears in his.
Leela sat there, a look of fury on her face. A moment passed. Her countenance softened slightly, she relaxed her grip on Fry's throat.
Fry took several deep, gasping breaths.
"Fry, what the hell do you think you're doing? Didn't I make myself plain enough?".
"Yeah, you did Leela. But hear me out - you owe me that much.".
"I don't know that I owe you anything, but apparently I'm a sucker for any man with a good line. I guess I'm stupid like that. I'll give you 1 minute. Say what you gotta say, and then you can get out.".
"Leela, don't talk like that. You're not stupid. You're the smartest person I know. I don't know what I've done, but whatever it was, I'm truly sorry. I love you, I would never do anything to hurt you. We had something truly special and wonderful - it was everything I'd ever dreamed of and more. I thought you felt the same way. I think I deserve to know what I did. Just tell me. Then I'll do what you want. Tomorrow morning I'll quit Planet Express and I'll walk out of your life forever. I'll leave town, I'll leave the planet somehow. I'll go so far away that you won't have to worry about accidentally running in to me ever again. But before I do, I just need to know. Also, could you please let go of my throat?".
Leela realized she still had her hands at his throat. She let go, slid off of him, and sat on the floor next to him, legs crossed in front of her.
"You cheated on me, Fry. You had sex with that woman.".
"Leela, that was years ago. It was, what, a month after I was unfrozen? You and I didn't have a relationship then. I can't believe that what's behind all of this. It just doesn't make any sense.".
"I'm not talking about years ago, Fry. I'm talking about recently. Like last Friday night.".
"I don't know what you're talking about, I haven't done anything.".
"After you left work that night Fry, what did you do? Where did you go? Who were you with?".
"Oh. Well, I was worried about you - you'd been pushing yourself so hard all week - I figured you could use a break from the old grind. But you just yelled at me, and I felt bad, so I walked for a while, then I guess I ended up at the pub and had a couple of beers. I ran out of money, so I started to go home, but Amy came along and talked me into going out with her and some friends of hers .
We went to a couple of places. I can't really remember where. Amy was springing for drinks. I wasn't going to have much 'cause I knew you wanted us back first thing in the morning, but she bought me something, I don't even remember what, that must have kicked my butt. The next thing I knew I woke up in the back seat of her car in the parking lot of some club somewhere. I was sicker than a dog. I made my way home and passed out in the bath tub. I woke up the next morning, had breakfast, and then came to work. You know what happened next.".
Leela was looking at him skeptically.
"There's a few holes in your story, Fry. Bender says you never came home. Explain that one.".
"He was in sleep mode when I came in. I was real careful not to wake him. I felt so lousy that I didn't want to deal with him, and besides, sometimes when you wake him unexpectedly, it isn't pleasant. And like I said, I went to take a shower and must'a passed out in the tub. He wouldn't look in the bathroom, he never needs to go in there. So he just didn't see me.".
"Uh, huh." Leela said, still skeptical. "I suppose he didn't tell you I'd called, either.".
"No, he didn't. When could he? I didn't see him until I got to work.".
"Ok, Fry. Last point, and this is the biggie: What about your ride to work Saturday morning?".
"What? Oh, her. I stopped for breakfast at Zlagnix's Kitchen. She was in the booth behind me, yakking on her phone the whole time. When she went to leave, she sandbagged me in the face with her purse. She recognized me, and she offered to give me a ride to work. She was real insistent and I didn't have the energy to say no.".
"Been keeping in touch have we?".
"No! I haven't seen her in years. I don't even know her name. She gave me her phone number, but I tore it up as soon as she left.".
"You're lying Fry. You were seen leaving a bar with her that night. You were observed to be, how can I say this delicately, very friendly with her.".
"No, I'm not. At least, I don't think I am." Fry said, looking confused. "I don't remember leaving the bar. I had something purple to drink and I musta passed out. I .... Oh! Wait a second! Amy's friends, I was sitting at a table talking with this couple who were friends of Amy's. I can't remember their names, but they were celebrating something ...".
Fry closed his eyes and rapped on his forehead with his knuckles.
"Think, Fry, think. Yeah, an anniversary, I think, that's it. Call Amy and ask her, she can tell you who they were. Call them - maybe they can tell you what happened.".
Leela stared at Fry for a long moment. She could feel her resolve beginning to crack. She desperately wanted to believe him.
"Fry, are you telling me the truth? The whole, complete, unadulterated truth?".
"Yes I am, Leela. I love you. I would never lie to you.".
"You were in the bath tub of your apartment, passed out, all Friday night?".
"Yes. Well, by the time I got home it was probably more like early Saturday morning, but yeah.".
"You didn't leave Amy's party with anyone?".
"I don't know. I could have. Somehow I ended up in Amy's car. I ... Wait! Wait! Brown hair! I remember brown hair. If someone saw me leave the bar with a woman, did they know if she had brown hair?".
"Yes." Leela said icily.
"That's it!" Fry exclaimed, scrambling up off the floor. He sat on his knees facing Leela, a look of surprise on his face.
"Amy's friend - I think she had brown hair. And what's her name, my ride, she has brown hair. Two different women. One must have hauled me out to Amy's car, the other gave me a ride the next morning. Call Amy, find out who her friend is and call her. Please, Leela," Fry pleaded, "I'm a victim of circumstance here. There's too much at stake.".
Leela thought about it for a moment. Then she stood up.
"Stay put right there, Fry. Don't move.".
She went into her bedroom and closed the door. Fry sat there in the middle of her living room, nervously fidgeting.
It was over 15 minutes later when Leela returned. She stood there, looking down at Fry.
Fry sat on the floor looking up at her, unsure of what to expect.
After a moment, she sat down.
"Does the name Becky sound familiar?".
Fry thought for a moment.
"Yeah, yeah it does. And Greg? Her husband is Greg.".
"That's right Fry. She hauled your drunken behind out to Amy's car, and then she and Greg got a cab and went home."
Fry breathed a sigh of relief.
"So that's what this was all about." He said, "You thought that I ran into that bimbo at the bar and spent the night with her.".
"Yes, Fry. That's what I thought. You didn't?".
"No, Leela, I didn't. I got drunk, I staggered halfway across town, I threw up behind a dumpster, and I passed out in my bathtub, but I did not fool around. You know how I feel, Leela. You're the only woman for me.".
Leela sat there, tears welling up in her eye, her lower lip quivering.
"Oh, Fry, I'm so sorry." she burst out.
Fry suddenly found himself flat on his back on the floor again. She had her face buried against his chest, crying. He tentatively put his arms around her. Her whole body convulsed with sobs. Fry could feel a circle of wet spreading through his shirt.
It was several minutes before Leela's crying subsided. She laid there on Fry's chest sniffling. She ran her hand up under his now soaked shirt and wiped her eye. Then she took a hand full of his shirt and blew her nose.
"Ewww!" Fry thought to himself, but he managed to avoid any outward sign of reaction.
Leela shifted her head up to his shoulder, her hand caressing his chest under the shirt.
"Fry, I've treated you so horribly. I'm so sorry. I don't know how you ever could, but will you forgive me?".
Fry put his free hand under Leela's chin and tilted her head up so he could look into her eye.
"Leela, I love you. I couldn't not forgive you.".
He kissed her, and they lay there holding each other.
"Sorry about your shirt. I'll wash it for you.".
"That's OK, Leela. It's had worse things happen to it.".
"Ewww!" Leela thought to herself, but she managed to avoid any outward sign of reaction.
"Come with me.".
She rose and pulled Fry up after her. She took his hand and led him into her bedroom.
She pushed his jacket off of him, and then peeled his T shirt over his head.
"Umm, Leela ...".
"Shut up, Fry." she interrupted as she pushed him down on the bed, then reached back and pulled the scrunchy out of her pony tail.
She sat down on the edge of the bed and kicked her boots off, then rolled in next to Fry.
"Fry." she said, "I jumped to some conclusions and I acted horribly and it almost cost me the most important thing in my life. I've never felt so awful as I have the last week. I can't imagine what it did to you, but you didn't give up, you risked a lot to come here and make me see that I was wrong, and I love you all the more for it. I wish I could go back in time and make it right, but I can't. So I'm going to make it up to you the way only a woman can, the way only I can.".
She started to unsnap the fly of Fry's pants.
Fry grabbed Leela's wrists.
"Leela, No." he said.
"What?" she said in surprise.
"No, Leela, I don't want to do this now."
"Fry! Why not?". She almost sounded hurt.
Fry gently pushed Leela off and over on to her back.
"Because I'd always think you're doing it out of guilt or something, not because you really want to. Whenever it finally does happen, I want our first time to be really special.".
"But Fry, I really do want to.".
"No Leela. Not now. Do you remember what you said to me on our first night together?".
"I think so, but you tell me."
"You said our relationship was the most precious thing you'd ever known, and you didn't want to mess it up. Well, I feel the same way, especially now that I know what loosing you would feel like, and I'm not willing to risk that. If you want, I'll stay here with you tonight, but no snu-snu.".
Leela snuggled up against Fry.
"All right Fry, if that's the way you want it, I guess I can't argue with my own words.".
"Besides," Fry said, "we'd have a minor, uh, technical problem anyway.".
"Oh? What's that?".
"I figured that when I shoved my way in here you'd beat the snot out of me, so I got Zoidberg to give me a pain killer. I didn't trust him to know what he was doing, so I looked it up on-line. Turns out he gave me a good one, but one of the side effects is that the old, umm, "human horn" probably won't work very well for a couple of days.".
"Well, Fry, as long as we're in true confession mode, I guess I'd better admit to having a small "technical problem" of my own.".
"Oh? What's that?".
"It's that time of the month.".
The looked at each other for a moment, then burst out laughing.
"Is it ok if we kiss?".
"Yeah, no problem there." Fry said.
"Good." Leela said as she went into attack mode again.
For the third time that night, Fry found himself flat on his back.
A little while later, when he finally had a chance to breath again, Fry smiled. He had his life back. No, that wasn't quite right, they had their lives back.
. -. -..