The Ride of a Lifetime
2RL01 2006 April 28
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.
"Phillip, wake up. You're going to be late again."
Fry gritted his teeth. He hated being woken up like that. He hated being called Phillip. That voice grated on his nerves.
He laid there for a minute, trying not to think. But finally, forced by the knowledge that time was marching inexorably on and the sure knowledge that she'd be back and more peevish, he forced himself up and out of bed.
He plodded through his morning ritual - shower, shave, dress, eat.
He sat at the little table in their squalid apartment, a bowl of dry cereal in front of him. They were out of milk again. They couldn't afford coffee. So it was a glass of water to wash down the dry, tasteless horse feed.
She sat across the table from him, buried behind one of those trashy tabloid magazines - the head lines proclaiming that Elvis had fathered an illegitimate baby with the Empress of Omicron Percei 8 - clouds of cigarette smoke gathering in the close stuffiness of the apartment.
Fry walked into the windowless basement room where he worked. His "office" amounted to a coat hook in the corner. He continued his morning ritual, get a cup of coffee, get his cart, start loading the bins for his morning rounds.
How bitterly ironic life was he reflected. Here he was, still a delivery boy, pushing a mail cart around the halls of the corporate offices of the Baltimore and Orion company.
Her uncle was a big shot here, she'd said. That job at that tacky little delivery company was beneath him, she'd said. Her uncle could get him in with B&O, she'd said. In no time at all he'd have an important position with his own office, she'd said. They'd have a penthouse apartment overlooking the park, she'd said.
So her uncle had got him in at B&O. Yeah, by giving him the listing of open positions and telling him where the personnel office was. He'd got the job on his own. He'd quit Planet Express and gone to work here. Sure, it was less money, and the job was a complete drudge, but he had expectations of better things to come.
Reality had quickly crushed whatever dreams he'd had. Her uncle, it turned out, was a lower level functionary, going to the bathroom was about all he could do without the approval of three layers of management above him.
They'd burned through what money he had saved, and were forced to move to a smaller place. She didn't feel she needed to work.
Fry got a second cup of coffee and started on his morning rounds.
Lunch consisted of another cup of coffee, and a handful of the same cold cereal he'd had that morning. That was all they could afford until Friday when he got paid again. Somehow, Fry thought sourly, they could find money for her cigarettes and trashy magazines, but there was never enough that he could have a decent lunch.
"Fry!" his boss called.
"Yes, sir." Fry responded automatically, standing up.
"I needs youse to delivers this package. The regular courier wents home sick. Makes it snappy, youse still gots to do your afternoon rounds when youse gets back.".
Well, at least that was something different. It'd get him out of the building, if only for a few minutes. At this stage of his life, he tried to enjoy any little break in the routine - it was the only entertainment he had.
Even that quickly faded - he wasn't allowed to use the courier's truck. He wasn't insured for it, his boss told him.
All the hoverdollies were either out or broken. All that was available was an old fashioned two wheel hand truck.
Fry wrestled the package up onto the hand truck and found a piece of cord to tie it on with. Some "package" he thought, it was a crate, a big, bulky, heavy one. He grabbed the delivery paperwork and looked to see where it was going. He was struck by a sudden, unidentifiable pang - It was going to Planet Express.
That was at least two miles away, and he'd have to push it all the way. That was going to take him at least an hour, probably more, not counting any time spent at PE. He had no idea what went on in the front office there, he'd never had to deal with that.
He was going to be late getting home tonight. Well, that wasn't all bad.
He got his jacket, tucked the paperwork in the inside pocket, and set out.
He turned a corner and stopped to rest. The Planet Express building loomed in the distance, a dozen blocks away. The sight of it brought back memories. He hadn't been back since he'd quit. He hadn't seen any of his old coworkers since then either, except Bender, and he hadn't seen him in a long time. For the first month, he'd met Bender a couple of times a week at the Pub they always went to, and they'd have a beer. But then, a month after he'd quit, Bender had stopped showing up. His telephone number was disconnected shortly thereafter, and by then Fry's cash flow situation was getting tight. The necessities of the moment forced concerns about Bender into the background, from where they never returned.
And Leela. Fry had convinced himself that he no longer loved her. He had found a new love, one that was reciprocated, and now ....
Fry shook it off. This wasn't getting him anywhere. He tilted the hand truck back and set off again.
His next stop was on the corner across the street from PE while he waited for traffic to clear. He noted with sadness that the little cafe and coffee shop on the other corner was gone, the building vacant.
Fry maneuvered the hand truck through the front door of the PE building and into the reception area. He sat the big box down and looked around. The place had a look of disuse to it. It was nothing he could put his finger on - sure, there was a little dust here and there, and a few cobwebs in the corners, and even the fake plants looked wilted, but everything else was mostly as he remembered it.
He waited a minute, but nobody showed up to help him.
"Hello?" he called out.
It almost seemed like his voice echoed in the stillness; it brought back a memory of another delivery.
"Pizza delivery for Icy Weiner." he said quietly.
Fry wandered back through the building, through the lounge, and into the conference area. He stood there looking around: The conference table where he'd sat through so many deadly boring staff meetings, the kitchen area off to the side, and back into the hanger where the ship sat.
He never remembered the place being this silent. It always seemed so active, so full of life. Now it reminded him of a funeral parlor, all it needed was some organ music in the background.
A profound sadness filled Fry. Memories were flooding back into his mind, almost too fast to comprehend. It had suddenly dawned on him that his years here had been the happiest of his life.
He felt like crying. That was happening more and more lately. All he wanted to do, sometimes, was to run away, to find some place where he could be alone, where it was warm and dark and quiet, and just go to sleep. And maybe never wake up. How, sometimes, he wished for some of that space honey, to sleep, to dream forever ...
He took a deep breath, and let out a sigh. The harsh light of reality forced him to push those thoughts aside, something that was slowly getting harder and harder to do. He had a job to do. He had to get back to work and make his afternoon rounds. He had a wife to support.
He trudged back towards the ship, descending the steps into the hanger. There was a look of decay about it. Around the edges were pieces of machinery, some obviously broken, some in various states of disassembly. Broken and bent and discarded parts lay in little piles here and there.
Fry looked up at the ship. He was surprised to see a patch high up on the port side aft, about where the reactor room would be. It was a square of steel welded to the hull, painted in a poorly matching color, bubbles of rust showing through in places.
Other spots on the ship also showed splotches of paint which had been applied with equal disregard to color matching.
Fry was almost finished with his circle around the ship when he heard the sounds of pounding from inside.
He mounted the steps, and stood in the corridor.
"Hello?" He called.
There was no answer. The sounds of pounding resumed, coming from somewhere aft.
Fry poked his head into the reactor room. There was no one there, but noises of someone moving around and tools clanking came from the engine room further aft.
Fry stepped through the hatch.
"Hello?" he called out.
A figure, dressed in coveralls, sat up and turned to look at him. There was a clatter as a tool hit the floor.
"Leela?" Fry said.
"Fry?" she said, pushing the goggles off her face, her eye wide. "Fry, what are you doing here?".
Fry pointed his thumb over his shoulder and said "Um, I have a package to, uh, deliver.". His shoulders sagged.
"Wasn't there anyone out front?".
"No. I didn't see a soul. I called out a couple of times, but no one came.".
Leela sighed. "Hermes is probably drunk again. Come on.".
"Drunk?" Fry thought to himself, surprised.
He followed Leela out of the ship and back up front. She took the paperwork, looked it over, signed it, stamped it, and handed Fry his copy back.
"Would you bring that back here for me, please.".
"Sure." Fry said, tilting the hand truck back with a grunt.
He wheeled it through the building, down the ramp, and into the hanger area. He untied the cord and slid the hand truck out from under the crate, and wheeled the cart back up the ramp.
He and Leela stood near the conference table, eying each other uneasily.
"So, um, how you been doing?" Fry asked finally.
"Ok, I guess. How about you?".
They stood there for another moment, both feeling awkward.
"Fry, would you like a cup of coffee?" Leela asked.
"I'd love one.".
Leela went over to the coffee pot and started setting it up.
Fry was eying a bowl of apples on the counter. Seeing them made him realize how hungry he was.
"Leela, um, could I, um have one of those apples, please?".
"Sure, help yourself.".
Fry grabbed one and bit into it hungrily.
Leela watched him scarf the apple down.
"Fry, are you sure you're ok?".
Fry sighed, his eyes downcast.
"No. No, I'm not. For one thing, I'm starved.".
Leela opened the refrigerator and pulled out a box.
"Here, here's some fried chicken Hermes had left over from lunch yesterday.".
"Thanks, Leela. Just like always, you're a life saver.".
Fry took the box to the table and started devouring the chicken.
Leela poured two cups of coffee and joined Fry at the table.
"Want to talk about it?".
Fry sipped his coffee.
"Oh, it's nothing really. Things are pretty normal for me. My life sucks. I'm stuck in a dead end, low paying job. My marriage isn't really working out.".
He looked around.
"And I miss my friends here. How about you? Any confessions you want to make?".
Leela looked sad.
"Sure, why not. A month after you left, we got jumped on a run and took a hit in the reactor room. We had a pretty rough go of it. The new delivery boy was killed. Amy was in the hospital for two months - she's back on Mars now. I hear she's finished therapy and is doing fine. Bender's in a bin down there in the hanger - we've got most of the parts to put him back together, I just haven't had the time. And I ... ".
She paused, turned in her seat, and peeled off the long sleeve shirt she was wearing. Fry made a face. A portion of her back and her left arm showed the remains of scars.
"The doctors tell me it will clear up eventually, and will be hardly noticeable. Since then, we haven't ventured outside the solar system. Business is way off. Hermes is so bored that he's been applying for transfers for months now, and he's taken to drinking his lunch. He usually isn't good for much in the afternoon.".
They were silent for a minute.
"Wow. How did that all happen?".
"It was my fault. I was .. not at my best. The truth is I shouldn't have been flying at all. I was taking your leaving pretty hard at the time, and I'd pretty much lost the will to live. I just didn't have the edge anymore. The other guy got us 'cause I wasn't up to it, and someone died as a result. We got him in the end, but it wasn't a victory. In the long run, we lost.".
"Oh wow." Fry said after a moment. "How about now? How are you managing?".
Leela blinked. Her eye looked moist.
"Lousy, Fry. It's no fun working here anymore. And ... " she paused.
"Fry, I still ... have feelings for you. I didn't realize, or maybe I just wasn't willing to admit to myself, how much you meant to me until it was too late. It hurts, Fry. It hurts a lot. It's been a year, and there's hardly been a night I haven't cried myself to sleep, wishing you were there, and kicking myself for being so ... I don't know, what ever I was. Stupid, I guess.
I think I know how you felt now. I hope it makes you feel better, knowing that I'm going through the same things I must have put you through.".
She wiped the tears out of her eye with the back of her hand.
Fry shook his head, blinking back his own tears.
"It doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel worse. I loved you, I only wanted to make you happy. I never would have done anything, I wouldn't do anything now, to hurt you.".
"But you did, Fry. You did hurt me. You met her, and you married her, and you left me. You never even called to say hi.".
"I'm sorry, Leela, at the time, well, I don't know, it just seemed like the logical thing to do. If I had it do over again, I might make different decisions. But I can't do it over. I can't go back in time and make things right.".
There was another awkward silence.
Fry stood up.
"Look Leela, I'm sorry, I've got to get back to work. My boss is going to ream me a new one as it is. It was great to see you again. Thanks for the coffee and the food.".
Fry lingered a second, wrestling with feelings he knew he wasn't supposed to be having, then reluctantly turned to leave.
He turned around. Leela was standing now. She moved close to him. She reached out and touched him.
Fry suddenly felt like he'd received an electric shock. Feelings he hadn't felt in a long time came surging back though him. Feelings so strong that he came to a realization, like a blinding flash, that he had never really loved the woman he'd married; oh sure, he'd had feelings for her at the time; but they were nothing like this.
Fry reached out and touched Leela. He felt her tremble.
Slowly they moved closer to each other.
Fry woke up. It was dark, almost pitch black. There was just a tiny bit of very faint illumination from some recessed source down near the floor. For a moment, he didn't know where he was. Slowly, it came to him - he was in the ship, in her cabin. But it was something more than that - he'd found that place he'd always wished he could go when he was feeling down - a place that was warm, and dark, and quiet. A place where he would feel safe and loved. For the first time in a long time, Fry smiled.
Leela was curled up beside him, her head on his shoulder. He held on to her. He never wanted to let her go.
"Fry?" she said softly, "are you awake?".
"I love you Fry.".
"I love you, Leela.".
"That was the most wonderful thing I've ever experienced, Fry.".
"Thanks, Leela. It was pretty incredible for me, too.".
"I've always known there had to be something you'd be really, really good at. I just wish I could have discovered what it was sooner.".
They laid there, holding each other tightly, for a long time.
Fry let out a sad sigh.
"What's the matter Fry?".
"Oh Leela, I've made such a mess of everything. Here we are, we're finally happy, but it can't last. I've got to get up and go home and face the music. I'm probably going to get fired from my job 'cause I didn't come back this afternoon. Oh Leela, what am I going to do? I can't go on anymore without you, but I'm trapped.".
"You're not trapped. Quit that stupid job, come back to work here. Tell her you're through. We'll put Bender back together. We'll get Amy to come back from Mars. We'll get Hermes dried out. And together, you and I, we'll rebuild Planet Express.".
"I don't know, Leela. It sounds good, but you know the old saying "you can't go home again"? Suddenly I know what it means.".
"You're right, Fry, you can't go home again. But we can start building a new home. A better home. One based on mutual respect, and trust, and love.".
She kissed him.
"I'd love to Leela, it all sounds wonderful, but I don't have any money, and after tonight, I probably won't even have a place to live.".
"Yes, you do, Fry. You can move in with me. You'll be back on the payroll here tomorrow. I'm still employed, and I've got money in the bank, I can support us until you get back on your feet.".
"Oh God, Leela, I want too. I want this as badly as I've ever wanted anything in my life. But I just don't know if I can go through with it. I'm not the kind of guy that can just walk out on a promise I made.".
"I know that Fry, that's one of the things I love about you. But ask yourself, has she kept her end of the bargain? If you're so unhappy, she obviously hasn't. What else is there to keep you - you don't have a baby on the way or something do you?".
"No, no babies. A couple of false alarms, but nothing recently. We haven't ... we'll let's just say there isn't any chance that I'm going to be a father any time soon.".
"Fry, that's so sad. You deserve better. When you were frozen, you left your old life behind and started over. Remember that? It was the ride of a lifetime for you, wasn't it? Now you have it in your power to start over again, all you have to do is say the word. Only this time, I'll be right by your side, right from the start. Together, you and I, we can do anything. And I promise you Fry, this time, it really will be the ride of a lifetime.".
"Ok, Leela. I'll do it. We'll do it.".
They held each other tight.
Far, far away, on a planet at the exact center of the Universe, in a temple-like building 10 miles west of the exact center of the Universe, a group of hooded figures sat on a ring of raised stools in a dimly lit room.
Another hooded figure entered the room and moved into the circle of light at the center of the ring.
"Your lordships, we have received a message from our Ambassador on Earth. It reads "The package has been delivered.".".
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