New York, January 16th, 2000
The Red Star apartment building was not a place that felt inviting to just about anyone, be they patrons or guests- or time traveling aliens from the future. Not that the one tenant that fit into that last category noticed the bleak hostility of the place as she clambered up the semi-dark stairwell toward her apartment. She was much too busy contemplating murder to worry about her surroundings.
With one brown paper bag under each arm, Leela was returning from grocery shopping. Despite spending more than two weeks in the past, surviving on a day by day basis was still a challenge. The idea of buying food was not a novelty in itself; she did that in her own time, but she had no idea what the different cans, boxes and other containers with their bright printed colors and strange names contained in this era.
Unfortunately, Fry wasn't any help (as usual), since he was still lying in bed recovering from his head’s impromptu meeting with a rock during the brawl with the drunken fratboys. Most of his time since then had been spent complaining that he was bored because he couldn't watch TV, and his constant demands for entertainment and food were slowly driving Leela nuts.
The lack of food was actually something that was of concern even to Leela, as there was hardly anything edible left save for something called pop tarts. Apparently they were some sort of bread covered with colored sugar. Despite Fry’s insistence that they were great, one bite had been enough for Leela to be convinced otherwise. The raw, sugar-induced sweetness had been so overwhelming that the cyclops had been ill from it. Needless to say, if there was any real food to be had, she would be the one getting it.
Rooting through the pockets of her brown coat and Fry’s very smelly red jacket, she had managed to scrounge up a fair amount of change, which she had hoped would be sufficient for her needs. Leela had gathered the crumpled bills and worn coins in her right side coat pocket, donned her sunglasses and gloves, and set out in the old New York to look for a grocery store.
The purple-haired woman had found a placed that featured a sign spelling out "7/11", though she couldn't figure out why a store would call itself that. She almost wondered if it was some sort of primitive way of writing 7[sup]11[/sup], the name of the grocery store from her era, which had been so-named for obvious reasons. She'd eventually decided to try the place and, upon entering, had been relieved to see what looked like grocery baskets stacked up in a corner. She walked over and touched one of them and then waited patiently for it to ask her for her grocery list and to start finding her groceries for her. When, after thirty seconds, the basket still hadn't shown any sign of acknowledging her existence, she started to become a little nervous. She was just about to give up, turn around, and leave before she drew too much attention to herself when a young woman elbowed past her, gave her an annoyed look, grabbed a basket, and headed off toward what even Leela recognized as a beer cooler.
Leela looked down at the baskets in horror. Non-robotic shopping baskets! She was practically in the stone age! Shaking her head, Leela lifted a basket from the stack and followed the woman that had brushed by her. For the next few minutes, she stalked the store's other patrons- trying to discern what they were buying while clutching her plastic basket, which, by the way, didn't even hover.
After much agonizing and pondering, Leela had managed to scrounge a few items together and had made her way towards the till. Leela knew the paying process; she had seen Fry pay so many times that this was no longer an unfamiliar event. Having gathered her groceries and paid the pimply-faced young boy behind the counter, Leela turned around to leave when she bumped into a large man.
The sudden bump coupled with the fact that she had two bags to balance in her arms had resulted in the cyclops landing none-too-gently on her bottom. The man had started to say something to the effect that she should be more careful where she was going when he spotted her sole eye. The sunglasses that had helped disguise the fact that Leela wasn't entirely human were lying on the floor beside a couple of cans of beans that had rolled out of one of her grocery bags.
The man stared at her face, eyes unblinking and mouth agape, and, before Leela had a chance to do anything about the situation she found herself in, the man started, much to the cyclops's expectation, to scream. The purple-haired woman collected her groceries and sunglasses, and fled the store amidst the pandemonium that started to unfold. Just as she had managed to squeeze herself through the doorway, someone had started to shout for the police.
Leela fled the store by walking briskly through the almost-deserted and cold streets of New York, her very-purple hair flowing like a mantle behind her. Having forgotten her grey, tweed newspaper cap back in the apartment, she knew that just about anyone wouldn’t have any trouble finding her. The sudden appearance of a police cruiser that had swept past her with blaring sirens and flashing lights, stating its authority as it urged anyone in the road to get out of its way as it tore down the street towards the 7/11 the cyclops had just escaped, had startled her. She had seen fit to quicken her steps as much as two grocery bags had allowed.
Walking back up the stairs, Leela was contemplating just how stupid and ignorant twentieth first century humanity was. What stupid, ignorant, foolish idiots they are!! Her views of humanity were not the only reason why her temperament had reached boiling point. The New York weather had seen fit to add to her dismal state of mind by letting lose a flurry of snow as she had been making her way back.
The wet snow had clung to the paper bags that the cyclops had used to pack her groceries in. Having just reached the apartment door, the wet fabric of the paper bags decided to call it a day as she was fumbling with her keys and let the groceries tumble to the floor.
Cans, boxes and vegetables danced over Leela’s arms, jumped off her legs and scattered over the dirty hall floor, rolling and tumbling all over. For a moment, the purple-haired woman stood there with the remains of two soggy paper bags clinging to her arms, keys still in one hand. Ohhhh! You couldn’t wait for just one more minute! Leela fumed in her mind over the escaping groceries. And, since I'm living in the freaking dark ages, my guess is you aren't even going to re-assemble yourselves and pick up my groceries for me! Argh!
With a low and irritated growl, hinting imminent violence, she bent down on the floor in order to re-assemble her wayward foodstuffs. What kind of idiotic material do they use for these things anyway? She silently pondered about the now torn paper bags.
Kneeling over her groceries, Leela’s sunglasses decided to yet again escape her face and took refuge on the floor beside a can of beans. With an irritated sigh, she reached for them and, just as she grasped them, another hand landed on hers. Without thinking the cyclops looked up to see whose hand it was. It belonged to a young man with dark black hair, soft green eyes and a shapely face, standing on his knees, just beside her.
“Hey, let me help you with your…” The man started, his voice trailed off into silence when he saw Leela’s sole eye. The purple-haired woman froze like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming truck. Here it comes, he’ll scream, faint, and we’re sure to be evicted… or worse. Several horrible scenarios of what was about to transpire flashed through Leela’s mind as she steeled herself for the inevitable screaming to come.
“Wow! I mean, wow! Your eye… face! It’s just… it’s… wow!” The man exploded his face lit up like a kid having survived the horrors of Christmas Eve. From the wide array of possible reactions this was not what she had been expecting.
“It’s what ?!” The cyclops continued with her voice laced with cold reservation sprinkled with a hint of possible violence.
“It’s… different, exciting… no, it’s beautiful!” He breathed excitedly while staring unabashed at her face.
Leela stared back at him for a moment, her initial distrust and anger flowing away. This was not something she had ever experienced, even from the few boyfriends she’d ever had. Usually there had always been some odd reaction of her prominent facial features in the form of a grimace, double-take or a step-back.
“I… I've got to go.” She stuttered and stood up, somewhat stunned and flattered over the man’s very different reaction to her single eye.
The man quickly rose to his feet. “Wait! You forgot your sun glasses.” He continued, picking them up and holding them out to her. Tentatively, Leela reached for them while he introduced himself. “I’m Jake by the way, I live across the hall.”
The cyclops did not immediately answer but folded and put her glasses away lest they decided to escape again. She stared Jake down with a half closed eye for a moment not responding to his introduction, still unsure just how to react to this man. Did he really mean that? About my eye? That it's beautiful? Leela silently wondered for herself as a flurry of emotions swirled through her.
The prolonged silence with both of them standing in the murky hallway complete with its fetid carpeting was turning awkward. “I’ll help you with your groceries!” Jake blurted, somewhat unnerved by the relentless stare from the cyclops, as he dove for the floor, picking up the assorted containers and foodstuffs scattered around using the remains of the paper bags as a bowl to put them all in.
Normally, Leela would have voiced some sort of objection, yet she was still trying to get her emotions sorted. Instead, she just stood there watching Jake assemble her wayward groceries.
“Here.” Jake said and dumped the still soggy paperback and a small mountain of boxes, cans and vegetables in Leela’s arms. “Can I see you… later… tonight? If you’re interested?” Still not having gotten over the fact that this man, this twenty first century man, had reacted more kindly towards her than even people in the thirtieth century had done, she didn’t reply.
A couple of seconds dragged by at the speed of a charging snail and Jake’s anticipating smile started to fade as he started to realize that the woman before him was not going to give him a positive reply to his question. With a deep sigh, he fished up a key chain and started to turn towards the door opposite.
“No, wait, I can come over later.” Leela countered, finally having gotten her vocal cords to do her bidding once more. She was feeling interested to learn more about this man that not only wasn’t put off by her eye but somehow exuded a sense of adventure, confidence, and, judging from his clothing, a snappy dress-sense. It was also a great opportunity for her to get out from the apartment and a certain whiny roommate while meeting someone new.
With his back turned to Leela, a contemptuous smile crept over his face. Too easy. He mused to himself. Normally a woman would give him the cold shoulder if he tried the old tired "Oh my gawd you're beautiful!" routine that every loser did. Most beautiful women heard that several times a day and weren’t impressed by that form of pickup line. No, you had to stand out, be different if you were to make yourself exciting to a gorgeous woman.
In this case, however, he had felt that this mono-eye would require a different approach. Jake had figured that someone like this woman would probably have few men and even fewer dates. A complement to her hideous eye would probably entice her.
The unpleasant smile slid of his face as he turned around slightly and shot Leela a glance. “See later you then.” he offered as a parting shot and disappeared into his apartment, drawing his door to a close behind him.
The cyclops stood there and stared at Jake's apartment door for a moment when suddenly the very door she had been trying to enter prior to her grocery-related accident opened. “Leela?” Fry poked his head out and stared at the cyclops.
“Who are you talking to?” He queried. As the stricken delivery boy had made himself busy making some more pop tarts and catch some much-needed TV time, despite that he was supposed to stay in bed, (which Leela had insisted on, as she feared that his head injury could be made worse by the primitive TV set) when he'd heard what was unmistakably Leela’s voice coming from just outside the apartment door.
Before the cyclops had a sliver of chance to give an explanation, the delivery boy spotted a familiar container in Leela’s hands. “Hey! Are those Captain Crunchies?” He blurted and grabbed the colorful cereal box before disappearing back inside the apartment while trying to tear the carton open.
The purple-haired woman threw a wistful look at the opposite door before she followed her annoying coworker inside the apartment with a low growling sound, hinting at her growing anger. If he’s up, he could have at least helped me with the food.
Irritated, Leela dumped the pile of groceries on the counter in the kitchen area before she turned to address her non-helping room-mate. “Fry! Couldn’t you at least have helped me?!”
There was no reply from the delivery boy, who was splayed out on the couch in front of the TV, already eating from the now-open box of Captain Crunchies, engrossed with images that flickered over the screen.
“FRY! That thing will give you eye cancer! Are you even listening to me?!” Leela called with considerable annoyance over being ignored.
“Huh?” The red head replied and stared back at Leela with a blank look, having managed to tear his attention from the screen.
Leela let out a frustrated sigh. Why does he have to be so… so… annoyingly absentminded?
“Look, I met the neighbor, Jake and… he invited me over.” Leela let out the rather significant detail of Jake seeing her one eye.
Fry stared back. It had not occurred to him that his future visitor would show interest in meeting someone other than him, since Leela had complained about the twenty first century and the people living in this era basically non-stop since he'd first met her. She had also made very clear that she had every intention in returning home, to a time where there were robots and hover cars, where one could take a jaunt to the moon in mere seconds, an idea that enticed Fry, who had dreamt about the moon his whole life. Now for her to suddenly want to go hang out with the slick ladies' man across the hall... For some reason that he couldn't fathom, he felt his heart sink.
"You met Jake?"
"Yeah, so? Is that a problem?" Leela's blinked at the acidity of her own voice. She'd hadn't intended to react like that to Fry's hint of disapproval.
"He's no good, Leela. I know it. He's always got these big, scary-looking Italian guys coming over that are always like 'fughet aboudit' and stuff, and Crazy Ivan told me that he always pays his rent in cash. I saw in his apartment once, and he's got all this fancy stuff, but I've never seen him go to work, and-"
"Oh, stop it." Leela waved the delivery boy quiet with an irritated flick of the wrist. "Have you ever even talked to the guy?"
"Well, no, but-"
"Yeah, I didn't think so. Typical twentieth century paranoia. He seemed perfectly nice to me when he- and not you- was helping me pick up my groceries."
"How was I supposed to know you dropped your groceries on the other side of a closed door?!"
Leela, knowing both that he was right and that her anger at him didn't make any sense, but angry at him just the same, hung her wet coat over a chair and started to put away the groceries.
“Well, the fact remains that he did invite me over, and I’m going as soon as I’m finished here. And while I'm there, you're going back to bed. You’re supposed to be injured, remember?” She felt a slight sting of guilt over using Fry’s injury as a weapon against him, since it had been her fault indirectly that he had been wounded. I'm being too hard on him. She told herself. I'd either be dead or locked up in some secret government facility for studying aliens if he hadn't helped me. He's really been a great friend to me the last couple of weeks. Constantly being scared that someone is going to see my eye is just driving me crazy. I need to stop taking it out on Fry, though. It's not his fault I'm in this mess.
The delivery boy, realizing that the conversation was apparently over, frowned and sank back into the couch and continued his digging in the Captain Crunchies box. He was sure that there was a toy in there somewhere.
Having finished up what she was doing, Leela momentarily pondered if she should change from her usual attire consisting of brown boots, jeans and white jumper, but, since being “invited over” didn't really feel formal enough to be a date, she decided against it. Besides, she had no idea what the customs were here. For all she knew, her definition of 'looking nice' would be seen as patently offensive by twentieth century eyes.
She left Fry, who was still sitting on the couch and, by now, was covered in the trademark shapes of the Captain Crunchies cereal as his quest for the hidden toy had made him dig deep and violently for his prize, sending the tiny, brown, sugar-covered bits everywhere.
The delivery boy didn’t waver in his searching of the box, and thus missed Leela’s parting call as she bid him a good night and drew the apartment door to a close. “Ha!” He yelled triumphantly, stood up, and held a small, cheap plastic toy over his head, which sent a shower of Captain Crunchies all over the living room. “Hey Leela, look!” He urged and scanned the room, his resident cyclops nowhere to be seen. “Leela?” He continued, staring at the closed front door.
Meanwhile the object of Fry’s search was sitting on a nice, brown leather couch sipping white wine in Jake’s candle-lit living room. To the cyclops surprise, the apartment in which Jake resided was very nice, it didn’t smell of mildew, Fry’s socks (which she sometimes imagined she could smell from blocks away) or stale water. Nor did it feature peeling wall paint or a soggy carpet. In fact, it was everything that Fry’s apartment wasn’t. Roomy with a separate kitchen, soft colors, drapes lining the windows, nice leather furniture that wasn’t falling apart, a clean kitchen with unbroken tiles... even the TV was impressive, despite that it was of the eye-cancer variety.
Fry wasn't exaggerating when he said this place was nice. Leela thought.
There was one thing that had made Leela pause for thought when Jake had first opened the door on her second knock. Seeing his face more clearly in the brighter light from his apartment gave her the unshakeable feeling that it was familiar somehow, as though she had somehow met him at some point before that afternoon. When Leela thought about it, she realized that it was the second time she'd had this feeling about recognizing someone in this era. Fry had been the first one, and now Jake. Of course, that was absolutely crazy.
Crazy or not, the feeling wouldn't go away, and she would have given it more thought if she hadn’t been distracted by a very pleasant smell emanating from the kitchen, suggesting that Jake was cooking, and judging from the wafts that found their way to the living room, he was good at it. Unlike Fry’s attempts at cooking which entailed using the microwave or burning something in a skillet. Leela took another sip of white wine. She felt that the night was looking promising so far.
For Fry, the hours dragged by very much like a drunken stumble towards home: long, arduous and straight as the path of a chessboard knight. The time had long passed the midnight hour, and the delivery boy had fallen asleep in front of the flickering TV set, waiting for the return of his female flat mate. It was not until a few minutes shy of three in the morning that the door to the apartment creaked open as Leela tried to make a stealthy entrance.
It had been an evening filled with white wine, great food and pleasant conversation. Jake had turned out to be a polar opposite of Fry, and Leela had enjoyed every minute of it. The handsome young man had not only shown excellent taste in food and wine, but interesting views of such diverse subjects as philosophy, animals and experiences in dating. There had been a couple of awkward moments when he had questioned where she was from and why she lived with Fry. When Leela had flustered, finding it hard to come up with a plausible lie, Jake had simply glossed over the moment and changed the subject.
It had been with regret that Leela had parted from Jake and returned to her own apartment, where she now tried to navigate the cluttered floor in semidarkness while somewhat inebriated. The cyclops managed to just pass the sofa when Fry woke with a gurgling sound. Still drowsy from sleep, Fry managed, for him, an uncharacteristically lucid question. “How was it? Did you have fun?”
For a moment, Leela stood there staring at Fry, dumbstruck by his question, trying to formulate an answer through the fog of alcohol, good food and a pleasant company had brought her. “I… I had a very nice evening, Fry.”
Still without opening his eyes, the delivery boy turned over on the green sofa. “See you tomorrow.” He mumbled and, with no further comment, he promptly fell back to sleep, leaving Leela still standing, slightly surprised by Fry's kind question, considering that he had been against her visiting Jake. She was too tired by this point to be surprised for very long though, and when her eyelid started to droop in an attempt by her body to provide her with a not-so-subtle hint, Leela turned off the TV and headed for her bed. Once in the solitude of her bedroom, she pondered her meeting with Jake. Perhaps, just perhaps, Jake was the anchor point she really needed in this time, provided she didn’t find a way back home.
New York, January 17th, 2000
The next morning was a Monday, that most-hated of weekly occurrences. Granted, this Monday was different than most, as it was Martin Luther King Jr. day, which meant that Fry and Leela could enjoy a rather surprising day off from work. This was not because Mr. Panucci cared for his employees, but rather, he wanted the day off himself, and he did not trust his lowly delivery boy and girl to manage the store without his presence.
The two roommates both enjoyed the morning as they saw fit; Fry lay leisurely in front of the TV watching America's Funniest Home Injuries, splayed over the green couch in a manner that Leela though looked uncomfortable. The alien time traveler sat on a chair in the kitchenette occupying herself by reading a newspaper that she'd found in the lobby the day before, though the arcane language and confusing stupidity made for slow progress.
This tranquil scene was soon interrupted by a low, but insistent, knock on the apartment door. Leela cast a look in Fry’s direction, yet the delivery boy gave no visible cue that he had heard the knock. “Fry!” She growled, conveying her irritation, something that made Fry pop his head over the edge of the sofa and stare with a puzzled expression in her direction.
“What?” He asked with slight irritation of his own, not being pleased to have to tear himself away from people hurting themselves in ways he never could have imagined.
“Will you get the door?” The cyclops continued as she looked at the delivery boy over the rim of the newspaper.
For a moment, the delivery boy was ready to give an answer in the form of a complaint that he seemed to always have to do everything, yet something hindered him from lashing out with his usual whining. There was something, that he quite couldn't put his finger on, yet it was crucial that he opened the door and not Leela.
"Um... sure, but... why can't you?" He asked, in what he hoped was a neutral tone.
Leela countered with her eye half closed, conveying her feelings. “Because of my eye?” The cyclops noted with a slight tinge of sarcasm in her voice.
Fry looked at Leela unblinking. “What about it?”
Leela rolled her eye skyward and groaned to herself. Is he really this dense, of does he do it just to annoy me? “I need to hide it, remember? You know, because of that whole 'I'm an alien and, if someone sees my eye, I'll end up being chased through the streets by a mob wielding pitchforks and torches' thing? Maybe I've mentioned that minor detail once or twice?”
“Oh, sorry, I guess I don't really think about that anymore.”
At first she was about to get mad at him, but then, what Fry had meant hit home. He's not bothered by my eye?
This was not something that she was used to. Unfortunately Leela had no time to dwell on this as Fry was on his way toward the door. She had to rush to make herself scarce.
I Hope it isn’t Ivan about the rent. Fry desperately hoped, having forgotten that he'd already paid for the whole month. What he found leaning on the door frame upon opening the door was not what he had expected. “You?!” He said with equal amounts of dismay and surprise.
“Hi bro.” Yancy said, with a superior, overbearing smile plastered across his face. For a split second, Fry was tempted to slam the door shut in the face of his more-than-irritating older brother, then, as the door to Leela’s bedroom was opened and closed, something clicked in his mind. A long lost memory about a fight with Yancy regarding whether aliens existed or not. From the deep mist of remembrance it stirred in delivery boy’s mind and a wry smile crept into his face.
With decisiveness uncharacteristic for Fry he grabbed his older brother by the arm and dragged him inside the apartment, slamming the door shut behind him. “Hey?! What are you doin’?” Yancy protested, his superiority having slid right off.
“Remember how you said that there are no aliens? I’ll show you!” Fry proclaimed in triumph coming to a dead stop in the living room and making a sweeping gesture towards Leela, who now was sitting in the couch with her newspaper in hand.
Yancy stared nonplussed at Leela, then at Fry and back at Leela again. “Have you been eating paste again, Philip?” He queried with irritation and slight disgust in his voice.
“No I didn’t! Not today, at least.” Was Fry’s reply, then he realized that his purple haired companion had disguised herself revealing feature with her pair of large, dark sunglasses.
“But… she is an alien! For sure!!” Fry emphasized his words by waving his arms in Leela’s direction while at first ignoring the cyclops less than subtle arm gestures that were semaphoring such things as “shut up!” and “I’ll wring your neck!” to no avail.
Luckily, Fry’s brown-haired, older brother was totally oblivious to Leela’s frantic signaling as he was busy rolling his eyes toward the cracked and dirty ceiling, feeling exasperated over his younger sibling's inane behavior. A subtle, but insistent knock on the front door interrupted the whole situation. Yancy let out an irritated sigh and stared directly at his brother. “If you hadn’t been in such hurry to make an ass out of yourself, I would have had a chance to tell you that I wasn’t alone.”
Caught in the middle of his pantomime, Fry looked with confusion at his older brother, his brain trying to switch gears. He sought Leela’s eye only to be met with pair of obsidian-black sunglasses and an even darker frown. A feeling of uneasiness surged through his body as Fry finally realized what he'd almost done. Exposing Leela as an alien for his brother, in his attempt at finally having something to rub in the face of his obnoxious brother he had almost betrayed his friend.
This thought went through his mind as subtly as a truck crashing through a china shop. Friend, is that all she is? He pondered briefly as he finally realized that he had started to grow close to Leela and he did consider her a friend and... perhaps even something more. Considering his actions just seconds ago shame blossomed on his cheeks.
"I mean... Did I say alien? I meant... uh... illegal alien! Yeah, that's it! She's an illegal alien from, uhh, France?" He offered meekly, desperately trying to gloss over what he just had insinuated regarding what and where Leela came from.
The cyclops noted the sudden change in Fry's demeanor. "Just get the door already, Fry." She asked the delivery boy with a sigh. It was obvious that she and Fry would have to have a talk later. But for now she was willing to let her roommate's indiscretion slide only because he had, for once, realized his own mistake.
With his face a shameful mask, Fry made his way to the front door. I'm an idiot, I'm an idiot, I'm an idiot! repeated over and over again in his mind as he opened the door and faced the next surprise there.
“I’m sorry about that… my brother… imagines things from time to time. I’m Yancy by the way.” The brown-haired man said in an apologetic way and extended his right hand towards Leela.
“I’m Leela.” She replied and shook Yancy’s hand. “I’m a bit sensitive to light if you're wondering about these…” Leela continued, making a waving motion with her hands towards the large sunglasses perched on her nose.
Leela and Yancy’s conversation was cut short by turmoil from the apartment front door. “No, no, no, NO! I don’t want anything to do with you!” Fry cried with unusual anger that surprised Leela. Usually the red head shrugged off any grievances; she had never heard nor seen him mad.
“But… Fry… I…” A woman’s voice tried to interject between Fry’s shouts.
“Get lost!” Came the reply with unusual fervor.
“But I still love you, Fry.” Michelle countered, who had been the other person that had accompanied Yancy to the apartment. To her surprise, she had gotten a face full of door when Fry had yanked his brother into the apartment and slammed the door shut just as she was about to step forward. Her declaration of love was underscored with putting her right hand on Fry’s chest, just above his heart.
That one single sentence broke off Fry’s agitation abruptly. The red head opened his mouth and closed it several times, trying to find something to say. His fish imitation was curtailed by the arrival of Leela and Yancy, who had overheard the argument.
Michelle, seeing the arrival of the purple-haired woman whom Fry had claimed was his new girlfriend out of the corner of her eye, didn’t miss a beat. She gazed into Fry’s eyes for a moment before she grabbed his head and kissed him. A split second later, the delivery boy froze, bewildered, before he leaned into the familiar warmth that was Michelle’s lips.
Leela just stared in surprise at the scene unfolding in the hallway. As far as she knew, Fry didn’t want anything to do with his former girlfriend Michelle, a fact, not only stated on several previous occasions but just moments prior to Yancy and Michelle’s arrival. Yet here he was kissing the brunette for whom he had expressed such aversion, and, to the cyclops own surprise, she found feelings of jealousy well up inside her like bubbles in a soda.
"Fry... weren't you saying just the other day how glad you are that you are finally free from Michelle?" Leela noted calmly as the full frontal snogging went on without an apparent end in sight.
The net effect of Leela's interjection was like throwing ice cold water on the pair. Fry disengaged his lips from Michelle and spun his head in the cyclops direction so fast that there was an audible snapping sound. Moments later the delivery boy was spinning around in the narrow hallway with his hands wrapped around his head while crying "My neck!"
Michelle had a much different reaction. Her face turned pale white, and her hands flew to her mouth as she stared at Fry's impromptu pirouettes. Then her facial shades turned from pale to beat red, her face tensed up in an angered frown, and her slender hands balled up into clenched fists as she turned towards Leela.
For a moment the cyclops was certain that the brunette was about to jump her. Luckily, Fry intervened by bumping into Michelle by accident, sending her to the floor. With a neutral expression, Leela crossed the short distance to Fry, grabbed him forcefully, and, with assertive hand movements, she twisted the delivery boy's head back to its normal alignment with a loud cracking noise.
"I... hey, that was awesome. The pain's completely gone."
With her hands lingering on Fry's shoulders, Leela shot a glance down at Michelle, who was sitting propped up against the nearby wall. She stared back at Leela with anger in her eyes, tears had started to well up and her lower lip was quivering.
Michelle buried her face in her hands and started to sob. This made Fry stop his neck rubbing. He knelt down beside the crying brunette and lifted his hand to touch her shoulder, but he hesitated. He looked up at Leela in confusion, momentarily unable to choose between pity and his lingering anger toward Michelle.
Unfortunately, Leela couldn't give Fry the guidance that he so sorely needed in this situation. She knew Michelle's type: the quivering lip, those crocodilian tears... It was a well-practiced routine. From Leela's perspective it looked melodramatic and ridiculous, but she knew it wouldn't look that way to Fry. As much as Michelle sickened her though, Leela knew she had to keep her mouth shut.
I mean, what am I going to do, call her out? Fry's told me what she's like, how jealous and manipulative she is. Fry just about gave away who I am five minutes ago, how long would it be before Michelle managed to wrestle the truth out of him if she decided I was some kind of rival and started snooping around? Not that I'm interested in Fry. But no, I've got to stay under her radar as much as I can.
However logical all of that was, it didn't stop Leela from reaching out and squeezing Fry's shoulder as she turned her back on the pair and walked back into the apartment, or from smiling when Michelle's victim act crumbled just long enough for her to stare icy daggers in Leela's direction.
"Please Michelle, don't cry." Fry begged the sobbing girl while awkwardly patting her shoulder.
"W... w...why would did she... you say something like that?" Michelle managed between sobs.
A part of Fry still wanted to be angry at the brunette. The harsh way she had dumped him on New Year's Eve was still burning in his heart, but a crying woman was not something he was used to dealing with. He took her by her shoulders and opened his mouth to deliver yet another platitude when Michelle looked up, stared straight into his eyes for a moment and then pulled the red head in to a tight embrace.
"Uhh... there, there?" Was all the delivery boy managed as an awkward response. Michelle didn't answer, her face, awash with tears, broke up into a triumphant sneer. Too easy. she thought for herself. All that remained now was to reel him in and to get rid of that purple-haired hussy.
Some ten minutes later, Yancy and Michelle left the building together, making their way down the street, looking to hail a cab.
“Ugh! I need to wash my hair after this… I can’t understand why he lives in that filthy place.” The brunette complained and pulled on a few strands of hair at her bangs with a slightly disgusted look on her face.
Yancy shot Michelle a quick glance before surveying the nearly-empty street; there was not a cab in sight. With a light sigh, he decided to steer the conversation into a less hair-related topic. “I was right about my brother… and his 'new' girlfriend.”
Being reminded of a potential rival, Michelle's nostrils flared. “She’s just a French tourist that happened to have lost all of her luggage and money… for two weeks?! You really believe that? And she willingly lives with Fry in that… sty?!”
Yancy just made a grimace. He had agreed to help Michelle win back Fry, mostly to annoy his younger brother, but Michelle was as irritating as Fry was, at best. Why did I agree to this? “You did kiss Phillip, and you got the reaction you wanted, right?”
The brunette didn’t immediately answer, instead she replayed the moments where she had kissed Fry and done her quivering lower lip routine. That Leela person had almost ruined everything but to her delighted surprise, Fry had taken her words of regret at face value, as she had started to cry.
Despite this, Michelle had seen the looks Fry and that purple haired… thing, had exchanged, when they all had assembled in the squalor that Fry had called the living room and the current situation with his “house guest” was explained. Lingering doubt regarding Fry’s renewed loyalty towards her gnawed on Michelle's self-esteem. Finding Michelle’s silence somewhat unnerving, Yancy continued. “At least they agreed to come over for dinner.”
“At your parents’ house!” Michelle growled with displeasure.
Yancy didn’t answer, instead he waved his arm frantically at one yellow cab that had just appeared from a nearby corner. The cab dutifully turned towards the curb where he and Michelle stood. It would be a long trip home, having to listen to the brunette's griping.
New York, January 22nd, 2000
Saturday night had arrived in full force, and Leela, faced with the fact that there still weren't any free pods available at the cryogenics laboratory, was unable to enjoy it. She was as frustrated as she'd ever been. It had been three weeks, and she as no closer to getting home than she'd been on day one. There was also the nagging knowledge that she had never seen herself frozen during all the years she had been working as a Cryogenic Counselor, a knowledge that was hinting that she would indeed never return home. All she could do was vent to Fry. It didn't make her feel much better, but at least it ensured that she wasn't the only one that was miserable.
Seated together on the green sofa, Leela had listed everything that she disliked about the stupid ages, by ticking off each item on her fingers. She had then continued to tell Fry in great detail just how everything had gone wrong with the starting point of her failed night out New Year's Eve. When she paused briefly in her tirade, the delivery boy managed to interject the question that he'd been trying to get out for most of Leela's fifteen minute long outburst.
“You wanna go out tonight?” The redhead queried, having deduced that Leela’s failed New Years Eve celebration somehow warranted a new attempt at going out to have fun. The chance for him to go out with someone was also a very appealing thought.
Fry’s sudden offer, arriving just when Leela was about to continue found her train of thought not derailed, but violently stopped.
“I… what did you say?” She managed after her brain scrambled to process the sudden change in topic.
“Um… go out tonight? I know a couple of places.” Fry continued with more confidence that he actually felt, mostly because the few places he had managed to get in to had only let him in the front door because he'd been with Michelle. Most clubs seemed to think Fry himself was not quite the right person for their establishment. With a woman like Michelle at his arm, however, he usually found himself admitted if the right denomination of folded bills happened to slide their way into the bouncer's jacket pocket.
“Are you asking me out?” Leela asked in surprise, her innately suspicious nature unsure if she was being played.
Fry opened his mouth to answer, pausing briefly as his mind ransacked every possible answer that would work in a favorable way, yet, as always happened, his answer was what first thing to jump out of his mouth. “I guess, I am?” He said while scratching his head with an almost apologetic expression on his face.
For the purple-haired woman, there were several options available to her, several of which involved violence, yet Fry’s question had, for once, been the right one. She would much prefer to see Jake again, or better yet, to go out with him rather than with her oddball roommate, but that option was not available to her. She hadn't seen her neighbor since she'd first met him and he wasn’t answering his door. On two separate occasions she could have sworn that she had seen him disappear into his apartment. Both times, her knocks on Jake's apartment door had gone unanswered, if she didn’t know better she would have said that he was avoiding her, but to what end?
The other alternative was to sit at home, in a smelly apartment, which she didn’t want. She had bought herself a dress when Fry had first taken her shopping for clothes what now seemed ages ago. Had it really been more than twenty days already?
The cyclops stared at Fry for a moment. “Fine, give me a moment to change and we’ll go out.” Leela concluded, stood up from the couch and marched off to her bedroom leaving Fry pleasantly surprised behind her. For once he had asked for a date and hadn't had a beverage thrown in his face or had to flee a jealous boyfriend touting a two-by-four. The delivery boy followed suit and went to his own bedroom for some pre-party clothing preparations: a pair of fairly clean jeans and a shirt.
Finished well before his roommate, Fry passed the time as he always did: staring at a TV screen in a slouching position. Pre-occupied with the TV set, he never noticed Leela leaving her bedroom nor did he notice how she came up just behind him. The first notice of the cyclops was a waft of sweet perfume- almost intangible- and then there was a light touch of fingers in his hair followed by her voice. “I’m done, shall we go?”
Fry looked up in surprise and opened his mouth to answer… it stayed open, yet words refused to come over his lips. Leela was dressed in a black long sleeved mini dress made of a cotton fabric that followed her every curve. A pair of matching boots and a change of hair style completed the ensemble. Her trademark black sunglasses were situated in their normal place as well. Leela’s cynicism misinterpreting the delivery boy’s stunned silence as criticism of her attire. “Well?!” She snarled at him.
“You look… great!” He finally replied, having managed to re-engage his lower jaw and jumped to his feet.
After an embarrassing moment passing the never-resting Crazy Ivan at the front desk, who made numerous not-so-subtle sexual innuendos regarding the well-dressed Leela and Fry, the pair soon found themselves in the back seat of a yellow cab heading towards an address given by Fry. During the brief ride, Leela found herself having second thoughts about the whole thing. Perhaps it had been a mistake for her to accept Fry’s offer, now that it seemed like he and Michelle were getting back together. Yet, thinking about the manipulative brunette, Leela didn’t feel too bad about it. For all his shortcomings, Fry deserved better, at least better than Michelle and Leela knew that she was better than Michelle.
Yet, he couldn’t deny that there was something about this time traveling alien that stirred certain feelings in him- feelings like the day he brought Michelle to the skating ring at the Rockefeller Center as a surprise; she had been so happy that she had jumped into his arms with a squeal.
Further considerations about his possible feelings for the different women in his life were soon curtailed as they arrived at a swanky club. It was now Leela’s turn to feel uncertain about the situation. The sidewalk was crowded with people waiting in line to exit the cold New York winter. No longer was she so sure that it was a good idea for her to go out, given the close calls she'd had with her sunglasses and hiding her sole eye from public view. Besides, the idea of wearing a mini dress in the creeping New York January cold only highlight her lack of fashion sense. What had she been thinking? A certain lime green mini dress still haunted her.
Fry paid the driver, exited the cab and quickly opened the door on the curb side where Leela was seated before she could grow impatient with the handle and kick it open like she'd done to his bathroom door. Leela climbed out the cab and found, to her surprise, that the car had stopped in front of the club. As she exited the vehicle, Leela heard snippets of conversations from the crowd standing in line.
“Who’s that purple chick?”
“…model I’m sure!”
“Isn’t she married to…”
Surprised by these comments, she stood momentarily at a loss as to what to do until Fry tugged her sleeve and led her past the queue and the large, darkly-clad bouncer who, after receiving a suitable bill, had seen fit to let this good-looking woman and her one-man entourage pass.
Well inside, the cyclops was treated to the guttural pulse of pounding base music, loud voices, and throngs of people. It was not unlike the The Hip Joint back in her time, save for the rings, floating dance floors, alien patrons and the robotic bartender. The strobe light made it hard for Leela to see through her glasses, so she let her right hand seek Fry’s left forearm so he would be able to guide her. Instead, she managed to catch his hand and, for a moment, she pondered whether she should let go. The cyclops's practical side won for once and, instead, she held the delivery boy’s hand firmly as he steered her towards the bar.
For Fry it was not an unpleasant thing that Leela had taken his hand as they moved through the crowded place. Emotions stirred in him upon feeling the cyclops at first gentle touch. Any feelings towards Leela were soon vanquished as his time traveling alien squeezed his hand hard. Still harboring her newfound misgivings about whether it was a good idea doing a night out, Leela subconsciously squeezed his hand as a show of her uncertainty about the situation. Arriving at the bar, Leela let Fry’s hand go, very much to his relief. The red head took a couple of seconds, shook his mangled hand a couple of times, and then ordered a drink for himself and Leela.
That drink marked the starting point of a night that turned out to be a very pleasant one for Leela, thought the drawback of having to wear large black sunglasses did irritated her somewhat. Clubs and bars were visited one by one, all without anyone treating her like dirt. On the contrary, most people seemed to think that she was some sort of celebrity, though she couldn’t understand why. As the night progressed and the amount of alcohol consumed increased, the cyclops started to let loose on the dance floor, something she couldn’t remember when she'd done last. It was even fun to dance with Fry, of all people.
It was long past midnight when Fry led a very inebriated Leela through the front door of his apartment. The cyclops had been treated to drink after drink by almost every guy that had crossed her path that night. Happy that she was given the same treatment she had seen other girls get, Leela had knocked back the drinks as fast as they had appeared. This had led to the situation where Fry now found himself: trying to keep a very-drunk Leela from collapsing face down on the floor.
The short distance from the door to the couch was navigated with difficulty as the purple-haired woman took side-steps and almost pulled him down in the process. After much effort, he managed to land the giggling Leela on the couch and stood up- or, at least, tried to. His shirt was stuck in something and the something was Leela’s hands, which proceeded to pull Fry back towards her. His face only inches from Leela’s, he was met with a foul breath that was not unlike an open sewer. It was the product of cheap booze, nachos, peanuts and a late-night kebab with questionable contents.
Despite his attempts to untangle himself, the cyclops held him in an iron grip. “You… you know… back home… I haven’t met that many red heads… you’re cute!” She proclaimed and tried to ruffle Fry’s bright red colored hair but only managed to wipe her hand over his face.
“Leela…” Fry started, still trying to get Leela to let his shirt go. He was interrupted by the cylops's attempt at kissing him, yet the combination of zero depth perception coupled with vast amounts of alcohol did not make for very good nor very accurate kissing, as Fry found Leela’s lips firmly planted on his nose. Further, like a pair of drunken spiders locked in a mating dance of sorts, Leela’s hands tried to unbutton his shirt, with very little success.
It was evident what his time-traveling house guest was going for, and under normal circumstances, he would, literally, jump at the chance, but she was very drunk and he didn’t want it that way. It was only weird people or people with goatees or, possibly, even weird people with goatees that did things like that. Desperately, he tried to figure something out, to escape the situation he found himself in. As it turned out it was Leela who provided the solution.
“I need to puke!” She suddenly exclaimed and pushed Fry away, landing him neatly on the floor in front of the TV. Seeing the vain attempt at leaving the couch for the bathroom that Leela was making, the delivery boy reacted with surprising speed and fetched a bucket from the kitchenette area, just managing to return to the purple-haired woman in time for her to grab it and bury her head deep in it.
The retching noises coming from inside the pale, blue bucket were of the sort that almost made Fry lose his stomach contents. Finished, Leela slumped back in the couch while Fry cleaned it up in the sink. Busy with the stinky mess, the delivery boy racked his brain, trying to figure out a way out of the situation he was in. Done putting away the bucket, he moved the short distance to the couch.
“Leela I…” He didn’t get any further as the purple-haired woman was fast asleep with her right hand on her stomach and her sunglasses on the couch, still in her left hand. A smile flickered over the young man’s face as he fetched a blanket and a pillow from her bedroom. Careful not to wake her up, he put the pillow under her head and lay the blanket over her. He stole a quick kiss from her forehead before he snuck of to his own bedroom, where he momentarily paused in the doorway giving Leela a wistful glance.
End Part Five