Delicious Surprise, Part 5
First chapter for disclaimers!
Lyrics used briefly during the Hip Joint scene are from the chorus of the song "Rumpshaker". Yes, that Rumpshaker.
Leela smiled at her former foolishness. God, she had been so sure of herself back then. That sureness hadn't carried itself over to her dating patterns.
She applied a light layer of lipstick, frowning at the unattractive effect dark red lips made against a green dress.
"No, no..." she wiped away the color with another wave of the stick. She frowned at her mirror image; for some reason, nothing suited her. She hasn't ever been a stickler for fashion, but here she was, on her second outfit and hair scheme.
Would you relax? It's just Fry!
She groaned at herself, deciding to try yet another outfit. Her final decision arrived when she found a simple bronze-colored dress at the back of her closet.
Rushing into her living room, she scooped up Nibbler and hugged him, "Mommy's being silly," she laughed, then kissed the top of his head. "Be good while she's gone!"
Rapid knocks sounded at the door. "Leela! Let me in, the owls are trying to peck out my eyes!"
Swiftly working open the locks, Leela admitted a frantic Fry into the room. "They're in my hair!" he cried.
"No, they're not," Leela checked just to make sure, and Fry calmed down. They took a long look at one another. "You look nice."
"Thanks. You're hot," he handed her a bouquet of flowers. "The owls got a few of them; so I hope you like daisies."
Leela took the flowers from him, blushing at the compliment despite herself. Though there were a few beak-sized bites taken out of the largest rose, most of the blossoms were intact. She inhaled their fragrance deeply. "Nice work, Fry. Let me put these in water."
While Leela busied herself, Fry settled down upon her couch. Nibbler hopped up beside him, and, cautiously, he stroked the creature's back.
"You're lucky, getting to live with Leela all the time," he said absently. The little creature made a mewling noise that didn't indicate his emotions either way.
Leela emerged from the kitchen, smiling. "You and Nibbler seem to be getting along."
"Eh, he's used to me," Fry shrugged. "If you wanted to kill me, you would've done it a long time ago, right boy?"
Nibbler's top eye opened, and the little creature growled. Fry quickly pulled back his hand.
"We've got reservations at Elzar's for eight o'clock," Leela announced.
"Are you sure you want to spend all of that money at Elzar's?"
She nodded, "We've both earned a break, after my coma and all."
He offered her a hand. "On the count of three?"
She accepted it. "One... two..."
"Three!" they cried together, and flung open the door, racing down the hallway, slightly faster than the owls behind them.
Leela realized how well the date was going when she started laughing at one of Fry's jokes. She couldn't recall ever laughing naturally in the middle of a date, but over slug steaks and cheap domestic wine, it felt so comfortable, so right.
He seemed relaxed, too; maybe that was the wine. Maybe that was what made him look so very attractive in his tuxedo... perhaps, even "hot".
"And, a check for the Missus." Elzar announced.
"We're not married," Fry said.
"Whatever, a check for the old maid. Pay me!"
Leela snorted and slipped him his fee.
They exited the restaurant and headed down the street, Fry keeping a careful, proper distance the entire time.
"Do you want to go to the Hip Joint?" she asked suddenly. "It's oldies night tonight, maybe they'll play something from your time."
He seemed nervous. "I dunno, Leela; it's getting kind of late..."
"Let me put it this way, Fry; I want to go to the Hip Joint with you."
His eyes lit up. "That changes everything."
"I can't believe we broke into the Planet Express Building!" Leela exclaimed as they entered the Hip Joint.
"Don't worry; the Professor won't miss the ship. Once, Bender swiped his dentures for booze money. He didn't even notice they were gone for a day..."
"It was still brave," she insisted. They both paused when they noticed that the floor of the Hip Joint was crowded with senior citizens and heads-in-jars, shuffling around to the soft strains of a single violin.
"Sorry, kids," the Maitre'd announced, "no one under the age of 100 admitted tonight without a guardian."
"But I'm over a thousand years old... sort of. I was frozen in 2000! That counts, right?" he blurted, as the Maitre'd's expression darkened.
"Yeah, sure; you don't look a day over twenty-seven." He shoved them with his third and fourth arms. "Out!"
"But..." Fry protested, as they were pushed forward. They landed in a heap outside. Fry helped Leela to her feet, and they dusted off their clothes.
"Why didn't you kick his butt?" Fry asked.
"Fry, I can't just kick the butt of every person who shoves us around. I'd end up in prison. They have to be armed or threatening."
"Good point," Fry sighed. "I'm sorry, Leela. I wanted so bad for tonight to be perfect..."
The violin's faint melody was audible outside the building. Leela smiled. "It's gorgeous out here. We can see the stars, and we can hear the music..."
She took his hand and placed it on her waist.
His eyes widened in surprise, and a smile spread across his face. In time with the music, they waltzed against a starry backdrop.
"I'm having a nice time, Fry," she said.
"Me too." She felt his hand descend to her hip, then quickly return. "You know what? I know this song!"
She listened to the melody for a few more seconds, "Sounds like a classical piece they taught us at the Orphanarium."
"All I wanna do is a boom-boom and a zoom-zoom..." Fry chanted.
"Just shake your rump!" they sang together. Laughter filled the space between them. Somehow, her arm had drifted around his neck; being the exact same height as Fry seemed to have its advantages. She wondered why she had fixated on dating taller men in her youth...
The distance between them didn't comprise a waltz; more of a slow-dance. His lips were close to hers...
"I l-," he cut himself off and kissed her.
It lasted...it held...it was beautifully real. The world went still; the violin played just for them. It was like a silly cliché from the movies. And she loved it.
Then pulled herself away from his arms.
"What's wrong?" Rejection clouded his eyes.
"If we keep doing this, it'll go too far." Her breathing gradually steadied. "Fry, you're my best friend. I don't want you to turn into just another guy like Zapp or Adlai. You're so much more than a one-night stand to me."
"But we wouldn't be standing!" he blurted.
He sighed, "Okay, Leela." He turned and looked homeward toward Earth. "It's getting kind of late. Want to go home?"
She nodded, accepting his hand as they strolled to their docking slip.
"So..." Fry said, as he stood inside the door to Leela's apartment. A cup of coffee as the sun rose was a comforting way to end the night.
"So?" Leela smiled.
"I had a great time, Leela. It was everything I ever dreamed a date with you would be like."
"Me too, Fry. You know, you surprised me tonight; how funny you were, and thoughtful. I'm going to admit that I'm more comfortable with you than with any of the other guys I've been with."
"But not comfortable enough to..."
"Fry, this is our first date." She opened the door and gently pushed him into the hall. "Maybe... on our second."
She closed the door, leaving him slack-jawed on her welcome mat.
As Leela fell asleep, her mind reached a certain level of contentment. For once, the past seemed just as sweet