History Repeating, Part 10
Note: Here's the conclusion! Thanks so much to Dave and Tamony for Beta!
I need to thank a few people, in closing: D.B. for his painstaking reviews, who nudged me in the correct direction. Dagdamor, Mitch and Ryeguy, for reviewing this thing every week.
See part 1 for disclaimers
"FRY! Get your head out of that pickle jar!!"
The redhead yanked his head from the jar, slopping brine in huge droplets across the floor upon his emergence. If he wanted to keep their location hidden, he was doing an awful job of it.
"I was hungry!" He defended himself.
"That's no reason to behave like a slob in public!" She grunted in disgust as he wiped his mouth with his toga. "Every passing day seems to make you more of a child."
"I'm a grown-up, Leela," he said darkly. "You just don't see it."
"Don't you understand that this entire delivery proved that you're not mature enough to watch over a toothpick?"
"Yeah? Well, whose idea was it for us to hide under this table?"
"If you wouldn't splash brine everywhere, no one would see us!"
"Fry, we need to find Lisa before something horrible happens to her. If you can't help me do that, then stay back!"
She rolled out from underneath the table, Fry following suit, the both of them running out of the door to find Lisa.
Fortunately for them, she happened to be running by at the moment.
"I don't see her," said Fry.
"Lisa! Wait!" Leela reached for her blaster gun, but found its holder empty. "Damn it! Lisa!!"
The girl tossed a glance over her shoulder, not breaking in her desperate fleeing. Leela and Fry gave chase, finally reaching the girl.
"What are you running away from?"
Lisa's reply came in a babble, but Leela was able to understand that she was no longer The Chosen One.
"This way!" Fry yelled, grabbing Leela by the elbow.
"FRY!" Leela didn't know if she disliked Fry more for disturbing her thoughts or trying to dictate what they should do.
He grabbed Lisa by the hand and dragged her down an uninhabited hallway, Leela following them, anger a rictus on her face.
"What do you think you're..." Fry clamped his hand down on Leela's mouth, dragging her down onto the floor beside himself and Lisa, pointing up the hallway. She grew silent as a shambling group of creatures filled the once-empty hall.
"Seize her! At any cost!"
"Meldor! Why must we search for the girl? She's clearly not the one we seek!"
"True, but the annoying urchin must be punished at any cost!"
"Why not leave that to her family? If their methods are anything like ours, she will return missing an arm or a leg or some such!"
"Fool! Her parents clearly don't care about her! Why else would she be allowed to travel to our realm?"
Fry squeezed Lisa's shoulder in sympathy while they lay, frozen, in the darkened hall until the creatures fanned out and disappeared from sight.
Gradually, Fry's grip on Leela's mouth eased, and she rolled into a sitting position.
"That was probably the smartest thing you've ever done," she grudgingly admitted. "How did you see them coming? My senses are normally heightened enough to..."
"Lisa kinda grabbed me around the ankle and pulled," Fry shrugged modestly.
"I pointed out the creatures, true. But Fry was the one who noticed that this hallway is uninhabited."
"We'll have time to congratulate each other later; right now, we need to find a way out of..." Leela's voice trailed off; in the darkness, she noticed something circular gleaming on the wall, several feet over their heads. "That's it!"
Leela quickly unhooked her tunic, removing a thin leather belt from around her waist. It made a hissing noise as it snapped through the air, looping once around that shining, circular thing on the wall, which, Lisa realized as it opened, was some sort of passageway. As it swung open, a small sliver of light poured into the darkness.
Gracefully, Leela used the power of leverage to bridge the distance between herself and the passageway. She shimmied up the belt, climbing it like a rope in gym class, until she seized the handle to the door. Swinging it to the left, she glanced up through the dim light to discover if climbing apparatus or handholds existed inside of the tunnel. To her relief, she felt ladder rungs beneath her fingers; she let go of the door, grabbed onto the ladder, and swung the door outward, toward Fry and Lisa.
"Boost Lisa onto the belt. And Lisa, hold on!"
Fry placed Lisa on his shoulders, and the girl grabbed the belt. Her trip from the belt to the ladder was easier and shorter than Leela's; the mutant plucked Lisa from the belt and boosted her up the ladder with one arm. "Climb as high as you can!" she whispered urgently.
Leela reached down for Fry, who managed the scramble up to the belt more ably than she had expected. As he swung to meet her, however, the belt began to fray, and he let out a panicked cry.
"They're this way!" One of the creatures shouted, and a flood of them filled the hallway, coming ever closer to the refugees.
"Let go, Leela!"
"I'm not leaving you here!"
"But I'm not helping out; maybe if you leave me with them, they'll think I'm their God and sacrifice me to a harem! OW!"
Leela's pinch to Fry's ear did exactly what she hoped it would; motivated him out of his hopelessness, encouraging him to grab her quickly-offered hand and haul himself onto the ladder. Fry's ear would be sore for awhile, but for now, he was safe.
He swung the door closed behind them, climbing smoothly after Leela and Lisa until they all reached the top of the tunnel. Below them, the door swung open and one of the hairy creatures began to climb behind them, two rungs at a time. Lisa lunged upward, against the door, which swung open. She fell, gasping, into the bright light above, followed by Lisa and Fry in rapid succession.
"Hey! You can't lay on the floor of the kitchen like that! You want the boss to see?"
Lisa scrambled to her feet, rushing across the cold tile floor and out a swinging door, followed by Leela and Fry, all of them acting mindlessly on instinct.
Behind them, the door burst open. They could hear the creature's roar end on a surprised question. Then the sound of someone...crying?
Lisa came to an abrupt stop, tripping Leela and Fry behind her. They collected themselves and turned back, finding the two creatures tearfully embracing.
"Stew! At long last, we've found you!"
"Whattya mean found me? I've been here for a hundred years!"
"You mean you haven't been held prisoner by the Surface Dwellers?"
"No! I have found comfort in a minimum wage job...with benefits!"
"Hey, it's better than living underground and hunting mice..."
"That's well and good, my brother, but someone's going to have to take the blame for our hundred or so years of war upon the Surface Dwellers..."
"Why do I have to carry the brat?" Bender panted. When Fry and Leela had literally lifted him off of his barstool, he had been spitting mad; now, with huge, hairy creatures chasing after them, he was only scared. Leela had placed the girl in his arms before they traversed a slippery climb back into Melodious and to the ship.
"Because you have longer legs!" Fry huffed, as they rushed through the heavy underbrush. It had been a long, arduous climb for him, but Leela showed no strain as they discovered the ship, still the ship's cargo hold opened for them and they piled inside, with barely enough time to spare.
Lisa clung to the arm of her chair as the ship roared into the air and through the atmosphere. Only when they were far from the planet did she relax her grip on the arm of the chair. When she glanced out the window, she noticed that the ones who had once worshipped her now stood in the light, shaking their fists in a menacing but impotent manner.
"Boy, I guess we're lucky they haven't discovered space travel!" Lisa giggled nervously.
Nervous laughter came from each crewmember, their agreement clear.
"Wait," Leela asked, "did anyone get that fee?"
The air filled with groans and sounds of protest, but she didn't turn the ship back. "I'll tell the Professor Bender spent it."
"Hey, who do I hafta take the flak?"
"Because you probably spent our entire fee drinking in that bar!"
Bender grumbled at Leela's words, but said nothing else.
"Fry, suit Lisa up."
Fry led the girl to the back of the ship, where she found herself being placed in a space suit. Still somewhat distracted by the dramatic conclusion to her Melodious adventure, Lisa examined the helmet before she placed it on her head. Different from the NASA helmets she'd studied in school, it was incredibly light against her skull.
A radio buzzed to life in her ear. "Lisa, head to the docking bay; I'll open the door. We're right over the correct time porthole!"
Lisa didn't move immediately; Fry wondered why, before she wrapped her arms around his knee. "You're a very nice guy."
"And you're a nice kid. Like Cubert, without being annoying."
Lisa chuckled, "I hope you have a great future, Philip J. Fry."
"And I hope you have a great past."
"Lisa! We can't hold the pattern for very long!"
She entered the loading bay, waving goodbye. And Fry, awkwardly, waved back.
Loneliness clearly alive in his eyes, Fry buckled himself back into his seat. "I guess that's the last time we'll see her."
"I ain't so sure about that."
Bender, looking out of his port side window, could see what the two humans could not; Lisa, clinging to the window molding on his side of the Planet Express Ship. A quick glance in Bender's direction sent horror through Leela.
"We won't have enough fuel to hold this pattern! We'll be sucked into the past with Lisa!" She locked the controls onto auto-pilot. "I'm going out there! Fry...FRY!"
But Fry was gone, leaving behind only his jacket, with its out-turned pockets.
Lisa hung on to the window with a tenacity that Fry had only seen once in his life. He doubted, though, that Lisa was looking for a banana like that monkey in the Central Park Zoo.
"Lisa!" His voice crackled over her radio. "What are you doing?"
"I can't go back there, Fry!"
"Why not? I mean, the past was pretty lousy to me, but you told me your family's nice, Lisa."
"They're probably be better off without me. Just as those creatures said, they probably don't miss me."
"You know that's not true!"
"Yes, it is! I'm so different from the rest of them; they would be happy sitting together, laughing at the TV, and that's not one of my main interests."
"So? All families are different!"
"But they think I'm annoying! They think I'm strange!"
"But they love you, don't they?"
"Lisa, you've got to go back there."
"Because if I could do one thing different about my last day in the past, I would spend time with my brother. Even if he did all of the mean things he used to do, I would get to see him one last time. You don't know what someone means to you until they go away."
"With words as eloquent as that, how could I refuse?"
"Wait! Take this..." He held out a small, cardboard square. She looked at it, realized its significance, and gasped.
"But this means more to you than anything!"
"But maybe you could take it back with you. Back where it belongs."
Lisa's eyes clouded with tears. "Remember what I told you yesterday, Fry?"
"Yeah. I'm not giving up."
For a brief moment, they touched hands.
Then Lisa let go...
Bart grumbled to himself. "This Dumpster is SO BORING!" He complained.
Milhouse surfaced among the refuse. "Yeah. It isn't the same since Apu started giving all of his month-old hot dogs to the homeless shelter."
"Yeah, those made great whippin' sticks!"
"Boy, Bart, you sure are over Lisa's going away!"
Bart stiffened, but his best friend didn't notice. "Yeah," he said, shakily. "Who needs a little sister like her? Thinks she's so smart, and so right all the time..." Bart's voice wavered a little, then he dove into the Dumpster. "There's got to be something cool under here..." He felt around for something, then hit on something warm. "'ello, wot's this, then?" he muttered to himself, pulling at the warm thing.
And a hand clamped down on his.
Bart let out a scream of pure fright and tried to pull his hand away, but whatever held him held fast in turn, so that he pulled to the surface what had taken hold of him.
"What is it, Bart?"
Bart brushed away a crumbled wad of newspaper to reveal the still, calm face of his sister.
The little girl's eyes fluttered open. "Bart?"
"You're alive!" The siblings embraced, briefly.
Lisa was reminded, suddenly, of how much she'd missed being around her big brother; the familiar scent of cherry Squishee, sweat and Krusty Brand Shampoo washed over her as she held fast to him.
Abruptly, typically, he drew back. "Geez, Lis, you made Mom and Dad more scared then I ever could!"
"I didn't mean to..."
"Woah! Where were you hiding, the costume store?"
Lisa looked down at herself; the space suit Fry and Leela had given her was still in place. "Yeah," she tentatively said. "I was hiding in a costume store."
"Milhouse, go get my mom and dad!"
Lisa hadn't seen her brother's best friend, who had been sitting, open-mouthed and in shock among the refuse.
"Please go get help, Milhouse."
That forced him into action; his eyes snapped to Lisa, then back to Bart, before he scrambled out of the Dumpster and running up the street.
"He's going the wrong way," Lisa murmured. "Evergreen Terrace is over there..." she found she didn't have the energy with which to point.
"Mom and dad went to Moe's," Bart explained. "They were trying to get dad's car back from Barney..." Bart leaned in conspiratorially, and whispered, "Lis, you really didn't go to the costume store, did you?"
Lisa studied her brother's questioning eyes, then shook her head sadly, "you wouldn't believe me if I told you, Bart."
"Yes, I would...oh, you stink, Lisa! Why wouldn't you tell me?"
Bart's line of questioning was interrupted by their father and mother, who rushed up to the Dumpster, scooping them both out.
Now, Lisa didn't need to be strong. She relaxed in her mother's arms, allowed herself to be smothered in tearful kisses...The gentle sound of her father calling her 'Lisa, honey.' She drifted off to sleep in his arms, as an ambulance wailed toward the back alley of the Kwik-E-Mart.
As she did so, she noticed that she still held the card Fry had given her.
Larry Bird glared up at her determinedly.
Fry leaned against a railing at the Planet Express Building. Morosely, he stared up at the sky, as though he couldn't see the sunny day before him.
He felt a gentle hand rest itself upon his shoulder.
"You still miss her, don't you?"
Fry nodded. "You do too."
Leela sighed as she stood beside him. "She made me realize that I really do want to have kids one day."
"She did that for me, too."
"I heard what you said to Lisa before she let go. The suits have microphones, remember?"
Fry gulped. "I didn't want you to know how I felt about the past. I like being here, but sometimes, I just wish I could see my brother one more time."
"But what you did was very mature. And very sweet."
He basked silently in her kind words.
Then, cautiously, he wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
She didn't resist.
One Year Later
She paused before the heavy wooden door, apprehension racing through her. Taking a steadying breath, she reached out and rapped her knuckles against the door of apartment 222.
Her own courage had startled her; following the address on the back of the card had led her to the apartment of Fry's parents. Feigning the notion that she needed to meet their son to collect dues for her paper route, she managed to get the address out of his mother, whose eyes were glued to a game on her small color television.
The doorman had allowed her up, by some miracle, and there she stood, knocking quickly on the door.
"Who is it?"
"Does Yancy Fry live here?"
The door opened, and there he stood, looking so like Fry that she was stunned.
His words startled her further. "Is it about my brother?"
Completely flustered, she handed him the card, blurted out that someone had given it to her, then ran down the hallway.
She was halfway down the stairwell before she heard his shocked "Wait!"
But by the time he reached the street, she had disappeared into the masses.
Lisa found her brother where she had left him; eating ice cream at a tourist trap with their parents.
"Did mom and dad miss me?"
"Nah." She noticed that Homer was busy leafing through various obscene postcards, and her mother was busy ordering them lunch. "Where did you go?"
"Bathroom," she lied, too quickly.
"You're all sweaty. Did your meningitis come back?"
That was impossible; just as impossible as her complete recovery from the disease. And yet there she sat, living proof to that fact. Dr. Hibbert had been astonished. This trip to New York, conducted with the reluctant permission of her father, was a celebration for that small miracle.
"No, Bart..." She glanced sideways, making sure that her parents weren't paying attention. "Do you promise not to tell?"
"And you're not crossing your fingers?"
He held up both of his hands.
At that moment, Lisa realized what a friend she had in her brother. Fry hadn't ever gotten to tell Yancy what he meant to him, but Lisa would have days and weeks with which to show herself a real friend to Bart. As often as they fought, the bond of their blood and friendship would only strengthen in the months to come.
She leaned in and whispered, "It started where all of the best stories start; among the stars."