Fry tried to pull the holophoner off the floor, but he couldn’t budge it from her hand. In frustration he grabbed her other wrist, the one holding the pistol, and tried to wrench it away, but he may as well have been trying to bend girders.
Still holding the gun and the holophoner, Leela stood up from her crouch, effortlessly lifting the delivery boy off the ground and setting him on his feet. Her left hand and his right hand both had a death grip on the holophoner, and his left hand grasped her right wrist, which still held the gun pointed at his head. He started kicking her shin. The only thing that happened was that his toe started to hurt.
“I’m getting tired of this,” she said, a slight edge in her voice. “The website said to try to use persuasion, and not force, when getting you help, but you’re starting to push it. Now in case you haven’t noticed, I have a gun to your head. That should be telling you to do something.”
She spread her arms apart, so she could get her face closer to his and look into his eyes. “Fry, look at me,” she said. “Look at me. This is for your own good. You’re in danger of forgetting everything. Everything. Do you understand what that means? You may as well be dead.”
The world wasn’t solid anymore. Reality seemed to have skidded sideways on him. He was not longer certain of who he was, where he was, or what he should be doing. He was completely lost.
And then he caught a faint scent of her perfume. It was the same scent he had caught the night they had first went dancing. And a sudden impulse came to him, and before his mind could deliberate, take a coffee break, and veto the resolution, he leaned forward and kissed her.
They had kissed a few times before, but most of them had been brief and fleeting. There had been no time to experience the moment. The one time he had kissed her for an extended time, worms were buzzing in his brain and he had been too caught up in the moment to truly experience the sensations.
But now time froze, and he was hyperaware of every sensation, every touch. She had been standing so close to him that when he leaned in to kiss her he could feel the entire length of her lithe, muscular form pressing against him.
And then a strange thing happened. For just a moment, Leela relaxed, and the hard outlines of her form melted into soft curves that molded against his body.
Hard yet soft.
And then something in his head exploded. He felt like a man who had spent all his life walking in a valley filled with fog, but who had now climbed a hill and had suddenly broken into the morning sunshine, and could see all the way to the sea on the horizon. The feeling had happened only twice before in his life. Once, when he had heard the words, “I love what you’ve become.” And the other time, when he had heard the words, “You must choose.” He couldn’t quite place that last one, however.
Hard yet soft. That summed her up, didn’t it? She was full of contrasts and contradictions. Strong yet vulnerable, peaceful yet violent, sensitive yet sarcastic, not quite human but more human than anyone he had ever known. He treasured every aspect of this complex and contradictory woman, the fearless space captain, the scared little girl, the emotionally scared orphan. She was his guide and his protector, his greatest friend. And the least boring person he had ever met.
The world was full of things that changed. The speed of light. The quality of Everyone Loves Hypnotoad. But some things didn’t change. He was Phillip J. Fry. And he loved Turanga Leela. And he always would. He’d die for her without a second thought. And if reality didn’t agree with that, then reality was simply wrong.
It was as if they were dancing again, yet completely still. And as he became aware of their heartbeats matching together in sync, and as he lost himself in her, he realized that he had found himself again.
The sea sparkled in the distance. It was very beautiful.
I didn’t do it. He thought. I didn’t do any of this. And she’s kissing me back. Deep down, she knows I didn’t do it, either.
Standing on his hill, watching the clouds dance in the sky, he realized he was having what Leela had once told him was an epifanny. Strange word, because his fanny wasn’t involved at all. Man, he hoped he didn’t get many more of them. His head hurt like hell.
The kiss couldn’t have lasted more than a moment, but then she started to move and he snapped his eye open, a flicker before hers opened as well. He had never noticed how large her eye was at close range. It was as large as a dinner plate. And he loved it.
She gave him a hard shove away, but he managed to remain standing, gripping both the gun and the holophoner.
“You kissed me back.”
He looked at her face, which was flushed scarlet with embarrassment. And rage. So she had felt it too.
“Geez, I don’t get it.” He said slowly. “I cheat on you, kill our daughter, and you kiss me like that? You wouldn’t do that. Or at least you shouldn’t. It’d be kinda creepy. And not the good kind of creepy, either. No, something’s not right.”
Her face was full of loathing, toward him or herself he had no idea. But through her wrists he could feel the storm building.
“I wouldn’t do that. Any of that. OK, maybe the sleeping with you part. I’d probably do that. Many times.”
The gun swung directly in front of his face.
Kissing her probably wasn’t the smartest move, because she was going to shoot him now, he idly thought. He was finally going to die in this room. And frankly, he didn’t care. It had been a good kiss. He now knew that she had deep feelings for him. He had never been sure. So he took a moment to be happy. He only wished he had more time to bask in his joy before he died.
And yet—maybe part of him was wiser than he knew. Leela hated guns. Not because of the violence, but because of the lack of violence. The lack of contact. The impersonal delivery of death. She was a martial arts expert with a lot of anger to release. She wouldn’t shoot, she would—
She released the holophoner and slapped Fry across the face so hard that he thought his neck would break. His vision cleared just in time to see her fist filling up his field of view.
The punch was straight and true, and he staggered backwards across the room and crashed against the doorway leading into the bedroom. He glanced down. The holophoner was in his hand. One side of his face was already swelling. He was going to have a black eye. But despite the pain, the world was solid once again.
Both hands on the gun, she advanced toward him, frowning. She had forgotten how quickly he could recover from a blow to the head.
“I’ll leave it at that, because you’re not yourself,” she said evenly. “Also, you really need a bath. Now drop the holophoner and sit down.”
“I’m still me. But are you still you? Something’s not right, Leela, and you know it.” In his mind he was walking down the hill, but he wasn’t back in the fog yet. He glanced down at the holophoner.
“Why do you want me to drop this? Why do you care?”
“Sit down Fry. Or I’ll shoot you in the leg. I’m serious.”
“It’s important. Somehow we both know it’s important. Why?”
As he walked down the hill, he looked over his shoulder. Between a gap in the surrounding hills, he caught a flash of blue.
“Leela, where is the other holophoner?”
“What other holophoner?”
The last night I remember—I had a holophoner I was going to give you as a gift. It was in my pocket. I didn’t tell anyone about it. Where is it?”
“I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.”
The mist rolled over his head. Thank god. Another epifanny would have killed him. He really needed an aspirin. Or a Slurm.
But even in the mist, somehow he still knew where he was. He looked down at his hands and they were shaking. But for the first time in his life, they weren’t shaking from fear.
“Something’s wrong here. Very wrong. We’ve got to find out what’s goin’ on here Leela. We have to fix it.”
“Denial is the first stage of the recovery process,” she said. “But wallowing in it is the way of the coward. You can’t unkill her, Fry.”
He started to move toward the bedroom door, a few feet away.
She fired the gun. A wave of heat seared past his right cheek, and he felt the paint blister and peel next to his ear.
“I said don’t move.”
“You got her name wrong,” he said quietly.
“What name?” she replied, brow furrowed.
“It would have been Turanga Yancy Eureka,” he said simply, and turned and ducked into the bedroom.
He rushed toward the bedroom window, expecting to feel his flesh baking between his shoulder blades at any moment. His head was still ringing, the floor kept threatening to rush up to his face, and he nearly slipped in the puddle of his own vomit, but somehow he found himself staring over the window ledge to the ground below. His eyes were not used to the darkness. As he jumped through the window he felt something grab at his ankle, but he slipped through. However, the grab had added a spin to his fall, so he cartwheeled through the air. It occurred to him, too late, that he shouldn’t have forgotten that the apartment was one full story above the ground.
Two metal arms seized him and he felt himself being lowered gently to the ground.
“Figured it was only a matter of time before she threw you out,” Bender said. He took his cigar out of his mouth and stubbed it out on Fry’s jacket. “So what’d you steal for me?”
Suffering vertigo, Fry looked up to see Leela’s head outlined in silhouette above.
“Fine. Get the hell out of my life,” she said. “I’m trying to help you, even after all you did. Your memory loss is going to get worse, until you’re just a drooling lunatic. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody, but you’re going to do it to yourself.”
Before she had even finished speaking, Fry was running as fast as he could out of the alley, holophoner in hand.
“Bender! Stay with him! Don’t let him hurt himself.”
“Aye, aye captain,” muttered the robot as his stubbed his cigarette out.
Get out of my life.
The words were still ringing in Fry’s ears as he ran out of the alley into a street, right into the path of an approaching ambulance. Fry froze in the headlights, heard a screeching sound, and felt himself being grabbed from behind and pulled back.
“Now you owe me an extra dollar a week,” Bender muttered.
“Hey, careful there, buddy,” a thin Neptunian said as he jumped out of the driver’s seat. “Suicide booth’s just around the corner. A lot less messier way to go.” The door to the ambulance slid open, and Fry could see a couple of beings start to pull out a large, odd-looking piece of equipment. Everyone except the driver had their backs to him.
“Say, is this the Fairview apartments?”
Fry nodded, and dashed in front of the ambulance’s headlights and across the street. He heard Bender following close behind, and the faint words of the driver saying, “Apartment 1I, guys, hurry up.”
The pair returned into the alleyway that they had waited in earlier that evening. Fry, sucking wind, leaned his back against the wall, watching the medics enter Leela’s apartment building. Just then, Amy’s Beta Romero pulled up in front as well.
Must’ve called her to bring Nibbler home, since I ruined her big night, he thought. Then he realized he was running again.
Three blocks down the alley, Bender finally caught up with him.
“Damnit Fry, what the hell is going on?”
Fry finally stopped, looked all directions, and listened. Other than some faint traffic and the soothing sounds of a water leak somewhere in the darkness, all was quiet.
He looked down at his holophoner, still miraculously intact.
“Let’s find out,” he said.