Had he really lost a year of his life? It didn’t feel like it. It was too much to think about right now, and he loved watching the dry cycle spin, so he released his concerns and become so absorbed in the dryer’s motion that he didn’t hear Amy enter the room until she gave a sharp gasp.
“Fry, you’re back!”
He tried to twist around and look back between his shoulder blades.
“What’s wrong with it?”
“No, I mean you’re here! You’ve come back from there, wherever there was!”
Fry wasn’t the most observant person in the world when it came to women, but even he noticed the forced cheer in Amy’s voice. He started to turn around to look at her.
“Yeah, Leela, Bender and me only stayed out a little longer than you-“
‘”Fry, your underpants.”
“Oh, yeah, sorry.” And he started to pull on a pair of soggy jeans, slipped, and fell to the floor—
And she caught him as he tripped over the contents of his locker.
“Sorry,” he said.
“No problem”. He lay in her arms a moment longer than was really necessary, and then got up stepped back a few paces.
“So you’re really leaving? Hermes just told me…”
“Yep, I need to move on and see more of the universe than I can see here. Maybe forget a few things here…”
“But you’ve gotten to see an awful lot here. Is Bender going with you?”
“Nope, he can’t go to some of the places I want to go. Warrant out for his arrest and all. Also, I’m really going to need my wallet.” He turned back to his locker, sweeping the shelves with his arm, scooping everything into a backpack.
“What about Leela?”
“What about her?”
“Well, haven’t you been going out the past few weeks?”
Fry stopped crushing empty Slurm cans on the floor.
“How’d you know?”
“Fry, I work closely with Leela hours each day. We women just can’t hide things like that from each other. So, what’re you two going to do?”
Fry paused, and shifted his weight from one foot to the other, as if he were trying to make up his mind to speak.
“She has one eye.”
She always thought he was clueless in a nice sort of way, but…
“Duh-wuh, Fry, I thought you had plenty of chances to notice that-“
“Well, yeah, but I just realized it, really realized it, the other day when we were—close. I mean-it’s huge! It’s like a dinner plate! I mean, kissing her is almost scary. I have to close my eyes just to keep me from staring at it while—you know!”
She giggled, which she knew was mean, but Fry was saying things she had always thought, but felt guilty thinking. She stifled her laugh quickly and moved to recover.
“Yeah, but she’s so beautiful in every other way, so smart, so brave…”
Both were silent for a moment, and then both burst out into a fresh round of giggles, two collaborators in a guilty secret.
“I’m sorry, it’s mean, but she’s always wanting to talk about books from my time, like this guy named Joyce, or about homeless animals she wants to rescue, or “
“old boyfriends, mean orphans--I hear the same thing all the time.”
“Yeah, and it gets like, yeah you were an orphan most of your life, and yeah you’ve really had a hard time with it, but geez, move on, why don’t ya!”
It felt so good to hear him say things she privately thought when she was feeling jealous of her captain.
“And I guess I started to think that this might be what the rest of my life could be with her. And I felt so let down, like I’d gotten a X-mas present—during the old X-mas I mean—that I really wanted, but found that all was inside was one of those little boxes of LifeSavers?”
“Not important. Anyway I started thinking about how I’ve wasted all these years waiting for her, how I’ve given up so much…”
“I always thought it was amazing how you sat by her bed for two weeks when she was in a coma,” she said with complete honesty.
“I passed up so many other chances….”
“Are you talking places, or people?”
The words just fell out of her. She hadn’t flirted in a long time, since she had found her soulmate through Kif, and part of her missed the game.
He looked at her shyly.
“Well, I never should have dumped you so quickly. Sorry about that.”
“Don’t worry about it, it all worked out for the best.” Somehow she couldn’t bring herself to mention a certain green alien.
He finished up packing his backpack and closed the locker.
“Well, I guess this is goodbye.”
She was curious. Had Leela taught him anything? Had he gotten better over the years? Of course Kif was still the only one for her, but did she still have the ability to move men, to prove that she wasn’t just an overweight rich kid?
“Are we going to see you again?”
“Maybe some day, but really probably not. I just want to disappear and not make any big fuss about it. Makes it easier for everybody.”
They wouldn’t see each other again, what was the harm? And the way he was looking at her, it would be easy.
She stepped toward him but slipped on the Slurm can. Luckily he caught her in his arms, and then there was a long kiss. He had gotten better. Then he was gone.
The walls of the locker room began to shake. The Planet Express ship was descending into the launch bay.
She snapped out of her reverie, and saw Fry staring at her. Oh no. Not again?
“Amy, why are you looking at me funny? Is my face still bleeding?”
In the end he was gone and no harm was done. He wouldn’t be back. She loved Kiffie and saw him every chance she got. And yet---
Yet, she didn’t like to dwell on that day. It made her feel guilty, disloyal to one of the sweetest, gentlest, beings she had been lucky enough to meet. In the months that followed Kif had received some impressively expensive gifts from her. Guilt ransoms. All attempts to make amends for a day she would rather forget.
And now he was back, and he knew…
“I just remembered, Fry, I need to give Kiffie a call. The Nimbus is swinging by Mars in a couple of days. We’re closer than ever. I can’t wait to visit our children on Amphibios 9. Maybe he’ll get off duty and we’ll all get together at Elzar’s, like old times. See ya sometime!”
And she bounced out the door as the room stopped shaking. Fry blinked a few times, then turned and pulled his shirt and jacket out of the washer. Still wet. Well, he knew a way around that.
The best way to dry things quickly at Planet Express was to suspend them in front of one of the rocket nozzles of the PE ship, just after the engine shut down. He glanced up at the ship’s cockpit as he strolled into the hangar. No sign of anyone, and the staircase ramp hadn’t been lowered. He walked to the stern of the ship and used an insulated carbon rod to delicately lower his shirt in front of a nozzle. There was a flash of steam, and he quickly yanked back the toasty warm shirt before it caught on fire. It was very much like trying to cook a marshmallow with a blowtorch, and Fry had vaporized quite a few shirts before he had figured out the technique. The warmth felt good on his skin as he pulled the shirt on. He was about to repeat the motion with the jacket when he heard the ramp lower, and saw Bender walk down and turn toward him. Smiling, Fry walked toward his best friend.
Bender looked up and saw Fry. And then began to sing.
“Froggy went a courtin’-he did ride-uh-huh-uh-huh. Froggywentacourtin’”
As he sang his visor closed, and he strode past Fry as fast as he could into the locker room.
Fry stood, bemused, then started to follow Bender. At that moment he began to fly. His feet lifted off the ground and he sailed toward the locker room door, which was closing behind Bender. After all the strange things that had happened so far today, Fry wasn’t surprised that he could fly. In fact, this was a pleasant surprise, for a change. He stretched out his arms and felt the breeze past his face. Problem was, he didn’t seem to be able to steer and the door was coming up awfully—
He slammed into the door face first and the world went blurry.