It was dark in New New York. Illuminated by streetlights, Fry sat on the curb outside the Planet Express building. His whole body was shaking, almost vibrating; Fry felt as if he might explode. His heart was flying, his stomach felt like a black pit, and his brain was working so fast that he felt dizzy. The hopelessness he felt was beyond anything he'd ever imagined. He didn't even know how he'd be able to last for another ten minutes, much less the rest of his life. He gripped the curb with both hands and desperately tried to calm down, but his quick and shallow breathing continued, and it still felt as if the world was closing in on him.
He tried to tell himself that eventually he'd feel better, maybe not good or happy, but at least not so bad. But right at that moment, he didn't believe himself. At least his whole stupid deal was finished, and he didn't have to concern himself with those two any more. They were probably laughing at him, talking about how much better and more important their lives were compared to his. But he didn't care. Nothing mattered now.
He hadn't liked working with them and of course the deal hadn't actually accomplished anything, but Fry knew that what he'd done was necessary, even if it hadn't worked. He'd just needed to try. Against his will, his mind brought him back a few weeks to the beginning of it all and replayed everything, as if it wanted to make him feel even worse, though of course that wasn't possible.
It was a Sunday afternoon. The others had gone to the park, but Fry had told them he had some work he needed to do. Of course they hadn't believed him, and had assumed he just wanted to stay behind to be lazy, but he didn't care.
Alone in the building, Fry rummaged through the closet in the Professor's lab, throwing out old, useless experiments as he got deeper and deeper inside. Where the hell was it? They had all agreed that it would be best to keep the invention in question in a safe place, but Fry had searched the entire building and it was nowhere to be found. The Professor probably knew where to find it, but Fry couldn't let him know that he was looking for it. Everything had to be done in secret.
Giving up on the closet, Fry walked out, kicked the various inventions he'd thrown out back inside, and closed the door. Had the Professor hidden it? That was possible. But where? Wait, of course! He ran upstairs.
Yes! Fry dragged it out from under the Professor's bed. He guessed the old man had assumed that everyone would be too scared to look under there. Fry examined the invention and then gave it a small shake to see if it really was what he wanted. A corresponding rumble told him that it was. That was one goal accomplished, but he knew it was the easy part. To do the rest, he'd need help. He wasn't looking forward to the meeting he was about to have, but it was necessary. So he put the invention under his arm and headed to the bus station.
Fry sat in the huge waiting room outside of what he assumed was an equally impressive office. Fortunately his pretext for the meeting had been accepted. He'd called about it during the trip to Milwaukee, which otherwise had been uneventful. Finally, after waiting about two hours, the secretary came up to him and said they were ready to see him. Fry stood up, grabbed the invention, and walked into the office.
The room was just as lavish and awful as Fry had expected. The whole place was done in pastel pinks and blues and greens. Bowls of those horrible candy hearts sat on either side of the entrance, and heart designs dominated the walls and the pink marble floor. Fry walked to the center of the room, where two big wooden desks sat, facing each other. Each desk was occupied.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Fry," said Sheldon. "Welcome back to RomantiCorp."
"Uh, hi," said Fry as he took a seat. The chair was small and made Fry feel awkward, which was probably the idea.
"You said there was unfinished business between us and Planet Express?" asked Gwen.
"Well, that's what I said, but there was something else that I really wanted to talk to you about," said Fry nervously.
"Mr. Fry," said Sheldon, "I hope you don't think you can get your contract back. After what happened with the deliveries you were supposed to make...."
"No! Uh, no, that's not why I'm here. It's more like a new deal," said Fry, unconsciously running his hands over the invention in his lap.
"What's in the box, Mr. Fry?" asked Sheldon.
"Well, that's what I wanted to talk to you about," said Fry. "I thought you might be interested in this, and if you are, well, maybe we could make a deal, and you could help me."
"So what is in the box?" asked Gwen, sounding annoyed.
"It's kind of hard to explain," said Fry. "You see, inside of the box... well, the universe is inside."
"The universe, Mr. Fry?" asked Sheldon. He sounded ready to end the interview.
"No, really. Watch." Fry shook the box and the office shook as well. Then he put it on the floor, took the lid off, and jumped in. A moment later he flew back out again. "See? Now I'm in the box, but that doesn't matter since the stuff on the inside is the same as the stuff outside. I don't know how it works, but somehow the universe is in there... even though it's out here too."
Sheldon and Gwen looked at each other, showing a little more interest than they had before. Sheldon looked back at Fry. "Okay, Mr. Fry," he said, "Assuming the universe really is in that box, what do you think we would want to do with it?"
"Well, I mean, somehow this box can hold the universe," said Fry, sitting back down. "Think of the, uh, the technology that could have done that. If you study it or whatever, maybe you could figure out how it works, and you'd learn lots of stuff. You know, physics and all that. Stuff that maybe you could use."
"I think I get the idea, Mr. Fry," said Gwen. "You think that by studying the box we could figure out new technology. Profitable technology."
"Uh, yeah, that sounds about right," said Fry.
"And I assume you want some cut of the money we make from it, is that right?" asked Sheldon.
"No, I don't care about money. And you have to give back the box once we're done. You see, I need help with... something else, and you might know what to do," said Fry.
"We're listening, Mr. Fry," said Gwen.
"Do you two remember Leela?" asked Fry. He was getting nervous again.
"Leela? Oh, she toured the factory with you, right? That lonely-looking woman," said Gwen.
"Yeah," said Fry, looking around at the floor.
"What about her?" asked Sheldon.
"Well," said Fry, swallowing, "I want you to... I want you to help me figure out how to get her to fall in love with me."
Sheldon and Gwen smirked at each other.
Five days later, Fry again found himself at RomantiCorp. This time he went straight to their research and development department, where a number of scientists were eagerly studying the box using various instruments. He heard someone walk up behind him.
"Well, Mr. Fry, we have to admit that we're impressed." It was Sheldon.
Fry turned to see the two owners of RomantiCorp. "So, did you learn anything yet?" he asked.
"Not much," said Gwen. "Just that you were apparently right -- the universe is inside of that box. But we still don't know how it works or how it happened. It's sort of odd, I mean, we have the universe in a box, but what good is it?" She smiled her silly smile.
"But we will still honor our agreement," said Sheldon. "I think it's time you told us about Leela. Shall we go back to the office?"
They walked back to the room Fry had been to a few days earlier. He noticed that a large, comfortable chair had replaced the smaller one he'd sat in before. They all sat down. Sheldon and Gwen pulled out small computers, ready to take notes. Fry pulled out his own scribbled notes and began.
He told them pretty much everything that had happened between him and Leela, ever since they first met. He went into more detail with what he considered their more important moments, but he made sure to touch on everything, in case one of the RomantiCorp executives might think of something he hadn't. Fry even told them things he'd never mentioned to Leela, such as how exactly he'd gotten rid of the worms, and his message in the stars.
Sheldon and Gwen were silent for a moment after Fry finished, but Sheldon finally said, "Mr. Fry, that certainly was a fascinating story. But tell me, with all that's happened, all the troubles, do you really still want to be with her?"
"I-I love her," said Fry. "All I want is to be with her."
Gwen leaned forward and looked at him. "Well, the question remains: How?"
"I don't know," said Fry. "I always screw up, or I can't think of the right thing. When I had the worms, it was easier -- I just knew the right thing to do or say. And when I wrote that message in the stars, somehow I'd had the right idea, and it worked."
"Well, in any case," said Sheldon, "You can't expect to just show her something and expect her to fall for you. The message probably worked because it was so spectacular and unexpected, but I think you should try something that is not only impressive, but also shows your skills, your abilities."
"But I don't have any skills or abilities," said Fry.
"That's something we'll have to get around," said Sheldon. "Shall we take this up again tomorrow?"
Fry made a few more visits over the next week. He didn't miss any work, but everyone noticed that he was spending a lot of time away. Finally Leela asked him, politely and curiously, what he was doing. Fry promised her that he'd tell her all about it eventually, but that he couldn't until he was ready. Leela seemed to accept his response, even though he didn't answer her question. She was so great.
So far, Gwen and Sheldon had not been able to come up with any good ideas, or at least ideas that they could all agree on. Even though he'd told them everything, Fry still knew much more about what would or would not affect Leela. On his fifth visit, Fry was feeling a bit depressed, though that was getting to be his usual mental state.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Fry," said Gwen. "Perhaps there really isn't anything you can do. We haven't thought of anything, and after all, we are the experts."
"Well, maybe you're right," said Fry, slumping in his seat. "How's it going with the box?"
"Very well," said Sheldon. "We've made some fascinating discoveries. We think we might be able to manipulate the universe--the outside universe--by manipulating the universe inside the box."
"You mean you could, like, pick up someone at one place in the box and put them down somewhere else?" asked Fry. "Sort of like teleporting them?"
"Uh, no, we can't do anything like that," said Sheldon. "Anyway, picking out one person would be like trying to pick up an atom with your fingers."
"Oh," said Fry.
"Let's get back on the subject, shall we?" asked Gwen, glaring a little at Sheldon. Had she not wanted him to tell Fry about the box?
"Yes, yes. All we need is one good idea," said Sheldon. "Actually, I did think of something, though it's not what you want. But it might be a start."
"What is it?" asked Fry.
"You told us that one of the high points in your relationship with Leela came when the Earth was bombarded by that strange radiation that affected romantic feelings," said Sheldon. "Actually, it happened about the same time that your company failed to deliver those candy hearts."
"Oh... really?" asked Fry. "I, uh, didn't know that...."
"Well, I guess it doesn't matter," said Sheldon. "Anyway, we were obviously interested in the phenomenon, and gave it a lot of study."
"So how's it work?" asked Fry.
"We aren't sure," said Sheldon, "We just know that it affects the brain, enhancing one's romantic feelings for another person -- but only if there is a pre-existing attraction. We assume that Leela's attraction to you was just left over from when you had the worms."
Fry looked down, suddenly a bit more depressed.
"A higher dose of the radiation would be fatal," Sheldon continued. "So you couldn't simply expose her to more of it to increase her feelings."
Well, that was fine. Fry wouldn't have wanted to feel as if he'd forced Leela to fall in love with him, even if that could have worked.
"Anyway, we could possibly duplicate the phenomenon," said Sheldon. "We know about the quasar that originally produced it, and we've been researching how to get it to do it again."
"But wouldn't that kill lots of people?" asked Fry.
"Of course not," said Sheldon. "They're already dead from the first time."
"Oh, right," said Fry.
"Now, if you could think of what to go along with that," said Gwen, "You might have something."
"I'm still stuck," said Fry, holding his head with his hand. "It's like you said, I need to do something impressive, but at the same time something that shows off my... talent."
"You said you could play the holophoner when you had the worms," said Gwen.
"Yeah, but I can't any more," said Fry. "I need something like that, but... bigger. Hey, you know what would be cool? If I could write another message in the sky, only it would be like the holophoner, and I could have pictures, and lights, and it'd be like fireworks, only with stars and galaxies and comets and all that."
"But you can't do that, Mr. Fry," said Sheldon.
"Sure I can," said Fry, suddenly feeling very excited. "We have the whole universe in a box. You said you could be able to move stuff around. Maybe not people but what about stars or galaxies?"
"Uh, yes, that might be possible," said Gwen.
"Yeah, like a big Etch-A-Sketch, only it wouldn't look all crappy! Would it be dangerous?" Fry asked.
"Well, no, not if it was done correctly... but we really shouldn't be using the box like that," said Sheldon.
Fry glared. "I'm the one who gave you the box, remember? If it isn't dangerous, and you think it's possible, then we do it."
The Planet Express employees had made it through another boring meeting and were preparing to go home. Fry hung back nervously, waiting for the right moment to talk to Leela. The day had finally come. It was now or never.
Fry had planned his 'performance' while Gwen and Sheldon perfected the equipment that could use the box to manipulate the universe. After they'd finished, Fry had spent his time figuring out how to get the equipment to do what he wanted. He'd finished his work a few days earlier, but had taken some time to make sure everything would work perfectly. And now he was ready.
"Goodnight, Fry," said Leela with a smile. She was heading out the door.
The others had left already, and Leela was going, but Fry found himself unable to speak. If he didn't try, he couldn't fail, right? No, no, he had to do it. Finally he managed to get out "Hey, Leela."
She turned and looked at him.
"I, uh, wanted to show you something. It'll only take a few minutes." He stood next to the stairs.
Leela gave him an oddly nervous look. "Okay, Fry," she said, and followed him up the stairs.
Fry came out at the Professor's lab and walked over to the door leading to the balcony outside. "Over here," he said to Leela.
"What is it?" she asked.
"I have a present for you," he said, holding the door for her.
The sun had set all the way, and it was full dark outside. A chair sat on the balcony, at the exact point where Fry and Leela had stood when they saw the romance radiation from the quasar. Behind the chair and to one side was another chair, and around it was the equipment Fry needed.
Leela looked back at Fry. "What is all this?"
"I'll show you. Just sit down, and wait a minute, okay?"
Leela gave him a strange look but sat down in the chair.
Things were going well so far... Fry had half-expected Leela to refuse to come with him. He sat down in his own chair and looked over his equipment. He put a small computer in his lap and opened it. On the screen were a number of readouts concerning the box, which was still in Milwaukee, surrounded by the bulky machinery that would manipulate the universe inside. Many of the technical, behind-the-scenes parts of the performance were pre-programmed, but Fry needed to keep an eye on what was happening. The other piece of equipment was a device that looked sort of like a piano keyboard, but with fewer keys and various dials, knobs, and buttons added. Fry would use this to perform. Everything seemed okay. It was time to start.
Fry pushed a button on the keyboard to power up. He knew that somewhere in Milwaukee, billions of dollars worth of machinery had just sprung noisily to life. The machines could move the galaxies themselves or counteract the law of gravity, or return everything to the way it was supposed to be. And Fry wondered if they'd be enough, or if he'd break them trying.
Time to get going. Fry pressed a button that started the first sequence, which would tell a machine to cause a certain reaction in a quasar, a reaction that, oddly, could also have been achieved by using candy hearts.
The glowing cloud of love radiation suddenly bloomed in the sky. Fry's nervousness left him, and he could only think about his love for Leela. Well, that was convenient, at least. The cloud hung in the sky silently for a few moments, then gradually seemed to fade away, though its effects stayed. Fry had accomplished this trick by moving a cloud of interstellar dust between the quasar and Earth.
Okay, time for the next part. The dome of the sky itself began to move, rolling as if the entire night was passing in a few seconds. Then it stopped as two spiral galaxies drifted in from opposite sides of the sky and met at the place where the quasar had been. They circled each other, growing closer and further away, arms reaching for each other but never quite meeting. Finally they got closer than they had before, and their arms intertwined. The joined galaxies circled and spun, then slowly receded until they were out of sight (this was achieved by stretching space itself).
Now things happened more quickly: Burning white stars shot across the sky, going over their heads, more and more of them, until it looked like a meteor shower. When they cleared, a multicolored nebula had appeared before them. It pulsed, rearranged itself, twisting into a variety of strange shapes. Several times it seemed to explode and then came back together, each time in different colors, looking like soundless fireworks. Then a few stars and other balls of gas joined it, and they began to take recognizable shape. The images were rather abstract, but it was the best that could be done with such 'materials.' First they formed what was meant to be Fry's perspective from inside of the cryogenic tube. The door opened, and the point of view moved through a re-imagining of the building, pausing for a moment at the career assignment door then moving inside, just barely showing a figure standing by the window before the image broke up into simple colors and shapes. Then the image reformed, showing a beautiful view of the Earth from the Moon. Then there was a re-creation of the Planet Express ship heading on a crash course for the Neutral Planet, but half the engines burst with light, causing the ship to narrowly miss the planet. Then something else from Fry's perspective: He was falling from a tower, a digital clock above him, when suddenly someone grabbed his hands. Before his rescuer could be seen, the image shifted again to show a pastel heart with the inscription "U LEAVE ME BREATHLESS." Then this too faded and was replaced by a red nebula, which looked remarkably like a certain nebula that had been sucked intro a black hole.
Stars spun around the nebula as it faded, slowly arranging themselves. Finally, they formed a pattern, a readable sentence. It simply said "I LOVE YOU, LEELA."
Fry stood up and walked over in front of where Leela was sitting. He turned and looked at her just as the stars began to break up and return to their proper positions. Fry smiled at her. "I love you," was all he said.
Leela stood up and then stared at him for the longest time, a look of absolute amazement on her face. "You did that... you did all that for me.... That's the most wonderful thing I've ever seen, and you did it for me. I--I didn't think anyone could ever love me so much. Thank you." She looked back at the now-empty sky. Then she got closer to Fry and smiled. "Fry, you're so wonderful. You don't know how special you are to me, but...." Suddenly a look of horror crossed her face and she stumbled back, away from him.
"Leela, are you okay?" he asked. What was going on? He took a step closer to her.
"Please!" she yelled, getting behind the chair. She looked on the verge of tears. "Fry, I--I know why you did this. You want to show me how much you love me, and you think that doing something romantic can make me love you. But, but...." Tears were now definitely forming in her eye. She didn't seem to want to say what she was saying. "Fry, I know you love me, and you really don't know how good that makes me feel. You're the best friend I've ever had." She closed her eye, trying to calm herself. "But it can never be more than that."
Fry felt as if he'd been shot.
"I'm so sorry, Fry. It isn't your fault, really it isn't. I just can't feel that way about you. It just won't work. Please don't hate me!" she said as she burst into tears and ran back inside.
Fry stood on the balcony for a long time; he didn't know how long. He just stood there, staring, unmoving. He wondered if he'd eventually just fall over from exhaustion. Then a beeping from the computer snapped him out of it. He walked over and pressed a flashing button.
"I believe that's the end of our deal," came Sheldon's voice. "Looks like it was all for nothing. We were watching, yes, we have a satellite pointed in your direction."
Fry didn't say anything. He wondered if he'd ever say anything again.
"You know," said Sheldon, "We were thinking of killing you."
Fry knew he was supposed to be surprised at that point, but he didn't feel anything.
"You were the only one who knew we had the box," said Sheldon, "We would never have to give it back if you were dead. We could do it right now if we wanted to: Our satellite has more than a camera pointed at you. But... I guess not. At this point, it would be doing you a favor, really. And I don't think anything we could do to you could compare to what she just did. So we'll just keep the box, okay? You probably aren't in the mood to fight to get it back. Goodbye, Mr. Fry." The computer screen went black.
Fry didn't know what he was feeling any more. It was like a dream. He almost felt as if he was watching it happen to someone else, someone in a movie or on TV -- because how could something so horrible happen in real life? Finally he decided he couldn't stand the balcony any longer. He made his way inside and downstairs; when he walked he felt awkward and ungainly, as if he'd never done it before. A black fog surrounded everything in his peripheral vision. He told himself to go home, to get some sleep so he wouldn't have to feel anything, but he didn't make it past the sidewalk. He half-sat, half-fell on the curb and couldn't move any further.
Fry sat at the curb, elbows on his knees and his face in his hands, staring at the ground. He was aware that tears were dripping from his eyes, and he watched as they formed tiny puddles on the pavement.
Leela didn't love him. She could never love him. There was nothing he could do about it. Fry had never felt so horrible in his whole life.
He had thought that maybe when she saw their married counterparts in the other universe that she'd realize being with him could be a good thing. But no, apparently not. She just couldn't feel that way. At least she'd felt guilty when they had revealed she'd been lying all the times she turned him down. No, no, wait, he shouldn't like that she had felt bad, even if she had been lying to him.
She could be attracted to other men so easily, why not him? Of course, she was always attracted to the wrong men. He couldn't believe that she'd been attracted to people like Zapp Brannigan and William Shatner -- William Shatner! It would have been funny if it wasn't so sad. Sure, those encounters had been meaningless for her, but they were still more than she'd ever done with him. What had those guys had that he didn't? What was so wrong with him? Probably, she saw them as grownups, while he was like a little kid with a crush. He was the stupid, goofy guy who she could never even think of loving. He was tired of being the stupid, goofy guy.
Dammit. Dammit. "Dammit!" he yelled as he punched the sidewalk as hard as he could. Ow. He looked at his scraped and dirty hand. Good thing he wasn't in better shape, or he might have been strong enough to hurt himself.
Even when his message in the stars had been destroyed, Fry hadn't felt so bad, probably because he knew that maybe there was still a chance. But now, no, there was no chance. He'd used all of his chances and every time, fate or his own stupid self had ruined it.
Why was he so stupid? Why was he so immature? He was sorry for anything he'd done to hurt her. He was sorry for every stupid thing he'd ever done. But that didn't change anything.
How could he possibly live with such pain? It scared him to think about it. But he had to go on; maybe Leela didn't love him, but he knew she needed him, and he couldn't abandon her. He was still her friend, and of course that was wonderful, and probably more than he deserved. Maybe he could have a good enough life that way.
Suddenly he realized that footsteps were approaching.
"Fry? Is that you?" came a voice.
Leela! Quickly Fry wiped his eyes and stood up.
Leela broke into a run and slammed into Fry, wrapping her arms around him tightly. "Oh Fry," she said. "I can't believe I almost lost you!"
What? Somehow she knew about those RomantiCorp people wanting to kill him. How? He would have expected her to be angry with him for getting involved with something so dangerous, but instead she sounded sad and scared. He didn't say anything, but returned the embrace.
"Don't let go!" Leela said, as if she'd lose him if he did. A few moments passed silently. She seemed to calm down a little with Fry's arms around her. "Please Fry," she said, "Don't ever do anything that dangerous again."
"I won't, Leela. I promise." Of course, there would be no point in trying anything like that again. Fry just held her, trying to make her feel safe. He was sorry he'd scared her, but he hadn't known that she'd known his life was in danger. Actually, she must have found out about it before he did, somehow. It didn't matter. He just stood there with her. Her body felt so soft and warm against his.
Finally she let go and pulled back a little. "I'm okay," she said.
"Leela, I'm sorry I got involved with those guys, but I really didn't know they were thinking about killing me. Actually, how did you know? How'd you even know I was working with them?"
"Fry, it was pretty obvious that you were doing something in secret. And it wasn't that hard to track you to RomantiCorp."
"But how'd you know they wanted to kill me? I didn't know until after... I mean, until tonight."
"I sneaked into the building and found a few of their memos. Then I, ah, 'convinced' their secretary to let me listen in on a meeting they had."
"Oh. Well, thanks, but... why?"
"I was worried about you."
Worried? So as soon as he acted on his own, she assumed he was doing something life-threateningly stupid? Well, she'd been right, really.
"Oh, I'm sorry, that didn't come out right. I was just sort of concerned when I found out you were involved with those creeps at RomantiCorp, and... well, I figured you were doing something for me, so I guess... I was a bit curious." She smiled sheepishly.
Fry managed to smile back; it was almost impossible not to, when she smiled at him. "So I guess you knew what I was going to do, huh?"
The look of amazement from before crossed Leela's face again. "Oh, no. I had no idea," she said, her voice full of awe. "When you asked me upstairs, I almost expected to find a bucket of those candy hearts."
"Oh, man, I'd never do that to you!"
Leela smiled, then suddenly seemed to realize something. "Fry! Oh, Fry, I have to talk to you about what I said up there."
"It's okay, Leela. You told me how you really feel, and I wouldn't have wanted anything else. Hey, listen. There's some stuff I need to tell you about, uh, about us, but let me get it all out before you say anything, 'cause otherwise I might not be able to say it all, okay?"
"Okay, Fry," she said, taking each of his hands in hers.
"Alright." Fry let out a sigh and began: "I know there have been a few times in the past when maybe you would have fallen in love with me if things had just gone a little differently. I kept trying because I thought another of those times might come, and that I'd get it right, and we'd be happy. But recently I've been wondering if maybe it was too late, and it wouldn't work. Then I thought about RomantiCorp, and I had the idea about using the box. I knew it was my last shot, but it was my best shot too. And it didn't work. So now... I'm not going to bother you any more. I won't ask you out, I won't say that I can make you love me, I won't act jealous if you date someone else. But don't worry, I'll always be there for you if you need me, and I'll always be your friend. Okay?"
"Fry," Leela whispered, "You really would do that for me, wouldn't you?"
"What do you mean I would do it? I'm doing it right now. I mean, you can't tell, but--"
"No, no, you don't understand. I had to say what I said. I knew they were listening."
"Those two from RomantiCorp, I knew they'd be watching and listening. If I'd said anything else, they'd've killed you! I thought I'd just do it, but after you showed me what you showed me.... Fry, saying those things was the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I knew it would hurt you so badly but it was the only way!"
"Why would they have killed me if you'd said anything else?"
"I think they were trying to figure out what to do with you. That's what that meeting was about. They wanted to keep the box, but didn't really want to kill you. Finally they decided they wouldn't do it if I turned you down, because you'd feel too bad to care if they kept the box. I'm so sorry, Fry."
Wow. "Thanks, Leela. You know, you're always saving my life and I never thank--wait! You said you only said that stuff because you had to?"
Fry felt his heart pounding for some reason. "So... what did you really want to say?"
Leela smiled and put her arms on his shoulders. "Well, I meant what I said, about how special you are, how you're my best friend. But I wanted to say something else."
"What's that?" Fry wondered if his heart was going to explode.
Leela leaned forward and whispered in his ear: "I love you."
"Yes, Fry, I do."
"As a friend?"
"Well, yes," she said, stepping back to look at him, "But it's more than that."
"But... but why?"
"Well, like I said, I've never seen anything more wonderful or romantic than what you did. But, I don't know, when I watched it, it cleared my head, and made it easier for me to think about... us. And of course at the same time I was wondering if I'd lose you. Fry, I've always loved you, in some way or another. At first I just felt protective of you, because I knew what it was like to be alone. Then we became better and better friends, and you became more and more special to me. But I thought we could only be friends; I just didn't feel anything more than that."
"'Cause I'm a jerk."
"Fry! You're not a jerk."
"Yes I am!"
"No you're not. Maybe sometimes you... act without thinking, but you can also be sweet and nice, and I know that's the real you. I've known that for a long time, but at first I didn't realize how important that was. Fry, you're a great guy and a great friend. You're so special to me. And I know how much you love me. I was thinking about it tonight, putting it together, but after you did that for me, moving the stars, I really understood how wonderful you are. It all fit together. And so... I love you."
"Leela, I--I...." Fry couldn't think of anything to say.
They embraced again, their faces just inches apart. Then, slowly, they kissed. It wasn't long or passionate, it was just a kiss, but it was still the best moment of Fry's life. After it was over and he was looking at her again, he realized he was crying.
Leela just smiled, put her hand to the back of his head, and gently moved it to rest it against her chest. "Shh," she said, rocking him back and forth. "It's okay. You did it. You finally got to win."
"So what do you want to do?" asked Leela. She was sitting beside Fry on the sidewalk.
"You mean right now, or like, with our lives?"
"I mean right now. Are you hungry?"
"Oh, yeah. Actually, I haven't eaten anything all day, 'cause I was so nervous. You want to go somewhere? It's not too late, is it?"
"No. There's plenty of time."
Again Fry felt like he was in a dream, but this time it was better. Leela loved him. But even so, he knew he still had to get everything right. He wanted her to be as impressed with him as she was on the day he had the worms. Usually he screwed up when he tried to be romantic, but somehow it was easier since he knew she loved him. He felt less tense, and it just came to him naturally. He liked being romantic; he liked making her happy. It wasn't hard to imagine doing it for the rest of his life.
The evening went perfectly. Fry held Leela's hand as they walked. At the restaurant he was funny and sweet, and he managed to do it without spewing crumbs everywhere. He gave her his jacket when she got cold. He put his arm around her as they sat and looked at the stars, which of course now had a special meaning to them. Finally, as it was getting late, he walked her back to her apartment.
"Would you like to come in?" Leela asked, standing in the open doorway.
"Uh, okay," said Fry. He stepped inside with her. He realized he hadn't been there with her since that night when... well, that night.
Leela closed the door and smiled at him.
"Leela, do you really think we should...."
"Fry, I want to," she said, walking over to him. "Not because of what happened before, not because I feel sorry for you, but because I love you."
"I love you."
"I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing that."
"Well, that's good, 'cause I'm not going to stop saying it."
Fry followed her into the bedroom.
Some time later, Fry and Leela lay in bed together. Leela's head rested against Fry's left shoulder, and her arm was draped across his chest. Her now-loose hair was everywhere. Fry's left arm was around her.
"Are you okay, Fry?" she asked.
"Of course I'm okay. I'm with the most beautiful and wonderful girl in the universe, and she loves me. I'll never not be okay again."
Leela sat up, looked at him, then leaned in and kissed him. "Thank you," she said. Then she snuggled back into her previous position. She sighed and closed her eye. "Goodnight," she said.
Hours later, Fry still lay awake. He was almost afraid that if he went to sleep, she'd be gone when he woke up. Or maybe keeping her comfortable was more important than sleeping. "Leela? Are you awake?" he asked, though he knew she wasn't.
At the sound of his voice, Leela smiled in her sleep and held him tighter.
Fry stared at her, amazed. She was happy because of him. It was unbelievable.
"You know," he said quietly, "Part of me never really believed that you'd fall in love with me. For one thing, it was hard to believe that someone as great and as beautiful as you could love a guy like me. But I also thought that maybe I just wasn't lovable. Maybe you know what that feels like. But... you do love me. You have no idea how great that makes me feel. Or how great it feels just to be with you. Thank you, Leela."
The sleeping woman didn't move.
Fry looked at the ceiling and continued: "I keep wondering if I'm going to screw up, if I'm going to hurt you somehow. I'd hate myself if I did. I'd never do something like that on purpose, but sometimes I do stupid things. Maybe you've noticed. So I'm going to try really hard to make myself better, not just so I won't hurt you, but because you deserve it. I hope I deserve to be with you, but sometimes I'm not sure. So I'm never going to forget how great you are, and I'm never going to take you for granted, like I have before sometimes. And I'll never let you forget what a great person you are, because you are, really. Okay? Anyway, I just wanted to tell you. I guess I'll get to sleep now."
Leela gave a cute sigh in her sleep.
Fry wanted to kiss her, but was afraid he'd wake her. So he just pulled up the sheets to cover her and then held her with both arms. He closed his eyes and let himself drift into the warm darkness.
Fry gradually realized he was awake. It was morning, probably time to get up, but he kept his eyes closed, as if time would only pass if he opened them.
He'd had the most wonderful dream. It was the one where Leela fell in love with him. But of course it wasn't real; after all, he was alone in bed. Maybe he'd have it again later. It was only sixteen hours or so before he could go back to sleep, so he might as well get up and get them over with.
He opened his eyes. Wait a minute, this wasn't his apartment. He could only see the wall, but it was the wrong color. What the hell had happened to him? Where was he? He rolled over onto his back and looked up. The most beautiful face he'd ever seen was smiling down at him.
"Leela!" he yelled, sitting up and scooting over to the side of the bed, where she was sitting. He reached out and touched her. "So it was real?"
"I had a hard time believing it too," she said, putting her head on his shoulder. "I let you sleep while I went and took a shower, but it's probably time for you to get up, even though it's Saturday. I want us to have as much time together as we can."
"So what do you want to do today?"
"Anything, as long as it's with you."
"Do you feel happy?" he asked.
"Fry, I've only dreamed of feeling this happy. I still can't believe what you did for me."
"You know, we'll have to get the box back at some point."
"You'll have to beat up a lot of people at RomantiCorp."
"Like Gwen and Sheldon, probably."
"Wanna do that right now?"
"Sure," she said. Suddenly she jumped up and then turned to him. "You get a shower; I'll be outside with the ship by the time you're done."
"Okay!" Fry jumped up and stood beside her.
Leela took his hand and kissed him on the cheek. "See you soon," she said. She turned and headed for the door. Then she stopped, turned around, and walked back to him. "Oh, might as well," she said. She threw her arms around him and kissed him passionately. The force of her attack pushed him over onto the bed, and she stayed on top of him, kissing him all over his face. Finally she sat up to let him breathe. "And there's more where that came from!" she said, smiling.
"I love you," said Fry, still gasping.
"I love you too. I love you and no one else." She stood up and then pulled him to his feet. "Let's go!" she said, and ran out the door.
Fry stood there for a moment, dazed, but finally headed for the shower. Afterwards, he walked outside, to begin his life with the woman he loved.