“Bender,” Leela said, picking a particularly large slip of seaweed from her ear as she walked down the gangplank, “that wasn’t what I meant when I said ‘blow that mother up.’”
“Eh, he said, lighting a stogie, “you get the kinda help you pay for.”
Leela glowered at him. That, she knew, was precisely her point. “But I’m not the one paying you!”
Fry scooted up beside her, trying to clear his own nostrils of the foul-smelling stuff. “I hope I don’t end up glowing in the dark,” he said. “Leela, did any get in my hair?”
She stared back at him. Several gooey tentacles waved from Fry’s locks.
“Make sure the shower drain’s locked before you finish up,” she said weakly. “I don’t want to pay the Professor for any repairs.”
“What’s she talking about?” Fry asked as she walked away, two seconds before one of the tentacles slapped him right in the mouth.
Leela didn’t know why she put up with them. They alternated between insubordination and helplessness; they refused to listen when she gave an order. Fry’s personal hygiene caused at least one intergalactic incident, and she can’t imagine how she can keep dragging them both from galaxy to galaxy without causing some kind of international disaster. She found herself working nonstop to keep their noses clean and their business above-board, the deliveries on time and the bills remitted in full. It was more than even Farnsworth did for the company.
Maybe she ought to ask for a raise. Or try to find another job with a better company.
Washing up in the general privacy of the women’s bathroom, she was surprised when Amy suddenly burst in, muttering a series of Martian curses under her breath. Leela watched in silence as she turned the taps on full-blast and then dunked her hand under them, sending a shower of alien slime spattering across the surface of the sink in the process.
“Did Fry high-five you?”
“How’d you know?” Amy asked, resurfacing, water dripping from her hand.
That answered Leela’s unspoken question, at least. “Just a lucky guess,” she said, wringing out the hem of her tank top. “Sometimes,” she added, “I wonder why I don’t take a nice, quiet desk job over at Mom’s.”
“S’duh Leela! Weren’t you the one who totally said she never wanted to have a boring job?”
“Boring would be a relief,” she admitted. “And maybe there they’d listen to me instead of ignoring everything I have to say. All I want is a little respect every now and then – some kind of attention!”
“Wait, you don’t think Fry and Bender respect you?” Leela raised her eyebrow and stared at Amy. “Spleesh, Leela, why would you think that? They both clearly like working with you a lot!” She added. “Fry’s totally super crazy for you, for one.”
“There’s a difference between dating somebody and having them think you’re worthwhile as a captain.” Leela crossed her arms over her chest and glowered. “Frankly, I’d rather have his esteem.”
“You’re a really bad liar,” Amy said.
Leela sighed. “Fine. I don’t know why I want something more from them. It would just be nice to be seen as smart and dashing instead of some kind of weird object of lust.”
“Flattering yourself, honey.”
“Aww. Thanks so much, skank.”
Leela glowered as she turned off her welding torch and rested it upon the ground. “What do you want?” she asked.
He tucked his hands into the pockets of his pants. “Would you like to take a walk with me?”
Leela considered the notion, gave a shrug. “Sure.”
He seemed almost overly enthused to get her out of the way, even helping her with her coat. The walk was quiet and surprisingly peaceful, and she let his arm drift about her shoulder. This was what peace felt like; this was the cool embrace of caring.
“Um,” Fry said – as they stopped at a fried pickle stand – “Amy said you don’t think Bender and me respect you!” he held the treat out and said, “here’s a pickle!”
“Thank you,” she said, staring at the space tuber. Honestly she didn’t know what to expect, and she cursed Amy for blurting out her secrets like the total gossip she was.
“We think you’re really cool, Leela,” Fry said.
“I know you think I’m cool, Fry. You bought me that pin with ‘world’s coolest girlfriend’ on it for my birthday…”
“I found it in a public bathroom!” he said proudly.
“…It’s just that sometimes I don’t think either of you pay attention to me and it makes my job harder.” Well, they both wanted honesty and she was prepared to deliver it.
“We’ll try harder!” Fry promised, crossing his heart. “I’ll even stop leaving the ship in park!”
“That was you?” she gasped.
“I like to pretend I can fly and go nyoom,” he said.
They were at the end of the block, at the very edge of the park. She turned to tell him that she was fine, that maybe she didn’t need praise after all.
Then she noticed the banner, draped from a tree…made out of a bedspread that was probably stolen from the office. It read, in motor oil: “Thanks, Leela.”
“Surprise!” Fry said.
Bender appeared at the edge of her vision, still stuck that same tree. “Here,” he said. “We got a thing.”
“It’s a certificate to that new karate gym on fourth. We thought beating a couple of guys up might make you feel better.”
“Aww, you got me the gift of violence!” Leela cooed. That earned him a peck on the cheek. “I guess you guys really do appreciate me.”
“Sort of!” said Bender, pleasantly dismissive.
“Thanks,” she said. For just a second she held the certificate close to her chest before releasing it. “So how do you boys feel about a round of drinks?”
“Isn’t it a little early to start drinking?” Fry asked.
“It’s on me.”
“Fry my good man, put a sock in it,” Bender said, “when the captain’s speaking.”
Eh. Leela would take whatever respect she could get.