Fan Fiction

Parallel Lives - A Road Not Taken, part 4
By Graham Dawson

Leela fell to the ground and landed on her rear with a thump that knocked the air out of her lungs. Her gun clattered to the ground a moment later, just as the window clicked back into its frame She glared up at it, ignoring the rain that fell in fitful sheets around her, and laughed shortly at the ultimate futility of his escape. She'd have him, sooner or later.

Still doing this, he’d said. She should have known that one would be trouble, he’d seemed different the first time they’d met. The same, but somehow calmer, or perhaps just more ignorant. Yeah, that must be it. Now he was here too...

Leela picked up her gun, wiped the worst of the grime from its metal hide and then slipped it into the holster at her hip. Last time she’d met this Fry she’d almost lost it, and losing the weapon that had give her purpose, which reminded Leela that she was short of bullets and that it might be a good time to head home again.

“Next universe,” she muttered as she pulled out the gun again to give it a more careful examination. She spun the barrel, revelled in the rapid clatter of the ratchet and the rhythmic flicker of the remaining rounds in their chambers. Leela stepped away from the building and looked up at the now-darkened window, blinking at the rain that sputtered over her upturned eye. No chance to get in there tonight, but that didn’t matter; there were still other Philips to fry. She turned, oblivious to the thickening rain, and looked about the street. There was another one somewhere around here, another prey to hunt. She’d find him and deal with him first, and then she’d return for this one later, and if he’d got away again, well, she’d just have to move on to the next.

Leela set off down the street to resume her hunt. After a few steps she was whistling the happy tune she remembered from the institute radio, and soon afterwards she was skipping along and splashing in the puddles as she thought about her next meeting with Philip.

It was all so much fun!

“Fry, wake up. Fry!” There was a slapping sound, followed by something that could reasonably be called pain, and Fry realised he was awake again. He groaned, shook his head to relieve the stinging in his cheek, then opened his eyes and looked up. A giant pair of eyes regarded him with a mixture of resigned amusement and drunken suspicion. No wait, that wasn’t right. Fry shook his head and blinked, and the eyes resolved into two Leelas staring down at him.

Leela, his Leela, turned away to look at her ersatz twin. “Back home I have a dermal re-generator in the kitchen, I don’t suppose-”

“I’ll get it,” the other said, before disappearing from view. Her voice sounded rough, as if she’d been crying. Dermal re-generator? Fry sat up and-

“Ow! My head...” Fry reached up to touch his forehead and hissed in pain as his fingers probed at the stiff welt just above his left eye. He looked around the apartment until he found the door, mercifully sealed. “What... Leela, she was out there, you have to-”

“Hush.” Leela helped Fry up to a sitting position and patted down his jacket. “Who was out there, Fry?”

“Uh... you. Her.” Fry’s eyes wandered around the room as he fought for a description. “The one before we came here that attacked you and shot Bender and wasn’t wearing any pants.”

Leela’s brow twisted in confusion, an odd sight given she only had one eye. “Fry, that doesn’t make much sense. She went into a completely different universe. You’ve bumped your head.”

She stood up and held her hand out to help Fry to his feet. Fry touched his forehead again as he recalled the whack the door had given him and felt a few tiny scratches from the shattered fixture as well.

“But she shot at me! And how do you explain that light exploding?”

“I’ve been on at the landlord for months to get that thing fixed.” Leela guided Fry to the single chair and sat him down in it just before her counterpart returned. She took the dermal regenerator, a small cylindrical device with a rotating interior, and peered at it. “Thanks. Look, Fry, the most likely explanation is that you were asleep, and the light exploding made you have a bad dream. That’s all.”

“I’ve been on at the landlord about that light for months,” the second Leela added with some feeling. Then her face dropped and she looked down at the floor. “Not that it would have made much difference...”

Fry glanced between the two almost-identical faces as Leela applied the regenerator to his forehead. He felt the bruise tingling and a strange, itchy sensation twinged somewhere behind his eyes.

“I don’t know...” He kept his voice low, just in case she heard him. But, then, was she even there? The rhythmic buzzing if the regenerator increased its intensity as Leela waved the device over other parts of his skin and Fry could feel himself relaxing as the dull ache he hadn’t even noticed started to fade away, replaced with a strange warm sensation across his forehead. Maybe he had dreamed it. Not that it mattered, with the door shut they wouldn’t have to worry about her anyway.

The machine snapped off. Fry opened eyes he hadn’t even noticed closing and looked up at Leela. She smiled at him and tapped her finger against his forehead whilst her counterpart folded the machine up again. “That should do it.”

Fry sat up, his vision much clearer now the pain had gone. He reached up to touch the bruise and found it completely healed. “So I guess we’re staying here tonight?”

“Yep. Leela, here,” Leela said, indicating her pseudo-sister with a wry grin, “is letting us crash here tonight. You’re staying out here, I’ll be in there with... myself, I guess. Feel free to watch television and try not to eat any more ‘cheese’.”

“Oh...” Blue frowned and folded her arms across her chest as if she were cold. She looked between Leela and Fry with obvious confusion. “I thought you two would... I mean-”

“No!” Leela blinked and laughed nervously at the force of her own reply. She took her twin’s arm to guide her toward the bedroom. “We aren’t a couple if that’s what you mean.”

“You aren’t?” Blue looked over her shoulder at Fry, confusion clouding her face for a moment. The eye made her so easy to read, Fry thought sadly, watching her as the door closed. “But he’s so cute...”

Fry turned back to stare at the blank television. Once, just once, he wished he could hear his Leela utter that phrase without kicking him in the balls afterwards. Metaphorically speaking, anyway, he thought, as he reached under the seat and pulled out the half-full bottle of liquor. Leela really had sunk low in this world and in all likelihood he, Philip Fry, was dead at the bottom of some ruined gulley in the remains of old New York. It was worth a drink.

“Here’s to another lousy universe,” Fry said, raising the bottle in mock salute. He downed a gulp of the liquor only to choke most of it back up again as the fiery liquid stripped the inside of his throat raw.

“Ugh... it’s like swallowing hot nails! How can she drink this stuff?”

Fry peered at the bottle, shrugged and took another gulp. It was a lot smoother this time though, truth be told, that was probably because his throat had just gone numb. He didn’t feel quite so scared any more. Two Leela’s against one was always good odds, even if the one did have a gun. A very odd gun...

Fry’s eyes snapped open. The room was pitch-black apart from a faint glow from a chronometer by the side of the giant TV screen that read something ridiculously early in the morning. He stared at it, willing himself to understand the numbers, but they slipped away to a ruddy, senseless blur each time he tried to focus.

“There’s no five in the morning...” he muttered, rolling his head to one side. Where had he been? Gun. It had been an old pistol, the sort Dirty Harry would have been using to get lucky. Something about the gun nagged at Fry, preventing him from getting back to sleep. Something about the way it worked.

Bullet! Fry leaped from the chair and then immediately stumbled over the discarded liquor bottle, spilling its remaining contents across the floor. Not that it made much difference to the smell. Fry didn't care about that, anyway; if he could find the spent bullet he could prove to Leela that he hadn’t been dreaming!

He felt his way along the wall toward the apartment door and then paused, suddenly wary. What if she was waiting out there? But, then, would she bother waiting? Wouldn’t she have simply broken her way in? Fry shivered in anticipation of what might come and opened the door a crack with the full expectation of a bullet in the gut for his troubles. Nothing. He let out an audible sigh of relief and let the door swing wide.

The hall was bright to his dark-accustomed eyes, but dim at the same time, and silent. Shards of ceramic and metal littered the floor underneath the destroyed light fitting, glinting in the remaining lights and the pale false dawn that shone in through the window. Fry gingerly stepped out into the hall, carefully avoiding the worst mess and conscious of the noise his steps made on the detritus that must surely have woken the entire floor again. He paused for a moment to make sure the apartment door was off its latch and wouldn’t lock him out, then moved on toward the centre of the hall.

From underneath the light-fitting looked fairly well wrecked, the ceiling scorched in a wide arc around the fitting, cracked in a few places where its protected surface polymer sheath had bubbled away. He knew a simple failing light wouldn’t do that, even in these days of high-power plasma bulbs and electronium filaments. Unfortunately he couldn’t see any way to climb up to the fitting, and he couldn’t spot any obvious bullet inside it from down here. Fry shook his head sadly and looked away, letting his eyes rove over the destruction while until they came to rest on a small, dull-silver object resting on the floor. It looked about right.

Fry picked up the bullet and rocked it back and forth in his hand, examining the slightly flattened slug of metal from every angle, willing himself to remember any tricks he could think of from the old cop shows. T.J. Hooker had always been able to guess the size of a bullet from just looking at it but Fry couldn’t seem find the little numbers he must have been using. Maybe they’d been rubbed off by the carpet.

He looked over his shoulder at the pale grey circle of the window and shuddered; he’d been that close to having his brains blown out, he still didn’t know why she was using the old gun, or even why she was after him, but now he had another reason to get home as fast as possible. Fry pocketed the bullet and crept back into the apartment, closed the door and locked it tight, then leaned back against it with a relieved outlet of breath.

He put his hand back in his pocket to touch the proof of the attack and then crept across the apartment to Leela’s bedroom with a little trepidation. Maybe it would be better to wait until the morning? But then again, if they waited until then, she might find some way to get to him. No, there was no choice. Fry leaned up against the door and raised his hand to knock.

Which was just about when Leela started to cry. Some strange instinct made Fry push his ear up against the door because, even though he knew it was rude to eavesdrop, the thought of Leela crying overrode any sense of propriety. Fry knew it wasn’t his Leela that was crying, but the voice was almost the same, and had the same effect on him as his heart leapt into his throat. Leela almost never cried, even when she knew he was in a lot of trouble. She hadn’t even cried that time she’d had to hit him until he cried, and when she did it was a voluminous wail, not the bitter emaciated weeping he could hear through the door. The sound of someone so crushed by life that they couldn't even cry properly.

There were muttered words that might have been encouragement and the quiet sobbing died away again. Fry stepped back and took the bullet from his pocket. He looked at it in the twilight of the room and sighed, then zipped it into an inside pocket to keep it safe before tip-toeing back to his seat in front of the oversized television screen. He’d tell her about it tomorrow.

Fry woke again, still in the chair, but bathed in a bright light. The screen in front of him was glowing bright white and filled with fuzzing static that seemed to dance with a thousand almost-visible images of people walking to and fro, skipping and jumping from one spot to another and then fading back to nothing, like a vague and annoyingly steamed-up window onto a million parallel lives. Fry sat up and tugged the remote out from beneath his leg; the movement knocked the empty bottle under the chair against one of the coffee cups he’d left there the night before. With a tired grunt Fry turned his eyes away from the screen as Leela walked into his field of vision, rubbing her hands with a towel.

“So, you’re awake.” There was a that little smile and no pain etched on her face which mean it was his Leela. Fry smiled back and tried to push himself out of the chair, an act he managed with some difficulty after finding out his left leg had fallen asleep. He leaned against the chair back and flopped the leg around to try and get some blood flowing.

“Yeah. Leela, I found something last night.” Fry grunted and had to stop talking for a moment as all the nerves in his leg suddenly started working again. It felt as if he had the thing trapped in a spiny ant-eater nest or something. Finally, after he was sure he could stand without his knee bending backward, Fry felt around in his pocket for the bullet. It was gone. He paused, grinned nervously and searched his other pockets in confusion. “It was here before...”

Leela looked on with a skeptical eye as Fry patted his other pockets. “Sure you didn’t dream-”

“Wait, got it!” Fry reached into his inside pocket and pulled out the lumpen lead slug, which he held up between finger and thumb in front of Leela’s face. “See? She was here!”

“Fry...” Leela took the bullet between her fingers and held it up to the light. “This is just a piece of metal,” she said, dropping it back into Fry’s palm. She shook her head sadly. “It’s probably something out of the light fitting. Face it, Fry, you’ve had a stressful day and night, and you’ve been drinking that... that drink, and it’s made you have nightmares.”

“But, but she was here,” Fry whined as he stared at the leaden slug. In the light of day it did look a bit less bullet-shaped than he’d thought the night before. Then again, somehow, he knew what a bullet should look like and this was it. More to the point, Leela wouldn’t know. She was used to laser pistols and plasma rifles. “Besides, how many light fittings have lead in them?”

“Oh, you’d be surprised,” Leela replied. She turned her back on Fry and walked toward the bedroom. “Get cleaned up, we’re taking ‘me’ to see a doctor and then we’re going to figure out a way to sort this crazy-ass world out again.”

“But, Leela, she-”

“Enough, Fry!” Leela turned around and glared at Fry with her hands on her hips, giving him a chance to see how little sleep she'd had the night before.

In the face of that stare Fry simply had to give in. He shrugged and put the bullet back in his pocket, making a mental note to check it up once they got back home; the internet was always full of that sort of information. He shook out his coat, smoothed back his hair and turned to smile at Leela but she was already back in the bedroom, which left him feeling a little silly. Fry made his way over to the door and peered around the edge into the dim recesses of the room he’d rarely seen before.

For a moment the sight of two Leela’s sitting on the bed caused strange ideas to roam through his mind and he stumbled, even though he hadn’t been walking, and had to grab hold of the nearest support to stop himself falling which, unfortunately, turned out to be a small table just inside the door. The pressure of his fall knocked it over and sent something flying into the room where it landed with a loud smack.

Both women were staring at Fry as he righted himself. He tugged at his coat and let out a nervous laugh, to which neither version of Leela gave any reply except to look at the other with something like confused contempt.

“Still think he’s cute?”

“I’m withholding judgement. Oh...” Blue stood up and rubbed her temples, and then screwed her eye up and rubbed a shivery hand across her face. “I feel like crap...”

“You will. These detox pills always go that way,” Leela replied as she accompanied her counterpart, hands gripped around Blue’s ill-defined biceps for just a moment, before she leaned over to pick up the plastic vase Fry had sent flying and re-seated it on its table by the door. Leela gave Fry a quick glance and a half-smile, probably trying to encourage him somehow, then turned her attention back to her other self.

“Time to go.”

“Can’t I just have one-”

“No!” Leela took her counterpart’s arms by the wrists and held them up. Blue struggled against Leela’s grip but her strength had apparently wasted away over the weeks of her self-imposed isolation to the point where she was barely able to even twist her arms free. Leela grimace at the sight and quickly let go to spare herself the embarrassment. “We need you sober.”

“What about my needs?”

You need you sober. You aren’t going to get your job back if you’re half way down a bottle of bourbon!”

“Fine...” Leela’s counterpart lowered her head and resumed rubbing her temples. From Fry’s point of view it was obvious she wasn’t in the best shape but Leela seemed intent on driving her forward, as if she couldn’t stand to see herself in this state. Fry waited by the door as Leela walked from the room, so deep in thought that she didn't even look at Fry when she passed. Fry waited for Leela to leave before he slipped inside the door and pushed it part-way closed.

He took a step toward the bed, where Blue was sitting down again, shading her eye with her hands against the bright morning sunlight that streamed in the window. Every now and then she winced as another detox cycle kicked in.


She opened her eye and looked at him. For a moment it seemed like she was looking at him for the first time in her life which, in a way, was almost true.

“Did you mean... what you said, last night?”

She gave a non-committal shrug and looked away.

“I was drunk. Besides,” she said, giving him another appraising look. “You're the first man I've really looked at for months.”

“Yeah, but did you... never mind.” Fry hovered by the bed, wanting to sit down but worried it might be misinterpreted, until Blue patted the bed beside her.

“Sit down.” She waited for Fry to slump onto the hard mattress and then looked at him, eye tightening slightly as the detox pills went to work again. “Since we're asking questions, maybe you can answer one for me.”

“Sure... anything.” Fry tried to smile. Blue had already looked away, though, staring at her hands as she pressed them between her knees, so vulnerable that Fry almost couldn't recognise her.

“You met my parents.” It wasn't a question. Fry nodded, though she wasn't looking at him to see it. When she spoke it was almost as if Fry wasn't there. “They looked a lot like me.”

“Oh, yeah. If it wasn't for your mom's arms I would have trouble telling you two... apart, hey...” Fry put his hand up to touch Blue's shoulder but hesitated at the last minute as a tear ran down her cheek. He wasn't sure how she'd react, didn't want to find out in a painful way. Then she shook her head and scrubbed her arm across her face to wipe away the tears, and even smiled a little.

“She said you were there with her.” Fry nodded again. Blue's brow creased a little as if she were having a hard time concentrating. “And you saved them?”

Saved them from me, she didn't add. Fry looked away, around the bedroom, not quite as spartan as the living room but still virtually empty, with just a few mementos on the walls and the ruffled bed giving any sign someone had ever lived there. The air was dusty, the walls streaked with hints of grime and grease that meant whatever normally kept the place clean was either abandoned or no longer working.

“Leela, I’m sorry.” He did touch her this time, lightly, on the shoulder. Blue shivered at the touch. Or possibly because she was still detoxing, Fry wasn't really sure. Her skin felt hot and terribly dry. “I wasn’t there when you needed me. I suppose I never am anyway, but your parents-”

Fry's words dried up in his throat as Blue's face closed up like a collapsing cavern.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, and then turned away again. Fry grunted assent, put his hands in his pockets and shuffled back toward the door. Before opening it again he paused and looked back at Blue.

“I’ve always wanted to say...” he began, but the words jammed in his throat. Leela... she wasn’t his Leela, but she was close enough as to make no difference. Leela didn’t take his complements very well most of the time. Say it, Fry! You’re beautiful! “Uh... you have nice boots.”

The corners of her mouth twitched slightly. Fry tried to smile as she stood up, but all he managed was the same slightly ugly grimace, which wasn’t helped by the way he’d slept the night before. This Leela walked up to him, took a moment to look down at her boots, then pushed past Fry and left the room. He sighed and leaned his head against the door-frame, let the cool plasteel leech away the heat from his flushed forehead. Why didn’t he just say it?

Because it wouldn’t have been right...

But she needed to hear it from someone.

Fry looked back into the living room, if it could really be called that. They were talking and, every now and then, one or the other would look his way like some species of freakishly tall one-eyed meerkat. Fry felt his mouth drying out at the thought of what they might be saying to each other about him – if that’s what they were talking about.

“Well I guess we should get going.” Leela walked up to Fry and put her fists on her hips. “I made an appointment at the clinic on forty-second and Quatzl, that should be anonymous enough.”


Fry followed the pair toward the door and felt his guts begin to tangle as they exited the apartment, but he was no longer sure whether it was because of her or because of something a little closer to home.