Leela was busy cleaning. Amy and Kif were coming over for dinner, so she wanted the apartment to look perfect. Not that Amy would notice a dead skunk on the table if Kif were around, but being who she was, Leela couldn’t have someone over if the place wasn’t “just so.”
The radio was on full blast as she followed the vacuum-bot from room to room. She grinned as she remembered Fry saying, “What good is a vacuum-bot if you have to follow it from room to room like a Stupid Ages vacuum cleaner?”
“That’s Fry” she thought, “always honest.”
Once the vacuum-bot finished it’s work, Leela decided to take a short break. She went into the kitchenette, opened the refrigerator and took out a bottle of Sierra Springs water. As she took her first sip, the announcer on the radio said, “Now for all of you Loretta Lynn fans, here’s a blast from the distant past called, ‘One’s On the Way’.”
Leela smiled. She had heard the song before. It was a humorous look by Loretta Lynn at a woman’s life in the Stupid Ages.
“They say to have her hair done Liz flies all the way to France
And Jackie's seen in a discotheque doin' a brand new dance
And the White House social season should be glittering and gay
But here in Topeka the rain is a fallin'
The faucet is a drippin' and the kids are a bawlin'
One of them a toddlin' and one is a crawlin' and one's on the way”
Leela found herself wondering what it would be like to be pregnant and to have children crawling around underfoot. She decided she didn’t want to find out…not yet anyway. The song continued,
“I'm glad that Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact
And Debbie's out in Vegas workin' up a brand new act
While the TV's showin' Newlyweds a real fun game to play
But here in Topeka the screen door's a bangin'
The coffee's boilin' over and the wash needs a hangin'
One wants a cookie and one wants a changin' and one's on the way”
She wondered, “Who the heck was Raquel Welch?”
“Now what was I doin'? Jimmy get away from there! Darn there goes the phone!
Hello honey, what's that you say? You’re bringin' a few ole Army buddies home!
You're callin' from a bar? Get away from there!
No not you honey, I was talkin' to the baby. Wait a minute honey the door bell…
Honey could you stop at the market and…? Hello, hello? Well I'll be”
The girls in New York City they all march for women's lib
And Better Homes and Gardens shows the modern way to live
And the pill may change the world tomorrow but meanwhile today
Here in Topeka the flies are a buzzin'
The dog is a barkin' and the floor needs a scrubbin'
One needs a spankin' and one needs a huggin' Lord one's on the way
Oh gee, I hope it ain't twins again!
Leela laughed heartily as the song ended. The announcer had begun his patter for the next song when the televid began to chirp. She turned the volume down on the radio before walking over in front of the screen.
Leela had expected to see Fry or Amy. Instead the familiar visage of Mr. Vogel from the Cookieville Minimum Security Orphanarium filled the screen. He had that ‘we need to discuss something’ look on his face.
“Mr. Vogel, what a surprise!”
“Good afternoon, Leela. Do you have a moment?”
“Certainly,” she responded with some hesitancy in her voice, “What do you need?”
Mr. Vogel looked uncomfortable, “Can you come down to the Orphanarium tomorrow?”
“I’d rather discuss it face-to-face.”
After a short pause Leela replied, “Okay. Is nine o’clock good for you?”
“Fine, I’ll see you at nine.”
“Damn,” Leela thought as she stood in front of the Orphanarium, “why do I feel so helpless when I come here?” She paused to look around the playground where she had suffered so much torment. The oft repeated taunting choruses of “One-eye!” still reverberated in her mind.
Waves of anger and bitterness began to rise, waves that threatened to disrupt her newfound peace of mind. Before they overwhelmed her, Leela said audibly, “No, I’ve forgiven all of them.” Her voice rose, “I will not be bound to the past by their misdeeds.” She shook her head like a horse ridding itself of an annoying fly, “Let the dead bury the dead.”
Suddenly at peace, Leela walked up the steps to the front door. Once she rang the doorbell, she waited patiently until it opened. “Mr. Vogel! How good to see you!”
He smiled as he responded with one of their private jokes, “You’ll always be an orphan and nobody will ever want you!”
Leela laughed, stepped forward and hugged him quickly. Taking a step back, she looked him in the face as she asked, “So what’s up?”
The smile fled from his face, replaced by a grim look, “Please, let’s go to my office to discuss it.”
They walked through the corridors without speaking further. Following Mr. Vogel into the office, Leela sat in a chair opposite his desk as Mr. Vogel squeezed in behind it.
Without any banter, Mr. Vogel began, “Well, Leela I may as well get right down to it.” He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, “Have you had…relations…with an Amphibian?”
“What?” For a moment her mind went blank. A feeling of dread began to steal into her mind, “Why?”
“I need to know.” He said gravely.
“Well…yes…I accidentally grasped Kif Kroker’s hand about four years ago when he was in a receptive state.” She cleared her throat, “But I wasn’t the Smizmar. Amy Wong, my friend, was the Smizmar.”
“Didn’t Kif have a brood of tadpoles as the result of your contact?”
“Yes, he did, but he said they were Amy and his because she was the Smizmar…” her voice trailed off.
Mr. Vogel looked down at his desk, opening a file folder as he did so. After a moment, he looked up again. “Leela, you have a four year old daughter as a result of holding hands.”
Leela’s throat became dry, “But Kif said…”
“Kif didn’t reckon with Amphibian law or with your mutant DNA.”
“What do you mean?”
He shook his head, “I gather almost all of the tadpoles were normal…all save one.” He paused, “One child exhibited distinct mammalian features as well as having a single eye. She also emerged from the swamp after only four years instead of the usual twenty. By Amphibian law she is a gultunk, a mixed breed non-Amphibian.” Mr. Vogel paused again to let it sink in, “Amphibian law says the child belongs to the alien biological mother.”
Alarm crept into Leela’s voice, “So Kif has no rights to the child?”
“Oh my God,” Leela’s stomach began to tighten, “so where is she?”
Mr. Vogel hit a button on his desk. He pointed to a monitor screen where one of the security cameras scattered throughout the Orphanarium focused on a three foot tall child of obvious Amphibian background, but with a single eye, long eyelashes and a long green ponytail.
Leela gasped involuntarily. She reached down and gripped her seat, afraid that she would pass out. “What…what else can you tell me?”
“Her name is Amphibia.” Mr. Vogel’s tone was grave, “She just arrived yesterday,” he lifted the folder on his desk, “accompanied by this file.” He plopped the file down, “As her mother, you have the right to take her at any time.”
“Any time?” she felt as though she were trapped under a burning mattress.
“Yes,” Vogel leaned forward, “but you only have 48 hours from formal notification before she becomes a ward of the state. After that happens, you’ll have to go through a custody hearing…which will take months.”
“Oh my God,” Leela thought, “I have so little time. If I leave her here too long, she’ll have to endure what I endured. Oh she is so precious looking! What will Fry say? Will he still want me with a child…a child not his own?”
“Leela?” the tone of Mr. Vogel’s voice made it obvious that she had missed something.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Vogel. What did you say?”
“This session is strictly off the record.” He smiled, “I sent you a snail mail notification. That should give you a few extra days.”
Leela smiled weakly, “Thanks Mr. Vogel.”
“Would you like to meet her?”
Feeling as though she had been kicked in the stomach, Leela replied weakly, “N..no. Not yet.”
“Very well.” He rose, “You shouldn’t stay too long, if an inspector came we might have a problem on our hands.”
Leela rose, shook Mr. Vogel’s offered hand and left the office in a semi-daze. All of the way home, her mind was buzzing with the same thoughts over and over, “What am I going to do? I can’t leave her there! What will Fry say? How am I going to tell him? Will he reject me over this? Why can’t I ever get a break?”
The unfairness of it all caused her to cry quietly in frustration and grief. By the time she reached her apartment, she was mentally and physically exhausted. Reaching the door, Leela paused. From the other side of the door, she could hear Fry’s voice warbling, “I’m walkin’ on sunshine…oh…oh.”
Biting her lip, she opened the door. Fry stopped singing as she stepped through the door. He greeted her with a cheerful, “Hey Leela! How was your morning?” As soon as the words had escaped his lips Fry noticed Leela’s grim look and red eye, “Is there something wrong?”
“Fry,” she said in a shaky voice, “we have to talk.”
The tone of Leela’s voice made Fry’s throat suddenly dry and started his palms sweating. He thought, “Oh crap.” Instead of giving voice to his thought he replied, “Umm…Okay.”
Leela was visibly trembling as she walked past Fry to sit on the couch. He stood uncertainly for a moment until Leela patted the couch next to her in a silent invitation.
“What is going on?” he wondered before taking a seat next to Leela. What happened next totally surprised him. Leela flung her arms around his neck and began to sob. Momentarily speechless, he put his arms gently around her, patting her back.
“Oh Fry, I am so sorry.” Leela wailed.
“Sorry?” His bewilderment finding it’s way into his tone, “Sorry for what?”
“I…I…I just…just…” her speech dissolved into a fresh spate of sobs. Fry could feel her tears wetting his neck as she clung to him fiercely, like a drowning person clinging to a life preserver.
“Leela, please don’t cry,” Fry stroked her neck gently, “Is it something I did?” He could feel her shake her head. “Maybe I should just give her time to calm down,” he decided. So he stopped asking questions. Instead, he simply stroked her neck and ponytail while whispering over and over, “It’s Okay, Leela. Everything is going to be fine.” All the time he wondered what could make the strongest person he ever knew so terribly upset.
It took another five minutes…an eternity to Fry…for Leela to calm down. A sign that she was calming down was the gradual relaxation of her grip, another was that her sobs became fewer and fewer. Finally, she pulled away enough to look Fry in the face.
“Fry,” her voice still trembled, “I…I just came from the Orphanarium.” She paused for a moment, “So many memories…”
“Is that what upset you?” Fry’s voice became tinged with anger, “Those stupid kids who tormented you?”
She shook her head, “No. That’s over.” She took a deep breath like a swimmer before plunging into icy water, “Fry, do you remember when Kif had his babies?”
“Yeah,” he replied while wondering, “Where is this going?”
“Do you remember how he got pregnant?”
“Umm..yes.” Fry knew that Leela had contributed the DNA but that Amy was the...”Oh what the heck was the word?” His brow furrowed in thought, “What has Kif getting pregnant by you got to do with the Orphanarium?”
Leela was a bit surprised by his question, “I…I’m coming to that.” Her lip began to tremble, but she mastered her emotion to continue, “One of the babies was…well…different.” She fell silent.
Fry waited for a moment before asking, “How was it different?”
“She was…is a mutant.” Leela’s voice trembled slightly, “Because she is a mutant, the Amphibians don’t want her.” A single tear slid off her nose, “Oh Fry, she is so helpless! She is a mutant Cyclops just like me and she’s going to face the same sort of life.” She began to sob, “Oh God! Why did this have to happen now?”
“Leela, please don’t cry,” Fry pleaded, “It will be okay.”
“Fry, don’t you understand? I have a daughter…she’s in the Orphanarium,” her voice became agitated, “I can’t leave her there!”
The shock of what Leela said rendered Fry temporarily mute.
Leela mistook Fry’s silence for reluctance. “So I’m going to be alone again,” she thought. Her voice became steadier, “Fry, if you don’t want to marry me, I understand.”
Fry felt his chest constrict, “What in the world are you talking about? Why would I not want to marry you?”
“It’s just that I…it’s just that I can’t leave her there.” She stifled a sob, “Amphibia…that’s her name…she’s like I was at her age.”
Fry smiled, “Heck Leela, we can get her right after we get married.”
Leela shook her head, “Mr. Vogel said I only have 48 hours to get her or I’m going to have to fight for months in court…months she would have to live the life of an orphan.”
“Oh crud,” Fry thought at first, “that means a kid in the house.” Then another thought followed it, “But she is Leela’s kid…and that makes her special.” Fry hugged Leela close, “We’ll do whatever you think is right, but I’m not letting you off the marriage hook so easily.”
“Oh Fry…” she began to cry again, but this time it was with relief, “I’m so happy.” Leela began to smother him with tear stained kisses, “What did I ever do to deserve a good man like you?”
“Just lucky I guess,” he replied with an impish grin.
“Let me show you how lucky,” she stood and took his hand. Without a word, she led him toward the bedroom.
“Holy moley!” Fry thought as they went through the door, “this looks to be better than when I played her the holophoner.”
Leela sat smiling nervously in her usual seat across from Venus, “Thanks for agreeing to see me on such short notice.”
“Well,” Venus glanced down at her note pad, “I was thinking of writing Fry and you up in a professional journal.” Her eyes met Leela’s eye, “You two have been such a success story.”
Shaking her head, Leela said with a touch of sadness, “I don’t know if you’ll want to write us up after we talk.”
“Really? Why is that?”
“Umm,” Leela took a deep breath, “I had a complete melt down yesterday.”
Venus had a sudden mental vision of a badly battered Fry, “Is Fry okay?”
Slightly confused by the question, Leela hesitated, “N…No. Fry was wonderful.” Then she launched into an explanation of her trip to the Orphanarium. When she reached the part of the story where she arrived home she paused, “Do you think I was right not to see Amphibia?”
“What do you think?”
“I…I don’t know.” Leela began to worry her ponytail, “You know I don’t like to make snap decisions.” She shook her head, “I’m not spontaneous like Fry. I wish I could be sometimes.”
“Did you consider taking Fry with you on your visit?”
“No.” Leela said forcefully, “Mr. Vogel wasn’t that specific about why I was coming. From his manner I thought it had something to do with my time at the Orphanarium.”
“At any rate, when I got home, I broke down completely.” A wistful smile flitted across her lips, “Poor Fry. He had no idea what I was so upset about. But he just held me and tried to calm me down.”
Venus smiled, “It sounds like he’s learning.”
Leela returned the smile, “Yes, his sessions with you were a big help. But I think that deep down he is one of the few naturally good people I have ever known.” She paused briefly, “At one point in my ranting I mistook Fry’s silence for a reluctance to stay with me. What a fool I was…he only wants me to be happy.”
“So how do you feel now?”
“I feel very calm. In fact, I’ve never been so calm in my life, except that I’m a little worried that I’ll have another melt down.” She frowned, “That would be so unfair to Fry.”
“Why are you worried?”
She frowned again, “I don’t know, but it seemed to come on so suddenly. I mean, it was like every rejection that I ever experienced came out all at once.” Leela shivered, “It was awful. If Fry hadn’t been there, I don’t know what I would have done. ”
“Leela, have you ever heard of catharsis?”
“No. I can’t say that I have.”
“Well, it’s a therapeutic technique used to relieve tension and anxiety by bringing repressed feelings and fears to consciousness.” Venus brushed back a strand of hair that had fallen across her face, “Normally, it’s done in a controlled environment. However, the Orphanarium triggered an emotional cascade that you’ve been keeping to yourself for a long time.” She paused briefly, “You are fortunate that Fry was there as a safety net, so to speak.”
“Maybe you’re right.” Leela looked thoughtful, “I do feel…I don’t know how to put it…at peace.”
“I believe that you got rid of a lifetime’s worth of repressed feelings of abandonment.” She smiled, “At the very least I think you’ve made a great step forward. It’s another layer of the onion gone, so to speak.” She raised her right eyebrow, “Tell me, how does Fry feel about bringing Amphibia home?”
Leela covered her mouth to stifle a laugh, “He wanted us to get married right away.” She dropped her hand to reveal a smile, “He’s so predictable.” She coughed, “I’m just not spontaneous enough, I guess.”
“Why do you say that?”
“It’s just that,” she squirmed in her seat, “it’s just that the idea of simply running off and getting married without a plan makes me itch all over.”
Venus laughed, “You are consistent. I’ll give you that.” She scribbled a note on her pad, “But why are you really putting off the marriage?”
“It’s just that I’d like a church wedding, you know? I mean, Fry and I were married once before but I don’t really remember it.”
“Yeah, it was during the time skips. Your remember those?”
Venus nodded wordlessly.
Leela’s face reddened, “I…I’m afraid I was really mean to Fry. After one of the skips, I was in the church and Fry had just ‘kissed the bride.’ My response was to stuff my bouquet in his mouth. By the next time skip, we got a divorce.”
“Why did you get a divorce?”
“Well, I thought he’d tricked me into marriage somehow. As usual, my quick temper and personal anxieties took over.” She shook her head, “I guess I should have given him a chance.”
“Leela, don’t look back. You’ve already forgiven yourself for the past, remember?”
“You’re right, Venus.”
“Now, let’s get back on track. Why are you putting off the wedding?”
“I have to get Amphibia settled in first. Besides, I only have a one room apartment. And Fry and I need to find a place to live first. There’s just so much to do!”
“You don’t have to convince me, Leela. You just have to convince yourself.” She scribbled another note, “So when do you plan to tell Fry about the change in…sleeping arrangements?”
For a moment, Leela looked panic stricken, “Umm…Would you mind helping me?”
Venus shook her head, “That’s your job, Leela.”
“But…but I don’t want to hurt him.”
“So my hurting him would be better?”
“Well…no…but I thought that you might explain it better.”
“Leela, just tell him the truth. In the long run, it makes things easier.” Venus shifted in her seat, “Just make sure that you explain your reasons…without leaving off that you love him.”
Leela nodded in agreement, “Don’t worry, I’ll let him know.” She grinned, “I’ll definitely let him know.”
Fry paced back and forth in the apartment, waiting for Leela to return. His mind was full of ‘headaches with pictures’ that alternately depressed and elated him. “I hate the idea of not being able to stay with Leela until we get married,” his thoughts ran. “But we are getting married, then we’ll be together forever.” He frowned, “But it’s going to suck sleeping alone.” His frown fled, “Maybe we can find a way to be together…”
The sound of the opening door caused Fry to stop pacing. Leela stood just inside the doorway, an enigmatic smile on her face. Still smiling, she stepped forward and put her arms around gently his neck. She whispered, “Fry, I love you.”
Fry felt as though an electric current had run through him. No matter how many times she said it, it still affected him deeply. He put his arms around her waist, “I love you too.”
She took his hand and led him to the couch. They sat down and she laid her head on his shoulder. Leela let out a deep sigh, “You know Fry, Venus is one smart person.”
Puzzled by Leela’s sudden reference to Venus, Fry merely responded, “Uh-huh.”
“Fry, I wanted to talk to you about how you feel about you not sleeping over here until we’re married.”
“Well, it makes me feel pretty lousy,” he rubbed his chin, “but it isn’t forever.” He sounded concerned, “Is it?”
Leela sat up, “No Fry, just until we tie the knot.”
He grinned, “That’s a relief, although I still not crazy about the idea. Why can’t we get married right away?”
“It’s not you Fry, it’s me.” Leela clasped her hands in her lap, “I just get so nervous at the thought of rushing things.” She touched his face gently, “I know it’s stupid, but we already have a plan to get married next summer. It’s only ten months away.”
“Ten months, Fry thought, “crud!” He managed a smile, “Will that mean no…well…you know.”
She stood abruptly, holding his hand, “Oh no, mister,” a bright smile illuminated her face, “Not at all.”
Fry felt a flutter of anticipation as he stood, “That’s a relief.” He embraced her, “I’d do anything to make you happy. You know that, Leela?”
“Yes I do, Fry. Yes I do.” She kissed him gently, “Now let’s see what I can do to make you happy.”
Several hours later they were speeding toward the Orphanarium. In order to avoid using the tube, Leela had told the Professor the Planet Express ship needed a test ride after a systems upgrade. He accepted it with, “Just mind the damned Billboards! I’m tired of paying for them!”
The touchdown was routine. Leela felt the old anxiety welling up, just as it did every time she came to the Orphanarium. She breathed quietly, “Let the dead bury the dead.”
Fry responded, “Huh?”
“Nothing,” she unbuckled her safety belt and stood. She noticed that as Fry stood, he didn’t have to unbuckle his belt. Leela shook her head, “Fry, when are you going to start using your seatbelt? You know we have to use them during takeoff and landing.”
“Sorry,” Fry responded sheepishly. He flashed his best boyish grin, “I’ll try to remember next time.”
“I just don’t want anything to happen to you,” she said mildly.
“That’s okay, Leela.”
They headed straight for the front door of the Orphanarium. When they reached it, Leela turned to Fry, “Can I axe you do something for me?”
“Would you mind letting Amphibia call you ‘Daddy’?”
“I know it sounds crazy, but I want you to be a part of her life right away.” Leela began to self-consciously rat her ponytail, “She’s been through so much already. She needs stability.”
Fry was just about to point out that if ‘daddy’ wasn’t living with them it might cause some confusion, but then thought the better of it. Instead he replied, “Leela, I’ll do whatever you want.”
She gave him a quick hug and a kiss, “Thanks, Fry. You are the best.”
That being said, Leela opened the door and led the way to Mr. Vogel’s office. When they arrived at the door, Leela took a deep breath before knocking. “Don’t worry,” she told herself, “it’s all going to work out.”
As soon as she knocked, Mr. Vogel’s voice issued from the other side, “Come in.”
Leela entered first, followed closely by Fry.
“Hello Mr. Vogel,” Leela said. “I just wanted you to know that Amphibia is going to call Fry ‘Daddy’. We think it will be good for her to start off her life on Earth as part of a family.”
“Okay,” He nodded, “let me fill you in on a few things before I bring her in.”
“To begin with, she is a very quiet child. Part of it is due to the fact that she is learning English. Her rate of absorption is phenomenal. She appears to be both an observer and a thinker.”
“She gets that from me,” Fry quipped. They both laughed at the joke.
Mr. Vogel resumed, “At any rate, her physical shows that she has both mammalian and amphibian characteristics. On the amphibian side, she has gills, fluid filled bladders for most of her skeletal structure, and a tongue that can grab food at a distance.”
Fry was impressed, “Neat!”
“Yes,” Mr. Vogel nodded, “Her mammalian traits include her reproductive organs, mammary glands, lips, and a bony skull with teeth and hair.” He paused for a moment.
Leela waited before asking, “Is there anything else we need to know?”
“Well, she is a very friendly child, considering what she has been through.” He paused, “Oh, and she is deathly afraid of anything that flies over and casts a shadow. Apparently it’s an instinctive reaction which she’ll lose as she gets older.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Leela asked, “So what’s next?”
“Here is the form you’ll need to sign. Then I’ll bring her in.”
Leela signed the form in silence. Fry watched as she carefully inked her signature, the pen making a scratching noise as it traveled across the paper. Finished, she looked up, “Well, that’s that.”
Mr. Vogel stood, “I’ll go get her.”
As he left the office Fry reached over and took Leela’s hand, giving it a squeeze. She squeezed back, giving him a smile as well.
They sat silently, holding hands. Mr. Vogel returned after a few moments, with Amphibia in tow. He pointed first at Leela, then at Fry, “Amphibia, this is your Mommy and Daddy.”
When Mr. Vogel released her hand, she stood quietly for a moment. Her eye rested first on Leela, then on Fry studying them. She made a thrumming sound as a smile spread across her face. Slowly, she approached Leela and sniffed her. Then she sniffed Fry.
Fry gave her his best smile, “Hi Amphibia, I’m your Daddy.”
Leela smiled, “Hello baby, I’m your Mommy.”
“Hello.” Her smile broadened, “Mommy.”
Leela stood up slowly. She extended her hand, “Are you ready to come home?”
Amphibia took Leela’s offered hand. She said softly, “Yes, Mommy.”
Fry stood, “Well, let’s get on the road. There’s an ape fight on TV that I want to catch.” Leela gave him a stern look. He shook his head, “Ummm…I really meant there was a PBS special I wanted to see.”
Mr. Vogel gave a snort as he suppressed a laugh. He stood and shook Fry’s hand, “Enjoy your new life as a family.”
They walked swiftly down the corridors, emerging onto the porch. As they crossed the open yard to the ship, an aircraft flew low overhead. Amphibia reacted by changing color to blend with the background while leaping into Fry’s arms.
She nearly bowled him over. He staggered back a few steps before recovering his balance. She buried her head in his shoulder, clutching him while trembling with fright.
Fry stroked her ponytail while saying, “Don’t be scared, it’s okay.” Once aboard the ship she stopped shivering, but she didn’t release her grip. When Fry sat in his seat, he looked at Leela, “Can you buckle me in? My hands are kinda full.”
Leela smiled, “I think I can mange it.” She buckled Fry into his seat. Then she took her seat and buckled in. As she started the engines, she looked over at Fry and Amphibia. That Amphibia had gone to sleep was evidenced by her slow, regular breathing. Fry was still stroking her ponytail, a smile on his face.
“Things are going to be alright,” Leela thought as she turned her attention to liftoff. Once she reached a safe cruising altitude, she set course for the Planet Express hangar.
The Professor and Hermes met them at the foot of the landing gear gangway as they disembarked, “Good news everyone! We have an urgent delivery of plastic baggies for Dog Doo 7.”
Leela rolled her eye, “Oh Lord, that will take a week!”
“Oh my, yes.” The Professor smiled, “With the Tantalus Wormhole closed for repairs, it should take at least that long.”
Fry looked serious, “When do we leave?”
“You’ll have to leave in two hours to collect the double bonus for prompt delivery the customer promised.”
“That is impossible!” Leela said loudly, “We just picked up my…I mean our…daughter from the Orphanarium.”
Fry shrugged, “I guess we’ll have to take Amphibia with us.”
Hermes shook his head vigorously, “No way, mon. Our insurance doesn’t cover children unless they are paying passengers or the child of the owner.”
Leela ground her teeth, “What do you expect me to do?”
Hermes shrugged, “Dat’s not our problem.”
Fry spoke up, “Leela, why don’t we ask your Mom and Dad to watch her?”
Everyone stared at Fry. He felt uncomfortable with the attention, “What?”
Leela hugged him, “Fry you are a genius!”
Exhaling in relief, Fry shook his head, “Nobody ever accused me of that before.”
Laughing, Leela punched a series of keys on her Wristamajigy. After two rings, her mother’s face appeared on the screen, “Hi, Sweetie! How are you?”
“I’m fine, Mom.” She plunged ahead, “Listen…Mom…you remember how I told you about Amphibia?”
“Yes.” Munda smiled, “Your father and I can’t wait to see her.”
“That’s great…that’s great.” Leela paused awkwardly, “I…I need your help Mom.”
Munda frowned, “Sure…are you in trouble?”
“No Mom, it’s just that I have to go on a week-long delivery in two hours, Fry and I just picked up Amphibia, and we can’t take her with us.”
“Bring her here,” Munda said with a smile. “She can stay in the room we set up for you.”
Morris’ voice issued from off screen, “Does she like to fish?”
Amphibia nodded vigorously, “I like fish.”
Leela and Fry both laughed in surprise. She had been so quiet, they had almost forgotten she was there.
“Thanks Mom, we’ll be there in about 15 minutes.”
“We’ll see you soon!” The screen went blank.
In ten minutes they were at the door to Morris and Munda’s home. Fry knocked on the door. It opened almost instantly to reveal a smiling Munda, “Well hello!” She knelt down to get eye-to-eye with Amphibia, extending her tentacles, “Is this my Granddaughter? You look just like your Mommy. Come here Sweetie.”
Amphibia stood still for a moment, examining Munda’s face before sniffing her cautiously. Amphibia made the same thrumming noise she made in Mr. Vogel’s office, then stepped forward into Munda’s embrace.
Munda picked Amphibia up and backed into the house, “Come in, come in.” She turned her head toward the kitchen, “Morris! They’re here!”
Morris emerged from the kitchen, holding a tray piled high with cookies and other junk food. He smiled at Amphibia, “Is anybody hungry?”
Leela frowned, “Dad, that much sugar will send her climbing the walls.”
“But kids like this stuff.”
“Mom!” Leela rolled her eye.
“Morris,” Munda smiled, “she can have some cookies later.” She sat down on the couch with Amphibia still in her lap, “Leela, you have to remember that Amphibia is our first Grandchild. We never got to spoil you like we would have liked to.”
“Liked to? You never gave me the chance!” Leela thought. She bit off a bitter retort, silently repeating in her mind, “Let it go, let the dead bury the dead, you’ve forgiven them.” So instead of flinging a biting comment at her mother, Leela simply said, “You’re right Mom.”
By now Morris had sat next to Munda on the couch. He held out a tray of cookies, “Would you like a cookie? I made them myself.”
Amphibia watched Morris closely, sniffed him and shyly took one of the cookies he offered. She nibbled at it, smiled, and then began to thrum.
Leela relaxed. She knew that Amphibia would be okay with her parents. Fry was smiling as well. He winked at Amphibia. She looked surprised, so he winked at her again…more slowly this time.
With difficulty, she returned his wink and began to giggle.
Leela reached into her pocket and pulled out a wad of cash. She handed it to Munda, “That’s for Amphibia. I know you are both on a fixed income and she hasn’t got anything other than the clothes on her back.”
Munda stuffed the money in her apron pocket without even counting it, “Don’t worry Sweetie. Everything will be fine. We are going to have a great time.” For emphasis, Munda gave Amphibia a quick peck on the cheek.
“Well,” Leela stepped forward and hugged Munda, Amphibia, and Morris in quick succession, “Fry and I have to get going. We’ll be back in a week.”
“Okay honey,” Morris replied, “We’ll take good care of our Granddaughter.”
Afraid to stay because she might break down, Leela pivoted on her heel and left. Fry was a bit surprised by her exit. He hugged Amphibia, “Bye baby girl, Mommy and I will be back soon, okay?”
“Thanks Munda. Thanks Morris.”
“You’re welcome,” they replied in unison.
With a wave of his hand Fry went out onto the street, where Leela stood overcome by emotion.
He hugged her, “Hey, it will be fine.”
“I know,” she sniffled, “but I just feel lousy leaving her here.”
“Me too, Leela. Look, let’s just make the stupid delivery and get back as quick as we can, okay?
Leela gave Fry a quick hug, “You got it, mister.”
The Planet Express Ship went to warp as soon as they cleared the outer edge of the Solar System following an unusually vertical take-off. Leela was in a hurry.
Bender noticed. From his spot at the engineering console, he felt the deck plating vibrate with the frequency characteristic of warp speed, “What’s the hurry, Big Boots?”
Without looking at him, she replied archly, “I need to get home to my daughter…as I told you before we left.”
He pulled a cigar from his chest cavity, lit it up and began to puff industriously on it. Once the air around his head was surrounded by a blue haze, Bender shook his head, “I still don’t get you biological organisms. Anyway, your parents are watching her…right? So what’s the hurry?”
“I ought to get another empathy chip installed in that thick metal head of yours,” Leela growled. Before the conversation deteriorated further, Fry stood up, “Come on Bender. Let’s go check the cargo. It might have shifted during our take-off.”
Bender stood as well, “Well, if it has shifted it’s your fault.” He took a final puff on his cigar, “You can do any work that needs doing.”
Fry was anxious to get Bender off the bridge, “Sure, I always work better with an audience.”
As Bender and Fry left the bridge, Leela relaxed slightly and reflected, “Fry is really maturing. Thank goodness for our sessions with Venus.” She shivered slightly, “Otherwise, I might be alone right now with a child to raise.”
As they flew on, Leela marveled at the slow procession of the stars. How many times had she looked at them, wondering around which one did her home planet orbit? She had lost count. Finding out her parents were sewer mutants had been a letdown –initially.
A chirp from one of the engine controls interrupted her thoughts. She checked it out, adjusted some settings and then returned to her thoughts.
“My parents wanted to give me a chance.” She smiled, “Well, they sure did. As much as I suffered, Venus was right, I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything.”
As the Planet Express Ship headed for it’s delivery, Munda and Morris were getting used to having a child around the house. They simply fell in love with her.
The first night, after they had put Amphibia to bed, Morris and Munda sat on the couch discussing the day.
Munda smiled, “So Morris, you said that the two of you had quite a day out fishing. Is that right?”
“Did we ever!” His sucker flashed a vertical smile. “We went out early in the morning. She was very quiet and sat in the boat like an old sailor. I handed her a fishing rod that I had already baited. She gave me a curious look, but only asked, ‘Are we going to get fish Grandpa?’ I nodded. What I didn’t realize was that she didn’t connect the fishing rod with catching fish.”
“No she didn’t connect the two ideas at all. We sat there quietly for a while. I had almost dozed off when Amphibia made a noise kind of half way between a hum and a growl. As I watched, she tensed and then dove into the water.”
“I almost had a heart attack! ‘Amphibia!’ I shouted over and over. In just a few seconds, I was stripping my clothes off to jump in and find her.”
“Morris,” Munda said in alarm, “you don’t know how to swim that well!”
“I know, but I couldn’t let her drown. Thank goodness, just as I had gotten my shoes off, Amphibia popped up next to the boat with a huge Carp in her mouth. She grabbed the gunwale with her left hand, took the fish from her mouth with her free hand and tossed the fish into the boat.”
“You must have been relieved.”
“Oy Vey! Was I ever!” He slapped his forehead, “Now this is funny. As she climbs back into the boat she stares at me and asks, ‘Grandpa, why did you take your clothes off?’ I almost fell out of the boat laughing.”
Munda chuckled softly, “You must have looked a bit funny.”
“Oh yes, I know.” He shook his head, “She really loves to fish…her style. We caught more fish today than I’ve ever caught.”
“Morris! You let her keep jumping into the lake?”
He looked surprised, “Why not? She can swim like a fish. Heck, she swims better than a fish.”
“Men!” she said impatiently. “Okay, so she can swim.” Morris looked so crushed by her remarks that Munda regretted them, “Sorry that I snapped at you.” She smiled, “Did I tell you what she did with me today?”
“No, please do.”
“Well, first we read a book together. She is so smart! Already she’s picking out letters.”
“So of course she’s smart! Why shouldn’t she be smart? She’s our granddaughter!
“Morris, will you let me tell my story?”
“I got that old puzzle out. That we used to fiddle with…the one with the horse…you know the one?”
“It’s a hundred pieces and she put it together by herself in twenty minutes. Only twenty minutes! Can you believe it?”
“Of course I believe it!”
“I made her a sandwich, too.” She looked askance at Morris, “No wonder she was so hungry, with all that swimming.”
“I’m telling you, she likes it!”
“Did I say she didn’t like it?” Munda shook her head, “Of course she liked it!” She reached out and patted Morris’ hand affectionately, “She was so tired. After she ate, she curled up in my lap and took a nap. I just watched her as she lay there. She slept for an hour before she woke up and said, “Grandma, can I please watch some TV?”
“She likes TV?”
“Not that much, she enjoyed playing with those Tinkertoyz we got her. She’s watch for a while, then she would play for a while. I wonder what she’s going to be when she grows up?”
Morris chuckled, “One step at a time. I want to enjoy her as a child.”
“I agree.” Munda’s eye formed a tear, “All of a sudden while she was playing, she hopped up from the floor and hugged me. She said, “I love you Grandma,” then she gave me a big kiss.
Morris nodded, “When I put her to bed just now, she gave me such a sweet little kiss.” A tear formed in his eye, “I never knew how hard a child could tug at your heart strings.”
Munda dabbed at her eye with the corner of her apron, “I know, Morris. I know.”
Morris sighed in reply. The two of them sat there hand in tentacle for a long time before Munda finally said, “Time for bed Morris.”
He smiled as he stood and helped Munda to her feet. With the wordlessness of a life lived in love, they ascended the steps together.
The next day brought two surprise visitors to the Mutant Village. Leo and Inez Wong descended into the sewers on a mission. Inez was hunting for a grandchild. When Amy had told her about Amphibia, Inez had flipped out. She had screamed at the top of her voice, “Why the hell you let those stupid mutants have my grandchild?” Then she had blistered the paint on the walls with a torrent of Cantonese obscenities.
Even though Amy attempted to explain the situation to Inez, her mother was deaf to any rational explanation. Leo heard the screaming and came running into the room, “What going on?” he had shouted. Inez turned to face Leo, “This worthless daughter of yours tried to give away my grandchild. We go get her back NOW!”
Amy cut in, “Mom, Amphibia has Kif and Leela’s DNA. She isn’t even legally his by Amphibian Law…” Inez cut her off before she could continue, “Shut up!” When Leo protested that Amy was right, Inez turned her full verbal fury on him. Within minutes, she had browbeaten and tongue-lashed him into silence.
So, now they were knocking on Morris and Munda’s front door. Munda answered, expecting to see someone from the neighborhood. Her surprise was total when she saw Leo and Inez Wong – two of the richest people in the solar system – on her doorstep. Before Munda could even greet them, Inez rapped out, “I here for my grandchild.”
“Pardon me?” Munda said hesitantly.
“The cute little green squishy girl with one eye, that who!”
Munda’s tentacles balled into fists as her voice took on an angry edge, “Her name is Amphibia and she is my granddaughter.”
“That what you think.” Inez pushed forward, “She mine and I gonna get her.”
“Over my dead body,” Munda hissed.
Inez attempted to shove her way past Munda. To Inez’s surprise, Munda did better than hold her ground. She threw Inez bodily into the street.
When Inez regained her feet, she went into a martial arts stance. “Hi-Yah” Inez shouted as she threw a flying kick at Munda’s head.
But Munda wasn’t there. She had stepped forward and to the left, throwing Inez aim off. Munda’s tentacle lashed out, wrapped around Inez’s right leg, and brought her crashing to the ground.
Inez sprang to her feet. Munda was in a fighting crouch, wary of another attack. “Had enough, Inez?”
The answer was a torrent of Cantonese followed by a flurry of straight punches aimed at Munda’s face. Munda blocked them easily, although she had to give ground slightly down the boardwalk.
Leo belatedly stepped forward to attempt and restrain Inez. Without thinking, he grabbed her from behind without speaking. As a reward for his effort, Inez knocked him out cold with a reverse elbow strike.
Munda was determined to tire Inez out, so she gave ground slowly, deflecting her blows and landing an occasional counterstrike to make Inez think. Shortly, they had maneuvered down the lane from where the fight had begun to Lake Circle, the boardwalk surrounding Lake Mutagenic.
The sounds coming from the front of the house brought Morris to the front door. All he saw was the unconscious form of Leo Wong on the boardwalk. Also, he could hear the sounds of a fight, down near the lake. He stepped out onto the boardwalk and knelt by Leo, who had a thin trickle of blood coming from his mouth. He gently shook Leo, “Leo are you okay?”
Leo mumbled and then his eyes opened. He sat up quickly, glancing around in a state of near-panic, “Where Inez and your wife go?”
“They fighting over granddaughter,” Leo struggled to get to his feet, “I afraid they gonna hurt each other.”
The tone of Leo’s voice convinced Morris that something was wrong, even if he wasn’t sure what. He pointed toward the lake, “Looks like they went that way, Leo.”
“Let’s go. We gotta stop the fight.”
Both men hurried down to the lakefront, where Munda and Inez were exchanging volleys of punches and kicks. A crowd had begun to gather and cries of, “Fight! Fight!” and “Kick her rich ugly normal butt!” rang out. In an attempt to get a position advantage, Inez had backed into a fire escape, forcing Munda to come at her from the front.
Step-by-step, Munda forced Inez up the fire escape until they emerged onto a roof that overlooked the lake. Morris shouted to Munda, “Honey! Please stop fighting. It’s not worth it!”
Munda roared back, “This fight isn’t over until this crazy bitch gives in.”
Inez answered, “I never give in to a poor sewer-living freak!”
They clashed again with renewed fury, giving and taking blow after blow. Soon, Munda’s superior reach and weight began to tell. Inez backed closer and closer to the edge of the roof. Just as Leo and Morris managed to climb up the fire escape, Munda landed a blow that topped Inez over the railing surrounding the roof.
As she fell, Inez managed to grab the railing with one hand. Looking down, Inez saw Lake Mutagenic below her feet. When she looked up, she saw Munda squatting down with a tentacle extended, “Take it Inez.”
“I can swim.”
Munda nodded, “Then you’ll like our lake. It mutates any normal creature that falls into it.” She smiled, “I wonder what you’ll look like as a mutant?”
Inez felt a wave of panic sweep through her entire being, “Give me your tentacle!”
Munda extended her tentacle to just outside of Inez’s reach, “There’s just one little thing…you need to promise you’ll give up this crazy idea that Amphibia is your granddaughter.”
Before Inez could give a caustic reply, the railing began to pull away. Eyes wide as saucers, Inez shouted, “Okay, okay you win! Amphibia not my grandchild!”
“Glad to hear it,” Munda said dryly as she grabbed Inez’s hand and pulled her onto the safety of the roof.
Inez considered going back on her word until she saw Leo’s bruised face and looked at her own torn and bloodied clothing. Sanity returned. Inez embraced Leo, who was understandably confused by it all, “I sorry I act so crazy Leo. Let’s go home before we turn into some kinda cockroach or something.”
Leo turned to Morris and Munda who were standing next one another, “I sorry we cause so much trouble. We not be back again.” Then he turned to Inez, “Come on crazy lady. We go home now.”
They all climbed down the fire escape, with the Wong’s returning to the surface and the Morris and Munda returning home. When they got there, Amphibia was building a respectable looking launch pad on the floor with her Tinkertoyz. She looked up when the door opened with a quizzical look, “Where did everybody go?” Then she noticed that Munda was battered and bloodied. Alarmed, Amphibia jumped up and ran to her, “Grandma, you’re hurt!”
Munda hugged her, “It’s okay little one. Grandma will be okay. Just let me clean up.” She turned Amphibia loose and patted her gently, “Go play.” With a smile and an “Okay” Amphibia returned to playing with her Tinkertoyz.
Munda cleaned herself up while Morris sat on the couch and watched Amphibia play. They passed the rest of the evening just hanging around the house. As Munda put it, “We’ve had enough excitement for one day.”
The next few days were relatively uneventful, both on the Planet Express Ship and in the Mutant Village.
The final day of their approach to Earth, Fry was piloting the ship. Bender had cooked up what he called, “Meatloaf Surprise.” While Fry’s iron stomach had withstood it, Leela had become violently ill. Fry shuddered as he thought, “She’s still so sick, she didn’t even argue with me when I said I was going to pilot us home.”
Fry checked the instrument panel for the thousandth time. He didn’t want to screw anything up and force Leela to get out of bed. He looked over at Bender, who was lounging behind the engineering console. Bender caught the look and replied, “What’s the problem, Skin Sack?”
“No, I know what you’re thinking.” Bender stood up, “My cooking made Leela sick. Well, it didn’t.”
Fry didn’t want to argue, “Whatever.”
“No, you organisms always want to blame the robot.” He headed off the bridge, “Screw you anyway, I’m going to go relax in my quarters.”
Fry remained silent. He wondered, “Why am I always the one to apologize or not make waves?” He made a mental note to ask Venus next time he saw her. Alone on the bridge, Fry’s thoughts turned to how sick Leela had become after dinner. He checked the ship’s chronometer and saw that they were still fourteen hours from Earth.
“Now how do I set this stupid autopilot again?” he murmured to himself. After a few moments, he was pretty sure it was functioning properly. So, Fry rose and headed for Leela’s quarters.
Fry paused outside the door to listen. All was quiet, so he opened the door manually. Leela was asleep on her bed, dressed in a pair of blue pajamas. She had kicked off the covers, making her cold. As a result, she lay in a fetal position, shivering.
Curled at Leela’s feet, Nibbler raised his head. He made a mewing noise which Fry interpreted as a greeting. He stepped up to the foot of the bed. He stroked Nibbler, “She’s going to be okay, Nibbler. Don’t worry.” Nibbler stretched, purring contentedly.
Stepping around to Leela’s side of the bed, Fry pulled the covers over her sleeping form. Since the glass of water he had put by her bedside was empty, Fry picked it up, quietly filled it, and placed it back on the night stand.
He stood there admiring her. Even as pale as she was from being ill, he thought she was the most beautiful woman in the universe. His reverie was interrupted when suddenly she sat straight up and bounded from the bed.
She ran into the bathroom and began to vomit. Fry was right on her heels. As she knelt at the toilet, Fry put one hand on her forehead and put the other on her shoulder to steady her. Once she had finished, she said in a weak, husky voice, “Fry, could you please get me some water?”
Fry turned and quickly drew a glass of cold water from the spigot. When he turned back, he saw that Leela was sitting on the toilet seat. “Here,” he held out the glass, “sip it slowly.”
“Thanks,” Leela said softly as she took the glass. After a tentative sip she lowered it. Smiling wanly at Fry Leela thought, “He must love me to put up with this.”
“Are you ready to go back to bed?” Fry asked with a concerned look on his face. Leela nodded her head. So Fry stepped forward, took the glass from her hands, and then put his hand out. Leela took it to steady herself as she stood up, “I’m a little wobbly on my feet. Thanks Fry.”
“No problem,” he set the glass down to be able and use both hands to support her. They made it to the bed without incident. Fry fluffed her pillow before helping her lie down. He was surprised when Leela put her arms around his neck to kiss him lightly on the cheek while whispering, “Thanks Fry, I don’t know what I’d do without you. I love you.”
“I love you too.” He kissed her cheek in return, “Please rest, okay?”
“Okay,” she lowered her arms, “How long until we get home?”
“About fourteen hours, give or take a few minutes.”
“Will you call my parents and ask them to keep an eye on Amphibia until I feel better?”
“Sure, I’ll do it as soon as I get on the bridge.”
“Don’t tell them anything that will make them worry.”
“I won’t, I promise.”
Leela paused, “Would you…would you mind staying the night with me when we get back to Earth?”
Fry grinned his best boyish grin, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He winked, “Just call me on the intercom if you need anything.”
“Go ahead,” she waved in dismissal, “I’m going to take a nap.”
Fry waved to her as he stepped out into the companionway. He took one last look at Leela as the door slid shut. Then he hurried onto the bridge.
Once he arrived, he took his seat in the pilot’s chair. Then he punched up Morris and Munda’s number. After a few rings, Munda’s face appeared in the viewscreen, “Hello Fry.” A look of concern immediately set on her face, “Where’s Leela?”
“Err…she’s a little under the weather.”
“She’s a little under the weather?”
“Yes, she wanted me to tell you she’ll be okay.” He shrugged, “It’s just one of those stomach viruses or something.”
“Fry,” Munda’s voice assumed a commanding tone, “You have to take her to the doctor if she isn’t better when you get back.”
“Sure Munda, I promise.” He suddenly remembered why he had called, “Umm…could you please do me a favor?”
“Well, Leela…we need for you to watch Amphibia until I’ve had Leela checked out and everything.”
Munda nodded with a smile, “That will be a pleasure. She is such a sweetheart!” She paused, “The real problem will be letting her go.”
“Don’t worry.” Fry smiled, “She’s going to spend a lot of time with you guys.”
“Thank you Fry.”
“You’re welcome Munda, you’re welcome.”
“Call us when you’re back home.”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
“Well, good night Fry. And thank you for taking care of Leela.”
“Good night Munda, you are welcome.”
As the screen went blank Fry wondered, “How did she know I was taking care of Leela?” He shrugged his shoulders and settled down to conning the ship home.
Fry chewed on his lip as the ship entered Earth’s upper atmosphere. Landings weren’t his specialty, but he was determined to do a good job. Bender sat at the engineering console, puffing on a cigar. He looked over at Fry, “Relax, meatbag. Big Boots is asleep.” He laughed, “You can land it upside down if you want.”
In response to Bender’s sally Fry simply shrugged his shoulders. Surprised at his failure to elicit a response, Bender resumed puffing on his cigar. After a few moments of quiet, the autopilot spoke, “Do you want me to guide the ship in?”
“No, just keep feeding me navigational data.”
“Very well,” it said, sounding a bit miffed.
Fry chuckled quietly to himself. The autopilot was always a handful, even when it was off the sauce.
It only took a few more minutes before the ship set down in the launch bay. Fry was concentrating so hard on piloting the ship that he didn’t hear Leela come onto the bridge. As he began to power down the ship’s systems the sound of Leela’s voice almost made him jump out of his skin, “That was a very good landing, Fry.”
Fry twisted around in the captain’s chair, “Leela! What are you doing up?” She was very pale and looked unsteady on her feet. “Please sit down. I’ll be finished with shutdown in just a few seconds.”
Much to his surprise, Leela sat down at the communications console without an argument. As soon as all of the gauges read zero, Fry hopped to his feet. He yanked the keys from the ignition and thrust them into his pocket. A few steps brought him to Leela’s side, “Let me help you to your feet.”
“Thanks, Fry.” Leela smiled weakly as she stood up. It was good to have Fry’s arm to lean on.
They descended the landing gear gangway to see Dr. Zoidberg standing by with his medical bag. Dr. Zoidberg waved his claw, “So I hear you have a patient for me, why not?”
Fry frowned, “So who told you?”
“Bender called ahead, he did.”
Fry was puzzled by Bender’s action. Still, he didn’t have time to think about it, “No offense, Doc but I’m taking Leela to the hospital.”
“Bah! They are just imposters!”
Rather than argue, Fry simply led Leela out the door. He hailed a passing taxi. Leela protested, “Fry, taxis are expensive. We can take the tube.”
Shaking his head, Fry ushered her – still protesting – into the back seat. After a short ride, they pulled up to Taco Bellview Hospital. Once the usual paperwork was complete, they moved into the waiting room. During most of the two hour wait Leela dozed while leaning on Fry’s shoulder. He sat quietly, enjoying the feel of her body close to his.
A red haired, slender nurse stepped through the emergency room doors and called out, “Turanga Leela!”
Leela’s head jerked up as Fry responded, “Here!” Fry helped Leela to her feet and walked her back to the examination area. The nurse followed them in. She held out a blue hospital robe, “Just take off your clothes and put on this robe ma’am.” She glanced at Fry, “You can stay in the room or wait outside.”
The nurse smiled, “I saw how you two leaned on each other out there in the waiting area. That’s nice.” As the nurse left, she looked back over her shoulder, “She can keep her underwear on. The doctor should be in pretty soon.”
Leela undressed slowly with Fry’s help. She lay back on the examination table with a sigh of relief, “If you don’t mind Fry, I’m going to take a nap.”
“Sure Leela…just rest.”
Ten minutes passed before the nurse re-entered the room announcing, “I have to take her vitals.”
When the nurse put a blood pressure sleeve on Leela’s arm, Leela’s eyelid fluttered and then opened. The nurse noted the reading, “Ok, now we need to get your temperature.” Leela opened her mouth obediently, receiving a thermometer as reward.
The nurse turned to Fry, “Is she usually this pale?”
“Umm…no. That’s what kind of scared me.”
Removing the thermometer, the nurse read it, made a notation, and began to ask Leela a series of rapid fire questions.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“I’ve been throwing up and have had to…” she felt embarrassed with Fry in the room, “had to use the bathroom a lot.”
“Hmm…have you been drinking fluids?”
“I have, but they keep coming up.”
“When did this start?”
“Not long after I ate some food prepared by our cook Bender.” Leela massaged her forehead with her right hand, “He’s a robot.”
“Do you have a headache?”
“Are you allergic to any medications?”
“Do you have any abdominal pain?”
“On a scale of one to ten, with one being very mild and ten being the worst thing you’ve ever felt, how would you describe the pain?”
Leela paused to think, “A three…it’s more discomfort and tenderness than anything else.”
The nurse glanced at Fry briefly, “Is there any chance that you might be pregnant?”
Leela shook her head as vigorously as she could, “No way. I’m on birth control.”
The nurse made a few notations, “The doctor will be in shortly.” As she left she patted Fry on the shoulder, “Everything will be OK. Dr. Elliott is the best.”
Before Fry could ask any questions the nurse slipped into the corridor and was gone. Much to Fry’s surprise, Dr. Elliott entered the room less than five minutes later. A tall dark-haired man with a ruddy complexion, thick eyebrows and a handlebar moustache, his eyes were deep set and had a twinkle that set people at ease. He extended his hand to Fry, “I’m Dr. Elliot.”
Dr. Elliott turned to Leela with a smile, “I guess that means you are the patient.”
She returned his smile, “Guilty.”
“Nurse Williams told me your symptoms. Would you please give me your hand?”
Leela extended her right hand. The doctor took it, squeezed the nail on her index finger, and watched it closely. After that, he gently pinched the skin on her forearm, again observing the reaction closely. He spoke softly, “Let me have a look under your eyelid, OK? Thanks.” He pressed he abdomen lightly, “Any pain?” Leela’s face contorted, “Its uncomfortable.”
Straightening up, Dr. Elliott looked Leela square in the face, “Well, you definitely have a case of food poisoning and you are severely dehydrated.” He pulled a pad from his pocket and began to scribble some notes. “We’re going to put a few bags of intravenous fluid into you, along with some Ciprofloxacin-S. That should fix you up.” He looked at Fry, “It’s a good thing you brought her in, Mr. Fry. If she had dehydrated just a bit more, it wouldn’t have been good.”
Fry’s stomach did a flip-flop, “What else can I do?”
“After we get done here, make sure she gets a good night’s sleep.”
Dr. Elliott turned to Leela, “I’m going to give Nurse Williams her orders now.” He patted her hand reassuringly, “We’ll have you out of here in no time.”
Both Leela and Fry said “Thanks” at the same time. The doctor waved as he left the room, “Don’t mention it.”
Nurse Williams bustled into the room a short time later. She quickly set up the IV bag. Then she asked Leela, “Which hand do you write with?”
“Well, we normally stick the IV into the non-writing hand.”
Wordlessly, Leela held her left hand out and looked away. Fry looked at the floor as Nurse Williams stuck the IV catheter needle into the back of Leela’s hand. In a few seconds the catheter was taped firmly in place.
Nurse Williams said cheerfully, “That’s the worst of it.” Leela opened her eye.
Nurse Williams took a syringe out of container in her pocket. Leela closed her eye again. Nurse Williams laughed, “Don’t worry, I’m going to inject this into the shunt on your catheter. You won’t feel a thing.” She smiled as Leela opened her eye, “This Ciprofloxacin-S is great stuff. You’ll be your old self in twelve hours at the most…once we get you hydrated.” Nurse Williams checked the bag to make sure it was dripping at the proper rate, “I’ll be in to change the bag every twenty minutes or so.”
Fry finally looked up, feeling queasy at the sight of the IV, “Thanks, Nurse.”
Once they were alone, Fry asked, “So how are you feeling?”
Leela gave a short laugh, “Like a pincushion…God I hate needles.”
“Well, I think I’ll try to take a nap.” She scooted over on the bed, “You climb up here next to me.”
“Uh…I think that’s against the rules or something.”
“Fry, you’ve watched over me like a hawk for the past few days. You haven’t hardly eaten or slept. A nap will do you good.”
She decided to try another tactic. “Fry, please lay down with me. I…I can’t really rest anymore if you aren’t near me.”
“Well…in that case…” Fry climbed up next to her, stretched out, and fell fast asleep.
He didn’t hear Nurse Williams when she came in twice over the next hour to change the IV bag. With each bag Leela could feel her strength returning. After the third bag, she also felt a really strong need to visit the ladies room. She shook Fry gently, “Fry…Fry…wake up.”
Fry sat up, “Huh…what…Leela are you ok?”
“I’m ok.” Amusement crept into her voice, “I’m also hydrated. Could you help me to the ladies room?”
“Oh…right.” Fry hopped onto the floor. He helped Leela maneuver the IV bag stand the short distance down the hallway. When they reached the ladies room, Leela turned to Fry with a smile, “I’ve got it Fry, thanks.” He looked uncertain so she smiled, “You can wait here. If I fall in, I’ll yell.”
While Fry was waiting, Nurse Williams came breezing by, “So she finally had to go?”
Fry could feel himself blushing, “Um…I guess.”
“It happens to us all.” She patted Fry on the shoulder, “This means she’s ready to go home. I’ll let Doctor Elliott know.”
“Don’t mention it.”
When Leela emerged, Fry helped her back to the room. Within a few moments, Doctor Elliott entered holding a clipboard, “I’ve got your discharge orders here. Make sure you drink plenty of water. Also, take these two pills before you go to bed tonight. If your symptoms return, come right back to the emergency room.”
“Do you think her symptoms will return?”
“No, but it never hurts to be careful.”
Leela nodded, “Can you take this thing out of my hand?”
Dr. Elliott laughed, “I thought you might want to take it home.” In a few practiced moves, he removed the catheter while placing a Q.T. McWhiskers Band-Aid on the back of her hand.
After thanking the doctor, Fry and Leela left the emergency room arm-in-arm. Before he could hail a cab, Leela said, “Fry, I’d really like to walk a little. Can we walk to the tube station?”
“Sure.” He grinned, “But if you start feeling bad, we’ll take a cab…okay?”
Leela hugged his arm close, “It’s a deal.”
It was only a short walk to the tube station. The ride to the apartment was quick as well. After they entered the apartment, Leela surprised Fry with a hug and a gentle kiss. She put her head on his shoulder, “Fry…I’ve been thinking.”
“Let’s get married tomorrow.”
Fry shook his head in surprise, “I thought you wanted a church wedding?”
She grinned, “Well…I already had one. It would be selfish to go for two.” She kissed him gently on the cheek, “Besides, the past few days have made me realize how selfish I have been.”
“You aren’t selfish…”
She put her finger on his lips, “Let me finish.” A warm smile spread across her face, “You have always put me first. And I’ve never objected…until now. I know you want to get married…and you are going to get your wish…” Leela hugged Fry close, “sooner rather than later.”
“That suits me.”
“Good.” She yawned, “We really need to get to bed if we’re going to get everything done tomorrow.” She chuckled, “I’d love to…you know…but I’m too tired.”
Fry laughed, “I never thought I’d say this, but I’d rather get a good night’s sleep too.”
“Well, let’s get to bed then.” She laughed, “After all, tomorrow is going to be a big day.”
As the first light of dawn filtered into the bedroom, Leela opened her eye. She propped herself up on her elbow and looked at where Fry lay sleeping. He was sound asleep, his chest rising and falling regularly.
Leela reached out to softly caress his cheek. Fry stirred slightly, murmuring something unintelligible as a smile flitted across his face. “Oh Lord,” Leela thought, “he is so good to me.” She thought about the many times that Fry had patiently…and impatiently…endured her mood swings and changes of mind. Yet Fry had always stood by her. “I wouldn’t have stood by me,” she reflected.
Fry’s behavior during the past few days had finally tipped the scales. Gently caring for her, accepting Amphibia without a murmur, always putting her first had utterly swept away that part of her that still feared marriage, that used the excuse of wanting a church wedding, and that doubted Fry. Sickness had also brought mortality into focus in a way that the dangers they faced on their deliveries never had. Life was short. Why make love wait?
Not wanting to disturb Fry, Leela rose quietly from the bed. He had hardly slept during the entire time she was sick, piloting the ship and waiting on her hand and foot. Now she would wait on him.
Slipping into her green terry cloth bathrobe, Leela padded quietly into the kitchen. Still thinking of Fry, she prepared breakfast. Once all was ready, she went into the bedroom. Fry was still asleep, although he had shifted his position. Leela reached out and took him gently by the shoulder, “Fry.” She called out gently, “Fry. It’s time to get up.”
His eyes opened. His first look was one of concern, “Are you okay? Do we need to go back to the emergency room?”
Her smile calmed him down, “No, I feel fine. It’s just that we need to get going down to the Central Bureaucracy if you still want to get married today.”
Fry startled her by almost leaping from the bed, “I’ll be ready in a flash.”
Leela laughed heartily, “Eat some breakfast first. I doubt you’ve had a decent meal in the past few days.”
“Breakfast,” Fry exclaimed, “that sounds great!” He sniffed, “And it smells even better.”
They went into the kitchen and Fry said, “Thanks for fixing me breakfast. Can I make you a plate?”
Leela put her hand on Fry’s shoulder and guided him into a seat, “No thank you. I made this food for you and I intend to serve it to you as well.”
In response, a boyish grin flashed across Fry’s face. “I must be feeling better,” Leela thought, “because his grin is making me crazy.”
Breakfast over, they made their way to the Central Bureaucracy. Fry was surprised to see Bender waiting for them. When they approached within speaking distance Bender held out his hand, “Lay it on me, Big Boots.”
Wordlessly, Leela reached into her pocket and pulled out $100. “Here you go Bender. You know what to do?”
“Yeah…yeah,” his voice became mechanical, “I am Bender please insert girder.”
“Perfect.” Leela turned to Fry, “I thought we could use Bender to bypass the lines to get our marriage license.”
Fry laughed, “Well you keep on thinking, Leela. It’s what you’re good at.”
The dodge worked without a hitch. The nerdy Grade 45 watching the back door admitted them without a word. Once the door closed, Leela turned to Bender, “Okay Bender, you are on your own.” She smiled, “Thanks for the help.”
“Any time, Big Boots,” he smiled back, “that was the easiest $100 I ever made.” He walked a short distance down a corridor, turned a corner and was lost from sight.
Once Bender left, Fry turned to Leela, “What’s the next step?”
Leela looked at her Wristamajigy, “Well…I downloaded the floor plans to the entire building into this thing on my wrist. I remember the last time we were here.” Her brow furrowed with concentration, “We go down this corridor, make a right at the first intersection and go to the elevators. We go up three floors and the Licensing Bureau is down the corridor to the right.”
After a short walk and an even shorter elevator ride, they arrived on the fourth floor. When they emerged from the elevator, they almost collided with a young looking Grade 37 struggling with an armful of forms. He backpedaled furiously, “Oh my gosh! You almost made me drop these forms.”
Fry replied, “I’m sorry.”
“These are ready for filing!” His voice was a high-pitched whine, “It took me hours to get them straight!”
Something in the way he spoke to Fry annoyed Leela. In a voice laden with menace she growled, “He said he was sorry.”
The Grade 37 recoiled, “Okay. I accept his apology.” Then he scuttled into an office down the hall.
Fry laughed all the way to the Licensing Bureau office. In between laughs he said, “Leela, you sure can put the fear of God into people…even those you don’t know.”
“Shut up Fry,” Leela replied playfully.
The Licensing Bureau office was a typical example of the offices throughout the Central Bureaucracy. There were at least thirty desks in neat rows behind the counter that stretched across the width of the office. The occupants of the desks were hunched over at work, studiously ignoring anyone at the counter. Standing behind the counter were two young women, both Grade 41. One was a short blonde who was busy chewing gum while filing her nails. The other was a tall brunette who was avidly reading a newspaper.
Sizing the two women up, Leela decided to speak to the brunette. She reasoned that anyone reading a newspaper would have a greater chance of having at least half of a brain. Stepping up in front of the brunette, Leela cleared her throat.
The brunette kept her attention fixed on the newspaper.
“Excuse me,” Leela said pleasantly, “Is this where we come to get a marriage license?”
The brunette looked up, “You need to take a number, Ma’am.”
“What?” Leela was incredulous. There were no other customers in the office.
“I’m sorry, but you need to take a number.”
Fry could see that this exchange was leading nowhere fast, “I’ll get it Leela.” He stepped to the wall, yanked a number slip out of the dispenser and handed it to Leela.
As Fry handed the slip to Leela, a bell rang. The brunette looked up and announced, “Serving number one!”
Leela rolled her eyes and thrust the paper under the brunette’s nose. She took it and said, “What is the purpose of your visit?”
Leela shook her head, “We’re here to get a marriage license.”
“May I have your names please?”
Fry spoke up, “Umm…I’m Philip Fry and this is Turanga Leela.”
“How do you spell Turanga?”
Fry was stumped. He had never spelled it before. Leela spoke slowly and clearly, “It’s spelled T – U – R – A – N – G – A.”
“Please hold out your right hands.”
Fry looked suspicious, “Why?”
“We need to validate your career chips.”
Fry actually exhaled in relief. Leela and he both held out their hands. The brunette passed a wand over them. It glowed green and beeped twice. Satisfied, she made a few notations on a pad. Then she looked at Fry, “Have a seat, please. Mr. Novotny will see you both shortly.”
Fuming, Leela sat down. In an attempt to calm the situation, Fry grinned, “Well, we’re making progress…right?”
“Grrr…I hate bureaucracy.”
“Me too.” Fry laughed, “But heck, we’ll be married soon!”
Leela smiled, “You’re right.”
A short, pudgy, bespectacled, dark-haired male Grade 29 came to the counter and called out, “Philip Fry and Turanga Leela?”
Leela and Fry stood up. Fry spoke, “That’s us!” Leela looked around. They were still the only customers in the office. “Lord,” she thought, “bureaucrats!”
“I’m Mr. Novotny,” the Grade 29 announced in a high pitched voice, “follow me to my office, please.”
Within a few moments Fry and Leela were seated in front of a desk that looked remarkably like Hermes’ at Planet Express. Mr. Novotny smiled, “So what brings you to this office?”
Fry spoke, “We want to get a marriage license.”
“I see.” Mr. Novotny looked through a file folder that had been on the center of his desk. He rubbed his chin, “I’m afraid that what you’re asking for is quite impossible.”
Both Leela and Fry exclaimed, “What!”
“You have a valid marriage license already.”
Fry looked dazed. Leela laughed, “We had one, but we got a divorce.”
Mr. Novotny snorted, “You were never properly divorced.” He held out a paper, “As you can clearly see, the clerk of the court only stamped this divorce decree four times, so technically you were never divorced.”
Leela’s mouth opened and shut several times. “So…so…” Fry burst into laughter.
Mr. Novotny frowned, “I fail to see what’s so funny.”
“Nothing,” Leela said. Fry’s laughter got her chuckling as well. Mr. Novotny’s frown intensified, “Really, this is most undignified.”
“Sorry,” Leela looked away from Fry to prevent a resumption of her laughing. She elbowed Fry, which enabled him to get his laughter under control.
“As I said, you are still legally married.” He pushed his glasses back on his nose, “So you don’t need a marriage license. Is there anything else I can help you with?”
Fry smiled, “Can you tell me how to get a copy of the Marriage License?”
“Certainly,” Mr. Novotny fished around on his desk, picked up a form and held it, “just fill out this form 4786-R and I’ll get it for you before you leave.”
Leela took it, “Thanks.” She looked at it. Mercifully, it was a short form. She filled it out quickly. Then she handed it back. “Can you help us with an adoption?” Leela asked.
“That would be Mr. Andrews next door,” he stamped it five times. Then he put it into a container that went whizzing away through one of the vacuum tubes. In a few seconds, the copy returned. He handed Fry the certified duplicate marriage license.
Leela and Fry rose. Fry smiled, “Can we just go next door? Or do we have to get another number?”
“No, no…I’ll take you over.” Mr. Novotny sounded horrified, “That’s part of my job.”
A few short steps later and they were at the entrance to Mr. Andrews’ office. Mr. Novotny opened the door after knocking. Behind the desk was a Grade 29 who looked like a clone of Mr. Novotny. Andrews looked up, “Oh, hello Mr. Novotny. Clients?”
“Yes Mr. Andrews, they are here to adopt a child.”
“Please come in.” He gestured to the seats, “Sit down, I’ll be with you in a moment.” He fished out some forms, “You could fill these out while you’re at it?”
“Sure,” Leela replied as she took the sheaf of forms. “Mr. Andrews, here’s a form from the Orphanarium with some information you will need.”
Mr. Andrews took the form, reading it silently. He turned to his computer and typed in some data. He pursed his lips, “Hmm…this is most irregular.”
“Well, according to the data base, you two are divorced. In order to adopt jointly you must be married.”
Fry spoke up, “Mr. Novotny said the final decree wasn’t stamped properly.”
“Really?” He looked doubtful, “But my database says you are divorced.”
Leela rose, “Come on Fry. Let’s go get Mr. Novotny.”
Mr. Novotny refused to leave his office. Instead, he scribbled a note, “Take this to Mr. Andrews. It should do it.”
When they arrived back in Mr. Andrews’ office, they handed him the note. After he read it, he scribbled a note in return. After an hour of carrying notes back and forth, Leela had enough. “What is this,” she roared, “grade school?” She went into Mr. Andrews office and grabbed him by the ear. Then she dragged him, loudly protesting, into Mr. Novotny’s office. She yanked Novotny – none too gently – from his chair as well.
Fry was pleading quietly, “Leela…please don’t hurt them…please don’t hurt them Leela.”
Leela snarled, “You two public servants are going to resolve this mess…or so help me…” she let the thought of what she might do hang menacingly in the air.
Novotny sniveled, “It’s not my fault…he’s wrong.”
Andrews replied with his own whine, “No…it’s his fault. He’s wrong.”
In response Leela lifted them onto their toes, “I don’t care…you two need to talk to each other and work this out, damn it!”
Andrews was on the verge of tears, “Only our Grade 19 can resolve this.” Novotny nodded in agreement, as best he could under the circumstances.
“Where is he?”
Novotny began to sniffle. He pointed, “She’s down in the big office that’s farthest from the counter.”
Facing the two men as she released them, Leela hissed, “If either of you two causes any trouble, I will kick your ass.”
Both men simply replied, “Yes Ma’am” and vanished into their offices.
“Come on Fry,” she said calmly. They walked to the door Novotny had indicated. Fry knocked on the door. A voice that was vaguely familiar replied, “Come.”
As they stepped through the door, Fry stopped dead in his tracks causing Leela to collide with him. She looked up, “Fry…what on earth.”
The Leela saw a familiar face behind the desk and whispered, “Morgan Proctor!”
“Philip J. Fry and Turanga Leela, this is a surprise.” Morgan rose from behind her desk. What struck both Leela and Fry was her changed appearance. She was wearing her hair loose and had apparently gotten contacts.
“Umm…Hi Morgan,” Fry began, “I’m really sorry about getting you in trouble with Bender and all…”
Morgan laughed, “Sorry? Sorry? Let me tell you, if you had come in right after I was demoted and sent to Central Filing I would have cheerfully ripped your lungs out.”
Leela looked puzzled, “But you’re still a Grade 19.”
Morgan gestured at two chairs in front of her desk, “Have a seat, both of you.” When they hesitated, she added, “Please.”
Once they were seated, Morgan sat down. She smiled as she pointed at the name tag on her desk, “As you both failed to notice, I’m no longer Morgan Proctor.” She flashed a wedding band, “I’m now Morgan Proctor-Scope.”
Leela bit her lip to suppress a giggle. Fry just smiled, “That’s great!”
“I guess I owe you something.” She looked thoughtful, “If I hadn’t been demoted, I never would have met Perry.”
“Oh my God!” Leela thought, “Perry Scope? I just know I’m going to start laughing and then we are screwed!” Leela tried thinking of sad things just to keep from collapsing in laughter. Try as Leela might to remain quiet, the sheer absurdity of it all forced her to emit a strangled sound that was a cross between a snort and a cough.
“Are you okay, Leela?” Fry asked.
Incapable of speaking, Leela only nodded.
“Can I get you a glass of water?” Morgan asked.
Shaking her head, Leela managed to emit a strangled, “No thanks.”
“As I was saying, Perry and I met in Central Filing.” Her face took on a dreamy look. “At first I thought he was just another one of those neat freaks but was I ever wrong.” She grinned, “It only took a week before we were engaged. When we married, I had to transfer out, but I got a promotion when I did so.” In a superior tone she announced, “Perry is a Grade 5, you know.”
“Congratulations,” Fry said sincerely.
Suddenly all business, Morgan leaned forward slightly, “But I know you didn’t come into my office to rehash old times or chit-chat, what do you need?”
Fry blurted out, “We need your help.”
Morgan smiled, “Same old Fry.” She turned to Leela, “What specifically do you need?”
Fortunately, Leela had recovered her ability to speak as long as she didn’t look at the name plate, “Two of your subordinates, Mr. Andrews and Mr. Novotny are having a dispute that only you can resolve.” She took a breath, “Do you remember the time skips a few years back?”
Morgan laughed abruptly, “I don’t remember much about them, other than I felt darned disoriented.”
“Well, Fry and I got married. The trouble was, I was convinced that Fry had tricked me into it, so we got divorced.” Leela shrugged her shoulders helplessly, “To make a long story short, Fry and I decided to get married again and adopt.” Leela paused.
“When we got here, Mr. Novotny told us we were never divorced, because the divorce decree was improperly stamped. So, we went to Mr. Andrews to fill out the adoption papers. Only, he told us that the database showed us as divorced and that we had to be remarried to adopt jointly.”
“I see.” Morgan leaned over and hit the intercom, “Andrews and Novotny, my office, now!”
Within a few seconds Andrews and Novotny were struggling to get through the door at the same time. Novotny won by a hair. The presented themselves silently in front of Morgan’s desk.
Morgan spoke in a frosty tone, “I summoned you two nitwits to remind you that I have better things to do than solve non-problems. Do either of you know what Paragraph 427.1.1 of the Manual says?
Novotny held up his hand like a schoolboy. When Morgan nodded, he recited parrot-like, “In all cases, actual or holographic registered copies of a document are to be accepted over electronic database records.”
Morgan looked at Andrews, “Don’t you know your Manual, Mr. Andrews?”
Andrews stood miserably silent.
Morgan spat, “Obviously not.” She returned her attention to Mr. Novotny, “Mr. Novotny, you are technically correct…the best kind of correct. Bring me the file on Mr. Fry and Ms. Turanga. I’ll finish it up.”
Novotny sped out of the office like a man fleeing a ghost. Andrews stood still, waiting for Morgan to turn her attention to him. He hadn’t long to wait.
“Mr. Andrews, a record of this mistake is going into your permanent file. One more screw-up like this and you will be demoted to the recycling department.” She raised her voice menacingly, “Do you understand?”
“Yes Ma’am,” he gulped.
“Then get out of my office,” Morgan hissed.
Andrews bolted out of the office, nearly colliding with Mr. Novotny as he re-entered the office with the file.
Morgan extended her hand, “Give me the file and get back to work.”
Novotny handed the file to Morgan and vanished from the office.
Morgan shook her head, “I am surrounded by incompetents.” She pursed here lips as she concentrated on the documents, “Hmm…yes…you definitely are still married.” She made a few notations on the file. When she got to the papers on Amphibia, she looked up, “An alien child? Are you certain?”
Leela answered quickly, “Yes, we are absolutely certain.”
Fry added, “Yup.”
Morgan turned back to Amphibia’s papers with a look of complete concentration. Her eyes ran over the papers several times before she looked up again, “Leela…this is your daughter…born after you and Fry were married. Is that not correct?”
Leela blushed as she realized what Morgan was thinking, “I got Kif Kroker pregnant by grabbing his bare hand as he was being sucked out of a damaged space ship. I didn’t know.” She paused, “Besides, Fry and I thought we were divorced.”
“This Kif got pregnant? He had the baby?”
“That’s how Amphibians get pregnant.” Leela relaxed a bit, “You see, he was in love with Amy Wong. Do you remember her?”
“Oh yes, the rich Martian klutz.”
Both Leela and Fry laughed before Leela continued, “Well, anyway when an Amphibian is in love they enter a ‘receptive state’ where any skin-to-skin contact causes a DNA exchange and pregnancy follows.”
Morgan shook her head, “Okay, that’s enough biology. Let’s get the right papers filled out so I can get you both on your way.” Thinking for a moment she dug out several more forms, “Just fill these out and that should do the trick.”
Fry groaned at the sight of the forms. Leela put her hand gently on his knee, “Don’t worry Fry, I’ll finish these faster than you think.”
A little over an hour later, Leela finished the last form. During the process of filling them out, she handed each form to Morgan as it was complete. She read them, stamped each one five times (Fry made sure of that) and placed each into a file.
Once they were all filed away, Morgan smiled, “It’s all done. You are now an unquestionably married couple with a legally adopted bouncing baby four year old daughter.”
Fry and Leela stood. Leela extended her hand, “Thanks Morgan.”
“Don’t mention it.”
Fry shook her hand as well, “Thanks.”
Morgan laughed, “I’m not going to get pregnant am I Fry?”
Fry looked alarmed, then he laughed too.
Once they were outside the building, Fry pointed to a park bench across the street, “Can we go have a seat for a second?”
Leela thought the request a bit odd, but she nodded in agreement. When they reached the bench, she sat down. Fry remained standing. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a pair of gold wedding bands. His voice filled with emotion, “These were ours from the time skips. I…I saved them, hoping that one day I’d be able to put them on our fingers to stay.” He knelt down in front of Leela, “Can I put this ring on your finger?”
Leela squeaked, “Yes” and extended her hand.
Fry slid the ring into place. Then he handed Leela a ring, silently holding his hand out. With a smile, she fitted his ring in place. Then she patted the bench next to her, “Come here, mister. You need to kiss the bride.”
They sat silently on the bench for over an hour, just holding hands. Finally, Leela broke the silence, “Well, I guess we ought to go get Amphibia.”
Fry stood, “That’s a good idea.” He held out his hand, “I’ve really missed her.”
They walked a few blocks to the tube station. Within a few moments, they were at the Planet Express building. Leela crouched down and heaved a storm grate out of place. It made a crunching sound as it ground along the concrete.
Fry gestured at the dark recess of the storm sewer junction, “Ladies first.”
In a display of athleticism, Leela swung herself effortlessly into the darkness. When she landed, Leela immediately stepped into the shadows, chuckling to herself. She was going to give Fry a surprise.
Fry was a moment in coming, as his descent was not nearly as smooth as Leela’s. In fact, he got briefly hung up on a piece of reinforcing rod projecting from a wall. He considered calling for Leela, but his pride wouldn’t let him.
When he finally touched down, he couldn’t see more than a few feet into the gloom. Leela on the other hand could see Fry quite well. While a single eye might suffer in the area of depth perception, it was a superior collector of ambient light.
He called out, “Leela?”
When he heard no response, Fry began to inch down the storm main he knew led toward the Mutant Village. He passed right by Leela without seeing her.
Fry continued to inch down the storm main. Leela crept slowly up behind. Fry paused. The hair on his neck stood up. Something wasn’t right. He was sure of it.
Leela goosed him from behind, “Gotcha!”
“Aaaah!” Fry took off at a dead run. Leela tried to call him back, but she was laughing so hard she couldn’t.
The sound of Fry’s footfalls receded into the distance. Soon the only sound was the tricking of water through the main. Feeling a little ashamed, Leela trotted down the main. She called out, “Fry! Where are you? It’s me, Leela!”
She was almost at the point where the main discharged into the Mutant Village when Fry sprung out from hiding, catching her completely by surprise, “Boo!”
“Hi-Yah!” Leela launched a straight punch that spun Fry around when it connected with his jaw. He collapsed like a bag of wet cement.
“Fry!” Leela instantly regretted her action. She knelt and cradled him in her arms, “Oh, I’m so sorry. It was my stupid reflexes! Speak to me Fry.” Tears began to run off her nose, “I’m so sorry. Oh please speak to me!”
Trying to clear his head, Fry shook it vigorously, “Brrr…” He rubbed his jaw, “Boy Leela, you’ve got a mean punch.”
Leela began to kiss him over and over, “Fry…baby…I’m so sorry…please forgive me.”
“It’s okay Leela, I should have thought things through.” He smiled, “But you did deserve that ‘boo’.”
“I know honey,” Leela kissed Fry’s jaw and cradled his head in her bosom, “I’m really going to make it up to you.”
Something in her tone made Fry’s hormones kick in, “Really?”
“I’ve been such a bad girl.” She gently kissed the red spot on his jaw then she breathed into his ear, “That means my apology is going to be really special.”
Fry nearly fainted.
Leela could feel his body going limp, “Fry! Fry are you okay?”
He came to his senses, “I’m okay…I’m okay.” He put his arms around her and gave her a hug, “I’d love to stay here in this sewer, but I think we should go get Amphibia now.”
Leela helped Fry to his feet, “You’re right. Let’s go.”
They walked silently arm-in-arm to Munda and Morris’ doorstep. Leela knocked lightly on the door. “I’m coming!” Morris’ voice sounded from the other side of the door.
When the door opened Leela and Fry were greeted by the sight of Morris with Amphibia riding on his back. She was smiling and giggling, “Hi Mommy, Hi Daddy…Grandpa is being a horsey!”
“Nice job, Dad,” Leela observed with a smile, “Has she been good?”
“Such a pleasure!” He laughed, “If your mother and I had known, we would have bugged you to have grandkids earlier.”
Fry shook his head, “That would have been okay by me.”
Leela bit back a remark that was almost on her lips. She was about to say that if she was going to have grandkids earlier, it probably wouldn’t have been with Fry. Instead, Leela smiled and said, “You sound like Amy’s parents.”
The mention of Amy’s parents caused Morris to pull a face, “Ugh! Such pushy people.”
“What do you mean, Dad?” Fry sounded puzzled.
“Come on in, we’ll talk about those crazy Normals later.” Morris ushered them into the house. As the door closed, Leela looked around, “So where’s Mom?”
Amphibia raised her hand while clinging to Morris with the other, “I know Mommy!”
Leela wondered where Amphibia had learned to raise her hand, “Where is she, sweetie?”
“She’s out getting groceries.”
Morris nodded, “She wanted to fix dinner for everyone. I hope you’re not in a hurry.”
Leela began to think of all the things she needed to do at home. Then something that Venus said during one of their sessions struck her. They had been discussing priorities. Leela had been carrying on about how much cleaning she had to do and how she had so many things to do at the Planet Express. Venus had listened until Leela paused. Then Venus drawled softly, “I hear you, Leela. But you know, you can never get enough family time. I never heard someone say on their deathbed that they wished they’d spent more time cleaning house or at the office.” She paused, “And I never saw a funeral with a U-Yank-it trailer behind the hearse, either.”
So, instead of making excuses Leela smiled, “I believe we’ll take you up on that Daddy.”
Morris looked over his shoulder at Amphibia, “Phibby, can you go play with your toys for a bit?”
“Okay Grandpa,” as soon as Morris lowered her to the floor, she skipped off into the living room where a half-finished Tinkertoyz structure stood.
“Phibby?” Leela looked askance at her father, “What in the world is that?”
“It’s a nickname I gave her.”
“I don’t like nicknames,” Leela crossed her arms, thinking of all the nasty nicknames she had ever been called.
Morris spoke softly, “Well…she likes it. Besides, your mother gave her a nickname too.” He smiled a vertical smile, “She calls Phibby ‘Miss Mouse’ because she loves cheese.”
“Really?” Leela’s voice registered surprise, “She likes cheese?”
“Oh yes, she can’t get enough of it.”
It struck Leela that her father and mother knew more about Amphibia than she did. Her sudden pangs of guilt showed painfully on her face.
Fry saw the pained look, kissed her gently on the cheek and whispered, “Why don’t we take Amphibia to Luna Park tomorrow?”
“Fry, that’s a great idea. But we'll have to go day after tomorrow because we have to go apartment hunting.” She smiled, “And I think we’ll stay on the tracks for the ‘Whalers on the Moon’ ride if you don’t mind.”
A knock on the door drew their attention. Leela said, “That must be Mom, I’ll get it.” She opened the door and was surprised to see a little boy with seven eyes and a pair of tentacles for arms standing on the stoop. He smiled, “Excuse me, but is Phibby home?”
“Yes,” Leela said with a smile, “and who may I say is here?”
“Oh, I’m George…everybody knows me.” He shifted his weight from foot to foot while eyeing Leela uncertainly, “Umm…can Phibby come out and play?”
Leela was momentarily stumped. Fortunately, Morris came to the door, “Oh hi, George. Come on in. Phibby’s in the living room.”
“Thanks Mr. T.” was his breezy reply. He squeezed between Leela and Morris with a quick “s’cuse me” and dashed into the Living Room.
“Life sure is a lot busier with Phibby…I mean Amphibia around,” Morris said with a smile.
“Dad, you can call her Phibby.” Leela exhaled in resignation, “It seems like everybody else does.”
Before they could close the door, Munda rounded the corner, dragging a grocery cart. Leela stepped out onto the boardwalk, “Hi Mom! Let me give you a hand!”
“Thank you. This cart is loaded.” She chuckled, “We are going to have such a dinner!”
Leela lugged the cart into the kitchen, helping her mother unload. She was curious, “Mom, where did you get this? I mean, I know you don’t have half of this stuff down here.”
Munda laughed, “Little Neptune, of course. It’s where we all go to shop.”
“But…but Mutant’s aren’t allowed on the surface.”
“Leela,” Munda sounded like a teacher with a not especially bright student, “If we didn’t get food from Little Neptune, we’d all starve. Have you ever been there?”
“So tell me, do you think a mutant or two will look out of place?”
Leela shook her head, “But how…”
“We always go at dusk or in the evening.” Munda shook her head, “We don’t even consider it the surface.”
“So you’ve been there a lot?” Leela continued to put groceries on the shelves.
“Where do you think I got my Doctorate in Exolinguistics? Down here?”
“I guess I never really thought about it.”
“Out of sight, out of mind,” Munda shrugged. “We stay out of the Normals way and they forget about us. It’s quiet down here and we like it that way.”
The last bit of groceries stored away, Munda turned and gave Leela a quick hug, “You can never know what joy you have brought me.”
“Thanks Mom but how?”
Tears glistened in Munda’s eye, “By leaving Amphibia with us this week. She is so precious…and there is never a dull moment.”
Leela hugged her mother, “You’re welcome, Mom. We have so much to tell each other. Who goes first?”
“You go first.” Munda stepped back, “I’m going to put dinner on.”
For the next hour, Leela explained how Amphibia had come into her life, how Fry had stood by her through all that and illness too, how things had gone at the Central Bureaucracy and that all the legal paperwork was done.
Her mother was the perfect listener, encouraging Leela to continue when the flow of her story flagged. When Leela said, “That’s about it,” Munda replied, “I am so happy for you. That Fry is a real person. He’s a treasure…just like your Father.”
“You aren’t sorry we didn’t have a big wedding?”
Munda shook her head and laughed, “Well, you did.” She shrugged, “It’s just that none of us remember it.”
Out in the living room, Fry and Morris were watching Amphibia and George play. Morris was just finishing the story of “our first fishing trip.” Somehow, Fry could picture Amphibia diving into the lake and coming up with a fish. He was also absolutely certain that Leela would not be amused at the thought of Amphibia jumping into the lake repeatedly.
“Uh, Morris,” Fry sought the right words, “You…you might not want to tell this story to Leela.”
“Umm…I don’t think she’d find it funny.”
“Yeah.” Fry absently rubbed the sore spot on his jaw, “She’s got quick reflexes and she’s pretty protective.” He smiled, “It’s a Mom thing…you know.”
Morris reflected on Munda’s initial reaction, “I guess you’re right.”
Leela came into the living room, “Dinner is ready.” She walked over and knelt next to Amphibia, “Honey, you need to go wash your hands.”
“Okay, Mommy.” She hugged Leela unexpectedly, “Can George eat with us?”
Without even thinking Leela said, “Sure sweetie, if his parents say it’s okay.” As soon as the words escaped her lips, Leela thought, “Darn she’s smooth!”
George waved his tentacles excitedly, “My mommy already said it’s okay.”
Amphibia ran for the stairs, calling out, “Come on George! Last one to the bathroom’s a splishbagh!”
George tore off up the stairs in hot pursuit. Leela yelled, “No running you two! You’ll fall and hurt yourselves!”
Obediently, both slowed to a fast walk.
Both Morris and Fry laughed at Leela’s display of motherly concern. She turned, “So what are you two laughing at?”
Fry and Morris echoed, “Nothing.”
“Well, let’s get in the dining room. Otherwise the food will get cold.”
Everyone assembled in the dining room without any further ado. Morris sat at the head of the table, with Munda on his right and Amphibia on his left. Fry sat next to Amphibia, with Leela across the table. George was at the foot of the table.
Leela noticed that while George had milk, Amphibia had juice. “Mom, do you want me to get Amphibia some milk?”
Munda shook her head while Morris let out a loud guffaw, “Not if you don’t want her to start…”
Munda cut him off, “Morris!” She turned to Leela, “Milk doesn’t agree with her.”
Leela looked puzzled. Then she realized, “Oh…I see.”
“No,” Morris said, “you wouldn’t see, but you sure would smell it.”
Munda considered kicking Morris under the table, but she opted for a frosty look and a whispered, “Will you stop it already?”
Both Morris and Fry chuckled while Munda muttered, “Men.”
Everyone was hungry, so dinner was a quiet affair. After dinner was over, Amphibia and George went back into the living room to play. Munda rose, “Does anyone want coffee?”
Fry said “Yes Please,” while Morris rose, “I’ll help you get it.” Leela shook her head, “No thanks, I can’t drink the stuff in the evening. I’ll never get to sleep.”
Fry stretched his hand across the table to Leela, gesturing with his fingers. She reached out and took his hand, “I think I’m going to like being married.”
Leela’s brow furrowed, “Fry, I think you’re going to have a bruise on your jaw.”
He touched the spot where Leela’s fist had impacted, “It’s kinda sore, but heck, it’ll be okay.”
“I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay, Leela.”
Morris came in carrying a tray with coffee, sugar, and third-and-third-and-third. Munda was behind him with three mugs. Munda fixed the coffee, then sat down.
“Leela, your father and I want to make you an offer.”
Munda looked at Fry, “I’m sorry Fry. I’ve forgotten that this concerns you as well.”
Fry smiled, “Fine.”
“We…that is…Morris and I want you to know that we have fixed up a room for Amphibia. We want her to stay here whenever you are working.”
“That would be great,” Leela answered. Then she looked at Fry, “What do you think, honey?”
Fry smiled, “I think it’s a great idea.”
Morris cleared his throat, “We’d also like to put her in pre-school down here.”
Leela looked thoughtful, “Umm..how much is it a month? Fry and I will be on a tight budget until I…I mean we get things sorted out.”
Morris laughed, “We want to pay for it.”
“Daddy, we can’t let you do that.”
“You are on a fixed income!”
Munda reached out and touched Leela’s arm, “Sweetie, your father and I have plenty salted away.”
Leela looked confused, “But…but you are Mutants!”
Both Munda and Morris laughed together. When their laughter had died away Munda spoke, “Leela, you sound like a Normal…which is good. That is what we wanted.” Her eye twinkled, “But my PhD in Exolinguistics and your Father’s dry-cleaning business made us a nice living…for Mutants.”
Fry was overwhelmed with curiosity, “If you made such a nice living, why didn’t you keep Leela?” Everyone looked at him in astonishment. But he wanted to know, so he kept going, “I mean, I’m glad things turned out, but Leela suffered a lot…so did you. I…I just can’t understand it.”
Morris spoke, “We wanted Leela to be able to breathe fresh air and see the stars. More than that, we wanted Leela to live free of the weight of tradition that binds us in the Sewers.” He rose, “For centuries, we Mutants have lived by a set of traditions that helped us to adapt to life down here, but they have also…over time…bound us here.”
He looked down briefly in thought, then pulled on his threadbare jacket, “You see this? I can afford much better…so why do I wear this schmatta? Because of tradition! You see, one thing that caused envy and discord was displaying new clothes. So what did we do? We developed a tradition that no adult could wear anything that was not patched.”
Morris laughed, “If we buy something new, we tear it and put patches on it so we won’t break tradition. So you see, out traditions protect us, but they also confine us.” His voice rose, “We wanted our daughter to be free!” He sat down heavily, lowering his voice, “But freedom always has a price.” Tears began to stream down both Munda and Morris’ faces, “We’re sorry,” Munda said.
For the first time, Leela realized why her parents had acted as they did so many years ago. She turned and embraced her mother, kissing her and saying, “I forgive you both. You did what you thought was best.” Not knowing what else to do, Fry rose from his seat and came to stand behind Leela. He placed his hand on her shoulder
Leela drew back from her embrace with her Mother. She reached back, patted Fry’s hand and then touched her mother’s tentacle, “You know, my friend Venus said you have to forgive yourself first. Please don’t feel guilty anymore.” She smiled as her parents dried their tears, “I wouldn’t have things any other way.”
Munda finished wiping her eye, “So we can pay for Amphibia to go to pre-school?”
Leela turned in her chair to look up at Fry, “So what do you think?”
“I think it would be great.” Fry shrugged, “She obviously got your brains, so it wouldn’t be a waste of money.” He paused briefly, “Besides, down here nobody would make fun of her…heck she’s already made friends.” He nodded, “I’d say sure.”
Agreeing with Fry, Leela turned her gaze toward her parents, “Okay…and thank you.”
Both Munda and Morris smiled. Munda touched Leela’s hand with the tip of her tentacle, “You’ll not regret this.”
“I know, Mom.” Before Leela could continue, her Wristamajigy alarm beeped. “Oh…I didn’t realize how late it was. We have to go apartment hunting tomorrow and I know that the early bird catches the worm.”
Munda leaned forward slightly, “Why not leave Amphibia here for one more night? Otherwise you’ll just turn around and have to bring her back in the morning.”
Leela was torn. She wanted to take Amphibia home but she didn’t like wasting time. Besides, she had to finish her apology to Fry tonight. Unable to decide, she compromised, “Let’s ask Amphibia.”
Munda nodded, “Fair enough.”
They all rose and went into the Living Room where Amphibia and George were watching a Q.T. McWhiskers video. Leela knelt next to Amphibia, “Baby, would you like to stay here for one more night?”
Amphibia didn’t answer immediately but appeared to mull it over in her head. She smiled, “Okay. But will I come with you tomorrow?”
“Yes, baby.” Leela reached out and cradled Amphibia in her arms, “You are going to come live with Daddy and me starting tomorrow.” Amphibia thrummed contentedly, rubbing her cheek against Leela. They sat together on the floor for several minutes before Amphibia stopped thrumming. Leela kissed her and sat her back down on the rug, “I’ll see you tomorrow Amphibia.”
Fry came over and kissed her, “See you tomorrow.”
Leela stood and said to Fry, “If we don’t leave now, I’m going to cry.”
Fry nodded, “Me too.”
They said their goodbyes to Morris and Munda, thanking them once again for their kindness. Their trip to the surface was uneventful. Leela seemed to be in a pensive mood, so Fry walked with her in silence.
When they entered the apartment, Leela suddenly went from pensive to seductive. She wrapped her arms around Fry’s neck and gently took his right earlobe between her teeth for a second before releasing it. Then she kissed him gently on the cheek before whispering, “I may have been a bad girl, but I always keep my promises.”
Before opening his eyes, Fry stretched lazily like a cat awakening from a long nap. The lack of bodily contact during his stretch confirmed that he was alone in the bed. He sat up and looked around for Leela. She wasn’t in the bedroom, but a sound from the bathroom drew his attention.
The bathroom door opened to reveal Leela, clad in her green terry cloth robe. Her hair was still hanging loose and to Fry’s surprise, she was wearing her monocle as opposed to her contact lens. Fry’s surprised look prompted Leela to laugh, “What’s the matter Fry, haven’t you ever seen a woman in glasses before?” She pretended to pout, “Do these glasses make me look nerdy?”
“No…no…you look beautiful,” Fry said forcefully.
Leela approached the bedside, pulled her monocle off and kissed Fry soulfully. As she drew back she breathed, “Liar.” Then she kissed him again, whispering in his ear “But I love you for it.”
Fry smiled, “I love you too.”
Standing erect, Leela said briskly, “Well, we need to get going if we are going to find a place today.”
“Sure,” Fry swung his feet onto the floor. Struggling to awaken fully, he passed his hand through his hair, “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”
“I’ll fix some breakfast,” Leela said over her shoulder as she headed for the kitchen. “Don’t take too long or the food will get cold.”
Fry hastened to get ready, eager to please. Besides, he didn’t want a cold breakfast. When he entered the kitchen, Leela had just finished setting the table. She smiled, “Well, that was quick.”
Grinning, Fry sat down, “For some reason I’m really hungry.”
“That’s good, I’d hate to see this go to waste.” Leela placed a plate piled with eggs, bacon and toast in front of Fry. “Enjoy it. I’m going to get ready.”
“Aren’t you hungry?” Fry sounded concerned.
“I’m just a little queasy this morning,” She gave him a quick peck on the cheek. “I probably ate too much last night.”
As she left the kitchen, Fry followed her with his eyes. He worried that she might be getting sick again. Once he lost sight of her, he turned his attention to demolishing the food. Without Leela around to slow him down, he tore through it in under two minutes.
He was on his last mouthful when Leela’s voice sounded from the bedroom, “Fry, slow down!”
He choked down the last bite, “Mmm…” Then he replied sheepishly, “Sorry.”
“I just don’t want you to wind up with an ulcer or some kind of stomach problem.”
“Okay.” Fry smiled as he stood up to wash his dish off. Had he been at his apartment, he would have simply left the food-encrusted plate sitting. Besides, it would have been a paper plate. Somehow, leaving it for Leela to clean up didn’t seem right.
Much to Leela’s surprise when she entered the kitchen a few minutes later, Fry had washed all of the dishes by hand. “Fry, you did a great job! Thank you!”
He leaned against the kitchen counter and grinned, “My Mom used to make me help with the dishes.” He chuckled, “She was really particular about the dishes being squeaky clean.”
Something about the way that Fry said ‘squeaky’ made her laugh. “Come on Fry,” she waved a list, “we’ve a lot of apartments to look at today.
So they left the apartment in high spirits, arm-in-arm. Leela had taken the time to pre-screen the list. Every apartment had three bedrooms and was rent controlled.
The first five apartments they went to were complete busts. In the first, the closets were too small. The second had only one bathroom. When they reached the third one, the yellow police tape put them off…as did the dead body lying halfway out of the doorway in the apartment next door.
The fourth apartment had mold on the walls. Leela had actually gagged at the smell. Fry had commented, “Smells kind of like my old locker back at Planet Express.” Leela covered her nose with a handkerchief, “Ugh…it smells worse.” With a trace of impatience she said, “Let’s go, now!”
They stayed less than two minutes in the fifth apartment. It had circular rooms. As soon as they entered Fry started laughing, “This looks like someplace the Professor would rent.” Leela had simply pulled her list from her pocket and crossed another apartment off the list. She looked at her Wristamajigy. It was noon. With a deep sigh she turned to Fry, “Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
“There’s a little place near here called the Blue Moon Café that serves a pretty good meal.”
“That sounds great.”
They left the apartment building and headed west toward the café. It was just inside Little Neptune, but despite that it enjoyed a constant stream of customers from across the city.
As they strolled down the street arm-in-arm, Leela was unusually silent. She was trying to work out mentally the schedule for getting Amphibia back and forth to her parents each work day, “Maybe we could meet every day in the sewer near the Planet Express building?” Absently she chewed her lip as thoughts continued to roll through her mind, “But that will mean bringing Amphibia to work every day. Lord, the Professor might start getting ideas about genetic research again.” She muttered loudly enough for Fry to hear, “How in the heck are we going to get Amphibia to my parents every work day?”
Fry was doing his usual thing…living in the moment. He absorbed Leela’s muttered comment while he kept his eye on their surroundings. Fry was worried that otherwise, Leela might walk out into traffic. She was so distracted.
They were two blocks from the Blue Moon Café when Fry noticed it. It was a four story brownstone building that had been converted into apartments. Posted on the front door was a sign that proclaimed, “For Rent.” The sight of that sign sparked a headache with pictures.
“Hey Leela,” Fry said excitedly, “check out that sign!”
“Huh?” Leela sounded and acted startled, “Sign? What sign?”
He pointed, “That ‘For Rent’ sign across the street.”
She squinted, “In this neighborhood? I don’t know.”
“Leela, it’s perfect.” His voice quivered with excitement, “Remember what your Mom said about Little Neptune?”
“I don’t get it.”
“Your Mom said that she can come up in Little Neptune because there are so many aliens that a mutant or two isn’t noticed.” His face became animated, “Your parents would be able to come and go here without anyone noticing.”
Leela’s eye widened, “Fry, that is a great idea!” Then she frowned, “But this place is probably a dump.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Fry said softly, “Well, there’s only one way to find out.”
“You’re right Fry.” Touched by Fry’s thoughtfulness, Leela kissed him gently on the cheek, “Let’s check it out.”
They crossed the street, ascended the marble steps and knocked at the door. Leela was surprised that it swung on hinges! It opened to reveal a smiling Neptunian woman of medium height clad in a black dress. She spoke with a slight English accent, “May I help you?”
Fry turned to Leela, “Let me handle this honey, these are my people.” He faced the Neptunian, “Yo holmes, my main squeeze and me are looking for a crib.”
The woman’s face took on a puzzled look, “I beg your pardon?”
“Yo, we be lookin’ for a crib.”
“I’m not sure that I can assist you in that department.” She shook her head, “This isn’t one of your American yard sales, I only have a flat to let.”
“Flatulence?” It was Fry’s turn to look and sound puzzled, “But I haven’t let a…”
“Fry!” Leela interrupted while placing her hand on Fry’s wrist, “We’re looking for an apartment…a flat…and we noticed your sign.”
“Right,” she stepped back, “Do step into the parlor.”
Turning on her heel, she led Leela and Fry into the parlor. As they entered, she motioned towards an overstuffed green sofa, “Please have a seat.”
“Thanks,” Leela leaned forward slightly, “we were heading for the Blue Moon Café when we noticed your sign. Could you tell us a bit about the apartment?”
“Certainly,” she smiled, “but I thought we might get to know one another first. I’m hesitant to let a flat to complete strangers.”
“Oh…well I’m Leela and this is my husband, Fry…uh…Philip Fry.”
“Charmed, I’m Fionella Smythe-Xerbe, but everyone calls me Kelly.” Kelly shifted slightly in the armchair, “What are your occupations?”
Leela sat back into the cushions, “We both work at the Planet Express Delivery Company. I’m a County Licensed Starship Pilot and my husband is our...” she paused to think of a description, “Delivery Specialist.”
“Oh,” Kelly smiled, “I’ve seen your commercial.”
“The one in which a huge bird carries the delivery boy off.”
“Oh Lord,” Leela rolled her eye, “that is the dumbest commercial.”
Fry laughed as he remembered it. His laugh was so infectious that Leela and Kelly joined in.
“Do you have any children?”
“One, a little girl.”
“Oh that is lovely, Nigel and I adore children.”
Leela smiled, “Is Nigel your husband?”
“Yes,” Kelly pointed at a picture on the mantelpiece and said with obvious affection, “that’s my Nigel.”
Leela squinted to see the picture better. Nigel was a human with sandy hair, blue eyes, freckles, a straight nose, thin lips and rather prominent front teeth. Sensing that Kelly expected some sort of comment Leela offered, “He’s very good looking. How did you meet?”
“We met in London. He was a very junior member of the DOOP diplomatic corps and I was a secretary at the Foreign Office. It was love at first sight.” Her face took on a wistful look, “Lord, he is such a romantic.” Suddenly aware of her surroundings, Kelly’s cheeks flushed a deep purple, “But enough about me, I suppose you’d like to see the flat.”
Fry stood up, “That would be great.” Leela and Kelly stood simultaneously. Kelly gestured down the hallway, “The apartment is on the first floor.”
Fry and Leela followed Kelly down the hallway and up the stairs. The door to the apartment was at the head of the steps. It was a dark wooden hinged door with a brass doorknob.
“Wow,” Leela said, “is that a real doorknob?”
Kelly laughed, “Nigel and I just love antiques. When we got the opportunity to buy this building, we simply couldn’t resist.”
Leela loved the apartment at first sight. The living room was spacious and had a marble fireplace. Fry tapped his foot on the floor, “This is real wood!”
“Quite.” Kelly said quietly.
They went through each of the three bedrooms, two bathrooms and the eat-in kitchen. As they went along, Leela began to worry that it would probably be too expensive. When they finished the inspection, they went back downstairs to the parlor.
Leela summoned up the courage to ask, “So…how much is the rent?”
“It’s rent controlled…it goes with a historic building you know,” Kelly rested her lower hands on her hips while stroking her chin, “It’s four hundred a month.”
Leela breathed a sigh of relief. It was actually less than she was paying now, “We’ll take it.”
Kelly presented them with some forms, which Leela filled out. Once they were complete, Leela handed them back. “When can we move in?”
“First of the month?”
“Perfect,” Leela was overjoyed, “we’ll be here with bells on.”
Once they left their new apartment, Leela and Fry had a fine lunch at the Blue Moon Café. The rest of the day they spent running errands before they picked Amphibia up from Munda and Morris’.
Leela was pleased at how well Amphibia had adjusted to life with her parents. She was doubly pleased at how happy Amphibia was to see Fry and her. “Mommy! Daddy!” she had shouted as she rushed to give them hugs.
Munda smiled, “So what’s next?”
Leela returned her mother’s smile, “Well, now that we have an apartment, we plan to take Amphibia to Luna Park tomorrow.”
Amphibia chimed in, “Really, Mommy?” Her brow furrowed, “Can George come too? He’s my best friend.”
Leela couldn’t resist the urge to tease Amphibia, “Is he your boyfriend?”
Amphibia looked puzzled, “Umm…no.”
To Fry’s surprise, Leela turned to face him and asked, “What do you think, Daddy?”
Fry blinked, “Umm…yeah…sure, that would be great.”
“Then George can come as long as his parents say it’s okay,” Leela said with a nod.
Amphibia gave a little leap, her face beaming, “Yay!” Her antics cause Fry, Leela and Munda to laugh.
The next day, Leela, Fry, George and Amphibia were trooping down the landing gear stairway to get in line for the park. Leela had used the “test ride” story on the Professor to get the okay to use the Planet Express Ship. Since it was early on a week day, there weren’t too many people in line.
Leela was holding Amphibia’s hand, while Fry was holding George’s tentacle. Leela quizzed the children, “Now if for any reason we get separated, what do you do?”
They replied in stereo, “We look for the Moon Patrol and tell them we are lost.”
“Good!” Leela smiled, “What do you think we should do first Fry?”
Fry smiled back – knowing Leela’s favorite ride, “Let’s go ride the bumper cars?”
“Are you sure you wouldn’t rather go on the “Whalers on the Sea of Tranquility Ride?”
“Ugh…No thanks!” Fry pulled a face, “I’d rather sit through the Goofy Gopher Revue.”
Amphibia spoke up, “I want to see the Goofy Gophers!”
“Yeah,” George added, “Me too.”
Leela laughed as Fry rolled his eyes. She reached out and touched his shoulder, “Seems like you’re outvoted.”
Fry laughed, “Looks that way, doesn’t it?” He shook his head, “Let’s go see the darned Gophers first.”
Once they passed through the entrance, they headed down Moon Street U.S.A. Although Fry didn’t seem to notice, Leela was conscious that they were drawing more than a few stares. After all, very few aliens went to what everyone in the galaxy knew was a tacky little amusement park. She suppressed the urge to shout, “What are you looking at?” Instead, she turned her attention to Fry, Amphibia and George.
A ship headed for the parking lot passed overhead. It triggered a panic response in Amphibia, who went transparent and leaped into Leela’s arms, shaking like a leaf. Almost bowled over by Amphibia’s action, Leela recovered quickly and began to stroke Amphibia’s ponytail while murmuring, “It’s okay baby. Don’t be afraid. It’s okay.”
By the time they entered the Revue, Amphibia had recovered. The children were fascinated by the whole proceeding. Leela put her hand on Fry’s knee, leaned over and whispered in his ear, “This is pretty lame, isn’t it?”
“Yup,” Fry whispered back.
After the show was over, they went to the bumper cars. Leela was in her element, zipping around and crashing into the unaware. Amphibia showed surprising skill as well. When they finished, Amphibia immediately said, “Let’s do that again!”
After four more rides on the bumper cars, Fry felt like a punching bag. Amphibia had finally had her fill. “Where to next, kids?” Fry asked.
George spoke first, “Can we go play some games?” Amphibia nodded in agreement. Twenty bucks worth of quarters later, they had played almost every game in the arcade. Well…almost every game. Leela had drawn the line at “Death Game 4000.” No amount of pleading could sway her, “It is just too violent. Right Fry?”
“Umm…sure…way too violent.”
They spent the rest of the day riding everything in the park. By the time they went back to the ship, Leela was carrying Amphibia and Fry was carrying George. Both were fast asleep by the time they were belted into their seats.
“Leela,” Fry said as Leela was prepping the ship for take-off, “I really enjoyed today…how about you?”
Pausing to reflect, Leela finally answered, “You know Fry, I really did enjoy myself. But I enjoyed watching you and the kids having fun even more.” She stood up and walked over to where Fry was sitting. She put her arms around his neck and kissed him sweetly, “Thank you for being who you are. I love you.”
Fry stood and took her in his arms. He kissed her in return, “I love you too, Leela.” They stood there embracing for at least five minutes. Then Leela returned – reluctantly – to the pilot’s chair and took them home.
The time between the Luna Park trip and moving into their new apartment was a whirlwind of activity. Munda had been a tremendous help to Leela, starting by enrolling Amphibia in pre-school. The class was small – only ten children. However, it included George, the first child to befriend “Phibby” as everyone – including her mother – now called her.
Munda had also prepared the apartment for occupancy, gotten to know Kelly and had even met Nigel briefly. On some of her visits to the new apartment Munda brought Amphibia along. Kelly had found her “adorable”.
Now everything in the old apartment was packed and ready to go. Everything was packed in numbered boxes, with complete manifests for each box. Fry had bridled a bit at the painstaking detail that Leela insisted on, but he very wisely kept his thoughts to himself.
The day’s work was done. Fry and Amphibia were sitting on the couch, watching the television. They were both busy eating M2 Blue Candies and popcorn while watching the “Flora the Exo-Explorer” show. Leela was fussing around in the bathroom, laying everything out so she wouldn’t forget where it was. What she found so annoying about moving was the disruption of her routine.
Still, she tried to impose order on the chaos of moving. She carefully set her contact lens into the cleaning solution, right next to her container of Dr. Neptune’s Birth Control Pills. “Almost time for my next pill,” She thought while checking her Wristamajigy. “I love Fry, but I’m not ready for more children just yet.”
The sound of laughter floated into the bathroom. Leela put on her monocle and walked across the bedroom into the living room where Fry was tickling a happily squealing Amphibia. Leela smiled, “Fry, you’ll get her so charged up she’ll never go to sleep.”
Fry grinned, “Sorry Leela, I just wanted her to have some fun.”
“It’s all good Fry,” Leela kept smiling as she looked at Amphibia, “Okay sweetie, time to brush your teeth!”
Amphibia jumped to her feet, rushed over to Leela and hugged her. She looked up into Leela’s face, “Can I brush my own teeth? George says he gets to brush his own teeth and that only babies have their Mommy brush their teeth.”
Leela smiled in amusement and nodded, “Just make sure you do a good job.”
Amphibia skipped off still clutching her bag of candy, “I will Mommy!” She was gone from sight before Leela could tell her to leave the candy. So, Leela turned to Fry, “Phil, didn’t we agree that we weren’t going to let Phibby have candy late at night?”
“Umm…” Fry looked down, “I think so.”
Rather than going off Leela remembered what Venus had said in her last session, “If you want Fry to change…love him into it.” So, Leela reached out and touched Fry lightly on the shoulder and said gently, “Umm…I know so.”
A clattering sound came from the bathroom followed by Amphibia’s voice, “I got it, Mommy!”
“What happened?” Leela called out.
“I dropped some candy…but it’s okay now.”
“Fine honey,” Leela turned her attention back to Fry. Much to his surprise, she sat in his lap and put her arms around his neck, “Phil, I don’t mean to be a wet blanket. It’s just that we have to learn to back each other up when it comes to Phibby’s routine…okay?”
He looked into her face, “Okay Leela, I’ll try harder…I promise.”
“Thanks,” she kissed him gently, “that’s all I can ask.”
Amphibia skipped back into the room, “Look Mommy, look Daddy.” She bared her teeth for inspection.
Leela adjusted her monocle and made a great show of examining Amphibia’s teeth. After a few moments Leela said approvingly, “You did a wonderful job, sweetie. Just like a big girl!”
“Thanks, Mommy.” Amphibia yawned. She looked at Fry, “Daddy, can you put me to bed?”
“Sure pumpkin,” Fry stood up. Amphibia’s bed was the couch until they moved anyway. Leela stood up, gave Amphibia a quick kiss, and headed into the bedroom.
Fry pulled the couch out. Then he got the pillow and blanket out of the storage bin Leela kept nearby. He put the pillow down and Amphibia crawled up onto the bed, her eyelid fluttering with exhaustion. As Fry spread a blanket over her, he thought, “Kids sure do crash fast.” He gently kissed her cheek, “Night, Phibby.”
“G’Night, daddy.” Her eye closed and she was in dreamland.
Fry shut out the light and headed for the bedroom, eagerly anticipating Leela’s embrace.
Fry was absolutely exhausted. He had spent the entire day moving into the apartment under Leela’s watchful eye. Unlike his work at Planet Express, Leela had been at his elbow every step of the way. That meant no goofing off and no slacking off the pace. Fortunately, Amy, Kif, Morris and Munda had been there to help.
Bender had been there as well, but he confined himself to a supervisory role…which consisted mostly of making barbed comments about how weak and puny flesh wads were compared to robots while drinking several six-packs of “Olde Fortran.”
Still, Fry felt a certain satisfaction as he looked around their new apartment. Leela had timed everything perfectly. The furniture store had delivered Amphibia’s bedroom suite just as they arrived at the apartment. He also appreciated Leela’s systematic packing. Everything had found it’s right place very quickly.
Fry smiled at the thought of how delighted Amphibia had been with her new room and how Munda had enjoying settling her in. Of course, Nibbler had moved in with Amphibia, crawling onto the newly made bed and curling up at its foot. He had taken to sleeping at her feet the day she had arrived at their old apartment. Fry figured her habit of feeding Nibbler scraps at the table had a lot to do with it.
The apartment was quiet now with everyone gone. Bender had wandered off first, well lubricated. Amy and Kif had taken their leave once the last box was unloaded. Morris and Munda had stayed for another 20 minutes helping to tidy up the boxes before they left as well.
Now, Leela was out shopping for a few things. Amphibia was with her as well, so Fry switched on the television. An “All My Circuits” marathon was on, so he settled into the couch to watch. Within two minutes he was sacked out, snoring loudly.
He was still sawing wood when Leela entered with an armful of groceries. Trailing closely behind her was Amphibia, lugging a shopping bag bearing the “Bed, Bath and Beyond” logo. Leela felt a surge of warmth at the sight of Fry sprawled out on the couch. He looked so innocent; she just wanted to smother him with kisses.
Before Leela’s thoughts could go further along that line Amphibia giggled and brought her back to reality. Amphibia pointed at Fry, “Daddy’s sleeping.”
“Yes honey, he worked very hard today.” Unable to resist, Leela sat her grocery bags down before leaning over to kiss Fry gently on the forehead.
Fry’s eyes fluttered open. He smiled as he sat up, “Hey, Leela…hey pumpkin…I was just taking a nap.”
Leela sat down on the couch, “I see. Was it a good nap?”
“Uh-huh.” He smiled, “Can I help you with anything?”
“Nope, Phibby and I have it all in hand.”
“I’m using both hands,” Amphibia said as she dragged her shopping bag into her bathroom.
With a laugh, Leela stood up and grabbed the grocery bags. Carrying them into the kitchen, she began first to stock the refrigerator. Fry came in while Leela was putting the last item in, “Hey baby, did you pick up some M2s and Gummi Worms?”
“Yes Fry, I picked up one bag each.” She frowned, “You know we both agreed to limit Phibby’s candy intake.”
He raised his hands defensively, “I know, I promise to only give her a few at a time.” His voice took on a pleading tone, “it’s just that she enjoys them so much.”
“I know Fry, but she can’t sleep when she’s had too much sugar.”
“And it’s bad for her teeth, I know…”
Suddenly Leela asked, “I sound like a broken record. Don’t I?”
“No, you don’t,” he replied…even though he knew she sometimes did.
“Liar,” she said sweetly as she gave Fry a hug.
As Fry was fantasizing about what might come next, Amphibia walked into the room. She smiled, “I put all of the stuff away in my bathroom, Mommy.”
“Mommy,” Amphibia asked, “can I have a candy box like yours?”
Leela’s brow furrowed in a look of puzzlement, “What do you mean honey?”
“I mean the little white box that you keep the candy in your bathroom.” She paused, “You know, the M2 Blue Candies.”
Leela thought for a moment and then felt her stomach do a flip-flop. Without a word Leela rushed in a panic from the kitchen, leaving a very puzzled Fry and Amphibia in her wake.
When she reached the master bathroom, Leela rummaged blindly through her medicine cabinet until she found it. Her hands trembled as she opened the little white box containing her birth control pills. She examined them closely and found they were a mix of M2 Blue Candy and Dr. Neptune’s Birth Control Pills.
“Oh my God!” Leela exclaimed loudly as she sat down shakily on the toilet, “What am I going to do?”
Her shout brought Fry running. The ashen look on Leela’s face shocked him, “Leela, what’s wrong?”
“Oh Fry,” tears began to run down her nose, “I think I might be pregnant!”
Confused, Fry stuttered, “P...p...pregnant? How could that be…I mean…I mean you take birth control…right?”
Leela buried her head in her hands, “Somehow candy got mixed in with my birth control pills. I may have taken a candy last week instead of a pill.”
“But how did the candy get in there?”
“Phibby…I think it may have happened last week.” Leela called out, “Phibby! Come here honey.”
“Yes mommy?” Amphibia asked breathlessly a few seconds later. She was very surprised to see her mother crying.
“Sweetie, could you show me the candy box?”
Amphibia looked puzzled, “It’s in your hands, mommy.”
“Did you ever eat any of my…candy?”
“No mommy,” Amphibia shook her head, “I dropped some in the sink…but I put some of mine back in your candy box.” Nervous and confused, she looked down at her feet, “I’m…I’m sorry.” Her lip began to quiver, “I didn’t mean to…” Then she burst into tears.
With her heart going out to Amphibia, Leela reached out and embraced her. Leela kissed Amphibia tenderly while murmuring, “It’s okay baby…it’s okay.”
Through her sniffles, Amphibia replied, “I love you mommy.”
“I love you too Phibby,” Leela stroked Amphibia’s ponytail and then held her at arm’s length, “Don’t cry, okay?”
Amphibia flashed a smile, “Okay mommy.”
“Phibby, I need to talk to daddy.” Leela said in her most soothing voice, “Would you please go make sure Nibbler gets some treats?”
Her face brightening, Amphibia replied, “Sure mommy.” She skipped lightly out of the bathroom, calling for Nibbler.
“Fry, I need to walk to the 711 to pick up a home pregnancy test.”
“Okay,” he sounded confused, “but do I have to do anything for the test?”
“No Fry,” she laughed, “Just watch Phibby while I’m at the store.”
The trip took only a few minutes. When she returned, Leela went straight into the bathroom. Fry paced back and forth nervously. It seemed like an eternity before she emerged, looking down at her feet. “Fry,” she said quietly, “I’m pregnant.”
Fry stepped forward and gently embraced her, “No…we’re pregnant.”
Venus looked up as Leela entered the office, “Good morning Leela.” She pointed to the armchair, “Have a seat. I just have to finish this insurance paperwork for a client.”
Leela sat down, “Thanks for agreeing to see me on such short notice.”
“No problem.” Venus brushed back a strand of hair that had fallen across her face, “It seems like the darned insurance paperwork takes more and more of my time.”
“Bureaucrats!” Leela snorted derisively.
“Umm,” Venus laid her pen down, “So…what brings you? My secretary said it was urgent.”
“I’m…I’m pregnant.” Leela looked down, her hands clasped in her lap. “Some candy got mixed in with my birth control pills. I mistakenly took a candy and…well…here I am.”
Venus couldn’t suppress a pleasant smile, “That must have been a surprise.”
“Oh God…you have no idea.”
“Hmm…so how do you feel?”
“Scared.” Leela’s voice trembled slightly, “I was just getting used to being married to Fry and having Phibby. Now I’ve got a new life growing in me.” Leela’s right hand came to rest on her stomach, “All my life I’ve tried to organize my life and now…” She stood up and began to pace, her hand still on her belly, “I feel like I’m trapped under a burning mattress.”
Leela grimaced, “This morning I threw up for a half-hour.” She reached up and began to unconsciously rat her ponytail, “And I’ve become sensitive to food smells. Even the smells of the hot dog stand down the street made me barf!” She burst into tears, “And I really like hot dogs!”
Venus pulled a few Kleenex out of a box on her desk, “Here you go, Leela.”
“Thanks,” Leela took them, sat down and dabbed her eyes, “Sorry for the waterworks. I’m just so frustrated.” She rolled her eye, “I keep asking myself, what’s next?”
“You mentioned feeling frightened and frustrated. What other emotions have you felt?”
“I’ve felt anger, sadness and – oddly enough – happiness.”
“Let’s tackle the anger first.” Venus scribbled a quick note.
“I’m mostly mad at myself.” Leela crossed her arms, “I shouldn’t have let it happen.”
“How could you have prevented it?”
“Well…I could have been more careful.” She crossed her legs, “I should have checked the pills before I took them. I feel like such a fool.”
“Is that reasonable?” Venus asked. “Who checks their birth control pills?”
“I will from now on, that’s for sure.”
Venus’ face took on a stern look, “Leela, what did we learn about getting over negative feelings?”
“I know,” she rolled her eye, “the first step is forgiving myself.”
“Right,” Venus scribbled another note, “So what is it about the pregnancy that has you feeling sad?”
“I know this sounds crazy, but Phibby won’t have much time to get used to being our daughter before she has competition for our affection.” Leela uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, “I mean…she’s going to have less than a year!” Leela pursed her lips, “Also, I feel like I’m bringing a baby into a world where he…or she…will face so many struggles.”
Venus shook her head, “Have you considered that the baby will give Amphibia someone to love beside you and Fry?”
“No.” Leela looked surprised, “You know that I am an only child and grew up in an Orphanarium.” She smiled, “Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“I come from a large family.” She laughed, “I have three brothers and two sisters.”
Leela covered her mouth in surprise, “Oh Lord.”
“There is a lot of love in my family,” Venus smiled. “But building that atmosphere takes a lot of work. For example, you could do like my parents did. They gave me a stake in things by having me help with each of my younger siblings.” She scribbled another note, “Now…what is it that makes you happy about the pregnancy?”
“I would have to say that knowing that this baby will be both Fry and mine makes me happy.” She paused, “I mean…this little life coming into the world is kind of a bridge between Fry and me. That really makes me happy.”
“So how does Fry feel about it all?”
Leela couldn’t help smiling, “What do you think? He takes everything one day at a time. Do you know what he tells everyone when he announces my condition? He tells them ‘we’re pregnant’. Isn’t that just like him?”
Scribbling a quick note, Venus nodded, “Yes, it certainly sounds like him.” Tapping her teeth with the eraser of her pencil, Venus appeared lost in thought for a moment. “Would you object to having a joint session with Fry to talk this over?”
“No,” she replied emphatically, “I wouldn’t mind at all.”
Venus glanced at the wall clock, “We’ve still got a few minutes. How is Phibby taking this?”
“Well,” Leela shifted in her seat, “It doesn’t seem to have affected her at all. Although I imagine when I start showing that will change.”
“I did have to explain to her that it wasn’t going to take years for her to be around the baby.” Leela shook her head, “Phibby spent four years growing up in a swamp with her brothers and sisters all around. She crawled out of that swamp all alone. I’m still not sure she understands the process.”
“Most children don’t understand,” Venus laughed. “My children certainly didn’t.”
“I didn’t know you have children.” Leela was surprised, “You don’t have any pictures in your office.”
“That’s because they might distract my patients.” Venus fished around in her purse before coming up with a picture which she handed to Leela.
“They’re adorable,” Leela said of the two smiling blonde haired girls looking at her from the picture.
“Their names are Diana and Helen.” A wistful look flitted across Venus’ face, “Diana is nine and Helen is seven. They are good girls.” Taking the picture back from Leela, Venus got back to business, “Have you told your family?”
“My mother is…what’s the word…elated.” Leela smiled, “My father is happy too. They’ve already begun to plan to turn the extra bedroom in our apartment into a nursery.”
“It seems as though this baby isn’t going to cause any more disruption than normal.”
Leela shrugged…then she smiled, “I hope that you’re right.”
“Trust me,” Venus laughed. “I’m your doctor.”
“Okay,” Leela found her spirits lifting, “I will.”
Leela lay in bed, her eye shut and her teeth clenched tightly together. Breathing slowly in an attempt to combat the nausea she thought “Oh Lord, why did I have to get morning sickness?” The past two mornings she had vomited almost as soon as her eye opened.
Her mad dash to the bathroom both mornings had startled Fry. However, he had done everything he could to help – holding her head, keeping her from barfing on her ponytail, and cleaning up when she missed the toilet. Leela couldn’t help but smile at the thought of how Fry had almost thrown up as he cleaned up after a particularly bad miss the second day.
“I hope he doesn’t have to clean up again,” passed through her mind.
The sound of the door opening tempted her to open her eye. She resisted the urge, sure that is was Fry. No matter what, she wanted to outwait the nausea.
Fry spoke up quietly, “Your mom just picked Phibby up.” He paused, “Munda said you should eat a few crackers to settle your stomach, so I brought you some.”
Not sure if she could even speak without losing it, Leela held out her right hand. Gently Fry placed the crackers in her palm. She nibbled on one slowly, hoping that her mother was right.
Fry was shifting from foot to foot, worried about Leela. His face was a mask of anxiety. He didn’t like her being sick. It seemed to set the whole universe on its ear, the strongest person he knew being so helpless.
He relaxed a bit when Leela finished her second cracker. “Maybe it’s going to work,” He thought. She finished the third and last cracker without any apparent ill effects. Fry watched for a few moments then he stepped forward slightly, “So is it any better?”
The answer was abrupt. Leela’s eye popped open and she sat straight up in the bed. Then, Leela projectile vomited all over Fry. He recoiled, “Eww…gross!”
Leela paid no attention to him and bolted into the bathroom, hand clasped over her mouth, gagging and choking. She reached the toilet and managed to cry out between spasms, “Oh God is this never going to end?”
By that time Fry was there, holding her head out of the toilet. Once she was empty, Fry said quietly, “Hold on Leela, I’m going to clean us up.”
She stayed there alternately shivering and retching until Fry took her by the elbow, “Come on, Leela. Let’s get into the shower.”
“But Fry…” she protested weakly.
“But nothing.” He gently guided her into the shower. “I used to clean myself up like this after all night parties when I went to Coney Island Community College.”
“Go Whitefish,” Leela said hoarsely in an attempt at a joke. Then she retched at the thought of food.
Finally in the shower, Leela relaxed in the warm water’s soft embrace. Fry deftly stripped off her soiled and sodden pajamas; then he peeled off her underwear. Gently, he soaped her up and rinsed her down without comment. He even shampooed her hair. He would have liked a little action, but he knew how miserable she felt.
Facing the shower head with her eye shut Leela finally spoke in a voice made husky by relentless vomiting and retching, “Thanks Fry, you are the best.”
“You’re welcome,” he said softly. “Do you feel good enough to get out? I mean…if I start to dry you off you’re not going to start blasting puke on me…are you?”
“No Fry,” Leela laughed weakly.
“Good.” He began to strip off his clothes. He cleaned himself up quickly. Then they took some time to just enjoy the warm water coursing over their bodies. Admiring Leela’s nude beauty, Fry could feel his resolve slipping away. “Time to get out,” he announced in a voice that was half an octave higher than normal.
Taking the lead, Fry stepped out of the shower. When Leela stepped out, he went to work drying Leela off right away.
He thought, “I’d better get this done quickly or I’ll burst.”
She thought, “I could probably dry myself off, but I like being pampered.”
Once Fry finished he asked, “Do you need help getting dressed?”
Shaking her head Leela replied, “No Fry. Thank you. I need to brush my teeth and do my ‘girl stuff’ to get ready.”
“Sure.” Fry toweled himself off quickly. Then he scooped up the wet clothes and left the bathroom, closing the door quietly. As soon as he left, Leela began to brush her teeth vigorously. Then she used mouthwash…twice.
Feeling a little better, Leela opened the medicine cabinet. She reached in and her hand came to rest on her birth control pill box. “I won’t need you for a while,” she said quietly. Then she rummaged around a little before finding her contact lens box.
After putting her lens in, she turned to look at herself in the full length mirror that hung on the back of the door. She couldn’t see any difference in her profile. “I didn’t have a ‘baby bump’ yet,” she thought. “My breasts look the same” she smiled, “Fry will definitely like it when they begin to grow.”
“Enough looking in the mirror,” she said aloud. She picked up the hair dryer with her left hand and flicked it on. Grasping the brush in her right she went to work.
On the other side of the door, Fry stood quietly. At the sound of the hair dryer, he smiled. Once Leela could do things on her own, he knew she would be okay. Satisfied, Fry finished dressing quickly. Then he went into the kitchen, bolted down a bowl of Archduke Chocula, and cleaned the dishes up quickly. The last thing he wanted was to trigger another vomiting episode with the sight of food.
He rubbed his forehead. It certainly was confusing, all of the changes that seemed to be in store. Normally he lived his life one day at a time. But this…this was different. Leela was going to have a baby…his baby…their baby. It was exciting…scary…and wonderful all at the same time.
He was still lost in thought when Leela emerged from the bedroom. She smiled at the sight of Fry, obviously deep in thought. “Being an expecting father has changed Fry,” she realized.
Not wanting to startle him Leela spoke softly, “Fry, are you ready to go see Venus?”
Fry stood up, “Umm…yeah…sure.”
Leela stepped up and looked into his eyes, “You are a wonderful husband, you’re great with Phibby and you’ll be terrific with our new baby.” She gave Fry a sweet, gentle kiss. When they parted she asked, “Ready to go?”
Fry grinned, his focus back on the present, “I was born ready.”
Quietly, they linked arms and left the apartment.
The walk to Venus’ office was uneventful. It took a trifle longer than usual as they avoided the direct route through Little Neptune. Leela didn’t think her stomach could handle the pungent miasma that always wafted over the area. Fry had agreed to the detour without complaint. The thought of Leela barfing her guts out in public was all it took.
When they entered the office, the receptionist smiled as she looked up from her crossword puzzle, “Good morning, Mr. and Mrs. Fry.
Leela spoke first, “Good Morning, Gladys.” Fry added, “Morning.”
Gladys keyed the intercom, “The Fry’s are here to see you.”
Venus’ reply crackled back almost instantly, “I’ll be right out.”
Like all good receptionists Gladys repeated what they had already heard, “Dr. McMurtry will be right out.”
No sooner had the words left Gladys mouth than the door to Venus office swished open. Venus stood in the doorway, tablet in hand. “Welcome,” she gestured toward the couch, “come on in and have a seat.”
Leela entered first, followed by Fry. Leela sat down closest to Venus, while Fry sat right next to her. Venus smiled as she watched Fry put his arm around Leela, who responded by snuggling a bit closer.
“So,” Venus began, “a lot is going on in the Fry household these days, isn’t it?”
Fry nodded, “You can say that again.”
Something in the tone of Fry’s response made Leela laugh. She looked Venus in the eyes, “I accidentally threw up all over Fry this morning.”
Venus’ right eyebrow shot up almost to her hairline, “Really?”
“Oh man,” Fry said, “she was like Linda Blair…I mean it was like everywhere!” He paused for a second, “If it had been a hurling contest she would have totally won it.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“Umm…at first it kind of grossed me out but I figured…what the heck, it washes off.”
Venus scribbled a note before looking at Leela, “So how did vomiting on Fry make you feel?”
“To tell the truth, I was so intent on getting into the bathroom that I wasn’t feeling much of anything.” Leela shook her head, “But while we were walking here, I began to feel pretty bad about it.”
Before Venus could speak Fry hugged Leela, “You couldn’t help it Leela. Heck, I’ve barfed on myself a lot worse than I you did this morning. One time, when I was at Coney Island Community College I thought I was going to turn myself inside out. Man, it was that green stuff that stinks like Porpoise Hork…” He stopped when Leela catapulted from the couch toward the bathroom, gagging with her hand over her mouth.
Leela barely made it into the bathroom before she emptied her stomach of the few crackers she had been able to down on the walk to the office. Fry had leaped up and followed her into the bathroom. He steadied her until she said, “I’m okay Fry. Thanks.”
“I’m so sorry for talking about that gross stuff,” his voice reflected his concern. “I just didn’t think.”
“It’s okay Fry,” she touched his arm gently. “Normally it wouldn’t bother me at all.”
“Do you feel good enough to go back and talk to Venus?”
Arm in arm, they went back to their places on the couch. Venus, who had watched and listened to the whole exchange, was busy scribbling notes on her tablet. When she looked up, Fry said, “I’m worried, Venus. I don’t think this is normal.”
Venus cleared her throat, “So, Fry. You are worried that Leela’s morning sickness isn’t normal?”
“Well, I don’t know much about pregnancy,” his brow furrowed with worry, “but I never remember anybody I knew getting so sick.”
“Have you been to the obstetrician yet?”
Fry shook his head, “Nope…why would I need to go anyway?”
“Fry, I think she means me,” Leela laughingly replied. “And the answer is no, I haven’t yet. I’m going tomorrow.”
Venus nodded, making another notation on her tablet. She tapped her teeth with the stylus, deep in thought. Then she focused her attention on Leela, “Would you like Fry to go with you to the obstetrician?
Surprised, Leela hesitated a moment, “Um…I guess so. I’m not sure that Fry would want to be there for the…you know…exam.”
Venus nodded, “Probably not, but Fry would learn a lot about what he could expect over the next nine months.”
“Fry,” Venus said quietly, “Would you like to go with Leela?”
Fry’s answer came without hesitation, “Sure, I don’t want any more surprises like the last few days.”
“Yes.” Venus scribbled a quick note, “So how about work? Have you figured out what you are going to do as the pregnancy progresses?”
Leela nodded her head, “Fry’s been learning how to pilot the ship. As a matter of fact, he’s got his learner’s permit.”
“Really?” Venus sounded impressed.
Fry spoke up, “Well…I still have to learn to parallel park.”
“He’ll do fine,” Leela said proudly, “But the tough part is going to be getting a new career chip.”
Venus smiled, “I think I might be able to help.”
Simultaneously Leela and Fry said, “Huh?”
“I can certify that Fry is mentally and emotionally qualified as a pilot. Under the law, that would entitle him to a new career chip.”
“Oh snap! I wouldn’t have to go on the probulator again, would I?”
“No Fry, you wouldn’t.”
They all laughed. When they stopped, Venus spoke, “How is Amphibia adjusting?”
“She’s doing pretty well.” Leela smiled proudly, “Phibby is such a good little girl. She didn’t like me being sick, I know that. Thankfully, the last two mornings my mother has picked her up before I got out of bed…and started being sick.” She looked at Fry, “An Fry has been a big help too.” Leela reached over with her left hand and patted Fry’s leg.
Fry blushed, “Um…thanks Leela.”
Turning to face Fry, Leela kissed him gently in reply. As they drew apart she breathed, “Thank you.”
“The doctor will see you now.”
Both Leela and Fry looked up from the magazines they had been glancing through at the heavyset, middle aged receptionist. As they stood, the receptionist pointed at a door clearly marked ‘enter’ and said, “It’s right through there. Exam Room number four is the second door on the left.”
“Thanks,” Fry said as he followed Leela through the door and into the hallway. What met his eye as he entered was a long hallway with even numbered rooms on the left, odd numbered rooms on the right. He could see at least half a dozen exam rooms. Before he could make any further observations, they reached Exam Room 4 and entered.
Fry laughed when he entered. Leela was curious, “Fry, what is so funny?”
“Umm…It’s just that examination rooms haven’t changed in a thousand years. They’re still small, cold and have a bed in the middle that no human could get comfortable on.”
Leela laughed, “I guess the more some things change, the more they stay the same.”
The door slid open with a sibilant hiss to reveal a tall, leggy green eyed redhead dressed in a nurse uniform. She had an electronic tablet in her hand. Her name tag proclaimed her to be “Jane Logan, R.N.” She confirmed the tag’s veracity by stating in a crisp British accent, “Good morning,” she glanced at the tablet, “Mr. and Mrs. Fry. I am Nurse Jane Logan.” She flashed a perfect smile, “Mrs. Fry, I need to take your vital signs before the doctor sees you. Would you mind climbing up on the exam table?” She pointed at a chair in the corner, “And sir, would you please take a seat over there? It’s dreadfully cramped in here.”
Both Fry and Leela complied. Using a remote medscanner, which she passed over Leela’s forehead and chest Jane looked at the display before saying approvingly, “You have excellent vital signs, Mrs. Fry. Are you an athlete by any chance?”
“I hold a seventh degree black belt in Arcturan Kung Fu and I like to work out.” Leela couldn’t keep the pride entirely from her voice.
“It will certainly help with your pregnancy and delivery.”
A grimace flashed across Leela’s face, “I wish it would help with my morning sickness.”
“Oh, is it bad?”
Fry interjected, “Bad! Bad? She can’t even sit in the kitchen while food is being cooked! And she throws up every morning as soon as she gets up.” He looked and sounded frantic, “I just hate to see her so sick.”
Leela smiled, pleased that Fry empathized so strongly with her. She said softly, “Thanks Fry. He’s right it is pretty bad. Sometimes I think I’m going to throw the baby up.”
Nurse Jane shook her head, “That simply won’t do. I’ll put it in your record. The doctor can give you an injection that should set things right.” She pursed her lips, “If he doesn’t offer it, ask for it.”
“Thanks, I will.”
“Well, I must be off. Nurse Jane smiled, “I’ve scads of things to do.” With a cheery wave, she departed.
“Nice lady,” Fry remarked.
For some reason, Leela felt a twinge of…jealousy? She pretended to pout, “Is she nicer than me?”
Fry made a series of noises that approximated a choking turkey. Then he recovered his ability to speak, “No…NO…you are by far the nicest woman in the whole galaxy…the whole universe.”
The effect of Fry’s stammered, red faced assurances on Leela was to produce gales of laughter. She laughed so hard that tears ran off her nose. When she finally regained control she kissed Fry gently on the cheek, “Oh Fry, I love you so much.”
Mystified, Fry accepted the kiss gratefully, “I love you too, Leela.”
Once again, the door slid open. This time a short, muscular man with a shaved head stepped through. He wore an earring in his left ear and sported a handlebar moustache. Fry thought he looked like a pirate.
His voice was surprisingly soft, “Good morning Mrs. Fry…Mr. Fry. I’m Doctor Wakefield.” He looked briefly at his Wristamajigy, “So I understand you are having morning sickness, is that right?”
“Yes, it’s pretty bad.”
“So the record says. We can take care of that, I believe.” He picked up another hand-held scanner, “I’d like you to lie flat on the examination table. I need a good look inside.”
“Umm…do I have to leave?” Fry asked.
“No.” The doctor began to pass the scanner slowly over Leela’s body from head to foot. His eyes remained fixed on the read outs until he had completed several passes. Then he looked Leela in the eye, “I have nothing but good news. There are no genetic abnormalities. Your children should be born absolutely healthy.”
Leela smiled, then it hit her, “Children?”
The doctor nodded, “Twins as a matter of fact.”
Fry looked dazed, “Twins?”
The doctor’s mouth curled in a sly smile, “Twins…you know…two children.”
Leela felt sick to her stomach, “I think I may be sick.”
Fry raised his voice, “Doc, you’d better clear a path. She can nail you ten feet away.”
“I’ll do better than that.” he whipped a hypospray from his pocket and injected Leela quickly. Her nausea vanished.
Once he was certain the hypospray had taken effect, Dr. Wakefield asked, “Would you like to know their sex?”
Leela turned to Fry, “What do you think, honey?”
“Sure, why not?” He grinned, “It might help us furnish their room.”
“That’s a very good point, Fry.” Leela turned to the doctor, “Okay, we’d like to know.”
“You have twin boys.” He looked at the scanner readout, “Their DNA indicates they are fraternal twins.”
“Huh?” Fry said.
“When two eggs are independently fertilized by two different sperm cells, fraternal twins are the result. Like any other siblings, they have an extremely small chance of having the same chromosome profile. Also they may look similar, particularly given that they are the same age. However, fraternal twins may also look very different from each other.”
Leela asked, “How did I wind up with twins?”
“Well,” the passed his hand over his head, “If you came off of birth control after several years, this sort of thing happens. Also, fraternal twins are also more common for older mothers, with twinning rates doubling in mothers over the age of 35.”
Doing the math to her next possible pregnancy in her head Leela quietly said, “Oh crap.”
Ignoring the comment, the doctor plowed on, “I have some cream that will keep you from getting stretch marks. Apply it every day. It will keep your skin from breaking down as well.”
“No problem,” he took a quarto sized leather bound book from the writing stand next to the examination table. “You might want to start keeping a pregnancy journal.”
“A pregnancy journal?”
“It’s a diary of sorts.” He smiled, “My wife and I kept one for all six of our children. It helps keep memories green.”
“Thanks doctor,” Leela returned his smile, “I believe Fry and I will keep one.”
“Good,” he looked at his Wristamajigy, “as of now there’s no drinking or smoking in your future until you boys are born.” He turned toward the door, “Well, I have to be going. Stop by the front desk on the way out for your prescription for pre-natal vitamins.”
“We will, doc.” Fry answered.
As soon as he left, Leela exhaled, “Twins!”
Fry grinned in response, “Twins!”
The next three weeks went by with blinding speed. Deliveries, weekly chores and caring for an increasingly outgoing and inquisitive Amphibia kept Fry and Leela so busy that they scarcely noted the passing time. The sole reminder of her pregnancy was the daily “horse pill” pre-natal vitamin she took.
The first time Fry saw one was in their bathroom. Without thinking he blurted out, “Those look as big as the anti-pressure pills we took when we visited Atlantis.”
Wincing at the thought Leela replied, “I’m just glad the Professor isn’t my obstetrician.”
It took Fry a moment to work it out; then he began to laugh.
Feeling a burst of irritation, Leela closed her eye and exhaled. She was determined not to tear into Fry over an innocent remark. After all, he was so good with Amphibia and he didn’t let a night go by without putting the anti-stretch mark cream on her stomach…even though the doctor had said it could wait until she began to show.
Fry interpreted her silence to mean that she might not find his remark funny. Hastily shifting to the damage control mode Fry sputtered, “I’m sorry, Leela. I didn’t mean…”
“It’s okay Fry.” Leela held her hand up, palm forward as she said in even tones, “It is kind of funny when you think about it.” She opened her eye and smiled, “Besides, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. Phibby and you are at the top of my list. And am I ever thankful that the shot Dr. Wakefield gave me got rid of that awful morning sickness.”
“True that.” Fry said fervently.
She wrapped her arms around his neck, “You really are a sweet goof bag; do you know that?”
Fry grinned, “If you say so, Leela.”
“I do.” She looked into his eyes and kissed him lightly, “Who else would chase a half-crazy, violence prone mutant for years and then marry her?”
That stumped Fry, but only for a second. He shrugged, “I don’t know about that. All I know is that I got the better end of the deal.”
“You are such a sweet goof bag.”
They were jolted out of their moment by the chiming of the doorbell. “That would be Mother with Phibby,” Leela announced. She left the bedroom with Fry following closely. By the time Leela reached the door, Nibbler was capering up and down near it, a sure sign Phibby was home.
When they opened the door, it showed that both Leela and Nibbler had been correct. Munda was standing behind a smiling but tired looking Amphibia. She perked up when she saw her parents, “Hi Mommy! Hi Daddy!” Her excitement was evident, “I got all Green on my papers today!” She brandished one paper triumphantly, “And the teacher wrote ‘Beautiful’ on this one.”
“That’s really terrific honey,” Leela said as she knelt down to hug her. Fry echoed, “Really terrific pumpkin, really terrific.”
As soon as Leela released her, Amphibia rushed forward to hug Fry. That done, she spun around and hugged Munda. “Thanks Nana for taking me to school.”
“You’re welcome, Miss Mouse.” Munda brushed Amphibia’s pony tail affectionately before turning to Leela, “Well, I have to get home and cook dinner for your father.”
“Thanks, Mom…for everything.”
“It’s my pleasure, sweetie.” Munda waved her tentacle, “I’ll see you tomorrow Miss Mouse.”
“Bye Nana.” She turned to Nibbler, “Hey boy! Did you miss me?”
The door slid shut as Munda headed off for the Mutant Village. Fry scooped Amphibia up in his arms, “Want to go put your paper on the refrigerator?”
Amphibia beamed with delight, “Oh please!”
Leela stood and watched them as they posted Amphibia’s latest academic victory on the refrigerator. It’s once bare surface was now almost completely covered by paper. Unless you knew where to look, it was hard to even find the door handles. Yet somehow, Fry and Amphibia found a way to tack the paper in place.
Later that evening after Amphibia was tucked into her bed, Fry and Leela were seated on the couch watching “The Dog Whisperer’s Head.” At a commercial break Fry said, “Boy, I could have done a lot more with Seymour if this guy had been around.”
“You miss him don’t you?”
“Yeah. He was a great dog.”
“Would you like to get a dog?”
Fry thought for a moment, “Well…we do have Nibbler. Doesn’t he eat puppies?”
Leela’s brow furrowed, “Hmm…I see what you mean.”
Fry stifled a yawn, “It’s about time we hit the sack. We’ve got a big delivery to Marley 5 tomorrow.”
Leela smiled, “I’ll be to bed in a minute. I want to make an entry into our pregnancy journal.”
“Ok, but don’t take too long.”
As Fry went off to the bedroom, Leela went over to the small writing desk near the kitchen entrance. She sat down, pulled out the leather bound journal, opened it and began to write.
Another day has flown by.
Even though it’s only a single day…something is different. I felt a flutter inside me. It wasn’t gas or anything like that. I haven’t begun to show any outward signs of having two new lives growing inside me but I know they are there.
That’s all for now. I have a husband to care for! ”
The trip to Marley 5 was both routine and boring. As they disembarked on their return, Bender remarked to Fry, “Remember that we’re going to the ape fight tonight.”
Fry panicked for a second, “Umm…I have to…I didn’t tell Leela…”
Bender began to emit clucking sounds, “Buck…buck…b’gawk!”
Coming down the gangway behind them, Leela heard the exchange. Annoyed at Bender’s hectoring of Fry she considered giving Bender a push down the gangway. Instead she called out, “Fry is it ok if I go out shopping tonight? Phibby is spending the night with my parents. Dad took Nibbler to spend the evening hunting Sewer Pigs.”
“I’ll be home before ten. Then we can have some private time.” She gave Bender an arch look, “Enjoy the ape fight.”
Amy and Leela joined up for a quick trip to the apartment, where they were joined by Kelly. A short walk led them into Little Neptune, right by the Blue Moon Café. Feeling hungry, Leela suggested they stop in at the Blue Moon Café for a quick bite.
When they entered, a pert little Neptunian hostess in a blue dress said pleasantly, “Welcome to the Blue Moon Café ladies,” she smiled before standing on tiptoe to say something to Kelly in rapid fire Neptunian. Kelly answered gently, “Martha, it is very rude to speak Neptunian in front of your guests.” Kelly faced Leela and Amy, “This is my second cousin, once removed, Martha Xirrix. Martha, These are my friends, Leela and Amy. Now would you be so kind as to show us to a table?”
“Certainly, please follow me.”
Once the party was seated, Martha took their orders right away. As Martha left the table, Leela said, “I don’t see much family resemblance. I mean, she’s so short.”
Kelly smiled, “Well, she is first generation. Once we’ve been off Pluto long enough…say two or three generations…we grow to a fairly respectable height.”
Curious, Leela decided to learn a bit about Neptunians. “So tell me. I’ve always wondered. Why are there so few Neptunians on Neptune?” Leela paused for a moment, “I mean…I’ve seen Neptunians at Santa’s Ice Fortress, but don’t recall ever seeing you anywhere else on the planet.
“There’s good reason for that.” Kelly said as she brushed a strand of hair back that had fallen across her face, “We aren’t from Neptune originally. Our world was destroyed by the Voldranoi during the construction of an intergalactic highway. We came to Neptune as refugees shortly after the Earthican government terra formed the planet in 2630.”
At that moment, Martha interrupted by bringing their food. When she departed, Kelly continued. “We had two large thriving communities around the North and South poles until that fiend Santa Claus showed up. He enslaved our people around the North Pole…those that didn’t flee south or head for Earth. We still have a sizeable free community at the South Pole, but more Neptunians live in New-New York than anywhere else.”
Feeling left out of the conversation Amy chimed in, “Sounds like Puerto Ricans in Old New York. I took this class on the 20th Century at Mars University where they told us that more Puerto Ricans lived in Old New York than in Puerto Rico.”
“Hmm…” Kelly replied as she sipped her drink. “Very interesting.”
The table became quiet for a moment as the three women ate. Leela was the hungriest and finished first. Normally eating on the run never troubled her, but things were different. Leela could feel pressure building in her abdomen almost as soon as she took the last bite. Surprised and unable to control the pressure, she belched loudly. “Excuse me,” she said in an embarrassed tone. “I don’t know what happened.”
“You should peruse the booklets your doctor gave you my dear,” Kelly said. “After all, you’re going to be experiencing a lot of physiological changes as time goes on.”
Leela rolled her eye, “Oh great…what’s next…flatulence?”
“So you have been reading up on your condition,” Kelly said with a grin.
Leela blushed. Then a wicked grin crossed her face, “Now I can let Fry know what it’s like to be snug under the covers and get gassed.”
All three women laughed until they nearly cried. As they wound down, Martha arrived with the check. Kelly took it, “Here. Do let me stand the gaff.”
Amy nodded her assent. Leela protested, but Kelly insisted. With the bill paid, the three departed. Less than five minutes later they were poised outside Molly’s Maternity Shoppe. Of the three, Amy seemed to be the most excited. She turned to Leela, “I read that this is the best maternity shop in all of New-New York.”
Leela’s eyebrow raised nearly to her hairline, “Well, it certainly is expensive looking.”
Amy giggled, “No protests…this is my treat.”
“I’m only looking for a few things.” Leela looked grimly determined to hold the line on spending, “I don’t need that much.”
“You certainly are a rare bird, Leela.” Kelly gave a short bark of laughter. “I’ve never known anyone to hold back when someone else was footing the bill.” Her lyrical, British accent turned the heads of passers-by most of whom were surprised to see a Neptunian with such an accent.
Leela shrugged, “I just don’t like imposing on my friends; that’s all.
Amy gestured as she stepped into the doorway, “Come on. We’re losing precious shopping time.”
With a sigh, Leela entered the shop. What met her eye confirmed her impression of an expensive boutique. The bottom half of the walls was white wainscoting while the top half was pink striped wall paper. The display floor was artfully arrayed with a series of circular racks and square bins filled with merchandise. At various locations throughout the shop there were pairs of white gilded armchairs with glass tables between them. The carpet was spotlessly white deep shag.
The proprietress, Madame Molière approached the ladies as they stood in a knot near the door. She was a tall, dignified grey haired woman in a simple black dress who eyed them briefly, unsure if they were simply lost, sightseers, or genuine shoppers. Her instincts and experience prompted her to decide on a cool, neutral tone, “May I be of assistance?”
“She thinks we can’t afford to shop here.” Amy thought with irritation. She knew the type! So she assumed a superior tone learned on many a shopping trip with her mother, “I am Amy Wong of the Mars Wongs. I am not shopping. I am here to buy my dearest friend” she pointed at Leela, “some maternity clothes; that is, presuming you have any merchandise worthy of the name.”
The woman’s demeanor changed immediately. Becoming positively unctuous she gushed, “Of course Madame. Please take a seat.” She clapped her hands, “Suzette! Bring some tea at once.”
Amy sat down in one of the white gilded armchairs with a satisfied smile. Kelly sat down in the chair next to her, while Leela remained standing.
Suzette glided up with a tray. She was a short, fair skinned, raven haired young woman in a flowing sleeveless red dress. Setting it down between Amy and Kelly, Suzette looked to Amy first, “How would Madame like her tea?”
Amy replied with exquisite correctness, “One lump of sugar please.”
Suzette prepared the tea, handing it to Amy with practiced ease. She turned to Kelly, who responded before Suzette could speak, “I’ll take my tea neat please.” Suzette quickly poured and served the tea as asked.
Madame Molière waited until the tea was served before she asked Leela, “Where would Madame care to begin?”
“Umm…I’ve never been pregnant before; so I’m not sure where to begin.”
“May I suggest that Madame begin with the foundation garments, then progress to the outer wear?”
“Sure.” Leela nodded. “I only want to get a few things.”
“Very well.” Madame Molière paused briefly, “Is Madame planning to nurse her child?”
“Children…I’m having twins.” Leela fell silent as she began to rat her ponytail for a moment. Then she decided, “Yes…I think I’ll nurse them as often as I can.”
“Very good, Madame.” She gestured to Leela, “Please follow me and we will begin by picking out several nursing bras.”
For the next hour and a half, Leela picked out a complete set of maternity clothes. As they began ringing up the purchases, Leela was surprised. They weren’t nearly as costly as she would have expected. Still, she was very grateful for Amy’s generosity.
After saying their goodbyes to Madame Molière and Suzette, they headed for Leela and Fry’s apartment, with Leela’s treasures in tow. The entire way Leela kept thanking Amy for her generosity. Amy’s response was, “Spleesh! You’d do it for me.”
By the time they reached the apartment, it was nine thirty. After a quick group hug, Amy hailed a cab. Leela and Kelly entered the building together, chatting happily about the days to come.
Leela sat in the dingy grey walled holding cell, waiting for Fry to pay her fine. The usual people found in a police precinct were evident, ebbing and flowing around the desk sergeant’s domain. Crooks, pimps, prostitutes, lawyers and cops all mixed together in a bazaar like atmosphere.
Leela kept her head in her hands, barely able to keep from screaming, “How could I have done something so dumb!” The most embarrassing thing had been calling Fry to tell him, “Fry, I’m in jail at the 12th Precinct. Please come and get me out.”
Fry had been speechless momentarily, “Um…I’ll be right down.”
Without telling her why Fry enlisted Kelly to watch Amphibia. Then he rushed down to the precinct. By sheer luck he ran into the two arresting officers. Like most peace officer teams, one was a human and the other a robot. The human was sporting a red welt on his jaw, while his robot partner had several new looking dents.
“What happened, officers?” Fry asked as politely as he could.
“Who wants to know?” The robot replied.
“Umm…I’m Phillip Fry.”
“Is your wife Leela Fry?” The human cop asked.
The robot cop growled, “That woman is psycho.” Then he began to laugh, a harsh metallic grating sound, “Man, I’ve been on the force for twenty two years and I ain’t never seen nobody who could fight like that woman.”
The human asked, “Aren’t you afraid to be around her?”
“Huh?” Fry blinked in surprise. “Oh, being pregnant has made her a little on edge.” He rubbed the back of his neck, “But she usually doesn’t hit police officers. I don’t know what got into her.” His voice took on a pleading tone, “Can’t you guys cut her some slack? Please?”
It took him ten minutes of pleading to persuade the two cops to lower the charges from assault and battery of a peace officer to simple disorderly conduct.
“Well, that’s something,” Fry said quietly as he walked away. He waited in line to speak to the desk sergeant, a portly red-faced man with a walrus moustache and a name tag that read ‘Kogan’. Sergeant Kogan chuckled when Fry identified himself. He shouted out, “Hey Zatelli! We got a visitor for cell six.”
With a muttered thanks, Fry went back into the holding area. Officer Zatelli searched and scoped Fry before escorting him to the cell. It was a typical 4’ x 8’ holding cell with a toilet and a bed. Leela sat on the bed, her face drained of its usual life. When he stepped into the cell, Leela simply said, “Fry I don’t want to talk about it. Please just get me out of here. I feel like I’m on the damned Nimbus.”
He sat down next to her on the bed, “I promise I’ll get it done as fast as I can.”
“Then please go.”Leela patted his hand, “I feel like I’m suffocating.”
Alarmed, Fry called out, “Hey guard! I need to go get a lawyer.” As he exited Fry turned and said with as much cheerfulness as he could muster, “Don’t worry Leela. I’ll take care of everything.”
As soon as he was out of the holding area, Fry went out and found a lawyer to defend her. The lawyer, a Neptunian named Elsar, told Fry confidently, “I’ll get her off light. We’ll try to get her case heard today. That way you won’t have to post bail and come back for a trial.”
Fortunately, Elsar drew Judge Judy’s head. Throughout the brief trial, Fry watched Leela closely. He prayed to everyone he could think of – including Atheismo – that Leela wouldn’t lose her temper. After hearing the extenuating circumstances Judge Judy sentenced Leela to a fifty dollar fine, one hour of community service and a session with her psychiatrist.
As they left the precinct Fry said nervously, “Uh…Leela…I made an appointment for you with Venus today.” He swallowed audibly, “I…I hope you don’t mind.”
Much to his surprise, Leela embraced him and began to bawl.
“Hey, it’s okay!”
She continues to weep for almost five minutes, while Fry held her and murmured reassuring words. Finally, she stopped crying. “Oh Fry, I’m so upset. When am I ever going to learn to control my temper?”
“Honey, you were really provoked.” He shook his head, “Anybody would have lost their cool.”
“Do you think so?”
“Sure.” He looked at his watch, “And I bet that’s just what Venus will say, too.”
“I don’t know,” Leela looked doubtful, “But we may as well find out.”
A short tube ride later, and Leela was seated on the couch in Venus’ office.
“So,” Venus said quietly, “You’ve had quite a day, Fry says.”
“You don’t know the half of it.”
Venus sat poised to take notes, “So tell me all about it.”
“Well,” Leela began, “It all began with my mammogram appointment. When I got to the hospital I was met with this perky clipboard carrier with an ear-to-ear smile who greeted me with, 'Hi! I'm Belinda!' Before I could answer, she tilted her head to one side and crooned, 'All I need you to do is step into this room right here, strip to the waist, then slip on this gown.’ Is everything clear so far?”
“So as I look at this grinning excuse for office staff I'm thinking, 'Belinda, try decaf. This ain't rocket science.'
So, as I began to prepare myself Belinda skipped away to prepare the chamber of horrors.
Of course, they always take you right boob first. Why is that?”
“Anyway, there was no problem with my right side. With the right side finished, Belinda flipped me…literally…onto my left side and said, 'Hmmmm. Can you stand on your tippy toes and lean in a tad so we can get everything?'
‘Fine,’ I answered. I was freezing, bruised, and out of air, so why not use the remaining circulation in my legs and neck and finish me off?
My body was in a holding pattern that defied gravity with my other boob wedged between those two 4 inch pieces of square glass when we heard, then felt a zap! Complete darkness and the power went off!
'Oh, maintenance is working. Bet they hit a snag.' Belinda said as she headed for the door.
'Excuse me! You're not leaving me in this vise alone are you?' I shouted.
'Oh, you fussy puppy...the door's wide open so you'll have the emergency hall lights.’ Belinda kept going and said, ‘I'll be right back.'
Before I could shout 'NOOOO!' she disappeared.
And that's exactly how Bubba and Earl, maintenance men extraordinaire, found me half an hour later, half-naked with part of me dangling from the Jaws of Life, and the other part smashed between glass!
After exchanging polite 'Hi, how's it going' type greetings, Bubba…or possibly Earl…asked, to my utter disbelief, if I knew the power was off.
Trying to disguise my hysteria, I replied with as much calmness as possible 'Uh, yes, yes I did thanks.'
'You bet, take care ' Bubba replied and waved good-bye as though I'd been standing in the line at the grocery store.
Two hours later, Belinda breezes in wearing a sheepish grin. Making no attempt to suppress her amusement, she said, 'Oh I am sooo sorry! The power came back on and I totally forgot about you! And silly me, I went to lunch. Are we upset?'
And that was when I jammed her head between the clamps...”
Venus emitted a short laugh before regaining her professional composure. “Please go on.”
Anyway, the nurse came in next, saw Belinda and began to scream. Before I calmed down, two cops showed up. I released the rest of my tension on them.”
“I see,” Venus scribbled a few notes.
“I was doing so well with my temper.” Leela said sadly, “Now it seems like I’m back to square one.”
“Hardly, Leela.” Venus laid down her tablet, “You were under extreme provocation. Your remorse over the incident makes me very confident in reporting that you are doing fine.”
“Really.” Then she laughed, “Of course, I think I’d pick a different place to get a mammogram next time.”
Leela joined in laughing, “Oh I will Venus…I will.”
The delivery to Sigma Draconis 7 went very well. Leela was glad Fry was along because of her pregnancy related periods of sheer exhaustion. It was nice that he could pilot the ship while she rested on the couch.
Bender was increasingly curious about Leela’s transformation. He was even…well…a little less annoying.
Amy had come along because the Nimbus was on patrol in the area. Fortunately Zapp Brannigan was on leave, so Leela was spared the agony of his presence.
Amy’s visit with Kif had kept her smiling all the way back. While she and Leela were alone on the bridge, Amy had remarked, “I think you’re beginning to fill out a bit.”
Leela looked down at her breasts, “Oh…yes…just a little.”
“Has Fry noticed?”
“What do you think?” Leela replied with a wicked grin. Then she became serious, “I just hope they don’t ache all of the way through the pregnancy.”
When they arrived in the Solar System Leela let Fry pilot the ship through the Kuiper Belt. She was proud of him…and it showed.
As they passed Eris, she had him practice parallel parking. With her there to encourage him, he did well. She couldn’t help thinking about Venus’ advice on how to change Fry, “Love him into it.”
“How right you were,” Leela said quietly.
Arrival at Planet Express was the same old routine...Hermes carping about keeping costs down and the Professor waffling on about one of his experiments. Surprisingly, Hermes released them early, “Go home so you don’t use up our electricity and water…go home.”
“With pleasure,” Leela replied.
Once at home, Leela decided to weigh herself. “Oh my Lord!” she exclaimed as she looked down at the scale. “I’m a hippo!”
Fry came into the bathroom, “What did you say Leela?”
“I’ve gained so much weight!”
“Let me see.” He craned his neck.
“Uh uh, mister,” Leela hopped from the scale as if it were made from hot coals. “I can’t believe I gained that much in just the seven weeks I’ve been pregnant.”
“Well…you are pregnant.” Fry shrugged, “I mean, you’re still working out and everything.”
“That’s easy for you to say,” Leela said with a tinge of anger to her voice. “You aren’t the one whose ankles are swelling and who’s going to be so disgustingly fat that you won’t even want me.”
Fry stepped forward to embrace her, “Aw come on Leela, I’ll always want you.”
“Now way,” She pushed him away. “That’s what got all of this started.”
Feelings hurt, Fry looked down before saying disconsolately, “Sorry Leela.”
To his surprise she burst into tears, “Oh Fry. I’m such a bitch!” She threw her arms around him, “Can you forgive me?”
Gingerly Fry returned her embrace. “It’s okay.” He patted her back softly, “I read in that book that I borrowed from Kelly that this kind of thing might happen.” He paused, “Something to do with hormones.”
“You’re reading a book about pregnancy?” She hugged him even more tightly, “I know I was right to pick you for a husband.”
His confidence returning he replied with a grin, “Darned straight.”
With a speed that startled Fry, Leela went to the door, punched in the lock code and got very aggressive…in a very sexy way.
Twenty minutes later as they lay intertwined on their bed, Leela playfully tweaked one of Fry’s nipples. He feigned discomfort, “Ow…not so hard.”
“How’s this?” she repeated the action but very gently.
“Oh that’s much better.”
“Darn.” She peered at the alarm clock by the bed, “Phibby will be home in about fifteen minutes.” She playfully took his earlobe in her teeth, then whispered, “We’ll pick this up later tonight after Phibby’s asleep.”
“Sure.” Fry couldn’t help shivering with anticipation.
As Leela got up to get dressed, Fry propped himself up on one elbow to watch. He loved what he saw.
Leela couldn’t help but notice, “Fry, what are you looking at?”
He gave his best boyish grin, “The most beautiful woman in the whole universe.”
“You are such a sweet goofbag!” Her eye rimmed with tears, “I love you.”
“I love you too.”
Three weeks passed. That meant another trip to the obstetrician. It was also time for Fry’s driving test. If he passed, he would receive his county license. He was determined to pass. Leela found that she was far more stressed on the day of his exam. In order to take her mind off Fry, Kelly and Amy took Leela to lunch.
Seated in the Blue Moon Café with Kelly and Amy, Leela found herself musing about how far Fry had come in so short a time.
“Of course, I shouldn’t be that surprised at Fry. I mean, he wrote an entire opera for me once.” She shook her head, “He even swapped his hands with the robot devil to play the holophoner well enough to perform in public.”
Kelly smiled, “So how did it go?”
“It’s a long story but the short version is that I screwed it up,” she exhaled deeply. “For the longest time, I blamed everyone else but myself. I just couldn’t see that Fry was doing the best he could…and that he loved me.”
“Spleesh Leela,” Amy chimed in, “don’t beat yourself up.”
“For the longest time, I didn’t. Instead, I beat Fry up.”
“So Leela,” Kelly asked, “did you play an instrument in the opera?”
Leela threw back her head as she laughed uproariously. Amy joined in. When Leela regained her composure, she wiped a tear from her eye as she said, “No…no…my musical talents are those of an ape from the Bronx Zoo.” Her face became serious, “I guess that’s why I always found musicians so irresistible.”
“Does Fry still play the holophoner?” Kelly asked.
“He practices almost every night but his hands keep him from getting much better.”
“The holophoner teacher – Mrs. Mellinger – said that he had ‘stupid fingers.’ I guess she was right.”
“Hmm…you know there is a procedure to cure that.”
“What?” Leela and Amy exclaimed in unison.
“A good friend of my Nigel…Doctor Manus…has a practice uptown. He does hand replacement surgery…especially for people who’ve been to Handcrafters. They may do things in an hour, but they often muck it up.”
“Handcrafters?” Leela looked surprised, “Fry lost his hands to a Tyrannosaur and got them replaced at Handcrafters.”
Amy nodded, “That’s right!”
“Really?” Kelly looked thoughtful, “Maybe Fry could get a replacement set. It sounds as if he might become a real holophoner prodigy.”
“That’s going to be my present to him for Father’s day!” Leela said happily. “If he gets to be really good I’ll never be able to keep my hands off him.” She giggled and said owlishly, “Then I’ll really have to be careful.”
That remark and the look on Leela’s face caused all three women to giggle like teenagers. For a long few moments they struggled to stop. Just when it seemed they would, someone would start giggling and get the others started back up.
Leela broke the spell by standing up, “I have to visit the little girls room.” She shook her head, “I can’t seem to hold it as well as I used to.”
“That will pass,” Amy said with a smile.
When Leela returned lunch had arrived. Kelly and Amy were surprised at how hungrily Leela attacked her food - a bowl of pasta. Before they were halfway though, Leela was done. There were several dinner rolls left, which she mowed though in nothing flat.
“Wow, Leela!” Amy said softly, “I haven’t seen you eat like that since we were all snarfing down Popplers.”
“Ugh!” Leela grimaced, “I don’t even want to remember that…I almost wound up as a Poppler.”
“Oh Lord!” Kelly exclaimed, “That’s where I saw you before…on the telly!”
All three women laughed.
As the waitress cleared their dishes away, Kelly sighed. “I wish I could get pregnant.”
Amy laughed, “I’m glad I’m not pregnant.” She grinned, “My Kif does all the work.”
“I wish Fry could get pregnant.” Leela said before asking, “Kelly, why can’t you get pregnant?”
“Neptunians and humans can’t cross-breed don’t you know?” Her voice was sad, “It would be grand to have a baby.”
“Have you thought of adoption?” Amy asked.
“Nigel and I have discussed it but we’ve not been able to find an agency that would let us adopt.”
“Huh?” Leela looked startled, “I’m sure the Cookieville Orphanarium would have a child for you.”
“No.” Kelly shook her head sadly, “Human children aren’t for – how did they put it – ‘mixed couples’. Seems they believe we might confuse the child or some such rot.”
“I know the administrator out there.” Leela’s jaw set, “We’ll go pay him a visit. I’m sure I can get him to change his mind.”
“Smashing!” Kelly brightened up, “I’ll take you up on that.”
A short while later they left the café. They walked Amy to the tube station and then went on to the apartment. Kelly gave Leela a hug as she began to go up to wait for Fry, “Leela, you are a real topper. Thanks ever so much.”
“Oh, you are welcome.” She returned the hug, “I’ve seen how you take care of Phibby. It would be a crime to deny you a child.”
When Leela opened the door to the apartment her eye fell on Fry, who was stretched out on the couch watching a Demolition Derby. “Fry, you’re home. How did it go?”
Looking sad Fry shook his head, “You’ll never believe it.”
Leela found herself becoming angry at the licensing board, “I can’t believe they didn’t pass you! Dirty lousy…”
“I can’t believe…” Unable to contain himself Fry broke into a grin, “I passed! I passed on the first try!”
Leela felt a surge of joy, “Oh Fry…I’m so proud of you!”
“I just kept thinking, ‘How would Leela handle this?’ and I passed!”
“Come on,” Leela said as she took him by the hand, “Phibby is spending the night at my parents. You have a very nice reward coming.”
“Woo-hoo!” Fry shouted, “I’m a lucky pilot!”
Fry was relaxing on the couch, just enjoying a Saturday off. From where he was, Fry could see Leela examining her profile. She pulled her maternity top up and peered into the mirror. Fry could see the ‘baby bump’ clearly but he wasn’t about to say anything.
“I’m dumb, but I’m not that dumb.” He said quietly to himself.
Amphibia, who had been playing behind the couch with Nibbler, popped her head up, “What did you say, Daddy?”
“Okay, Daddy.” She turned her attention to Nibbler, “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy?”
Nibbler emitted a series of contented growls and mews in response. Amphibia cuddled him before standing up suddenly, “You are such a good boy! Wanna treat?”
Nibbler began to cavort around Amphibia’s feet yelping frantically. He followed Amphibia to the kitchen, where she dragged a chair over to the cabinet. Fry watched as she stood on the chair to reach the treat box. It amused Fry that Amphibia was able to get Nibbler to sit, roll over and beg for treats.
Distracted, Fry didn’t see Leela come up. Startled, he sat bolt upright on the couch, “Hey honey. Wassup?”
“How do you like my new maternity top?” She turned sideways, “Does it hide my baby bump?”
“Uh…umm…I like it.” He gnawed his lip for a second, “You look beautiful.”
Fry’s obvious discomfort made Leela smile. She leaned over to get eyeball to eyeballs, “Fry, I love you. You don’t have to be afraid to just say what’s on your mind.” She kissed him gently, “Besides, I bet Venus $100 that I could get through the pregnancy without beating you up.”
“Umm…that’s good to hear.”
She laughed…a deep rich laugh, “I’m heading over to the orphanage with Kelly. Do you mind watching Phibby?”
“Heck no!” He grinned, “Pumpkin and I will be just fine. We’re going to go down to the store and rent some Gameboxx 4000 games.”
Amphibia’s head swiveled in their direction, “Daddy that is so cool! Thank you!” She rushed from the kitchen, threw her arms around Fry and gave him several enthusiastic kisses.
Leela smiled, “Now you listen to Daddy, okay?”
On her way out the door, Leela called back over her shoulder, “And Fry…no Death Game 4000…no violent games…right?”
The tone of Fry’s voice told Leela that was exactly what they had planned to do, “Sure Leela…no problem.”
As soon as Leela closed the door, Fry turned to Amphibia, “Busted!”
Amphibia responded gravely, “Yeah…we’re busted.”
When Leela got to the bottom of the steps, Kelly was already there pacing nervously back-and-forth. On seeing Leela, Kelly smiled brightly, “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your haring off to the Orphanarium with me on your weekend.” She held up a set of car keys, “Nigel left us the Jaguar for our trip.”
“That was so considerate of him.”
“That’s my Nigel. He is the soul of consideration.” She turned towards the door, “Well, I suppose we may as well get to it.”
The ride to the Orphanarium showed Leela a side of Kelly she hadn’t even suspected existed. Kelly drove like she was in a road rage road race. “I’m glad I used the little girl’s room before we left,” Leela reflected as they shot past a Slurm delivery truck with microns to spare.
When they set down in the Orphanarium yard, Leela breathed a sigh of relief. As they walked toward the entrance to the building Leela turned to Kelly, “Where did you learn to drive like that?”
Kelly laughed, “Oh that! Because Nigel was posted in a few dicey locations, I learned evasive driving as a safety precaution.” She grinned mischievously, “I didn’t frighten you, did I?”
“Frightened?” Leela shook her head, “Why no.” Then she smiled, “But I think we left part of my stomach back on 42nd Street.”
Both women laughed as they ascended the steps. Leela looked about quickly before knocking on the door. The sound of a group of children clad in cast off clothes playing in the yard had drawn her attention. “Funny.” she thought, “Things don’t change much.”
Kelly rapped on the door. When no one answered the door right away, Leela rang the bell. Within a few moments, the door opened to reveal Mr. Vogel. He was out of breath and perspiring slightly. He mopped his brow, “Sorry to have taken so long.” He stepped aside, “Please come in.” Mr. Vogel smiled as he turned and hustled them down the hallway, “Let’s go to my office to talk.”
“Why the rush?” Leela asked.
“I’ll explain when we get to the office.”
As they strode down the corridors, Mr. Vogel asked, “So how is Amphibia?”
“She’s fine…couldn’t be better.” Leela felt a surge of maternal pride, “She is in school and doing so well.”
Kelly nodded, “Phibby is a wonderful little girl.”
Mr. Vogel smiled, “That’s great.”
Only once Mr. Vogel had put seated both Leela and Kelly and squeezed behind his desk did he explain, “Lately the children seem to know everything that goes on in the Orphanarium…except what’s discussed in here.” He looked about, “It’s disturbing.”
Leela giggled and then threw her head back and laughed. Both Mr. Vogel and Kelly stared at her in surprise. They waited until she got herself under control. Smiling broadly, Leela wiped a tear from her eye, “Mr. Vogel…do you have a new child…or one who is small…say about Amphibia’s size or smaller?”
“Yes we have several that fit that description.” His eyes narrowed, “What has that got to do with anything?”
“Well…I’ll tell you a secret.” She paused dramatically, “When I was here we used to put one of the smallest kids into the ventilation system whenever visitors came. Because of the way the shafts run, we were never able to get in too close to your office.” She grinned, “But we got just about everywhere else.”
Mr. Vogel shook his head, “So that explains it.” Then he laughed, “I think I’ll let them keep on thinking they are fooling me.”
Kelly cleared her throat, “So, Mr. Vogel, I understand that you’ve agreed to allow my husband Nigel and I to adopt a child?”
He nodded, “It took some doing, but Leela persuaded me it was a good idea.”
Kelly smiled at Leela before continuing, “So how do we proceed?”
“I’ll give you the paperwork and then you can fill it out with your husband.” He handed her a thick sheaf of documents, “Once you are done, bring it back here and we’ll move the process forward.”
“Is it all right if I have a peek at the available children?”
“They’re all available,” Mr. Vogel said with a smile. “Do you want to see them close up or would seeing them on the video camera do?”
“I’d advise you to look at them on video,” Leela spoke up. “I remember when prospective parents used to look us over. Lord! We felt like meat in a butcher shop window. It really stinks to get your hopes up and then have them dashed.”
“Very well, then.” Kelly said softly, “Let’s use the camera to give them the once over.”
For the next twenty minutes Mr. Vogel cycled through the cameras, giving Kelly a look at every child in the Orphanarium…27 in all. Kelly sat quietly through the whole process. When they finished, Kelly asked, “Could you go back to the playground? I saw a little blonde cavorting about on the monkey bars.”
“That would be Boudicca,” Mr. Vogel grimaced. “She is a wild one.”
“With a name like that she would be,” Kelly said with a smile. “None the less, let’s give her a second look.”
Mr. Vogel activated the playground camera. Boudicca was still near the monkey bars but she wasn’t playing. She was busily hammering the snot out of the dark-haired boy she had pinned to the ground. Mr. Vogel grabbed a microphone from a mount on the wall, flipped a switch and bellowed, “Boudicca! Let Tommy up right now!”
Boudicca looked up in surprise before hopping up. As she stood, she shook her fist at Tommy, obviously making a point. He nodded in agreement as he stood up, wiping the blood from his face.
“Wouldn’t you rather look at another child?” Mr. Vogel asked.
“No, I rather think not.” Kelly smiled, “She rather reminds me of my sister-in-law.”
Leela grinned, “I guess that explains why you and I get along so well.”
Mr. Vogel smiled, “Well, if you insist I’ll prepare as much paperwork as I can before you and your husband return.” He stood up, “Are you sure he’ll agree on your choice?”
“Why of course!” Kelly looked and sounded surprised, “Nigel gave me his assurance that whoever I picked would be fine with him!”
“Then I look forward to seeing you in the near future.”
Leela and Kelly stood in unison. Mr. Vogel ushered them out of the office without a word. Once they reached the front door, Mr. Vogel bid them farewell. As they walked to the Jaguar, Kelly turned to Leela, “I can’t thank you enough Leela. I don’t believe I’d have ever made any headway with the bureaucracy.” She paused, “You can level with me. How did you manage it?”
“It was easy,” Leela said with a grin, “I just reminded him of something I once saw when I was an inmate at the Orphanarium.”
“You blackmailed him?”
“Blackmail is such an ugly word…let’s just say I exhorted him to cooperate.” Leela laughed.
Kelly joined in Leela’s laughter, “Bloody good word…exhort.”
“Rather!” Leela said in her best English accent.
Laughing loudly both women climbed into the Jaguar and sped away.
Fry was sleeping soundly, so soundly in fact that it took Leela a few minutes of gentle tickling and shaking to awaken him. His eyelids fluttered briefly before remaining open. A smile creased his face as he took in Leela’s face. He cleared his throat, “Hey honey, wassup?”
“Fry, could you make me some ice cream soup?”
“Sure.” He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair, “I’ll make you a bowl right away. What kind do you want?”
“Umm…I’d really like some pistachio.”
“Pistachio?” He blinked, “Do we have any?”
“If we don’t,” Leela shrugged, “you can make me whatever we have.”
Fry stood up and shoved his feet into his slippers, “Anything else?”
“Pickles?” He looked confused, “Mixed in the soup?”
“No silly,” she giggled. “On the side.”
Fry grinned, “I’ll only be a minute.”
True to his word, Fry was back in less than five minutes with a bowl of pistachio ice cream soup and a side order of pickles. He watched in fascination as Leela downed one, then the other.
“Thanks Fry,” she let out a long melodious burp, “I needed that.” Then she grinned as she put her hand on her stomach, “I think the twins liked it too. They are kicking up a storm.” She reached out and Fry’s hand on her belly.
“Wow!” His eyes widened, “They really are kicking up a storm!”
“I just hope they don’t start kicking my bladder again.” Leela made a face, “They think it’s a soccer ball or something.”
“I’m gonna go clean this stuff up.” Fry gathered up the tray, “Then I’ll be back to bed.”
Leela reached out and gently brought him close. “Thanks, Fry.” She kissed him sweetly on the cheek, “You’re the best.”
“Hold that thought.” Fry grinned, “I’ll be back in a flash.”
Striding into the kitchen, Fry quickly shoved the dishes and tray into the sonic washer. He punched the buttons to get things started, then hurried back into the bedroom. When he came through the door, he could see that Leela had gone from smiling and carefree to chewing her lip in anxiety. He stopped at the foot of the bed, “You okay, Leela?”
“I’m so fat.” Her lip quivered, “I look like a beached whale.”
“You’re not fat, Leela.” Fry came around to her side of the bed, “You’re pregnant…there’s a big difference.”
“You said big!” Leela almost wailed, “I knew you thought I’m fat!”
“No…I didn’t…what I meant was…” Fry struggled to find the right thing to say. Looking Leela in the eye he said, “I love you Leela and I always will.”
“Even though I’m fat as a pig?”
“Yes…I mean no…I mean…I mean that I love you but I also mean that I don’t think of you as fat.”
Leela gave a small smile, “Oh Fry, living with me is like riding the bipolar express, isn’t it?”
“No, it isn’t.” Fry shook his head, “It’s everything I ever hoped for.”
Leela stretched out her arms invitingly, “Come here you sweet goof bag.”
The next day after work Fry and Leela attended their first birthing class. Oddly enough, when Leela said she wanted to do natural childbirth, Fry had supported her enthusiastically.
As they rode the elevator up to the fourth floor of the John Coltrane Medical Center, Fry asked, “How did you find out about this place Leela?”
“Venus told me all about it.”
The elevator doors slid open to reveal a set of frosted glass doors inscribed with “Barry White Memorial Birthing Center.” Arm-in-arm, they passed through the doors into the reception area. It had a long reception desk against the wall opposite the entrance, a scattering of chairs and couches as well as several magazine racks. Fry noticed that most of the seats were occupied by obviously pregnant women – not all human – and their significant others.
The receptionist, a short brunette with a toothy smile called out cheerfully, “Welcome to the Barry White Memorial Birthing Center! May I help you?”
“Yes.” Leela smiled at the receptionist’s enthusiasm, “We’re here for the Lamaze class.”
“Oh, you’ll just love it!” The receptionist gushed, “Most of the women here are back for their second or third pregnancies.”
“Oh Lord,” Leela muttered, “I hope it isn’t contagious.”
“I’m Darcy, by the way.” The receptionist flashed a toothsome smile as she handed Leela an electronic tablet.
“I’m Leela and this is my husband, Phillip Fry.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Darcy pointed to the tablet, “If you can fill in the forms in the next thirty minutes we’ll get you into the class that’s just starting.”
While Leela busied herself with filling in the forms, Fry shuffled through the magazines littering the tables. When he could find nothing even remotely interesting, Fry surveyed the room. None of the women looked half as pretty as Leela…who noticed Fry looking at the other women.
“Fry,” she said quietly, “What are you looking at?”
“Oh…uh…I was…” His spider senses were tingling, “I was just thinking how much prettier you are than anybody else in this room.”
Leela purred, “You are my sweet goof bag.” Then she went back to finishing the forms. Thanks to her efficiency, the forms were done with ten minutes to spare.
Darcy smiled when Leela handed her the tablet, “My goodness! You certainly are fast. You’ll be in Training Room Four.”
“Where is that?” Leela asked.
“It’s down the hall, the second door on the right.”
“Can we go in now?”
“Oh, of course.”
Fry followed Leela down the hall, through the door and into the room. Four couples were already in the room, three human and one Neptunian. The women all appeared to be at about the same stage of pregnancy as Leela.
The woman closest to Fry leaned forward and spoke to Leela, “Hi!” The woman flashed a smile, “I’m Marcia! Is this your first time?”
Leela smiled back, “I’m Leela and yes…this is my first time.”
“This is my third.” Marcia giggled, “My husband Alan” she pointed to the man seated next to her, “just can’t seem to get enough of me.”
Leela, Fry and Alan all laughed…each for their own reason.
“How many are we going to have?” Fry whispered to Leela, “Because I just can’t get enough of you.”
Leela growled, “I love you but I think I’ll wait on making that decision.”
Fry nodded and laughed quietly.
While they had been talking, the instructor came into the room. She was a tall, fair-skinned blonde who was wearing a light blue blouse and jeans. At the front of the room she turned to face the class, “Good evening everyone. My name is Lisa and I’ll be the facilitator for this class.” Lisa paused to survey her students before continuing, “I look forward to getting to know you all over the next few months. Some of you I know already…some of you are new. So why don’t we begin with introducing the new people.” Lisa pointed to Fry and Leela, “Why don’t we begin with you?”
Leela blinked in surprise, “I’m…I’m Leela and this is my husband, Philip Fry.”
A chorus of greetings rang out. Lisa asked, “Is this your first pregnancy?”
“Yes,” Leela smiled impishly, “Although we have a little girl at home…it’s a long story.”
Lisa’s eyebrows almost knitted together as she tried to digest Leela’s reply, “I look forward to hearing it.”
Over the next few minutes, the other couples introduced themselves. In addition to Alan and Marcia, there were Bob and Janet - going through their first pregnancy; Peter and Patricia – going through their second; and the Neptunian couple Floxx and Flora – going through their fourth.
Lisa dove right into the subject matter. Fry found it interesting, but a bit difficult to keep up. He was determined to be a good coach. When they began the breathing exercises, Fry thought, “Breathing exercises? Why practice breathing? Doesn’t that come naturally?”
Lisa seemed to be reading his thoughts, “So why do you ladies need to practice breathing, you might wonder?” She paused, “It helps you to maintain focus during contractions. The coach breathing along with you also helps maintain focus as well.”
The first exercise was in a breathing technique known as “He-he’s”. Lisa reminded them, “Remember to breathe regularly but slowly. We’ll be watching a holo-projection of a couple using the techniques during the birthing process. It should help you to learn it quickly.”
The ladies lay on their backs on mats while their husbands sat at their sides. Fry held Leela’s hand and whispered, “Don’t worry, I’ll be the best coach ever.”
At first, through concentrating Fry managed to keep a slow, steady rhythm. However, as the holo-projection progressed, he found his concentration failing as he began to think of Leela actually giving birth. With loss of concentration came loss of rhythm. In less than two minutes, he hyperventilated.
The sound of Fry slumping to the floor brought Leela to his side. She shook him, “Fry…Fry…are you okay?”
He sat up and ran his hand through his hair, “Yeah…I’m OK.” He said sheepishly, “I…I guess I forgot to slow my breathing down. I guess I’m turning out to be a lousy coach.”
“Don’t worry,” Leela hugged him, “I know you’ll be the best coach ever.”
“Thanks Leela.” Fry kissed her gently on the cheek. He looked around the room. No one seems to have noticed his passing out, so he whispered, “I guess we ought to get back to work.”
Leela nodded and lay flat again. There were no further incidents for the rest of the evening. When the class broke up, Fry and Leela decided to walk home rather than take the tube.
The walk was uneventful. When they arrived at the apartment they found Kelly was seated in her downstairs parlor. Leela smiled, “Good evening Kelly! Has Phibby behaved herself?”
“Oh my word,” Kelly rose. “Phibby is a love…and a good influence on my Boudicca.”
“That’s nice to hear.”
“Nigel has them out getting some ice cream.” She gestured toward the couch, “Care for a spot of tea?”
“Well…” Leela looked at Fry who nodded, “Sure. We’d love to.”
They sat down and Kelly poured the tea – with four lumps of sugar for Fry. As both Leela and Fry sipped their tea, Kelly spoke up, “Did I mention that Nigel and I were heading over to London in a month to introduce Boudicca to our families?”
“Yes you did,” Leela replied.
“Well, Nigel and I were wondering if Phibby might come along with us.”
Fry sat straight up, “Huh?”
Leela’s replied with, “London?”
Kelly smiled, “Sorry to drop it on you like that, but Boudicca simply loves Phibby.”
“And Phibby adores Boudicca,” Leela said quietly.
“Right,” Kelly took a sip of tea, “I thought that taking Boudicca to London so soon after we’ve adopted her might cause her some anxiety. Then my Nigel came up with the idea of bringing Phibby along to provide a sort of emotional cushion.”
Leela thought for a moment, “What do you think, Fry?”
“I think it’s a neat idea, but I’d sure miss her.”
“We’ll ask her.” Leela paused before continuing, “If she wants to go, she can go.”
“Smashing!” Kelly grinned, “That’s all we can ask.”
In spite of her very obvious baby bump, Leela was still at the helm of the Planet Express ship as it sliced through the atmosphere. Up ahead through the broken cloud cover, Leela could make out the venerable silhouette of the Seattle Space Needle. Conscious of Fry’s approach, Leela reached up and touched his hand as it came to rest lightly on her shoulder.
“You are the universe’s best pilot,” he breathed in her ear.
In response she squeezed his hand gently and breathed, “Thanks. You’re not so bad yourself.” She smiled as she looked around the crowded bridge of the Planet Express Ship. Everyone she really cared about was there, her parents, Amy and Kif, Hermes and LaBarbara, the Professor and Bender.
Zoidberg was there too.
It had been Fry’s idea to have a weekend outing while Amphibia was in England with Nigel, Kelly and Boudicca. Leela had picked the location.
Banking the ship to the north, Leela scanned the heads up screen for navigational data. “Five minutes to landing,” Leela said in her captain’s voice. “Take your landing stations everyone.” Then she turned to Fry, “Honey, would you mind landing the ship?”
Slightly surprised Fry stammered, “No…no…not at all.” He confidently took the pilot’s seat while Leela squeezed behind the Engineering console.
Bender looked at Fry, “Is this going to be any rougher than your usual landing?”
Fry said quietly, “Piece of cake.”
“I don’t know Fry, you sure have become heavy handed since Leela took on cargo,” Bender said with a laugh.
“You shut up!” Leela snapped as she glared at Bender.
Subdued, Bender waited a moment before heading off to his cabin muttering to himself. His usual landing station was occupied by Amy and Kif. Zoidberg followed Bender, “Bender my old friend, wait for me!”
The Professor had already departed for his cabin, muttering under his breath about something or other. With quiet excuses Hermes and LaBarbara squeezed onto the couch with Morris and Munda.
As they looked out of the windscreen, they could see rolling hills covered with forest that stretched as far as the eye could see. Rivers and streams wound through the landscape, punctuated by lakes and ponds. In the near distance was a red square of earth with several shiny objects set upon it.
Morris leaned over and whispered to Munda, “It sure is green down there.”
Munda simply nodded in reply, not trusting her voice. Her stomach had been in knots the entire way from New-New York. Although she had ventured onto the surface many times, flying was a new – and unnerving – experience.
Morris on the other hand found flight exhilarating. He squeezed Munda’s tentacle reassuringly, “Don’t worry. Our kids know what they are doing.”
The ship punched through the morning cloud cover giving Fry a visual on the parking lot they were going to use as a landing zone. His face was set as he worked his way through the landing sequence. He brought the ship in for an almost perfect landing, using just a bit too much thruster in the final approach.
Fortunately, everyone knew that that slight bit of extra hang time meant “strong, positive contact with the ground.” Everyone – that is – except Morris and Munda. When the ship thumped to a rest, Morris looked a bit concerned while Munda turned pale and emitted a muffled, “Eek!”
Leela’s reaction was typical for this stage in her pregnancy. She bolted for the closest bathroom, just beyond the aft bridge bulkhead. The landing had set the twins off, who got busy playing Galactic Cup soccer with her bladder. Business done, she returned to the bridge to help Fry in powering down the ship and locking up.
While Fry and Leela secured the ship, everyone else meandered down the forward landing gear. They stood in a loose gaggle in front of the ship, waiting for the cargo elevator to lower. When it did, everyone went and collected their gear. Fry, who was operating the elevator, tossed his and Leela’s gear onto the ground. He looked at Morris, “Watch our stuff, will you dad?”
Once Fry ascended, Leela came up and linked arms. “Are you ready for a nice quiet vacation?”
Fry nodded, “I just hope no one is out looking for human horn.” He shuddered at the thought.
Leela hugged him closer, “Don’t worry, they have an orbiting anti-poacher satellite system now.” She giggled, “Once the poachers switched from noses to wing-dang-doodles, the enforcement effort got serious.”
“Whatever.” Fry shrugged, “I’m just glad that Bender has his own darned tent and that I’m not leaving camp after dark.”
In order to break the tension she could feel building, Leela nudged Fry gently, “I packed your footie pajamas.”
“Huh?” Fry stopped in his tracks, “Aren’t we…you know…sleeping together in the sleeping bag like you said earlier?”
“Of course we are,” Leela chuckled, “I just couldn’t help teasing you.”
When they reached the bottom of the landing gear ladder, everyone else was ready to go. Fry looked around at the parking lot. It was the same packed red clay surrounded by a post and rail fence he remembered from their last trip. The hover sign proclaiming “Duraflame National Forest” still hung near the exit as well. The large granite monument next to it was new. The inscription simply read, “Home of Sasquatch.”
A brief hike through the woods brought them to their campsite by a stream. It was the same site where, years before, many of them had first beheld Bigfoot. “This place hasn’t changed at all,” Hermes remarked as they began unpacking their backpacks.
It only took a few moments for them to set up a semi-circle of tents against the trees. At the upstream end the Professor had a tent to himself. Hermes and LaBarbara pitched their tent next in line, followed by Amy and Kif, Morris and Munda, Fry and Leela and finally – Bender and Zoidberg.
Soon they had a fire going. Everyone gathered around the fire, sitting in a loose circle.
Morris gave a toothy, vertical smile. “All that flying and hiking sure worked up an appetite.”
Munda smiled, “Okay, I get the hint.” She rose to her feet. “I think I’ll cook up some lunch. Anyone hungry?” A chorus of “Yes!” came from around the campfire. LaBarbara stood up as well, “I’ll give you a hand dere, eleven is a lotta mouths to feed.”
Leela spoke up, “Ten mouths…Bender doesn’t eat much.”
“But he sure can drink,” Fry chimed in.
Bender joined in, “You ain’t seen nothing, skin tube! I’m gonna drink until I reboot! Wooo!” His remark provoked a ripple of laughter.
When the laughter died Amy looked at Kif, “Kiffie, why don’t you gather some firewood? It looks like the Park Service didn’t leave too much for us to use.”
“Of course my love.” Kif got up, “Anyone want to help?”
Zoidberg bounded to his feet, clicking his claws. “I’m your man! I’ve got the perfect firewood choppers!”
Fry stood up too, “I’ll go. The more the merrier.”
Together the three trudged off into the cool dark forest. In a short time, they had a routine going. Fry selected the wood, Zoidberg cut it into pieces and Kif stacked it up. Pretty soon, they had an armload for each of them. Picking it up, they headed back to camp with Fry in the lead.
Kif cleared his throat, “Uh…Fry…Amy told me about what happened on your last visit here. Does it worry you to be back here?”
“Not too much.” Fry shrugged, “I mean…I don’t think anyone is going to harvest my horn.” He smiled, “Besides, what are the chances that I will run into anyone who knows me way out here?”
Zoidberg shifted his wood under his arm and pointed up the trail with his free claw, “Like them?”
Fry looked where Zoidberg was pointing and gave a startled “Eep!” Striding down the trail arm-in-arm were Lrr and Ndnd! Before Fry could follow his instincts and take off through the underbrush like a startled chipmunk, Lrr roared out, “If it isn’t Fry! What a pleasant surprise!”
Lrr gave a toothy grin, “Ever since Ndnd and I came here, we’ve renewed our romance.” He bowed slightly, “And we owe so much of that to you.”
“Oh wow.” Fry relaxed although he was still confused, “Glad I could help.”
Ndnd edged forward slightly, “We are supposed to meet the Sasquatch nearby this evening.” She cocked her head slightly, “Have you seen them?”
Fry shook his head, “No…wait…them?”
“The Sasquatch found a mate last year.” Ndnd patted Lrr on the shoulder, “And my honey pie was the matchmaker.”
Lrr kicked at the dirt with his foot, “Aw…it was nothing.”
Fry spoke up, “I’m married now, too. We’re camped just upstream.” Would you like to stop in?”
“If Ndnd wants to.”
Ndnd nodded, “Of course. We’d love to.”
That said the group headed to the campsite. Since Lrr and Ndnd were following just behind Fry, their arrival created some excitement. Leela ducked into the tent to retrieve her plasma rifle. At the sight of the Lrr and Ndnd all she could think was that in more than one encounter with the Omicronians either she or Fry had almost wound up on the dinner menu…or worse.
When Fry saw Leela emerge from their tent with rifle in hand he called out, “Everything’s cool! Don’t worry! It’s all good!”
Leela lowered her rifle, then turned and set it inside the tent.
Fry came up, deposited his load of firewood, and gave Leela a hug, “It’s okay Leela. Can you believe it?” He laughed softly as he gestured in Lrr and Ndnd’s direction, “They give us credit for them getting back together again.”
“Yup.” He nodded, “You’ll never believe what else.”
“The Sasquatch got married!” Fry shook his head, “Isn’t that a hoot?”
“It certainly is,” Leela replied with a smile, “but let’s go join the others.”
Clustered around the campfire, they all soon became embroiled in animated discussion. A new fellowship was forming.
It seemed like just a few minutes had passed when the Sasquatch and his mate shambled up. The male Sasquatch held up his hand and emitted a series of grunts and growls. Lrr stood up and held out his hand, “It’s good to see you, Harry.”
Harry replied with another series of grunts and growls.
Bender gave a bark of laughter, “Harry…that’s a good name for a Sasquatch.” Before he could say anything further, Leela gave him a scathing look. Prudently, Bender fell silent.
Leela spoke up, “Don’t you speak Sasquatch, Amy?”
Amy shrugged, “I speak Yeti…they’re pretty similar.” Smiling, Amy strode over to the Sasquatch pair. Then she started emitting a series of grunts, barks, yips and growls.
Eyes wide, both of the Sasquatches began to talk at once. For a few minutes, everyone present stood mute and listened to the back and forth conversation.
Amy turned to Leela, “They say I speak Sasquatch with an Asian accent. Harry said he remembers us from our last visit.” She giggled, “He asked if anyone has tried to harvest your horn lately, Fry.”
“Um…no…tell him thanks for asking.” Fry scratched his butt unconsciously, “Have they had much trouble with hunters?”
Amy translated Fry’s question, listened to the response and replied, “Harry says that they haven’t had any hunters in a long time. Those damned Paparazzi are another matter.”
Fry looked confused, “Huh?”
Leela whispered, “Photographers.”
“It sure is a tough language to speak…”Amy cleared her throat, “especially when you haven’t practiced in a while.”
“I forgot,” Leela slapped her forehead, “this thing on my wrist has a universal translator!”
“Well, in my condition I can’t remember everything.”
Ndnd gave Leela a quizzical look, “I noticed you have put on weight, are you gravid?”
“Are you ready to spawn?”
“Um…I’m pregnant…if that’s what you’re asking.”
Lrr said quietly, “Ndnd, don’t you remember that humans are very low volume, slow breeding creatures?”
“Oh, sorry,” Ndnd gave an embarrassed smile – which came off looking like a ferocious display of her four inch canines. “I just assumed you spawned like we do. How silly of me.”
Lrr gave Ndnd a hug, “We all make mistakes, dear.”
“Why don’t you boys go do some male bonding?” Ndnd gave Lrr a pat on his arm, “I’m sure our girl talk will just bore you tears.”
Lrr looked around, “What do you guys say? A little campfire…some drums…a little hair of the dog?”
Fry screwed up his face, “Dog hair? I don’t…”
The Professor broke in with, “Fry you dope! He means some adult beverages!”
“This is perfect!” The Professor rubbed his bony hands together, “This is a perfect time to test my Sobriety Suppository!”
Everyone looked at the Professor with looks ranging from utter amazement to downright disgust.
Amy spoke first, “Blech! What is it with you and suppositories anyway?”
Hermes followed up with, “Your whole fascination with suppositories is sick mon. Dat road wasn’t built for two-way traffic…no, no, no.”
“You’re all a bunch of prudes!” The Professor waived his hand in a gesture of dismissal, “You’ll be begging me for one of my Hangover Suppositories in the morning.”
“Not me,” Fry shook his head vigorously, “That pressure thingy was enough for me.”
Kif leaned over and whispered to Amy, “Thank goodness I don’t have anywhere to put one.”
Bender hooted with laughter, “I don’t care what you skin tubes stick or where you stick it! Let’s go drinkin’!”
The men gave a cheer and moved off, following Lrr. Leela called out, “Fry, please don’t drink too much.”
Fry turned and waved, “Don’t worry Leela! I won’t get too snockered.”
After the men moved out of sight, the women busied themselves with setting up a campfire and arranging themselves around it. Ndnd occupied the position farthest from the stream. From her right around the fire sat Leela, the female sasquatch, Amy, LaBarbara and Munda.
Settled in, Leela leaned forward and looked at Amy, “Would you ask the lady Sasquatch to talk so I can tune my universal translator?”
Before Amy could utter a word, the female sasquatch said in perfect English, “The name is Harriet, and I speak English without a translator thank you.”
All of the humans around the fire stared at her in surprise. Leela recovered her voice first and asked, “Where did you learn English?”
“Oregon State University.”
“You attended Oregon State?” LaBarbara asked.
“No.” Harriet shook her shaggy head, “Research project.”
Amy looked curious, “You were a researcher on a project?”
“Nope,” Harriet grinned, “I was the project!”
Munda chimed in, “Oh how awful!”
“It wasn’t so bad.” Harriet gave a deep throated chuckle, “Three meals a day, a nice soft bed, plus they treated me like a queen.”
Leela found herself curious, “Does Harry speak English too?”
“Oh yes. He learned it from listening to tourists, Sasquatch hunters and daytime TV. He’s ashamed of his accent though,” she shrugged, “but he actually has the larger vocabulary.”
Leela felt curious, “Ndnd, where did you learn English?”
“From your TV transmissions,” She grinned. “It took us a while to figure out exactly what was being said but eventually we could even understand Jay Leno monologues.”
“Impressive,” Munda chimed in.
“What brings you here?” Ndnd asked Leela, “Is this your spawning grounds?”
“No,” Leela shook her head, “We have a slightly different way of producing our children.”
Eyes glittering, Ndnd leaned forward, “How do you manage it?”
“Umm,” Leela flushed scarlet, “we…well…we produce…uh…sexually.”
LaBarbara stepped in, “You see Ndnd, it takes a mon and a woman joining together to produce a child.”
“The mon plants his seed inside the woman to fertilize an egg.” La Barbara spoke rapidly, “If the timing is right, they produce a child.”
“After the mon and woman get together the child grows inside the mother for nine months or so.” LaBarbara smiled, “Then the baby is born and the parents spend the next twenty years helping it to grow up.”
“That seems terribly inefficient.”
“How do you reproduce?” Munda asked.
“I think you know that we use nursery planets. After all, you came and ate several billion of our children.”
“Sorry about that,” Leela replied sincerely.
“It really wasn’t that big a deal.” Ndnd shook her head, “You see we females lay up to one hundred thousand eggs apiece in the birthing pits. Then the males come later and fertilize them.”
Leela pulled a face, which caused Ndnd to laugh. “It may seem strange to you, but it suits us. Anyway, after the eggs are fertilized they grow into what you called popplers. Until they become sentient, we do not consider them children. Once they awaken, they enter a vegetarian state. In their billions, they devour all of the roddenberries on the planet.” Ndnd paused, “Then they become omnivores and begin to eat each other.”
All of the women gasped in unison.
“It’s nature’s way,” Ndnd shrugged. “Only the strongest survive. Out of a brood of several billion only ten or fifteen thousand survive. The whole process from fertilization to young adulthood takes only 26 weeks.”
Leela raised her hand like a student in class, “Didn’t the little poppler Jrr say that they eat their mothers?”
“They do…” Ndnd nodded, “if we’re dumb enough to go to the planet until their numbers are down to a manageable level.”
Amy said something under her breath in Cantonese, “How do you manage them at all?”
“We just throw out some raw meat. Once they are full, we bring them home and begin the process of integrating them into society.”
“So that’s why you didn’t wipe us out for eating most of the popplers on your nursery planet,” Leela’s face brightened, “as long as there were a couple million popplers left we still didn’t wipe out a generation of your young.”
“You’re right,” Ndnd nodded, “We just didn’t understand your alien reproductive cycle at first. The single earthling Lrr ate really was the equivalent of all of our young that you ate. ”
“I remember seeing him on TV,” Munda exclaimed, “He was a nasty looking hippie.”
Ndnd threw her head back and roared with laughter, “Lrr kept having flashbacks for months after eating the greasy one.” She reflected for a moment and laughed uproariously, “And did he ever give Lrr gas!”
A ripple of laughter passed around the fire, with Munda and LaBarbara laughing the hardest.
“My mon could match Lrr any day!” LaBarbara grinned, “He could knock a green snake out of tree at ten paces.”
“No one could pass My Morris in methane production!” Munda giggled. “He makes the sheets flap!”
“Why are men like that?” Harriet asked. “I mean, Harry has the same problem.”
“Kif doesn’t have that problem,” Amy said with a smug look on her face. “He’s perfect in bed.”
Everyone began to giggle simultaneously. It took five minutes for them to get control of themselves.
“So tell me Amy, is it just his lack of gas that makes him so attractive,” Leela’s eyebrow arched suggestively, “or does he have other talents?”
This provoked gales of laughter from everyone except Amy whose voice was laced with irritation, “Spleesh! Can we talk about something other than gas?”
“I suppose so,” Leela said with a smile, “does anyone have any ideas?”
Ndnd spoke up, “I was wondering what it is like to carry your young within you?”
Munda laughed, “It’s nine months of changes…some good…some bad.” She smiled at Leela, “But at the end you have a little bundle of joy to love…if you’re lucky.”
“You’re right about the changes, Mom!” Leela leaned forward, “So far I’ve had swollen boobs, mood swings, the kids kick my bladder like it’s a tetherball, and I have to pee every time I turn around.” She arched her eybrow, “But at least I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant.”
“I’ve only had da one,” LaBarbara said with a smile, “but dat was enough for me.”
“Harry and I hope to begin a family soon,” Harriet offered. Everyone looked at her in surprise.
“Do you bear your young?” Ndnd turned to look at Harriet.
“How long is your pregnancy?” Amy ventured.
“That’s close to our nine months.” Leela got to her feet, “Excuse me, but I have to take a bio-break.”
Amy stood up, “I’ll go with you. I never should have had so much to drink.”
Leela picked up a flashlight, “The boys set the ladies room up this way,” she shined the light down the trail they had come down to the campsite.
As soon as Amy and Leela left the flickering light cast by the campfire, Ndnd rose and arched her back, “I must be getting old. Sitting never bothered me before.”
Munda stood up, followed by LaBarbara and Harriet. “I know what you mean,” Munda smiled as she shook her head. “Time seems to just sneak up on you, doesn’t it?”
“Sneak up?” LaBarbara gave a short laugh, “Wit me it seems like one day I was a teenager…then I was a middle aged wife with a teen age kid.”
“My mother used to say it’s better than the alternative,” Harriet observed.
All of the women nodded in agreement.
At that point Leela came into the circle again, followed closely by Amy. Everyone sat down again.
“You know,” Leela said to no one in particular, “I sure will be happy when I can housebreak Fry into putting the toilet seat down. That unexpected contact with cold porcelain at night stinks…especially when I’m half asleep.”
All of the ladies laughed for a good minute…except for Amy, who merely smiled.
When the laughter subsided, Leela pointed into the sky where the Milky Way was blazing forth in all it’s glory. “Look at all of those stars.” Leela’s voice was tinged with wonder, “No matter what perspective I see them from, they never cease to amaze me.”
“The stars on Omicron Persei 8 are different, yet they have always moved me as well.” A thoughtful look crossed Ndnd’s face, “I wonder what the men are up to? It’s been too quiet.”
“Eh!” Munda shrugged, “They’ll be fine.”
While the ladies conversed, Lrr led the men on a winding track through the forest. One by one they entered a clearing bisected by a clear, cold steeply banked stream. Barely visible through a veil of mist, nestled against the trees on the far side of the clearing sat Lrr’s spaceship.
Lrr stopped on the near bank and pointed to where some wood was already piled nearby, “I was planning to have a camp fire session with Harry tonight. So we’ve already got wood for a fire. I’ll go get my drums and some more booze from the ship.” His eyes flickered briefly over each man until they lit on Harry. Lrr smiled, “Harry, will you start the fire?”
Harry nodded, “Sure.”
“Need some help, Lrr?” Bender asked while thumping his chest cavity, “I’m custom made for transporting booze.”
Lrr nodded, “Okay.” Without another word, he turned and splashed across the stream. Bender followed in his wake.
While Harry busied himself making a fire Kif said, “I was in Webelos once. Let me help you with the fire.”
“Sure…get some kindling, would you?”
Morris looked curious, “How did a Sasquatch learn to make fire?”
“We’re reclusive, not stupid.”
Not inclined to help with the fire, Fry scratched his butt and lay down on the grass. He looked up at the moon, thinking about when he had first met Leela. Then he remembered the human horn hunters. He jumped back to his feet. “Get the fire going. I don’t like the darkness in these woods. Fry looked around nervously, “Give me the lights of the city any time.”
“Oh fuff!” The Professor said dismissively, “What a baby!” He gave a senescent cackle, “Is baby worried about the nasty old horn hunters? All of the monsters in these woods are going to have a drink with us!”
“I don’t care. I’m just a city boy.” Fry turned his back on the Professor and stared off into the mist. Then he felt his skin begin to crawl. Barely visible in the moonlight, something was shambling along the path they had followed from the campsite. At first, Fry couldn’t even speak he was so frightened. Then he managed to stammer, “S…snap! What is that?”
The Professor peered into the gloom, “I don’t see anything.”
Fry blinked. The figure was no longer there, “But I saw something!”
“Baby needs a night light so he won’t be scared!” Without another word the Professor turned and walked to where the fire was beginning to cast it’s light.
“Darn it! I saw something!” Fry followed the Professor, “I tell you there’s something out there!”
Hermes sat up, “Ya’ crazy honkie, shut up! You’re givin’ me da creeps.”
“There’s something out there.” Fry pointed, “Look!”
This time Hermes saw the mist shrouded figure as well. “You’re right.” He hopped to his feet, “It looks familiar.” Then he headed off into the mist.
“Hermes don’t go!”
A cloud obscured the moon for a moment and when it re-emerged, Hermes was lost in the mist. A few seconds later the campers heard Hermes give a shrill, short scream…then silence.
“Hermes,” Kif shouted, “are you OK?”
The sound of wheezing and slobbering came from the mist. Harry picked up a stick to use as a club, “Guess I’ll go find him.”
Before he could head out, the moon once again ducked behind a cloud. When the moon emerged, the familiar figure of Dr. Zoidberg stood – like a rabbit pulled from a hat – before the astonished campers. At his side was Hermes, who appeared to be favoring his left ankle.
“Hello!” Zoidberg said cheerfully. “I was busy eating some leftovers at the dumpster near the parking lot when I realized you were gone. Leela showed me the trail you took, so here I am.”
Hermes limped over to the fireside and sat down, “This filthy crab helped me get back. I fell in a golden marmoset burrow.”
The sound of splashing water drew everyone’s attention to where Lrr and Bender were crossing the stream. Lrr had an aluminum keg under each arm, while Bender was making distinct sloshing sounds climbing the bank.
“Time to party!!!” Bender bellowed. “I’ve got over 20 gallons of Omicronian booze and Lrr has another 40.” Bender’s joy was infectious, “I’m going to drink until I reboot!”
Morris laughed, “Can you do that?”
Bender shrugged, “I’ve never done it before fleshwad, but I plan to try.” He opened his chest cavity, pulling out five large jugs one after the other. He set them down by the two kegs Lrr had planted near the fire.
Fry was curious, “Lrr, what is that stuff?”
“The jugs are Xhevass and the kegs are Zakk.”
The Professor added, “Xhevass is Omicronian Whisky and Zakk is Beer.”
“Let’s get this party started!” Bender bellowed, “Whoo!” Snatching up one of the jugs, he drained it.
“Easy with that!” Lrr shouted, “It’s expensive!”
Instead of making a retort, Bender began to shake and tremble. Then he emitted a monstrous fiery belch that temporarily blinded everyone with it’s brilliance. When everyone could see again, Bender was stretched out, motionless, with his eye visor lowered.
Fry panicked. He knelt next to Bender and began to shake him, “Bender…Bender…speak to me!”
“Professor,” Fry was frantic, “do some of your science stuff. That stuff killed Bender!”
“Fry you dope, Bender can’t die.’ The Professor shuffled over, “He’s not alive.”
“To me he is!”
With several loud cracks and pops, the Professor knelt at Bender’s side. After a moment he straightened up, “He’s not dead. He’s rebooting.”
“Rebooting.” The Professor struggled to his feet, “Our robot companion apparently overloaded his circuits by ingesting too much alcohol at one time.”
Bender sat up suddenly, shook his head, opened his eye visor and said, “I always thought that drinking until you rebooted was a figure of speech!” He jumped to his feet and began to dance around, “That was freaking awesome! Whoo! Yeah Baby!”
Everyone laughed heartily as they watched Bender capering about madly.
“I want more!” Bender bellowed as he headed for the stack of booze.
Lrr stepped in front of him, blocking the way. He reached out and took Bender by the shoulder, “You’re going to have to slow down there, tin man. You just had enough to make five Omicronians tipsy.”
“I can’t help it if Omicronians can’t hold their liquor.”
Lrr roared with laughter, “You are an impudent little bastard!” He whacked Bender on the back, “You get one more jug, so make it last!”
Bender grabbed up a jug, “Screw moderation!” Then he upended the jug, draining it just like the last one. The results were the same…shivering and shaking…a fiery belch…and collapse.
“That Xhevass is some potent stuff,” Morris observed.
Lrr nodded, “Zakk is a butt-kicker, too.”
“Well, let’s have some.” Fry said impatiently.
Lrr laughed. Without a word, he handed out drinking mugs to everyone. Within a few moments, they were all sitting around the fire, drinking contentedly.
Fry found that he didn’t much care for the fiery taste of Xhevass, but he really liked Zakk. It reminded him of beer but it had a slight taste of wood and a hint of a floral aftertaste. As a result, he drank quite a lot of it.
Harry was swilling down large quantities of Zakk followed by Xhevass chasers. Lrr was matching him, drink for drink. Neither seemed much worse for the wear even after over an hour of non-stop drinking.
Hermes tried to keep up, but he was already near the point of total inebriation as well. No swillmeister, Zoidberg had passed out after only a few rounds. Morris followed Zoidberg into oblivion by a few drinks.
As the evening wore on, Fry became conscious of a bad odor that would occasionally drift past. He finally became curious enough to try and find it’s source. To his surprise, it turned out to be Kif.
Although human liquor had no effect of Kif, the same could not be said of Xhevass. It made him tipsy but also caused his skin to emit copious amounts of almost pure methane.
“I’m…sorry…” Kif had difficulty forming his words. He was already in his cups, “My…my skin is a bit…” he giggled, “stinky.”
Fry stood up and almost fell down again. “Wow! That stuff is strong!” he blurted out. He stumbled over to a spot upwind of Kif, then plopped down heavily.
The Professor was watching everyone carefully. Thanks to his Sobriety Suppository, he was feeling no pain in spite of matching Lrr and Harry’s booze consumption.
He watched in amusement as Lrr came up to Fry and sat down. Lrr put his huge right arm heavily on Fry’s shoulder, “If it weren’t for you and…what’s her name?” He paused for a moment, “Oh yeah, Leela…If it weren’t for you two Ndnd and I wouldn’t be so happy now.” He bared his teeth in a frightening display of friendliness, “I love you man!”
Fry’s alcohol fogged brain registered momentary alarm. Was Lrr coming on to him? Then the full impact of Lrr’s words sunk in. The words of an old beer commercial flitted through his head. He giggled, “But you’re not getting my Bud Light!”
Lrr was confused for a moment, then he remembered the same commercial and began to laugh uproariously.
As their blood alcohol levels rose, memories became fuzzier…dissolving into smaller and smaller patches where memory was solid…with gaps between the solid ground growing bigger until blackness came.
One by one, all of the men fell into a deep alcoholic slumber, all save the Professor...who simply fell asleep.
Leela did not sleep well that night. For that matter, neither did Amy. Both were used to having their husbands next to them as they slept. Leela was used to having Fry massage her feet as well as getting a good neck and back rub from him before falling off to sleep.
Amy missed her nightly round of cuddling with Kif. He filled a void in her soul that no one ever had before. Without Kif, Amy was as restless as a panther in heat.
Ndnd and Munda had been married long enough that an occasional night alone was not too great a burden. Harriet and Harry always slept in separate locations to foil Sasquatch hunters who would liked to have nabbed a mated pair.
When morning broke, it was a mixed company that assembled by the campfire. Leela and Amy were both obviously grumpy. Ndnd, Munda and Harriet were calm but a bit put out that the men were not yet back.
“He promised me he wouldn’t get too drunk,” Leela fumed. “I just know he got really drunk and is passed out somewhere.”
“My Kiffy must be there too, taking care of Fry and the others.”
“He’s a saint,” Munda said with an ironic smile.
Leela got to her feet, stretched to ease her aching back and looked around, “I’m going to find my husband. Is anyone going with me?”
All of the women rose. Ndnd grinned, “I imagine they’re not too far from where Lrr parked our spaceship. Follow me.”
It took but a few moments until they emerged into the clearing. The women could see that the recumbent forms of the men were laid out in a rough circle around the fire. Lrr had dragged them into place before passing out himself.
Leela surged to the front of the group, making a beeline for Fry. She came to a halt by his head, “Fry! Wake up!”
Fry opened his eyes slowly. It took a moment for them to focus. What he saw caused him alarm. Leela was scowling down at him with an anger he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“Hi honey!” Fry said weakly.
“You promised you weren’t going to get too drunk!” Leela’s face began to contort as she burst into tears, “How could you!?”
Fry struggled to his feet, “I’m sorry honey.” He got close to her face, “Please forgive me.”
The smell of stale Zakk and barf hit Leela like a sledgehammer. She rushed to the edge of the stream and began to retch miserably.
Confused, Fry followed her to the stream’s edge, “What’s wrong honey?”
Her response was to stop retching long enough to grab his collar and pitch him headfirst into the icy cold stream. Then she bent over and continued to retch. Munda rushed to her side, “Sweetie…what can I do to help?”
“I’m okay, Mom.” She straightened up, “I thought I was going to throw the babies up.” She noticed Fry floundering around in the stream. He stood up and spit water out. Then he stooped down and took a drink.
Lrr shouted, “I think you ought to move upstream before you have a drink!”
Fry looked and saw that Lrr was busily peeing into the stream. In response, Fry’s stomach contorted and he began to vomit.
“Oh my poor Fry!” Leela said. She held out her hand, “Come on baby. I’ll help you out.”
Fry stumbled to the bank and climbed out.
While Leela was giving Fry a hand out of the stream, Amy was giving Kif a hug. Unfortunately, it caused him to expel a goodly amount of methane. Amy released her hold and leaped away, “Splech! What is that smell?”
“I’m sorry, my sweet.” He mumbled apologetically, “I…I’ve never had this happen before.”
“Well, keep your distance until whatever it is stops!”
“Yes my love.”
Ndnd laughed, “Well Amy, it looks like your Kiffy isn’t perfect after all.”
Amy glared at Ndnd, but the rest of the women began to laugh. Soon, Amy joined in as well. Ndnd was right…nobody’s perfect!
Unlike the other couples, during the walk back to the camp Fry and Leela were quiet. Munda noticed it. So did Amy. Munda tried to strike up a conversation with Leela, without success.
Morris had a little more success with Fry, “What’s up, son?”
“Leela’s still mad at me.” Fry sounded miserable, “Crud. I always seem to put my foot in it.”
“Don’t worry,” Morris said quietly, “She loves you.”
“I hope so.”
When they reached the camp, Leela went into their tent. Fry stood outside, pacing back and forth uncertainly.
Morris came up, “The only way out of the dog house is through that tent flap.”
“But what do I say?” He shook his head, “I mean…she was so mad she threw me into the stream!”
“True, but she pulled you out again.”
“Okay, I’ll go.” Taking a deep breath, Fry flipped up the tent flap and entered. His eyes adjusted quickly to the dim interior. Leela was sitting with her back to him, crying softly.
“Leela?” Fry gulped, “I’m sorry.”
“I…I know I’m not perfect.” Fry edged closer to Leela. “But I love you more than anything in the whole universe.”
Leela spun around and burst into tears, “I’m sorry I was so mean to you Fry!”
Surprised Fry stammered, “I…It’s okay, Leela.” He embraced her, “I shouldn’t have gotten drunk. That Omicronian beer kinda snuck up on me.”
Leela continued to sob.
Fry began to pat her on the back. He murmured in her ear, “I love you, Leela.”
“No you don’t! I’m so fat and ugly, that’s why you went and got drunk.” She sniffled, “You don’t even want to snu-snu any more.”
“Sure I want to, but you told me the twins don’t like it.”
“They like how I feel afterwards.”
Leela tilted her head back, inviting a kiss. Fry responded by kissing her soulfully. She kissed him back and then took his right ear lobe gently between her teeth before whispering in his ear, “Let’s get busy.”
“Snap!” Fry’s voice trembled slightly, “Aren’t you worried that…you know…your parents will hear?”
Leea’s tears fled before a peal of laughter. She pointed at her seven month bulge, “I think they know we make love.”
“Don’t you want to wait until tonight?”
“Take me now or lose me forever!”
Their lovemaking was energetic, but quiet. As they lay together in the blissful afterglow Leela sighed, “The twins are so quiet now.” She took Fry’s hand and laid it on her belly, “They’re happy when I’m happy.”
Fry laughed softly, “Me too.”
“I wonder how Phibby is doing with Nigel and Kelly?”
“Oh, I’ll bet she is enjoying herself with Boudicca.” Fry paused, “But next time we need to bring her along. She’d love this park, I bet.” He sighed, “I sure miss her.
“I miss her too.”
“Let’s take her out to ‘Chuck-Your-Cheeze’ when we get home.”
“You are turning into a regular super dad.” Leela laid her hand gently on Fry’s chest. She smiled, “I love you Mr. Fry.”
He returned the smile, “I love you too Mrs. Fry.”
“Mrs. Fry…I like that sound.”
Limbs intertwined, they drifted off to sleep. The sun had passed the meridian before they emerged from the tent. Well rested and happy, they both had smiles on their faces that wouldn’t quit.
Everyone was seated around the campfire over which Lrr was turning two pigs on a spit. Leela took Fry’s hand and led him to the group. They sat down between Morris and Munda on their right and Amy and Kif on their left.
Morris turned and gave Fry a stealthy and silent “thumbs up”. Fry nodded in acknowledgement, his smile still firmly in place.
Munda leaned forward to make eye contact with Leela, “So sweetie, how’s the world seem now?”
“Just wonderful.” She put her arm over Fry’s shoulder, “We kissed and made up.” She planted a light kiss on his cheek.
Bender hooted, “That means you did it! Right?”
“Oh cram a sock in it!” Leela shot back.
Ndnd couldn’t contain her curiosity, “Leela, isn’t mating when you are already heavy with young a waste of genetic material?”
Blinking in surprise, Leela thought for a moment before answering. Ndnd really didn’t know! “I guess so,” Leela answered. “But we don’t just mate to produce offspring. It…well…it brings us closer together.”
“But only if you do it right,” Amy chimed in.
Everyone laughed, including Ndnd.
Lrr stood up and ripped a huge piece of meat from the pig, “Lunch is served!”
Everyone dug in with gusto. Once they were finished, the couples drifted off to enjoy the park. Fry and Leela walked a short way up the creek. Leela spotted a tree overhanging the bank…a perfect spot to sit. “Come on Fry! Let’s sit over there and dangle our feet in the water.”
“Sure,” he replied with as much enthusiasm as he could muster. He wasn’t sure that the stream didn’t contain something that might find human feet a tasty treat.
While Fry was hesitating, Leela sat down, pulled off her boots, and stuck her feet into the stream. “Oh! It’s cold, but it sure feels good.”
Fry took his place next to her, yanked off his sneakers and timidly tested the water with his toes. The sight caused Leela to laugh, “Come on Fry! Don’t be a wimp!”
Deciding to play off Leela’s remark, Fry whined, “But I don’t like being cold!” He affected a lisp, “It’s just so hard being a wimp!”
“Oh Fry,” Leela laughed harder, “Don’t make me laugh too hard or I’ll pee myself.” She reached out and put her arms around Fry’s neck, pulling his head to her chest. She kissed him on the cheek, “You are such a sweet goof bag.”
“I’m in heaven,” Fry laughed. He took a quick look around; then kissed Leela’s breasts gently one at a time.
Leela pretended to be shocked, “Fry! Those are for the babies!”
“Well, I’m sure they won’t mind if I borrow them.”
Leela shook her head, “I don’t think we can test your theory out here.” She winked, “Maybe tonight.” The she shifted Fry around to where his head rested in her somewhat diminished lap. His head snuggled against her baby bump. Running her fingers through his hair, Leela looked thoughtful. “Fry, what color do you think the boys’ hair will be?”
“Hmm…I don’t know.” He thought for a moment, “I guess they could have either purple or red hair. I think it would be neat if they had your hair color, though.”
“Maybe we’ll get one of each.”
Leela waited a few seconds before speaking, “You know Fry, I can’t help wondering if our boys will have two eyes. It worries me.”
“Didn’t the doctor say that having one eye was progressive?”
She smiled, “I think Doctor Wakefield said it was regressive…but it could still happen. I don’t want them handicapped.”
“Handicapped?” Fry frowned, “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I don’t want them to go through life looking like me.” She kissed Fry’s forehead, “I’d much rather the look like their handsome father.”
“I’ll take that compliment.”
He smiled, “But you are perfect.”
“Thanks.” She paused, “Do you still want to name the boys Yancy and Phillip?”
“If you want to.”
“Fry, that’s not an answer.” She ruffled his hair, “I want to know what you want…and don’t tell me it’s whatever I want.”
“Well…I like the name Yancy but I was never crazy about my name.” He shrugged, “I don’t know that our son will like it either.”
“But we could call him Junior…or maybe Jay if he doesn’t like it.” Curiosity got the better of her, “So what names did you like better than your own?”
Fry gave a short chuckle, “You’re gonna laugh. I wanted to be named James T. Fry.”
“After James T. Kirk on Star Trek?”
Leela laughed, “Oh I love you so much you sweet goof bag.”
Conversation lapsed and they sat listening to the wind as it blew through the trees and rustled the grass. Fry found himself wishing that they could sit there forever. The shadows were lengthening when her eye met his eyes, “Tomorrow we go home. Will you miss the woods?”
“I’ll miss relaxing with you. But, I’ll be glad to see Phibby again.”
“Me too.” Leela sighed, “I guess we need to get back to camp.”
Fry stood up and offered Leela his hand, “You’re right. I don’t want to stumble around in the dark.”
“You’re right,” Leela rubbed her belly, “I don’t want to do triple damage by taking a spill.”
They linked arms and joined the others by the campfire.
Back from their trip, Fry and Leela had experienced a joyous reunion with Amphibia. Her excited chatter about the flight to London and all that she had seen and done while she was there continued for at least a week.
Boudicca – who Phibby called Bodie – became a fixture around the apartment. She was fascinated by Leela’s pregnancy. Leela sometimes put Boudicca’s hand on her belly when the babies moved. The look of awe on Boudicca’s face drew a smile on Leela’s face.
Two months went by in an uneventful blur. A week out from Leela’s due date, Munda took to sleeping on the couch in their apartment. She reasoned that she had had Leela after only an hour of labor. “Like mother, like daughter,” she had told Fry and Leela. “You might not have time to call me before the babies arrive. It’s best that I be here.”
Neither Fry nor Leela objected. In fact, they were grateful.
Leela’s due date came and went. With each passing day, Leela became more irritable. Fry took to avoiding her as much as possible. It seemed as if anything he said or did resulted in a ferocious chewing out.
A week past her due date, Leela emerged from the bedroom and came into the kitchen where Fry was eating a bowl of Archduke Chocula. He froze, unsure whether to simply dump the food and bolt or to shovel it down and then slip out.
Much to his surprise, Leela had a smile on her face. “Good morning, Fry,” she said cheerfully.
He choked down the mouthful of half-chewed cereal and replied, “G…good morning.”
“She took Phibby to Best Buns for breakfast before taking her to school.” He looked at the clock on the wall, “She should be back before I go to work.”
Leela sat down opposite to Fry. She reached out and touched his hand, “I’m sorry I’ve been such a bear to live with. I just want to get this over with!”
“It’s okay, Leela.” Fry smiled as he shrugged, “I don’t mind.”
“I don’t know what I did to deserve you,” she squeezed his had affectionately, “But I’m glad we are together.”
They sat quietly for a moment. Fry cleared his throat, “Today I’m taking a quick run to Mars and then Urectum.” He looked thoughtful, “I should be back before noon.
“I wish I could go.”
“I do too, but you know what Doctor Wakefield said.”
“I know,” she stood up and stretched, a pained look on her face.
Fry stood as well, “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine…just a little back pain.”
“Back pain?” Fry felt a frisson of alarm run up his spine, “What kind of back pain?”
“Oh, it comes and it goes.”
Just at that moment Munda came through the door, “Good morning, sweetie! Good morning Fry!” She looked at Leela, “So, how are you feeling?”
“I’ve got some back pain this morning, but I feel okay otherwise.”
“Mom,” Fry said anxiously, “The pain comes and goes.”
“Sweetie,” Munda’s eye narrowed, “You just relax on the couch. We need to see if it has a pattern.”
“When I had you, I had back labor.” She unconsciously put her tentacle to her back, “Oy did I have back labor!”
Seven minutes later, Leela had another spasm. Munda took Fry aside, “I think this is it. Can you stay home today?”
“Sure, I’ll call Hermes and let him know. Amy and Bender can make this run.”
“Good.” She smiled, “I had Leela in just over an hour after my water broke. It might be a case of like mother like daughter.”
While Fry was on the phone with Hermes, Kelly came by. When Munda filled her in on what was going on, Kelly looked concerned, “Right. Nigel is off today. I’ll have him bring our Hover Rover around front. No sense in waiting for a cab.”
“Thank you so much.”
“I’ll watch the girls if you want to go to the hospital with Fry and Leela.” Kelly smiled, “I think it must be ever so much fun to see a grandchild born.”
Munda thought for a moment. She nodded slowly, “I guess…Phibby is at school right now…but it might take more than a few hours.”
“Not to worry,” Kelly toughed Munda’s shoulder reassuringly, “I can go round and pick her up from school. Just give me a note so the teacher won’t think I’m some sort of childnapper.”
“OK,” Munda made up her mind. “Thanks. Her contractions are seven minutes apart, so we’d best get going.”
“Righto!” Kelly waved her right upper arm cheerfully as she headed out the door, “Nigel will be waiting in just a few moments.”
Fry had just hung up from his talk with Hermes as Kelly left. Munda filled Fry in on the arrangements. He nodded, “Thanks, Mom. I really appreciate your help.”
“Oh, no problem.” She headed for the bedroom, “You keep an eye on Leela and I’ll get her bag.”
“Right.” Fry sat on the couch across from Leela, “Honey, Nigel is bringing his hover car around so we can go to the hospital. Dr. Wakefield said to come in as soon as your contractions got seven minutes apart.”
Leela winced. Fry looked at the clock, “More back pain?”
“Your contractions are down to five minutes apart.”
“I know.” Leela smiled, “Fry…aren’t you going to wear you coaches sweater?”
Fry groaned inwardly. Leela had bought him a bright red sweater that proclaimed in big white letters, “I’m the Coach!” He hated it. Forcing a smile on his face Fry said, “Thanks for reminding me. I’ll go put it on.”
Wearing the sweater, Fry came down the front steps with Leela on one arm and Munda on the other. Sure enough, Nigel was sitting behind the wheel of his bright green Hover Rover directly in front of the apartment. Fry helped Leela into the back seat and then helped Munda in as well. He stood on the sidewalk, lost in thought. The realization that he was about to assist in the birth of two babies had an almost paralyzing effect,
After waiting for two minutes, Nigel leaned across the empty front passenger seat. He rolled down the window, “I say old chap, are you coming?”
“Oh…Snap!” Fry started like a dreamer awakened from slumber, “I guess we’d better get going!” Then he hopped into the front seat. As soon as the door closed, Nigel sped away from the curb.
Admissions went smoothly. Leela had already pre-registered, so they only had to sign two forms before she and Fry were whisked away to a labor room. Munda followed them after making a quick call to Morris.
Less than five minutes after Leela settled in, her water broke. Fry knew to expect it, but it caused him to feel a sense of panic none the less. It was really happening! Leela was depending on him!
Fry fixed his attention on the monitor. He could see that a contraction was coming, “Okay Leela…contraction begins.”
Leela grunted in reply.
“Okay, take a deep cleansing breath.”
Together, they took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Let’s breathe together now.” A slight sheen of sweat was forming on both Leela and Fry’s faces, “We’ll do some He-he’s.”
Throughout the contraction, Fry kept one eye on the monitor. After about a minute, Fry said “Contraction ends.”
Munda spoke up, “I wish I’d had you there when I had Leela.”
“Really?” Fry was surprised.
Nurse Logan came into the room. She greeted them with her soft English lilt, “Well, hello Mr. and Mrs. Fry!” She went to Leela’s side, “Doctor Wakefield is in the hospital. He wanted me to have a look at you.” She smiled as she looked at the various monitors, scribbled some notes on her think pad, and then moved around to the foot of the bed. “Let’s see how much you’ve dilated.” Lifting the sheet, Nurse Logan made a clucking sound, “My, my. You’re moving right along. You’re already at six centimeters.” She looked at Fry, “How long ago did her water break?”
Fry looked at the clock, “Six minutes ago.”
“At this rate, I believe it would be prudent to put you in a delivery room,” Nurse Logan said while patting Leela on the arm. Turning to Fry and Munda as she pointed to a pair of green surgical gowns hanging on pegs on the wall, Nurse Logan said crisply, “You two had best suit up. Unless I miss my guess, this isn’t going to take too very long.” Without a further word, Nurse Logan strode from the room.
“Why don’t you go first Mom?” Fry looked at Munda, “That way one of us will be with Leela.”
“Sounds good.” Munda took a gown and stepped into the bathroom. By the end of Leela’s next contraction, Munda was out. Fry dressed quickly, emerging just in time to accompany Leela to the delivery room.
Nurse Logan and several other gowned figures were already in the delivery room when Leela was wheeled in. Fry took her through another contraction right after they arrived.
Nurse Logan spoke with authority, “Right. Mr. Fry, Mrs. Turanga, please step back so we can get Leela situated. Thank you.”
In less than sixty seconds, Leela was sitting upright in the birthing chair, hooked up to a series of wires and an I.V.
From the monitor readout, Fry could see that Leela was beginning another contraction…this one only three minutes after the last! Halfway through the contraction, Leela lost focus. Her pupil seemed to swim in her eye and she couldn’t seem to breathe along with Fry.
Alarmed, Fry asked, “Are you okay Leela?”
In response, Leela suddenly reached out and grabbed the collar of Fry’s sweater very tightly. She bared her teeth as she snarled, “I can’t tell you how much I hate this stupid sweater!”
For a split second, Fry thought of reminding her that she had bought him the sweater. Then his survival instincts kicked in, causing him to go more or less limp.
Dr. Wakefield, who had entered the room without Fry noticing gently took Leela’s hand, “I think you need to concentrate on delivering your sons Mrs. Fry.”
While Wakefield’s bravery awed him, the wild look in Leela’s eye concerned Fry. It didn’t take much imagination for Fry to envision the good doctor getting pummeled by Leela, having seen her beat the snot out of numerous people.
In the back of his mind, Fry remembered that this ‘crazy time’ was common to lots of births. He wracked his brain for what it was called…then it dawned on him…they called it transition.
Then, just as quickly as the transition began, it ended. Leela’s face relaxed and her eye focused.
A birth pang gripped her. Her back arched slightly as she gasped, “I feel the need to push!”
The doctor examined her, “Well, you’re ten centimeters dilated and fully effaced.” He turned to Nurse Logan, “Get the warming trays ready.”
“Now the next time you feel like pushing, you go right ahead.”
Leela nodded, sweat dripping off of her nose. She could feel the contraction coming on…the sudden need to push. She grunted out between clenched teeth, “I’m pushing!”
Her first child began his trip down Leela’s birth canal, “Oh my God!” She half hollered, half moaned, “Can you see his head?”
Fry, who was standing by Leela’s head could see their first born emerging. His ears rang with excitement, “I can see him honey! You are doing great!”
The baby’s head cleared Leela’s pubic arch and popped into view, like a magician’s trick. By now, Leela was so numb from the child’s passage that she felt nothing as his shoulders passed through. Held up to the light, she could see that her first born son was a dead ringer for his father, except that his nose was all hers. She touched Fry’s shoulder, “He looks like a Phillip.”
Fry nodded, “Okay honey, he’s Phillip.”
Leela stiffened, “I need to push again!”
Doctor Wakefield looked at his watch, “I’m going to write this one up. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a quicker multiple birth.”
Munda, who up to that moment had been standing quietly by spoke up, “I only took an hour…it’s a family trait.”
“Aaagh!” Leela’s back arched slightly from the effort of pushing hard enough…but not too hard. “Can…you…see…him?” She asked through clenched teeth.
The perfect coach, Fry said firmly, “I can see him crowning…Snap but he has a head full of purple hair!”
Slightly faster than his brother, Yancy slid into the world. While he looked like Leela, he had Fry’s nose…and two eyes.
Leela slumped back in the birthing chair. She took one look at the purple haired mite being held by Nurse Logan and murmured, “Yancy.”
Fry simply nodded, “Yancy.”
It took but a scant few minutes to cut the cords, deliver the afterbirth and clean the babies up. Soon they were both resting in Leela’s arms. Fry stood to one side of the bed while Munda stood at the other when Nurse Logan entered, “My word it looks like a picture postcard.” She looked at Leela, “If you’re not too tired, Mommy you might give a go at feeding your lads.”
Phillip was the more active, so Leela decided to feed him first. She looked at Fry, “Would you hold Yancy?”
“Sure.” Fry cradled his youngest in his arms. He was transfixed by the sight of his little nostrils rapidly dilating with each baby breath. This caused him to miss seeing Leela hook Phillip up to her left nipple. He did get to watch Phillip nurse, however.
“Wow!” Fry said in an awestruck tone, “I’ve never seen anything so awesome.”
Leela gave a tired smile, “It feels good to drain these puppies.” She laughed, which startled Phillip off her nipple for a moment. Fry looked in wonder as Leela gently coaxed him back into place. In short order, she had Philipp and Yancy fed and burped. Then she said in a drowsy voice, “I’m kind of tired. I need some rest.” She closed her eye wearily, “Now I know why they call it labor.”
In less than a minute, the rhythmic rise and fall of her chest let them know she was sound asleep.
Munda said quietly, “I’ll sit up here.” She pointed to a couch, “Why don’t you take a quick nap?” She ruffled Fry’s hair affectionately, “You did really well, coach. You deserve a bit of rest.”
“Thanks Mom.” Fry flashed his best grin, “I think I’ll catch a few Z’s.”
In a few seconds Fry was fast asleep.
Three months later they had all settled into a comfortable routine. Munda hadn’t bothered going home when the day they returned from the hospital. She had remained at the apartment, sleeping on the couch. Fry was grateful. He and Leela never would have kept their sanity without Munda, who seemed not to need sleep. The first two weeks after the boys came home were a blur of non-stop baby feeding and diaper changing.
Through it all, Munda was always tirelessly cheerful. She helped Leela express mother’s milk into bottles to freeze it. While Leela and Fry were asleep, Munda would rise, warm the frozen milk, put it into bottles and feed her grandsons.
In the quiet hours of the night, Munda would rock the boys in turn as she fed them. Phillip always seemed to be hungry first. Yancy was…well…calmer. After she burped and changed them, Munda would rock them in their cradle. As they drifted off to sleep, she would marvel at how perfect they both were. Well, almost perfect. She couldn’t be sure, but she thought Phillip might have elbow talons.
“You are my little angels,” she would whisper. “Your granny loves you both.”
Was it her imagination, or did Yancy smile at her? A wry smile crossed her face as she thought, “It’s probably just gas.”
During the day, Munda would take Phibby to school, do the shopping and come home to help Leela with the boys. When Munda brought Phibby back from school, she would have Phibby help with the boys.
The first time that Leela saw Phibby holding Yancy she was a bit startled. Amphibia’s eye was half closed and she was giving off a melodic thrumming sound. Leela asked Munda quietly, “Isn’t she a little young to be holding them?”
“Sweetie, you have to give children a stake in taking care of their brothers and sisters. Phibby is so smart and she loves them so much.” She smiled reassuringly, “She will do fine. Trust me. Trust her.”
“Okay mom.” Leela said uncertainly, “But please keep an eye on her.”
On the weekends Munda went home overnight to be with Morris. Although she would leave on Friday night, by Sunday afternoon she would be back. After all, Fry had to work even if Leela was on maternity leave.
The boys got to sleeping longer and longer each night. By the sixth week they were sleeping five hours at a stretch. By three months, they were cooing whenever Leela, Munda, Amphibia or Fry held them.
At the end of three months, Leela’s maternity leave was up. Sitting at the table the night before with Fry, Munda and Amphibia she sighed, “I really look forward to flying again but I’m going to miss my babies.”
“We’ll miss you too Mommy,” Amphibia chirped.
Leela laughed, leaned over and stroked Amphibia’s cheek affectionately, “I’ll miss my Phibby, too! I know you’ll help Granny with your brothers, won’t you?”
“Yes Mommy.” Amphibia nodded vigorously, “I promise.”
Fry leaned back in his chair, “I’ll be glad to have someone to talk to on those long deliveries. Bender is great and all, but all he wants to talk about is stuff I’m not interested in any more.”
“Oh,” Leela asked, “and what are you interested in?”
“You…my family,” he grinned, “and some other stuff I can’t talk about right now.”
Munda stood up, “Come on Miss Mouse, let’s clear the table.”
Leela waited until Munda and Amphibia were in the kitchen and the water was running. Fry had restrained himself for the three months recommended by Dr. Wakefield. The full house had also had a cramping effect on their opportunities for intimacy.
She gave Fry a ‘come hither’ look. “Isn’t our next delivery to Fargo Four?”
“Not much on the way there.”
“Nope, it’s the emptiest sector in the Galaxy.”
“How’s the autopilot?”
“Huh?” Fry was at a loss as to where the conversation was going, “Um…he’s doing well on his twelve step program.”
“Think he’s up for a few hours of solo flight?”
“Sure, but I don’t know why…” Fry felt a tingle run down his spine, “Oh! Oh! Yeah! He’s up to it! He’s definitely up to it!”
Fry’s enthusiastic response brought a peal of laughter forth from Leela. She reached across the table, “I love you, Fry.”
He stretched out his hand, “I love you too, Leela.”
The next morning, Fry and Leela walked up to the front door of the Planet Express just as Amy drove up in her new Beta Romeo. She waved cheerfully, “Hi Leela! Hey Fry!” Before either could reply Amy continued, “I’m so glad you’re back Leela! Now I can stop being the delivery girl.”
“It’s nice to know I was missed.” Leela smiled, “How’s Kif?”
She stepped out of her car, “He’s been hinting about me bearing some children for him.”
“Can he get you pregnant?” Fry looked puzzled, “Is that even possible?”
“According to him it is,” Amy looked uncomfortable, “but I’m not sure I’m ready to be pregnant.”
“It’s not all that bad,” Leela volunteered, “as long as you get the shot for morning sickness.”
Amy’s response was a noncommittal, “Hmmm.”
They went into the building and ran into Hermes, “Dere’s no time for slackin’. You need ta’ go straight into da’ conference room. Da’ Professor is waitin’.”
Leela frowned, “What, no coffee?”
“Dere’s coffee on da’ table.”
Amy shook her head, “Spleesh, that’s not a good sign.”
“True that.” Fry chimed in.
They took their seats at the table. True to Hermes’ word, there was coffee at the table. There were even muffins!
Fry grabbed one and bolted it down. Leela frowned, “Fry, you can’t pass muffins up, can you?”
He shook his head, still chewing. He had learned not to spew crumbs all over in order to reply. Once he was done he mumbled, “Sorry.”
“Good news everyone!”
Everyone looked at the Professor, who had just shuffled quietly into the room. He eased into his lounge chair, “I wanted to announce that I’ve finally perfected my successor naming machine.”
“Why do you need one of those?” Fry asked.
“Why, to pick a successor – you moron.”
Leela eye narrowed and she glared at the Professor, “My husband is not a moron. He asked you a simple question.”
Leela’s glare intensified, “I said, he asked you a simple question.”
“I know that.”
“Then what is the answer?”
“What was the question, again?”
Leela exhaled sharply, “Why did you need to build a successor naming machine?” She leaned forward, “Are you going somewhere?”
“Why else would I build one?” The Professor became agitated, “Why are you all asking me so many questions? Of course I’m going somewhere!”
“Oh Lord!” Amy gasped and put her hand to her mouth, “It’s not the Sunset Squad again, is it?”
The Professor looked around, thoroughly panicked, “The Sunset Squad…where…how did they find me?” He rose and began to shuffle off.
Leela stood and took his arm, “Professor, the Sunset Squad isn’t here. We just want to know where you are going.”
“Oh, that!” He gave a senescent cackle, “I’m getting married.”
“Married!” Fry stood up, “To who?”
“Why to the love of my life…Mom.”
The next story in this series is tentatively titled, “Motherhood.”