By Sedna aka Kaalira
Wow. First Futurama fanfic. *looks nervous* First fic in a while, actually. So if it’s not that great, it’s probably ‘cause I’m trying to get back into things.
“…ery to Deimos. The president of the Bibblyofilles has ordered a shipment from Waldenbarners and she needs them today or she’ll declare war on Earth,” Farnsworth was saying. “Within the hour, in fact.”
“Books? And she’s threatening war if they’re late?” Leela narrowed her eye suspiciously, then glanced at the large cardboard boxes the store had dropped off. “What kind of books? Should we be worried?” Fry was trying to pull at the tapes over a flap to see what was inside; she elbowed him sharply.
“Oh my, no. You see, the Bibblyofilles are a fairly peaceful society until they have nothing new to read,” Farnsworth shook his head. “They’re fine to reread what they have for a short time, but eventually they get restless and demanding. Apparently their library has run completely dry of new material and the whole planet – ”
“—Moon—” Leela corrected. “Fry, I told you - get away from there.”
“—whatever—is reading anything they can get their eyes on. But they’re tired of breakfast ingredients and TV Guide listings, so they made another order from Waldenbarners.”
Leela sighed. “All right, fine. Seems a bit off to me, but all right. Let’s go get Bender and load up the ship.”
The tenth and final box was loaded into the cargo hold, and Fry and Bender started up the stairs. Leela followed, pulling the keys from her jacket pocket.
Just as she took the first two steps up, a certain feeling of heaviness and dread fell over her unexpectedly and quite suddenly. Leela held her breath and whirled around – instantly tightening her grip on the railing and feeling her shoulders leap involuntarily. “God! Amy! Dammit! Don’t do that, please.”
The younger girl stared wide-eyed. “I’m sorry, Leela. I thought you heard me.”
“What do you want?”
Amy smiled. “Well, I heard you were heading out to Deimos and since you’ll be about two hyperseconds away from Mars and all…”
Leela nodded, understanding. “You want us to drop you off at your parents’.”
“How long?” She sighed. “Are you going to need a ride back or will y…?”
Amy shrugged. “You’re forgetting that new carship I just got for my birthday. I can drive myself back fine – I just don’t have a ride there.”
“All right, all right. Come on, let’s go.”
They hurried up the stairs and prepared for lift-off.
Flying to Mars – or its satellites – never did take long. Besides the three-second trips to the moon, it was the shortest trip they took on a regular basis.
Leela stared steadily out the windshield, not saying anything. Behind her, Fry reclined in the seat he tended to prefer, gazing out at the passing point of view. Bender was napping in their cabin, of course, while Amy had taken a seat in one of the chairs up front, looking at her curiously. Any second now, Leela knew, she’d be bringing up that weird reaction.
“So, um, what are we deliverin—”
“Nothing! All right!” Leela blurted instantly, inadvertantly raising suspicions once again.
Amy blinked. She waited a moment, then asked again. “What are we delivering?”
“Books. The Bibblyofilles society.” Sighing, Leela relaxed in her seat and wiped the back of her hand over her forehead. “I thought you already knew?”
“I asked the Professor where you were going and all he said was that you guys were making a delivery to Deimos,” the younger girl replied. “What’s wrong with you today?”
Leela ignored the question. “Did you want dropped off before or after our delivery?”
“Before, I guess—”
The clatter of an empty can sailed across the room before Amy could inquire further. It hit the edge of the garbage chute and then clamored to the ground. “Fry, you could have taken that over yourself!” Leela strode to the wall and threw it in.
He shrugged. “Yeah, but I didn’t wanna.”
Leela shook her head, muttering as she returned to the pilot’s seat. Strapping herself in, she prepared to land the ship at Wong Ranch. Then on to Deimos for a relatively painless delivery (she hoped).
“Keep going, it’s only a few hundred feet more.”
“Easy for you to say!” Fry snapped. “You’re not the lazy one here.”
Bender cracked up. “You said it, not me.”
Fry glared at him. “Shut up.”
Leela rolled her eye. “Do you have any idea how weak Deimos’s gravity is? You shouldn’t be shedding a tear over this. Watch.” She grabbed one of the four large boxes on the cart, labeled 50 kilograms and easily dangled it from her fingertips.
“She’s a witch!” Bender exclaimed.
“The gravity makes it weigh less than two kilograms,” she explained. “Keep moving.”
Crossing his arms, Fry kicked at the cart. “I said I was lazy, not weak.”
“Same thing. Except, I guess, in this situation,” Leela realized, then brushed it off. “Nevermind. Now let’s get this done. We’ve only got another trip to make if we all carry two boxes.”
“Fine, fine, whatever…”
“…ight, so sign here. Thank you.” Leela saluted and turned to follow the crew hurrying back to the ship.
The gravity was so light that it was similar to walking on the moon; Fry and Bender were alternately taking large acrobatic leaps as they raced ahead. Leela almost smiled. It did look like fun. Still, she walked conventionally, enjoying the brief silence.
They’d long since been in the ship by the time she got within ten feet of it. Observing the houses built into boulders in the distance, Leela stepped under the ship and pushed the cart onto the cargo elevator. Stepping around it she headed for the stairs.
The second she put one black boot on the step, she immediately stopped. Hell. I forgot the clipboard, didn’t I? And of course it had to be now she realized it, not before trekking all the way back. Leela shook her head, contemplating whether or not to return befo—
A hand tapped her shoulder as a voice cleared its throat.
She jumped about half the height of the steps and swiveled sharply to strike out. Not again! Blindly she kicked at the person standing there before she could recognize it as one of the Bibblyofilles – specifically, one of the leaders. Leela had kicked him in the head; he pushed himself up warily and glared.
A moment passed as they stared cautiously. The Bibblyofille crossed its arms and whistled. Within two seconds four others showed up.
Leela raised her arms defensively. Two of them approached and tried to attack; she quickly smacked their heads together and took them down easily enough. Another came in from the side; she jumped and kicked with both feet, sending this one sailing into a fourth.
The last one seemed nervous. He kept looking at the bodies, and had no apparent interest in the attack. Actually he was backing away.
“What?” Leela asked.
“You forgot that,” he said finally, pointing.
For the first time Leela realized that the first one had been carrying their clipboard; it lay a few feet from the unconscious Bibblyofilles’ forms. She closed her eye and shook her head, then looked again at the last one still standing. “Go,” she ordered.
He took off without a word, running away so quickly he all but flew over the [color] ground.
Leela boarded the ship in silence, dropping the clipboard with a clatter onto a side table. As she took her seat she just knew Bender and Fry were staring at her.
She couldn’t take it any longer. “What?!” Her fists clenched into knots as she turned to face them.
Fry’s eyes were wide. “Jeez, Leela,” he said, reeling back a bit. “What’s with you?”
“We didn’t do it!” Bender yelped.
“Nothing,” Leela insisted. She piloted the ship off the small moon and into space. There was a short silence.
“I said it was nothing. I don’t want to talk about it.” Leela’s voice was ominously quiet. After a second or so, she relented. “Fine. All right. I’m sorry.” She put the ship on auto and spun her chair around to face them. “I just…”
Bender crossed his arms. “I smell a flashback. Come on, we’re waiting.”
“Are you okay?” Fry asked.
Leela nodded. “Pretty much.” She glanced out the window. “Oh, hang on—” She quickly keyed in a longer route. “All right, that’ll give me more time now.”
Fry narrowed his eyes. “Something happened, didn’t it?”
“I was eleven. Well, close enough anyway.” Leela propped her feet up on a console. “It was in the Orphanarium…”
Birthdays sucked so bad here.
Leela stared dully at the old-fashioned PDA sitting on a shelf, scanning the various events and appointments the other orphans had entered. Her gaze fell on the large black 19, where she hadn’t bothered to type in anything. What would be the point? No one here – or anywhere – cared that she’d made it through eleven years of… well, either ennui or torment.
Don’t make a big deal out of this, she told herself. It’s just a day – it’s probably not even your real birthday, it’s just the day you were dropped off, anyway.
She sighed and headed back to her bed to read. Since she was often excluded from things, she spent a lot of her time living vicariously through her books. Leela threw herself onto her bed and grabbed the book she’d left on the pillow, dropping away from reality almost instantly.
Maybe a half hour had passed before she heard the screams. Not again… Quickly she ran to the door and knelt, peering under the door. Someone was being beaten up, it looked like…
The twins. Again.
Leela bit her lip as a heavier looking foot pounded against the side of the person lying on the ground. A fist reached down and yanked at the person’s hair before a second fist punched them in the face, and she could see now that it was Kirk.
Kirk lay still for several cautious minutes before he apparently felt it was safe enough to stand up and leave. A couple of other orphans ran up and escorted him away.
Leela shuddered, stepping back from the window. It was typical. Jamie and Billie. Those girls had been terrorizing everyone since the moment they arrived, and nobody, it seemed, could stop them. Even the teachers were afraid of them. But for some reason, they took their greatest pleasures in attacking those who seemed… well, less than normal. Kirk – the blind guy here – was a perfect example.
All I can do is just stay out of their way, Leela thought as she got to her feet. And hope they don’t notice me. She pushed her glasses up and happened to catch a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of her reflected movement. Turning, she stared at her single prominent feature and winced. How, exactly, was that going to be possible?
The bell rang for lunch, and she headed slowly downstairs, keeping her head inclined toward the ground. In the cafeteria she took her usual seat at the end of one of the long rows of tables. The seating here sucked; you were required to sit with those your age and could not sit by yourself. It was all but assigned.
All around, everyone was conversing and looking like they were having fun. The teachers and directors talked at their separate table; the older orphans laughed and chatted excitedly; the younger ones giggled.
Nobody said a single word to Leela beyond “Excuse me” when passing by or “Pass the salt, please?”
It doesn’t matter. She clenched her jaw and stared at her food – well, what she could identify there, anyway. Some kind of meat, it looked like. And were those small green olives or just really old peas? Who makes this crap?
Slowly she became aware of a quieting, and an eerie feeling creeped over her. She looked up at the orphans surrounding her, and her face paled.
“Have a pie, One-Eye!” Someone flung a piece of the pumpkin pie her direction so fast she had no time to duck, nor did she have time to see who it was.
Everything went orange until Leela managed to fumble around for a napkin. When she could see again, she glanced from one orphan to the next – all innocuously eating silently. She wiped the rest of the pie off and took a deep breath before returning to her own meal. Right away the chatter started up again. They had to be staring again too, she could feel.
What pissed her off most these days was how unoriginal their insults were. Sure, “One-Eye” was kind of cute in a chanting-in-the-schoolyard way – which they actually diddo sometimes – but it was as if they had never thought of anything else. Oh, wait, they reverted to “Freak” sometimes. Or even “Mutant.” (That one was where the directors occasionally stepped in, pretending to be PC and reminding them “She’s an alien, not a mutant” or – if there was a meaner one on duty - joking “No, don’t offend the actual mutants!”)
They need to stop eyeing me right now, Leela thought. She paused, then giggled under her breath.
After lunch was recess, of course. Leela stared down as she trudged out along with the others. She wanted the ritual to be over with quickly; anticipating it – and not having it happen, or having it happen later than usual – was the worst. It was strange but she could never really relax during recess until she’d been teased and gotten it over with.
There was an area she usually sat and read at while she waited. Clutching her book, she drifted over to it.
She didn’t notice the silence until she looked up from the ground to see that several kids had gathered before her. Turning, she quickly realized that as she’d walked, a circle had formed.
Her heart sank with a thud. They’d moved fast today.
“One-Eye! One-Eye! One-Eye!”
“Don’t try, One-Eye!”
She closed her eye and pushed them away from her awareness, instead conjuring up a favorite little daydream. It was her go-to fantasy when falling asleep at night or during tense times.
Leela tossed and turned, unable to rest completely. It had been a difficult day and she was as miserable as ever. Suddenly she felt the mattress sink down with a soft squeak, and another squeak sounded as someone lied down next to her. She was too half asleep to open her eye and see who it was, but she immediately felt safe and content as she felt a hand stroke her hair and an arm rest over her shoulder. “We love you. It’s okay, Leela, you’re okay.”
“—ne-Eye! One-Eye!” Then, a silent glaring.
They seemed to be almost finished. Leela looked around and sighed in relief as they walked away. Finally, alone again.
She hurried the last few steps to the corner of the yard she always sat in, on the long-broken merry-go-round. Nobody wanted to try to fix it, so she always sat there, away from the crowd, pretending she was waiting to be taken away. It was easier to ignore everyone and sit by herself than to attempt to erase the status quo.
Leela had already parked herself on the low-slanted side and was deeply involved in her book by the time she caught a glimpse of movement closer than it should be. She jerked her head up, and her face paled as she saw the twins marching her way. No. No no no.
“Hey. One-Eye!” Jamie spat as they approached.
Leela stood quickly and began backing away from them. “What’s—what—exc—” Frozen with panic, she couldn’t form a coherent sentence.
“Ooooh, One-Eye is dumb and ugly!” cried out Billie. They stood, waiting for her reaction.
She bumped up against the brick wall behind her. No no no no no. No escape. As the twins smiled slowly, Leela felt her mind shutting down.
Billie took two steps forward and swung a thick fist into her face. Leela was knocked sideways into the corner, falling to the ground as Jamie stepped up. She curled up and held her hands before her head, trying desperately to shield the kicks and punches.
After several agonizing minutes they backed off. Leela looked up through a half-swollen eye as they headed in separate directions. Jamie picked up a board with a nail and Billie grabbed one of the busted bars from the old swing set.
She knew what was coming. Get out get out! Adrenaline flooded her veins and she jumped up to run away—
“Going somewhere?” Jamie grinned as she halted her escape and snatched at Leela’s arms, keeping her immobile until Billie arrived. “All right, you first,” she told her twin.
Leela squeezed her eye shut, and her legs went limp as the bar hit her on the temple, sending red stabbing flashes throughout her head. It was like fire, she realized dully.
Then the board.
One of the twins smashed it across her arm, ruthlessly slashing the nail along with it. Leela pulled into herself and refused to acknowledge the attack even as piercing pain raced up to her shoulder and down to her fingertips. She was fine. She was fine.
In the middle of the yard, a group had gathered to stare, slack-jawed. Those who had just minutes before tormented her now looked on in horror.
The bar, again, across her back. This was … It was relentless. It was as if they were taking the fact that she had one eye as a personal insult.
Another whack at her head, and then the luxury of nothingness.
Moved, she was being moved.
Leela’s head throbbed as everything seemed to spin. What was …
Voices muttered numbers around her. She forced her eye open and groggily saw a pair of doors closing her in. Ambulance. Must be.
A hand grabbed her good arm and held it still, tying a length of rubber way too tightly around her upper arm and drawing blood. Leela watched dizzily as her blood squirted into a vial. “Am I goi…”
“You’re going to be fine,” said the blonde Neptunian paramedic at her feet. She handed Leela a bottle of water. “You’re not allergic to Nopainaesthetic, are you?” Leela shook her head, and the paramedic handed her the immediate-action pill. It worked just as fast – and was as strong – as she’d always heard it did, and seconds later the paramedic behind her held her arm still and cleaned up the deepest laceration before stitching it shut.
“I need help down here,” the Neptunian woman called. The paramedic behind her – some dark haired human, she could see now – stepped around the stretcher and knelt by her calf. Leela realized quite suddenly that the twins had broken her leg; her eye widened at the sight of bone protruding below her knee. “Close your eyes—I mean eye, hon,” the woman told her, and she did.
Leela waited a few moments, wondering what they were doing. Just a few minutes passed before her curiosity overcame her and she peeked. By now, the paramedics had fixed the bone and were tightly wrapping damp strips of gauze around her leg. “Wow. How’d you do that?”
“We’re professionals,” the human smiled. “Just relax. We’re almost there.”
“…and then when I got to the hospital all they had to do was scan for brain damage,” Leela said, “and when the results came back normal they sent me right back to the orphanarium.”
Fry was silent for a very long time. Then, “What happened to the twins?”
“They were still running around. Still beat the hell out of people, although nobody got it as bad as I did. They even got me again a couple times after that.” Leela sighed. “It wasn’t until I was about fourteen that they were picked up. Jamie for assault and Billie for armed robbery. I don’t know where they are today. I try not to think about it all.” She bit her lip.
Bender whistled. “Nice story.”
“One thing about it, though.” Leela smiled quietly. “It did make me start taking self-defense lessons. I never wanted to be that helpless again. Ever. Ev-er.”
“And you sure haven’t,” Fry said loyally.
Leela cleared her throat and stood up to pace. “Now that you know about that, I hope you’ll understand if I don’t like being backed into a corner or snuck up on.” She turned and faced them. “And one other thing. I don’t want to talk about this again. Understood?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Bender saluted. Fry nodded.
“Good. We’re almost back in Earth’s orbit, so I’m done with this subject.” Leela changed the ship’s flight and stared hard at the controls, trying to forget again.
A few days passed.
There had been a Planet Express meeting, and as Hermes wrapped up the last point on his agenda, everyone began standing up and getting ready to go.
Leela pulled her jacket on and picked up her coffee. She headed for the door, but stopped as she heard footsteps behind her. “Leela?” Hermes.
“Leave her alone!” a voice yelped right away. Fry, of course.
Turning, Leela narrowed her eye at him. “It’s okay. Back off.” She faced Hermes. “Yeah?”
“You forgot this,” Hermes said, handing her the purse she’d left on the floor. “And as it’s not company policy for the conference room to serve as a storage facility, I have to fine you ten dollars.”
“Oh, fine.” Leela paid him and then sighed Fry as Hermes left. “I may not want to be snuck up on or cornered, but I really don’t want to be treated with kid gloves either.”
“But nothing. Back off – now.”
Fry nodded and shuffled back a step or two. “Sure, okay. Sorry.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and began to walk away.
She paused. “It’s okay. Fry?” He turned back to her. “I said it’s okay. I know you were just trying to help – in your overeager way, I mean.” Leela smiled, and reached a decision. “Do you want to walk back with me?”
“Yeah! I mean, that’d be good.”
They walked out the door, silent at first. Leela still didn’t really know what to say around him these days. Over the past year, things had changed somehow; he’d stopped dating other girls and she’d been forced to consider what she’d been trying vehemently to deny. Especially lately, she mused. Twice in the past four months, he’d risked his own life for her without a second thought. She would never forget that suden terror when she’d caught sight of her airhose attached to his oxygen supply – and Fry lying unconscious at the other end. And she couldn’t forget the bee. The scar on her stomach and his matching scars had made sure of that.
So why, then, was she finding it this hard to accept even the possibility of anything?
Oh, come on, she thought to herself as she peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. He’s been there forever. You know how much he’s done for you, how much he out of all people cares for you. Can’t you just take one step?
Leela looked at Fry again. He seemed so content, observing the hover-traffic and tubes and assorted New New Yorkers with no less enthusiasm and wonder than he’d had the day he was unfrozen. It was infectious; for the first time in a very long while Leela realized how amazing it really was that technology had come this far – even after the attacks of 2322 and 2871. She opened her mouth to say something, but before she could—
She whipped around. Not. That. Voice…
But it was. One of the twins herself was across the street, running right over. The bigger one – was it Billie? Or had Jamie finally caught up to her in size?
Leela snatched at Fry’s hand. “Let’s get out of here,” she uttered, quickening her step. “This way – there’s a shortcut.” She tugged him down an alley that led to the next street over.
“But—wait—isthat—?!” Fry looked back over his shoulder. “Holy…”
They were about halfway down the alley right as Maybe-Billie caught up. “You’re still around?” she hissed, clamping her hand down on Leela’s shoulder. “I would have thought you’d have killed yourself a long time ago.”
“Same to you,” Leela scowled. She pried off the twin’s hand and began backing away. “Let’s go, Fry,” she said again. Her eye widened as her back hit brick – where where where was the way out? She’d backed into a wall. Again – here – now –
Once again Fry did his Shield-Leela move, standing right in her way. “Get out of here,” he ordered Possibly-Billie. “Uh, please?”
In a blur of motion, the twin slammed her fist into the side of his head, sending him crashing into one of the walls. He slid to the ground motionless.
Probably-Billie grinned and took another step close to Leela, blocking her in. “This never gets old,” she said as she raised her hand.
Stuck – again – cornered Howisthishappeningagain? Leela’s fists clenched tightly. Frozen—she didn’t freeze anymore—why couldn’t she just mov—!
She was hit; the twin punched her dead-on. Her head smacked against the stone behind her and a wave of dizziness hit briefly before passing.
…That was it? That’s what I’ve been afraid of all these years?! Leela looked from Fry’s unconscious form to Most-Likely-Billie and narrowed her eye, resolving herself. “All right, now I’mpissed.” She drew up every ounce of humiliation, terror, and pain from those years and channeled it all into a battering of punches and hits, forcing the twin further away from her. Finally she landed one last furious kick, jumping up and lashing out with both feet.
Her former nemesis sailed into the street and immediately bounced off a hovercar, landing in the back of the hovertruck following it. Even if she’d just hit the ground, Leela was sure the twin would have been out for days – she’d never landed a kick that hard until this moment.
She stood there a second, catching her breath, until she realized—
“Fry.” Leela ran over to check on him, turning him over and listening for breathing. He was. “Oh thank god.” He still didn’t move. “Would you wake up already?” She reached for his wrist to check a pulse. It was there, still strong. He was just out cold.
Leela shook her head and sat on the ground next to him, still keeping hold of his hand. “You could sleep through anything.” She realized how heavy her own eyelid was and leaned her head back against the wall. “I’m gonna pass out too, I think,” she said. “Just for a second here.”
“—la? Leela? Wake up…”
She opened her eye, returning to consciousness quite suddenly. “I’m up, I’m up.” Fry was sitting next to her, looking worried. “What?”
“Uh, what happened?” Fry asked. “I mean, with you – and that bad twin –”
Leela smiled in spite of herself. “I expect by now she’s on one of the Unrecyclables islands. I kicked her into a dumptruck.” Sitting forward, she stretched her arms forward and listened to the crack of her joints waking up. “I haven’t enjoyed a good ass-kicking like that in ages.”
“Not bad,” laughed Fry. “I just wish I’d been awake long enough to see it.” It was then that Leela noticed the raised violet bruise just under his temple.
“Does it hurt?” she asked, not realizing her fingers were grazing the skin.
“It kills.” Fry watched the movement out of the corner of his eyes.
She got to her feet. “I’ll go get you some ice.” There was a 711 around the corner, she knew.
“Don’t go,” Fry asked simply, following her. “Stay here, okay?”
Leela stopped and turned back. “Okay.” The war was beginning once again; she wanted both to get out of that moment and halt any awkward Something, and at the same time….
Would it absolutely kill you to just take this chance? Just once. You know he cares. Hell, you know you care. Why are you still doing this?
They were still standing uncomfortably close – embarrassingly so if nothing ended up happening, but but but—it just wasn’t that easy. Was it?
“I – um, thank you,” Leela began. “For – well, for everything.”
“What, when I—”
“Yes, this time and the time we got stung, and the oxygen and… Everything,” she said helplessly.
Fry shrugged. “It didn’t work like it should’ve,” he muttered, head down. “None of it did.”
“It did,” Leela insisted. “I don’t think I ever told you how much I do appreciate it. All of it. And… you.” She forced down any last stubborn misgivings and stepped closer as his eyes widened.
She kissed him. Just to shut him up.
P.S.: A couple small lines in this last section were borrowed from Fearless #19 –Love – by Francine Pascal. No copyright infringement is intended and if so desired I will modify them.]