Ghost of Xmas Past, Part 3
He was drunk. He'd been drunk for most of the last two weeks. She'd dumped him. Again. First it was his getting rid of the worms, then it was alleged trickeration leading to their wedding, and now it was… what? She said that she need some space, some time, and that they were moving too fast. Too fast? It took him three years to tell her that he had loved her pretty much from the time he walked through the door in the cryogenics lab. And it took her almost 2 years after that to admit that she felt the same about him. Too fast? Glaciers moved faster than they did.
He sat in the back corner of the bar, able to watch the door and not really be seen. Sitting with his back to the wall had just become more comfortable for him recently. He wasn't sure why, but it was a small comfort for him. Then they walked in.
She was still beautiful, with her hair pulled up like that, exposing her lovely neck and her back. Her new boyfriend was with her. He was a jerk. He treated her well, was nice to all of her friends (even him), he was charming and always fit in anywhere, and he was always taking her to all the places that she wanted to go and doing anything she wanted. He was ideal, and he hated the jerkwad. What was his name again? Alec? Alex? Who the hell knew and who the hell cared? All he knew was that because of her self-perceived insecurities, he was out the love of his life. No matter what she said about being friends still, he knew now, he had finally realized, that they would never be anything more. No fourth chances.
He used to be a happy drunk. He'd get hammered with Bender and be the life of the party. Lampshade on his head, the whole bit. In the last two weeks, he transformed into a blubbery drunk, crying over his lost love, and then again into the angry drunk that he was now, boiling at rage that she should be so happy when he was so miserable. Angry that after all he had done for her, she would do this to him? He wrote and performed the greatest (and worst) opera in the history of the world for her, and she dumped him. He had stopped her from killing her own damn parents. He moved the stars themselves for her. And she treated him like this! Like he was worse than Zoidberg!
"Enough is enough," he slurred, standing up. Surprisingly clear-headed and straight walking, he made his way over to their table. She was the only one in the bar with purple hair, so it was easy to find them. Along the way, he passed a table with a couple that was so in love with each other that no one else existed. They made him sick and steeled him further for what he was going to do. They had a mostly empty wine bottle on their table. Hefting it, it felt quite heavy and solid for its size. This will be perfect, he thought.
He could hear her laughing. She was always laughing or smiling or bragging about him. He was starting to loathe the both of them, and wonder what he ever saw in her. Everything slowed to a perceived crawl and as he got close to their table, he casually cocked his arm back. As he passed them, he swung forward, slamming the bottle right into the middle of Alex's or Alec's face. There was a sickening thud and a loud crack. Blood was everywhere, his nose was shattered, and likely a large portion of his face. Good.
Everything reverted to real time and the crowd erupted. Over the noise, he heard her shrieking, crying his name. He kept walking. As he reached the door, he heard her again. He stopped as she yelled, "Philip J. Fry, what the hell have you done, you stupid, selfish bastard? You've ruined my life for the last time, Fry. You're a stupid, worthless piece of crap. After everything I've done for you, this is how you repay me? I never want to see you again! NEVER," she shrieked. "I HATE YOU! I HOPE YOU DIE!"
Her screams echoing in his head woke him up for the umpteenth thousandth time since that night eight years ago. She said that she wanted space. He gave her half of the universe. He looked at his watch, Four hours this time, he thought. Not too bad. He was used to it, by now. He could survive on less than four hours sleep. Eight years later, that was still all he could get before the dream woke him. He got up and stretched. Turning the lights back on, he went to the Actiss and got out a small flight crate and sat down to get to work.
She sat on the bridge, thinking about him.
It had been a long time since they had seen each other. She couldn't believe how much he'd changed. They both had. She had regretted what she said almost immediately, but the words were already out there. They couldn't be unsaid. He was gone the next morning for parts unknown. He had phoned Hermes at home that and told him that he quit and to do what he wanted with his last paycheck.
It took some time, but she thought she had gotten over him. She thought that she had moved on. Now, though… He was back, and there was a feeling in her stomach that hadn't been there this morning when she left for work. It was something that she hadn't felt in a couple of years, but she hadn't noticed was missing. She didn't love him anymore, she had thought. But…
No, she thought. I can't think like this. I've got-
The door opening cut off her line of thought. Vyr walked in slowly, still getting used to the ship and to other things. As she sat down at his old station, she pulled one of her tails, her lekku she had called them, over her shoulder, stroking it like a security blanket. Leela noticed that the girl was wearing Fry's old jacket. Where the HELL did she find that, Leela thought. I searched this ship from stem to stern to find it and came up with nothing. She's here for a few hours, and she's wearing it like it belongs to her!
Instead of saying that, she said, "Nice coat. How are you feeling, Vyr?"
"According to Mandado traditions," she replied, "the color red honors one's father, his or her Buir. Red is also the color of the sash that a Journeyman Protector wears. So, double honors from me to him. I feel pretty good. Just a little tired."
"That will pass in a little bit. You'll eventually get used to it," Leela said.
They sat in silence for a long time. Vyr made Leela sad. She was a pretty girl, and she was concerned with upholding a warrior tradition that wasn't her own. She didn't seem interested in any of the things that any normal 12 year-old girl would be, or should be, interested in. Leela knew that her own childhood had been far from ideal or happy, but this girl was making her look like a prom queen.
"What was he like, Leela," Vyr said at last. "Before. He won't talk about it. He says that it hurts too much and he's moved on. It would open too many doors that were better left closed, locked, and bricked over."
Swallowing hard, she said, "He was the kindest, gentlest, most loving man that I had ever met. I was working as a fate assignment officer at Applied Cryogenics when we first met. He walked into my office and…" She told her everything, all of the good and all of the bad. The worms, her parents, the giant space bees, the parallel universes, the fights, all the times she had to save him from himself, the broken hearts, the stupid things that each other did, and the support that they gave each other. And the opera and its aftermath.
"And then I told him that I hated him, that I hoped he died, and that I never wanted to see him again," she said, very determined not to cry after pouring her heart out to Fry's daughter. "I regretted it immediately, but it was too late. He was gone." Replaced by whatever that is that's in my cargo bay, she thought.
The bridge was silent for a few minutes. Vyr rose and walked to the door. Stopping at the threshold, she said without turning around, "Thank you, Leela."
"For what," she said, still determined not to cry. "For the story? It was-"
"No, not the story. Thank you for being a stupid, selfish, manipulating hut'uun. It you weren't so stupid and so cowardly, I'd be dead. Buir would never have saved me." And she walked out, the door shutting behind her.
Leela sat in silence for a few minutes. With the girl gone, she locked the door and wept.
She sat across from him, watching a total stranger that had once been one of her dearest friends. The man that she knew had been afraid of guns. He had nearly gotten Bender and Leela killed fighting on Spheron 1 when he couldn't fire at the brain balls. This man was slowly, reverently, cleaning and reassembling two antiques that could put a hole through 6 inches of solid dolomite. A master craftsman caring for his tools, she thought. She mourned for her lost friend, and was uncertain about what had taken his place.
"I can't tell you how sorry I am, Amy," he said for at least the thirtieth time since she came down here. He still hadn't been able to look her in the eye.
"Forgiven and forgotten, Fry," she said. Well, maybe not forgotten, she thought.
"And I still can't thank you enough for what you did for Vyr. I have never been able to deal with those girl things. When did you learn Ryll?"
"I've been taking some classes over the last two years or so," she said. "They help to get me out of the house," she added quietly.
"Out of the house," he asked, laughing. "I would think that when he's even near the Earth, Kif would pretty much keep you around as much as possible."
When he heard a small sob, he looked up. She had her right hand over her eyes, holding up her head, while her left cradled her elbow. Her shoulders were bobbing up and down slightly, too.
"Aim, what's wrong? What did I say?" He reached out to comfort his friend. She stiffened at first, and then melted into his grasp, crying more.
"He's dead, Fry," she said, not pulling away from him. "It's OK. You didn't know. The Nimbus was destroyed two years ago over Tapan IV, fighting the remnants of the Theta armada. The log showed that Brannigan abandoned ship shortly before it crashed into the planet. He transferred command to Kif before he did."
"And Brannigan," Fry asked, anger rising.
"He hasn't been seen since."
After holding her for a few more minutes, Fry said, "I remember the Thetan War. It was a stupid and terrible waste."
"Why, Fry? Why did my fonfonru have to die?"
"Your fonfonru," he said, his eyes opening wide. "Oh, Amy. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't know." He held her for a long time while she cried, whispering comforting things that he knew she didn't hear.
"It was stupid," he said, finally. "They invaded the Rolan system to avoid paying DOOP taxes on their trade goods. They thought the DOOP would ignore them since Rolan was neutral. They were wrong. About two years ago, the war started going against them. They came to us to try and get us to fight with them and drive the DOOP out of the Fringe. We told them to take a hike. We were sick of fighting other people's wars. We still hadn't rebuilt our own lands from our last battles with the DOOP ten years before. They wiped out three cites from orbit and set half of Concord Dawn ablaze before we destroyed them. They killed 25 million people in less than a day. We couldn't push them beyond our systems. There weren't enough of us left."
"25 million…my God," she whispered. It was all she was able to say. They held each other for a long time. This stranger was suddenly Fry again. He was thinner, but as strong as steel. She felt safe in his arms. He wouldn't let anything happen to her, ever. It was wonderful, but she still felt conflicted about Kif. She smiled weakly at him as she pushed away.
Wiping her eyes, she said, "Thank you, Philip. Now I know his death had some meaning, if only in my mind. He died so that 25 million people could have some justice." She put her hand on his right cheek, looking deep into his eyes. The stranger was still there, but he was tempered by the 1,000 year-old delivery boy that he had been once. A life full of disappointment and hardship hadn't driven him away fully. Impulsively, she pulled him forward and kissed him. It was brief, but full of a passion and promise that she hadn't felt in two years. When she pulled away, she was smiling. He looked a little confused, but he was smiling, too.
Getting up, she said warmly, "I'll see you later, Phil." She walked away, her heart feeling lighter than it had in a long time. Vyr was walking to the door as she walked out. Amy sang something to her and Vyr replied with a song of her own and a quick hug. He saw Amy looking at him over Vyr's shoulder as the door closed.
As she got closer, Fry said "Ad, get the rifles from the ship, please."
"Yes, buir," she replied. Whatever had happened between him and Amy had put him into a much better mood than he usually was after his naps. He was usually very cranky and in no mood to talk. She was glad to see him smiling. They had been few and far between in the last few years and in the last few weeks in particular.
<Thank you, dear,> he sang as she handed him the weapons and sat down. His Ryll was awkward and heavily accented, since it was a very musical language and he wasn't very musical.
"Buir," she said in Earthican, "you don't have to speak Ryll. I know how hard it is for you."
<No,> he sang, handing her her rifle. <I need the practice. Nice rainbow,> he sang.
<Coat,> she corrected. <The word is coat.> She started taking her weapon apart; making sure everything was where it needed to be, even though she hadn't used it since she cleaned it last.
Hmm. <It's still nice.>
<Red to honor my father,> she sang.
<Twice, since it was mine,> he sang. <I would be butterfly garden hose left shoe…>
"Oh, damn it," he said, switching back to Earthican. "Anyway, I should be dead before you wear my stuff, but I think we can let it slide this once."
They continued to work in silence. It was broken only when one asked the other for a particular tool that they needed and couldn't reach. When she was finished, she looked at him. Biology be damned, she thought. He's my father and I love him.
"Buir," she said watching him work. "Can I ask you something?"
"Anything, blueberry. You know that."
She didn't want to hurt him, but she needed to know. "Why did you ever love that woman?"
"Excuse me," he said, looking up from his work.
"She told me what happened before. She's bossy, rude, thin-skinned, willful, opinionated, manipulative, cowardly with her feelings, thoughtless when something didn't benefit her, and still doesn't believe that you should be let out of any rational being's sight, let alone a Mandado and a father."
"She was also very beautiful, thick-skinned when she needed it, tougher than leather, defended the weak when they couldn't fight for themselves, thoughtful when it didn't benefit herself, courageous, and strong-willed with her convictions. She kept me alive many, many, times, ad. She'd be a perfect Mandado."
"Do you still love her?"
Who are you, and what happened to my 12 year-old blueberry?, he thought. He sat back, sighing, taken aback by his daughter's directness. Shaking his head, he said, "No. That time is gone. I will always love her as my friend, but we're not those two people anymore. I couldn't take it again."
She finished rebuilding his rifle as he sat back, thinking about what he had just said to her. It was done, he realized. They were through, in his mind at least. Finally dead and buried after 8 long years. Once, he had longed to take her in his arms again, begging forgiveness and swearing that all her words were forgiven and forgotten. Now, that time was gone, and he was satisfied. Happy, almost. At peace. All it took was his little girl to push him.
"Daddy," she said, snuggling up against him. It was a familiar warmth for both of them.
"What do you think of Amy?"
The rest of the trip went quickly and in peace, with everyone staying to themselves. Leela was as solid as ever in the approach. Even before she had touched down, Fry and Bender were at the ramp.
"So Fry," Bender said. "Amy tells me you're one of them Mandado-kill-o-matic-ka-jiggers."
"Journeyman Protector," he corrected, hitting the door release and walking out while they were still just clearing the roof.
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. Listen, you know how I feel about my enemies, right? Could you do some bounty hunting on them for me? Remember, 98 months back rent. Work it off one enemy at a time? What do you say, pal?"
"That depends," Fry said as they neared the end of the ramp, waiting for touchdown. "How do you feel about Kenosha, Wisconsin?"
"THOSE ROTTEN BASTARDS!," he raged. "FIRST THERE WAS THE PRICE OF BEER THERE! THEN THERE WAS THE INJUSTICE OF THE CHEESE FESTIVAL! AND THEN THEY DENY ME, BENDER, ENTRY INTO THE LEGENDARY BRAT STOP! HOW THE HELL CAN A PLACE BE TRULY CALLED LEGENDARY IF I, BENDER, AREN'T ALLOWED IN?"
"But Bender, you were stalking the headliners, Billy Bald-head and the Positronic Network."
"That's not the point," he said. "Billy knows me. He should have let me in."
"I'll think about it," Bender, he said, stepping into the hanger for the first time in nearly a decade. Standing a few feet from him were two mostly familiar faces. Hermes Conrad, now Grade 30, was older, greyer, pudgier, and probably more anal than Fry remembered. Standing next to him was a taller, but still chubby red-head with a pig nose. Ah, Cubert, he thought.
"Ah, Fry-mon," Hermes said, shuffling paperwork. "Sign here please," he said indicating form 381-b: Notification of Epic Surprise and Shock at the Return of a Thought Long Dead/Missing Employee/Friend/Relative. "Thank you," he said, stamping the page five times. Setting the pile down, he turned back to face him. "And now...
"SWEET TANAR'RI OF THE CALIHARI! Fry, you're still alive!"
"IMPOSSIBLE," Cubert yelled, after patiently waiting for the bureaucrat.
"Quite possible, nephew. Congratulations on your promotions, Hermes."
Vyr walked down the ramp and sang a question. Before Fry could answer her, Cubert looked back at him and said, "What does she mean, father? That's especially impossible, Fry. First, she's a different species and Ryll and humans are infertile together. Second, you couldn't raise a cloud of dust," he said, snorting as he laughed.
Vyr sang an angry response at him, but Amy came down after her and held her back, singing something that Fry didn't quite hear, but it had calmed her a bit.
"I most certainly did mean it," Cubert said back to her. "I've known him for a long time, and it's true." He took another look at Fry and stepped back behind Hermes. "Uh, Fry. Why are you armed?"
"That's Journeyman Protector Fry, to you, Cubert," Leela said, coming down the ramp. "He's her father, too. Hermes Conrad, Bureaucrat, Grade 30, and Cubert J. Farnsworth, this is Vyr Fry. Vyr, Cubert is a clone of your father's great-great-etc. nephew, Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth."
"Where is the Professor," Fry asked suddenly. Turning his eyes like a laser onto Cubert, he asked, "And why are you here?"
Taking a step further back, Cubert said, "First, dad died about six years ago in a lab accident. Took Zoidberg with him, and nearly Hermes, too. Second, I run things now. Well, at least that's what the tax forms say."
"He's dead," Fry said matter of factly. "Is there anything else, anything at all, that I should know? Kif's dead. The Professor's dead. Zoidberg's dead. Any other surprises that I should brace myself for," he concluded angrily.
"MOMMY!," shrieked the four-foot tall tornado that ran past him. She was a cute little thing, with a pretty little dress and her long blonde hair in pigtails. She was the spitting image of her mother. "I missed you so much, mommy. I am so glad that you are home."
She was clinging tightly to Leela's waist, hugging her tight. Leela had her head down, talking to her softly. Fry was staring at her when she raised her head. Vyr whistled something and Fry turned his head. Standing at the top of the stairs was a handsome blond man in a nice suit. As much as the girl looked like Leela, he saw the man in her features, too.
"Hey, Lee," he said. "Good flight? Who're your friends?"
"Fry, Vyr," Leela said, "this is Renee. And that's Planet Express's attorney, and my husband, Jeff."