She rolled out of bed as quietly as she could. He had fallen asleep almost as soon as they finished, and, of course, she was now wide awake. She smiled as she watched him sleep, kissed him on the cheek, and turned to hobble out of her room. Her thighs, hips and lower abdominals burned, but she was very happy about it. Using those muscles again, for the first time in a very long time, hurt, but in a very good way. Her smile grew as she thought about what happened just happened between them. About him. They both made sure that they wouldn't forget this time.
She needed another shower now, but she debated waiting until after he napped and was recharged. Hmm, she thought smiling. Maybe twice in one day, when it hadn’t been twice in seven years. Can I be so lucky? She grabbed some clothes before leaving and headed for the living room to finish cleaning up the mess they made last night.
After she finished, she sat on the sofa, looking at her right hand. That man, she thought, shaking her head, a broad smile on her face. Wrong hand, but it’s the thought, I guess. They were a little tight, but her fingers were a little bigger now than they were seven years ago. She walked to the bathroom and looked at herself in the mirror on the back of the door. She hadn’t put on that much weight, maybe 10 or 15 pounds or so. She was just out of shape, that was all. She hadn’t lost the baby weight, and the depression of losing Gracie and having to deal with being a mutant had taken its toll on her. Who’d want her, anyway? Fry did, she thought with a smile. And now that Fry was back…
But was he really back? Would he be leaving again soon? He had a life that was a thousand miles away and that had nothing to do with Planet Express. Would he even want to stay with her? He had all those young college girls to choose from, human and alien, and she was just an old, dumpy mutant. Did he still want her to come with him? What about her parents? This meant more talking. All she wanted was more of what had happened earlier. But, if they didn’t talk, what had happened earlier might be all that ever happened. As she was walking out of the bathroom, Fry was wandering out of her bedroom.
“Forget something,” she said, noticing that he was still naked.
“Meh. Why bother?,” he said sleepily. “You saw it all already. It’s not like I’m going to be ashamed of anything in front of you. Besides, weren’t you the one who always got on me for my backward, 20th Century attitude about modesty?”
“That was the Professor,” she said, getting a good look at him for the first time. It had been pretty dark before, since she didn’t like having the lights on. She noticed a lot of scars on his legs, mostly around his knees. “What did you do to your legs?,” she asked.
“I had both of my knees replaced about 5 years ago. I shattered my left knee cap in Peru, and the right one was going from arthritis. So, I just had the doctors replace them both. It was easier that way. One long recovery instead of two.”
“Arthritis at 31? What, do you play blernsball or something? What the hell else is wrong with you?”
“Let’s see,” he said, thinking. “Three heart attacks in high school, multiple broken fingers, the knees, ulcers, my neck hasn’t been the same since that thing with Amy. Uh, oh yeah, can’t forget the cracked skull. Let’s see, what else? Oh, there’s the arthritis in my hands, but that’s just an aggravated symptom of having my fingers broken so many times. That’s about it, really. You?”
“Well, there’s the mutant thing, plus a C-section,” she said, pulling down her shorts and pulling her stomach up to show him the lateral scaring. “I’ve broken my nose a few times. Plus there are the broken fingers from breaking other people’s noses. That’s about it, really. As far as I can remember, anyway. We’re old and broken,” she said, walking over putting her arms around his neck.
“It’s not the years, Leela. It’s the mileage.” They kissed, and then Fry pulled away, deciding to get dressed.
“What do you want to do tonight?,” he asked going into the living room looking for some clothes.
“Have I worn you out already, old man?”, she said with a laugh.
“Just pacing myself, baby. Besides, man can’t live on snuu-snuu alone. He needs pancakes sometimes.”
“Who says a woman can’t live on snuu-snuu?” she asked playfully.
“What’s with you Leela?”
“What, I can’t be happy? It’s been so long since I’ve felt this way, Fry. Can’t I just enjoy it? Why aren’t you?”
“I don’t know, he said coming back, dressed in his shorts and sweatshirt. “Just thinking, I guess.”
“Thinking about what?”
“What are we going to do Saturday? Or next week? Or next month? Leela, we both have very separate and very different lives a thousand miles away from each other. What are we going to do about it? Then there’s your parents. What about that?”
“I don’t know, Fry. I really don’t.”
“Well, we have to make a decision. One of us is going to have to give up their lives.”
“What are you saying, Fry?”
“I still want you to come with me.” He walked over and took her right hand. “I want to move these over to the fingers they belong on.”
“Fry,” she said softly, shaking her head. “It’s too soon.”
“Do you want it?”
“But nothing, Leela. You want it. I want it. What’s the problem?”
“Don’t push me, damn it! You’re asking me to give up everything that I know to go live with you in the middle of nowhere. I still want to work, Fry. Flying is my job and my job is here. I want to be able to see my parents when I want to and not when it’s convenient for you. Fry, you’re just asking too much of me too soon. I just can’t do it yet. Why can’t you stay here?”
“I can’t stand this place anymore.”
“Fry, you grew up in this city. You’ve lived here almost your whole life. You always loved New New York.”
“And I can’t stand being here anymore. It’s only been two days and I can’t stand it. It’s too closed in, it’s dirty, it smells, it’s overcrowded, most of the people are obnoxious, and I don’t want to be a delivery boy again. It took seven years of living in the middle of nowhere to realize that this place is the pit that everyone always said it was. There is only one thing in this city that I care about and that’s you.”
“So, you want me to pull up everything and leave a city that I love to move cross-country with you and do what, exactly?”
“I don’t know, Leela.” What they both wanted wasn’t going to work out because of something as simple as where to live. Starting to feel sick to his stomach, Fry said something that he really didn’t like, and only half meant, “Maybe my staying with you is a bad idea. Maybe I’ll see if there’s room at Planet Express.”
“No Fry. Don’t leave. Please.” She was almost begging him. Now he felt worse. He guessed that she must have felt the same way about it that he did. That made it even worse. They wanted to be with each other so badly, but if neither was willing to give on where they lived, what would happen when they disagreed on something critical?
“I don’t want to leave, Leela. I really don’t. But I’m not sure how good this is for us to be like this.” Sighing, he ran his hands through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck. He sat down on her couch and pulled on a pair of sock and his shoes. “I’m going to go out for a little while, Leela. I think we need a little time apart to think about this a little bit. I’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Will you at least take your phone with if I need you?”
“Sure,” he said, walking over to her and taking her in his arms. She wrapped her arms around his back and they just stood there holding each other for a long time. “We’ll think of something,” he said softly, giving her a squeeze and a quick kiss on the cheek before walking away.
“I hope so,” she said. “I won’t lose you again.”
Fry nodded and walked out the door.
Fry left her apartment and started running toward where he remembered Central Park to be. He had always hated running. Sure, running with basketball was one thing. And then, much later, there was running away from aliens that wanted to kill you, like a certain giant worm that secreted the most delicious liquid he had ever tasted. There were reasons for that running. But the point of running just to run had eluded him until he went to college. A girl he had gone out with there for about year got him into it. She said she ran to clear her head. Surprisingly, after she transferred out, he still ran. Courtney was good for at least one thing, he thought. Well, two things, he thought, smiling.
As he ran through the neighborhoods, he thought about what it would be like to move back here. The streets were crowded with creatures and vehicles, all fighting for space. He’d have to get a new job. He didn’t think that he’d be able to get a university job here in New York. The closest school that he knew people at was Penn State, and that was about 250 or so miles away. Not an easy or fast commute when he hadn’t been able to pass his starship licensing test after three tries. There were other colleges where he knew people, but he didn’t think that Yale or Harvard would be calling him anytime soon.
And if he couldn’t get into a university, then what? Back to being a delivery boy? And if so, for who? Planet Express had one, and she was good at her job. Plus, he liked Susu and he didn’t want to make her fight for her job against him, especially when, after tomorrow, he could be a part owner of the company. That wouldn’t be fair.
He stopped suddenly in the middle of the street and had to jump to the curb quickly to avoid getting hit by a truck. His potentially being part owner of Planet Express was something they hadn’t considered. What was in the Professor’s will? He had merely assumed that Cubert, being the Professor’s son, would get most of his money and the business. But, what if the Professor surprised them all by passing out his fortune to the whole company? That would change things. Smiling, Fry thought that things could work out after all. He felt better as he resumed his run toward Central Park.
Almost as soon as Fry closed the door, Leela was closing her curtains and calling her parents. They had an uneasy relationship at best. Leela had wanted to get to know them, but at the same time, she was wary about other people on the surface finding out she was a mutant. Amy knew, and that was more than enough. So, they limited their calls to once a week, unless something happened, and the occasional visits. She hadn’t been to see them since Xmas, and her mom had wanted her to visit again soon.
Her mom appeared, and Leela had to fight not to show disgust. It was a horrible thing, she knew, and she felt bad, but when it all came down to it, she and her parents were monsters. “Hi mom,” she said.
“What’s wrong, honey,” Munda said. “Is everything alright?”
“Yeah, everything’s fine.” Sighing, she said, “No it isn’t. I need advice, mom. You see, there’s this guy…”
“A boyfriend,” she asked. “That is big. What’s the problem? Is he a human? Are you thinking of telling him you’re a mutant? Have you slept with him yet?”
“MOM,” she yelled. “Stop it. Yes, he’s human, yes, he knows I’m a mutant and it doesn’t bother him, and yes, I’ve already slept with him.”
“Leela, I’m shocked. I thought you were better than that.”
“It’s not like that mom. It’s Fry. Gracie’s father.”
“Oh. Him,” she said, contempt in her voice.
“What, mom,” she asked. “What?”
“Leela, he’s not good enough for you. He wasn’t there for you or the baby when you needed him. Can you count on him to be there for you? Ever?”
“Mom, he didn’t know about Grace. And I’m the one who made sure of that, remember?”
“I still don’t like him. He ran away without stopping to think that there might have been repercussions from the time skips. How can you trust someone like that not to run away when things get tough?”
“He’s changed, mom.”
“Really? Then how come he never called? He knew where to find you if he wanted to, didn’t he?”
“But? But what? He knew where to find you and he didn’t, Leela, did he?”
“So now he’s back in town and looking for a roll in the sack. Please tell me you haven’t slept with him again, Leela. No, I can tell by that look on your face.” Making a disgusted sound, Munda continued, “So what does he want? Did he say he wants to take you away with him? He said he wants to marry you? Make you a respectable woman seven years too late? Huh? Seven years too late, I might add!” When she didn’t answer, her mother knew that was almost exactly what had happened. “Leela, I’m surprised at you. You should know better than to trust this guy. After all, he killed the baby.”
“No he didn’t, mom. I did.”
“Leela, if your genes are so bad, why are you the least mutated mutant ever recorded, huh? If your father and my genes are so bad, how did we make you? You’re almost pure human. That man made Gracie die. He polluted her.”
“No, that isn’t true. That’s impossible. I’m the mutant. He’s normal. It couldn’t have been him. It had to have been me.”
“I’m sorry, baby. Mr. Perfect,” she said, her voice heavy with sarcasm, “killed your child. You’re almost perfect yourself. Your mutations wouldn’t have done that to her. It had to have been him. You should tell him that you won’t go with him. With his defective genes, any child you two may have together could end up like poor Grace. Or worse. Leela, please, don’t go with him. Don't see him anymore. Stay away from him, in fact. Really, it’s better this way.”
Several hours later, Fry ran back though Little Neptune, toward Leela’s apartment. He’d decided that if it really meant that much to her, he’d come back and live in New York. He’d have to make some arrangements with Zim to change their agreements. He’d leave the school and come back here, working for Planet Express most of the year, but still going west for Zim during the spring and summer. Yeah, he thought. The old man’ll be happy with that. He’ll have to be.
And if Leela couldn’t be talked out of living in the city, this is where he wanted them to move to. The food was good, the people where nicer here than anywhere else in the city, and it was relatively cheap. Leela’s neighborhood might appear to be safer, but he felt better here.
Humming contentedly as he took her steps two at a time, Fry buzzed her door. He wished he’d taken her keys with, but she only had the one set and he didn’t want to trap her in there. After a few minutes, she hadn’t responded, so he buzzed again. Again, after a few minutes there was no response. Somewhere between agitated and worried, Fry took his phone out and called. Getting a busy signal, he started to edge closer to being worried. Leela had call waiting. There should be no busy signal unless the phone was off the hook. Getting very worried, he started to buzz all the apartments, hoping someone would let him in. Eventually, someone did and he sprinted up to Apartment 1I, hoping that Leela hadn’t locked the door after he left.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Fry got to her door quickly. Trying the handle, he swore when he found it locked. He knocked and pounded on her door, begging her to open it. When he got no response, he took a deep breath and stepped back. Getting a running start, he kicked her door. It barely moved, but it still moved. Fry tried again and again, finally knocking it off the track enough that he could get inside.
He was shocked by what he saw. Leela was lying in a pool of her own blood, her left wrist slit clean across. She was holding Gracie’s picture in her right hand, the knife she used to cut her wrist lying next to her. Screaming, Fry ran to her and tried to stop the bleeding. He was able to use his sweatshirt to staunch the flow, but he was pretty sure if he let up the pressure, she’d bleed out.
“Freeze, scumbag,” yelled an authoritative voice behind him. Someone must have heard him pounding and called the police. Fry was never so glad that someone had tried to get him arrested in his life.
Not looking back, he yelled, “Call an ambulance. She’s lost a lot of blood. I’m pretty much the only thing keeping her alive at this point.” Fry heard the officer calling for an ambulance, and prayed that they would get here in time.
Fry sat in her kitchen with the police officer, giving his statement and his whereabouts for the last few hours. The EMTs were in the living room, still working on Leela. What little he heard was reassuring as it was confusing. The wound on her wrist wasn’t as serious as he had thought it was. She had bled a great deal, but, with the proper treatment, she should recover relatively quickly. The more serious injury was the one on the back of her head. It sounded like she hit something when she fell and that split the back of her skull open, maybe even fracturing it. She was being taken to the hospital for observation.
The officer was putting a note that she had apparently left into an evidence bag. Before he could seal it, one of the EMTs came into the kitchen and called him into the hall. After he left, Fry carefully pulled the note out of the bag and read it again:
I’ve discovered some things about myself recently. I am weak, but I’m pure. You’re a disease that has tried to pollute me. All of my problems for the last ten years can be laid at your feet: losing my cryogenics job, the disaster that is Planet Express, and all of the problems in my personal life, especially Zapp Brannigan and what happened to poor Gracie. If you had been a cleaner and better man, a better human, none of that would have happened. I would have been happy, instead of the emotional mess that YOU made me. I never want to see you again, and this is the surest way of doing that. I’ll be with Gracie again. She always loved me and we were always there for each other.
Go to hell, Fry
It made even less sense the fourth time through than it did the previous three. She hadn’t expressed anything like this a few hours ago. In fact, it had been quite the opposite. Before his run, he was very sure that they would be married soon after they worked out the living arrangements. He thought back to what Cubert had said earlier, about her trying this before. But something still didn’t add up. Leela would never do this. Checking the doorway, he ripped a small section of the bottom of the letter off and shoved it into his pocket. Just in time, he slid the letter back into the bag and put it back where the officer had left it.
As he walked back in, the officer said, “I’m sorry, Mr. Fry, but you’re going to have to leave now. Since Ms. Turanga is the legal resident and you aren’t on the lease, I’m afraid that we can’t let you stay here without her permission.”
“I understand. Let me just collect my things and I’ll go.”
“We’ll have to inspect them before you leave, Mr. Fry. Just to make sure that you aren’t removing anything that could be considered evidence.”
“Of course,” Fry said, rising and heading toward her bedroom. “I’ll collect my things and meet you in the living room so you can take a look. There are two motorcycle cases near the door. I’ll be taking those with,” he said. Reaching into his pocket and getting out the key, he threw it to the deputy. “The small key with the red trim will unlock them both,” he said.
Fry collected his suit and the other things he would need for the funeral tomorrow from her room. He noticed that there were several things disturbed and missing from her dresser, namely the picture of the two of them from before their wedding and the picture of her parents. There were clues everywhere that he was sure that they, and he, were missing, but what he had no idea what they were pointing at. Who would take those pictures? She said once that her parents could get into her apartment, but why would they take the pictures and not call an ambulance? Patting his pocket, he decided to do a little investigating of his own.
Half an hour later, he was walking into a darkened Planet Express building. Heading to the lab, he was confronted by a bright light shining in his face.
“IDENTIFY YOURSELF,” the mechanical voice commanded menacingly, and there were twin whirling noises as weapons were being brought to bear. “YOU HAVE FIVE SECONDS TO COMPLY.”
“Fry, Philip J. Uncle of Professor Farnsworth, Hubert J. and Farnsworth, Cubert J.”
“VOICE PRINT ACCEPTED. IDENTITY CONFIRMED AS FRY, PHILIP J.” the robot said, and Fry heard a mechanical whirling noise, which he guessed were the robot’s weapons returning to their casings. The lights in the lab rose to minimal illumination as the 1-X robot floated into view. “Good evening, Mr. Fry,” the robot said in its normal, cheerful voice. “What can I do for you?”
“I need some analysis on a specimen, 1-X.”
“Of course, sir. May I have it please?”
Handing over the paper, Fry said, “I need everything you can give me on this, 1-X. I collected it from Leela’s apartment before I left. She was attacked or hurt herself, I’m not quite sure which. I wish I was able to get you a copy of the writing, but this will have to do.”
“A writing sample isn’t necessary, Mr. Fry. I’ve already been able to detect the writing style of at least two separate individuals on this piece, due to impressions on the material. In fact,-.”
“Enough, 1-X. I need you to perform a slightly illegal action, next.”
“Mr. Fry, I am programmed to obey the law in every way. Illegal actions are strictly prohibited.”
“1-X, I need you to enter Hermes’ office and extract a sample of Leela’s handwriting.”
“Oh, then an illegal action will not be necessary, sir. I have a back-up copy of all the Planet Express records that Bureaucrat Conrad has in his office in my memory. Would sir like me to compare any records with Captain Turanga’s handwriting on it to the sample you’ve provided me?”
“Yes, 1-X, thank you.”
“Anything else, Mr. Fry?”
“Yes, Could you press my suit for tomorrow please?”
“Today, sir. Technically, it’s already April 20th.”
“Well, then yes, 1-X, today.” Yawning, he said, “I’m going to sleep in the lounge. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
“Good night, sir,” the robot said floating away, turning the light off as it did.
It was dark and her mind was a little hazy. She’d felt this way before, but it had been a long time. Right after Gracie was born. That was the last time she had had surgery. Slowly opening her eye, she saw she was in a dimly lit hospital room. Assuming it was night based off of the lighting, she wondered how long she had been out and what had happened.
She and Fry had fought about where they wanted to live. A trivial thing, really, after getting the “I-still-love-you, let’s-be-together-forever”’s. out if the way. He left for a run, or something, and she called her parents. Her mom ran down Fry, and then she told her mom she was considering leaving New New York and going with Fry. If it was that important to him, she could manage. And, when it all came down to it, it wasn’t like southern Illinois was that far away. It was less than half an hour by train, faster if they bought a car. Her mother was angry, they yelled at each other, and Leela hung up on her.
She went to the kitchen to make dinner when she heard a noise in her bedroom. She walked into the living room, knife in hand, and... There was nothing after that until just now. Her head was throbbing and it felt like the back of her skull was shattered. Her left wrist was hurting, too. Looking down, she saw a heavy bandage around her it. Wonder what happened, she thought. Looking to her right, she saw an envelope on the tray with her name on it in what looked like Fry’s handwriting. She lifted it and felt a circular bulge in it. When she opened the envelope and pulled out the letter, Fry’s ring fell out as well. Not really liking what this looked like, she read the letter:
I’m going home. I was right to stay away from you as long as I did. You’re an emotional cripple that was using me to make yourself feel better. I never really loved you. Who could? You’re a mutant freak, and an easy one, too. You’d sleep with anything and anyone. After everything that I know that you’ve done, how am I supposed to believe that Gracie was even mine? If I never see you again, it’ll be too soon.
She read it again. It looked like Fry’s handwriting, but the words were completely different from the ones that he had spoken to her that afternoon in her bed. It couldn't be true, could it? Did he really think she was an emotional cripple? She read it again, her misery overwhelming her. Crumpling the note in her hand, she wept.